The religion of the first ages
Primitivism and the primitive Church
in Reformation without end
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This chapter illustrates how the history of the early Christian church was not an abstruse subject during the eighteenth century but a topical one. For the primitive church remained the standard for both orthodoxy and orthopraxis well into the eighteenth century. This chapter demonstrates how that was the case by focusing especially on two pieces by Zachary Grey — his Examination of the fourteenth chapter of Sir Isaac Newton’s observations upon the prophecies of Daniel (1736) and his Short history of the Donatists (1741). Grey’s engagement with Netwon’s work on prophecy centred osn Newton’s treatment of saints and of God’s nature. In writing about these subjects, Newton had aimed to show that the post-fourth-century church was infested with theological impurities; Grey’s rejoinder aimed to show that the eighteenth-century Church of England understood both the saints and God’s nature in a primitively pure way. Grey’s treatment of the ancient Donatist heresy similarly related to contemporary concerns. For he tried to show that Methodism was not novel but, instead, a revival of an ancient heretical sect which had almost rent asunder the fourth-century North African church.

Reformation without end

Religion, politics and the past in post-revolutionary England


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