The kingdom of heaven is at hand in America . . . I believe God has sent me with this message of a new redemption.
THE most dramatic chronicle in American social-gospel history was the passage of George D. Herron across the stage provided in the last decade of the nineteenth century by the widespread social unrest that reached its peak in populism and the symbolic free-silver campaign of 1896. The revolt of the West was marked by a religious fervor that provided the fertile soil in which the gospel of this modern Jeremiah readily took root. The child of his age, Herron preached a God at work in the world redeeming an organic society destined to become progressively the kingdom of heaven on earth, while his radicalism pushed beyond that of all other prophets of the social faith and made him a national figure to be denounced or idolized. In the enigmatic and mystical personality of this "speaker of God" there were somehow embodied most of the characteristics of social prophets: crusading zeal, religious insight, a martyr complex, fervid advocacy of the reign of God, and sensitiveness to social wrong.
Born in Indiana in 1862 of devout Scotch parents whose ancestry rooted deep in the religious heritage of the Reformation, Herron was a mystic from infancy. "I may have been converted before I was born. . . . I have never been without the inner consciousness of God's compelling and restraining presence," he testified. A delicate child, Herron was largely taught by his father, "a humble man who believed in the Bible and hated un- righteousness." At the age of ten the boy had read Bancroft's history of the world, but behind that panorama he was even then conscious of the Divine Reality. Of his early years Herron later said: