Onderstaande tekst is niet 100% betrouwbaar

RELIGION AND PHILANTHROPY

135

RELIGION AND PHILANTHROPY

Shaftesbury said of Pitt, after reading Wilberforce's account of his life, that he was like an unbaptised person. It was a good phrase, not only for the man but for his age; for the age of cold reason against which Wesley, Whitefield and Wilberforce had led the revolt of the emotions. The Evangelical Movement was like a great public baptism, and if we compare the atmosphere of the letters of Peel, or Graham, or Gladstone, or Salisbury with the world in which Fox, or Shelburne, or Pitt debated with their friends the issues or topics of the hour, we can mark the change it brought into the manners and tone of politics.

The religious reaction from the eighteenth century produced a creed of conduct and belief that marked the extreme contrast to the temper and outlook of that century. Composure, common sense, toleration, a view of religion that did not make it any difficulty to the enjoyment of life, these were the characteristics of eighteenth century culture. It might be objected that this was a religion of manners; that it was rather an intellectual compromise than a spiritual force; that it did not touch the heart or imagination of man with any divine impulse; that it supplied neither discipline nor stimulus in his moral life. The leaders of the Evangelical reaction would have said this in blame of that century, but they said more than this. They said that the really important in religion were just those things that the eighteenth century mistrusted or despised. So they substituted for composure, enthusiasm x); for toleration, intoler-

1. enthusiasm: the word is not used here in its famiiiar modern sense, but in the meaning attached to it in the eighteenth century, when it was used for 'confidence of divine favour, trust in communion with God.' The enemies of 'enthusiasm' naturally considered it to be mis-directed religious emotion.

Sluiten