The best times and the worst times of our lives have one thing in common: it’s hard to find words for them. Our hearts cry out to the Lord, but so often those cries are wordless. Our thoughts and emotions whirl, formless, and what we long for are the words to express what we’re feeling and thinking.
The Psalms have long been the prayer book of the church, and praying them regularly, so that our hearts and minds are soaked in their rhythms and phrases, gives us the words that we desire when our hearts are full. When we pray the words of the psalms, we don’t have to doubt whether our words are good and true and right. They are. They’re the words the faithful have used for centuries to pour out their hearts to the Lord.
A few things to consider, if you’re new to the practice of praying the Psalms:
1) Revisit the familiar ones and go deeper with them. There’s a reason Psalm 23 is so beloved. The ones you’ve memorized are the ones that are already deep in your bones, and the more you pray them, the more meaningful they’ll become. There’s always further to go in prayer, because the Lord’s goodness is infinite.
2) Read new ones regularly. Some of the best are the Psalms of Ascent, from Psalm 120 through Psalm 134. These were sung on the way up to Jerusalem, and they’re possibly the most beautiful and joyful and accessible psalms in the book, with many reminders of God’s great faithfulness. Perfect for the Easter season.
3) Try them set to music. There are many great hymns that are paraphrases of the Psalms (Isaac Watts wrote a vast number) or you can try singing them to plainsong (use the Book of Common Prayer and the 1984 Hymnal to get started). They were written to be sung, and though we don’t have the original tunes, singing them to the ones we have is a great joy.
4) Remember that they’re both poetry and prophecy. Most Psalms can be read in several ways: as the words of the man who composed them, as prophecy about Christ, and as prophecy about Christ’s church. And probably more that I’m missing because I’m still only a beginner myself! But it’s clear there are layers of meaning in each psalm. You don’t have to focus on each meaning every time you read a given psalm, but it’s good to be aware, for example that the “beatus vir” – “blessed is the man” – in psalm 1, is probably first about Jesus, the perfect man, and then about those who, by his grace, are sanctified by his Spirit, and then . . . well, like I said, I’m a beginner and need to study them even more myself. (Patrick Reardon’s excellent book, Christ in the Psalms, is a great place to start.)
5) Mostly, just read them a lot. It was traditional to read the Psalms in the morning and the evening – more often than that if you happened to be a monk or a nun! In this case, familiarity doesn’t breed contempt; it breeds love.
Prayers for All Seasons
In the hard times of my life, I find myself returning to the Psalms again and again. Frustration or fear or sorrow rises, and I find myself saying, “Hope, oh my soul, in the Lord, for I will yet praise him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God.” Triumph and joy ride shouting in my soul, and I find myself declaring, “Had it not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, had it not been the Lord who was on our side, then they would have swallowed us alive . . . Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us to be torn by their teeth!”
The words of the Psalms are words that God gave to his people, so that we would know how to pray, so that when our hearts were full, with joy or with sorrow, we would have the words to express ourselves to him. I am so grateful for this great gift.
Providence, let me love You like my chosen betrothed. Flood my arms with anticipation, so the pimples tickle the lace of my best ball gloves. I sweep my fan and search for You above the crowds.
With a quickened pulse, I slip away to greet You in the privacy of my hostess’s garden. Let me come to You uncaring of my appearance, unworried about my reputation. Let no concern shadow my heart about my unworthiness of this match. Pray let me not fall victim to my doubts or be persecuted by my memories, the false promises of my past.
I run to You now in the midst of the spring shower with muslin and sarcenet gathered in my palms. My lifted skirts expose my ankles to the soft kisses of raindrops. I twirl in circles trampling my foolish pride with the tender soles of my slippers. Joy fills my lungs for at last I know it is You who loves me, just as I am.
Let me embrace You like my true betrothed and seek You in the hidden places. The labors of my hands, the burdens upon my shoulders disappear in Your presence. The lightness of Your yoke frees me to sing as Your fragrance, the myrrh and frankincense, anoints the cuff of my sleeve. I smell safety and sense whispers of encouragement. My heart pounds at the softness of Your touch, the shield of protection You gird about me. Though it is I who strayed, I weep at the openness of Your arms, Your forgiveness.
Let me love You in fearless reverence. When the Ton scoff at Your humble beginnings and call You a tradesman’s son, make me not shun You or deny my feelings. I should know now that Your riches provide honor and inheritance for all my generations. Grow my heart to be as generous and as loving. Aid me to be light in this world and a proper helpmate for your ministry.
A wave of shyness grips me. I want to turn, but Your patience draws me. I lower my fan once more and glance at your beauty. There can be no falling away or breaking with You. I shall cling to your promises, your comfort. My lamp is trimmed and full of oil, and I await You, no longer a foolish virgin, but a hopeful bride seeking her Prince of Peace.
As you have your time of devotion this week, study these verses. Your true betrothed has sent an invitation.
Song of Solomon 2:6
1 Corinthians 15:9
Naomi here, and we’re talking about weddings today. More particularly, wedding hotspots. In today’s society, destination weddings seem to be growing in popularity. A person can’t just get married in a church anymore. Oh no. We have to fly to Hawaii, trade vows on a Jamaican beach at sunset, or visit the Florida keys in order to have the perfect wedding. Does anyone get married in a plain old church anymore?
In Regency England, church weddings were all the rage. They had to be. It was illegal to get married anywhere else (unless you were super rich and bought your way out of the church deal, but we’ll get to that in a moment).
According to the Hardwicke’s Marriage Act of 1753, if a couple wanted to marry, they needed:
banns read in church services for three consecutive weeks
parental consent if under the age of 21
Then the marriage itself had to:
be performed in the morning hours between 8:00 and 12:00
be held in a public chapel or church (Church of England church, Jewish synagogue or Quaker meeting)
be conducted by authorized clergy
be recorded in the marriage register with the signatures of both parties, the witnesses, and the minister.
As you can well see, the British Government was gracious to all those poor people wanting to get married two hundred years ago. And the sad thing is, England has so much lovely scenery. You know those beautiful White Cliffs of Dover? Do you want to get married there at sunset? Regular folk likely couldn’t have, though there were two ways around the tedious list of marriage regulations.
For a modest sum, you could purchase a license from the local clergy, which enabled the marrying couple to skip the banns.
For an exorbitant sum, you could purchase a special license from no less than the Archbishop of Canterbury, which enabled the marrying couple to skip the banns, get married outside a church, and marry after noon.
However, there was a more dramatic way to circumvent the Marriage Act of 1753: Elope. The Hardwicke Marriage Act was only law in England. Scotland didn’t adhere to such strict marriage regulations, and towns along the Scottish/English border became a popular place to elope, (especially if the bride or groom was under 21 and didn’t have parental consent). Today people fly to Vegas; in Regency England they rode four days (or more) from London to Gretna Green, Scotland. Or Coldstream Bridge, Lamberton, Mordington, or Paxton Toll.
For those wealthy, law abiding citizens not wishing to circumvent the Marriage Act or do something so extreme as to marry out of doors, the place to get married was St. George’s, Hanover Square. Interestingly enough, St. George’s is not located on Hanover Square itself, but a block or two away. It was located in the fashionable place for the ton to live when in London: Mayfair.
The church held about 1,000 weddings per year in Regency times, which comes out to three weddings per day. And remember the majority of these weddings had to take place between 8:00 am and noon. Can you imagine getting married there? Maybe, if you were lucky, you would have had the church for a whole hour before getting get kicked out so the next bride in line could have her turn. Which makes me equate St. George’s to a modern day Las Vegas wedding chapel. The record for marriages at St. George’s was set in 1816, with 1,063 weddings, including nine on Christmas Day.
So there you have it, Wedding Hotspots in Regency England, and the reason why those places were so hot: The Hardwicke Marriage Act.
A mother of two young boys, Naomi Rawlings spends her days picking up, cleaning, playing and, of course, writing. Her husband pastors a small church in Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, where her family shares its ten wooded acres with black bears, wolves, coyotes, deer and bald eagles. Naomi and her family live only three miles from Lake Superior, where the scenery is beautiful and they average 200 inches of snow per winter. Naomi writes bold, dramatic stories containing passionate words and powerful journeys. Her debut novel, Sanctuary for a Lady releases in April of 2012.
At the dawn of the Regency era (the period between 1811 and 1820, when George, the Prince of Wales, ruled as Prince Regent), many in London’s aristocracy enjoyed the pleasures afforded them. But in America, a brilliant young man named Adoniram Judson was preparing for a very different life.
In 1811, at the age of 23, Judson decided to become a missionary—at a time when America had yet to send anyone to the foreign mission field—and he set his eyes on India.
“It was during a solitary walk in the woods,” wrote Judson of his call to be a missionary, “while meditating and praying upon the subject, and feeling half inclined to give it up, that the command of Christ, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,’ was presented to my mind with such clearness and power, that I came to a full decision, and, though great difficulties appeared in my way, resolved to obey the command at all events.”
And Judson would soon take a wife.
Judson had met the beautiful Ann Hasseltine (who most people called “Nancy”) in 1810 at a dinner in her parents’ Massachusetts home. At 21, Ann was the youngest of four children (three girls and a boy) and the pet of the family. Judson was so taken by the beautiful vivacious girl he was struck speechless and spent most of the dinner staring at his plate.
Ann was not impressed. Where was the brilliant young man she had heard so much about?
By this time, Ann was already a Christian. At sixteen, she had picked up a book by Hannah Moore (one of the famed Clapham Sect in London to which William Wilberforce belonged), and read the words, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”
Of these words, Ann was later to say, “They struck me to the heart. I stood for a few moments amazed at the incident, and half inclined to think that some invisible agency had directed my eye to those words.” They were to change her life forever—from one of reckless gaiety to one of service for God.
A month after Judson met Ann, he declared his desire to be her suitor in a letter. She did not immediately reply but eventually told him he would have to obtain her father’s permission. So, Judson promptly wrote her father, John Hasseltine of Bradford, to ask for his daughter’s hand:
“I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death.
Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God?
Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”
The letter must have shocked Ann’s father, but Mr. Hasseltine was unusual and so was his daughter. Though he had misgivings, amazingly, he left the decision to Ann, as did her mother. A courtship followed as Ann considered the costs of giving her life to foreign missions at a time when no American woman had gone to the foreign mission field.
Their courtship lasted a year while Judson solicited support for his mission to India.
On January 1, 1811, he wrote to Ann:
“It is with the utmost sincerity, and with my whole heart, that I wish you, my love, a happy new year.
May it be a year in which your walk will be close with God; your frame calm and serene; and the road that leads you to the Lamb marked with purer light. May it be a year in which you will have more largely the spirit of Christ, be raised above sublunary things, and be willing to be disposed of in this world just as God shall please.
As every moment of the year will bring you nearer the end of your pilgrimage, may it bring you nearer to God, and find you more prepared to hail the messenger of death as a deliverer and a friend.
And now, since I have begun to wish, I will go on.
May this be the year in which you will change your name; in which you will take a final leave of your relatives and native land; in which you will cross the wide ocean, and dwell on the other side of the world, among a heathen people.”
Can you imagine such a courtship? In the time of the Regency era when so many in London were pursuing pleasure, can you conceive of such an unselfish, sacrificial view of life? Ann must have been an amazing woman that she would proceed in the face of so many unknowns and so much danger. But she did proceed.
As the year wore on, Ann and Adoniram, now betrothed, became increasingly conscious of the fact they would soon be saying good-bye to all their friends and family and to all they had known. And as war with England seemed a certainty, Judson was eager to sail. God opened doors. Money and gifts rolled in and their needs were met.
On February 5, 1812, Adoniram and Ann were married in the very room in which they had first met. Seven days later, they set sail from Salem, Massachusetts for India. However, God had another destination in mind.
The East India Company had concluded that the recent mutiny among Indian troops had its origin in religious antagonism to the presence and teaching of foreign missionaries.
So they denied the Judsons permission to remain in India. Instead, they were advised by the American Missionary Society to head toward Burma, which they did.
In July 1813, they landed in the city of Rangoon and were welcomed into the home of English missionaries.
When Adoniram and Ann arrived in Burma, there was not one known Christian in that land of millions. It was to be six, long heart-breaking years before they would see the first convert to Christ. Judson noted in his journal: “Oh, may it prove to be the beginning of a series of baptisms in the Burman empire which shall continue in uninterrupted success to the end of the age.”
Converts were added slowly but they came. And much was achieved. But there was also much opposition. These lines from Judson’s letter to Ann in 1811 proved prophetic:
“We shall no more see our kind friends around us, or enjoy the conveniences of civilized life, or go to the house of God with those that keep holy day; but swarthy countenances will everywhere meet our eye, the jargon of an unknown tongue will assail our ears, and we shall witness the assembling of the heathen to celebrate the worship of idol gods.
We shall be weary of the world, and wish for wings like a dove, that we may fly away and be at rest. We shall probably experience seasons when we shall be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.
We shall see many dreary, disconsolate hours, and feel a sinking of spirits, anguish of mind, of which now we can form little conception. O, we shall wish to lie down and die. And that time may soon come.”
In 1818, one disaster after another swept over the little mission in Burma.
Cholera raged in the city; the government persecuted the missionaries; it was said the foreigners were to be banished; and war’s alarm floated in the air.
One by one English ships weighed anchor and hastily left the harbor. In 1824, Judson was imprisoned in irons, accused of being a British spy. He spent 21 months in prison, condemned to die.
But in answer to prayers and Ann’s incessant pleadings to officials, Judson’s life was spared and British intervention freed him from imprisonment.
Ann, who had so faithfully ministered to him while he was in prison, died in 1826 at 37 after a long period of ill health. She had two children, a son, Roger Williams (born in 1815) and a daughter, Maria (born in 1825). Both died in infancy.
In 1850, at age 62, after a lifetime given to Burma and out-living two more wives, broken in health, Judson began his journey home to the United States, but he never reached its shores. He died on board ship on April 12, 1850.
Ann and Adoniram gave their lives for God and Burma, and their legacy was a great one.
Adoniram mastered the Burmese language (possibly the most difficult language to acquire, excepting Chinese), writing and speaking it with the familiarity of a native and the elegance of a cultured scholar, and by 1834, translated the entire Bible into Burmese. His biographers believe that his translation was “undoubtedly his greatest contribution to the people among whom he chose…to spend and be spent for Christ’s sake.”
Ann, too, learned Burmese (and Siamese), did translation work, taught Burmese girls, managed her household and cared for her husband. In 1822, when she was home in the United States briefly because of ill health, she wrote a history of the Burmese work titled American Baptist Mission to the Burman Empire. It was published in 1823.
Sometime after Adoniram’s death a government survey recorded 210,000 Christians in Burma, one out of every fifty-eight! Such an amazing impact their lives had.
If you would like to read more of Adoniram Judson’s life, I recommend To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson, a work of nonfiction and very good.
After years of practicing law in both the private sector and government, and traveling to over 40 countries, Regan has returned to her love of telling stories. She writes mainline Regency romances. To learn more about her stories, see her website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com.
When I think of Christmas Time, the lilt of bells and the memories I associate with them flood my mind. A warmth grips me, hugging me tighter than my best spencer. To me, bells always sound happy, giving an ethereal lightness and glow to the heart of the hearer. I prefer the sounds of cast bells. Their song is richer and more full-bodied than their thin sheet-metal cousins.
England is steeped in both, and bell-ringing is a part of the culture and history. The tradition of casting English bells predates the Middle Ages. Today, two of her best bellfounders survive, Taylors of Loughborough (1400) and Mears and Stainbank of Croydon (1570).
Moreover, bells and bell-ringing played a role in Regency life. Bells rang to announce a church service. This service would be on Christmas Day as oppose to the Christmas Eve masses we are accustomed to.
I can imagine hearing the peal (the loud prolonged ringing) of St. George’s eight hemispherical bells tolling on the morn of December 25. Maybe the bell ringers would perform a change ringing where they would display a festive pattern of bell tolls. It wouldn’t be a familiar holiday tune but an exquisite series of tones set to a rhythm indicative of the ringers’ skills. Change ringing is still popular today, in England and around the world.
Church bells would also ring for weddings. Although, it would probably be unusual (in my opinion), I couldn’t find any prohibitions to having a Christmas Day wedding. If Christmas fell on a Sunday after the banns have been successfully read, what cleric would stop the couple and delay the ringing of another successful match?
Amidst the joy, bells of London could also possess a seamy side. They are said to have been rung at Bethlehem Hospital (Bedlam) announcing to gawkers to come stare at the mentally unstable patients. I would hope that Christmas Day would be spared, but not the whole of December.
Perhaps after leaving St. George’s, if I were walking toward a coffee shop, a Morris dancer (or a troupe of Morris dancers) would perform in front of me. The bells strapped below their knees would tinkle with each of their merry steps. The Morris dancer tradition dates back to 15th Century in England. Its earliest notations suggests it was a dance that both men and women could partake in, but at the time of the Regency, it was mostly a male endeavor.
Walking a little farther, I might hear bells strapped to a horse team or the ringing of bells on residences which have not installed a doorknocker. Those households wouldn’t have the advance warning of the importance of their visitor, as a footman’s successive knocks would detail, just the egalitarian jingle for all who darken their thresholds. Well, hopefully these homes are prepared for all coming to sup for Christmas dinner.
Trudging a little farther, I hear a dull peal, one laced with sorrow. Bells were also used to announce deaths. Continuing a tradition started in the Middle Ages, church bells were rung to drive away evil spirits from the departed souls. My heart breaks for anyone losing a loved one, particularly during a season meant for love of family and friends. My continued prayer is for the families of Newtown, Connecticut. Here at Regency Reflections/ChristianRegency.com our hearts are broken, too. The ringing of twenty-six bells are too many.
RWA’s Beau Monde Chapter
Oxford’s City Branch of Church Bell Ringers
Central Council of Church Bell Ringers
Forrest, John. The History of Morris Dancing, 1483–1750. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co Ltd, 1999.
Regency Reflections is excited to welcome Regan Walker. Over the next three days we will be sharing a paper Regan wrote entitled “God in the Regency”. This three part series will give you a terrific overview of the religious environment and shifts in the Regency period.
My initial purpose in writing this article was to dive beneath the form and ritual we often read about in the religious activities of Regency England, and get to the hearts of the men and women living at that time to explore their beliefs and the meaning of their faith to their lives. I found it a daunting task in the short time I had and finally decided that the only evidence I could provide of what was in their hearts was to look at the actions that resulted from their faith (or lack of it). I approach this issue as a person of faith myself, hence I am not looking to discredit, but rather to shed light on what was happening to the church that influenced the people of England, both rich and poor, in matters of faith during the Regency. To do so, however, I felt it necessary to review the century before this period and the time following the slim slice of history that was the Regency in order to understand the sweeping changes that occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries that bracket the Regency.
It is not my intention in this effort to duplicate the wonderful contributions of others who have looked into this subject. I merely want to provide interesting background for authors of Regency historical novels who may want to know more. At the end of the article I’ve listed some of my sources and other books, articles and websites that might be of interest to you. My thanks to fellow Beau Monde member Nancy Mayer who gave me helpful suggestions that improved the article.
The 18th Century:
The early 18th century in England was an age of reason, and the churches, such as they were, lacked vitality, in part due to the action of the government. I speak in general terms, of course, as there have always been exceptions. However, from what I’ve read, there was little enthusiasm for spiritual matters, perhaps as a reaction to the excesses of the 17th century. People were content with things as they were and those few who attended church often did so out of habit or social custom. The aristocracy was expected to show a good example by attending church and some did, but perhaps only a few times a year on major church holidays. There were parishes where the poor had no church in which to worship and wanted for spiritual leadership.
In the middle of the century, a change swept England. It began, as such revivals always do, with a few who desired to grow closer to God. In 1729, a small group of men at Oxford began gathering under the direction of John Wesley to observe the fasts and festivals of the church, take Communion, and visit the sick and prisoners. Wesley had made the love of God the central principle in his life. His efforts, and those of others, led to what is called The Great Awakening, a Christian movement that also swept Europe and the American colonies. It was to have great consequence.
The “Awakening” produced powerful preachers who gave listeners a sense of their need for a personal faith in God for salvation from sin. Pulling away from the ritual and ceremony that brought people to church out of habit or social custom, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.
John and his brother, Charles and George Whitefield, all ordained in the Anglican Church of England, had been missionaries in the new colony of Georgia, but returned home in 1738 after an unsuccessful mission, disillusioned and discouraged with their faith. They began attending prayer meetings on Aldersgate Street in London, searching for answers. During that time, all three had conversion experiences. (As John Wesley wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins.” –Journal of John Wesley, May 24, 1738.) With this newfound excitement and energy in spiritual matters, the brothers began to develop guidelines, or methods, in seeking spiritual renewal.
In 1739, John Wesley and George Whitefield began preaching the gospel outdoors to large gatherings. Wesley took the whole of England as his parish, preaching to as many as 20,000 at one time in London. Thousands, who had previously thought little of religion, were converted. Although not his intention, Wesley’s message led to a new movement that would ultimately separate from the Church of England called the Methodists. From the very start, the Methodists were concerned with personal holiness and emphasized the need for an experience of salvation and forgiveness of sin. Those who criticized the Methodists, such as the Duchess of Buckingham, complained of being held accountable for sin “as the common wretches.” John Wesley’s mission was to England’s poor, unlearned and neglected people. He had little time for the aristocratic rich, finding them idle, trivial, extravagant and lacking in social responsibility.
Despite the focus of the Methodists on the poor and working classes, one of the converts at this time was the Countess of Huntingdon, who for 40 years was deeply involved with the leaders of the Methodist movement. The countess was born into aristocracy as Selina Shirley, both sides of her family being descended from royalty. Selina married Theophilus Hastings, the Earl of Huntingdon, in 1728. Notwithstanding her wealth and position, she found the typical social life of the aristocracy empty. Everything changed in 1739 when she was converted to the Christian faith and determined to use her energies, organizational skills and wealth for the cause of the gospel. Within a short time she was identifying herself with the Wesley brothers and other early Methodist preachers in the Church of England. This reflected great courage on her part, because these itinerant preachers were despised by most of the aristocracy.
To reach the aristocracy, the countess brought the leading preachers of the day into her home and invited her friends and acquaintances to hear them. A number of noble and influential people came to faith in this way. All of them were likely members of the Church of England even before their conversion. In 1746, the countess’s husband died, and at 39, she threw herself into her work with even greater zeal. When she was in London, she held services in her home inviting the evangelical preachers of her day to speak to her friends. She also leased properties in several strategic centres throughout the country and regularly held preaching services there. She built chapels, too, for “her preachers” including one in Bath. By her death in 1791, she had been largely responsible for the construction of 64 chapels all over Britain. In 1778, she once said that she was responsible for 116 “preaching places.”
It is interesting to note that in 1748, John Newton, slave trade ship captain and later the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, was converted during a storm at sea. After he left his career as a ship’s captain, he became an enthusiastic disciple of George Whitefield and then an evangelical lay preacher. In 1757, he applied to be an ordained priest in the Church of England, though it was seven years before that happened, owing to his lack of credentials. Meanwhile, in his frustration, he also applied to the Methodists, Presbyterians and Independents, which suggests he could have found a spiritual home with any of them. Newton’s newfound faith in God made a distinct difference in his life and the hymn for which he is famous testifies to his heart change (“I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see”).
Four years after John Wesley’s death in 1791, the Methodists broke with the Church of England, though it was never Wesley’s desire and he argued vehemently against it. Still, he is credited with the revival of personal religion in England and the Methodist movement.
At the end of the 18th century, a group of wealthy Anglican Evangelicals came together, most of them living in the village of Clapham southwest of London, to campaign for an end to slavery and cruel sports, prison reform and foreign missions. Dubbed “the saints,” a name which likely amused them (since the Bible calls all believers “saints”), they included: Henry Venn, rector and founder of the group; John Venn, rector and the founder’s son; William Wilberforce, friend of both John Newton and Prime Minister William Pitt, and the statesman who successfully fought against slavery; Henry Thornton, the financier; Charles Simeon, rector at Cambridge; Granville Sharp, a lawyer and founder of the St. George’s Bay Company, a forerunner of the Sierra Leone Company; Zachary Macaulay, estate manager and Governor of Sierra Leone (established as a homeland for emancipated slaves); John Shore, Lord Teignmouth, formerly Governor-General of India; James Stephen, lawyer, Wilberforce’s brother-in-law and author of the Slave Trade Act of 1807; Charles Grant, Chairman of the East India Company; and Hannah More, poet and playwright, who produced tracts for the group.
What motivated them? William Wilberforce’s views here are helpful. In his book, “A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Higher and Middle Classes in This Country Contrasted with Real Christianity,” which was published in 1798, and by 1826 had gone through 15 editions in England alone, he speaks of a “true Christian” as one discharging a debt of gratitude to God for the grace he has received. Likely his views mirrored those of his fellow Clapham group members when he said,
They are not their own: their bodily and mental faculties, their natural and acquired endowments, their substance, their authority, their time, their influence, all these they consider. . .to be consecrated to the honor of God and employed in His service.
The Clapham group certainly put their faith into action. One of their primary concerns was foreign missions, taking seriously Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Among their achievements, were the Religious Tract Society in 1799, the Society for Missions to Africa and the East (now the Church Missionary Society) in 1799, and the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804. The latter circulated the Bible in England and abroad. With funding from the Clapham group, Hannah More established twelve schools by 1800 where reading, the Bible and the catechism were taught to local children. She also wrote ethical books, some of them during the Regency.
The influence of the Clapham group continued during the Regency period. By the mid 19th century they were known as the Clapham Sect.
Sunday schools arose in the 1780s teaching Bible stories to children. It was the idea of Robert Raikes, the curate of Mary le Crypt Church in Gloucester. His purpose was to teach local children to read and write. The idea spread rapidly; by 1797, there were 1,086 schools in England teaching 69,000 children.
God in the Regency will continue with part 2 tomorrow.
After years of practicing law in both the private sector and government, and traveling to over 40 countries, Regan has returned to her love of telling stories. She writes mainlineRegency romances, her first is Racing With The Wind, set in London and Paris in1816, and features spies and intrigue as well as a smart, independent heroine and a handsome British lord–lots of adventure as well as love! It’s the first in her Agents of the Crown trilogy. For more, see her website: http://www.reganwalkerauthor.com.
As we settle in to enjoy Labor Day, I began to think of what the Regency times would think of such a holiday, a day off to celebrate the working man. In fact, they did have a day to celebrate not working. In fact, they did so every week, on the Sabbath.
Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your ox, nor your donkey, nor any of your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).
For Anglican Regency England, the Sabbath was Sunday. Typically, the only work allowed in keeping with the Sabbath would be the preparation of the food and dressing. If one considered writing letters, “creating.” The correspondence would have to wait. Cultivating your land (if you were lucky enough to inherit or purchase) would have to be delayed. Housework? Well, hopefully your home was clean the day before and would be sustained until Monday. Remember, you should only minimally use your servants (if you could afford the help) and servants needed time for church and Sabbath observation too.
Outings other than to the parish? If one could walk to a neighbors as opposed to engaging a coachman and carriage, it could be permitted, but don’t get too merry socializing. The Bow Street Runners or local magistrates might apprehend you, like they did many drinkers and gamblers placing them in stocks on the public ‘green’. Nothing like a little public humiliation to get you to uphold the Sabbath.
So on this day, like I did Sunday, I’ll take a moment to reflect then sneak back to my quill.