The Elect Methodists

The Elect Methodists: Calvinistic Methodism in England and Wales, 1735-1811

David Ceri Jones
Boyd Stanley Schlenther
Eryn Mant White
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    The Elect Methodists
    Book Description:

    The Elect Methodists is the first full-length academic study of Calvinistic Methodism, a movement that emerged in the eighteenth century as an alternative to the better known Wesleyan grouping. While the branch of Methodism led by John Wesley has received significant historical attention, Calvinistic Methodism, especially in England, has not. The book charts the sources of the eighteenth-century Methodist revival in the context of Protestant evangelicalism emerging in continental Europe and colonial North America, and then proceeds to follow the fortunes in both England and Wales of the Calvinistic branch, to the establishing of formal denominations in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2502-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    David Ceri Jones, Boyd Stanley Schlenther and Eryn Mant White

    In common parlance, Methodism is Wesleyan Methodism, following the pattern and precepts laid down by the eighteenth-century Church of England clergyman John Wesley. Not only has his movement spread widely in the centuries since his death, but Wesleyan Methodism and its founder have received extensive, perhaps even disproportionate, academic treatment.¹ Beyond those interested in the history of religion, Methodism’s association with the rising artisan classes of the nineteenth century has provided a rich field for those pursuing sociological study.² Theologically, Wesley’s Methodism was frequently called ‘Arminian’, since it followed the teachings of Jacobus Arminius, an early seventeenth-century Dutch theologian who...

  6. 1 ‘A sweet prospect’ for the gospel: the origins of Calvinistic Methodism, 1735–1738
    (pp. 1-19)

    Calvinistic Methodism had its roots in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Historians increasingly regard the Reformation as a long process drawn out over three centuries. The final phases of this process began with the ending of confessional conflict at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. The signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in that year set the pattern for the future: neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism would prevail.¹ The easing of religious tensions, as states gave up on the policy of creating comprehensive churches within their territories, created space for alternative strains of popular spirituality to develop, pieties...

  7. 2 ‘A great pouring out of the Spirit’: the forging of a movement, 1739–1740
    (pp. 20-41)

    Prior to 1739 there had been little tangible contact between the English and Welsh revivals. This was to change when George Whitefield wrote to Howel Harris as Whitefield crossed the Atlantic on his way back from Georgia at the end of 1738. The three months following Harris’s receipt of this letter were critical months for both the English and Welsh revival movements: they set in motion a process by means of which their fortunes became ever more closely intertwined.

    The arrival of Whitefield’s first letter came at a particularly opportune moment for Howel Harris, the freelance revivalist. Having been exhorting...

  8. 3 An ‘outward settled agreement’: shaping a structure and a spirituality, 1741–1743
    (pp. 42-69)

    George Whitefield had begun the task of reinvigorating Calvinistic Methodism following his return to England in March 1741, but the split with the Wesley brothers shortly afterwards made that a still more pressing necessity. Whitefield’s converts had been picked off as a result of the incursions of the Wesleys during his absence, and the remaining rump were thoroughly demoralised because of the lack of leadership they had experienced. It is probably fair to say that Whitefield, unlike John Wesley or Howel Harris, did not have much flair for the day-to-day work of organisation and administration, and that he had never...

  9. 4 From high hopes to ‘miserable divisions’: the consolidation and splintering of Calvinistic Methodism, 1744–1750
    (pp. 70-96)

    When George Whitefield arrived in New England in October 1744, at the beginning of what was to be his longest continuous period in the American colonies, he walked straight into the storm that was raging over the legitimacy of the revivals of the previous few years.¹ In his absence the colonial revival had become enmeshed in controversy, and Whitefield’s ministry was being held responsible for unleashing a spirit of discord, even unbridled fanaticism. New England ministers were nervous at reports that Whitefield had ‘a design to turn out the generality of ministers in the country, by persuading people to discard...

  10. 5 ‘A leader is wanting’: lean years in Wales, 1750–1762, tentative years in England, 1750–1765
    (pp. 97-122)

    There is little doubt that the aftermath of the separation in Wales was painful for many Methodist members, who found themselves forced to choose between the movement’s two main leaders, both of whom had been held in equally high esteem. John Thomas of Rhayader, a Methodist exhorter who later became an Independent minister, recalled his distress regarding what he termed the ‘unpleasant division’ between the leaders, in his autobiography,Rhad Ras:

    Yr oeddwn o ysbryd rhydd, ac yn caru duwiolion o bob enw, ac yn casáu yr ysbryd surllyd o barti sêl pa le bynnag y gwelwn ef; yr oedd...

  11. 6 ‘I will once more shake the heavens’: a new revival for Wales, 1762–1779
    (pp. 123-141)

    After the lean years of the 1750s, Welsh Calvinistic Methodism experienced a much needed renewal of vigour in the early 1760s, which marked the beginning of a period of gradual but sustained growth. The crucial development was the new revival of 1762–4 that spread throughout much of south Wales, but which began in Daniel Rowland’s own parish of Llangeitho in the county of Cardiganshire and is thus frequently referred to as the Llangeitho revival.

    The revival’s origins are shrouded in obscurity, but it seems to have been the result of a combination of Daniel Rowland’s preaching ministry and William...

  12. 7 ‘You are only going to a few simple souls’: new English Calvinistic groupings, at mid-century
    (pp. 142-153)

    The heady exuberance of the countess of Huntingdon’s activities began in the 1760s and reached a height during the 1770s and 1780s. By the mid-1760s she was ready with dynamic plans to revamp the whole Church of England, but believed that it was not yet ready for it.¹ Her expanding enterprises called for far more manpower than she was able to attract naturally. She was secretly involved in supporting six students at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, who were famously expelled in 1768 for their Methodistic activities and their Calvinistic orientation. With Whitefield rushing into print in the students’ support, John...

  13. 8 ‘My Lady’s society’: the birth and growth of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, 1770–1791
    (pp. 154-194)

    From Methodism’s earliest days, a yawning theological gap increasingly defined these two branches of the movement. Indeed, the clash over predestination bedevilled it from the very beginning, lodged especially in the differing perceptions of George Whitefield and John Wesley. It had marked out a terrain of conflict that over the ensuing years would ultimately change from jousting-ground to battlefield. By definition, the Calvinists held to predestination: that from the beginning of time God had designated who would be saved. This ensured that no Christian could earn salvation through good works. To the Wesleys the notion that God had chosen, from...

  14. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  15. 9 ‘The Lord’s gift to the north’: the spread of the movement throughout Wales, 1780–1791
    (pp. 195-212)

    Those clergy who found favour with the countess of Huntingdon were among the most prominent of the second generation of leaders of Welsh Methodism. David Jones, for instance, had been awarded the living of Llan-gan by Lady Charlotte Edwin through the countess’s influence. It was evangelical Anglican clergy who remained at the forefront of the movement in Wales, although with staunch backing from a number of dedicated laymen, such as Dafydd Morris of Tŵrgwyn, Cardiganshire, and Thomas Jones, originally from Flintshire but usually associated with his later base at Denbigh. Daniel Rowland, William Williams and Peter Williams were the longest-serving...

  16. 10 ‘A smooth and satisfactory order’: towards a new denomination for Wales and decline in England, 1791–1811
    (pp. 213-238)

    As her health began to fail, the countess of Huntingdon was persuaded by a number of laymen in several of her chapels, centred on Spa Fields, to produce a structured and orderly form for the connexion following her death. During her serious illness at the end of 1789 several men from her London chapels met to draft such a plan, which was in distinct contrast to the single-handed leadership that had guided her enterprises. A broadly conciliar form was proposed, providing for an ‘association’, with a significant majority of laymen in decision-making processes. This plan would mean that her connexion...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 239-242)

    Apart from all other considerations, Calvinistic Methodism in England was distinguished from that in Wales by the chaotic nature of its ‘organisation’. Whether under George Whitefield, the countess of Huntingdon or lesser figures, the groupings in England were dependent for their ongoing order on powerful charismatic individuals rather than structured representative meetings in which power and authority was vested. Certainly, the countess’s connexion could have done better if it had adopted its 1790 plan; but, even then, geography would have worked against its effectiveness. Calvinistic Methodists in England were just too widely spread – and too limited in number –...

  18. Appendix A Societies ‘in Connexion together under the care of the Reverend Mr Whitefield’, 12 November 1747
    (pp. 243-244)
  19. Appendix B ‘Names of places for preaching where societies are not settled’, 12 November 1747
    (pp. 245-246)
  20. Appendix C Chapels and congregations that were part of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, up to 1800: a notional list drawn from all available sources
    (pp. 247-252)
  21. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-276)
  22. Index
    (pp. 277-308)