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Updated: Oct 5, 2020


  • Eighteenth century was a period of many humanitarian movements.

  • The growing humanitarianism was the result of a religious revival of the 18th century.

  • A religious revival brought about by a few Oxford students.

  • It included two brothers, John and Charles Wesley, the sons of a Lincolnshire clergyman.

  • Another prominent member of the group was George Whitefield, the son of a Gloucester inn-keeper.

  • This small society of young men were nicknamed Methodists by their good method of living.


  • They lived a strict and ordered life governed by the rules of the Bible.

  • Their idea instilled in others the idea of piety and morality.

  • They wanted to save their own souls and help one another.

  • By helping, they thought they might be able to serve God in the right way.

  • They also began to visit the prisoner in jail.

  • They preach to the poor in Oxford.

  • They teach poor and ignorant children of the town.

  • They wanted to show that Christianity was a religion which could not only be professed but also practiced.

  • They inculcated in their listeners a sense of sin and consequent repentance.

  • Most of them became clergyman of the Church of England.

  • The organizing ability of John Wesley made him the leader of the movement which started in 1729.

  • Wesley’s organizational ability was shown in many new societies he formed with their weekly meetings and feasts.


  • George Whitefield (1714-1770) was the greatest preacher among them.

  • He gave a series of sermons to the colliers (a coal miner) of Kingswood near Bristol (who were conspicuously irreligious).

  • His preaching was attended by ten to twenty thousand people.

  • His impassioned eloquence had diverse effects on different persons.

  • Some were moved to hysterical laughter or violent weeping and some others fell to the earth in an agony of repentance.


  • Wesley (1703 – 1791) also became a famous preacher.

  • In fifty years of his missionary life he preached forty thousand sermons. (travelling many thousands of miles nearly all on horseback.)

  • Throughout his life of eighty-eight years, Wesley lived ascetically and gave freely of his means to the poor.

  • When his income was 30 Pounds a year he managed to live on 28 Pounds and gave away the other 2 Pounds to the poor.

  • When his income was 120 Pounds he still lived upon 28 Pounds and used the remainder for charitable purposes.


  • The employment of members of the laity as preachers and class-leaders was a remarkable thing in their movement.

  • Some of these preachers were noteworthy men.

  • Their greatest successes were gained in the crowded industrial areas among the miners and the other workers.

  • The least impression was produced upon the agricultural population.

  • The majority of their converts were drawn from the middle and lower classes.

  • There were some members of the aristocracy who became their patrons.


  • Whitfield adopted Calvinistic beliefs.

  • This led to difference between the leaders and the division of the movement into two branches.

  • Under Wesley’s skillful control the Methodist movement began to assume a distinctive form and government (Even though he himself protested against any separation from the Church of England).

  • The conduct of the field preachers was in many respects irregular.

  • There were clergymen who were not obeying the injunctions of their spiritual masters.

  • They were acting often in direct opposition to them.

  • Thus the separation of the Methodists from the Church of England became inevitable.

  • In 1795, four years after their founder’s death, the Wesleyan Methodists became a separate body.


  • The effect of this great religious revival was tremendous on the Church, on literature and on philanthropy.

  • The Evangelical movement entered the Church and gave to its ember a new spiritual devotion.

  • The attitudes of many of the clergy towards their parishioners was changed completely.

  • Many devout and earnest men became preachers of its doctrines and observers of its practices.


  • Many members of the Cambridge University strongly felt the influence of the Evangelical movement.

  • In literature the movement showed itself chiefly in the production of a number of excellent hymns.

  • With the spread of the Methodist movement a new spirit of kindness and mercy took possession of people.

  • It led to the development of much notable philanthropy.


  • The establishment of many Sunday schools enabled the children of the poor to learn to read the Bible.

  • Many benevolent people like Hannah More of Bristol visited the agricultural poor of the west of England in their own homes and worked for them and wrote and pleaded on their behalf with beneficial results.

  • Societies were also established for the purpose of educating the poor in religion and good manners.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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