Essay / On This Day

Happy Birthday, Handley Moule

handley-mouleH. C. G. (that’s Handley Carr Glyn) Moule was born on this day (December 23) in 1841 and died in 1920. Laurels? Moule had them aplenty. A Cambridge man (Trinity College 1864, where he was also fellow from 1865 to 1881 and dean from 1873-1877), he was the first principal of Ridley Hall (1881-1899) and Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge (1899-1901). Moule then served as the Bishop of Durham from 1901-1920 (following immediately after luminaries J.B. Lightfoot and Brooke Foss Westcott!). These are just the high points of a distinguished career.

One writer said of him,

His commentaries on the Pauline Epistles rank with the best. Dr Moule, however, is even more of a theologian than of an expositor. He has a perfect mastery of the great Evangelical system, and knows how to keep dogma in constant connection with living Christian experience.

Moule wrote a lot, and everything he wrote is good. He was a solid evangelical, an Anglican of the moderate Reformed type, and a deeply cultured person. He seemed to age sweetly, and his writing became a bit more purple in his last decades. A lot of his work is freely available now. Here are some favorites.

Outlines of Christian Doctrine (1889). Astonishingly good, and far more readable than your average book of doctrine. There were rumors that Moule would write a more extensive systematic theology later in his career, but the early Outlines is the closest he came.

It is important to observe that authority may be real, yet not ultimate. A Creed has authority; a Council has authority; a Father has authority, and still more, many consenting Fathers, witnessing to facts of belief. But none of these has ultimate authority. The Scriptures have it.” p. 7

There is a recognized distinction in theology between the Trinity ‘Immanent,’ or Essential, and the Trinity Economical, or Dispensational. … The distinction is helpful and important as a formulation of great revealed facts. Meanwhile it is obvious that there is a deep and necessary relation and connexion between the two aspects of the Holy Trinity. p. 25

It has been well said that Creation, relatively to God, is little, ‘a very little thing,’ but that Sin is not. Sin –shall we dare to say it?– is the one formidable fact, the one difficulty, before God. Its pardon, with Him, is anything but ‘a very little thing.’ p. 80

This deep yet open secret of spiritual victory is largely illustrated in Scripture. The combat of the soul is seen portrayed, for all believing students, in the language of the Psalms about enemies and battle. And the Psalms bear inexhausible witness to a secret of victory which is in fact the man’s committal of himself, for victory, to Jehovah. His is the one really prevalent force; His people prevail by Him.

Veni Creator (1890). Moule’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Perfectly balanced among exegesis, dogmatics, and spirituality.

Charles Simeon (1895). This is the best book to read if you want to catch some of the spirit of Simeon. Though marred by an overly discursive style that leaves the reader wondering about the timeline of events, this is the book that makes the unjustly forgotten Simeon come alive.

Philippian Studies (1897). Moule does a close reading of the text, with an extended paraphrase and some notes on the Greek constructions in fine print, and then launches into large-print sermonic application.

We have here in particular that deep secret of the Gospel, unspeakably precious to the soul which indeed longs to be holy: the Indwelling of God in the believer. It here appears in close and significant connexion with the revelation of the love and work of the Incarnate and Atoning Lord, as if to remind us, without more words, that He who gave Himself for us did so not only to release us –blessed be His Name– from an infinite peril, from the eternal prison and death of a violated law, but yet more, that He might bring His rescued ones into an unspeakable nearness, in Him, to God. His was no mere compassion which could set a guilty captive free. It was eternal love, which could not be content without nearness to its object, without union with it, without a dwelling in the very heart by faith.

Colossian Studies (1898). Moule follows the same format as in Philippians, and really hits his stride with Colossians.

Christ the Object of faith gives faith all its value. But the value of faith therefore is incalculable and eternal. For in practice it means just this: Christ relied upon by me, a sinner who immeasurably need Him.

The Epistle to the Ephesians, in the Cambridge Bible Series. I own a couple dozen commentaries on Ephesians, and this little volume is among the best.

Ephesian Studies (1900). Less thorough and not as good as the above, but nice stuff.

As then, so now. An illuminated Christian life is revealed unto babes in the nineteenth century as in the first. To the young, to the uneducated, to the naturally slow, the Spirit in our day as in that day takes of the things of Christ and shews them in a way indescribably different from that of the mere literary and verbal exegesis of the student.

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