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Rapture and Reason
Accounts of evangelical conversion in Georgian Britain

Rapture and Reason

Accounts of evangelical conversion in Georgian Britain

“Western culture and its fruits had its foundation in the bible, the word of God, and in the revivals of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.”
(20th century evangelist Billy Graham, 1950)

"This burst of popular devotion, the white-hot experience captured like a snapshot in these letters would be canalized into a powerful and enduring movement, ultimately reshaping the religious geography of the modern world"

Bruce Hindmarsh, James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver

The University of Manchester Library has digitised a collection of 153 manuscript conversion narratives written during the 18th century Evangelical Revival. These eye-witness accounts provide a vivid insight into a dynamic and sometimes disturbing spirituality that fuelled an explosion in popular religion and created one of the building blocks of the modern world.

This previously unpublished collection is now made available to scholars as well as members of faith communities interested in the roots of some of the world’s leading denominations.

"I am delighted to endorse this amazing project. Sharing our faith in story as well as deeds has always been a powerful part of the DNA of the Methodist people. Our generous God is unchanging and I'm sure reading these testimonies will inspire and encourage people on their faith journey, realising that 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever'."

Reverend Steven J Wild, President of the British Methodist Conference, 2015-16

About the collection

The testimonies form part of the archive of The Methodist Church in Britain deposited in the University of Manchester Library (Special Collections). Written in response to the request from the Revival leadership for accounts of conversion for use in sermons and publications, they span the first 50 years of Methodism’s existence, with many dating to the formative period 1739 to 1745.

Making the collection available

In 2015 the University of Manchester Library Heritage Imaging Service digitised the manuscript testimonies and placed the collection online together with transcripts of fifty-five of the testimonies with modernized spelling and punctuation made available courtesy of the American scholar Tom Albin.

The Methodist Church in Britain recruited a team of volunteers who completed the work of transcribing the entire collection in September 2018. These transcripts retain the original eighteenth century spelling, punctuation and syntax to ensure textual accuracy and allow linguistic analysis. The unmodernised transcripts with light annotations are now available online embedded within the pdf images of the associated digitised manuscript as well as in a seperate pdf file.

Searching the transcribed collection

1.   Use the “Access the Collection” icon on the Rapture and Reason webpage.

2.   Type in the search term in the field at the top right hand corner.

3.   Specify “Catalog data & text in documents” on the drop down menu.

4.   If searching for a phrase rather than single words, use the advanced search facility on the drop down menu.

Alternatively, the separate pdf file containing all the transcripts can be accessed and searched.

Researchers should be aware that eighteenth century spelling and syntax will distort searches. For example, “redemption” is spelled two different ways in the transcripts – with a “p” and without.

Acknowledgements

The Methodist Church in Britain and the University of Manchester Library would like to acknowledge the contribution made to this project by the following:

  • Volunteer transcribers of the "Writing to Wesley" project
  • Nicholas Loizou, Doctoral student, University of Manchester
  • Reverend Tom Albin, Dean of the Upper Room Chapel and Ecumenical Relations, Nashville, Tennessee.
  • University of Manchester Library Heritage Imaging Service

Transcribers

• Martin Ashford • Sarah Ball • Frances Bidwell • Roger Bradley • Alison Brophy • Peter Brophy • Jo Cali • Jill Carr • Jane Cottrell • Carolyne Cox • Barbara Dawson • Shelley Dennison • Sue Dilks • Sue Eedle • Paul Ellingworth • Annie Farrell • Mary Frank • Suzie Gallagher • Sylvia Garrett • David Gloin • Gareth Haigh • Diana Harmer • Paul Hassall • Sheila Himsworth • Judith Hogg • Frances Hopwood • Vivienne Hulme • Christine Jones • Bev Kinman • Natalie Lejeune • Sara Lennox • Kate Little • Alison Lovell • Keith Lovell • Kenneth Mankin • Peter Manning • Vernon Marples • Ann McGovern • Kim Medford-Vassell • Diana Musgrave • Maureen Noddings • Cynthia Park • Graham Pearcy • Owen Roberts • Gordon Robinson • Christine Scott • Helen Shields • Sarah Starks • Dianne Stubbs • Jennifer Taylor • Pauline Taylor • Helen Thomas • Philip Thornborow • Janet Tweedale • Helen Wilson • Rosie Winn

Anti-Methodist satirical print, 18th century (jrl16040782)