appeared as a remarkable evangelist and revivalist in New England
(1740) just after a religious reaction had begun in favor of the old, rigid dogmas of the sole right of the sanctified to enjoy the privileges of churchmembership and of salvation by faith alone.
held similar views.
The reactionists were led by Jonathan Edwards
, the eminent metaphysician.
A wonderful and widespread “revival” ensued, in which many extravagances appeared—outcries, contortions of the face and limbs, etc.—which many regarded as the visible evidences of the workings of divine grace.
The revivalists, like most earnest reformers, were aggressive and censorious, lashing without mercy men in high places in the Church
They preached and exhorted wherever they pleased, without the leave of ministers of the parishes, and some of the latter were alarmed at this invasion of their vested rights.
The Congregational establishment of New
was shaken by a violent internal controversy between the revivalists, who were called “New lights,” and the friends of the old order of things.
There was widespread disorder, uncharitableness, and indecorum resulting from the labors of the “New lights,” and some of the leading clergymen condemned the movement in unsparing terms; while fifty-nine ministers in Massachusetts
alone expressed their satisfaction at “the happy and remarkable revival of religion in many parts of the land through an uncommon divine influence.”
The controversy raged with special violence in Connecticut
, and a law was enacted in 1742 to restrain the revivalists, which provided that any settled minister in that colony who should preach in any parish without express invitation should lose all legal right to recover his salary in his own parish; and if any came from other colonies they were to be arrested as “vagrants.”
After a violent controversy of nine or ten years the law was omitted in a new edition of the laws of Connecticut
, though not repealed.
This was the beginning of organized revivals of religion, which have prevailed ever since Among its fruits were vigorous attempts at the conversion of the Indians.
, one of the “New lights,” expelled from Yale College for having spoken of a tutor as “destitute of religion.”
devoted himself to this service, first among the Indians on the frontiers of Massachusetts
and New York, and then among the Delawares of New Jersey
, who had been dismissed from his church at Northampton
, became preacher to the Indians at Stockbridge
; and Eleazar Wheelock
, a “New light” minister at Lebanon, Conn.
, established in that town an Indian missionary school.
This great revival had a powerful effect on the political aspect of the colonies by the almost total abandonment of the theocratic idea of a Christian commonwealth, in which every other interest must be made subservient to unity of faith and worship, the State
being held responsible to God for the salvation of the souls intrusted to its charge The revivalists put forth the notion of individual salvation, leaving politics to worldly men or the providence of God, and making prominent the idea not to save the commonwealth, but themselves.
It was a quiet but effectual separation of Church and State.
Thenceforth theology held very little prominence in the jurisprudence of the colonies.
See New England theology
; Whitefield, George