[The follow discussion of Robertson's relation to the various parties in the Church of England, which appears in Stopford A. Brooke's Life and Letters (first edition 1865), has been scanned and formatted in HTML by George P. Landow, Professor of English and the History of Art, Brown University.]
It has been hinted that Mr. Robertson sympathised at this time with the views of the High Church party. It may be well here to set that question at rest. He had no sympathy with their views; but he had a great deal. of sympathy with the men who held them, with their self-devotion, and with their writings. He reverenced the self-sacrificing work which they were performing among poor and neglected parishes. He said that, as a body, they had reasserted the doctrine of a spiritual resurrection, which had been almost put out of sight by the 'Evangelical' party. He read Newman's sermons with profit and delight till the day of his death. There was no book which he studied more carefully or held in higher honour than [Keble's] the 'Christian Year.' It seemed to him that some of its poems were little short of inspiration. He saw in the importance which the Tractarians gave to forms a valuable element which he never lost sight of in his teaching. . . . , while they seemed to say that forms could produce life, he said that forms were necessary only to support life; but for that they were necessary. To use his own illustration; bread will not create life, but life cannot be kept up without bread.
On the subject of Baptism, he felt no sympathy with the Evangelical view, which left it doubtful whether the baptized child was a child of God or not; but because the Tractarian view declared that all baptized persons were children of God, he could so far sympathise with it. But on all other points, starting as he did from the basis that Baptism declared and did not create the fact of sonship, his difference was radical. The persecution, too, which this party suffered, secured his sympathy. He even believed that it had received but scant justice from one with whom he largely agreed.
He maintained that Dr. Arnold did not stand quite impartially between the Evangelicals and Tractarians, but judged the former less severely than the latter. On the other hand, it must be said that he himself showed but scant justice to the Evangelical party. He seems to have imputed to all its adherents the views of the Record newspaper. He sometimes forces conclusions upon them which the great body of them would repudiate. He overstates, unconsciously, some of their opinions. If there was any intolerance in his nature it oozed out here. But surrounded as he was by them at Brighton; constantly attacked, by some manfully, by others in an underhand manner; the victim of innuendos and slander, it was difficult for him always to be smooth-tongued. Nor was he now 'or afterwards the leader or the servant of any party in the Church. He stood alone. He fought out his principles alone. He has been called a follower of Mr. Maurice; but though holding Mr. Maurice in veneration, he differed on many and important points from both him and Professor Kingsley. He was the child of no theological father. At this time, however, when a new impulse had come upon his life when he was unshackled by a subordinate position — he was least of all thinking of party opposition or party teaching. One was his Captain, even Christ; and he did not care, provided he fought under Him the good fight, what regiment he belonged to. All were his brothers in arms who were loyal to his Master's cause. He was ready, under great worldly disadvantages, to lead the forlorn hope which the bishop offered him. He did not accept it with any bright expectations.
- Robertson's basic beliefs — His advice to a young girl
- Frederick W. Robertson on Moral Culture, Repression, and Tractarianism
- The evidence of goodness and wisdom in the external world is very questionable": Frederick W. Robertson on Finding God amid the Cruelties of Nature
Brooke, Stopford A. Life and Letters of Fred[erick]. W. Robertson, M. A., Incumbent of Trinity Chapel, Brighton, 1847-53. People's Edition. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, & Co., 1902.
Last modified 7 December 2007