By J. G. A. Pocock
During this first quantity, The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, John Pocock follows Gibbon via his younger exile in Switzerland and his criticisms of the Encyclop?die and lines the expansion of his old pursuits right down to the perception of the Decline and Fall itself.
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Extra resources for Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737-1764
As we have seen, these arose from the central diﬃculties of maintaining both its apostolic and its statutory foundations, of reconciling the spirit with the law, grace with works, revelation with social reason. A church independent of the crown threatened papalism; a church wholly subordinate to the crown threatened desacralisation; church and crown alike were deeply averse to both; but the formulae of reconciliation were hard to articulate and perpetually at risk (as is the fate of orthodoxy itself ).
It is the point reached by the fourteenth chapter, and before the end of the ﬁrst volume, of the Decline and Fall, and Gibbon like his predecessors faced the problem of continuing past this turning-point a history which must still be called Roman. The predecessors identiﬁed in the Memoirs are neither Renaissance humanists like Biondo or Machiavelli, nor Enlightened philosophers like Montesquieu, but English churchmen, concerned with ecclesiastical history as Gibbon was to be. The continuator of Echard gives his reasons for carrying the story past Constantine.
Without a monarchy sacred, irresistible and even hereditary by divine right, it would be hard for the church to maintain its own sacred and apostolic character, or as we shall see the view of Christ’s mission and person that such a church professed. But the ironies of history were such that, either side of the century from to , the Church of England found only three supreme heads and governors – Charles I, Anne and George III – on whom it could feel that it relied. ¹⁸ For this reason the church had reluctantly accepted the Revolution aimed at his Catholic heir, and had welcomed the Act of Settlement which imposed the Protestant Succession; but both William III, a Dutch Calvinist by upbringing if not conviction, and the ﬁrst two Hanoverians, German Lutherans by birth and baptism, owed their supreme governorship of the Church of England to dubiously legitimate parliamentary actions in which the church itself had been little consulted.
Barbarism and Religion, Vol. 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737-1764 by J. G. A. Pocock