Perishing Heathens: Stories of Protestant Missionaries and Christian Indians in Antebellum America

By Julius H. Rubin | Go to book overview

Conclusion

Bradford Alden’s “A Discourse Delivered before the Society for Propagating the Gospel among the Indians and Others, in North America, November 4, 1830” did not repeat the boundless optimism of Abiel Holmes’s address that we encountered at the beginning of our study. Writing in 1808, Holmes concluded “that at the knee of Jesus every knee may bend … every tongue may confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”1 Nearly a generation later, the conflation of religious and political ideals represented by the plan of civilization, an ideology that served as an antecedent for Manifest Destiny in the 1840s, championed missions as an agency to promote nationalism, expansionism, and the Redeemer’s Kingdom in America. By 1830, however, enthusiasm for these initiatives was tempered by frustrations and failures in the realization of such sublime and utopian ideals. After two decades in pursuit of the spirit of missions, Alden speaks in more prosaic terms proposing a pragmatic strategy of denominational cooperation advanced in the era of grand revivals where missionaries eschewed doctrinal controversies and emphasized the immutable timeless truths of true religion derived by the Bible, the Sermon on the Mount, and the possibility of salvation through Christ. Instead of the promise of propagating the Gospel to perishing heathens throughout the world, Alden recalls the pessimistic account of colonial New England missions

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