Hulsean Lectures

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Church of St Mary the Great where the Hulsean Lectures were originally held

The Hulsean Lectures were established from an endowment made by John Hulse to the University of Cambridge in 1790.[1] At present, they consist of a series of four to eight lectures given by a university graduate on some branch of Christian theology.


The lectures were originally to be given by a "learned and ingenious clergyman" from Cambridge, holding the degree of Master of Arts, who was under the age of forty years. The terms for the lectures were quite extensive and particular. The lecturer was

to preach twenty sermons in the whole year, that is to say, ten sermons in the following spring in Saint Mary's Great Church in Cambridge, namely, one sermon either on the Friday morning or else on Sunday afternoon in every week during the months of April and May and the two first weeks of June, and likewise ten sermons in the same church in the following Autumn, either on the Friday morning or else on Sunday afternoon in every week during the months of September and October and during the two first weeks in November ... The subject of five sermons in the Spring and likewise of five sermons in the Autumn shall be to show the evidence for Revealed Religion, and to demonstrate in the most convincing and persuasive manner the Truth and Excellence of Christianity, so as to include not only the prophecies and miracles, general and particular, but also any other proper and useful arguments, whether the same be direct or collateral proofs of the Christian religion, which he may think fittest to discourse upon, either in general or particular, especially the collateral arguments, or else any particular article or branch thereof, and chiefly against notorious infidels, whether atheists or deists, not descending to any particular sects or controversies (so much to be lamented) amongst Christians themselves, except some new or dangerous error either of superstition or enthusiasm, as of Popery or Methodism or the like ... [The lecturer] may at his own discretion preach either more or fewer than ten sermons on this great argument only, provided he shall in consequence thereof lessen or increase the number of the other ten remaining sermons which are hereinafter directed to be on the more obscure parts of Holy Scripture in a due proportion, so as that he shall every year preach twenty sermons on these subjects in the whole. And as to the ten sermons that remain, of which five are to be preached in the Spring and five in the Autumn as before mentioned, the lecturer or preacher shall take for his subject some of the more difficult texts or obscure parts of the Holy Scriptures, such I mean as may appear to be more generally useful or necessary to be explained, and which may best admit of such a comment or explanation without presuming to pry too far into the profound secrets or awful mysteries of the Almighty. And in all the said twenty sermons such practical observations shall be made and such useful conclusions added as may best instruct and edify mankind, the said twenty sermons to be every year printed and a new preacher to be every elected (except in the case of the extraordinary merit of the preacher) when it may sometimes be thought proper to continue the same person for five, at the most for six years together, but no longer term, nor shall he ever afterwards be again elected to the same duty.[2]

As a result of these rather demanding terms and conditions, for some thirty years (1790–1819) no person could be found who would undertake the office of this lectureship. The first to accept was Christopher Benson, who held the post until 1822, at which time he quit, having found the terms and conditions imposed by the lectureship too fatiguing and laborious. For the rest of the decade, only two more lecturers were found, and both in their turn resigned for the same reasons. Finally, in 1830, after the post had remained vacant for three years, the Court of Chancery reduced the number of lectures to be given in a year to eight and extended the deadline for publishing the lectures to one year following the delivery of the last lecture.[3] In 1860 the number of lectures was further reduced to a minimum of four. Also changed at this time was the length of appointment to one year, with the possibility of reappointment after an interval of five years; the lecturer need not be a clergyman, but simply have some higher degree from Cambridge and be at least thirty years of age; and the necessity of printing or publishing the lectures was done away with.[4] The topic was somewhat simplified to something that would show the evidence for Revealed Religion, or to explain some of the most difficult texts or obscure parts of Holy Scripture.[5] Finally, by 1952 the topic was changed to its present wording, "on some branch of Christian Theology", and the office of the lectureship was extended to two years.[6]

The following list of lectures has been compiled from a number of different sources.[7]










See also[edit]


  1. ^ The will of John Hulse (dated 21 July 1777) is printed in Cambridge 1857, 260–310.
  2. ^ Cambridge 1857, 280-81.
  3. ^ Cambridge 1857, 310-12.
  4. ^ Cambridge 1896, 90.
  5. ^ Tanner 1917, 160.
  6. ^ Cambridge 1952, 51.
  7. ^ The most complete list of lectures is found in Stephenson 1979, 288–304; cf. Hurst 1896, 32-34; Hunt 1896, 332-38; The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, s.v. "Hulse,John."
  8. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 291; cf. Hurst 1896, 33.
  9. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 292; cf. Hurst 1896, 33.
  10. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 294; cf. Encyclopædia Britannica, Supplement, 9th ed., s.v. "Abbott, Edwin Abbott".
  11. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 295; cf. Stanton, preface, vii. Two lectures were published as delivered; see Cambridge Review 1/8 (1879): i-iii.; 1/9 (1879): i-iii.
  12. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 295; cf. Cambridge Review 2/36 (1881): 151.
  13. ^ Two lectures were published as delivered; see Cambridge Review 3/57 (1881): xxix-xxxi.; 3/58 (1881): xxxiii-xxxvi.
  14. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 296; cf. Cambridge Review 9/210 (1887): 49.
  15. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 297; cf. The Month 99 (1902): 106-8.
  16. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 298; cf. Cambridge Review 25/619 (1903): 94; The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, s.v. "Hulse,John."
  17. ^ Missing in Stephenson 1984, 299; cf. The Christian Register 93 (1914): 230.
  18. ^ Stephenson 1984, 299, points out that this book was developed from the lectures.
  19. ^ Title different from Stephenson 1984, 302; cf. Dyron B. Daughrity. Bishop Stephen Neill: From Edinburgh to South India, 169.
  20. ^ Stephenson 1984, 302, says the greater part was incorporated in Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition (ISBN 0-19-826673-1), though Chadwick (preface) says they were the Hewett Lectures.
  21. ^ Title different from Stephenson 1984, 303 ("Reward"); cf. Wood-Legh's papers, Cambridge MS Add.8384/Box 1; B. Boutilier and A. Prentice, eds., Creating Historical Memory: English-Canadian Women and the Work of History, 261, which notes she was the first woman to give the lectures.
  22. ^ A portion was published as: "Voluntary Absolutism: British Missionary Societies in the Nineteenth Century," in Voluntary Religion, ed. W. J. Sheils and Diana Wood, Studies in Church History 23 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), 363-79; see Adrian Hastings, "From Africa to Oxford and Back: A Study of the Work of Professor Peter Hinchliff," Theology 100 (1997): 402-410.
  23. ^ Delivered as "Aspects of the Formation of the Christian Bible."
  24. ^ Delivered as "Three Personed God: A Feminist Exploration in Theologie Totale," and occasionally cited as such.
  25. ^ Delivered as "Koinonia: Trinity, Church and Society."
  26. ^ Delivered as "The Fall and the Redemption through Literature in the Middle Ages and Beyond."
  27. ^ Delivered as "A Theology of Place and Human Identity."
  28. ^ Delivered as "Reconciliation and Christian Tradition: a Contribution to Public Theology."
  29. ^ Delivered as "Remembering the Land: Reading the Bible through Agrarian Eyes"; see Cambridge Univ. Reporter, No. 6047 (4 Oct 2006).
  30. ^ "Hulsean Lectures 2012". University of Cambridge Talks. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  31. ^ Delivered as "Reading Backwards: Israel's Scripture through the Eyes of the Evangelists."


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