Imitating 18th Century Evangelical Catholicity

One of the most prominent features of the Evangelical Revival in the eighteenth century as its genuinely catholic perspective when it came to ecclesiological issues. For instance, it was said of William Grimshaw (1708-1763), the influential evangelical curate of Haworth in Yorkshire, that he embraced Christians of all denominations, saying, ‘I love them and I will love them, and none shall make me do otherwise: and my House shall always be open to them all.”[1]

Good evidence of Grimshaw’s catholicity is to be found in his active support for Baptist causes throughout Yorkshire, despite the fact that a number of them had drawn some of their members from among Grimshaw’s converts. Although such sheep-stealing did not sit well with Grimshaw, he was able to joke about it, saying, “The worst of it is, that so many of my chickens turn ducks!”[2]

It should be noted, though, that not all of the leading figures of the Revival had sympathies as broad as those of Grimshaw. For example, Charles Wesley (1708- 1788), in a journal entry for October 30, 1756, minced no words when he described Baptists as: “A carnal cavilling, contentious sect, always watching to steal away our [i.e. Methodist] children, and make them as dead as themselves.” [3]

On the other hand, there were men like William Carey (1761-1834), of whom Charles Spurgeon once said: “I admire [William] Carey for being a Baptist: he had none of the false charity which might prompt some to conceal their belief for fear of offending others; but at the same time he was a man who loved all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now that is a model to imitate.

[1] Cited in Frank Baker, William Grimshaw, 1708-1763 (London: The Epworth Press, 1963), p. 245.

[2] Cited in Baker, p. 243.

[3] Cited in John R Tyson, ed., Charles Wesley: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 418.

[4] Howel Harris, 1714-1773: The Last Enthusiast (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1965), p. 29.