Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven

stmarys

For the Victorians faith was an important element in their lives. It was the community of the local church that was their main source of friends and with that socialising and entertainment.
The Christian belief in Jesus as Lord, how he helped the poor, distraught, down trodden inspired many to help others.
Church schools brought education for all; people like William Barnardo and George Müller cared for orphans Dr Banardos still caring for unwanted Children. William Booth helped the homeless, poor and unemployed with the Salvation Army.
Christian politicians like Lord Shaftesbury and Sir William Gladstone cared deeply about social justice and tried to change what they could, the influence of Christ was felt deeply in the Christian era.

stainFor myself, I am a Christian and have recently moved to a traditional Anglican Church of St Mary’s. It was built in 1861 and is a fine example of a Victorian Church, it is beautiful inside and has a full graveyard, and the remains of the former Church (although there have been Churches on this site for 1000 years).

It has a good Choir of all ages and great Choir Master/Organist. 
When serving we wear robes. We use the common prayer book and also the 1662 service, and The Rector is a lovely incumbent and I can’t help but feel a connection with those who attended the Church in the 160 years or so.
Henry_Francis_LyteThis morning we sang one of my favourite hymns called ‘Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven‘, I always liked it even when I was a child. It was composed and written by an Anglican divine and hymnist called Henry Francis Lyte who lived from 1793–1847. He attended Trinity College in Dublin and took orders and became the incumbent of Lower Brixham in Devonshire. So hear are his words that have been sang in many Churches for the last 170 years.
Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven;
To His feet thy tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
Who like me His praise should sing:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King.
Praise Him for His grace and favour
To our fathers in distress.
Praise Him still the same as ever,
Slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Glorious in His faithfulness.
Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely yet His mercy flows.
Frail as summer’s flower we flourish,
Blows the wind and it is gone;
But while mortals rise and perish
Our God lives unchanging on,
Praise Him, Praise Him, Hallelujah
Praise the High Eternal One!
Angels, help us to adore Him;
Ye behold Him face to face;
Sun and moon, bow down before Him,
Dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace.
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William Abdullah Quilliam

There is a property on Brougham Terrace not far from Liverpool city centre that is derelict, vandalised and in need of much repair.

The house,was once owned by one William Henry Quilliam whose father was a Methodist preacher but in 1887 he became the first Christian to convert to Islam in Victorian England.

Quilliam had been on a trip to Morocco, converted there and adopted the name Abdullah disgarding Henry.

In 1889 he opened ‘The Liverpool Muslim Institute’ at the aforementioned property as a mosque, an orphanage and a community centre for the local growing Muslim community.

According to Professor Ron Geaves the author of the book Islam in Victorian Times.

“William Abdullah Quilliam was brought up as a devout Christian and was part of the Temperance Movement which promoted abstinence from alcohol. One of the reasons he was attracted to Islam was that alcohol is forbidden for Muslims. He also had theological concerns about Trinitarian Christianity,”

William Abdullah QuilliamUpon gaining something of a reputation he was given the title of Sheikh-ul-Islam meaning leader of Muslims in the British Isles and Vice Consul of Persia by the ShahThis was conferred on him by the last Ottoman caliph, Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Prof Geavesgoes on to say

“He was a royalist and was also recognised by Queen Victoria. He had sent her one of his books about Islam, apparently. She then ordered several copies for her children.

In time Quilliam was widely regarded as a leader of Muslims in the British Isles. Quilliam spread of Islam throughout England in the Victorian era.

bbc

A group of Muslims from Merseyside set up the Abdullah Quilliam Society in 1999 in order to preserve Quilliam’s legacy. In 2000 they took over responsibility for the building, which is now recognised as part of British Heritage.

The society wants to reopen the mosque and publishing house as a museum and heritage centre.

The Victorian faithful

Faith was very important to the Victorians, and when I say faith I mean Christianity. In fact so much so that Peter Goldsmith Medd wrote that:

‘Every Christian Household ought to be a Church in miniature’. Household Prayer by Peter Goldsmith Medd 1864

So the idea was to set apart a room assuming you had a large enough house:

‘An oblong room is best, with a Prayer Desk, at which the Reader may kneel facing the end wall or window furthest away from the door. The congregation should range themselves down the two sides of the room, with their backs to the wall, and, without turning round, kneel down in that position, so as still to face each other. The. males and females may take opposite sides, or the family one side and the servants the other. Chairs, or long benches, may be placed along, and close to, the side walls. But if the room be narrow this is not necessary, as those assembled may stand during the saying of the Psalms or the reading of the Lesson’.’

But the Victorian Era changed much for the faithful.

The Anglican Church (Church of England) had gained a vast amount of power. It ran both the running schools and universities. It had members in the House of Lords but during the Victorian era dissent started t show it’s head, not so much in the out-of-the-way countryside, but in the ever-growing industrialized urban centers, the cities…people wanted more than a religious hierarchy, more than a demanded obedience to God, they wanted a living church that really cared about the poor and lower classes not just the well to do and the elite.

And so sects started to arise, directly out of Anglican came Methodism, it was John Wesley’s evangelistic revival with his brother Charles that led to the formation of the Methodist Church of which there are still some seventy million adherents worldwide. Congregationalism, where people got together and set up their own independent churches, they tended to be non-conformist that is to say they refused to conform or follow the governance and usages of the Church of England. The Society of Friends, friends Church or more commonly known as The Quakers and Presbyterians who followed the teaching of John Calvin.

Baptists were thriving thanks to the gifted speaker and writer Charles Spurgeon. He preached to thousands in the open air as well as in churches. And The Metropolitan Tabernacle in London was built to accommodate his regular congregation which grew to over 6,000.

The Anglican Church changed, had to change and then came Charles Darwin’s work On the Origin of Species, it was published on 24 November 1859 which is considered to be the foundation of evolutionary biology. This caused a crisis in faith for the Victorian era.

The book was produced varying responses and I think we have to bear in mind that secularism was growing by this time.

He stated that natural selection and survival of the fittest were the reasons man had survived so long. His theory of evolution based on empirical evidence would call into question Christian beliefs and Victorian values. And yet some in the  Church of England, some interpreted natural selection as an instrument of God’s design:

“just as noble a conception of Deity” Cleric Charles Kingsley 

So it became an age of intellectual questioning with challenges to faith from science, philosophy and Biblical criticism. Nietzsche claimed ‘God is dead’, clearly he wasn’t as the 1.5 Billion Christians today attest too but what an outrageous statement to make.

Alongside this we have the Evangelical revival (as mentioned earlier) had a significant effect on morality mainly in the working classes but this soon spread to other sections of society during the early Victorian era. This Evangelical Christianity gained ground not only in the Anglican Church but also in the independent Churches as well and as the young Queen Victoria sat on the throne there was a shift to religious respectability.

In the second half of the century the Salvation Army was founded by William Booth, his primary concern was for people’s salvation but he also say temperance as a way forward as alcohol was one of the ills of the time

The Roman Catholic church also grew in cities and universities having been suppressed for so many years.

Some in the Anglican church wanted strengthen the traditional values of the Church and the Oxford Movement was born. Some of its adherents left the Church of England to become Catholics including John Henry Newman who was later appointed a cardinal.

Many of these Churches helped developed small congregational or satellite missions to help with the poor and destitute meeting their physical needs as well as their perceived spiritual needs.

Amazingly by the end of the century about 400,000 new and translated hymns had been published so I do have to wonder about the ‘crisis of faith’ caused by Darwin’s book, how much of a crisis was it?

It speaks well for the growth of practical religion in our land, that few books form a safer speculation in the trade than Forms of Prayer for Family Worship, especially if they are good enough to get a name. The annual sale of such books is very large, and there is great choice. The London Review Oct 1860 – 1861