The material world, moderation and Methodism in eighteenth-century Wales

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The leader of the English Calvinistic Methodists, George Whitefield, famously stated that ‘the devotion and business of a Methodist go hand in hand’. Whitefield’s role as a successful transatlantic evangelist coincided with the growth of the consumer revolution which affected Britain and America in the eighteenth century. His attitude to the consumer market, however, demonstrated the ambivalence which tended to characterize many contemporary methodists. Whilst advocating an otherworldly detachment from materialism, Whitefield also perceived opportunities to promote his religious cause through the use of the language and practices of the marketplace. Recent biographies of Whitefield have suggested that he made use of language and imagery derived from commerce in order to reach potential converts on either side of the Atlantic, making references to buying shares and investing in Christ’s kingdom, terms that would have been increasingly familiar to an eighteenth-century audience. He certainly employed a fairly aggressive publicity campaign to advertise his achievements and to spread news of the successes of the Revival. Such influences are by no means as apparent in the early Welsh Methodist movement, which continued to rely mainly on the Bible for its idiom and imagery, and the full effects of the consumer revolution were apparently somewhat slower in penetrating much of Wales. Yet, the Welsh Methodists were still frequently exercised by the nature of the relationship between the material and spiritual worlds in this period, and aspects of their concerns form the subject of this article.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-64
Number of pages21
JournalCylchgrawn Hanes Cymru | Welsh History Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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