Paul R Dienstberger
Retired School Teacher
921 Hoover Drive
Ashland, Oh 44805
ph: 419-281-3184
fax: 419-281-3184


This Ebook is Now Freeware

Read Online

Download the ebook PDF here


Other Links from the Author

Lincoln Highway Leagues of Ohio

A Century of Ashland Arrow Football

A Century of Ashland Arrow Basketball

New Arrow Addendum

Ashland County HS Sports Teams, Ohio

Ashland Couhty Sports Hall of Fame



Nation of Christians

by Paul R Dienstberger
Copyright 2000 Paul R. Dienstberger


Table of Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter

Chapter 4 The Camp Meeting Revival Period

  • I. The East
  • II. The West: Logan County Kentucky
  • III More West: Cane Ridge Meeting
  • IV The Camp Meetings
  • V The Methodists and the Circuit Riders
  • VI The East Again and C. G. Finney
  • VII Growth of Christianity
  • VIII American Foreign Missions
  • IX Benevolent Empire
  • X The West Again and Wars
  • In every age there is a theological discussion on how, why, and when will a revival happen. The crux of the issue is whether the awakening is heaven-sent and God-given or does mankind have any power to start or control a revival. Certainly the desire is that any renewal is caused by a spontaneous moving of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of the era, believers want and hope to see the supernatural at work in their everyday lives. If the personal God, who made those promises in The Bible, is true, then it is realistic to expect something beyond the power of man to happen in his ordinary life.

    Clearly, God's Word, the Holy Scriptures, whether written or spoken, is the primary instrument of faith. It is beyond mans' understanding why calls for repentance only harden some hearts, and yet entire cities respond as in the case of Jonah's five words of warning to Ninevah. "Thus saith The Lord" or "The Bible says" has certainly started many life changing experiences. Every awakening has fervent preachers, who appear to be called as God's spokesmen, and they have a Bible centered message that produces the conversion of unbelievers and spiritual growth in believers.

    A variety of opinions exist as to the patterns concerning revival. A leading indicator assuredly is prayer. Old Testament kings like Hezekiah, Asa, and Josiah had their prayers answered for renewal. Upon returning from the Captivity Jewish leaders prayed, and preached, and hoped for the restoration of Jerusalem. The first church in Acts prayed not knowing what Pentecost would bring or that they were even a church.

    It is suggested that cycles of renewal and decline are also clues about revival. When sin, apathy, and spiritual indifference are prevalent usually a call for repentance and godly sorrow is not far around a corner. Although wars, depressions, and widespread disease should produce awakenings, such has not always been the case. Many times renewal has been a prologue to wars and even a preparation for disaster.

    It is evident from the seven churches in the Revelation that every type exists in every age. Thus when there appears to be no revival, revival is continuous and usually localized and sporadic, but it has not ceased. When the church seems to be dead and lukewarm, there are churches that are equipping their saints and sending a missionaries to the lost. When the current crop of Christians is presumed to be backslidden, there are believers on fire for The Lord. God's kingdom work is ongoing and always operating at every level.

    However, true revival is an extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit across the nation and even the globe. When revival comes, there is repentance from sin and trust in Christ's redemption on the Cross alone for salvation. Above all the revival gives the glory to God.

    When the Second Great Awakening occurred in 19th Century America some usual God-sent manifestations took place, and some new prayed-up leaders introduced revival methods different from those used in previous generations. But it was clearly a work of God.

         I. The East:

    As America neared the end of the century, the East coast states were influenced by the formal churches which preached the Edwards' theology of "plain gospel truths" in an orderly manner. The Congregational and Presbyterian churches were well established in New England and the mid-Atlantic states. The Dutch Reformed in New York and the Lutherans, Quakers and other smaller Protestant denominations provided sanctuaries for those with spiritual desires. The South was strongly Episcopalian. And two small, growing groups, the Baptists and the Methodists, were seeking out the lost. But as usual church membership was the gauge for spirituality and only 1 in 13 Americans belonged.

    Again the evidences of spiritual decline and the voices of doom called for a renewal. One answer was said to be education. Dr. Benjamin Rush, an early leader in the US Sunday School movement, said that "the Bible as a school book was superior to all other books in the world." The Adams' cousins John and Samuel wrote each other that "education should teach the Christian system to the children." Dr. Jedidiah Morse, the father of America geography, wrote Geography Made Easy so the "pillars of Christianity" would not be overthrown in schools.

    Where and who started the Awakening of 1800 is not clear. Every denomination and state had small, localized revivals. A long list of spiritual rumblings can be compiled during the last two decades of the century. The eastern college phase was characterized by orderliness and restraint. Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia was awakened in 1787 and the Presbyterian Church in the South was ablaze with revival. Campus prayer days and college sermons began to appear.

    Dr. Timothy Dwight, a grandson of Jonathan Edwards, boldly debated the students at Yale College, while he was President. His chapel series on deism, the Word of God and apologetics; and his 1796 baccalaureate sermon "Embrace Christ" converted many students. Some of his proteges went on to become famous preachers.

    Edward Dorr Griffin, a Yale graduate, kept a record of his results starting in 1792. He started a church with a hundred convert in New Salem, Mass. where no church had existed over the previous 40 years. He was blessed with heavenly sprinklings to the end of the century. Overall the eastern stage provided many dedicated scholars for home and foreign missions.

    A significant change took place in 1787 in Boston, when they formed the American Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and others in North America (SPGNA). Like past organization distributing books and raising funds became priorities. However, the new emphasis of the SPGNA was the "others." To them others meant the frontier, the West, or what was referred to as areas "destitute of the gospel."

         II. The West: Logan County Kentucky:

    As the new century turned, the East held its Concerts of Prayer and reported its renewals in colleges. The Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches continued their days of fasting and prayer, but, the West was independent from their influences. Emigrants had only settled there in the last quarter of the century, and statehood had only come to Kentucky (1792) and Tennessee (1796) in the last decade.

    What had arrived in the West was the biggest collection of lawbreakers, whiskey drinkers, and the most uncontrolled lot in the world. Morals were non existent. Few women were Christians and even fewer men admitted their faith. Chief Justice Marshall, a devout church-goer, felt that the "church was too far gone to be revived." The West was considered the most profaned place in all Christendom, and the only standards of judgment were the gun and "Lynch's" law, the rope. But, death and danger were daily threats from an arrow, or milk sickness, or even some wounded animal.

    As renewal gently rippled from the seaboard to the Appalachians, a rousing, roaring revival shook the West. It started in the most unlikely place: Logan County in the southwestern corner of Kentucky and more notoriously known as "Rogues' Harbor." The most unsavory characters had covenanted with one another to keep out law and order, and any "regulators" who would steal their lawbreaking freedoms. They were refugees from every know crime.

    In 1797 James McGready, a Presbyterian preacher from North Carolina, came to the three little "river" congregations in Logan County. McGready was a Log College graduate and was under the tutelage of John McMillan, the first Presbyterian pastor west of the Allegheny Mountains. McGready had been aroused at the Hampden-Sydney revival.

    When McGready arrived at the Muddy, Red, and Gasper River churches, he set aside the third Saturday of each month for prayer and fasting. He, also, lined up believers to pray at sunset on Saturday and at sunrise on Sunday. Secular businessmen had been spending days alone in the woods praying for the unsaved in Logan County. A rise in the spiritual level occurred during each year of McGready's ministry.

    In June, 1800 at the annual Red River communion meeting an astonishing five hundred showed up from the three congregations and from a range of sixty miles away. McGready had to enlist the preaching of five colleagues including Presbyterian William McGee and his Methodist brother John from Tennessee. The event was so large that they were forced to a continuous outdoor service that lasted into the next week. The pulpits followed McGready themes of heaven, hell, and salvation.

    For three days the Red River was a solemn, orderly Presbyterian gathering with communion as the central event. But on the final day Monday during the preaching and shouting of Methodist John McGee, people began to weep, and shout, and fall in ecstasy. Many responded to the call to "let the Lord God Omnipotent reign in their hearts." Many conversions were reported. Some pastors were convinced that the emotionalism was the work of God; others resented the unusual excitement. Marshall and Manuel in their great second book From Sea to Shining Sea said, that "nothing like this had happened since the Book of Acts."

    This event was probably the first "camp meeting" although the term was not coined for another two years. McGready and his associates were moved to announce another four-day sacramental service in late July at Gasper River. The news spread. Communicants were told to come prepared to encamp with wagons and provisions.

    Gasper River was the turning point of the Kentucky revivals. The crowd swelled to estimates of 10,000 from a hundred miles away. Men chopped down trees and arranged split-log benches to create a "church-in-the-wilderness." An ecumenical gathering of Protestant preachers took turns preaching and encouraging emotionalism. Everyone was concerned with one issue: the eternal salvation of their souls. The melodrama continued into the night and torches were lit to end the darkness. The backwoods was like a battlefield of crying out and falling down slain in the Spirit. Religion was alive in the West. They called it the Kentucky, the Logan County, and the Cumberland Revival.

    Barton Warren Stone, the pastor at Cane Ridge, came to observe the excitement. He had been converted at the Guilford, North Carolina revival, when McGready was his preacher. Stone's evaluation of the Gasper event was " The devil has always tried to ape the works of God, to bring them into disrepute; but that can not be a Satanic work which brings men to humble confession, to forsaking sin, to prayer, fervent praise and thanksgiving, and to a sincere and affectionate exhortation to sinners to repent and come to Jesus the Savior."

    In the succeeding months sacramental meetings with anticipated emotionalism rolled throughout the neighboring states: Tennessee, the Carolinas, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the Ohio region. The Presbyterian and Methodist preachers held joint communions, while the Baptist practiced "closed communions." At every gathering large numbers made stirring conversions to Christ. The eastern preaching methods of restraint and logical exegesis gave way to frontier shouting of "hell-fire and damnation." The backwoods was ablaze with perhaps a day like Joel had prophesied.

    While the Presbyterians ignited the revival, it was the Methodists, who gained from the fruits of the "camp" meetings. A new organization, the Western Conference, put all Methodist churches west of the Allegheny Mountains under their presiding elder Bishop William McKendree. In the West six thousand new members were added to the Methodist denomination during the first two years of the century.

    By the spring of 1801 the West throbbed with hopes of continuing the revival and the renewing of acquaintances that the winter had separated. The flames of the Holy Spirit again leaped from meeting to meeting. Flemingsburgh in April, Cabin Creek (Mason County) in May, and then the overwhelming Concord meeting (Bourbon County) where seven Presbyterian ministers preached to 4,000 souls. Next came Point Pleasant and Indian Creek (Harrison County) as crowds gathered from all directions. Whole settlements appeared to be vacant. The host was from every background: young and old, male and female, slave and free, and saved and unsaved. At each gathering they spread the tidings of where the next meeting would be held.

         III. More West: The Cane Ridge Meeting:

    The monumental meeting of the Kentucky Revival was at Cane Ridge in Bourbon County on Friday August 6, 1801. Pastor Warren Barton Stone of the Concord and Cane Ridge congregations was the leader, and he invited 17 other Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist preachers to the sacramental occasion. A log meetinghouse was the site, and it still stands today as a shrine to the event. It had a standing room only capacity of 500. It was built by Robert Finley, the founding pastor and a friend of Daniel Boone. It was covered with a bamboo roof, and thus the name "cane ridge." A large tent was set up in anticipation of an overflow crowd, and seven speaking platforms were built on the perimeter of the camp.

    As the throng began to arrive, the roads were clogged with people on foot, on horseback, and in wagons and carriages. Some came from Tennessee and even from Ohio. The wagons circled the perimeter and overflowed the camp. They counted 147 wagons for the weekend. Local hospitality was swamped, and people would sleep on floors and in barns. The crowd was overwhelming and estimates ran as high as 25,000. Even Governor James Garrard came the 20 miles from Lexington, the capital and largest town in the state at less than 1,800 population. The multitude was a diverse assemblage of converts from earlier meetings, curiosity seekers, merchants, and even a minority of rowdies and drinkers, who were a source of much prayer. The schedule of events called for a Friday evening preaching service, Saturday was to be a day of fasting and prayer in preparation for the communion on Sunday, and Monday everyone would break camp and be sent homeward bound.

    Nothing spectacular happened on Friday night. Pastor Stone opened in prayer and Matthew Houston began to preach. A gentle rain forced the crowd into the meetinghouse, but many small groups visited and prayed together into the night.

    Saturday was a day of power and excitement. The event turned into a series of gatherings. The main centers of preaching were: the meetinghouse, the tent, and a separate meeting where the Negroes gathered. Numerous other attractions caused people to spontaneously rush back and forth when a stir took place during some nearby preaching or the many physical exercises that occurred throughout the week.

    During the preaching the sounds of moaning, groaning, screaming and crying had become commonplace in the western revival. The most universal exhortation, "Lost! Lost!" struck terror throughout the camp. The unsaved would cry and weep, while compassionate friends entreated them to turn to the Lord Jesus.

    The most prevalent physical "exercise" was falling down. It was usually accompanied with fainting, some bodily agitation's, and even a trance or coma. It caused the crowds to begin exhortations and praises, while trying to co-labor with the preacher. Confusion reigned. James Finley said that, "the noise was like the roar of Niagara."

    The religious ecstasy was thought to be a new experience of the Holy Spirit. Barton Stone devoted an entire chapter in his biography to describe the physical wonders. The most dramatic was the "jerks." A person would fall down and his head and neck and limbs would snap back and forth. The crowd would gather around and exhort the person with pleas, "Repent! trust Jesus! be born anew!" When someone would fall down in the trance, sinners usually agonized over their own spiritual condition. Other bodily signs included: dancing, running, and leap frogging. A confusion of vocal utterances included: barking, shouts, groans, and babbling that was called holy laughter or singing.

    Treeing the devil was a bizarre attraction. The individual and even groups, usually got down on all fours and barked up the side of a tree. The person was always followed by the crowd, and they shouted and encouraged the actions with "Sic Satan, sic 'em, sic 'em." It was recommended that dancing and "holy" leap frogging would relieve the condition. Another exotic behavior was when women fell to the ground in gross, indecent sexual positions. Some skeptics wrote off the activities because these were only "ignorant, frontier, hill billies," but the spiritual results could not be denied.

    One Kentucky girl Rachel Martin lay in a trance for nine days before reviving. A seven year-old girl on a man's shoulders gave an amazing testimony. Some scoffers and mockers in the midst of their swearing and drinking were suddenly struck down flat on their backs. There were an abundant number of instances to motivate repentance.

    Most of these Kentuckians were of Scotch-Irish background, and many of these strange manifestations were repeated later in the Ulster Revival of 1859.

    One general feature of the Cane Ridge was the enthusiasm and the freedom of expression by the laity. Every sermon was received with "Amens" and "Hallelujahs." Anyone could exhort sinners and give biblical wisdom. The worship through hymns and hand clapping aroused the emotions of most. Even the small number of skeptics and hecklers shouted and made comments. Hundreds of believers, referred to as professors, gave short testimonies or professions of faith. One estimate was given that 300 laymen, both black and white, testified. No sooner did the hysteria subside in one part of the camp, when hundreds would rush to the next loud exercise.

    The holy frenzy continued into the night. Lamps, candles, torches, and campfires created an eerie background. The singing and noise would not cease. Ministers such as Matthew Houston, John Lyle, and Richard McNemar started unscheduled preaching in the tent to calm the crowd. A thunderstorm with lightning added an immense drama to the nighttime preaching as the commotion continued to the next day.

    On Sunday the main event of the gathering was Holy Communion, which took place at the meetinghouse. The table was set up in the shape of a cross and could accommodate about a hundred. It was estimated that between 300 and a thousand took the Eucharist. Another appraisal claimed upwards of 3,000 at the Lord's Supper, but the Presbyterians had passed out only 750 lead tokens on Saturday.

    The major requirement for participation was some kind of guarantee of eternal life. The man or woman had to have experienced a broken or contrite heart because of their sin, guilt, or wickness. After being "convicted" or "anxious" the transformation to a believer with hope in Christ must have occurred. The "baptism of the Spirit" should have produced some internal, emotional change or regeneration. These sinners would then be "saved or converted," "born again," or "made a Christian." They'd had a new or second birth. Only the Presbyterian ministers presided over the communion, but the Methodists where allowed to partake of the bread and wine, too. Many table settings, perhaps 8-10, were required and the commemoration of the Lord's Supper continued into the afternoon. It was an intensely emotional and meaningful worship service, especially for the Presbyterian tradition, as tears of joy and sadness were commonplace. It was to be a day of renewal. The other physical exercises which occurred outside did not happen at the communion, but it was as expected the pinnacle of the weekend for the laity. Outside the dynamic preacher William Burke made his pulpit 15 feet above the crowd on a fallen tree. Lightning had felled the tree. The Methodist preacher was said to have gathered an audience of 10,000, and again the noise level rose. The day was a repeat of the intensity from Saturday, and it continued into the night. It was almost a circus atmosphere, and newcomers had come for the day because of the reports going out from Cane Ridge.

    By Monday the food levels were dwindling. However, new arrivals had heard about what was happening so they continued to flock to the action. Some had gone to their home church on Sunday, and they too returned to add a new energy. The crowd swelled to it largest attendance, an estimated 10,000 people on the grounds

    For four more days the massive rally continued leaving people breathless. The sleepless ministers were exhausted. Finally out of food and out of energy, but everyone dramatically effected, the crowd went home.

    What had happened in the six days at Cane Ridge? The conversions were in the thousands, and the number "slain in the spirit" was also in the thousands. The estimated attendance was between 10,000 and 25,000. The major assessment was that "this was the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost."

    Rev. George Baxter, a Presbyterian minister and President of Washington College, came to observe the after effect and said, "I found Kentucky to appearances the most moral place I had ever seen. A profane expression was hardly ever heard. A religious awe seemed to pervade the country. Upon the whole, I think that the revival in Kentucky the most extraordinary that has ever visited the Church of Christ."

    Cane Ridge drew national attention and was one of most reported religious events in American history. Most of the ministers gave detailed accounts in their memoirs and autobiographies. The diary of John Lyle has valuable details. Colonel Robert Patterson, who was involved in the founding of Lexington and its Presbyterian Church, reported on eight sacramental meetings during 1801. Cane Ridge was one of them. Many letters from people, who witnessed the events, were published in journals around the country during the next years. It has also been the subject of many notable books by Paul Conkin, Bernard Weisberger, and portions from W.W. Sweet and William McLoughlin.

    The Methodist church membership grew around 10,000 a year, which was 168 percent during the next ten years. The Baptists added 10,000 new Kentucky members in the three years after Cane Ridge. Sensational growth continued in both denominations for the next decades until they were first and second in the nation by 1840.

    The Presbyterians had first experienced the western revival and they added 10,000 new members from 1800-1810, but their major fruit of it was division. The leaders, who had experienced the Logan and Cane Ridge revivals, formed the Synod of Kentucky. By 1809 they organized The Cumberland Synod and a split from the General Assembly. The schism group was referred as the New Lights.

    Several issues caused disagreement. One was the Calvinist doctrine of election or pre-destination by God's foreknowledge of salvation. The Arminian view or the new Methodist position dealt with free-will and the perseverance or growth that showed signs of repentance. Some critics called it "conditional" salvation. A second question dealt with the mode of baptism. The New Lights agreed that the scriptural form of baptism was immersion like Jesus in the Jordan River and only after they were believers. All sides did agree on one issue that the Holy Scriptures should be the source of their theological opinions. However, as is still the case, they held differing interpretations.

    As for Barton Stone and his colleagues a new Protestant church was born. They first organized the Springfield Presbytery in 1803. Another group led by Thomas Campbell had separated in Pennsylvania. By the late '20's the two groups unified into the "Disciples of Christ" or the "Christian" church. The long-time Presbyterian pastor David Rice, who had served in Kentucky since 1783, was tagged as an anti-revival man. Some Germans formed a new denomination and called it the "United Brethren" which was led by Philip Otterbein and Martin Bohme. Also, several prominent ministers at Cane Ridge joined the new Shaker sect from Europe. However, unity and interdenominational cooperation and not dissent was the main activity during the awakening.

         IV The Camp Meetings:

    The camp meeting was the rage of the West. Everyone hoped to duplicate the intensity of Cane Ridge. The communion service remained the main attraction, but the gathering was a welcomed affair for those isolated farmers scattered in lonely cabins. The conversion and salvation of souls continued as another primary design of the scheduled event, however renewal and religious impetus was an intended hope for the churches and individuals. The spontaneity, and even excess as some judged it, gave way to formal well-organized meetings bordering on military regimentation. It became not only a religious event, but, also, a social, and even a political and economic venture.

    In its heyday the camp meeting was a meticulously planned event. Sites were selected that could handle the travelers. Camping areas were assigned based on church, city, and even race, if Negroes attended. Law enforcement committees made sure the camp rules were followed and that thief and "courting" improprieties did not occur.

    The scheduled sermons were announced by blowing a trumpet and everyone was expected to attend, unless they were ill. At 10:00 AM, in the afternoon, and at 6 PM public preaching took place. Everyone was required to be seated during the sermons. No walking around or talking was permitted, and even a smoking ban was in effect during the preaching. Afterwards, usually until 10 PM, a love feast or some kind of meal was available. Then at 10:00 PM, rest was required and all activities ceased.

    While most denominations cooperated in the camp meetings, it was the Methodists, who made it a central part of annual church life. Bishop Francis Asbury wrote in his Journal that 400 meetings were held in 1811. By the mid-1820's only the Methodists held camp meetings, and by the 1840's cabins replaced the tents. Eventually the summer vacation camps and Chautauqua meetings replaced these frontier gatherings. However they still remained Bible conferences and a time for renewal outside of the regular church routine.

         V. The Methodists and the Circuit Riders:

    While it was the camp meetings that provided a venue to present the gospel and gather a harvest time of souls from the scattered westerners, it was the circuit riding Methodist preachers, who called on their isolated homes and taught them how to be disciples of Christ. These itinerant laymen were the backbone of the successful growth of the Methodist Church in the first half of the 19th Century.

    The Methodist organization was a well conceived network that was designed to reach every person on the frontier. The circuit rider traveled a range of 200 to 500 miles. He stopped at "classes" or "stations" for preaching appointments in homes, under trees, and in taverns. Each location had a class leader and 10-20 people in the "congregation." He usually made his rounds about every 4-5 weeks. These mobile ministers prepared their sermons on horseback and preached almost everyday and sometimes twice: morning and evening. No area was too remote to be outside the reach of the Methodist system.

    The circuit preacher was usually single, and had little more than a common school education. In 1800 there were no Methodist seminaries. He did not give his sermons from erudite notes, but used homespun stories to apply the biblical offer of free-grace to all. For his grueling schedule he received $80 a year in1800. Their reputation for faithfulness was so renown that during bad weather people said, "that nobody was out but crows and Methodist preachers." The Methodist organization was peerless in the Protestant church. The circuit rider was appointed by the presiding elder, who was the district superintendent. The traveling itinerant was shifted to another circuit every year or two by order of the Methodist manual called the Discipline. Each district was assigned to a regional unit called the Conference, and every four years a "Quadrennial Conference" was held. At the top of the structure was the bishop, and Francis Asbury was the most famous and the most powerful, too.

    A supply of circuit preachers came from the class leaders, who had some proven speaking ability. Another source was the itinerants, who were converted during the revivals. Some of the most famous preachers, who rose through the system were saved at these awakenings, such as James B. Finley, Peter Cartwright, and Jacob Young. By the 1840's the circuit rider like the camp meeting was passing with time. The Methodists were now the largest denomination in the nation. They were starting schools of higher learning like Ohio Wesleyan and DePauw. They had 34 colleges by the Civil War. Like other religious bodies they split in 1844 over the slavery issue. Besides, the frontier was now beyond the Mississippi, and it was Oregon fever and California gold. However, the two great legacies, the camp meeting revivals and the circuit riding evangelist, had recorded a blessed impact on the history of American Christianity.

    The Methodist growth paralleled the rise of three prominent names: Francis Asbury, Peter Cartwright, and Richard Allen.

    Francis Asbury was the only Methodist preacher to stay in America during the Revolution. In 1784 he and Thomas Coke founded the first American national church body, the Methodist Episcopal Church. When Asbury came to the colonies there were 600 Methodists, and when he died in 1816 the denomination had grown to 200,000. His travels on horseback were unparalleled. He rode over a quarter-of-a-million miles, crossed the Appalachians sixty times, wore out six horses, preached 16,000 sermons, ordained 4,000 ministers, and presided over 224 conferences. He traveled from Maine to Georgia and inland to Indiana. He was never married and owned little more than a horse and what was in his saddlebags. His life made one of the biggest impacts of anyone on the American church. He was known as the "Johnny Appleseed of the Gospel."

    A second Methodist Peter Cartwright was a frontier preacher for 60 years. He was a circuit rider, traveling evangelist, and church planter. He "saw the divine light" at a Kentucky camp meeting in 1801. In his career he baptized almost 10,000 converts, and preached almost 15,000 sermons. He was known for his ability to stand up to the frontier ruffians. He debated any issue against the Shakers, Mormons, and particularly slavery. His most famous opponent was Abraham Lincoln in the 1846 Illinois Congressional election, which he lost. His Autobiography written in 1857 is a great source on the westward spread of Christianity.

    Finally, Richard Allen, an ex-slave from Philadelphia, began preaching on the Methodist circuit in 1781. Because of the segregated seating he started the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1794. Bishop Asbury even dedicated the building. However in 1816 after winning a Supreme Court case, his group left the Methodist denomination and became the AME church or African Methodist Episcopal Church. He was their bishop from 1816-1831. His Philadelphia AME Church grew to 7,500 members in the 1820's.

         VI. The East Again and C.G. Finney:

    While the Second Great Awakening in the West was characterized by wild physical exercises and emotionalism with itinerant, traveling preachers, the East was just the opposite. Mainly educated clergymen spoke in the Calvinist terms of the sovereignty of God and the depravity of man, but calmness and intellectualism reigned.

    Nevertheless the revival swept everywhere. Dr. Gardiner Spring, New York's Brick Church pastor from 1810-1873, said that between 1792 and 1842, "Scarcely any portion of it (the American church), but what was visited by copious effusions of the Holy Spirit. From north to south, and from east to west, our male and more especially our female academies, our colleges, and our churches drank largely of this fountain of living waters." The awakening was not limited to place, or people, or occasion.

    Many colleges and towns were visited by revival not once, but many times over like waves in intervals several years apart. Yale had over a half dozen renewals and the same movements took place at Dartmouth, Williams, Amherst, and other schools. Iain Murray concluded that, "A list of college presidents in this period is almost a list of revival preachers." In 1819 Joshua Bradley chronicled several hundred revivals between 1815-18 throughout the nation, and he said that he could have published volumes on the thousands of reports that he had received. The western New York State had so many revivals that it was given the title the "burnt" and "burned-over" district. While the spiritual enemy in the West was easily and simply sin, the Eastern opposition was again another mental veneration. At first it seemed to be that old adversary deism, especially when that red-head deist Thomas Jefferson won the Presidency. However by the second decade of the century, the new intellectual foes of the faith were the Unitarians.

    The basic Unitarian doctrine was the rejection of the Christian Trinity and particularly the divinity of Jesus. Under William Ellery Channing they first took Boston, then the Harvard College faculty. By 1830 half the tax-supported Congregational churches in New England had fallen into their rational and scientific one-god system.

    Nevertheless, the second Great Awakening in New England centered around the Yale men and their President Timothy Dwight. Benjamin Silliman wrote that "Yale College is a little temple; prayer and praise seem to be the delight of the greater part of the students, while those who are still unfeeling are awed with respectful silence." Some historians credit Dwight with starting a second eastern wave of revival in 1802.

    The revival leaders from New England were usually clergy in a local church, who had some college faculty experience, and they preached in a restrained, calm manner. Even their audiences responded in a serious, sober fashion, but repentance and praise to God was obvious in many places. It was quite the opposite of the western revival.

    Timothy Dwight was President of Yale from 1795 until his death in 1817. He contended for the faith by arguing against deism, and emphasized the duties to be performed by a Christian. His chief disciples included Nanthaniel Taylor, Asahel Nettleton, and Lyman Beecher.

    Nanthaniel Taylor was the first professor of theology at Yale and a prominent pastor in New Haven. His attempts to reconcile the Calvin and Edwards' doctrines with the 19th Century evangelical convictions became known as the New Haven theology. The New England struggle continued with the old Puritan criticism that it was just another legalistic system on how to be a practicing Christian. Taylor's bottom line was: sin is voluntary; it's a choice.

    Asahel Nettleton followed in the intellectual preaching manner of Jonathan Edwards and became a successful traveling evangelist. His method of involving the local pastor found a calling throughout New England and New York. He participated in nearly 60 local awakenings, and at Saratoga Springs in 1819 two thousand converts made professions of faith in Christ. In 1831 he made a successful evangelistic tour of the British Isles. He was a bachelor and one of the few Congregational itinerants in New England of that time.

    Lyman Beecher, a convert of Dwight's at Yale, had a long career as a Presbyterian revivalist. He was a noted reformer against dueling, the disestablishment of Connecticut's Congregational churches, temperance, the Unitarians, abolition, and other issues. He was President of Cincinnati's Lane Seminary from 1832-50. His vision and passion for evangelism on the frontier was an encouragement for decades. As the patriach of 13 children, he was the father of the famous Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

    Another Connecticut-born evangelical was Charles Grandison Finney, the father of modern revivalism. He had a remarkable career as an international revivalist, college professor and president, and innovator of the modern revival meeting. His preaching was responsible for an estimated 500,000 converts. He spent 8-years as traveling evangelist and the1830-31 Buffalo meeting was his greatest success. In 1836 he pastored the 4,000 seat Broadway Tabernacle in New York City. In 1837 he became a professor and for a while President (1851-66) of Oberlin (Ohio) College until his death in 1875. He held successful urban revival meetings in New York, Boston, and twice to the British Isles.

    He wrote his widely read Lectures on Revivals of Religion in 1835. It was a handbook on techniques and laws of revival for converting sinners. He wrote 25 books on his lectures. His new measures were criticized by some like Beecher and Nettleton. He was the first to permit informal prayers and to let women pray publicly. He used the Methodist "anxious bench" and publicly prayed for unrepentant sinners by name. He introduced the alter call and the invitation for a public decision to accept Christ. He, also, used the protrated or nightly meetings during the weeknights. His meetings were always undergirded with prayer warriors like Daniel Nash. It was said that "Nash prayed and Finney trusted God to do the work." However, the common men and women were attracted to his small town roots, and he was a religious folk-hero to them.

    He was a large man at 6"2 with a penetrating stare. He was accused of "bullying," but he was convinced of man's ability and his will to repent. The Calvinists and Presbyterians, who ordained him, objected to his revision of God's grace, but he urged people to pray in faith for the conversion of their lost friends.

    His teachings also included the doctrine of perfectionism or sanctification, also referred to as holiness and obedience by faith. His theological position has been called a "second blessing." He proposed that a believer could "walk in righteousness before God" and lead a "victorious life." His last nine books and forty years of teaching emphasized this tenet.

    A corollary to this righteous walk was the ensuing impact on the rise of benevolent societies and the reforms of the Jacksonian era. Finney worked for the abolition movement. Oberlin became a center for the anti-slavery crusade, and a station on the underground railroad. Women's' rights, temperance, the poor, and other social reforms benefited from his preaching. He opposed Sabbath-breaking, the Mormons, Freemasonry, and churches with seating limitations like the pew rents.

    The obvious legacy is the design that Finney set for future revivalists like Moody, Sunday, and Graham. The post-Civil War holiness movement and the social gospel principles owe some roots to Finney, also. Like Andrew Jackson during the reform era, neither was an instigator, but both were great champions for masses. Jackson was known for their democratic opportunities, and Finney was known for their eternal choices.

         VII. The Growth of Christianity:

    The 19th Century saw a huge growth in the voluntary participation of the laity. The distinguished church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette called it "The Great Century" for the expansion of Christianity. The evangelical zeal of the Second Great Awakening corresponded with the increase in education and publishing, the interest in moral and humanitarian reforms, the growth of benevolent societies, and the foundation of foreign missions. A historian would be remised, if he did not note the similarity, and perhaps, the vanguard to these events in Great Britain

    The only interruption to the 1800 Awakening was the War of 1812 or for Europe the Napoleonic Wars. Although the event caused Anglo-American tension, the British churches invited their ancestors to renew the Concerts of Prayer for the defeat of Napoleon. The British revival expert J Edwin Orr suggested that these prayers coincide with a long period of peace after the Battle of Waterloo. When Christianity spreads it is always accompanied with an emphasis on literacy and education because believers will search the Scriptures. While the 1800 awakening rushed through the college campuses, another more long lasting educational influence came to pass. One Yale graduate and teacher was using his God-given talents to "propagate science, arts, civilization, and Christianity." He was Noah Webster, a daily Bible reading Christian. He published a Speller in 1790 and his famous Dictionary in 1828. He succeeded in insuring a standard English language for the United States, and in there original form he had many scriptural notations throughout his books. In the history of US publishing, the Bible is number one and Webster's Dictionary is number two.

    Religious historian W.W. Sweet refers to this period as the era of organization. There was a great need for Bibles and religious material. Many denominations began publishing weekly religious papers. The famous Connecticut Evangelical Magazine was printed from 1801 to 1828, and it became the best source on the 1800 revival. In 1816 the American Bible Society began an awesome history of publishing Bibles and tracts that passed the six and a half billion figure by the end of the 20th Century. In 1825 the American Tract Society was founded. Both furnished a supply of Christian literature at home.

    When Henry Ware, a Unitarian, was appointed professor of theology at Harvard, Andover Theological Seminary was established because of the threat to Christianity. Other denominations began founding seminaries to train pastors or they added schools of theology within their established colleges. By 1860 half the colleges in the nation had been founded by the four largest denominations: Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and the Congregationalists.

    Most of the churches followed the British pattern and established the Sunday School and the mid-week prayer meeting as a part of regular church life. The Sunday School classes provided a great opportunity for the laity to volunteer and to serve. The American Sunday School Union was founded in 1824, and supplied teaching materials for the classes. A rather famous hymn-writing layman was the Vice-president of the Union for 18 years. He was Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner.

         VIII. American Foreign Missions:

    The development of the American foreign missions movement can be tied to two Massachusetts schools: Williams College and Andover Seminary.

    During the Summer of 1806 five Williams College students led by Samuel John Mills Jr. met for regular prayer. Inspired by the new emphasis on world geography and world travel books the group joined in intercessory prayer to take Christ to the world. A thunderstorm drove the prayer warriors under the protection of a haystack. Samuel Mills made the famous "haystack prayer meeting" declaration. "We can do it, if we will!" he vowed.

    Samuel Mills was the son of a Connecticut minister, and he had been dedicated to world missions by his mother. He was older than most students at 23 when he entered Williams College in NW Massachusetts. He was known for his excellent organizational skills. By 1810 Mills and his missionary-minded haystackers completed their studies at the new Andover College, and they met a kindred friend Adoniram Judson.

    By now the group called themselves the "Society of the Brethren" and kept their missionary dreams secret for fear being labeled fanatics or zealots. But that year in conjunction with the Congregationalists, they organized the foreign missions society called the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The association ordained five: Adoniram Judson, Luther Rice, Samuel Nott Jr., Samuel Newell, and Gordon Hall as missionaries on Feb. 8, 1812. Three professors and two area pastors laid hands on the first American missionaries. It was Andover Professor Edward Dorr Griffin, who placed his hand on Judson.

    Dr. Griffin invited Judson to share his pulpit, the biggest and richest in Boston; however Adoniram and his new bride Ann Hasseltine set off for India as the first American missionary couple. They ended up in Burma and carried on a great work. Adoniram translated the Bible into Burmese, and compiled a Burmese-English Lexicon-Dictionary. Their courageous career faced disease, filth, imprisonment, and death. She died in 1826, and he died on shipboard in 1850 just after finishing his dictionary and completing his work in Burma.

    Samuel Mills was called to stay in America to oversee the home missions in the West, and the distribution of Bibles and tracts until 1816. Then his foreign missions passion was directed toward Africa. He was sent to select the location for the American free Negroes to colonize Africa. He chose what is Liberia today. He, too, died on shipboard returning home after his mission was completed. He was age 35 a faithful servant, who desired to take Christ to the world and to make intercession for these foreign souls. How appropriate that two of the pioneers of the American overseas missions movement on their homeward journey arrived at a celestial home in heaven and not on a terrestrial shore on earth.

    The American missionary movement expanded through the denominations. In 1814 the Baptists founded their society and the Judson's adopted them. Luther Rice, who had gone to Asia with the Judsons returned to the US to recruit Baptist's for foreign service. The Methodists formed their society in 1819 and began with an income of eight hundred dollars. In 1837 the Presbyterians and the Lutherans organized their foreign missions boards. By in large, Christianity was on the verge of the Great Commission: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to all nations."

    One of the eyewitnesses of the times Heman Humphrey said of the effects from the Second Awakening, "When that era dawned, there were no Missionary societies, foreign or domestic, no Bible societies, no Tract societies, no Education societies, no onward movements in the churches of any sort, for the conversion of the world. At home it was deep spiritual apathy; abroad, over all the heathen lands, the calm of the Dead Sea - death, death, nothing but death."

         IX. The Benevolent Empire:

    Perhaps the biggest change in American Protestantism that took place from the Second Great Awakening was the willingness of lay people to volunteer their time, talent, and money. In part the end of the favored tax support to the established churches caused a plea from voluntary sources. Many of the organizations were funded and controlled by individuals, who cooperated across denominational lines. However, for sure the strongest motivation, was the desire by the laity, as well as the clergy, to see the salvation of lost souls. Evangelicalism was commonplace. A major result of mass conversions was not just a new concern for the unsaved, but an effort to clean up the society around those, who had new life in Christ. Many joined parachurch groups to accomplish this end. They were given the title "The Benevolent Empire" from the preaching of Charles G. Finney. Finney's words were "every member must work or quit. No honorary members." Consequently the converts from the revivals were anxious to attack social ills.

    The major benevolent societies included: the ABCFM, the American Bible Society, the American Sunday School Union, the American Tract Society, and the American Home Missions Society. They were part of the "Great Eight" which raised an immense total of nine million dollars in 1834. The most famous benefactors were Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the wealthy New York merchants, who led the anti-slavery movement in their times. The abolition movement received the greatest attention from the ministers and the lay people, who crusaded for moral reforms. Christians were involved in some other humanitarian labors for the improvement of society that were not just parachurch Christian organizations only. Finney gave his blessing to the temperance movement at the Rochester revival, and most of the bars were closed. For others their good works included prison reforms, the peace movement, women's' rights, education, Sabbath observance, and attacking any vice like profanity that was detriment to society. In a large sense the 19th Century reform movement in America owes its roots to the Christian values that were a part of the mainstream of US culture.

         X. The West Again and the Wars:

    The western influence on the Second Great Awakening and the expansion of American Christianity would eventually add credibility to the frontier theories of Frederick Jackson Turner at the end of the century. He felt that the West influenced the East. For a certainty the West did offered an attraction and a hope of opportunity for a new life and a new start.

    In the early days of Jefferson's administration The West made national attention. Thanks to Toussaint L'Overture and Haiti's rebellion, Napoleon offered President Jefferson an opportunity to purchase the Louisiana Territory. Immediately afterwards Lewis and Clark and Zeb Pike wanted to explore it. The conspiracy trial of Aaron Burr, a wayward grandson of Jonathan Edwards, furthered the speculation that the West was a new kingdom.

    The War of 1812 was referred to as the Second War for Independence and Mr. Madison's War, but the western warhawks wanted to add Canada to the USA. However all those efforts failed. While the postwar period was called the Era of Good Feeling, sectional interests dominated the three regions. New England wanted a protective tariff for their industry. Slavery was the political cornerstone for the South. Territorial expansion and transportation to get there were the main western aims. The sale of western lands eliminated the national debt and statehood raced beyond the Mississippi River. The pathfinder, who opened the trails to California and Oregon, was Jedediah Smith, a Bible-packing explorer with Puritan values. The Erie Canal opened the New England gates to the West. The great statesman John Quincy Adams stabilized our boundaries to the north and south and our relationship with Europe with the Monroe Doctrine. Finally, in the election of 1828 the first western President Andrew Jackson was elected. West was the only direction to go.

    The state of affairs in the United States in 1831 was viewed by a Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. He spent 10-months touring the US and wrote Democracy in America. His strongest opinion was "There is no country in the world where the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America." He reasoned that, "The greatest part of British America was peopled by men who after having shaken off the authority of the Pope, acknowledged no other religious supremacy: they brought with them into the New World a form of Christianity which I cannot better describe than by styling it a democratic and republican religion."

    America was now distinctly different from Europe, although its population was mostly from western Europe or of African descent. It was now a variety of Protestant denominations, since the Roman Catholic immigration had not yet begun. The Calvinist doctrine of divine election had given way to the evangelical position of conversion based on the individual's decision. The depravity of man's sin had also been replaced by the call of God's love. The famous American question was the one posed to John Wesley, "Do you know He (Jesus Christ) saved you?" The preaching was heart-stirring and the singing was an emotional worship by the congregation. Baptism was by immersion after conversion, and not to infants in hopes of confirmation. The believers were expected to do something: good works, service, give, grow holier, and even reform the society around them. The colonial seed had now flowered into a uniquely American tree and bringing forth fruit in a new season.

    Table of Contents Previous Chapter Next Chapter


    Top of Page