The Oxford Movement : Some Book Recommendations


After talking about the Emergent Church, a present-day movement within nominal Protestantism which rejects traditional Protestant doctrine (a.k.a. biblical doctrine) while promoting Roman Catholic mysticism, I thought it would be appropriate to speak a little of the Oxford Movement (also called Puseyism and Tractarianism), a 19th century movement within Anglicanism which rejected Protestant doctrines while promoting Roman Catholicism (e.g. purgatory, use of the confessional, the Mass, rejection of justification before God by faith only). The Emergent movement disseminates its false doctrines through its books and videos. The Oxford Movement disseminated its false doctrines through its Tracts for the Times. Both in their respective spheres and eras have contributed to watering down Protestantism and leading it toward ecumenism with Rome. Any one who wants to look at the historical progress of the Rome-ward ecumenical movement would be foolish to neglect studying the Oxford Movement which planted seeds leading to the gradual decay of the Anglican Church, the most powerful Protestant church within the most powerful kingdom of the 19th century. Anyone who loves the writings of J. C. Ryle and Martin Lloyd-Jones, pious men who served God within the Anglican church, should lament the sorry state of Great Britain’s Anglican Church:

It is now more like erosion than an exodus. Dozens of pastors and hundreds of believers are leaving the Anglican Church every month and with the introduction of the female episcopate in July, it seems likely that more and more will escape. The phenomenon of Anglican clergymen and believers returning to Rome is noting a continuous increase as a result of an agreement reached with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which allows the clergy to be re-ordained as Catholic priests. This unstoppable trend is one of the reasons that induced Archbishop Rowan Williams to resign.    

According to some surveys, practically half of the flock of the Church of England is favourable to a reunion with their “separated Catholic siblings”.

(source : Vatican Insider website)


I first became acquainted with this movement in 2004 while reading a book which dealt with the gradual historical acceptance among Protestants of the one-man-AntiChrist-at-the-end-of-time theory. Historically Baptists and Protestants of various denominations (Lutheran, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Anglican, Methodists) though differing on some points of doctrine (e.g. the Millenium issue, election, baptism, church government) all believed that the papacy, the dynasty of popes, fulfilled the AntiChrist prophecies (Daniel, 2nd Thessalonians, epistles of John, Revelation). In order to destroy the Protestantism of England the Jesuits, those great enemies of the Reformation and sworn soldiers of the pope, had to mainly combat 1) Sola Scriptura, 2) the doctrines of grace (a.k.a. Calvinism) and 3) Protestant eschatology. As long as those 3 doctrines were held firmly by Protestants a return to Popery would never occur. The Oxford Movement under the guise of Protestantism helped the Roman Catholic cause by attacking the Protestant view of AntiChrist while promoting a futurist view of the Book of Revelation (a one-man-AntiChrist who most likely will be an atheist and who will rule for a 7 year or 3 and a half year period at the end of time) which has now sadly become the majority view of most Protestants today. (The Emergent Church also does a service for Romanism by promoting another eschatological system, preterism, which falsely teaches that the coming of the AntiChrist is a thing of the past.)

I will try to explain the Oxford movement briefly by using some quotes. Here is some quoted information from Wikipedia:

The Oxford Movement was a movement of High Church Anglicans, eventually developing into Anglo-Catholicism. The movement, whose members were often associated with the University of Oxford, argued for the reinstatement of lost Christian traditions of faith and their inclusion into Anglican liturgy and theology. They conceived of the Anglican Church as one of three branches of the Catholic Church.

It was also known as the Tractarian Movement after its series of publications Tracts for the Times, published between 1833 and 1841. The group was also disparagingly called Newmanites (pre-1845) and Puseyites (post-1845) after two prominent Tractarians, John Henry Newman and Edward Bouverie Pusey. Other well-known Tractarians included John Keble, Charles Marriott, Richard Hurrell Froude, Robert Wilberforce, Isaac Williams and William Palmer.

John Henry Newman (when he was a professing Anglican)

John Henry Newman (when he was a professing Anglican), one of the main leaders of the Oxford Movement prior to his conversion to Romanism

Their interest in Christian origins led them to reconsider the relationship of the Church of England with the Roman Catholic Church.

E. B. Pusey, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement

E. B. Pusey, another main leader of the Oxford Movement

The movement postulated the Branch Theory, which states that Anglicanism along with Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism form three “branches” of the one “Catholic Church.” Men in the movement argued for the inclusion of traditional aspects of liturgy from medieval religious practice, as they believed the church had become too “plain.” In the final Tract XC, Newman argued that the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, as defined by the Council of Trent, were compatible with the Thirty-Nine Articles of the 16th century Church of England. Newman’s abandonment of Anglicanism by conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1845, followed by the conversion of Henry Edward Manning in 1851, had a profound effect upon the movement.


The Oxford Movement was attacked for being a mere “Romanising” tendency, but it began to have an influence on the theory and practice of Anglicanism. It resulted in the establishment of Anglican religious orders, both of men and of women. … Its effects were so widespread that the Eucharist gradually became more central to worship, vestments became common, and numerous Roman Catholic practices were re-introduced into worship. This led to controversies within churches that ended up in court, as in the dispute about ritualism.

I will now quote from Duncan McDougall’s “The Rapture of the Saints” which the Lord used years ago to help me get rid of my dispensationalist-futurist thinking:

In 1826, ten years after the publication of Lacunza’s work, Dr. Maitland, librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, startled the Protestant world with the first of a series of pamphlets on prophecy.  He propounded the theory, already taught for 250 years by the Jesuits that the whole book of Revelation refers only to the future, and is to be fulfilled in a short period at the return of Christ.

Manuel Lacunza, a Jesuit whose writings on Bible prophecy would influence in one way or another Tractarianism and Brethrenism

Manuel Lacunza, a Jesuit whose writings on Bible prophecy would eventually influence the Oxford Movement

Almost immediately after the appearance of the first of Dr. Maitland’s pamphlets a Mr. Burgh in Ireland published a book on the Futurist Antichrist, along similar lines, and evidently drawn from the same source.  But another seven years were to elapse before the disintegration of Protestant Christianity would begin in earnest [in 1833].  These seven years were needed, both in England and in Ireland, for the idea to take root that the Reformers had done the papacy an injustice in regarding it as the Antichrist of Scripture; and that Rome was really a “sister church” and should be so regarded by the Protestants of Britain.

[John Henry] Newman’s work on the Arians of the Fourth century, published early in October of that year [1833], appears to have been the first publication of the new movement for Reunion with Rome, the fore-runner of the Tracts for the Times which gave the movement its name [Tractarianism].

It would take us too long to follow all the ramifications of the Oxford or Tractarian, or, as it is now called, the Anglo-Catholic Movement – that is, Anglican in name and Romish at heart.  We need only to note that Dr. Maitland’s theory of a future Antichrist was one of the main weapons used in the Tractarian defence of the papacy from the charges leveled against it by the Reformers.  It was part of the kindly light which “amid the encircling gloom”  that clouded Newman’s soul, “led him on” into the arms of the Pope.  It was part of the “Faith of our fathers, holy faith,” which Romish apologists are fond of pitting against the teaching of Scripture, and which Faber enshrined in a hymn which he left behind, to be invoked by “Protestant” congregations when he himself, with seven of his monkish brotherhood, flopped over into the Church of Rome.  The Romish monasteries and convents, confessionals, candles, incense, adoration of the host, and other ritualistic practices smuggled into the Church of England; the Society of the Holy Cross, Order of Corporate Re-Union, Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, and all the other paraphernalia of the Oxford Movement, still reaping its deadly harvest in the engulfing of precious souls in Rome’s pit of perdition; all are the fruits of this teaching that the Antichrist is still in ‘the Future, that the papacy is not the Antichrist but the true Vicar of Christ, and that the papal system is a sister Church and not the Babylon of Revelation AND THE END IS NOT YET.

The badge of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, a group within Anglicanism promoting Roman Catholic doctrine

The badge of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, a group within Anglicanism promoting Roman Catholic doctrine

The Oxford Movement was founded on Falsehood, cold blooded and deliberate.  This may seem a hard thing to say about the conduct of professedly Christian men.  But I don’t have to say it; the leaders of the Movement say it for themselves- Newman claims Clement of Alexandria as his authority for his own rule that a Christian both thinks and speaks the truth except when careful treatment is necessary, and then, as a physician for the good of his patients, he will LIE, or rather utter a LIE, as the Sophists say.  Ward, who became leader when Newman went over to Rome, is quoted by his own son in his biography of his father as holding that “when duties conflict, another duty may be more imperative than the duty of truthfulness.”  The son says that his father expressed his rule thus ‘Make yourself clear that you are justified in deception, and then LIE LIKE A TROOPER”.   Hurrell Froude, another of the first leaders as early as 1834, referred to the whole Movement as “The Conspiracy”, a term which accurately defines it.  Pusey describes their method as “disposing of Ultra-Protestantism by a side wind, and teaching people Catholicism, without their suspecting,” so that they might find themselves Catholics before they were aware.”  Their whole campaign was run according to that truly Jesuitic maxim stated by Newman in his Apologia:  “There is some kind or other of verbal misleading, which is not sin.”

It might be supposed that a movement professing such a low moral standard would find little support among the clergy of the Church of England but the movement swept England like a prairie fire.  The publication of Newman’s Tracts was like the sowing of the dragon’s teeth, which immediately sprang up into a host of armed warriors.  The founders of the movement were so amazed at the result that they were convinced that behind it all there must be a mighty spiritual power of which they were merely the instrument.  Some of them, like the Witch of Endor, were startled by the spirit which they had aroused.

Dr. Maitland’s teaching of a Future Personal Antichrist had created in the minds of those who accepted it, a bitter revulsion of feeling against the Reformers who charged the papacy with being the Antichrist, which prepared their minds for the reception of other teaching favorable to the Church of Rome.  Hence the readiness with which the strong delusion took root.

It may surprise some of you to be told that there is anything in common between Tractarianism, with its hankering after everything Romish, and Brethrenism [founded also in Great Britain only a few years prior to the official beginning of the Oxford Movement], which appears to be a deeply spiritual and evangelical movement.  I have long worked in the closest harmony with many earnest men among the [Plymouth] Brethren, for whose sincerity and piety I have the utmost respect, and I should be sorry to give offence to any of them.  But in the matter of prophecy, it cannot be denied that if you scratch a Brethren skin you will draw Tractarian blood.  Just try it for yourself, if you doubt my words.  Suggest to any one of the [Plymouth] Brethren that the Pope is the Antichrist, the Man of Sin and Son of Perdition, and that Rome is the Babylon of Revelation, the Scarlet Woman, and you will see him bridling up as if the Pope were a personal friend of his, and as if he held a brief for the defense of Rome.  Tractarians couldn’t be more zealous in the Pope’s behalf.

Dr. [Harry] Ironside mentions seven leaders of the first Brethren assembly formed in Dublin, and adds: “Of these it would seem that Edward Cronin was the chosen instrument to first affect the others.”  In other words, it was Cronin who started the meeting, and thus was the real founder of Brethrenism.  Again I quote Ironside: “Mr.  Cronin was a young dental student who had been brought up as a Roman Catholic, but had been graciously enlightened by the Spirit of God through personal faith in Christ and into the knowledge of peace with God through resting upon the atoning work of the Lord Jesus.”   Now, strange as it may seem to some, it is nevertheless true, that there are, and always have been, true children of God within the Church of Rome; souls that have passed through the experience of conversion which Ironside here describes, and yet have not seen enough of the light to come out from Rome and be separate.  Cronin came out of Rome, but he never came into the full light of Protestantism; he came far enough to form a half-way house – Brethrenism -combining the pietism of such Romanists as Thomas A Kempis with an instinctive dislike to many of the fruits of the Reformation.  Such a half-way house could not have been founded by anyone who was in full sympathy with the battle waged by the Reformers.

Here are some quotes from Ronald N. Cooke’s very helpful book “AntiChrist Exposed – The Reformed and Puritan View of the AntiChrist”:

The first real move by nominal “Protestant” exegetes to promote the Futurist-only view of AntiChrist, was made by S. R. Maitland, James Todd, and William Burgh, around 1820 in England. They helped to resurrect the thesis of the Jesuit Ribera, and introduce it to Anglicanism, in order to neutralize the teachings of the Reformers and the Puritans.

The Tractarian Movement does not receive much attention from evangelicals today, which could help explain the flight of Protestant ministers to Rome once again*. This generation of evangelicals seems to have an aversion to the documented history of the struggles of the Church, and to be more enamored with the undocumented future which has yet to affect the Church.

To an earlier generation, the Tractarian Movement was an evil that was to be opposed with every spiritual weapon at its disposal. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous Baptist preacher, thundered against Puseyism from his pulpit in London, even though he was an Anglican. He recognized, because he was a biblical Christian, the evil effect the champions of Popery were having upon his beloved England. So he did not close his eyes to the danger a return to Popery presented to his country, but spoke out with resolution against it.

Charles Spurgeon, a true servant of God and opponent of the Oxford Movement

Charles Spurgeon, a true servant of God and opponent of the Oxford Movement

[The Anglican Bishop J. C.] Ryle noted that there was a “sapping and mining” process going on in the Anglican Church of his day, which threatened its very existence. This process was the “Romanizing” of once Protestant Anglicanism.

Anglican Bishop J. C. Ryle, another godly opponent of the Oxford Movement

Anglican Bishop J. C. Ryle, another godly opponent of the Oxford Movement

Before the dust from this spiritual war had settled, “by Christmas of 1852, no less than 200 clergymen,” and many laymen, had become Roman Catholics, because of the effects of the Tractarians. This was no storm in a teapot; this was the war that the Scriptures speak of against the strongholds of Satan.

Within the context of this Romanizing movement many tracts and sermons appeared teaching the readers and hearers to look indulgently upon the errors of Rome, and to deplore the Reformation as a blunder committed by an adulterous king. Keble, Newman, Froude, and Pusey were some of the main advocates of the Back to Rome movement. Several of the leaders, in time, went completely back to Rome; others, like Pusey, stayed in Anglicanism but sought to completely Romanize it rather than leaving it.

One of the first things the early writers of this movement did was to dismiss the teaching of the Reformers and the Puritans on the identity of the AntiChrist.  Obviously, as Newman demonstrated, the System of Rome had to be shown to be the true Church before Anglicanism and Protestantism could be repudiated and the system of sacerdotalism embraced. The teaching that there existed a true church throughout history which repudiated Rome and called her the AntiChrist must then be disproved.

This “Romanizing” effort was sustained by what Lorimer called “societies, confraternities, and secret orders”. The most important of these was the English Church Union… One of the main efforts of this organization was its appeal for Union with Rome.

Many other societies were founded at this time, The Society for the Holy Cross, The Secret Order of the Holy Redeemer, and even a Purgatorial Order, all of which were engaged in doing everything possible to return Anglicanism to the Roman Catholic fold.

It is certainly worth noting that the modern ecumenical movement, could never have gotten under way while the teaching of the Reformers on the AntiChrist was still part of Protestant Christianity.

* More than one hundred “Protestant” ministers have gone back to Rome in the past few years in the United States. This proves the old axiom that if we do not learn from history, then we are doomed to repeat it.

That’s it for quotes for now. I wanted to take the opportunity to recommend three books which are quite helpful in properly understanding the dangers of the Oxford Movement. The first is called “The Secret History of the Oxford Movement” by Walter Walsh (1899). It contains many good quotes. If there’s one book to read which deals with the Oxford Movement that’s the book I would recommend. It can be downloaded for free here.

The second book (or I should say treatise) I recommend is Merle d’Aubigne’s “Puseyism Examined” (1843). It can be downloaded for free here. It was written about 10 years after the movement began and a few years prior to Newman’s conversion to Romanism. The author showed that the Oxford Movement attacked the fundamental doctrine of justification before God by faith ALONE (good works being the fruit and not the cause of justification) as well as Sola Scriptura. Like today’s teachers of the New Perspective on Paul such as the Anglican N. T. Wright, leaders of the Oxford Movement had a disdain for individual/personal salvation. Nothing new under the sun.

The third book I would recommend is “Popery, Puseyism and Jesuitism” by Luigi Desanctis which can be downloaded here. Here is a description of the author : “As an Italian Roman Catholic priest, an Official Censor of the Inquisition and thoroughly acquainted with a French Provincial who was the Secretary for the [Jesuit] Order, Desanctis was converted to the Christ of the Bible. In a series of letters written in 1849, he describes personal experiences including his imprisonment in the cells of the Inquisition in Rome. His description of the murdered within the underground dungeons of the Inquisition discovered by the Italians in 1849 are right out of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum. The sufferers were buried up to their necks in dry lime while others were enchained, walled up with bricks and left to die.”


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