JC Ryle on the 18th Century Awakening
I am reluctant to pull away from the 18th century! Much more can be said and I need to get on to William Carey and the explosion of missionary activity in the 19th century.
So perhaps you will forgive me for rounding up a few thoughts and insights from British Pastor and popular 19th century author, JC Ryle. These insights can speak to us today and stir us to pray and work for the good of those around us.
All quotes are from Ryle’s excellent book, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century, originally published as ‘The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, or England a Hundred Years Ago’ (references are to the Banner of Truth edition of 1978).
1. The Christian Faith was not influential
‘Christianity seemed to lie as on dead…There was darkness in high places and darkness in low places…a gross, thick, religious and moral darkness – a darkness that might be felt.’ (p.14)
2. The Church was ineffective
Describing both the Anglican Churches and the Free Churches he writes, ‘They existed, but they could hardly be said to have lived. They did nothing; they were sound asleep.’
‘Cold morality, or barren orthodoxy, formed the staple teaching both in church and chapel. Sermons everywhere were little better than miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of anything likely to awaken, convert or save souls.’ (p.14)
3. Church Leaders were distracted
Speaking of the Anglican clergy, Ryle doesn’t hold back: ‘The vast majority of them were sunk in worldliness, and neither knew nor cared anything about their profession…They hunted, they shot, they farmed, they swore, they drank, they gambled. They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’
‘And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakable and indescribably bad, that it is comforting to reflect they were generally preached to empty benches.’ (p.17)
4. The People were sceptical of true Christian faith
‘The land was deluged with infidelity and scepticism. The prince of this world made good use of his opportunity.’ (p.15)
‘It may suffice it to say that duelling, adultery, fornication, gambling, swearing, Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness were hardly regarded as vices at all. They were the fashionable practices of people in the highest ranks of society, and no one was thought the worse of for indulging them.’ (p.18)
Told you he didn’t hold back! Next time we’ll hear Ryle on how things got turned around.
© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides