Almost two hundred years ago Britain was in a similar position as today with regards to morals, drunkenness, crime and social deprivation. The answer came from the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ under John Wesley (1703 – 1791 pictured on the left), George Whitefield, and the influence of other obedient men of God. In England the first half of the eighteenth century was period of moral disorder.
According to one historian, this alarming and extensive lowering of moral standards stemmed from a prior indifference to the claims of the Christian faith. The bulk of the populace failed to recognize its relevance.
Immanuel Kant called the court duties of religion, but comparatively few had experienced the glowing reality of personal communion with Christ. Biblically-based doctrinal preaching was a discount. Evil and guilt, sin and redemption–the whole personal drama and appeal of religion was forgotten or rationalized away.” According to Dr. J.H. Plumb:
It was not a religion which had much appeal; to the men and women living brutal and squalid lives in the disease ridden slums of the new towns and mining villages. They needed revelation and salvation. It was this inculcation of a bare morality, unassociated with the evangelical truths of the Christian faith which alone can bring ethics to life which made so pathetically little impact on the congregations that the nation drifted to the brink of moral bankruptcy.We have preached morality so long,”complained Thomas Jones of Southwark, “that we have hardly any morality left; and this moral preaching has made our people so very immoral that there no lengths of wickedness which they are not afraid of running into.
If however we are to trace the source of moral decline in the twenty first century, we must go behind the indifference of the people and the ineffectiveness of the clergy. Many people so openly defied the moral laws and standards and the whole population seemed to be given over to one kind of orgy or another. It was an age of violence, sexual permissiveness, and alcoholism.
The church was corroded by secularism, despised by the intellectuals, and consistently ignored by the masses.Almost every sphere of the English society was so corrupt; and against all this evil the Christian church was a totally powerless and ineffective weapon, either to fight against the evil or to stem the tide.
When you look at the present situation, you definitely get the impression that here we go again, when history is once again repeating itself. Man in his fallen sinful state cannot save himself unless he has been regenerated by the Blood of Jesus Christ. It has been documented by historians that the first two Georges of the royal house of Hanover were unfaithful to their wives which means they committed adultery. Because this came from the top, it soon reflected all the way down to the people. The clergy were also corrupt and indifferent and morals degenerated.
The Word of God was ridiculed. The nature and character of God was attacked. Christian leaders and theologians also lacked a genuine fear of the Lord and they chose to make Him to be a God after their own likeness and according to their twisted image. The deity and the person of Jesus Christ also came under attack. He was declared to be no more than a man, and therefore no longer to be regarded as God. Christianity became a “dead” religion.
The salt that was supposed to preserve the evil was trampled down and everywhere was being held in ridicule. When the Great Plague of 1665 killed one in every five people in London, everyone who could, fled London, including government and the official Church of England leaders. But many of the pastors ignored the laws and returned to help their dying congregations by preaching that the only hope for mankind was by trusting in the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then the government of England which was now in apostate state passed the Five Mile Act or Oxford Act.
This act forbade clergymen from living within five miles of their former church from which they had been expelled, unless they swore an oath never to resist the king. As a result of this continuing persecution, the Puritans and other nonconforming pastors were driven from their churches and from their churches and from society. Over four thousand pastors were imprisoned.
Eventually, in 1714 the Parliament passed the Schism Act, which prohibited anyone from teaching without being granted a license from a bishop. This Act was aimed against dissenters and other schools who did not want to conform to the liturgy of the Church of England.
As a result of the suppression of the free preaching of the Word of God was the descent of England into a moral abyss, perversion, corruption, and a widespread social and moral collapse. When the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was repressed, the crime rate rose and the ruling elite responded by enacting severe laws to restrain criminals.
As society broke down, God in His mercy sent a revival through the preaching of John Wesley and others. Through their preaching, the soul of nation that had become a spiritual wasteland was transformed. John Wesley preached a practical gospel that changed every aspect of society.
Christianity is essentially a social religion; to turn it into a solitary religion is indeed to destroy it….. Wesley declared that a “doctrine to save sinning men, with no aim to transform them into crusaders against social sin, was equally unthinkable.
The nation according to one historian had witnessed a decline in religion and public morality scarcely to be matched in the history of the nation. England had reached an all-time low. Such an appalling corruption abounded that it seemed to call for nothing else but an outpouring of divine wrath. The nation had become ripe for judgement.
But just at the point when things were at their worst, God in His mercy and grace raised up revivalists like George Whitefield, Howell Harris, and Daniel Rowland and He used all the three to bring about a great spiritual awakening in England, Scotland and Wales. This awakening is now referred to as the Eighteenth–Century Revival, and by the time that George III came to the throne in 1760, this great Evangelical Revival had swept the land.