Thursday, July 14, 2005

John Keble

We remember John Keble today, or at least we are called to do so.

It's one of those names you say "oh yes" and might remember something but not necssarily anything too clear unless you have particular reason to do so.

If you're of a certain generation it may merely conjur memories of the Monty Python sketch concerning Keble Bollege Oxford.

For others it may be the vague remembrance of the name at the bottom of a hymn such as New Every Morning is the Love or Blest are the Pure in Heart.

For those for whom nothing is conjured, may I enlighten you:

Keble, John (1792-1866)

John Keble was educated at Oxford where he became a fellow of Oriel College (1811-23). He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1831 to 1841, and from 1836 until his death thirty years later he was priest of a small parish in the village of Hursley, near Winchester.
In 1827, he published (originally anonymously) a book of poems called The Christian Year, containing poems for the Sundays and Feast Days of the Church Year. The book sold many copies, and was highly effective in spreading Keble's devotional and theological views. His style was more popular then than now, but some of his poems are still in use as hymns.

On 14 July 1833, he preached the Assize Sermon at Oxford. (This sermon marks the opening of a term of the civil and criminal courts, and is officially addressed to the judges and officers of the court, exhorting them to deal justly.) His sermon was called "National Apostasy," and denounced the Nation for turning away from God, and for regarding the Church as a mere institution of society, rather than as the prophetic voice of God, commissioned by Him to warn and instruct the people. The sermon was a nationwide sensation, and is considered to be the beginning of the religious revival known as the Oxford Movement or Tractarian Movement (so called because of a series of 90 tracts, known as Tracts for the times.

Keble translated the works of Irenaeus of Lyons (2nd century) and an edition of the works of Richard Hooker (1554-1600), He also wrote more books of poems, and numerous hymn lyrics. Three years after his death, his friends and admirers established Keble College at Oxford.

But I leave you with Keble's own words:

The Church has in these later ages been gradually growing imperfect and languid in her discharge of both her duties. She has not shown her ancient bold front to the civil power when profane or encroaching. She has not kept her old jealous watch against utilitarian breaches of order, or philosophical perversion of truth within her precincts.

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