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The Clapham Sect & The Socialists


2 Corinthians 6:14-18

"Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."

From the Clapham Sect came the Christian Socialist movement with many convinced that Jesus was the first Socialist, a Communist. That belief gave them the impetus to try to reconstruct and control the direction of society in a bid for the kingdom of God on earth. Cambridge became the center for the 'evangelicals' and the social reform.

"...At the end of the 18th century evangelicalism had spread to the Church of England. Charles Simeon at Cambridge University began encouraging the training of Evangelical clergymen. Simeon argued that there was a great need to raise moral enthusiasm and ethical standards among the clergy. The Clapham Sect, whose group included William Wilberforce and Granville Sharp, was another centre of the evangelical movement in the Anglican Church.

"...In 1848 saw the emergence of the Christian Socialist movement. Preachers such as Frederick Denison Maurice, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes began to influence many that Jesus Christ was the world first socialist. One of those who became convinced of this was James Keir Hardie, a trade union leader and lay preacher for the Evangelical Union Church. Later, Hardie was to become the founder of the Labour Party." 50. 

Other names in England known as being part of the "Christian Socialists" included occultist B. F. Westcott, Charles Gore, Scott Holland, and Studdert Kennedy.  That Cambridge University became the center of the Anglican and Evangelical training of leadership should cause us some concern. Cambridge and the Anglican Clergy were the links to the Cambridge Ghost Society, the precursor to the The Society for Psychical Research or SPR as discussed previously. In other words, the foundations of the Anglican Evangelicals and associated groups were rooted with people heavily involved in the occult.

It was James Keir Hardie who wrote "From Serfdom to Socialism (1907)" and stated:

"This generation has grown up ignorant of the fact that socialism is as old as the human race....When the old civilizations were putrefying, the still small voice of Jesus the Communist stole over the earth like a soft refreshing breeze carrying healing wherever it went." 51. 

"In 1910 James Keir Hardie explained the influence that Christianity had on his political beliefs.

"I have said, both in writing and from the platform many times, that the impetus which drove me first into the Labour movement, and the inspiration which has carried me on in it, has been derived more from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than from all other sources combined." 52.  

Not only were there communist roots and heresy in the development of the social gospel and ecumenical movement, but roots of the Unitarian movement. Mentioned in the History of The Park, Zachary Macaulay, a member of the Clapham Sect, helped form the Anti-Slavery Society. His son became embroiled in politics and helped develop the theology of Unitarians.

Thomas Babington Macaulay, eldest child of Zachary Macaulay,... went to Trinity College, Cambridge in October 1818. Macaulay became friends with other students... including Lord Grey and Charles Austin. Macaulay became very interested in utilitarianism and was influenced by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham and Joseph Priestley. One of Macaulay's campaigns at university was to bring an end to the rule that forbade a discussion of public affairs at the Student Union later than those of the last century." 53. 

The term Unitarian began being used in Europe at the beginning of the 17th century. John Biddle (1615-62) is considered to be the first minister to establish a Unitarian congregation in Britain. It grew from there, with many famous names involved trying to reconstruct society. Unitarians believe that social evils are man made and can be corrected by their human efforts. 

 "In the the late 18th and early 19th century, Unitarians were closely identified with the campaign for social and political reform. Unitarians such as Joseph Priestley, Jeremy Bentham, Harriet Martineau, James Martineau and John Stuart Mill were all advocates of universal suffrage. Other leading radicals of the period such as Tom Paine and Thomas Muir were described by their critics as Unitarians. After the publication of Paine's Rights of Man, religious radicals in London formed the Unitarian Society to promote the cause of parliamentary reform."

"Unitarian congregations developed mainly in large industrial cities such as Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. Growth was slow and by 1851 there were only 229 congregations with about 30,000 members. However, they had considerable influence owing to the prominence of Unitarians in British Industry (Josiah Wedgwood, John Marshall, Thomas Ashton, Samuel Fielden, George Courtauld, Samuel Courtauld, Peter Taylor, Samuel Oldknow, Henry Tate... etc.) and in Parliament (John Fielden, Robert Hyde Greg and Peter Alfred Taylor." 54. 

"James Martineau, the brother of Harriet Martineau, was the leading English Unitarian in the middle of the 19th century....In the 19th century Unitarians were very active in the movements for factory reform, public health, prison reform, temperance, women's rights and the abolition of slavery. Unitarian reformers included Edwin Chadwick, Florence Nightingale and Charles Booth." 55. 

John Stuart Mill was a member of the Dialectical society along with Sidney Webb, Bernard Shaw and Annie Besant. Jeremy Bentham, an influence on Macaulay and many others, was involved in establishing the theory of Unitarianism as well as radical social reform, aligning with the Clapham Sect, Quakers and others. Bentham and Joseph Priestley  worked side by side.

" Jeremy Bentham... was born in London in 1748...[and] entered Queen's College, Oxford at twelve and was admitted to Lincoln's Inn at the age of fifteen..."According to Bentham, "pain and pleasure are the sovereign masters governing man's conduct". As the motive of an act is always based on self-interest, it is the business of law and education to make the sanctions sufficiently painful in order to persuade the individual to subordinate his own happiness to that of the community. It was this work that helped to establish the theory of Unitarianism. That is the rejection of the doctrine of original sin and eternal punishment and replacing it with a belief in individual conscience and reason as a guide to right action...Radical reformers such as Sir Francis Burdett, Leigh Hunt, William Cobbett, and Henry Brougham praised Bentham's work....In 1824 Jeremy Bentham joined with James Mill (1773-1836) to found the Westminster Review, the journal of the philosophical radicals. Contributors to the journal included Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle...Bentham argued in favour of universal suffrage, annual parliaments and vote by ballot. According to Bentham there should be no king, no House of Lords, no established church. The book also included Bentham's view that women, as well as men, should be given the vote." 56. 

Paul wrote: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation." Romans 13:1-2

Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 "They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."

"Joseph Priestley ...was deeply influenced by David Hartley's views on free will and the notion of human perfectibility through good education....In 1755 Joseph Priestley became a minister at the Presbyterian church at Needham Market...In .The History and Present State of Electricity ... Priestley put forward the theory that the history of science was important because it showed how human intelligence discovers and directs the forces of nature...[His] books developed [his] ideas on Unitarianism. They also included attacks on such doctrines as the virgin birth and the Holy Trinity. Many people, including King George III, became convinced that Priestley was now an atheist.... Priestley...became friends with businessmen and scientists such as John Wilkinson, Josiah Wedgwood, Matthew Boulton and James Watt... in 1774 he decided to emigrate to America... settled in Pennsylvania and over the next few years he wrote several books on Unitarianism. Priestley also established the first Unitarian Church in America..." 57.

"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God." 1John 4:2 

What were so-called "Christian" leaders and ministers doing aligning with those who rejected Jesus Christ? Why were they joining ranks with heretics and those rebellious against government? 

"But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities." 2 Peter 2:10

Ministers are to teach sound doctrine. Paul told Titus, "Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work." Titus 3:1

After Priestley immigrated to America, Jeremy Bentham became the most important advocate of Unitarianism in Britain. Charles Booth, mentioned as one of the reformers and a Unitarian, "...was born in Liverpool on 30th March, 1840. Booth's father was a Unitarian and head of the Lamport & Holt Steamship Company...In the 1860s Booth became interested in the philosophy of Auguste Comte, the founder of modern sociology. Booth was especially attracted to Comte's idea that in the future, the scientific industrialist would take over the social leadership from church ministers. One of the consequences of reading Comte was that Booth began to lose his religious faith...Booth decided to investigate the incidence of pauperism in the East End of the city [and] recruited a  team of researchers that included his cousin, Beatrice Potter...Whereas many of his researchers, including Beatrice Potter, became socialists as a result of what they discovered while investigating poverty, Booth became more conservative in his views." 58 

In 1900 Britain, the three socialist groups were, the Independent Labour Party, the Social Democratic Federation and the Fabian Society. Society for Psychical Research member, Edward Pease, was a communist:  

"Edward Pease spent one year in the S.P.R. as secretary of its haunted-houses committee, but then turned to politics with the conviction that a social revolution was necessary. For a time he worked with an associate of Karl Marx, Henry Hyndman who founded the radical Social Democratic Federation. However, Pease was of the opinion that social revolution must begin with educating the intellectual and wealthy classes rather than fomenting agitation among the working class. He organized a Progressive Association which was joined by Podmore and other young fallen away Evangelicals." 59.  

The Association split into the Fellowship of the New Life, a commune with utopian illusions, and a research/debating group which Podmore named the Fabian Society..."60    

The formation of the Fabians, the Christian Socialists and Christian Social Union was the avenue by which socialist doctrine would flood the Anglican Church.

"…the first Fabians…had almost all been lapsed Anglicans from Evangelical homes. There was a Christian fringe to the London socialism of the eighties, but this too was Anglican. The Christian Socialists came together in Stewart Headlam's Guild of St. Matthew and the Land Reform Union; and the more respectable Christian Social Union, formed in 1889 -- seeking in Fabian style to permeate the Anglican Church -- soon attracted more than two thousand clerical members. Dissenting clergymen too began to find a place in the Fabian Society and the London Progressives, while Unitarian churches and centres like Stanton Coit's Ethical Church provided a meeting place for believers and idealist agnostics . . . Socialism was for all of them, the new Evangelism." (65)" 61. 

The founding of the Fabian Society is attributed to "Thomas Davidson, a Scottish philosopher, and its early members included George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Annie Besant, Edward Pease, and Graham Wallas. Shaw and Webb, later joined by Webb's wife, Beatrice, were the outstanding leaders of the society'" 62 

In 1886, the Fabian executive committee included Pease, Podmore, Besant, Shaw and Webb. However in 1889, Annie Besant was converted to the cult of Theosophy by Madame Blavatsky, whom she succeeded in 1891 as president of the Theosophical Society. 63 

Beatrice Potter Webb, cousin to Booth, was born into the upper class of English Society and was wife to Sidney James Webb. They were the impetus behind the socialist Fabian Society and helped found the London School of Economics. "... Webb was born in London...[and] after attending evening classes he secured admission to the civil service and three years later (1884) passed his bar examinations. For some time he had been the close friend of the young journalist Bernard Shaw, who in 1885 induced him to join a very small, newly founded Socialist body called the Fabian Society. Shaw believed that Webb's extensive factual knowledge was exactly what the society needed as a foundation for its theoretical advocacy of Socialism...."

"..As executive member of the Fabian Society, Webb, in 1889, delivered one of the public lectures that made up Fabian Essays and put the society on the map. The following year he met Beatrice Potter, who was making her own way to a belief in Socialism and had been greatly impressed by Webb's contribution to Fabian Essays..." 64   

"...When the Webbs, in late 1914, became members of the Labour Party, they rapidly rose high in its counsels. (Their leadership in the Fabian Society had been shaken by the opposition, first of H.G. Wells and later of the Guild Socialists, who advocated self-government in industry, and other left-wing rebels led by a historian and economist G.D.H. Cole. In the meantime they had established a new forum for themselves by founding the New Statesman as an independent journal.) ...Sidney became a member of the executive committee and drafted the party's first and, for a long time, its most important policy statement, Labour and the New Social Order (1918). Shortly afterward he consolidated his position by serving as one of the experts chosen by the Miners' Federation to sit on the Sankey Commission on the Coal Mines (1919)... in the election of 1922 he won the constituency of Seaham Harbour in Durham with an enormous majority, thereby securing for himself Cabinet office in both Labour governments, in 1924 as president of the Board of Trade, and as Colonial Secretary in 1929, with a seat in the House of Lords as Baron Passfield."

"Beatrice collaborated with him 1932 he and Beatrice... went to the U.S.S.R. and "fell in love," as they said, with what they found there. The next three years were spent writing their last big book, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation? (1935)..." 65.   

As we have seen, the "social gospel" incorporated the Anglican Church,  John Wesley, The Clapham Sect, so-called 'evangelicals,' Unitarians- who reject the divinity of Christ, George Fox's Quakers and those who were blatantly Communist, rebellious and anti-government individuals, the Bible Society, the corruption of the Bible texts and more. 

What justification is there to have aligned with these? The insertion of the social gospel into the church has been often through the cry and fear of "communism." All the while the proponents were  aligned with those advancing communism, heresy and/or the occult. 

This does not mean all involved were socialists or communists or Unitarians or occultists. On the contrary, many followers were most likely sincere Christians. It does mean that many were being lead into teachings that were at times in direct contradiction to the Word of God. While The Park glorifies its heritage, the theology of its founders was not necessarily the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We cannot derive Biblical doctrine from those who reject our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Nor can we call those who do, "comrades in Christ."

"For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. 

He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." 2 John 7-11


Next Section: More Ecumenical "Comrades"

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The Clapham Sect, The Ghost Society & The Word of God



50. The Evangelical Movement

51. Ibid.

52. Ibid

53. Thomas Babington Macaulay,


55. Ibid

56. Jeremy Bentham

57. Joseph Priestly,



60. Ibid.

61. Ibid



63. Ibid

64. "Webb, Sidney and Beatrice" Encyclopædia Britannica Online

65. "Webb, Sidney and Beatrice" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.

Copyright . All articles are the sole property of and Vicky Dillen. All Scripture King James Version unless otherwise stated.

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