Toland: face of faction

Faction Displayed
Faction Displayed (1709) © The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

“A satire on factions within the Church of England. A beast with seven human heads:  Richard Baxter a label attached to his neck reading, “A shove to ye heavy arst Christian” (the title of a book supposed to have been written by him); Matthew Tindal, labelled “Rights of ye Christian Ch. asserted”; Benjamin Hoadly, “H – y on Governmt.”; a pope, “Solemn League & Covenant”; Daniel Defoe, “Review” (referring to his journal of that name); John Tutchin or George Ridpath, “Observator” (referring to their journal of that name); and, John Toland, “Milton” (referring to his biography of the poet).” (Links are to Wikipedia)

This print shows the difficulties inherent in building a single Established Church in both Britain and Ireland. Even leaving aside the generic pope (whose head is in the centre), there are a wide range of views among Protestantism that the Established Church was struggling to accommodate. Two of the heads depicted have Presbyterian leanings (Baxter, Defoe); Hoadly and Tutchin were Whiggish Anglicans; Tindal and Toland were deists. An Irish link besides John Toland: Toland’s patron Robert Molesworth was a friend of fellow “Old Whigs” Matthew Tindal and Benjamin Hoadly.

The man on the right is Henry Sacheverell, who pointed out these difficulties in a 5th November sermon on “The Perils of False Brethren, in Church, and State”. As Wiki puts it “The threat to the church from Catholics was dealt with in three minutes; the rest of the one-and-a-half hour sermon was an attack on Nonconformists and the ‘false brethren’ who aided them in menacing church and state.” This went against the norm of 5th November sermons which normally dealt exclusively with the (supposed) threat from Catholics. It also led to a series of riots against Dissenters and their meeting houses. Sacheverell was tried and his two sermons on the topic burnt by the common hangman in 1710 along with (ironically enough) Tindal’s Rights of the Christian Church, asserted. This of course had previously been the fate of Toland’s Christianity Not Mysterious.

Every identifiable person in the above picture was tried or their works burned, except for Hoadly who escaped due to the support of the king. The Bangorian Controversy (see the tweets below) was provoked by a sermon preached by Benjamin Hoadly before the king in 1717 called The Nature of the Kingdom, or Church, of Christ which argued that Christians should think of themselves as subjects of Christ, rather than as bound by confessions, creeds or church laws. Hoadly’s writings on this topic were popular among young Irish Presbyterian ministers around 1718-19 and fed into the debate about subscription that dominated Irish Presbyterianism in the 1720s (Moore, 2012).

Added: 31/03/2015:


James Moore (2012) “Presbyterianism and the Right of Private Judgement” in Ruth Savage (ed) Philosophy and Religion in Enlightenment Britain, Oxford University Press, pp. 141-168.

Scroll to Top