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From the Fall 2015 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

Shaftesbury: The Great Reformer

by Rev. Dr. Richard Turnbull
Member of the Theology Faculty, University of Oxford

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  The role of the state was, however, limited. Shaftesbury looked for a partnership between a Christian state and the Christian voluntary society. This enabled him to create a unique Evangelical vision for mission. He saw the Evangelical voluntary societies as instruments used by God, practical expressions of Christian discipleship in preparation for the Second Advent and the day of judgement. The return of Christ was an impulse to action. The advance of state intervention after around 1870 caused a serious imbalance in the relationship of the state and the voluntary sector and the Evangelical societies lost ground.
  Shaftesbury inspired and exacerbated in equal measure. To him the campaigns for Protestant truth, evangelism and social reform were all driven by his Christian faith and Evangelical commitment. He achieved more than any government could ever have done. He was an intelligent and skilful operator. As well as his reforms and Christian work in the nation, for ten years as Viscount Palmerston’s adviser he ensured more faithful appointments to the bench of Bishops. He studiously maintained his independence from government – the only offices he sought were the chairs of the Evangelical societies. He was, in essence, a man, flawed, but also one of courage, integrity, consistency and persistence; in short, he was a man of passion. He showed to the nation true Christian leadership, discipleship and service. His legacy is on the statute books, in the voluntary evangelical mission societies and their work, evangelistic and social, and in the vision for a Christian nation and public policy. He was an inspiration for Christians in the public square then and now. Lord Shaftesbury, thank you. 


1. E. Hodder, The Life and Work of the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, Cassell & Co., London, Vol 3, 451
2. Shaftesbury, Diaries, 12th June 1875, Richard Turnbull, Shaftesbury: The Great Reformer, Lion Hudson, Oxford, 2010, p199
3. Ibid, 199
4. Ibid, 200
5. Ibid, 213
6. Ibid, 214
7. Ibid, 215
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid, 217
10. Lord Ashley, Diaries, 26th December 1847, Turnbull, Shaftesbury, 219
11. Turnbull, Shaftesbury, 220
12. Ibid, 222-223
13. Lord Ashley, House of Commons, 14th April 1840, Turnbull, Shaftesbury, 113
14. Ibid, 198

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Rev. Dr. Richard Turnbull is a member of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oxford. He published Shaftesbury, The Great Reformer, Lion Hudson, Oxford, 2010.


Recommended Reading:
Richard Turnbull, Reviving the Heart: The Story of the 18th Century Revival (Lion Hudson, 2012)

The English Revival of the 18th century was an exciting time for Christianity that most people today know little about. For instance: What caused it and why did it spread? Did it prevent a revolution in the UK, similar to that which had convulsed France? And what effect did it have—locally, nationally, and globally? This book answers all of those questions and more.



COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.


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