The English Church in the Eighteenth Century eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 807 pages of information about The English Church in the Eighteenth Century.
it is the fashion to ridicule the foibles and to condemn the troublesome interference in State affairs of the well-meaning but often ill judging King, it is the more necessary to bear in mind the debt of gratitude which the nation owed him for the good effects which his personal character unquestionably produced—­effects which, though they told more directly and immediately upon the upper classes, yet permeated more or less through all the strata of society.  Among the middle classes, too, there arose a set of men whose influence for good it would be difficult to exaggerate.  Foremost among them stands the great and good Dr. Johnson.  ‘Dr. Johnson,’ writes Lord Mahon, ’stemmed the tide of infidelity.’  And the greatest of modern satirists does not state the case too strongly when he declares that ’Johnson had the ear of the nation.  His immense authority reconciled it to loyalty and shamed it out of irreligion.  He was revered as a sort of oracle, and the oracle declared for Church and King.  He was a fierce foe to all sin, but a gentle enemy to all sinners.’[707] Sir J. Reynolds, and E. Burke, and Hogarth, and Pitt, each in his way, helped on the good work.  The rising Evangelical school—­the Newtons, the Venns, the Cecils, the Romaines, among the clergy, and the Wilberforces, the Thorntons, the Mores, the Cowpers, among the laity—­all affected beneficially to an immense extent the upper and middle classes, while among the lower classes the Methodist movement was effecting incalculable good.  These latter influences, however, were far too important an element in the national amelioration to be dealt with at the end of a chapter.  Suffice it here to add that, glaring as were the abuses of the Church of the eighteenth century, they could not and did not destroy her undying vitality.  Even when she reached her nadir there was sufficient salt left to preserve the mass from becoming utterly corrupt.  The fire had burnt low, but there was yet enough light and heat left to be fanned into a flame which was in due time to illumine the nation and the nation’s Church.



[Footnote 648:  In 1705, 1706, 1710, 1711, 1714, 1715, &c. &c., there were High Church mobs.]

[Footnote 649:  Coxe’s Memoirs of Sir S. Walpole, vol. i. pp. 24, 25.]

[Footnote 650:  A glaring instance of the blighting effects of the Walpole Ministry upon the Church is to be found in the treatment of Berkeley’s attempt to found a university at Bermuda.  See a full account of the whole transaction in Wilberforce’s History of the American Church, ch. iv. pp. 151-160.  Mr. Anderson calls it a ‘national crime.’  See History of the Colonial Church, vol. iii. ch. xxix. p. 437, &c.  The Duke of Newcastle pursued the same policy.  In spite of the efforts of the most influential Churchmen, such as Gibson, Sherlock, and Secker, who all concurred in recognising the need of clergymen, of churches, of schools, in our plantations, ’the mass of inert resistance presented in the office of the Secretary of State, responsible for the colonies, was too great to be overcome.’—­Ibid. p. 443.]

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