After the Glorious Revolution for one reason or another, the British royalty began to view the church not as an instrument of spiritual vitality for the nation, but stability. Perhaps they’d seen the tumult caused by both the civil war and William’s ascendancy and they didn’t want any more of that religious squabbling. Whatever the reason, the broad church principles of Latitudinarianism became the raison de etre of the church during the Hanoverian dynasties. Thus, the church of the 1700’s was a church that was governed mainly by two pieces of scripture “Everything decent and in good order”(1 Cor 14:40) and “do not be overly zealous.”(Romans 10:2) During this time, the authorities in and over the church viewed with apprehension those who held passionately to the core doctrines of the Reformation, including the need for individuals to respond to the gospel with faith and repentance and be, in the words of Jesus, “born again.” One of the most damning accusations you could make against a churchman or priest in this age was to accuse him of “Enthusiasm”.
Many of those accused of “enthusiasm” would fit well into what we have described as “Reformation Anglicans”(with some serious differences we’ll discuss later). Men like Charles Simeon, John Newton, and Augustus Toplady led great revivals and sought not only to bring British people to Christ, but to bring the Gospel to bear in the Church of England. They were rarely greeted with open arms in the Church of England though. Simeon’s own congregation hated him and the wardens even locked up the church so no one could come and hear him preach! John Newton sought ordination in the Church of England for seven years before a wealthy benefactor, Lord Dartmouth, finally procured an appointment for him and persuaded a bishop to ordain him. Regardless of the fact that Newton turned down dozens of offers to serve in dissenter churches, almost every bishop he spoke to questioned his loyalty to the Church of England. Ever since the restoration of the monarchy in the 1600’s, the theological descendants of the Reformation have lived in the Church of England mostly on the margins. Read the rest of this entry »