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Preaching in Eighteenth-Century London

Preaching in Eighteenth-Century London

Volume: 30
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Preaching in Eighteenth-Century London
    Book Description:

    This book looks at the role of preaching culture in eighteenth-century England. Beyond the confines of churches, preaching was heard at political anniversaries and elections, thanksgiving and fast days, and society and charity meetings, all of which were major occasions on the English political and social calendars. Dozens of sermons were published each year, and the popularity of sermons, both from the pulpit and in print, make them crucial for understanding the role of religion in eighteenth-century society. To provide a broad perspective on preaching culture, this book focuses on print and manuscript evidence for preaching in London. London had a unique combination of preaching venues and audiences, including St. Paul's cathedral, parliament, the royal court, the corporation of London, London-based societies, and numerous parish churches and Dissenting meetinghouses. The capital had the greatest range of preaching anywhere in England. However, many of the developments in London reflected trends in preaching culture across the country. This was a period when English society experienced significant social, religious and political changes, and preachers' roles evolved in response to these changes. Early in the century, preachers were heavily engaged in partisan politics. However, as these party heats waned, they increasingly became involved with societies and charities that were part of the blossoming English urban culture. The book also explores the impact of sermons on society by looking at contemporary perceptions of preaching, trends in the publication of sermons, the process of the publication and the distribution of sermons, and the reception of sermons. It demonstrates how preachers of various denominations adapted to an increasingly literate and print-centred culture and the continuing vitality of oral preaching culture. The book will be of interest not only to scholars of religion and sermon literature, but also to those interested in eighteenth-century politics, urban society, oral and print cultures, and publishing. JENNIFER FAROOQ is an independent scholar.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-232-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Conventions and Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    Preaching was everywhere in eighteenth-century England. Sermons were an important part of the religious experience of the English people, who heard them at their parish churches and meeting houses on Sundays and religious holidays, and at funerals. Preaching was also expected at political anniversaries and elections, thanksgiving and fast days, and society and charity meetings, all of which were major occasions on the English political and social calendars. While sermons were a part of everyday life for many English people, the largest centre for preaching in the nation was, unquestionably, London. With its dozens of parish churches, chapels and meeting...

  8. 1 The London Preaching Scene, 1700–1760
    (pp. 20-38)

    As these two nonconformist preachers noted in the 1720s, there was a broad range of worship and preaching in London, which reflected the diverse and vibrant religious culture of the city. The metropolis was home for a wide variety of Christians, where Anglican churches, Dissenting meeting houses, foreign Protestant churches and even Catholic chapels were all nestled together, providing a great diversity of worship that would cater for virtually any religious preference. Sermons played a central role in the religious services of all the various religious groups in London, but also were preached on a much wider range of occasions...

  9. 2 Survey of London Printed Sermons
    (pp. 39-73)

    Printed sermons were ubiquitous in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England. Dozens of sermons were printed each year between 1700 and 1760, and contemporaries noted that booksellers’ shelves simply groaned with sermons. Sermons from a wide variety of occasions and before a range of audiences were printed, and these discourses made up a significant proportion of the publications from this period, constituting an important and distinct genre.¹ They also reached a broad audience, providing them with current, topical and relevant commentary on many of the most important issues of the day, and presented the public face of the various religious denominations in...

  10. 3 The Publication of Sermons
    (pp. 74-107)

    In the realm of eighteenth-century print, sermons were one of the most popular and accessible genres. Scholars have suggested that sermons accounted for as many as one in every fourteen titles, which meant that about two or three sermons a week came off the presses during the eighteenth century.¹ The vast majority of single sermons were printed in a cheap, unbound, octavo format, which cost from 1d to 1s and would have been affordable for most people. Sermons by a wide range of preachers and on an almost unlimited selection of texts and subjects were available in print, such that...

  11. 4 The Reception of Sermons
    (pp. 108-142)

    In 1734, one sermon critic complained:

    It [preaching] is alaudableMethod of haranguing the Populace, without Fear ofContradiction, or Reply. It is of the most dangerous Consequence, because it is not the Subject offree Examination, unless the Discourse should be publish’d from the Press: And even then, too many who heard it are not likely to attend the Controversy. Few read printed Sermons, tho Numbers hear them preach’d. And thoseunwaryMultitudes, that, sway’d by the Authority of the Priesthood, attend the Preacher with too much Credulity.¹

    What this critic considered the great danger of preaching, most...

  12. 5 A Shared Culture of Preaching: Sermons and London Religious Culture
    (pp. 143-177)

    Preaching in London was undoubtedly plentiful, varied and central to the religious cultures of many denominations across the capital. While some of the differences in preaching were a matter of style, sermons sometimes also addressed religious controversies and tensions during this period, such as conflicts between and among Anglicans and Dissenters, concerns about the growth of impiety, deism and heresy, and the challenges posed by the advent of the evangelical movement. Scholars have spent much time analysing such debates and have emphasised divisions between and among the various denominations.¹ Yet, sermons more frequently focused on essential doctrines and practical religion,...

  13. 6 Preachers as Promoters, Publicists and Critics: Sermons and London Civic Culture
    (pp. 178-215)

    Eighteenth-century London had a vibrant civic culture that provided many opportunities for people of all ranks to participate in meetings, activities and events which helped define the nature of metropolitan life. Londoners could have watched the grand ceremonies of the Corporation of London, attended the feasts of the livery companies, participated in their parishes’ events and governance, or gone to the meetings of the numerous charities and societies in the capital. All of these occasions helped to provide a sense of identity and belonging within the various communities in London and also reinforced the central values of these communities.¹ Many...

  14. 7 Preaching Politics: Sermons and London Political Culture
    (pp. 216-256)

    Eighteenth-century political sermons have received more attention from historians than any other type of sermon. Scholars have analysed political sermons by specific preachers,¹ those delivered on specific occasions (such as anniversary days, occasional fast and thanksgiving days or elections),² those addressing a particular theme,³ or sermons before specific audiences (such as the royal court or parliament) to illuminate the political nature of these occasions or preachers’ political influence on prominent audiences.⁴ In recent years, the role of sermons in the development and expansion of the public sphere and their influence on public discourse has also been recognised.⁵ While these studies...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 257-269)

    There can be little doubt of the importance of sermons to London life during the first sixty years of the eighteenth century. Preaching held a privileged position in the religious life of the many varied denominations in the community, including Anglicans, Dissenters, foreign Protestants and even Jews. The shared culture of preaching meant that the language and preoccupations of these various groups were strikingly similar. The capital offered a seemingly limitless supply of such discourses to the numerous sermon tasters, who frequented not only Sunday sermons but also weekly lectures. In fact, sermons were quite popular throughout the period, attracting...

  16. Appendix: Printed Sermons Cited
    (pp. 270-291)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 292-320)
  18. Index
    (pp. 321-345)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 346-349)