New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove:
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.
These familiar words of John Keble are from his cycle of poems entitled The Christian Year (1827), which he wrote to restore within the Church of England a deep feeling for the church year, “to bring the thoughts and feelings of the reader into unison with those exemplified in the Prayer Book.”
The work went through ninety-five editions, but this was not the fame Keble sought. His consuming desire was to be a faithful pastor who finds his fulfillment in daily services, confirmation classes, visits to village schools, and a voluminous correspondence with those seeking spiritual counsel.
Rightly acclaimed for The Christian Year, John Keble‘s greater and more lasting influence on the Anglican expression of Christianity was doubtless his Assizes Sermon of 1834, commonly titled “National Apostasy.” It was, as this account notes, the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement, also known as the Tractarians: reformers who, again to quote this essay, “sought to recall the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage.”
While some of the reforms proposed (especially among the later Tractarians) went too far for many Anglicans – then and now – there is much to be commended in the Oxford reformers’ attempts to recall the Ecclesia Anglicana to a “high” ecclesiology and sacramental theology, and to reawaken the “appeal to antiquity” (that is, the “ancient and undivided Church”) which has been a salient feature of Anglicanism since the days of Matthew Parker (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1559–1575).
In these attempts they met with considerable, although not uncontested, success – and I, for one, am grateful!