3rd July 1726. ‘Serious Call’.
It was the Anglican, William Law’s ’Serious call to a Devout and Holy Life’ (1728) that was to influence the later Evangelical Church Movement.(1)
Law’s belief in a Biblical piety and morality was to influence the Wesley brothers, with John travelling thousands of miles on horseback, rising at four in the morning to begin his outdoor preaching largely to the people who had been forgotten by the Established Church.
Another follower was George Whitefield who deprived of the Anglican pulpit began ‘field preaching’ in 1739 thus setting a trend symbolised by the likes of zany, eccentric Rev. John ‘Orator’ Henley who set up his own debating Oratory above the shambles in Newport Today in 1726.
It was a relaxed style of preaching to become popular later with the Freethinking sects of London.
It was a ‘Revivalism’ which spread to Wales inspired by Whitfield’s Calvinism and ideas of Predestination which was to set the tone for the Welsh Bethels and non-conformity.
However though Law influenced the Evangelicals and the later Wesleyan Methodists they wouldn’t be following his strict teaching on celibacy and the Pauline submission of women.
Law lived at the time of the Enlightenment when Deism, Rationalism and a philosophical approach to religion were popular. However God-given morality was indivisible and this set Law against all ‘profanity’ including stage entertainment.
He considered its ribaldry, profaneness and extravagant thoughts as a pleasure analogous to the Catholics devotion to Images which he considered a great sin, though under the pretence of piety.
Law’s ‘Serious Call’ influenced William Wilberforce as well as historian Edward Gibbon, and Dr Johnson who was at Oxford when he took up the book ‘expecting to find it dull, but for the first time he started thinking seriously of religion’.
Law was concerned to emphasise that one’s life should be totally God centred and inspired by a strict moralistic and Biblical inspired religion, which though taken up by the Evangelicals, the renewed fervour must have inspired the Anglo-Catholics of Newman.
(1) Law (1686-1761) as a Jacobite follower of James II and a non-juror who refused to swear an Oath of Allegiance to George I was forced to resign his Cambridge fellowship.
Ref: books.google.co.uk/repro. of 1726 edition of Absolute Unlawfulness of Stage Entertainment.