The book is in three parts. First, we look at the rise of Evangelical Calvinism in the Baptist Associations (1-60). After giving some background (1-11), he covers the initial history of the western association, up to its re-formation in 1734 with an emphasis on ministerial education and what he calls "London's failure" (12-30). He also summarises the situation with the Welsh, Midland, Northern and Irish Baptist Associations (37-49).
The bulk of the book is on the Bristol Academy (61-178) looking, in turn, at its first three leaders - the pioneer Bernard Foskett (61-104) Hugh Evans (105-120) and the paternalistic Caleb Evans (121-142). This part (142-178) is completed with an interesting section on local church life (142-178) - covenant and baptism, confession and catechism and quite a bit on hymn singing (157-178).
The third section, Calvinist and missionary (179-204), steps back a little and looks at the more familiar story of the presence of hyper-Calvinism among Baptists (Hussey influenced Skepp, Brine, Gill) and its eventual demise (through Edwards influenced Sutcliff and Fuller). one would want to quibble with some of the statements here (about Beza and Perkins for example) but the basic thesis seems sound.
Of four appendices perhaps the most interesting is the list of Bristol students, 1720-1791 (222-249). Benjamin Beddome is among them. Beddome is also mentioned on several other pages as are several of his relatives. The fine bibliography and index add to the value of this well researched and interesting book.
Any thesis however well reworked is not always the most gripping of reads. I was helped to keep going by the relation of one sad but surreal incident and what appears to be one glorious typo (not very many of those here at all).
The sad surrealism - around page 90 the story of John Reynolds who suffered an impaired voice soon after moving to London "having accidentally inhaled his shirt studs while dressing".
The typo - on page 98 we are told that the Trosnant School was founded by "John Griffiths, who was at the time manager of the local iron and trepanning works in Pontypool". Trepanning can refer to creating mine shafts but is most often used to describe brain surgery through the skull. The word should be "japanning".
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