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The Christian Monitors

The Christian Monitors: The Church of England and the Age of Benevolence, 1680-1730

Brent S. Sirota
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    The Christian Monitors
    Book Description:

    This original and persuasive book examines the moral and religious revival led by the Church of England before and after the Glorious Revolution, and shows how that revival laid the groundwork for a burgeoning civil society in Britain. After outlining the Church of England's key role in the increase of voluntary, charitable, and religious societies, Brent Sirota examines how these groups drove the modernization of Britain through such activities as settling immigrants throughout the empire, founding charity schools, distributing devotional literature, and evangelizing and educating merchants, seamen, and slaves throughout the British empire-all leading to what has been termed the "age of benevolence."

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19927-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Notes on Style
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    On a Thursday in Whitsun week 1715, William Wake, bishop of Lincoln, delivered the annual sermon before the pupils, teachers, and trustees of the London charity schools assembled at St. Sepulchre, Holborn, a few short blocks from St. Paul’s Cathedral. Established in 1704, the anniversary sermons were founded to promote the Anglican education of poor children throughout the metropolis. In the intervening decade, the sermons had become something more: testimonials to a great revival unfolding within the Church of England. Wake hailed the “improvements which have been made within these few years last past” to public worship and devotion—frequent...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Revival and Revolution
    (pp. 18-68)

    On 7 October 1688, Thomas Tenison celebrated the communion service according to the Book of Common Prayer in the bustling Westminster parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields. Less than half a mile from Whitehall, St. Martin’s stood, as it were, upon the fault line of the widening breach between the established Church of England and its supreme governor, the Roman Catholic monarch James II. Its chancel that day was permeated by the revolutionary crisis that had since the previous summer engulfed the kingdom. The incumbent Tenison was one of the leading anti-Catholic controversialists among the London clergy and an architect of the...

  7. CHAPTER 2 The Church in an Age of Projects
    (pp. 69-109)

    The Trinity Chapel on Conduit Street was, in its own peculiar way, a monument to its age. Erected in the fashionable Westminster parish of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, the chapel stood upon grounds very recently occupied by a strange wheeled tabernacle originally built so that the Roman Catholic king James II could hear mass while encamped with his army at Hounslow Heath. Abandoned by James upon his flight at the end of 1688, the wooden chapel was conveyed the twelve miles to St. Martin’s at the direction and expense of the rector Thomas Tenison, where it was intended to serve as a...

  8. CHAPTER 3 The Antinomies of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1699–1720
    (pp. 110-148)

    The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) was something of a free radical within the body of the eighteenth-century Church of England, bonding with preexistent religious forms and catalyzing new modes of Anglican revivalism. As discussed in Chapter 2, the society emerged from a climate characterized at once by the persistence of Anglican revivalism and the vogue for organizational experimentation and innovation that affected the established church no less than Protestant Nonconformity. While the latter had long been habituated by ecclesiology and political proscription to the virtues of religious voluntarism, the Church of England was, on the whole, less acclimated...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Sacerdotalism and Civil Society
    (pp. 149-186)

    The 6 December 1705 meeting of the House of Lords had been set aside for the peers spiritual and temporal to debate the high-church and Tory charge that the Church of England was in danger. Amidst the arguments for and against, Gilbert Burnet, bishop of Salisbury, rose to speak. Against the resolution, he testified to an established church in the full flush of revival. Burnet hailed the renaissance of pastoral care, particularly in London, “constant prayers, frequent communion, diligent catechizing, faithful visiting of the sick, especially,” he could not resist pointing out, “by those low church clergy they called low...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The Moral Counterrevolution
    (pp. 187-222)

    At its inception at the turn of the eighteenth century, some Anglican clergymen denounced the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) as an encroachment upon the rights and function of the long dormant convocations of the Church of England. One must remember that the society was founded during one of the more contentious controversies to trouble the peace of the church in the postrevolutionary era, the wide-ranging debate over the constitutional and ecclesiological status of the church synods known as the convocation controversy. Since the mid-1690s, one of the central planks of Anglican high churchmanship had been the restoration of...

  11. CHAPTER 6 The Blue Water Policy of the Church of England
    (pp. 223-251)

    The members of the great Anglican societies of the early eighteenth century were particularly fond of a verse favored by the Hebrew prophets: “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9, Hab 2:14).¹ In the mouths of clergymen whose church had thus far seemed virtually rooted to the soil of its island territory, it was more than a little romantic to accord the process of ecclesiastical expansion an almost diluvian relentlessness. And yet the verse might have captured something of the peculiar fluidity of Anglican development amidst England’s burgeoning...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 252-260)

    The English gentleman and erstwhile nonjuror Robert Nelson died on 16 January 1715. His many eulogists rose to point out that there had been no “great undertaking of religion” in his lifetime that proceeded without his assistance.¹ Nelson was a devotional writer; the patron of churches, charity schools, and parochial libraries; a promoter of the reformation of manners; and a member of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) and the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), as well as the Commission for Building Fifty New Churches. His will, with generous bequests to a host of worthy...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 261-344)
  14. Index
    (pp. 345-360)