The Depraved State of 18th-Century England
In this brief clip from his teaching series A Survey of Church History, W. Robert Godfrey explains the depraved state of 18th-century England that set the stage for the emergence of John Wesley and George Whitefield. Watch this entire message for free.
By the early eighteenth‑century, religious and moral life in England was reaching a fairly low point, there was serious moral degeneration in England. Sexual immorality was flaunted at court and in the theater and in literature. An invitation to a masked ball of the aristocracy was sent out with the promise of champagne, dice, music, or your neighbor’s spouse. There was widespread drunkenness amongst the lower classes, and gambling and drink had become a national disgrace. Many houses in London were turned into gin mills, producing “bathtub gin,” probably not with bathtubs, but homemade gin, in any case. Drunkenness was becoming a great problem amongst the English people. The state government had established lotteries that were encouraging gambling. There were cruel and degrading sports, cock‑fighting, bull‑baiting. Hangings had become so frequent that Dr. Johnson quipped that he was afraid the Royal navy would run out of rope, and jails were over‑crowded. There was indifferentism to religion.
Can you imagine a society so degenerated? Widespread sexual immorality, cruel sports, gambling, drunkenness; it’s hard to imagine a society in such a state, but that’s where England was early in the eighteenth‑century.
And the church, the official Church of England, in particular, seemed paralyzed to be helpful in any way. Someone remarked that the church ‑‑ the sermons in churches were like a winter’s day: Cold and short, and they weren’t doing any good. One observer remarked, “Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical and unaffecting, delivered with the most insipid calmness.”