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common spiritual life. Ranging the continent literally
from Georgia to Maine, with all his weaknesses and in-
discretions, and with his incomparable eloquence, welcomed
by every sect, yet refusing an exclusive allegiance to any,
Whitefield exercised a true apostolate, bearing daily the
care of all the churches, and becoming a messenger of
mutual fellowship not only between the ends of the con-
tinent, but between the Christians of two hemispheres.
Remote churches exchanged offices of service. Tennent
came from New Jersey to labor in New England ; Dickin-
son and Burr and Edwards were the gift of the northern

176 AMERICAN CHRiSTlAA'ITY. [Chap. xt.

colonies to the college at Princeton, The quickened sense
of a common religious life and duty and destiny was no
small part of the preparation for the birth of the future

Whether for good or for evil, the few years from 1 740
to 1750 were destined to impress upon the American
church in its various orders, for a hundred years to come,
the character of Methodism}

In New England, the idea, into which the first pastors
had been trained by their experience as parish ministers in
the English established church, of the parochial church
holding correlative rights and duties toward the commu-
nity in all its families, succumbed at last, after a hundred
years of more or less conscious antagonism, to the incom-
patible principle, adopted from the Separatists of Plymouth,
of the church formed according to elective affinity by the
" social compact " of persons of the age of discretion who
could give account to themselves and to one another of the
conscious act and experience of conversion. This view,
subject to important mitigations or aggravations in actual
administration, held almost unquestioned dominance in
the New England churches until boldly challenged by
Horace Bushnell, in his " epoch-making " volume on
"Christian Nurture" (1846), as a departure from the
orthodoxy of the fatheis.

In the Presbyterian Church, revivalism as a principle of
church life had to contend with rules distinctly articu-
lated in its constitutional documents. So exclusively does
the Westminster institute contemplate the church as an
established parish that its " Directory for Worship " con-

1 " The Great Awakening . . . terminated the Puritan and inaugurated
the Pietist or Methodist age of American church history " (Thompson, " Pres-
byterian Churches in the United States," p. 34). It is not unnecessary to
remark that the word "Methodist" is not used in the narrow sense of
" Wesleyan."

Methodism ix all sects. fj)-

tains no provision for so abnormal an incident as the
baptism of an adult, and all baptized children growing up
and not being of scandalous life are to be welcomed to the
Lord's Supper. It proves the immense power of the
Awakening, that this rigid and powerful organization, of a
people tenacious of its traditions to the point of obstinacy,
should have swung so completely free at this point, not
only of its long-settled usages, but of the distinct letter of
its standards.

The Episcopal Church of the colonies was almost forced
into an attitude of opposition to the revival. The un-
speakable folly of the English bishops in denouncing and
silencing the most effective preachers in the national church
had betrayed Whitefield into his most easily besetting sin,
that of censorious judgment, and his sweeping counter-
denunciations of the Episcopalian clergy in general as
unconverted closed to him many hearts and pulpits that
at first had been hospitably open to him. Being human,
they came into open antagonism to him and to the revival.
From the protest against extravagance and disorder, it
was a short and perilously easy step to the rejection of
religious fervor and earnestness. The influence of the
mother church of that dreary period and the influence of
the official rings around every royal governor were all too
potent in the same direction. The Propagation Society's
missionaries boasted, with reason, of large accessions of
proselytes alienated from other churches by their distaste
for the methods of the revival. The effect on the Episcopal
Church itself was in some respects unhappy. It " lowered
a spiritual temperature already too low," ^ and weakened
the moral influence of the church, and the value of its

1 Unpublished lectures of the Rev. VV. G. Andrews on " The Evangelical
Revival of 1740 and American Episcopalians." It is much to be hoped that
these valuable studies of the critical period of American church history may
not long remain unpublished.


testimony to important principles which there were few
besides efficiently to represent — the duty of the church
not to disown or shut out those of Httle faith, and the
church's duty toward its children. Never in the history
of the church have the Lord's husbandmen shown a
fiercer zeal for rooting up tares, regardless of damage to
the wheat, than was shown by the preachers of the
Awakening. Never was there a wider application of the
reproach against those who, instead of preaching to men
that they should be converted and become as little chil-
dren, preach to children that they must be converted and
become like grown folks. ^ The attitude of the Episcopal
Church at that period was not altogether admirable ; but
it is nothing to its dishonor that it bore the reproach of
being a friend of publicans and sinners, and offered itself
as a refugium peccatoriun, thus holding many in some sort
of relation to the kingdom of Christ w^ho would otherwise
have lapsed into sheer infidelity.

In all this the Episcopal Church was affected by the
Awakening only by way of reaction. But it owes a debt
to the direct influence of the Awakening which it has not
always been careful to acknowledge. We have already
seen that the requickening of the asphyxiated church of
Virginia was part of the great revival, and this character
remains impressed on that church to this day. The best
of those traits by which the American Episcopal Church
is distinguished from the Church of England, as, for in-
stance, the greater purity of the ministry and of the
membership, are family traits of the revival churches; the
most venerated of its early bishops, White and Griswold,

1 This sharp antithesis is quoted at second hand from Charles Kingsley.
The stories of little children frightened into screaming, and then dragged (at
four years of rj^e, sn.vs Jonathan Edwards) through the agitating vicissitudes
of a " revival experience," occupy some of the most pathetic, not to say
tragical, pages of the history of the Awakening.


bore the same family likeness; and the "Evangelical
party," for a time so influential in its counsels, was a tardy
and mild afterglow from the setting of the Great Awak-

An incident of the revival, failing which it would have
lacked an essential token of the presence of the Spirit of
Christ, was the kindling of zeal for communicating the
gospel to the ignorant, the neglected, and the heathen.
Among the first-fruits of Whitefield's preaching at the
South was a practical movement among the planters for
the instruction of their slaves — devotees, most of them, of
the most abject fetich-worship of their native continent.
Of the evangelists and pastors most active in the revival,
there were few, either North or South, whose letters or
journals do not report the drawing into the churches of
large numbers of negroes and Indians, whose daily lives
witnessed to the sincerity of their profession of repentance
and Christian faith. The Indian population of the south-
eastern corner of Connecticut with such accord received
the gospel at the hands of the evangelists that heathenism
seemed extinct among them.^

Among the first trophies of the revival at Norwich was
a Mohegan boy named Samson Occum. Wheelock, pastor
at Lebanon, one of the most ardent of the revival preachers,
took him into his family as a student. This was the be-
ginning of that school for the training of Indian preachers
which, endowed in part with funds gathered by Occum
in England, grew at last into Dartmouth College. The
choicest spiritual gifts at the disposal of the church were
freely spent on the missions. Whitefield visited the school
and the field, and sped Kirkland on his way to the Oneidas.
Edwards, leaving Northampton in sorrow of heart, gave

1 McConnell, pp. 144-146; W. G. Andrews, Lecture III.

2 Tracy, pp. 187-192.


his incomparable powers to the work of the gospel among
the Stockbridge Indians until summoned thence to the
presidency of Princeton College. When Brainerd fainted
under his burden, it was William Tennent who went out
into the wilderness to carry on the work of harvest. But
the great gift of the American church to the cause of
missions was the gift of David Brainerd himself. His life
was the typical missionary's life — the scattering of precious
seed with tears, the heart-sickness of hope deferred, at last
the rejoicing of the harvest-home. His early death en-
rolled him in the canon of the saints of modern Christen-
dom. The story of his life and death, written by Jonathan
Edwards out of that fatherly love with which he had
tended the young man's latest days and hours, may not
have been an unmixed blessing to the church. The long-
protracted introspections, the cherished forebodings and
misgivings, as if doubt was to be cultivated as a Christian
virtue, may not have been an altogether wholesome ex-
ample for general imitation. But think what the story of
that short life has wrought ! To how many hearts it has
been an inspiration to self-sacrifice and devotion to the
service of God in the service of man, we cannot know.
Along one line its influence can be partly traced. The
" Life of David Brainerd " made Henry Martyn a mis-
sionary to the heathen. As spiritual father to Henry
Martyn, Brainerd may be reckoned, in no unimportant
sense, to be the father of modern missions to the heathen.





The quickening of religious feeling, the deepening of
religious conviction, the clearing and defining of theologi-
cal opinions, that were incidental to the Great Avi^akening,
were a preparation for more than thirty years of intense
political and warlike agitation. The churches suffered
from the long distraction of the public mind, and at the
end of it were faint and exhausted. But for the infusion
of a " more abundant life " which they had received, it
would seem that they could hardly have survived the
stress of that stormy and revolutionary period.

The religious life of this period was manifested in part
in the growth of the New England theology. The great
leader of this school of theological inquiry, the elder Ed-
wards, was born at the opening of the eighteenth century.
The oldest and most eminent of his disciples and successors,
Bellamy and Hopkins, were born respectively in 1719 and
1 72 1, and entered into the work of the Awakening in the
flush of their earliest manhood. A long dynasty of acute
and strenuous argumentators has continued, through suc-
cessive generations to the present day, this distinctly
American school of theological thought. This is not the


place for tracing the intricate history of their discussions,^
but the story of the Awakening could not be told without
some mention of this its attendant and sequel.

Not less notable than the new theology of the revival
was the new psalmody. In general it may be said that
every flood-tide of spiritual emotion in the church leaves
its high- water mark in the form of " new songs to the
Lord " that remain after the tide of feeling has assuaged.
In this instance the new songs were not produced by the
revival, but only adopted by it. It is not easy for us at
this day to conceive the effect that must have been pro-
duced in the Christian communities of America by the
advent of Isaac Watts's marvelous poetic work, " The
Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New
Testament." Important religious results have more than
once followed in the church on the publication of religious
poems — notably, in our own century, on the publication
of "The Christian Year." But no other instance of the
kind is comparable with the publication in America of
Watts's Psalms. When we remember how scanty were
the resources of religious poetry in American homes in
the early eighteenth century, and especially how rude and
even grotesque the rhymes that served in the various
churches as a vehicle of worship, it seems that the coming
of those melodious stanzas, in which the meaning of one
poet is largely interpreted by the sympathetic insight of
another poet, and the fervid devotion of the Old Testament
is informed with the life and transfigured in the language
of the New, must have been like a glow of sunlight break-

1 See G. p. Fisher, " History of Christian Doctrine," pp. 394-418; also
E. A. Park in the " Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia," vol. iii., pp. 1634-38. The
New England theology is not so called as being confined to New England.
Its leading " improvements on Calvinism " were accepted by Andrew Fuller
and Robert Hall among the English Baptists, and by Chalmers of the Pres-
byterians of Scotland.


ing in upon a gray and cloudy day. Few pages of biog-
raphy can be found more vividly illustrative of the times
and the men than the page in which Samuel Hopkins
recites the story of the sufferings of his own somber and
ponderous mind under the rebuke of his college friend
David Brainerd. He walked his soHtary room in tears,
and (he says) " took up Watts's version of the Psalms, and
opened it at the Fifty- first Psalm, and read the first, sec-
ond, and third parts in long meter with strong affections,
and made it all my own language, and thought it was the
language of my heart to God." There was more than the
experience of a great and simple soul, there was the germ
of a future system of theology, in the penitential confession
which the young student " made his own language," and
in the exquisite lines which, under the figure of a fright-
ened bird, became the utterance of his first tremulous and
faltering faith :

Lord, should thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemned, but thou art clear.

Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.

Yet save a trembhng sinner, Lord,
Whose hope, still hovering round thy word,
Would light on some sweet promise there.
Some sure support against despair.

The introduction of the new psalmody was not accom-
plished all at once, nor v.'ithout a struggle. But we
gravely mistake if we look upon the controversy that re-
sulted in the adoption of Watts's Psalms as a mere conflict
between enlightened good taste and stubborn conservatism.
The action proposed was revolutionary. It involved the
surrender of a long-settled principle of Puritanism. At


the present day the objection to the use of " human com-
posures " in pubhc worship is unintelligible, except to
Scotchmen. In the later Puritan age such use was reck-
oned an infringement on the entire and exclusive authority
and sufficiency of the Scriptures, and a constructive viola-
tion of the second commandment. By the adoption of the
new psalmody the Puritan and Presbyterian churches,
perhaps not consciously, but none the less actually, yielded
the major premiss of the only argument by which liturgi-
cal worship was condemned on principle. Thereafter the
question of the use of liturgical forms became a mere
question of expediency. It is remarkable that the logical
consequences of this important step have been so tardy
and hesitating.

It was not in the common course of church history that
the period under consideration should be a period of vigor-
ous internal activity and development in the old settled
churches of America. The deep, often excessive, excite-
ments of the Awakening had not only ceased, but had
been succeeded by intense agitations of another sort.
Two successive " French and Indian " wars kept the long
frontier, at a time when there was little besides frontier to
the British colonies, in continual peril of fire and scalping-
knife.^ The astonishingly sudden and complete extinction

1 Of what sort was the life of a church and its pastor in those days is illus-
trated in extracts from the journal of Samuel Hopkins, the theologian, pastor
at Great Barrington, given in the Memoir by Professor Park, pp. 40-43.
The Sabbath worship was disturbed by the arrival of warlike news. The
pastor and the families of his flock were driven from their homes to take
refuge in blockhouses crowded with fugitives. He was gone nearly three
months of fall and winter with a scouting party of a hundred whites and nine-
teen Indians in the woods. He sent off the fighting men of his town with
sermon and benediction on an expedition to Canada. During the second war
he writes to his friend Bellamy (1754) of a dreadful rumor that " good Mr.
Edwards " had perished in a massacre at Stockbridge. This rumor was false,
but he adds: " On the Lord's day p.m., as I was reading the psalm, news
came that Stockbridge was beset by an army of Indians, and on fire, which


of the French politico-religious empire in Canada and the
West made possible, and at no remote time inevitable, the
separation of the British colonies from the mother country
and the contentions and debates that led into the Revolu-
tionary War began at once.

Another consequence of the prostrating of the French
power in America has been less noticed by historians, but
the course of this narrative will not be followed far without
its becoming manifest as not less momentous in its bear-
ing on the future history of the church. The extinction of
the French- Catholic power in America made possible the
later plantation and large and free development of the
Catholic Church in the territory of the United States.
After that event the Catholic resident or citizen was no
longer subject to the suspicion of being a sympathizer
with a hostile neighboring power, and the Jesuit mission-
ary was no longer liable to be regarded as a political in-
triguer and a conspirator with savage assassins against the
Hves of innocent settlers and their families. If there are
those who, reading the earlier pages of this volume, have
mourned over the disappointment and annihilation of two
magnificent schemes of Catholic domination on the North
American continent as being among the painful mysteries
of divine providence, they may find compensation for
these catastrophes in later advances of Catholicism, which
without these antecedents would seem to have been hardly

broke up the assembly in an instant. All were put into the utmost conster-
nation — men, women, and children crying, ' What shall we do? ' Not a gun
to defend us, not a fort to flee to, and few guns and little ammunition in the
place. Some ran one way and some another ; but the general course was to
the southward, especially for women and children. Women, children, and
squaws presently flocked in upon us from Stockbridge, half naked and frighted
almost to death ; and fresh news came that the enemy were on the plains this
side Stockbridge, shooting and killing and scalping people as they fled. Some
presently came along bloody, with news that they saw persons killed and
scalped, which raised a consternation, tumult, and distress inexpressible."


Although the spiritual development of the awakened
American churches, after the Awakening until the inde-
pendence of the States was established and acknowledged,
was limited by these great hindrances, this period was
one of momentous influences from abroad upon American

The Scotch-Irish immigration kept gathering volume
and force. The great stream of immigrants entering at
the port of Philadelphia and flowing westward and south-
westward was joined by a tributary stream entering at
Charleston. Not only the numbers of this people, occu-
pying in force the hill-country from Pennsylvania to
Georgia, but still more its extraordinary qualities and the
discipline of its history, made it a factor of prime impor-
tance in the events of the times just before and just after
the achievement of the national independence. For gen-
erations it had been schooled to the apprehension and
acceptance of an elaborately articulated system of theology
and church order as of divine authority. Its prejudices
and animosities were quite as potent as its principles. Its
fixed hereditary aversion to the English government and
the English church was the natural fruit of long memories
and traditions of outrages inflicted by both these ; its in-
fluence was now about to be powerfully manifested in the
overthrow of the English power and its feeble church es-
tablishments in the colonies. At the opening of the War
of Independence the Presbyterian Church, reunited since
the schism of 1741, numbered one hundred and seventy
ministers in seventeen presbyteries; but its weight of
influence was out of all proportion to its numbers, and
this entire force, not altogether at unity with itself on
ecclesiastical questions, was united as one man in the
maintenance of American rights.


The great German immigration begins to flow in earnest
in this period. Three successive tides of migration have
set from Germany to America. The first was the move-
ment of the petty sects under the invitation and patronage
of William Penn, quartering themselves in the eastern
parts of Pennsylvania. The second was the transportation
of "the Palatines," expatriated by stress of persecution
and war, not from the Rhenish Palatinate only, but from
the archduchy of Salzburg and from other parts of Ger-
many and Switzerland, gathered up and removed to
America, some of them directly, some by way of England,
as an act of political charity by Queen Anne's government,
with the idea of strengthening the colonies by planting
Protestant settlers for a safeguard against Spanish or
French aggressions. The third tide continues flowing,
with variable volume, to this day. It is the voluntary
flow of companies of individual emigrants seeking to better
the fortunes of themselves or their families. But this
voluntary migration has been unhealthily and sometimes
dishonestly stimulated, from the beginning of it, by the
selfish interests of those concerned in the business of
transportation or in the sale of land. It seems to have
been mainly the greed of shipping merchants, at first, that
spread abroad in the German states florid announcements
of the charms and riches of America, decoying multitudes
of ignorant persons to risk everything on these represen-
tations, and to mortgage themselves into a term of slavery
until they should have paid the cost of their passage by
their labor. This class of bondmen, called " redemp-
tioners," made no inconsiderable part of the population of
the middle colonies ; and it seems to have been a worthy
part. The trade of " trepanning " the unfortunates and
transporting them and selling their term of service was not
by several degrees as bad as the African slave-trade ; but


it was of the same sort, and the deadly horrors of its
" middle passage " were hardly less.

In one way and another the German immigration had
grown by the middle of the eighteenth century to great
dimensions. In the year 1749 twelve thousand Germans
landed at the port of Philadelphia. In general they were
as sheep having no shepherd. Their deplorable religious
condition was owing less to poverty than to diversity of
sects.^ In many places the number of sects rendered con-
certed action impossible, and the people remained destitute
of religious instruction.

The famine of the word was sorely felt. In 1733 three
great Lutheran congregations in Pennsylvania, numbering
five hundred families each, sent messengers with an im-
ploring petition to their correligionists at London and
Halle, representing their " state of the greatest destitution."
" Our own means " (they say) " are utterly insufficient to
effect the necessary relief, unless God in his mercy may
send us help from abroad. It is truly lamentable to think

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 15 of 34)