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"
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This previously unpublished collection is now made available to scholars as well as members of faith communities interested in the roots of some of the world’s leading denominations.
Transcripts of 55 of the testimonies are provided courtesy of Reverend Tom Albin, Dean of the Upper Room Chapel and Ecumenical Relations, Nashville, Tennessee.
Reverend Albin would like to acknowledge the Literary and Linguistic Computing Centre (Cambridge University Computing Service) for their assistance in generating the initial data input and standardized spelling conventions.
"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'."
About the collection
The testimonies form part of the archive of the Methodist Church of Great Britain deposited at the John Rylands Library. 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 1739-1745.
Approximately one third of the accounts have been transcribed and these copies can be accessed on the library website alongside the digital images of the original documents. It is intended that the rest of the collection will also be transcribed and made available online as part of a long-term project in collaboration with the Methodist Church of Great Britain and other academic partners.
Anti-Methodist satirical print, 18th century (jrl16040782)