The Enlightenment Prelate: Benjamin Hoadly, 1767-1761

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Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761), Bishop successively of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury and Winchester, was the most controversial English churchman of the eighteenth century. He has unjustly gained the reputation of a negligent and political bishop, and with this publication, Gibson attempts to reappraise the legacy of this influential man. It was Hoadly's sermon on the nature of Christ's kingdom that sparked the Bangorian controversy which raged from 1717-1720. His sermons, books and tracts poured from the press in huge quantities and were widely read by Anglicans and Dissenters alike, yet his commitment to the ideology of the Revolution of 1688 and to the comprehension of Dissenters into the Church of England earned him the antagonism of many contemporary and later churchmen. This book is the first full-length study of Hoadly to be published, and is a powerfully revisionist study. Hoadly emerges as a dedicated and conscientious bishop with strong and progressive principles. He asserted the right of individuals to judge the Bible for themselves without the shackles of ecclesiastical authority and sought to establish a liberal enclave in the Church to re-attract Dissenters. He also restored a strongly Protestant commemorative view of the Eucharist to the Church. But it was not simply his ecclesiastical work which made him such an important figure. Hoadly's stout defence of rationalism made him a founder of the English Enlightenment. His views on the nature of political authority also drew heavily on John Locke, and Hoadly was responsible for bringing Locke's views to a wide audience. It was his commitment to civil liberties which made him a progenitor of the American Revolution whilst his writing on the nature of civil authority was acclaimed by John Adams as a source of American liberties and of the US Constitution. He also advanced sincerity of belief over the right of the State to impose penalties for the failure to conform. In these principles he presaged the future direction of both religion and society.