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The Evangelical Conversion NarrativeSpiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England$
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D. Bruce Hindmarsh

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199245758

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199245754.001.0001

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White‐Hot Piety: The Early Methodist White‐Hot Piety: The Early Methodist Laypeople

White‐Hot Piety: The Early Methodist White‐Hot Piety: The Early Methodist Laypeople

(p.130) 4 White‐Hot Piety: The Early Methodist Laypeople
The Evangelical Conversion Narrative

D. Bruce Hindmarsh (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Typically, the early Methodist laity turned not to journals to give voice to their experience, but to oral testimony in band meetings or to familiar letters written to the very Methodist preachers whose message had first awakened and converted them. These lay narratives of conversion were written ‘white hot’ in the heat of experience and forged into evangelical shape largely under the oversight of their Methodist pastors. A collection of lay narratives in manuscript at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, addressed for the most part to Charles Wesley, provides superb evidence of the character and formation of early Methodist autobiographical culture and includes a number of examples from women and men with a range of educational backgrounds. These narratives illustrate the charismatic nature of the early revival when early Methodists seemed to walk in a cloud of wonders, and lived very much on the cusp of religious emotion at a time when so much about evangelical experience seemed novel. The experience of these converts was narrated with less structure than, for example, some of the later narratives of the lay preachers and illustrate the bringing of inchoate religious experience into an orderly narrative form through a process of individuation and mimesis.

Keywords:   charismatic, Charles Wesley, conversion, individuation, lay people, letters, Methodist, mimesis, novelty, oral testimony, women

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