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have been effectively and usefully employed in the arduous
labor Romanam condere gen tern. But it would seem that
the superior stability of the present enterprise of planting
Catholicism in the domain of the United States, as com-
pared with former expensive failures, was due in some \
part to the larger employment of a diocesan parish clergy
instead of a disproportionate reliance on the " regulars,"
On the whole, notwithstanding its immense armies of
immigrants and the devoted labors of its priests, and not-
withstanding its great expansion, visible everywhere in
conspicuous monuments of architecture, the Catholic ad-
vance in America has not been, comparatively speaking,
successful. For one thing, the campaign was carried on
too far from its base of supplies. The subsidies from
Lyons and Vienna, liberal as they were, were no match
for the home missionary zeal of the seaboard States in


following their own sons westward with church and gospel
and pastor. Even the conditions which made possible the
superior management and economy of resources, both
material and personal, among the Catholics, were attended
with compensating drawbacks. "With these advantages
they could not have the immense advantage of the popu-
lar initiative. In Protestantism the people were the
church, and the minister was chief among the people only
by virtue of being servant of all ; the people were incited
to take up the work for their own and carry it on at their
best discretion ; and they were free to make wasteful and
disastrous blunders and learn therefrom by experience.
With far greater expenditure of funds, they make no com-
parison with their brethren of the Roman obedience in
stately and sumptuous buildings at great centers of com-
merce and travel. But they have covered the face of the
land with country meeting-houses, twice as many as there
was any worthy use for, in which faithful service is ren-
dered to subdivided congregations by underpaid ministers,
enough in number, if they were wisely distributed, for the
evangelization of the whole continent ; and each country
meeting-house is a mission station, and its congregation,
men, women, and children, are missionaries. Thus it has
come about, in the language of the earnest Catholic from
the once Catholic city of New Orleans, that " the nation,
the government, the whole people, remain solidly Prot-
estant."^ Great territories originally discovered by
Catholic explorers and planted in the name of the church
by Catholic missionaries and colonists, and more lately
occupied by Catholic immigrants in what seemed over-
whelming numbers, are now the seat of free and powerful
commonwealths in which the Catholic Church is only one

1 Speech of Mr. M. T. Elder, of New Orleans, in the Catholic Congress
at Chicago, 1893, quoted above, p. 322, note.


of the most powerful and beneficent of the Christian sects,
while the institutions and influences which characterize
their society are predominantly Protestant.

In the westward propagation of Protestantism, as well
as of Catholicism, the distinctive attributes of the several
sects or orders is strikingly illustrated.

Foremost in the pioneer work of the church are easily
to be recognized the Methodists and the Baptists, one the
most solidly organized of the Protestant sects, the other
the most uncompact and individualist; the first by virtue
of the supple military organization of its great corps of
itinerants, the other by the simplicity and popular appre-
hensibleness of its distinctive tenets and arguments and
the aggressive ardor with which it inspires all its converts,
and both by their facility in recruiting their ministry from
the rank and file of the church, without excluding any by
arbitrarily imposed conditions. The Presbyterians were
heavily cumbered for advance work by traditions and rules
which they were rigidly reluctant to yield or bend, even
when the reason for the rule was superseded by higher rea-
sons. The argument for a learned ministry is doubtless a
weighty one ; but it does not suffice to prove that when
college-bred men are not to be had it is better that the
people have no minister at all. There is virtue in the rule
of ministerial parity ; but it should not be allowed to
hinder the church from employing in humbler spiritual
functions men who fall below the prescribed standard.
This the church, in course of time, discovered, and insti-
tuted a " minor order " of ministers, under the title of
colporteurs. But it was timidly and tardily done, and
therefore ineffectively. The Presbyterians lost their place
in the skirmish-line ; but that which had been their hin-
drance in the advance work gave them great advantage in
settled communities, in which for many years they took



precedence in the building up of strong and intelligent

To the Congregationalists belongs an honor in the past
which, in recent generations, they have not been jealous
to retain. Beyond any sect, except the Moravians, they
have cherished that charity which seeketh not her own.
The earliest leaders in the organization of schemes of
national beneficence in cooperation with others, they have
sustained them with unselfish liberality, without regard to
returns of sectarian advantage. The results of their labor
are largely to be traced in the upbuilding of other sects.
Their specialty in evangelization has been that of the re-
ligious educators of the nation. They have been preemi-
nently the builders of colleges and theological seminaries.
To them, also, belongs the leadership in religious journal-
ism. Not only the journals of their own sect and the
undenominational journals, but also to a notable extent
the religious journals of other denominations, have de-
pended for their efficiency on men bred in the discipline
of Congregationalism.

It is no just reproach to the Episcopalians that they
were tardy in entering the field of home missions. When
we remember that it is only since 181 1 that they have
emerged from numerical insignificance, we find their con-
tribution to the planting of the church in the new settle-
ments to be a highly honorable one. By a suicidal compact
the guileless Evangelical party agreed, in 1835, to take
direction of the foreign missions of the church, and leave
the home field under the direction of the aggressive High-
church party. It surrendered its part in the future of the
church, and determined the type of Episcopalianism that
was to be planted in the West.' Entering thus late into
the work, and that with stinted resources, the Episcopal
1 Tiffany, " Protestant Episcopal Church," p. 459.


Church wholl}- missed the apostolic glory of not building
on other men's foundations. Coming with the highest
pretensions to exclusive authority, its work was very
largely a work of proselyting from other Christian sects.
But this work was prosperously carried on ; and although
not in itself a work of the highest dignity, and although
the methods of it often bore a painfully schismatic charac-
ter, there is little room for doubt that the results of it have
enriched and strengthened the common Christianity of
America. Its specialties in the planting work have been
the setting of a worthy example of dignity and simplicity in
the conduct of divine worship, and in general of efficiency in
the administration of a parish, and, above all, the successful
handling of the immensely dif^cult duties imposed upon
Christian congregations in great cities, where the Episco-
pal Church has its chief strength and its most effective

One must needs ascend to a certain altitude above the
common level in order to discern a substantial resultant
unity of movement in the strenuous rivalries and even an-
tagonisms of the many sects of the one church of Christ
in America in that critical quarter-century from the year
1 835 to the outbreak of the Civil War, in which the work of
the church was suddenly expanded by the addition of a
whole empire of territory on the west, and the bringing in
of a whole empire of alien population from the east, and
when no one of the Christian forces of the nation could be
spared from the field. The unity is very real, and is visi-
ble enough, doubtless, from "the circle of the heavens."
The sharers in the toil and conflict and the near spectators
are not well placed to observe it. It will be for historians
in some later century to study it in a truer perspective.

It is not only as falling within this period of immigra-


tion, but as being largely dependent on its accessions from
foreign lands, that the growth of Mormonism is entitled to
mention in this chapter. In its origin Mormonism is dis-
tinctly American — a system of gross, palpable imposture
contrived by a disreputable adventurer, Joe Smith, with
the aid of three confederates, who afterward confessed the
fraud and perjury of which they had been guilty. It is a
shame to human nature that the silly lies put forth by this
precious gang should have found believers. But the
solemn pretensions to divine revelation, mixed with ele-
ments borrowed from the prevalent revivalism, and from
the immediate-adventism which so easily captivates excit-
able imaginations, drew a number of honest dupes into the
train of tiie knavish leaders, and made possible the pitiable
history which followed. The chief recruiting-grounds for
the new religion were not in America, but in the manu-
facturing and mining regions of Great Britain, and in some
of the countries, especially the Scandinavian countries, of
continental Europe. The able handling of an emigration
fund, and the dexterous combination of appeals to many
passions and interests at once, have availed to draw to-
gether in the State of Utah and neighboring regions a body
of fanatics formidable to the Republic, not by their number,
for they count only about one hundred and fifty thousand,
but by the solidity with which they are compacted into a
political, economical, religious, and, at need, military com-
munity, handled at will by unscrupulous chiefs. It is only
incidentally that the strange story of the Mormons, a story
singularly dramatic and sometimes tragic, is connected
with the history of American Christianity.^

To this same period belongs the beginning of the im-

i Carroll, " Religious Forces of the United States," pp. 165-174; Bishop
Tuttle, in " Schaff-Herzog Encyclopcflia," pp. 1575-1581 ; Professor John
Frascr, in "Encyclopaedia Britannica," vol. xvi., pp. 825-828; Dorchester,
" Christianity in the United Slates," pp. 538-646.

336 AMERICA. y CI/RISTIAXITY. \Q\\\v. xviii.

migration of the Chinese, wb.ich, hke that of the Mormons,
becomes by and by important to our subject as furnishing
occasion for active and fruitful missionary labors.

In the year 1843 culminated the panic agitation of
Millerism. From the year 1831 an honest Vermont
farmer named William Miller had been urging upon the
public, in pamphlets and lectures, his views of the approach-
ing advent of Christ to judgment and the destruction of
the world. He had figured it out on the basis of prophe-
cies in Daniel and the Revelation, and the great event was
set down for April 23, 1843. As the date drew near the
excitement of many became intense. Great meetings
were held, in the open air or in tents, of those who wished
to be found waiting for the Lord. Some nobly proved
their sincerity by the surrender of their property for the
support of their poorer brethren until the end should come.
The awful day was awaited with glowing rapture of hope,
or by some with terror. When it dawned there was eager
gazing upon the clouds of heaven to descry the sign of the
Son of man. And when the day had passed without
event there were various revulsions of feeHng. The proph-
ets set themselves to going over their figures and fixing
new dates; earnest believers, sobered by the failure of
their pious expectations, held firmly to the substance of
their faith and hope, while no longer attempting to " know
times and seasons, which the Father hath put within his
own power"; weak minds made shipwreck of faith; and
scoffers cried in derision, " Where is the promise of his
coming?" A monument of this honest delusion still
exists in the not very considerable sect of Adventists, with
its subdivisions ; but sympathizers with their general scheme
of prophetical interpretation are to be found among the
most earnest and faithful members of other churches.

Such has been the progress of Scriptural knowledge


since the days when Farmer Miller went to work with his
arithmetic and slate upon the strange symbols and enig-
matic figures of the Old and New Testament Apocalypses,
that plain Christians everywhere have now the means of
knowing that the lines of calculation along which good
people were led into delusion a half-century ago started
from utterly fallacious premises. It is to the fideUty of
critical scholars that we owe it that hereafter, except
among the ignorant and unintelligent, these two books,
now clearly understood, will not again be used to minister
to the panic of a Millerite craze, nor to furnish vituperative
epithets for antipopery agitators.

To this period also must be referred the rise of that
system of necromancy which, originating in America, has
had great vogue in other countries, and here in its native
land has taken such form as really to constitute a new cult.
Making no mention of sporadic instances of what in earlier
generations would have been called (and properly enough)
by the name of witchcraft, we find the beginning of so-
called " spiritualism " in the " Rochester rappings," pro-
duced, to the wonder of many witnesses, by "the Fox
girls" in 1849. How the rappings and other sensible
phenomena were produced was a curious question, but
not important; the main question was, Did they convey
communications from the spirits of the dead, as the young
women alleged, and as many persons believed (so they
thought) from demonstrative evidence ? The mere sug-
gestion of the possibility of this of course awakened an
inquisitive and eager interest everywhere. It became the
subject of uni\ersal discussion and experiment in society.
There was demand for other " mediums " to satisfy curi-
osity or aid investigation ; and the demand at once pro-
duced a copious supply. The business of medium became
a regular profession, opening a career especially to enter-

338 AMERICAI\r CHRISTIANITY. [Chap, xviii.

prising women. They began to draw together believers
and doubters into " circles " and " seances," and to organ-
ize permanent associations. At the end of ten years the
"Spiritual Register" for 1859, boasting great things, es-
timated the actual spiritualists in America at 1,500,000,
besides 4,000,000 more partly converted. The latest cen-
sus gives the total membership of their associations as
45,030. But this moderate figure should not be taken as
the measure of the influence of their leading tenet. There
are not a few honest Christians who are convinced that
communications do sometimes take place between the dead
and the living ; there are a great multitude who are dis-
posed, in a vague way, to think there must be something
in it. But there are few even of the earnest devotees of
the spiritualist cult who will deny that the whole business
is infested with fraud, whether of dishonest mediums or
of lying spirits. Of late years the general public has come
into possession of material for independent judgment on
this point. An earnest spiritualist, a man of wealth, named
Seybert, dying, left to the University of Pennsylvania a
legacy of sixty thousand dollars, on condition that the uni-
versity should appoint a commission to investigate the
claims of spiritualism. A commission was appointed which
left nothing to be desired in point of ability, integrity, and
impartiality. Under the presidency of the renowned Pro-
fessor Joseph Leidy, and with the aid and advice of lead-
ing believers in spiritualism, they made a long, patient,
faithful investigation, the processes and results of which
are published in a most amusing little volume.^ The gist
of their report may be briefly summed up. Every case
of alleged communication from the world of departed
spirits that was investigated by the commission (and they
were guided in their .selection of cases by the advice of

1 " Report of the Seybert Commission," Philadelphia, Lippincott.


eminent and respectable believers in spiritualism) was dis-
covered and demonstrated to be a case of gross, willful
attempted fraud. The evidence is strong that the organ-
ized system of spiritualism in America, with its associations
and lyceums and annual camp-meetings, and its itinerancy
of mediums and trance speakers, is a system of mere im-
posture. In the honest simplicity of many of its followers,
and in the wicked mendacity of its leaders, it seems to be
on a par with the other American contribution to the re-
ligions of the world, Mormonism.



It has been observed that for nearly half a generation
after the reaction began from the fervid excitement of the
Millerite agitation no season of general revival was known
in the American church.

These were years of immense material prosperity, " the
golden age of our history." ^ The wealth of the nation in
that time far more than doubled ; its railroad mileage
more than threefolded ; population moved westward with
rapidity and volume beyond precedent. Between 1845
and i860 there were admitted seven new States and four
organized Territories.

Withal it was a time of continually deepening intensity
of political agitation. The patchwork of compromises and
settlements contrived by make-shift politicians like Clay
and Douglas would not hold ; they tore out, and the rent
was made worse. Part of the Compromise of 1850, which
was to be something altogether sempiternal, was a Fugi-
tive Slave Law so studiously base and wicked in its provi-
sions as to stir the indignation of just and generous men
whenever it was enforced, and to instruct and strengthen
and consolidate an intelHgent and conscientious opposition

1 E. B. Andrews, " History of the United States," vol. ii., p. 66.

• ' THE KAKSA S CRl'SADF.:' 3 4 1

to slavery as not a century of antislavery lecturing and
pamphleteering could have done. Four years later the
sagacious Stephen Douglas introduced into Congress his
ingenious permanent pacification scheme for taking the
slavery question " out of politics " by perfidiously repeal-
ing the act under which the western Territories had for
the third part of a century been pledged to freedom, and
leaving the question of freedom or slavery to be decided
by the first settlers upon the soil. It was understood on
both sides that the effect of this measure would be to turn
over the soil of Kansas to slavery ; and for a moment there
was a calm that did almost seem hke peace. But the
providential man for the emergency, Eli Thayer, boldly
accepted the challenge under all the disadvantageous con-
ditions, and appealed to the friends of freedom and right-
eousness to stand by him in " the Kansas Crusade." The
appeal was to the same Christian sentiment which had just
uttered its vain protest, through the almost unanimous
voice of the ministers of the gospel, against the opening
of the Territories to the possibility of slavery. It was
taken up in the solemn spirit of religious duty. None
who were present are likely to forget the scene when the
emigrants from New Haven assembled in the North Church
to be sped on their way with prayer and benediction ; how
the vast multitude were thrilled by the noble eloquence of
Beecher, and how money came out of pocket when it was
proposed to equip the colonists with arms for self-defense
against the ferocity of "border ruffians." There were
scenes like this in many a church and country prayer-
meeting, where Christian hearts did not forget to pray
"for them in bonds, as bound with them." There took
place such a religious emigration as America had not known
since the days of the first colonists. They went forth
singing the words of Whittier :


We cross the prairies as of old

Our fathers crossed the sea,
To make the West, as they the East,

The empire of the free.

Those were choice companies ; it was said that in some of
their settlements every third man was a college graduate.
Thus it was that, not all at once, but after desperate tribu-
lations, Kansas was saved for freedom. It was the turning-
point in the "irrepressible conflict." The beam of the
scales, which politicians had for forty years been trying to
hold level, dipped in favor of liberty and justice, and it
was hopeless thenceforth to restore the balance,^

Neither of the two characteristics of this time, the
abounding material prosperity or the turbid political agi-
tation, was favorable to that fixed attention to spiritual
themes which promotes the revival of religion. But the
conditions were about to be suddenly changed.

Suddenly, in the fall of 1857, came a business revulsion.
Hard times followed. Men had leisure for thought and
prayer, and anxieties that they were fain to cast upon
God, seeking help and direction. The happy thought
occurred to a good man, Jeremiah Lanphier, in the em-
ploy of the old North Dutch Church in New York, to
open a room in the " consistory building " in Fulton Street
as an oratory for the common prayer of so many business
men as might be disposed to gather there in the hour from
twelve to one o'clock, " with one accord to make their
common supplications." The invitation was responded to
at first by hardly more than " two or three." The num-
ber grew. The room overflowed. A second room was
opened, and then a third, in the same building, till all its
walls resounded with prayer and song. The example was

1 Read " The Kansas Crusade," by Eli Thayer, Harpers, New York,
1889. It is lively reading, and indispensable to a full understanding of this
part of the national history.

THE REVIVAL OE 1857. 343

followed until at one time, in the spring of 1858, no fewer
than twenty "daily union prayer-meetings " were sustained
in different parts of the city. Besides these, there was
preaching at unwonted times and places. Burton's Thea-
ter, on Chambers Street, in the thick of the business
houses, was thronged with eager listeners to the rudimen-
tal truths of personal religion, expounded and applied by
great preachers. Everywhere the cardinal topics of prac-
tical religious duty, repentance and Christian faith, were
themes of social conversation. All churches and ministers
were full of activity and hope. "They that feared the
Lord spake often one with another."

What was true of New York was true, in its measure,
of every city, village, and hamlet in the land. It was the
Lord's doing, marvelous in men's eyes. There was no
human leadership or concert of action in bringing it about.
It came. Not only were there no notable evangelists
traveling the country ; even the pastors of churches did
little more than enter zealously into their happy duty in
things made ready to their hand. Elsewhere, as at New
York, the work began with the spontaneous gathering of"
private Christians, stirred by an unseen influence. Two
circumstances tended to promote the diffusion of the re-
vival. The Young Men's Christian Association, then a
recent but rapidly spreading institution, furnished a natu-
ral center in each considerable town for mutual consulta-
tion and mutual incitement among young men of various
sects. For this was another trait of the revival, that it
went forward as a tide movement of the whole church, in
disregard of the dividing-lines of sect. I know not what
Christian communion, if any, was unaffected by it. The
other favorable circumstance was the business interest
taken in the revival by the secular press. Up to this time
the church had been little accustomed to look for coopera-


tion to the newspaper, unless it was the religious weekly.
But at this time that was fulfilled which was spoken of the
prophet, that " holiness to the Lord " should be written
upon the trains of commerce and upon all secular things.
The sensation head-lines in enterprising journals proclaimed
" Revival News," and smart reporters were detailed to the

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 27 of 34)