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tion, what kind of an outfit of bishops, with canons attached, might have
been hoped for from Sir Robert Walpole or Lord Bute? On the whole, at
this point the American Episcopal Church is in the habit of pitying itself too
ranch. It has something to be thankful for.


mony of Jesus almost alone ; and no man can read the
journeys and labors of John Woolman, mystic and ascetic
saint, without recognizing that he and others like-minded
were nothing less than true apostles of the Lord Jesus.

One impression made by this general survey of the
colonies is that of the absence of any sign of unity among
the various Christian bodies in occupation. One corner
of the great domain, New England, was thickly planted
with homogeneous churches in mutual fellowship. One
order of Christians, the Quakers, had at least a framework
of organization conterminous with the country. In general
there were only scattered members of a Christian commu-
nity, awaiting the inbreathing of some quickening spirit-
ual influence that should bring bone to its bone and erect
the whole into a living church.

Another and very gratifying impression from the story
thus far is the general fidehty of the Christian colonists in
the work of the gospel among the heathen Indians. There
was none of the colonies that did not make profession of
a zealous purpose for the Christianizing of the savages ;
and it is only just to say, in the face of much unjust and
evil talk, that there was none that did not give proof of its
sincerity. In Virginia, the Puritans Whitaker and Thomas
Dale ; in Marjdand, the earliest companies of Jesuit mis-
sionaries ; Campanius among the Swedish Lutherans ;
Megapolensis among the Dutchmen, and the Jesuit martyr
Jogues in the forests of New York ; in New England, not
only John Eliot and Roger Williams and the Mayhews,
but many a village pastor like Fitch of Norwich and Pier-
son of Branford, were distinguished in the first generation
by their devotion to this duty.^ The succession of faithful

1 It is a curious exception, if it is indeed an exception, that the one Chris-
tian colony that shows no record of early Indian missions should be that of


missionaries has never failed from that day to this. The
large expectations of the churches are indicated by the
erection of one of the earliest buildings at Harvard College
for the use of Indian students. At William and Mary
College not less than seventy Indian students at one time
are said to have been gathered for an advanced education.
It was no fault of the colonial churches that these earnest
and persistent efforts yielded small results. " We discover
a strange uniformity of feature in the successive failures.
. . . Always, just when the project seemed most hopeful,
an indiscriminate massacre of missionaries and converts
together swept the enterprise out of existence. The ex-
perience of all was the same." ^

It will be a matter of growing interest, as we proceed,
to trace the relation of the American church to negro

It is a curious fact, not without some later analogies,

William Penn. Could this be due to the Quaker faith in the sufficiency of
" the Light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world "?

The type of theology and method of instruction used by some of the earliest
laborers in this field left something to be desired in point of adaptedness to
the savage mind. Without irreverence to the great name of Jonathan Ed-
wards, there is room for doubt whether he was just the man for the Stock-
bridge Indians. In the case of the Rev. Abraham Pierson, of Branford, in
New Haven Colony, afterward founder of Newark, we have an illustration
both of his good intentions and of his methods, which were not so good, in
"Some Helps for the Indians : She-Ming them how to Improzie their Natural
Reason, to A';/cw the True Cod and the Christian Religion." This catechism
is printed in the Indian language with an English version interlined.

"Q. How do you prove that there is but one true God?

"An. Because the reason why singular things of the same kind are mul-
tiplied is not to be found in the nature of God ; for the reason why such like
things are multiplied is from the fruitfulness of their causes : but God hath
no cause of his being, but is of himself. Therefore he is one." (And so on
through secondly and thirdly.)

Fer contra, a sermon to the Stockbridge Indians by the most ponderous of the
metaphysical preachers of New England, Samuel Hopkins, is beautifully sim-
ple and childlike. It is given in full in Park's " Life of Hopkins," pp. 46-49.

1 McConnell, " History of the American Episcopal Church," p. 7. The
statement calls for qualification in detail, but the general fact is unmistakable.


that the introduction into the New World of this " direful
spring of woes unnumbered " was promoted, in the first
instance, by the good Las Casas, as the hopeful preventive
of a worse evil. Touched by the spectacle of whole tribes
and nations of the Indians perishing under the cruel servi-
tude imposed upon them by the Spanish, it seemed to him
a less wrong to transfer the infliction of this injustice to
shoulders more able to bear it. But " man's inhumanity
to man " needed no pretext of philanthropy. From the
landing of the Dutch ship at Jamestown in 1619, with her
small invoice of fourteen negroes, the dismal trade went
on increasing, in spite of humane protest and attempted
prohibition. The legislature of Massachusetts, which was
the representative of the church, set forth what it conceived
to be the biblical ethics on the subject. Recognizing that
" lawful captives taken in just wars " may be held in bond-
age, it declared among its earliest public acts, in 1641,
that, with this exception, no involuntary bond-slavery,
villeinage, or captivity should ever be in the colony ; and
in 1646 it took measures for returning to Africa negroes
who had been kidnapped by a slaver. It is not strange
that reflection on the golden rule should soon raise doubts
whether the precedents of the Book of Joshua had equal
authority with the law of Christ. In 1675 John Eliot,
from the midst of his work among the Indians, warned
the governor against the sale of Indians taken in war, on
the ground that " the selling of souls is dangerous mer-
chandise," and " with a bleeding and burning passion "
remonstrated against " the abject condition of the enslaved
Africans." In 1700 that typical Puritan, Judge Samuel
Sewall, published his pamphlet on " The Selling of Joseph,"
claiming for the negroes the rights of brethren, and pre-
dicting that there would be " no progress in gospeling "
until slavery should be abolished. Those were serious



days of antislavery agitation, when Cotton Mather, in his
" Essays to Do Good," spoke of the injustice of slavery in
terms such that his little book had to be expurgated by
the American Tract Society to accommodate it to the
degenerate conscience of a later day, and when the town
of Boston in 1701 took measures "to put a period to ne-
groes being slaves." Such endeavors after universal justice
and freedom, on the part of the Christians of New England,
thwarted by the insatiable greed of British traders and
politicians, were not to cease until, with the first enlarge-
ment of independence, they should bring forth judgment
to victory.

The voice of New England was echoed from Pennsyl-
vania. The Mennonites of Germantown, in 1688, framed
in quaint and touching language their petition for the
abolition of slavery, and the Quaker yearly meetings re-
sponded one to another with unanimous protest. But the
mischief grew and grew. In the Northern colonies the
growth was stunted by the climate. Elsewhere the insti-
tution, beginning with the domestic service of a few bond-
men attached to their masters' families, took on a new type
of malignity as it expanded. In proportion as the servile
population increases to such numbers as to be formidable,
laws of increasing severity are directed to restraining or
repressing it. The first symptoms of insurrection are fol-
lowed by horrors of bloody vengeance, and " from that
time forth the slave laws have but one quality — that of
ferocity engendered by fear." ^ It was not from the willful
inhumanity of the Southern colonies, but from their terrors,
that those slave codes came forth which for nearly two
centuries were the shame of America and the scandal of
Christendom. It is a comfort to the heart of humanity to
reflect that the people were better than their laws ; it was

1 H. C. Lodge, " English Colonies," p. 67 et seq.


only at the recurring periods of fear of insurrection that
they were worse. In ordinary times human sympathy and
Christian principle softened the rigors of the situation.
The first practical fruits of the revival of religion in the
Southern colonies were seen in efforts of Christian kind-
ness toward the souls and bodies of the slaves.



It was not wholly dark in American Christendom before
the dawn of the Great Awakening. The censoriousness
which was the besetting sin of the evangelists in that great
religious movement, the rhetorical temptation to glorify
the revival by intensifying the contrast with the antecedent
condition, and the exaggerated revivalism ever since so
prevalent in the American church, — the tendency to con-
sider religion as consisting mainly in scenes and periods of
special fervor, and the intervals between as so much void
space and waste time, — all these have combined to deepen
the dark tints in which the former state is set before us in

The power of godliness was manifest in the earlier days
by many infallible signs, not excluding those " times of re-
freshing" in which the simultaneous earnestness of many
souls compels the general attention. Even in Northamp-
ton, where the doctrine of the venerable Stoddard as to
the conditions of communion has been thought to be the
low-water mark of church vitality, not less than five such
"harvest seasons " were within recent memory. It was to
this parish in a country town on the frontier of civilization,
but the most important in Massachusetts outside of Boston,
that there came, in the year 1727, to serve as colleague to
his aged grandfather, Pastor Stoddard, a young man whose


wonderful intellectual and spiritual gifts had from his
childhood awakened the pious hopes of all who had known
him, and who was destined in his future career to be
recognized as the most illustrious of the saints and doctors
of the American church. The authentic facts of the boy-
hood of Jonathan Edwards read like the myths that adorn
the legendary Lives of the Saints. As an undergraduate
of Yale College, before the age of seventeen, his reflections
on the mysteries of God, and the universe, and the human
mind, were such as even yet command the attention and
respect of students of philosophy. He remained at New
Haven two years after graduation, for the further study
of theology, and then spent eight months in charge of the
newly organized Presbyterian church in New York.^ After
this he spent two years as tutor at Yale, — " one of the
pillar tutors, and the glory of the college," — at the critical
period after the defection of Rector Cutler to the Church
of England.^ From this position he was called in 1726, at
the age of twenty-three, to the church at Northampton.
There he was ordained February 15, 1727, and thither a
few months later he brought his " espoused saint," Sarah
Pierpont, consummate flower of Puritan womanhood,
thenceforth the companion not only of his pastoral cares
and sorrows, but of his seraphic contemplations of divine

The intensely earnest sermons, the holy life, and the
loving prayers of one of the greatest preachers in the
history of the church were not long in bearing abundant
fruit. In a time of spiritual and moral depression, when

1 Of how little relative importance was this charge may be judged from the
fact that a quarter-century later, when the famous Joseph Bellamy was in-
vited to it from his tiny parish of Bethlem, Conn., the council called to advise
in the case judged that the interests of Bethlem were too important to be
sacrificed to the demands of New York.

2 See the altogether admirable monograph of Professor A, V. G. Allen on
" Jonathan Edwards," p. 23.


the world, the flesh, and the devil seemed to be gaining
against the gospel, sometime in the year 1733 signs began
to be visible of yielding to the power of God's Word. The
frivolous or wanton frolics of the youth began to be ex-
changed for meetings for religious conference. The pastor
was encouraged to renewed tenderness and solemnity in
his preaching. His themes were justification by faith, the
awfulness of God's justice, the excellency of Christ, the
duty of pressing into the kingdom of God. Presently a
young woman, a leader in the village gayeties, became
" serious, giving evidence," even to the severe judgment
of Edwards, " of a heart truly broken and sanctified." A
general seriousness began to spread over the whole town.
Hardly a single person, old or young, but felt concerned
about eternalthings. Accordingto Edwards's "Narrative" :

" The work of God, as it was carried on, and the number
of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration
in the town, so that in the spring and summer, anno 1735,
the town seemed to be full of the presence of God. It was
never so full of love, nor so full of joy, and yet so full of
distress, as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of
God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of
joy in families on the account of salvation's being brought
unto them ; parents rejoicing over their children as being
new-born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over
their husbands. The goings of God were then seen in his
sanctuary. God's day was a delight, and his tabernacles
were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beauti-
ful ; the congregation was alive in God's service, every
one intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to
drink in the words of the minister as they came from his
mouth; the assembly in general were from time to time
in tears while the Word was preached, some weeping with
sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with
pity and concern for the souls of their neighbors. Our


public praises were then greatly enlivened ; God was then
served in our psalmody in some measure in the beauty of

The crucial test of the divineness of the work was given
when the people presented themselves before the Lord
with a solemn act of thanksgiving for his great goodness
and his gracious presence in the town of Northampton,
with publicly recorded vows to renounce their evil ways
and put away their abominations from before his eyes.
They solemnly promise thenceforth, in all dealings with
their neighbor, to be governed by the rules of honesty,
justice, and uprightness ; not to overreach or defraud him,
nor anywise to injure him, whether willfully or through
want of care ; to regard not only their own interest, but
his; particularly, to be faithful in the payment of just
debts ; in the case of past wrongs against any, never to
rest till they have made full reparation ; to refrain from evil
speaking, and from everything that feeds a spirit of bitter-
ness ; to do nothing in a spirit of revenge ; not to be led
by private or partisan interest into any course hurtful to
the interests of Christ's kingdom ; particularly, in public
affairs, not to allow ambition or partisanship to lead them
counter to the interest of true religion. Those who are
young promise to allow themselves in no diversions that
would hinder a devout spirit, and to avoid everything that
tends to lasciviousness, and which will not be approved by
the infinitely pure and holy eye of God. Finally, they
consecrate themselves watchfully to perform the relative
duties of parents and children, husbands and wives,
brothers and sisters, masters, mistresses, and servants.

So great a work as this could not be hid. The whole
region of the Connecticut Valley, in Massachusetts and
Connecticut, and neighboring regions felt the influence of
it. The fame of it went abroad. A letter of Edwards's in


reply to inquiries from his friend, Dr. Colman, of Boston,
was forwarded to Dr. Watts and Dr. Guise, of London,
and by them published under the title of " Narrative of
Surprising Conversions." A copy of the little book was
carried in his pocket for wayside reading on a walk from
London to Oxford by John Wesley, in the year 1738.
Not yet in the course of his work had he " seen it on this
fashion," and he writes in his journal: "Surely this is
the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes."

Both in this narrative and in a later work on " The Dis-
tinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God," one
cannot but admire the divine gift of a calm wisdom with
which Edwards had been endowed as if for this exigency.
He is never dazzled by the incidents of the work, nor dis-
tracted by them from the essence of it. His argument for
the divineness of the work is not founded on the unusual
or extraordinary character of it, nor on the impressive
bodily effects sometimes attending it, such as tears, groans,
outcries, convulsions, or faintings, nor on visions or ecsta-
sies or "impressions." What he claims is that the work
may be divine, notwithstanding the presence of these in-
cidents.i It was doubtless owing to the firm and judicious
guidance of such a pastor that the intense religious fervor
of this first awakening at Northampton was marked by so
much of sobriety and order. In later years, in other re-
gions, and under the influence of preachers not of greater
earnestness, but of less wisdom and discretion, there were
habitual scenes of extravagant and senseless enthusiasm,
which make the closing pages of this chapter of church
history painfully instructive.

It is not diflRcult to understand how one of the first
places at a distance to feel the kindling example of North-
ampton should be the neighborhood of Newark. To this

1 Allen, "Jonathan Edwards, " pp. 164-174.


region, planted, as we have seen, with so strong a stock
from New England, from old England, and from Scotland,
came, in 1 708, a youth of twenty years, Jonathan Dickin-
son, a native of the historic little town of Hatfield, next
neighbor to Northampton. He was pastor at Elizabeth,
but his influence and activity extended through all that
part of New Jersey, and he became easily the leader of
the rapidly growing communion of Presbyterian churches
in that province, and the opponent, in the interest of
Christian liberty and sincerity, of rigid terms of subscrip-
tion, demanded by men of little faith. There is a great
career before him; but that which concerns the present
topic is his account of what took place " sometime in Au-
gust, 1739 (the summer before Mr. Whitefield came first
into these parts), when there was a remarkable revival at
Newark. . . . This revival of religion was chiefly observ-
able among the younger people, till the following March,
when the whole town in general was brought under an
uncommon concern about their eternal interests, and the
congregation appeared universally afl"ected under some
sermons that were then preached to them."

Like scenes of spiritual quickening were witnessed that
same season in other parts of New Jersey ; but special
interest attaches to the report from New Londonderry,
Penn., where a Scotch-Irish community received as its
pastor, in the spring of 1740, Samuel Blair, a native of
Ireland, trained in the Log College of William Tennent.
He describes the people, at his first knowledge of them, as
sunk in a religious torpor, ignorance, and indifference.
The first sign of vitality was observed in March, 1740,
during the pastor's absence, when, under an alarming
sermon from a neighbor minister:

" There was a visible appearance of much soul-concern


among the hearers ; so that some burst out with an audible
noise into bitter crying, a thing not known in these parts
before. . . . The first sermon I preached after my return
to them was from Matthew vi. 33 : ' Seek ye first the king-
dom of God, and his righteousness.' After opening up and
explaining the parts of the text, when in the improvement
I came to press the injunction in the text upon the uncon-
verted and ungodly, and offered this as one reason among
others why they should now first of all seek the kingdom
and righteousness of God, viz., that they had neglected too
long to do so already, this consideration seemed to come and
cut like a sword upon several in the congregation ; so that
while I was speaking upon it they could no longer contain,
but burst out in the most bitter mourning. I desired them
as much as possible to restrain themselves from making
any noise that would hinder themselves or others from
hearing what was spoken ; and often afterward I had oc-
casion to repeat the same counsel. I still advised people
to endeavor to moderate and bound their passions, but not
so as to resist and stifle their convictions. The number
of the awakened increased very fast. Frequently under
sermons there were some newly convicted and brought
into deep distress of soul about their perishing estate.
Our Sabbath assemblies soon became vastly large, many
people from almost all parts around inclining very much
to come where there was such appearance of the divine
power and presence. I think there was scarcely a sermon
or lecture preached here through that whole summer but
there were manifest evidences of impressions on the hearers,
and many times the impressions were very great and gen-
eral. Several would be overcome and fainting; others
deeply sobbing, hardly able to contain ; others crying in a
most dolorous manner; many others more silently weep-
ing, and a solemn concern appearing in the countenances
of many others. And sometimes the soul-exercises of
some (though comparatively but very few) would so far
affect their bodies as to occasion some strange, unusual
bodily motions. I had opportunities of speaking particu-


larly with a great many of those who afforded such out-
ward tokens of inward soul-concern in the time of public
worship and hearing of the Word. Indeed, many came
to me of themselves, in their distress, for private instruc-
tion and counsel; and I found, so far as I can remember,
that with by far the greater part their apparent concern in
public was not just a transient qualm of conscience or
merely a floating commotion of the affections, but a ra-
tional, fixed conviction of their dangerous, perishing
estate. . . .

" In some time many of the convinced and distressed
afforded very hopeful, satisfying evidence that the Lord
had brought them to true closure with Jesus Christ, and
that their distresses and fears had been in a great measure
removed in a right gospel way, by believing in the Son of
God. Several of them had very remarkable and sweet
deliverances this way. It was very agreeable to hear their
accounts how that when they were in the deepest per-
plexity and darkness, distress and difficulty, seeking God
as poor, condemned, hell-deserving sinners, the scene of
recovering grace through a Redeemer has been opened to
their understandings with a surprising beauty and glory,
so that they were enabled to believe in Christ with joy
unspeakable and full of glory." ^

The experience of Gilbert Tennent at New Brunswick
had no connection with the first awakening at Northamp-
ton, but had important relations with later events. He
was the eldest of the four sons whom William Tennent,
the Episcopalian minister from Ireland, had brought with
him to America and educated at his Log College. In 1 727
he became pastor of a church at New Brunswick, where
he was much impressed with what he saw of the results of

1 Joseph Tracy, "The Great Awakening," chap. ii. This work, of ac-
knowledged value and authority, is on the list of the Congregational Board
of Publication. It is much to be regretted that the Board does not publish
it as well as announce it. A new edition of it, under the hand of a competent
editor, with a good index, would be a useful ser\'ice to history.

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 13 of 34)