In 1819, while delivering a sermon based on God's declaration to Joshua that "there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed," Heman Humphrey, pastor of the Congregationalist church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, spoke: "As the land of Canaan belonged to Israel, in virtue of a divine grant, so does the world belong to the church; and as God's chosen people still had much to do, before they could come into full and quiet possession of the land, so has the church a great work to accomplish, in subduing the world 'to the obedience of Christ.'"1
As the individuals studied in this book have illustrated, the quest to subdue "the world 'to the obedience of Christ' " entailed more than securing people's faith in the divinity of Jesus and the authority of the Bible; it also demanded their acceptance of Anglo-American cultural superiority, middle-class norms, and rigid dualistic gender roles. In short, the Protestant notion of manifest destiny asked its adherents to "dissolve" their old identities and to be reborn into a new, unified, fixed, culture- and gender-specific image, one supposedly in keeping with divine will.
The process of forming and maintaining a Christian identity was not an easy one for the subjects of this book. Indeed each faced various forms of opposition. During their processes of conversion and sanctification, they were