Holiness in Nineteenth Century England

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In the 1998 Didsbury Lectures David Bebbington, Professor of History at the University of Stirling, introduces us to and analyses popular forms of Christian piety that predominated in nineteenth-century England. As well as providing an important contribution to an somewhat neglected subject in the area of church history, it also provides a useful reminder that we must take seriously the popular forms of devotional practice when analysing developments in the Church.

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Overview

In the 1998 Didsbury Lectures David Bebbington, Professor of History at the University of Stirling, introduces us to and analyses popular forms of Christian piety that predominated in nineteenth-century England. As well as providing an important contribution to an somewhat neglected subject in the area of church history, it also provides a useful reminder that we must take seriously the popular forms of devotional practice when analysing developments in the Church.

The subject of holiness has been prominent in many studies of church history. Sadly though, there is a dearth of material on the inward life of the ordinary churchgoer from the 19th Century to the present day. David Bebbington fills this void with a fascinating and highly engaging study.

The author illustrates and examines how and why the quality of life displayed by many in the churches exerted a powerful influence in attracting people to the Christian faith and in helping form patterns of spirituality in the 20th Century. Although individual biographies sometimes explore the personal spiritual life, the patterns that affected the people en masse have not previously been studied, especially within the evangelical tradition.

David Bebbington takes a step forward and examines the spiritual legacy of the past and shows the significance today of the four great traditions of spirituality in the 19th Century - High Church, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Keswick. These traditions represented about 75% of the churchgoers of the time and were thus undoubtedly the main lines of holiness in the Protestant churches.

The treatment of the subject, although broad, stresses the relationship of movements in spirituality to changes in the cultural setting. The features of the setting that impinged most strikingly on the formulation of approaches to the spiritual life were the braod shifts in ideological mood that we label the Enlightenment and Romanticism.

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Meet the Author

Bebbington is senior lecturer in history at the University of Stirling, Scotland. He earned his Ph.D. from Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
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