The early years of the 18th century were a time of deadness as regards preaching.
So much had to be premised in order to make it clear in what relation humanism stood to the Renaissance, since the Italian work of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio is sufficient to indicate the re-birth of the spirit after ages of apparent deadness.
In the nation at large, the late violent ferment had been followed by as remarkable a deadness and vapidity, and Burke himself had to admit a year or two later that any remarkable robbery at Hounslow Heath would make more conversation than all the disturbances of America.
Impressed by the formalism and deadness of contemporary Christianity (of which there is much evidence in the confessions of the Puritan writers themselves) he emphasized the importance of repentance and personal striving after the truth.
We must not suffer it to lead us into rhetoric about the deadness and the darkness of the middle ages, or hamper our inquiry with preconceived assumptions that the re-birth in question was in any true sense a return to the irrecoverable pagan past.