Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Corporate Holiness: Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Societies, 1760-1870

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Corporate Holiness: Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Societies, 1760-1870

Article excerpt

Late Modern European Corporate Holiness: Pulpit Preaching and the Church of England Missionary Societies, 1760-1870. By Bob Tennant. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2013. Pp. xB, 342. $99.00. ISBN 978-0-19-956785-0.)

Bob Tennant's work on the eighteenth-century British sermon dates back to at least 2004, when he published a book chapter on an antislavery sermon by Beilby Porteus, bishop of Chester from 1776 to 1787. Since then, he has also published essays on John Tillotson, the Scottish Episcopalian Robert Morehead, and sermons about charity schools in England and mission work abroad. This is his second book-length study, after Conscience, Consciousness and Ethics in Joseph Butler's Philosophy and Ministry (Rochester, NY, 2011).

For most of the book, the meaning of the main title is not entirely clear. This is certainly a study of corporate Christianity, specifically the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG), the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), and the Church Missionary Society (CMS). "Holiness," however, receives just a passing mention in the second chapter (p. 80). Only in the conclusion do we finally learn that the title comes from "William Warburton, who conceived of corporate holiness as an expression of national spirituality and practice, grounded on ... the mutually reinforcing platforms of Church and State" (p. 287). This reasoning is sound, but it would have been preferable to find it in the introduction, where it could help set the stage for the chapters to come.

The appropriateness of the subtitle, in contrast, is evident from the start. The first three chapters examine sermons preached at the annual meetings of each of the three missionary societies. Tennant then traces the overall phenomenon of the "anniversary sermon" through three stages: the "heroic phase" (1810-32), "Christian Empire" (1820-60), and "From Christian Empire to Global Communion, 1850-70" (the title of the final chapter). By the end of the book, a complete trajectory has been traced: the sermon began as a vehicle for introducing corporate policy, then ceased to have an administrative function, and eventually became a "mainly ceremonial" event (p. …

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