THERE are not a few interpretations of the uniquely American movement toward the socializing and ethicizing of Protestantism known as the "social gospel," but heretofore no adequate history has been available. Consequently many have assumed that social Christianity was the accomplishment of a handful of clergymen who at the opening of the twentieth century challenged religious conservatism by the proclamation of the social content of their faith. Study of an extensive and varied literature indicates, however, not only that the social gospel originated in the early years of the gilded age but also that its prophets were legion and their message an integral part of the broad sweep of social and humanitarian efforts that concerned America during the half century between the Civil War and the World War.
So plentiful are the records of the rise of social Christianity that a supplementary bibliography is planned in which the more than 1,500 items utilized in this research will be classified.
The number and quality of the writer's obligations to those who have aided in the making of this book are evidence that such a project is a coöperative enterprise. My appreciation is due first to Professor H. Richard Niebuhr for the inspiration that launched the study and for a multitude of aids during its progress. My largest measure of gratitude is to Professor Ralph H. Gabriel, who directed its development in the form in which it was presented for the degree of doctor of philosophy at Yale University. I am also profoundly indebted to the National Council on Religion in Higher Education and to the administrators of the Hooker-Dwight Fellowship of the Yale Divinity School for the stipends that made possible the completion of the study. I have received many and varied courtesies from the several members of the Rauschenbusch Lectureship Committee of the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School. A large and intangible debt is that to Dean Luther A. Weigle for his long sustained interest and encouragement.
I wish to acknowledge my debt to Dr. Vernon P. Bodein, Dr. D. R. Sharpe, Professors F. W. C. Meyer and Conrad H.