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The Late Dr. Swete

The Church Times (1917) after the 10th of May, the day that Swete died. I don't know the exact date of publication. I found this necrology as a cut-out of the mentioned journal in a copy of one of his books.

  Henry Barclay Swete, Emeritus Professor of Theology and Fellow of Gonville and Caius has passed away, full of years and honour, in his retirement at Hitchin. He had been for so long the head of the Divinity Faculty, a pilar of Christian learning and pattern of Christian life, that it is hard to believe that we shall not hear again his gentle voice in the lecture-room, that we shall have no more of those luminous studies on the Creed in which he made the stores of his knowledge available for the plainest of plain men. Among the clergy, especially the more studious of the clergy, his loss will be felt very deeply. Dr. Swete, who had held a country cure for some years in earlier life, regarded himself as a worker for the clergy and ordination candidates. In the preface to his edition of the Apocalypse, he writes: "More especially I have in view the wants of the English clergy, who, scholars at heart by early education or by the instincts of a great tradition, are too often pecluded from reaping the fruits of research through inability to procure or want of leisure to read a multitude of books." As founder, and for many years warden of the Society of Sacred Study, he did for the clergy a work of wich the importance cannot be over-estimated. His later books, “The Ascended Christ,” “The Holy Catholic Church,” “The Forgiveness of Sins” were admirably calculated to strenghten and deepen the quality of the teaching delivered in parochial pulpits. And finally, his Professorial lectures, which were attended by very large numbers, were deliberately and succesfully designed for the benefit of the clergy of the future. Himself a priest and a Churchman in every fibre of his being, he leaves a gap in the Church Militant which for the moment there is no one to fill.

   He was not by temperament a leader, and when in 1890 he became Regius Professor those who had known the strong rule of Dr. Westcott over the Theological Board found that a new order has set in. But such was the weight of Dr. Swete's character and learning that he was drawn, almost against his will, into a position of commanding influences. He was one whom everybody trusted, and his authority grew from year to year. We were perplexed by Harnack, alarmed by Schmiedel, in danger of being carried away by Tyrrell, distressed by Schweitzer, but always we knew that there was a ripe scholar, preserving at the time a profound devotion to the Catholic Faith and an open and liberal mind, who would bring out of his treasures things new and old and unfold to us “sound learning and religious education.”

   His published works are of four kinds. There are his careful edition of the Greek Old Testament, and of the Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Epistles of St. Paul. His early dogmatic studies in the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, a subject to which he returned again later in his life, are thought by many judges to be the best things he ever did. But more widely read have been his massive commentaries on St.Mark and the Apocalypse. And most of all, his smaller books on Patristic Study, on pre-Reformation Service-books, and on subjects connected with the Apostles' Creed have been read by thousands. Also, in conjunction with Dr. Srawley, he edited the Cambridge Series of Liturgical Handbooks.

   He was a warm friend of the Clergy Training School at Westcott House. He watched its growth from the earliest days till it grew into an established institution with more than twenty resident students, and he delivered lectures there from time to time. He was full of friendliness to newer developments like St.Anselm's House. In fact, he was a friend of all Christians causes. Cambridge, and the church at large, is profoundly indebted to him for his life and labours. We praise God for having known what was once described in a felicitous phrase of Dr. Sanday, as “the mitis sapientia of Dr.Swete.” — Ipso, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas deprecamur.