Subscribe now

The Nation’s Gospel: Volume 1 (1516-1791) Reformation to Revolution

By Mr Jeremy Thomas
April 2018 | Review by Ben Wilkerson
  • Publisher: Wilberforce Publications
  • ISBN: 978-0-99568-324-2
  • Pages: 436
  • Price: £14.00
Buy this book »

This compelling book tackles an enormous subject, covering a major part of the history of evangelicalism in England. In this first volume, Thomas covers church history from 1516 to 1791, highlighting the beginnings of gospel preaching during the infancy of the Reformation to the rise of (and response to) Methodism.

Part 1 of the book intrigues us by the humble beginnings of English Protestantism. This followed a slow but steady retreat from Roman Catholic practices and the increase of gospel knowledge through the translation of the Scriptures into English, the practice of catechising, and the stalwart preaching and martyrdom of gospel preachers.

Thomas highlights men such as Thomas Cromwell and Archbishop Cranmer, whose goal was to transform ‘the life of their nation into a mirror of the true Christian Commonwealth’ (p.151). The author not only covers the high points of this infant period in gospel preaching and education, but also the lows, where divisions rocked the church.

Part 2 looks at the beginnings of divisions within the Church of England, covering the years 1603 to 1743. In this large swathe of church history, Thomas brilliantly addresses the momentous change from ‘an established church, embracing the nation with broadly a single theology backed by royal power, to a more nuanced religious situation’ (p.303). He covers the pendulum swing from religious tolerance to the strife associated with the Establishment’s desire to create uniformity.

One section, in particular, that I enjoyed was Thomas’ treatment of various groups that were not part of the Church of England. He provides detail concerning how the Act of Uniformity (1662) affected all manner of dissenting groups, from Presbyterians to Quakers.

Part 3 covers the early years of Methodism during the 1730s to the relatively enervated state of the denomination at the death of Wesley in 1791. Within this segment, Thomas not only covers Methodism extensively, but also the rise of heretical sects during this period, such as Unitarianism. In addition, this final section examines such issues as scepticism among the learned, church growth and the manner in which the Church of England handled the Methodists.

All in all, this book is a masterly undertaking. It explains the growth, main events and various trials relating to the Protestant church in England between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Thomas covers the material superbly in both an historical and theological manner.

Unlike many history books, this truly understands the impact and weight of the gospel over the course of history. It shows both the highs and the lows associated with man’s shortcomings and the impact of persecution. It is highly recommended for those wishing to delve deeper into English church history.

Ben Wilkerson

Columbia, South Carolina

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Jesus himself; the story of the resurrection
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Jesus himself; the story of the resurrection
Marcus Loane

Always appreciating the writings of Marcus Loane, I anticipated this small volume with not a little relish. But, expecting vintage Loane, I was sorry to be disappointed. Perhaps I should have been more prepared, for the author himself says in…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Evolution and the Christian Faith. Theistic evolution in the light of scripture (Creation Points)
Philip Bell

The creation / evolution debate still rages, and many Christians believe it is both scientifically untenable and scripturally naïve to accept a literal account of the beginning of Genesis. Some even charge creationists with pushing a teaching that is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
New Covenant Theology: Weighed and Found Wanting
Kevin McGrane

To read this book was like a breath of fresh air. I could not put it down. Despite the traction that has been gained in the UK among evangelicals by the so-called ‘new covenant theology’ (NCT), it is surprising that…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Can We Trust the Gospels?
Peter J. Williams

This is almost unique as an apologetic resource. Christians usually must choose between big books which are scholarly or popular books which are simplistic. This book presents robust arguments that ordinary people can follow. In eight digestible chapters Williams serves…