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cious remarks on the general subject, see Buckley, " Methodism," pp. 217-224.


unbelievers." They helped break up the apathetic torpor
of the church and summon the multitudes into the wilder-
ness to hear the preaching of repentance and the remission
of sins. But they had some lamentable results. Those
who, like many among the Methodists/ found in them the
direct work of the Holy Spirit, were thereby started along
the perilous incline toward enthusiasm and fanaticism.
Those, on the other hand, repelled by the grotesqueness
and extravagance of these manifestations, who were led to
distrust or condemn the good work with which they were
associated, fell into a graver error. This was the error into
which, to its cost, the Presbyterian Church was by and by
drawn in dealing with questions that emerged from these
agitations. The revival gave rise to two new sects, both
of them marked by the fervor of spirit that characterized
the time, and both of them finding their principal habitat
in the same western region. The Cumberland Presbyte-
rians, now grown to large numbers and deserved influence
and dignity in the fellowship of American sects, separated
themselves from the main body of Presbyterians by refus-
ing to accept, in face of the craving needs of the pastor-
less population all about them, the arbitrary rule shutting
the door of access to the Presbyterian ministry to all can-
didates, how great soever their other qualifications, who
lacked a classical education. Separating on this issue,
they took the opportunity to amend the generally ac-
cepted doctrinal statements of the Presbyterian churches
by mitigating those utterances which seemed to them, as
they have seemed to many others, to err in the direction
of fatalism.

About the same time there was manifested in various
quarters a generous revolt against the existence and mul-
tiplication of mutually exclusive sects in the Christian

1 .So Dr. Buckley, " Methodism," p. 217.


family, each limited by humanly devised doctrinal articles
and branded with partisan names. How these various
protesting elements came together on the sole basis of a
common faith in Christ and a common acceptance of the
divine authority of the Bible ; how, not intending it, they
came to be themselves a new sect ; and how, struggling in
vain against the inexorable laws of language, they came
to be distinguished by names, as Campbellite Baptist,
Christ-tan (with a long i), and {KaT' e^oxrjv) Disciples, are
points on which interesting and instructive light is shed in
the history by Dr. B. B. Tyler.i

The great revival of the West and Southwest was not
the only revival, and not even the earliest revival, of that
time of crisis. As early as 1792 the long inertia of the
eastern churches began to be broken here and there by
signs of growing earnestness and attentiveness to spiritual
things. There was Httle of excited agitation. There was
no preaching of famous evangelists. There were no im-
posing convocations. Only in many and many of those
country towns in-which, at that time, the main strength of
the population lay, the labors of faithful pastors began to
be rewarded with large ingatherings of penitent believers.
The languishing churches grew strong and hopeful, and
the insolent infidelity of the times was abashed. With
such sober simplicity was the work of the gospel carried
forward, in the opening years of this century, among the
churches and pastors that had learned wisdom from the
mistakes made in the Great Awakening, that there are few
striking incidents for the historian. Hardly any man is to
be pointed out as a preeminent leader of the church at
this period. If to any one, this place of honor belongs to
Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards, whose

1 American Church History Series, vol. xii.



accession to the presidency of Yale CoUeg^e at the darkest
hour in its history marked the turning-point. We have
already learned from the reminiscences of Lyman Beecher
how low the college had sunk in point of religious charac-
ter, when most of the class above him were openly boast-
ful of being infidelsJ How the new president dealt with
them is well described by the same witness :

" They thought the faculty were afraid of free discus-
sion. But when they handed Dr. Dwight a list of sub-
jects for class disputation, to their surprise, he selected
this : ' Is the Bible the word of God ? ' and told them to
do their best. He heard all they had to say, answered
them, and there was an end. He preached incessantly
for six months on the subject, and all infidelity skulked
and hid its head. He elaborated his theological system
in a series of forenoon sermons in the chapel ; the after-
noon discourses were practical. The original design of
Yale College was to found a divinity school. To a
mind appreciative, like mine, his preaching was a contin-
ual course of education and a continual feast. He was
copious and polished in style, though disciplined and logi-
cal. There was a pith and power of doctrine there that
has not been since surpassed, if equaled." ^

It may be doubted whether to any man of his genera-
tion it was given to exercise a wider and more beneficent
influence over the American church than that of President
Dwight. His system of " Theology Explained and De-
fended in a Series of Sermons," a theology meant to be
preached and made effective in convincing men and con-
verting them to the service of God, was so constructed as
to be completed within the four years of the college cur-
riculum, so that every graduate should have heard the

1 See above, pp. 230, 231.

2 " Autobiography of Lyman Beecher," vol. i., pp. 43, 44.


whole of it. The influence of it has not been limited by
the boundaries of our country, nor has it expired with the
century just completed since President Dwight's accession.

At the East also, as well as at the West, the quickening
of rehgious thought and feeling had the common effect of
alienating and disrupting. Diverging tendencies, which
had begun to disclose themselves in the discussions be-
tween Edwards and Chauncy in their respective volumes
of " Thoughts " on the Great Awakening, became em-
phasized in the revival of 1800. That liberalism which
had begun as a protest against a too peremptory style
of dogmatism was rapidly advancing toward a dogmatic
denial of points deemed by the opposite party to be essen-
tial. Dogmatic differences were aggravated by differences
of taste and temperament, and everything was working
toward the schism by which some sincere and zealous
souls should seek to do God service.

In one most important particular the revival of 1800
was happily distinguished from the Great Awakening of
1 740. It was not done and over with at the end of a few
years, and then followed by a long period of reaction. It
was the beginning of a long period of vigorous and
" abundant life," moving forward, not, indeed, with even
and unvarying flow, yet with continuous current, marked
with those alternations of exaltation and subsidence which
seem, whether for evil or for good, to have become a fixed
characteristic of American church history.

The widespread revivals of the first decade of the nine-
teenth century saved the church of Christ in America from
its low estate and girded it for stupendous tasks that were
about to be devolved on it. In the glow of this renewed
fervor, the churches of New England successfully made
the difficult transition from establishment to self-support
and to the costly enterprises of aggressive evangelization


into which, in company with other churches to the South
and West, they were about to enter. The Christianity of
the country was prepared and equipped to attend with
equal pace the prodigious rush of population across the
breadth of the Great Valley, and to give welcome to the
invading host of immigrants which before the end of a
half-century was to effect its entrance into our territory at
the rate of a thousand a day. It was to accommodate
itself to changing social conditions, as the once agricul-
tural population began to concentrate itself in factory
villages and commercial towns. It was to carry on sys-
tematic campaigns of warfare against instituted social
wrong, such as the drinking usages of society, the savage
code of dueling, the public sanction of slavery. And it
was to enter the "effectual door" which from the begin-
ning of the century opened wider and wider to admit the
gospel and the church to every nation under heaven.




When the Presbyterian General Assembly, in 1803,
made a studious review of the revivals which for several
years had been in progress, especially at the South and
West, it included in its " Narrative " the following obser-
vations :

" The Assembly observe with great pleasure that the
desire for spreading the gospel among the blacks and
among the savage tribes on our borders has been rapidly
increasing during the last year. The Assembly take
notice of this circumstance with the more satisfaction, as
it not only affords a pleasing presage of the spread of the
gospel, but also furnishes agreeable evidence of the genu-
ineness and the benign tendency of that spirit which God
has been pleased to pour out upon his people."

In New England the like result had already, several
years before, followed upon the like antecedent. In the
year 1798 the "Missionary Society of Connecticut" was
constituted, having for its object " to Christianize the
heathen in North America, and to support and promote
Christian knowledge in the new settlements within the
United States"; and in August, 1800, its first missionary,
David Bacon, engaged at a salary of " one hundred and


ten cents per day," set out for the wilderness south and
west of Lake Erie, " afoot and alone, with no more lug-
gage than he could carry on his person," to visit the wild
tribes of that region, " to explore their situation, and learn
their feelings with respect to Christianity, and, so far as
he had opportunity, to teach them its doctrines and
duties." The name forms a link in the bright succession
from John Eliot to this day. But it must needs be that
some suflfer as victims of the inexperience of those who
are first to take direction of an untried enterprise. The
abandonment of its first missionary by one of the first mis-
sionary societies, leaving him helpless in the wilderness,
was a brief lesson in the economy of missions opportunely
given at the outset of the American mission work, and
happily had no need to be repeated.^

David Bacon, like Henry Martyn, who at that same
time, in far different surroundings, was intent upon his
plans of mission work in India, was own son in the faith to
David Brainerd. But they were elder sons in a great
family. The pathetic story of that heroic youth, as told
by Jonathan Edwards, was a classic at that time in almost
every country parsonage ; but its influence was especially
felt in the colleges, now no longer, as a few years earlier,
the seats of the scornful, but the homes of serious and re-
ligious learning which they were meant to be by their

Of the advancement of Christian civilization in the first
quarter-century from the achievement of independence
there is no more distinguished monument than the increase,
through those troubled and impoverished years, of the
institutions of secular and sacred learning. The really
successful and effective colleges that had survived from
the colonial period were hardly a half-dozen. Up to 18 10
1 " Life of David Bacon," by his son (Boston, 1876).


these had been reinforced by as many more. By far the
greater number of them were founded by the New Eng-
land Congregationalists, to whom this has ever been a
favorite field of activity. But special honor must be paid
to the wise and courageous and nobly successful enter-
prise of large-minded and large-hearted men among the
Baptists, who as early as 1764, boldly breasting a current
of unworthy prejudice in their own denomination, began
the work of Brown University at Providence, which, car-
ried forward by a notable succession of great educators,
has been set in the front rank of existing American insti-
tutions of learning. After the revivals of 1800 these
Christian colleges were not only attended by students com-
ing from zealous and fervid churches ; they themselves
became the foci from which high and noble spiritual influ-
ences were radiated through the land. It was in com-
munities like these that the example of such lives as that
of Brainerd stirred up generous young minds to a chival-
rous and even ascetic delight in attempting great labors
and enduring great sacrifices as soldiers under the Cap-
tain of salvation.

It was at Williams College, then just planted in the
Berkshire hills, that a little coterie of students was formed
which, for the grandeur of the consequences that flowed
from it, is worthy to be named in history beside the Holy
Club of Oxford in 1730, and the friends at Oriel College
in 1830. Samuel J. Mills came to Williams College in
1806 from the parsonage of "Father Mills" of Torring-
ford, concerning whom quaint traditions and even memo-
ries still linger in the neighboring parishes of Litchfield
County, Connecticut. Around this young student gath-
ered a circle of men like-minded. The shade of a lonely
haystack was their oratory ; the pledges by which they
bound themselves to a life-work for the kingdom of


heaven remind one of the mutual vows of the earliest
friends of Loyola. Some of the youths went soon to the
theological seminary, and at once leavened that commu-
nity with their own spirit.

The seminary — there was only one in all Protestant
America. As early as 1791 the Sulpitian fathers had
organized their seminary at Baltimore. But it was not
until 1808 that any institution for theological studies was
open to candidates for the Protestant ministry. Up to
that time such studies were made in the regular college
curriculum, which was distinctly theological in character;
and it was common for the graduate to spend an addi-
tional year at the college for special study under the
president or the one professor of divinity. But many
country parsonages that were tenanted by men of fame as
writers and teachers were greatly frequented by young
men preparing themselves for the work of preaching.

The change to the modern method of education for the
ministry was a sudden one. It was precipitated by an
event which has not even yet ceased to be looked on by
the losing party with honest lamentation and with an
unnecessary amount of sectarian acrimony. The divinity
professorship in Harvard College, founded in 1722^ by
Thomas Hollis, of London, a Baptist friend of New Eng-
land, was filled, after a long struggle and an impassioned
protest, by the election of Henry Ware, an avowed and
representative Unitarian. It was a distinct announcement
that the government of the college had taken sides in the
impending conflict, in opposition to the system of religious
doctrine to the maintenance of which the college had
from its foundation been devoted. The significance of
the fact was not mistaken by either party. It meant that
the two tendencies which had been recognizable from
1 Compare the claim of priority for the Dutch churcht p. ■Si. *^t£.


long before the Great Awakening were drawing asunder,
and that thenceforth it must be expected that the vast in-
fluence of the venerable college, in the clergy and in
society, would be given to the Liberal side. The dismay
of one party and the exultation of the other were alike
well grounded. The cry of the Orthodox was "To your
tents, O Israel!" Lines of ecclesiastical non-intercourse
were drawn. Church was divided from church, and family
from family. When the forces and the losses on each side
came to be reckoned up, there was a double wonder : First,
at the narrow boundaries by which the Unitarian defec-
tion was circumscribed : " A radius of thirty-five miles
from Boston as a center would sweep almost the whole
field of its history and influence;"^ and then at the
sweeping completeness of it within these bounds ; as Mrs.
H. B. Stowe summed up the situation at Boston, " All
the literary men of Massachusetts were Unitarian ; all the
trustees and professors of Harvard College were Unita-
rian ; all the elite of wealth and fashion crowded Unitarian
churches; the judges on the bench were Unitarian, giving
decisions by which the peculiar features of church organi-
zation so carefully ordered by the Pilgrim Fathers had
been nullified and all the power had passed into the hands
of the congregation." 2

The schism, with its acrimonies and heartburnings, was
doubtless in some sense necessary. And it was attended
with some beneficent consequences. It gave rise to in-
structive and illuminating debate. And on the part of the
Orthodox it occasioned an outburst of earnest zeal which
in a wonderfully short time had more than repaired their
loss in numbers, and had started them on a career of wide
beneficence, with a momentum that has been increasing to

1 J. H. Allen, "The Unitarians," p. 194.

2 "Autobiography of L. Beecher," p. no.


this day. But it is not altogether useless to put the ques-
tion how much was lost to both parties and to the com-
mon cause by the separation. It is not difficult to conceive
that such dogged polemics as Nathanael Emmons and
Jedidiah Morse might have been none the worse for being
held in some sort of fellowship, rather than in exasperated
controversy, with such types of Christian sainthood as the
younger Ware and the younger Buckminster ; and it is easy
to imagine the extreme culture and cool intellectual and
spiritual temper of the Unitarian pulpit in general as
finding its advantage in not being cut off from direct radi-
ations from the fiery zeal of Lyman Beecher and Edward
Dorr Griffin. Is it quite sure that New England Congre-
gationalism would have been in all respects worse off if
Channing and his friends had continued to be recognized
as the Liberal wing of its clergy ? or that the Unitarian min-
isters would not have been a great deal better off if they
had remained in connection with a strong and conservative
right wing, which might counterbalance the exorbitant left-
ward flights of their more impatient and erratic spirits?

The seating of a pronounced Unitarian in the HoUis
chair of theology at Harvard took place in 1805. Three
years later, in 1808, the doors of Andover Seminary were
opened to students. Thirty-six were present, and the
number went on increasing. The example was quickly
followed. In 18 10 the Dutch seminary was begun at
New Brunswick, and in 18 12 the Presbyterian at Prince-
ton. In 18 16 Bangor Seminary (Congregationalist) and
Hartwick Seminary (Lutheran) were opened. In 1819
the Episcopalian " General Seminary " followed, and the
Baptist " Hamilton Seminary " in 1820. In 1821 Presby-
terian seminaries were begun at Auburn, N. Y., and
Marysville, Tenn. In 1822 the Yale Divinity College
was founded (CongregationaUst) ; in 1823 the Virginia


(Episcopalian) seminary at Alexandria; in 1824 the Union
(Presbyterian) Seminary, also in Virginia, and the Unita-
rian seminary at Cambridge; in 1825 the Baptist semi-
nary at Newton, Mass., and the German Reformed at
York, Pa. ; in 1826 the Lutheran at Gettysburg; in 1827
the Baptist at Rock Spring, 111. Thus, within a period of
twenty years, seventeen theological schools had come into
existence where none had been known before. It was a
swift and beneficent revolution, and the revolution has
never gone backward. In 1880 were enumerated in the
United States no less than one hundred and forty-two
seminaries, representing all sects, orders, and schools of
theological opinion, employing five hundred and twenty-
nine resident professors.'

To Andover, in the very first years of its great history,
came Mills and others of the little Williams College circle ;
and at once their infectious enthusiasm for the advance-
ment of the kingdom of God was felt throughout the in-
stitution. The eager zeal of these young men brooked no
delay. In June, 18 10, the General Association of Massa-
chusetts met at the neighboring town of Bradford ; there
four of the students, Judson, Nott, Newell, and Hall, pre-
sented themselves and their cause ; and at that meeting
was constituted the American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions. The little faith of the churches
shrank from the responsibility of sustaining missionaries in
the field, and Judson was sent to England to solicit the
cooperation of the London Missionary Society. This
effort happily failing, the burden came back upon the
American churches and was not refused. At last, in
February, 1 8 1 2, the first American missionaries to a foreign
country, Messrs. Judson, Rice, Newell, Nott, and Hall,
with their wives, sailed, in two parties, for Calcutta.
1 " Herzog-Schaff Encyclopedia," pp. 2328-2331.


And now befell an incident perplexing, embarrassing,
and disheartening to the supporters of the mission, but
attended with results for the promotion of the gospel
to which their best wisdom never could have attained.
Adoniram Judson, a graduate of Brown University,
having spent the long months at sea in the diligent and
devout study of the Scriptures, arrived at Calcutta fully
persuaded of the truth of Baptist principles. His friend,
Luther Rice, arriving by the other vessel, came by and by
to the same conclusion ; and the two, with their wives,
were baptized by immersion in the Baptist church at Cal-
cutta. The announcement of this news in America was an
irresistible appeal to the already powerful and rapidly
growing Baptist denomination to assume the support of
the two missionaries who now offered themselves to the
service of the Baptist churches. Rice returned to urge the
appeal on their immediate attention, while Judson remained
to enter on that noble apostolate for which his praise is in
all the churches.

To the widespread Baptist fellowship this sudden, un-
mistakable, and imperative providential summons to en-
gage in the work of foreign missions was (it is hardly too
much to say) like life from the dead. The sect had
doubled its numbers in the decade just passed, and was
estimated to include two hundred thousand communicants,
all " baptized believers." But this multitude was without
common organization, and, while abundantly endowed
with sectarian animosities, was singularly lacking in a
consciousness of common spiritual life. It was pervaded
by a deadly fatalism, which, under the guise of reverence
for the will of God, was openly pleaded as a reason for
abstaining from effort and self-denial in the promotion of
the gospel. Withal it was widely characterized not only
by a lack of education in its ministry, but by a violent and


brutal opposition to a learned clergy, which was particu-
larly strange in a party the moiety of whose principles
depends on a point in Greek lexicology. It was to a
party — we may not say a body — deeply and widely
affected by traits like these that the divine call was to be
presented and urged. The messenger was well fitted for
his work. To the zeal of a new convert to Baptist princi-
ples, and a missionary fervor deepened by recent contact
with idolatry in some of its most repulsive forms, Luther
Rice united a cultivated eloquence and a personal per-
suasiveness. Of course his first address was to pastors
and congregations in the seaboard cities, unexcelled by
any, of whatever name, for intelligent and reasonable
piety; and here his task was easy and brief, for they were
already of his mind. But the great mass of ignorance and
prejudice had also to be reckoned with. By a work in
which the influence of the divine Spirit was quite as mani-
fest as in the convulsive agitations of a camp-meeting, it
was dealt with successfully. Church history moved swiftly
in those days. The news of the accession of Judson and
Rice was received in January, 1813. In May, 18 14, the
General Missionary Convention of the Baptists was organ-
ized at Philadelphia, thirty-three delegates being present,

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 20 of 34)