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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.
was in consequence of the successful results of their efforts that the ground was opened to the heart-stirring preachers and disinterested workers who gave practical effect to the truths which had been so ably vindicated.  It was unfortunate that there should ever have been any antagonism between men who were really workers in the same great cause.  Neither could have done the other’s part of the work.  Warburton could have no more moved the hearts of living masses to their inmost depths, as Whitefield did, than Whitefield could have written the ’Divine Legation.’  Butler could no more have carried on the great crusade against sin and Satan which Wesley did, than Wesley could have written the ‘Analogy.’  But without such work as Wesley and Whitefield did, Butler’s and Warburton’s would have been comparatively inefficacious; and without such work as Butler and Warburton did, Wesley’s and Whitefield’s work would have been, humanly speaking, impossible.

The truths of Christianity required not only to be defended, but to be applied to the heart and life; and this was the special work of what has been called, for want of a better term, ‘the Evangelical school.’  The term is not altogether a satisfactory one, because it seems to imply that this school alone held the distinctive doctrines of Christianity.  But this was by no means the case.  All the great features of that system which is summed up in the term ‘the Gospel’ may be plainly recognised in the writings of those theologians who belonged to a different and in some respects a violently antagonistic school of thought.  The fall of man, his redemption by Christ, his sanctification by the Holy Spirit, his absolute need of God’s grace both preventing and following him—­these are doctrines which an unprejudiced reader will find as clearly enunciated in the writings of Waterland, and Butler, and Warburton as by those who are called par excellence Evangelical writers.  And yet it is perfectly true that there is a sense in which the latter may fairly claim the epithet ‘Evangelical’ as peculiarly their own; for they made what had sunk too generally into a mere barren theory a living and fruitful reality.  The truths which they brought into prominence were not new truths, nor truths which were actually denied, but they were truths which acquired under the vigorous preaching of the revivalists a freshness and a vitality, and an influence over men’s practice, which they had to a great extent ceased to exercise.  In this sense the revival of which we are to treat may with perfect propriety be termed the Evangelical Revival.  The epithet is more suitable than either ‘Methodist’ or ‘Puritan,’ both of which are misleading.  The term ‘Methodist’ does not, of course, in itself imply anything discreditable or contemptuous; but it was given as a name of contempt, and was accepted as such by those to whom it was first applied.  Moreover, not only the term, but also the system with which it has become identified was repudiated by many—­perhaps

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