Religious Thought: Wesley, Swedenborg
At the end of the eighteenth century, the established Church of England was in a state of extreme spiritual and physical decay. Rural parishes were characterised by absentee incumbents or pleasure-seeking parsons, the growing industrial towns were largely unchurched, while the cities experienced a spiritual vacuum (there were six communicants in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, on Easter Day 1800). Coleridge, the son of a clergyman, had doubts in 1800 about the baptism of his sons: ‘shall I suffer the Toad of Priesthood to spurt out his foul juice in this Babe’s face?’ (letter to William Godwin). Blake satirised the clergy as lying hypocrites.
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