History of Religion in the United States

By Clifton E. Olmstead | Go to book overview

9
The Aftermath of the Revival

IF THE GREAT AWAKENING PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE GROWING democratization of American religion, it figured just as prominently in the upsurge of a new humanitarian impulse. In every section of the country there were evidences of a deeper concern for man, a wider commitment to his amelioration. The idealism of the times found expression in sundry causes and movements dedicated to the spiritual, intellectual, or physical advancement of Indians, Negro slaves, orphans, college students, and other favored persons. In some cases these movements stemmed directly from the revival effort in America; in others they traced their origins to pietistic or humanitarian strains planted within the denomination in its embryonic stage. There were even instances in which they were promoted by liberal or secular forces which were somehow caught up and swept along in the fast-moving currents of reform. It was ironic that the humanitarianism of the Awakening, God-centered as it was, should have contributed to the rise of doctrines which emphasized man and his good works. But it was also inevitable. The restless, optimistic spirit of the frontier channeled the course of American thought in that direction.


THE RESURGENCE OF INDIAN MISSIONS

In New England, where missionary work among the Indians had virtually lain dormant since the death of John Eliot in 1690, reawakened in

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