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18th Century Evangelical Revival

Article Index





2.1  Dissenters

2.2 Roman Catholics

2.3 Pietism

2.4 High Church Party

2.5 Religious Societies

2.6 Pluralism and the Church of England

2.7 The Hanoverians

2.8 The Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions

2.9 The Enlightenment

2.10 Deism

2.11 Latitudinarians


3.1 Whitfield and the Welsh

3.2 Wesley and the Methodists

3.3 Anglican Evangelicals


4.1 Social reform

4.2 Missionary Societies


5.1 Evangelicals

5.2 Pentecostals and Charismatics

5.3 Social Action


The Great Awakening is another name for the remarkable revival of religious enthusiasm that occurred in the eighteenth century.  This widespread revival affected not only England, but Wales, Scotland and the new colonies in America. It has probably been the most significant religious movement in the western world since the reformation and has had lasting effects on our modern church life.

In this paper we will survey the field from which the revival grew. We will look at three of the major elements of the revival and then examine some of its fruit.

We will focus primarily on what happened in England because this was the major source of influence on the Anglican church. Our focus is on the development of the Christian church and its faith. So political, intellectual and social history will form the background to our study.


The eighteenth century was the time when the world changed from ancient to modern. Massive changes in science, in intellectual thought and in industrial practice introduced a way of life which was radically different from the period of the Renaissance and Reformation.

In the field from which the Revival sprang, there were many other species. Some competed with gospel religion and some assisted its growth. Let's look at some of the influences and groups that were part of eighteenth century life.

2.1  Dissenters

The Dissenters were the heirs of the Puritans. After the Act of Uniformity in 1662 thousands of puritan clergy left the Church of England. By the eighteenth century four groups had survived. The Quakers had drifted apart as a distinct group. Although they had been the most uncompromising group in the post Restoration era, by the 1700's they were no longer a significant force. They did however become very wealthy and some of the great banking houses of England owe their origins to Quakers.

The Presbyterians developed broad theological views during the eighteenth century so that by its end many were Unitarians. The evangelical revival had little impact on them.

The Congregationalists (or Independents) were a loose grouping of independent autonomous local churches. They and the Particular Baptists were affected by the revival.

2.2 Roman Catholics

The Catholics were a small and discouraged minority. The Hanoverian age did not persecute them, although there was continuing suspicion of them, especially at any suggestion of the restoration of the Catholic line of James II.

2.3 Pietism

Pietism emerged in Germany as a reaction to the rigidity and formalism of church and theological life. It emphasised personal religion, piety, the fear of God, and looked for a freshness and vitality in preaching and worship. Its leaders looked back to Luther for some of their inspiration and so formed a link with the reformation.

Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf established a community at Herrnhut, offering asylum in 1722 to Moravian refugees escaping religious persecution. The community attracted others looking for a renewed experience of God. They developed a powerful corporate fellowship combined with strong personal experiences. Zinzendorf emphasised simple child-like faith and saw love as a warm emotional experience at the heart of true Christianity.

From Herrnhut missionaries went out to the new world, including America where some later met up with John Wesley

Pietism was important because it added an important emphasis on emotional, personal and corporate experience to the revival especially in its Wesleyan form.

Examples of the worship and emphasis of this community appear in two hymns by Zinzendorf: Jesus thy blood and  righteousness, and Heart and heart unite together,  in the Australian Hymn Book numbers 137 and 363.

2.4 High Church Party

The High Church group had important influences in the eighteenth century. Their major agenda to restore a national church with its old practices and without dissenters and catholics was not achieved. However their emphasis on strict and sacramental devotion was attractive to many including Wesley.

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