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Bishop Barlow on the "Case of the Jews"

Rev. S. Levy

<plain_text><page sequence="1">BISHOP BARLOW ON THE "CASE OF THE JEWS." By Rev. S. LEVY, B.A. In 1692 there appeared a work entitled "Several Miscellaneous and Weighty Cases of Conscience, learnedly and judiciously resolved by the Right Reverend Father in God, Dr. Thomas Barlow, late Lord Bishop of Lincoln." Included in this collection of essays is "The Case of the Lawful? ness of the Toleration of the Jews." This interesting pamphlet is not mentioned in Jacobs and Wolf's Bibliography, but my attention was drawn to it by Mr. Lucien Wolf, who kindly lent me his copy of the book for the purpose of writing this paper. A " case of conscience" is defined by Whewell1 as a question of conduct in which apparently conflicting duties seem at first to perplex and disturb the moral faculty, and make it necessary to trace, with a careful exclusion of everything but moral considerations, the con? sequences of the rules of morality. In form and method a "case of conscience" is like the rQl^rfl rh#W of some mediaeval Rabbi. The Bishop uses the term " query " to introduce the statement of the pro? blem, and " answer " when he proceeds to solve the difficulty. Some? times the abbreviations "dub." for the Latin "dubium" and "sol." for " solutio" are found to indicate the same process of ecclesiastical reasoning. There is no difficulty in assigning an approximate date to this essay. From the editor's description of it, it " was writ at the Request of a Person of Quality, in the late troublesome Times, when the Jews made application to Cromwel for their Re-admission into England." We may therefore assume that it was composed towards the end of 1 Whewell, History of Moral Philosophy, 1862. p. 21. 151</page><page sequence="2">152 BISHOP BARLOW ON THE " CASE OF THE JEWS." 1655, when Cromwell convened an assembly of lawyers and divines for the purpose of considering Manasseh ben Israel's petition. Who may be the "person of quality" to whom Thomas Barlow delivered his opinion on this question ? We know that during the Commonwealth Barlow was librarian at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He was there regarded as a master of logic and philosophy, and judged to be possessed of a profound knowledge of casuistry; " casuistry " in its original meaning as the science of reasoning which enables a man to decide in cases of conscience. Barlow had many distinguished associates and friends, and among his pupils was John Owen, the celebrated Independent, and Vice-Chancellor of the Uni? versity during the Protectorate. It may be that Owen, when sum? moned to Cromwell's conference on the re-admission of the Jews, consulted Barlow, and the pamphlet under notice may have been Barlow's reply. But " a person of quality " is hardly a suitable epithet to apply to a clergyman. An ecclesiastical title would have been much more appropriate. Besides, there are better reasons for seeking to identify with this "person of quality" Bobert Boyle, famous as one of the founders of the Boyal Society. Bobert Boyle's devotion to theology was not less than his love for science. Barlow and Boyle were on terms of great inti? macy. In the volume in which "the Case of the Jews" appears there is also " The Case of Toleration of Christian Dissenters, . . . written to, and at the Bequest of the Honourable and Learned Mr. Bobert Boyle, 1660, soon after the Bestoration of K. Charles II." A query on the question of the toleration of the Jews would be just what we might naturally expect as coming from the same quarter. And the following passage from Birch's Life of Boyle shows that Boyle was in the habit of consulting Barlow on many such points concerning religion :? " But one of his [Boyle's] most intimate friends, with whom he conversed upon theological points, was Dr. Thomas Barlow, then chief library-keeper of the Bodleian Library, and afterwards Bishop of Lincoln. The Doctor was a man of prodigious reading and a proportionable memory ; he knew what the fathers, schoolmen, or canonists had said upon any question in divinity or case of conscience ; and being with all these accomplishments very communi? cative of his knowledge, he gained the highest degree of Mr. Boyle's esteem</page><page sequence="3">BISHOP BARLOW ON THE "CASE OF THE JEWS." 153 and friendship, who used as long as he lived to consult him upon cases of con? science, wherein he was sure at the same time of learning all that had been hitherto urged upon the question proposed to Dr. Barlow, many of whose answers are still extant." 1 It may then be asked, Why did the editor make such a definite assertion about "the Case of Toleration of Christian Dissenters" being addressed to Robert Boyle, and such a vague reference about "the Case of the Jews" being written "for a person of quality," if our sur? mise be correct that they were both composed for the same person ? The essays themselves supply the answer. In "the Case of Tolera? tion of Christian Dissenters" Barlow expresses his opinion in the form of a letter definitely dedicated to Robert Boyle, whereas " the Case of the Jews " contains no indication whatever as to whom it was meant for. As published at present, "the Case of the Jews" does not even state that it was written "at the request of a person of quality." We must therefore assume that the editor's assertion to that effect must have been based on some evidence now lost, or that originally the essay had some such superscription now transferred to the publisher's preface. The editor himself was unable to further specify the " person of quality," as both Boyle and Barlow died in 1691, the year before the tracts were published. For, as he says in the preface, " now though the Bishop gave these cases to his friends, when first writ, with his leave to print them; yet they, fearing some of them might prejudice his further promotions in the Church in those days, forbore publica? tion of them." It must also be remembered that "the Case of the Jews" was composed when Robert Boyle was an unknown undergraduate. As Robert Boyle had not yet made his reputation in the literary and scientific world, the description written "at the request of Robert Boyle" would not have produced such an effect as the vaguer title " writ at the request of a person of quality." In further support of the contention that the "person of quality" is identical with Robert Boyle, it may be urged that the authorship of an anonymous pamphlet entitled "Reasons why a Protestant should not become a Papist ... by a Person of Quality," is generally ascribed 1 Birch's Life and Works of Robert Boyle, new edition, 1772, i. 56.</page><page sequence="4">154 BISHOP BARLOW ON THE "CASE OF THE JEWS." to Robert Boyle.1 It is not unfair to conclude that the "person of quality" by whom this pamphlet was written, and the "person of quality " for whom " the case of the Jews " was composed, are identical, and that Robert Boyle is the individual referred to in both instances. With regard to " the Case of the JewTs " itself, we may say that the arguments used by the Bishop in favour of the re-admission of the Jews are based on expediency rather than on principle. There is no advocacy of liberty of conscience as such. There are only appeals for admitting the Jews on the ground of pecuniary advantage to the State or spiritual gain to the Church in the possible conversion of the Jews. There is more worldliness than other-worldliness in Barlow's doctrines. Barlow was an adept in the art of making obedience to the dictates of religion coincide with an enlightened pursuit of self-interest. He was an opportunist, and was called a " trimmer," because he always managed to find favour with the leaders of different regimes. He held high office either in the University or in the Church during the Commonwealth, during the reign of Charles IL, and again in the critical days of James II. His "Case of the Jews" fully reflects his character. The peroration of the tract shows the author's insinuating manner. "I wish the chief magistrate could admit them on these terms, for so they, and all theirs (pmnia sua) should be suum proprium, which possibly might supply him with money, and so save taxes. And upon these terms I (and I believe everybody else) will willingly consent to their re-admission " (pp. 74-75). Although the question is very rarely raised above the level of expediency, and the general tone of the essay is not too high for a " right reverend father in God," the reasoning is masterly in arrange? ment, and the arguments follow one another in the most effective manner. Without altering a word, the whole pamphlet could easily be divided into chapters and sections. On a first reading one would think that the force of some propositions would be increased by a slight re? arrangement of sentences. But a few experiments in such revision soon convince one that the Bishop is right in the order he adopts. It has already been shown that Barlow was of opinion that the 1 Halkett and Laing's Dictionary of Anonymous Literature, vol. iii. col. 2095 ; Notes and Queries, third series, vol. iii. 1863, p. 214.</page><page sequence="5">BISHOP BARLOW ON THE " CASE OF THE JEWS." 155 Jews should be re-admitted because of the pecuniary advantage which would accrue to the State from their residence in this country. We shall now see how he tries to prove that the re-admission of the Jews would be in the interests of the Church :? " I think that there lies a sacred and heavy obligation upon Christians . . . to endeavour the conversion of the Jews, which certainly cannot be by banishing them from all Christian commonwealths. And therefore they must either go to the Jews or bring the Jews to them. . . . Now these two are both one . . . for certainly if it be lawful for us to go and live amongst the Jews to preach the Gospel, then it will be as lawful to bring them hither, and let them live amongst us to the same purpose " (pp. 46-47). In the course of his thesis Barlow discusses the two propositions considered by Cromwell's convention?(i.) whether it be lawful to re-admit the Jews; and (ii.) if the re-admission of the Jews be legal, what restrictions should be placed upon their liberty. On both points Barlow's answers are clear and definite. There is a law against the re-admission of the Jews, but if the State think it advisable to repeal the law, there is no authority against such a course of procedure being pursued. As it would be beneficial to allow the Jews to settle again in England, Barlow declares that permission should be given to the Jews to return, but with such limitations to their freedom as they have been accustomed to in other countries. He then enumerates some of the conditions on which the Jews were allowed to dwell in other lands, and which he thinks should apply to the Jews in England, should they be re-admitted. The following are some of the most striking restric? tions mentioned:? " No toleration should be given them to speak anything blasphemously or impiously against the Gospel." " Let them profess, but not propagate their religion." " They were not permitted to carry any office or dignity in the Christian commonweal." " They were not permitted in any suit or difference between a Jew and a Christian to draw the Christian or his cause before a Jewish magistrate." " They were never permitted to make marriages with Christians." " If any of the Jews turn Christian, in case the Jews endeavoured to reduce him and maliciously injured him, they were to be burned for it." "They might repair their old synagogues, but were not tolerated to build new."</page><page sequence="6">156 BISHOP BARLOW ON THE "CASE OF THE JEWS." " By the Canon Law they might not come abroad on Good Friday." "They were not permitted to wear garments exactly of the Christian fashion, but were to have distinct habits, that all might know them to be Jews." " They might not be physicians or give physick to any Christian." " They should be enjoyned to admit of friendly collations and disputa? tions sometimes about Gospel truths, and not obstinately to reject all means of conversion and conviction, and satisfaction of those seeming reasons which keep them off from embracing the truth: for there will be little hopes (or possibility) of their conversion if they be permited obstinately to refuse all means of doing it." These are some of the noteworthy features of the pamphlet, which is seventy-eight pages long; but there are many incidental questions raised and disposed of in a skilful and diverting way. It will be seen, then, that "the Case of the Jews" is full of interest, and is an his? torical item not to be 'despised in drawing up a systematic account of the return of the Jews to England.</page></plain_text>