The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 665 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.
throughout its whole course, shows very clearly that although the average level of their spiritual and moral life has always been, except, possibly, in certain very exceptional times, higher in some degree than that of the people over which they are set as pastors, yet that this level ordinarily rises or sinks with the general condition of Christianity in the Church and country at large.  If, for instance, a corrupt state of politics have lowered the standard of public virtue, and have widely introduced into society the unblushing avowal of self-seeking motives, which in better times would be everywhere reprobated, the edge of principle is likely to become somewhat blunted even where it might be least expected.  In the last century unworthy acts were sometimes done by men who were universally held in high honour and esteem, which would most certainly not have been thought of by those same persons if they had lived in our own day.  The national clergy, taken as they are from the general mass of educated society, are sure to share very largely both in the merits and defects of the class from which they come.  Except under some strong impulse, they are not likely, as a body, to assume a very much higher tone, or a very much greater degree of spiritual activity, than that which they had been accustomed to in all their earlier years.  It was so with the clergy of the eighteenth century.  Their general morality and propriety was never impeached, and their lives were for the most part formed on a higher standard than that of most of the people among whom they dwelt.  But they were (speaking again generally) not nearly active enough; the spiritual inertness which clung over the face of the country prevailed also among them.  Although, therefore, the Church retained the respect and to a certain extent the affection of the people, it fell evidently short in the Divine work entrusted to it.


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High Churchmanship, as it was commonly understood in Queen Anne’s reign, did not possess many attractive features.  Its nobler and more spiritual elements were sadly obscured amid the angry strife of party warfare, and all that was hard, or worldly, or intolerant in it was thrust into exaggerated prominence.  Indeed, the very terms ‘High’ and ‘Low’ Church must have become odious in the ears of good men who heard them bandied to and fro like the merest watchwords of political faction.  It is a relief to turn from the noise and virulence with which so-called Church principles were contested in Parliament and Convocation, in lampoons and pamphlets, in taverns and coffee-houses, from Harley and Bolingbroke, from Swift, Atterbury, and Sacheverell, to a set of High Churchmen, belonging rather to the former than to the existing generation, whose names were not mixed up with these contentions, and whose pure and primitive

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The English Church in the Eighteenth Century from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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