The Evangelical Conscience


Bebbington DW (2007) The Evangelical Conscience. Welsh Journal of Religious History, 2, pp. 27-44.

First paragraph: In a sermon preached at the Wesleyan Methodist West London Mission on 7 January 1888, its superintendent, Hugh Price Hughes, delivered a stern warning to the judges of the land. The system of justice was in need of reform; he knew of an 'impure judge' who had no right to sit in judgment on others; and all judges must take pains to avoid collision with what he called 'the Christian conscience'. In the following year the sermon was published in Hughes's book Social Christianity, probably the most influential expression of the social gospel in Britain. Within a few weeks the stock of the book was exhausted and a second edition was issued. Third and fourth editions were required within another twelve months. What did Hughes mean by 'the Christian conscience'? This paper is an attempt to explore that question. It examines the way in which Wesleyans like Hughes, together with their fellow Evangelicals in other British denominations, engaged with social issues over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Its concern is not with weighty theological works, but with mass attitudes, the frame of mind that generated efforts to improve the lot of the people over the years. It offers a general survey touching on a range of social questions, establishing a framework of analysis, and then illustrates the broad pattern with a case-study of Hugh Price Hughes, a Welshman who never forgot his native land while serving in England, and a particular movement that moulded his own brand of social gospel. The result is an effort to create a typology of Evangelical engagement with the ills of society.

Welsh Journal of Religious History: Volume 2

Publication date31/12/2007
PublisherCentre for the Advanced Study of Religion in Wales