“LIGHTS IN DARK PLACES”
Notwithstanding the labours of Whitfield, Wesley and their colleagues, religion was still at a low ebb in England (this in the latter half of the Eighteenth Century). “The luxury, riot, debauchery, lust and madness of the age,” said a faithful preacher of the day, “could not be painted in colours equal to the life. Our language hath no word equal to the subject.” Among the clergy, the Rev. Dr. Puzzle-text, who delighted in “women, drink, tobacco and backgammon,” and Parson Bamabas, who “loved sermons no more than a grocer doth figs” were unhappily representatives of a large class. The majority of those who were neither coarse nor vinous preached an icy and loveless morality. The Nonconformists were in as pitiable a plight. In too many instances the vainglorious Deist or the speculative Socinian held possession of their pulpits. A good man looking around the dismal scene could but cryÂ—stretching out his hands as he groped his wayÂ—”Dark, dark, dark!” And yet here and there, dotted about the land, were men, both in the Establishment and in the Free Churches, who preached the pure gospel. There was Berridge at Everton, a Hervey at Weston Favell, a Brine in the City, a Gill at Southwark; and many others might be namedÂ—men “baptised with the Holy Ghost and with fire, setting their faces as a flint”Â—men with whom religion was a transporting passion. Upon such men the chambering, card-playing, drinking or morality-preaching clergy naturally looked down with a fine disdain.