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Robert South (1634-1716): An Introduction to His Life and Sermons.

The first major study of Robert South, an unjustly neglected English divine whose professional career spanned the period of Anglican restoration and post-Commonwealth recovery. The author of six published volumes of sermons, South had a successful career, becoming Rector of Islip in Oxfordshire and Canon both of Westminster Abbey and of Christ Church, Oxford, during a politically and theologically turbulent time in the Church of England.

Reedy demonstrates successfully the value of studying South as a guide to understanding Anglican unity and diversity in what must appear to us as a time of transition between the collapse of English Presbyterianism and the recovery of episcopal stability. South, of course, did not know he was at work in a transitional time, but R. points effectively to the survival in South's work of modes of discourse more at home in the age of Donne, Andrewes, and Herbert. We can thus see what a post-Restoration figure found useful in his predecessors, always a valuable guide to the concerns of an earlier time.

R.'s study divides nicely into three sections. First, he outlines the events of South's career and traces his relationship with Dryden and Locke, two of South's better-known contemporaries. Next, R. surveys South's homiletic style in the context of late-17th-century rhetorical theory and describes South's use of rhetorical forms and modes of language. Finally, he examines specific sermons by South, exploring his use of political themes, his distinctive stylistic techniques, and his theological emphases and concerns.

Especially helpful is R.'s location of South in the context of 16th- and early-17th-century Anglican emphases on eucharistic presence and the role of mystery in religious discourse. R. has done all students of English Renaissance literature and religious history a great service through his careful delineation of South's homiletic achievement. His volume is modest in size but it demonstrates the importance of South's work and captures significant dimensions of his thought, surely prompting others to further study.
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Author:Wall, John N.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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