Europe, and bringing religious liberty. In Prussia, the young Reformed clergyman, Friedrich Schleiermacher, confided to his father as late as February 1793 that 'upon the whole I heartily sympathize with the French Revolution'.4 This early support for the Revolution, however, faded as the Revolution grew more violent, and as members of the clergy began fleeing France in large numbers, bringing with them harrowing tales of atrocities. As reports of the Terror and de-Christianization campaign in France spread, it grew clear that the Revolution was becoming an unparalleled challenge to European Christianity.
The fear and unrest stirred by the Revolution in France also contributed to religious yearnings, as many Europeans responded to the political tensions by embracing a gospel that promised both salvation in the next world and a sense of individual dignity and worth in the present. In the United Kingdom, the 1790s witnessed a new religious zeal among Protestant Dissenters, and especially Wesleyan Methodists, and a resurgence of the Evangelical movement that had first emerged in the 1730s. This revival movement, to be sure, was not solely a response to the Revolution. Along with the political ferment, much of Britain was now experiencing the social dislocations of early industrialization, with the spread of mechanized production bringing large-scale movements of population, threatening livelihoods and ways of life, and driving many into dire poverty. Amid this social unrest, there emerged a growing number of itinerant evangelists, many of them labouring people, barely literate and without ordination in any church. Some of them were supported by Dissenting congregations or voluntary religious societies; some supported themselves through labour or relied on the goodwill of local people. The itinerants moved through the countryside, preaching in barns, in cottages, on roadsides, or in fields. They entered the new industrial villages that were mushrooming in the north and midlands of England, and the central lowlands of Scotland. These were often rough and violent places, growing up largely outside the pastoral care of the established churches. The evangelists brought to the inhabitants a simple gospel of human sin and depravity, of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and of sanctification under the influence of the Holy Spirit. They preached in a direct, homespun language, aimed at the understandings of labouring people. Their meetings were often loud and unruly, punctuated by spontaneous prayer, singing, shouts and the violent convulsions of sinners in agony. These meetings also provided a sense of communal belonging, and when the itinerating evangelists moved on to the next village, the converts they left behind would often form themselves into congregations, which might meet in a cottage, barn, or rented room. These congregations, in turn, frequently began sending out lay evangelists to neighbouring villages. As well
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