The History of a Historian - A.R. MacEwen. III
Today most students go to a university some way from their childhood home. In Victorian Glasgow, however, this was the exception, not the norm. For a Scottish Calvinist, Oxford University would be quite a culture shock!
A.R. MacEwen went up to Oxford in 1870, the first Vatican Council had just met and declared the Pope to be infallible when speaking ex cathedra on matters of faith, the French Second Empire had just fallen, Gladstone was Prime Minister, and Rome had fallen to the House of Savoy. These were exciting times in the world, and exciting times in Oxford. The city was still known for the 'Oxford Movement' of Anglican ritualism, again, a shock for a young man from a United Presbyterian Manse!
MacEwen's college was Balliol, famed at that time for Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol. The college was at its height of fame. Among those who entered Balliol with MacEwen were nine future MPs, but he was the only Presbyterian minister who entered that year.
"The dominant tone at the University at this time," MacEwen would later write, "was anti-religious and materialistic." How little has changed! If the Scottish student had not been deeply grounded in the faith by his father, and by a deeper influence by his father, he could well have been carried away by the currents of materialism, or drawn into the circle influenced by E. B. Pusey. Instead he was able to have the best of university lives, one in which he gained in learing and lost nothing in Christianity, coming back to Scotland to train for the ministry of his mother-church.
God willing, next time we shall have a little more to say about MacEwen at Oxford.
Labels: Alexander Robertson MacEwen