This is the first book to attempt a theological portrait of a pivotal generation in the history of the English Free Churches. It does so through a dual strategy: firstly, studying the theological development of key leaders over several decades; and secondly, capturing the state of the Unions -- Congregational and Baptist -- through the freeze frames provided by their biggest denominational controversies
in the 1870s and 1880s respectively.
Archetypal Victorians whose working lives stretched through most of that long reign, in the 1860s this generation inherited leadership from a predecessor that had eked out the dying momentum of the Evangelical Revival. Bathed in the formidable energy of a newly discovered Romanticism, they wrestled strenuously with the fresh challenges it exposed them to while engaged in lengthy ministries in thriving city churches. They variously tried rejecting and embracing the liberal transformation of their evangelical heritage, or even, in the case of R.W. Dale, somehow achieving their synthesis. Yet in the end neither he nor C.H. Spurgeon, nor anyone else, really found an expression of Christian faith that the next generation could take up and build with, and their successors were to preside over the first obvious stages of a long, deep, and traumatic decline.
At a time when this period is again being scrutinized for that elusive 'answer', the author will not claim to have tracked it down there; but the conclusion nonetheless indicates that this study surprisingly helped open up vistas much broader than those of the nineteenth-century debates.