Reformed Churchmen

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

6 August 1866 A.D. Tracto-head John Mason Neale Croaks

6 August 1866 A.D.  Tracto-head John Mason Neale Croaks


Graves, Dan.  “John Mason Neale is Remembered.”  Jun 2007.  Accessed 16 May 2014.


"He is trying to sneak Roman Catholic traditions back into the English Church!"

This charge came up again and again against the English priest, John Mason Neale. Ordained in the Church of England during the middle of the nineteenth century, he was so sickly he could not supervise a parish. Instead, he was assigned to be warden of a poorhouse named Sackville College. In the course of his duties, John had many opportunities to see the misery of the poor in rural villages, some of whom died unattended.

John set out to do something about it. He founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret to care for the sick. To other church of England men, this looked like a return to nuns; they were furious. Recently, John Henry Newman had called for reforms and then had switched over to the Roman Church. Was John Neale on the same "treacherous" path?

This wasn't the first time John Neale had ruffled feathers. He had denounced churches that allowed the wealthy to box off sections of the church to separate themselves from commoners. Some of these elite folk even placed comfortable sofas in their boxes! The practice flatly contradicted the teaching of the Apostle James, who forbade Christians to give special seats to the rich (James 2:1-4). John's appeals for the restoration of churches and for improved church architecture miffed other clergymen.

But when John founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret, his very life came into danger. He was mauled at the funeral of one of the sisters. Crowds threatened to stone him or to burn his house. An evangelical pastor incited a riot against him at Lewes. The man's daughter had become one of the nurses and had caught scarlet fever and died, leaving the sisters a large sum in her will.

Another of John's actions that was viewed with suspicion was his translation of old Roman and Greek hymns into English. John explained why he was doing it: "Among the greatest inconveniences that followed from the adoption of national languages in the prayer books of the Reformation, must be counted the abrupt end to using all the hymns of the Western Church. That treasury, into which the saints of every age and country had poured their contributions... became as a sealed book and as a dead letter." [this quote has been given in modern English]

To remedy the problem, he turned such old hymns as "All glory, Laud and Honor" and "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" into English. He also wrote the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas."

When ill health laid John low and he knew he was dying, did he call to mind the solemn words of one of his own sermons? "...Resurrection" he had said, "is promised, and can be promised, only to the dead. If we are not dead with Christ, how can we live with Him? But one or the other we must be. Dead to sin, or dead in sin; dead to Christ, or dead with Christ." He died on the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1866. Although evil was spoken against him in his own day, he is honored by the Church of England on this day, August 7 every year.


1.      "John Mason Neale." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.

2.      "John Mason Neale." Kunitz, Stanley L. British authors of the nineteenth century. New York: H. W. Wilson company, 1936.

3.      "John Mason Neale 1818-1866." Project Canterbury. This page has many links to Neale.

4.      "Neale, John Mason." The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.

5.      Routley, Erik. Hymns and the Faith. Greenwich, Connecticut: Seabury Press, 1956.

6.      Wells, Amos R. A Treasure of Hymns; Brief biographies of 120 leading hymn- writers and Their best hymns. Boston: W. A. Wilde company, 1945.

7.      Various encyclopedia and internet articles.

Last updated June, 2007.

6 August 1866 A.D.  Romanticist, Oleaginous Pietist, & Tracto-head John Mason Neale Meets His End & Croaks


John Mason Neale (24 January 1818 – 6 August 1866) was an Anglican priest, scholar and hymn-writer.



Neale was born in London, his parents being the Revd Cornelius Neale and Susanna Neale, daughter of John Mason Good. He was educated at Sherborne School, Dorset, and Trinity College, Cambridge, where (despite being said to be the best classical scholar in his year) his lack of ability in mathematics prevented him taking an honours degree.[1]

Neale was named after the Puritan cleric and hymn writer John Mason (1645–94), of whom his mother Susanna was a descendant.[2]

At the age of 22 Neale was the chaplain of Downing College, Cambridge. At Cambridge he was affected by the Oxford Movement and helped to found the Cambridge Camden Society (afterwards known as the Ecclesiological Society). Though he was ordained in 1841 becoming the Vicar of Crawley the following year, but being forced to resign by 1846 due to disagreements with the diocesan bishop and his congregation, when he became warden of Sackville College, an almshouse at East Grinstead, an appointment which he held until his death.[3]

In 1854 Neale co-founded the Society of Saint Margaret, an order of women in the Church of England dedicated to nursing the sick. Many Anglicans in his day, however, were very suspicious of anything suggestive of Roman Catholicism. Only nine years earlier, John Henry Newman had encouraged Catholic practices in Anglican churches and had ended up becoming a Roman Catholic. This encouraged the suspicion that anyone such as Neale was an agent of the Vatican, assigned to destroy Anglicanism by subverting it from within. Once Neale was attacked and mauled at a funeral of one of the Sisters. From time to time unruly crowds threatened to stone him or to burn his house. He received no honour or preferment in England, and his doctorate was bestowed by Trinity College (Connecticut). However, his basic goodness eventually won the confidence of many who had fiercely opposed him, and the Sisterhood of St Margaret survived and prospered.

He was also the principal founder of the Anglican and Eastern Churches Association, a religious organization founded as the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches Union in 1864.

Neale was strongly high church in his sympathies, and had to endure a good deal of opposition, including a fourteen years' inhibition by his bishop. Neale translated the Eastern liturgies into English, and wrote a mystical and devotional commentary on the Psalms. However, he is best known as a hymn writer and, especially, translator, having enriched English hymnody with many ancient and mediaeval hymns translated from Latin and Greek. More than anyone else, he made English-speaking congregations aware of the centuries-old tradition of Latin, Greek, Russian, and Syrian hymns. The English Hymnal (1906) contains 63 of his translated hymns and six original hymns by Neale. His translations include:


Neale's most enduring and widely known legacy is probably his contribution to the Christmas repertoire, most notably "Good Christian Men, Rejoice" and his original legendary Boxing Day carol, "Good King Wenceslas". He was also responsible for much of the translation of the Advent hymn "O come, O come, Emmanuel", based on the "O Antiphons" for the week preceding Christmas,[4][5] and his hymn "A Great and Mighty Wonder" (translated from the Greek of St Germanus, although Neale incorrectly attributed it to St Anatolius.[3] Neale also published An Introduction to the History of the Holy Eastern Church (1850, 2 vols); History of the so-called Jansenist Church of Holland (1858); Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863); and many other works.

Since Neale died on the Festival of the Transfiguration, he is commemorated by the Anglican churches on the following day, 7 August. He is also commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a hymnwriter on 1 July with Catherine Winkworth.


1.       Jump up ^ "Neale, John Mason (NL836JM)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 

2.       Jump up ^ "The Reverend John Mason". The Church of St Giles, Water Stratford. The Parish of St. Giles, Water Stratford. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 

3.       ^ Jump up to: a b A Great and Mighty Wonder. "". Retrieved 9 December 2011


External links


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