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C h a p t e r


Religion How Religion Affects Culture

Theologian Henry Van Til famously said that culture is religion externalized. He meant that a culture is the outworking of a people group’s fundamental beliefs, their religion and worldview. People do not behave randomly. They act according to what they desire and what they consider right and wrong. It is their religion and worldview that causes them to act the way they choose. Cultures, then, are not ethically neutral. Taking the culture as a whole, there are areas where the people usually externally adhere to God’s law, and other areas where the common practice is to violate it. Many writers say that religion is only one aspect of a culture, but that is incorrect. Every person has a religion. God created men as religious beings. We can either worship the true God or worship some aspect of creation.1 That worship can manifest itself as worship of a god of our own invention, material wealth, demons, or even a man, or mankind. Every person has a religion, and it is that religion which defines how he will act. Henry Van Til wrote in his book, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture: Since religion is rooted in the heart, it is therefore totalitarian in nature. It does not so much consummate culture as give culture its foundation, and serves as the presupposition of every culture. Even when faith and its religious roots are openly denied, it is nevertheless tacitly operative as in atheistic Communism. A truly secular culture has never been found, and it is doubtful whether American Materialism can be called secular. Even Communism, like Nazism, has its gods and devils, its sin and salvation, its priests and its liturgies, its paradise of the stateless society of the future. For religious faith always transcends culture and is the integrating principle and power of man’s cultural striving. Kroner stresses the subjective side of religion when he says, ‘Since faith is the ultimate and all-embracing power in the human soul, nothing

Causes of the Civil War whatever can remain untouched by it. The whole personality is, as it were, informed by one’s faith.’ ... It is certainly folly for God’s people to think that they can live in two separate worlds, one for their religious life and devotional exercises, and the other usurping all other time, energy, money - an area in which the priests of Secularism are calling the numbers. One cannot keep on evangelizing the world without interfering with the world’s culture. It devolves upon God’s people, therefore, to contend for such a ‘condition of society which will give the maximum of opportunity for us to lead wholly Christian lives and the maximum of opportunity for others to become Christians’... To divide life into areas of sacred and secular, letting our devotions take care of the former while becoming secular reformers during the week, is to fail to understand the true end of man. ... To conclude, religion and culture are inseparable. Every culture is animated by religion. A religion that is restricted to the prayer-cell is, in light of the above definition, a monstrosity and historically has proved unfruitful. True religion covers the whole range of man’s existence. The basic covenantal relationship in which man stands to God comes to expression both in his cultus and his culture.2


Looking at your life, what is the faith that motivates your decisions? Looking at your society, what source is looked to for differentiation between good and evil? Who are the religious leaders of “American Materialism?”


To understand America at the time of the Civil War, we need to understand the religion of the people who founded America and then we need to understand how that theology had changed before the Civil War. The theology that had the greatest influence in the founding of America was Calvinism. There were many other belief systems, such as Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, and Quakerism that were present early in the settlement of this continent, but Calvinism was the most significant. The name goes back to John Calvin, a leader of the Protestant Reformation in


John Calvin

Religion Geneva, Switzerland, in the 16th century. But the doctrine is much older than that, having been expressed by Augustine as well as in the Bible. The foundation of Calvinism was articulated by J. I. Packer in his introduction to the reprint of The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen. Packer writes: Calvinism is a whole world-view from a clear vision of God as the whole world’s Maker and King. Calvinism is the consistent endeavor to acknowledge the Creator as the Lord, working all things after the counsel of his will. Calvinism is a theocentric way of thinking about all life under the direction and control of God’s own word. Calvinism, in other words, is the theology of the Bible viewed from the perspective of the Bible - the God-centered outlook which sees the Creator as the source, and means, and end, of everything that is, both in nature and in grace. Calvinism is thus theism (belief in God as the ground of all things), religion (dependence on God as the giver of all things), and evangelicalism (trust in God through Christ for all things), all in their purest and most highly developed form. And Calvinism is a unified philosophy of history which sees the whole diversity of processes and events that take place in God’s world as no more, and no less, than the outworking of his great preordained plan for his creatures and his church.3

The fundamental idea of Calvinism is that Biblical Christianity is focused on God, rather than on man. When we consider the most significant issue in Christianity to be how God saves people, rather than what is our duty to God and how are we to worship Him, we have shifted the center of Christianity from God to man. It is God who made the world for His own glory, to cause all things to happen according to His own will, and the purpose of man is to “glorify God and enjoy him forever” as the Westminster Catechism says.4 This foundation works itself out in many areas, but most notably in salvation. Calvinism says that men are born dead in their sins and trespasses, and that they can do nothing toward their own salvation without God making alive those whom He chose before the world began.


How does man being the center of religion rather than God affect the form of government that would be set up? How does it affect what is done when the church gathers? How does it affect what the church considers worship?

T. U. L. I. P.

Most people today consider Calvinism to be expressed in five points with the acronym TULIP. TULIP stands for T-Total Depravity, U-Unconditional Election, L-Limited


Causes of the Civil War Atonement, I-Irresistible Grace, and P-Perseverance of the Saints. As we have already considered, these five points do not explain the core of the Calvinistic worldview. They were not set out in this way by Calvin. They were developed in 1619, years after his death, at the Synod of Dort. It is important to understand as we read the five points of Calvinism and the five points of Arminianism that these points were written to refute, that this is a single carefully thought out logically consistent viewpoint. It is not possible to logically hold to four of the five points of Calvinism, because theologically they are an internally consistent system that aligns with Scripture. The five points of Calvinism arose in response to an attempt to change the doctrine of the Dutch church in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It held to Calvinism as defined in the Belgic Confession. A movement against this confession was led by the followers of Jacob Arminius, who was the namesake of Arminianism. After his death, his followers published the Five Articles of the Remonstrance of 1610, which objected to the Belgic Confession on five points. The Remonstrants, as the Arminians were called, said that God did not Synod of Dort choose who He would save before the foundation of the world, but rather God only chose to save those of mankind who would believe in Him. They said that Jesus did not die only for those whom God had elected before the foundation of the world, but for all men, so every man has to have the ability to believe in Jesus. They claimed that the grace of God was necessary for man to be saved, but that an unsaved man could resist this grace. Lastly, the Remonstrants wrote that they were still not convinced that a man could not lose his salvation. It was in opposition to these arguments of Arminianism that the Calvinists at the Synod of Dort developed what are now known as the five points of Calvinism. The attendees at the Synod of Dort were not just Dutch representatives, but were joined in the condemnation of the Arminian doctrine by representatives from Protestant churches all over Europe, including the English and the Germans. The French would have attended had they not been prohibited by their government.

The Five Articles of the Remonstrants, 1610 Article 1

That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to


Religion save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and to condemn them as alienated from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

Article 2

That, accordingly, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Article 3

That man does not posses saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing.”

Article 4

That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.)

Article 5

That those who are incorporated into Christ by true faith, and have thereby become


Causes of the Civil War partakers of his life-giving Spirit, as a result have full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no deceit or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind. These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the Word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or to descend deeper.


What Scripture passages would you use to refute or support each of these articles?

Total Depravity

Total Depravity is the most fundamental doctrine in the Canons of Dort. It states that man is dead in his sins and trespasses, a slave to sin, and there is nothing he can do to save himself without God first changing him. In the original Remonstrance, the Arminians did not object to this point, but because it was logically inconsistent with the rest of their position, they abandoned this position in their responses during the Synod of Dort. The Canons of Dort said: Man was originally created in the image of God and was furnished in his mind with a true and salutary knowledge of his Creator and things spiritual, in his will and heart with righteousness, and in all his emotions with purity; indeed, the whole man was holy. However, rebelling against God at the devil’s instigation and by his own free will, he deprived himself of these outstanding gifts. Rather, in their place he brought upon himself blindness, terrible darkness, futility, and distortion of judgment in his mind; perversity, defiance, and hardness in his heart and will; and finally impurity in all his emotions. Man brought forth children of the same nature as himself after the fall. That is to say,


Religion being corrupt he brought forth corrupt children. The corruption spread, by God’s just judgment, from Adam to all his descendants-- except for Christ alone--not by way of imitation (as in former times the Pelagians would have it) but by way of the propagation of his perverted nature. Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform.

The doctrine of total depravity was in opposition to the very old doctrine of Pelagianism. In the 4th and 5th centuries, Pelagius taught that Adam’s fall had not affected his children. He taught that man is the, “master of his own will and power,”5 as Tertullian had already said. This view introduces many theological inconsistencies and problems, including the fact that everyone knows that they are not able to control their own sin from their own experience in life. If every man has the potential to refrain from sin, the death of Christ was not necessary. Paul states in Romans that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,6 but Pelagius taught that it did not need to be so, that men could make themselves right with God simply through the teaching and example of Christ. This heresy was condemned at the Council of Carthage in 418 AD, and this condemnation was reaffirmed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. The rejection of Pelagianism did not mean that men within the church were humbled in their view of themselves. They continued to elevate man above his actual significance, and Semi-Pelagianism was developed. It holds that man’s nature was affected by Adam’s fall and that it is depraved, but not totally so. It says that men are saved through the work of God, but that each man, not God, has to decide whether he will be saved. It holds that salvation begins with an act of free will, and man can freely choose God without His intervention, because human nature is not totally corrupt. This doctrine was deemed heretiPelagius cal at the Council of Orange in 529 AD, but it is still prevalent to this day in the church in the form of Arminianism.


Causes of the Civil War The doctrine of Total Depravity, or original sin, stands in opposition to this false belief system. It is based on many Biblical passages, including Romans 5. It is important as we consider this passage that we understand Paul’s argument, we are all fallen because of what we inherited from Adam, but we are saved because of what we receive from Christ. If someone rejects the fall of man in Adam, then to be logically consistent, they also need to reject the justification of any man through Christ. Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.7

This was not a new doctrine invented by Paul, since David understood it as well: Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.8


Does your life testify that you have the power in yourself to stop from sinning and not to fall short of the glory of God? Why is the rejection of total depravity a way to exalt man? How does God receive more glory by ordering the world in this manner?

Unconditional Election

From the doctrine of Total Depravity follows the doctrine of Unconditional Election. If because of Adam’s fall we continue our father’s rebellion towards God and have no ability to do anything without sinning, then it cannot be our choice that causes us to be made


Religion right with God. We would never make that choice. We died to the things of God with Adam, so God must determine that we will be restored to Him. It cannot be conditioned upon anything that we would do, because we are incapable of doing anything that is spiritual, for we are carnal. The Synod of Dort expressed it as follows: Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ’s fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them. God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace. As Scripture says, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30). … But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad..., she (Rebecca) was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

The doctrine of Unconditional Election keeps God at the center of salvation and not man. He saves men to demonstrate His mercy. If we play any role in determining our salvation, then the glory would go to us because it is our choice. God is a jealous God and has


Causes of the Civil War ordained salvation such that no man can boast, because it was granted to him by faith alone without any work on his part.


How would you support or reject Unconditional Election from scripture? How does the doctrine of Unconditional Election exalt the fact that God is just?

Limited Atonement

If God chooses who will be saved, then it follows that He has decreed that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ would only cover the sins of those whom He has chosen. God is not an unjust God. If Christ paid for all the sins of all of the people, then how could He send anyone to hell? Their debt would have already been paid. The argument is usually made that this doctrine makes evangelism a waste of time. After all, if God has decreed who will be saved and He will certainly make it come to pass, why would we evangelize? We do it out of obedience and because God does not decree only the end, but the means also. We obey God by preaching the gospel to every man, woman and child, because we do not know whom God has elected. It is their responsibility to repent and believe, even while they are still dead in their sins and trespasses and are unable to do so. They still stand guilty before God, because they are still in rebellion to God. God does not have to break their rebellion to be just. The only ones who are justified are those who God decreed that He would consider them as having died to the law with Christ on the cross.9 This does not mean that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient in some sense to be effective towards all people. It was no lack on the part of His sacrifice. God had already determined that He was purchasing only those whom He decreed would be His bride. The third Canon deals with this issue: This death of God’s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world. … For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones, in order that he might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the


Religion Father; that he should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death); that he should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.

Everyone who rejects universalism, the idea that all are saved, agrees that the atonement is limited - not everyone will be saved. The question is, who makes that choice? Is it God or man? Who is controlling all things? The answer is God, not man. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.10


How would you support or refute Limited Atonement from scripture? How does rejecting the doctrine of Limited Atonement steal glory from God?

Irresistible Grace

Since God is the one who chooses who will be saved and have their sins forgiven, it follows that God must make that happen. He is the one that subdues our rebellion. Where we were once proud, He humbles us. Where we believe in our independence, He forces us to accept that we are dependent upon Him. The act of salvation is the act of a conquering God. No human is able to withstand the power of God. To state that He needs a response from us, which He does not have control over, is to give man power over God. God is so powerful that He makes us alive to spiritual things, so we willingly and joyously choose to believe in Him. All those who are made spiritually alive, will then be able to understand spiritual things and will turn towards God. The process is described in the statements from the Synod of Dort: Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised. He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the


Causes of the Civil War evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds. And this is the regeneration, the new creation, the raising from the dead, and the making alive so clearly proclaimed in the Scriptures, which God works in us without our help. But this certainly does not happen only by outward teaching, by moral persuasion, or by such a way of working that, after God has done his work, it remains in man’s power whether or not to be reborn or converted. Rather, it is an entirely supernatural work, one that is at the same time most powerful and most pleasing, a marvelous, hidden, and inexpressible work, which is not lesser than or inferior in power to that of creation or of raising the dead, as Scripture (inspired by the author of this work) teaches. As a result, all those in whose hearts God works in this marvelous way are certainly, unfailingly, and effectively reborn and do actually believe. And then the will, now renewed, is not only activated and motivated by God but in being activated by God is also itself active. For this reason, man himself, by that grace which he has received, is also rightly said to believe and to repent.

Jacob Arminius




How would you support or refute Irresistible Grace from scripture? How is God glorified through the doctrine of Irresistible Grace?

Perseverance of the Saints

Once God has saved us, what state are we then in? Are we in the same state as Adam, equally susceptible to fall? If that was the case, election would mean nothing, because people are not eternally saved. We would not be true heirs with Christ. All our sins are forgiven because Christ died in our place. To the law, before salvation we were already dead, as we would be condemned to punishment in hell. We cannot make ourselves alive to it again. But because the Arminians hold that we are free to choose or reject God without His participation, they are forced to say that we cannot lose that freedom once we are saved. In other words, if God will not force someone in open rebellion to do something, why would He possibly chose to force someone to continue to believe who is now saved. In dealing with the concept that we are free in Christ,11 Arminians cannot accept that we would lose those freedoms once we are saved. But this would mean that someone who was saved by the blood of Jesus Christ can turn from Him and God will treat the blood of Jesus Christ already applied to that man as having no power. God the Father never tramples under foot the blood of Jesus Christ. Instead, He shows mercy to whom He will show mercy, and to those He shows it eternally. Saints will persevere in the faith, because God collects the lost sheep and infallibly persuades them to stay within His fold. The Synod of Dort understood the nature of the power of God: So it is not by their own merits or strength but by God’s undeserved mercy that they neither forfeit faith and grace totally nor remain in their downfalls to the end and are lost. With respect to themselves this not only easily could happen, but also undoubtedly would happen; but with respect to God it cannot possibly happen, since his plan cannot be changed, his promise cannot fail, the calling according to his purpose cannot be revoked, the merit of Christ as well as his interceding and preserving cannot be nullified, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit can neither be invalidated nor wiped out.

This position is defended by Romans 8:16-17: The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.


Causes of the Civil War


Explain each of the five points of Arminianism and Calvinism in your own words. How does rejecting one of the five points of Calvanism, such as Limited Atonement, make the other four points inconsistent?

Great Awakening Calvinism in America

Calvinism was the predominate theological foundation for the early founders of America. Whether it was the Puritans from England, the Huguenots from France, or the Scotch-Irish, the majority of the immigrants to America came from cultures which had been greatly affected by Calvinism. However, as time went on, the zeal for Calvinism began to fade. While the culture still retained some of the effects of that worldview, the understanding and the reasoning to reach those conclusions were lost. Rejection of Calvinism’s basic doctrines became so widespread that many prominent ministers began to deny conversion was really even necessary. This changed with the coming of the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a religious revival which swept through England and America during the 1730’s and 40’s, re-emphasizing the doctrine of conversion. At the same time, the Arminianism that had been rejected at the Synod of Dort was also growing again. There were opportunities where both Calvinists and Arminians were able to work together because the major issue of the day was the need to be born again, but it also planted the seed for later conflict.

George Whitefield

The most popular leader of the Great Awakening was George Whitefield. Whitefield was born at the Bell Inn in Gloucester, England on December 16, 1714, the 5th son of the innkeeper. As he grew up he was involved in acting and the theater, which, in later years, would be apparent in his sermons. He entered Oxford and became a part of what was called the Holy Club, with its founders, John and Charles Wesley. The members of the Holy Club spent much of their time trying to systematically serve God in prayer, Bible reading, and ministering to unfortunates. This was in sharp contrast to the majority


George Whitefield

Religion of the college, who made little effort to serve God. Although the members of the Holy Club might have looked holy on the outside, they were unclean within. They were trying to be acceptable to God by their works, rather than having faith in Jesus Christ and truly being converted. Whitefield eventually experienced true conversion. Through both physical and spiritual agony, he realized his separation from God, and turned to Him, rejecting his own attempts at salvation through works. Whitefield gained true fervor for God and soon thereafter was ordained a minister in the church of England. His sermons were very popular and such large crowds came to hear him speak that no church could hold them. For this reason he began preaching all over England in the open air, angering many of the leaders of the Anglican Church partly out of jealousy, and partly because preaching without the formal edifice of a church was considered to be treating the Word of God with disrespect. Soon after beginning his ministry, Whitefield decided to go to America to preach and to start an orphanage. After returning to England after a short trip in 1738, he began to work with John Wesley. At this time, God was saving many people in Bristol, England through Whitefield’s preaching. When Whitefield decided to return to America in 1739, he needed to give the responsibility for the large congregation in Bristol to someone. He chose John Wesley. The theological differences between the two men soon became apparent. Whitefield held to traditional Calvinism, but Wesley rejected important elements. Whitefield encouraged Wesley not to make this difference public, but instead wanted to focus on evangelism and the areas where they were more in agreement.

Free Grace

Wesley would not remain silent on the issue of Calvinism, and in August 1739, very soon after Whitefield left for America, Wesley preached and published a sermon called Free Grace. He had received a letter urging him to preach against election. As was his habit, he decided to cast a lot to make his decision. The lot fell to “preach and print� therefore he prepared his sermon. In it, he openly attacked the doctrine of the congregation he had just been given: Call it therefore by whatever name you please, election, preterition, predestination, or reprobation, it comes in the end to the same thing. The sense of all is plainly this, -by virtue of an eternal, unchangeable, irresistible decree of God, one part of mankind are infallibly saved, and the rest infallibly damned; it being impossible that any of the former should be damned, or that any of the latter should be saved. But if this be so, then is all preaching vain. It is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved. Therefore, the end


Causes of the Civil War of preaching -- to save should -- is void with regard to them; and it is useless to them that are not elected, for they cannot possibly be saved: They, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be damned. The end of preaching is therefore void with regard to them likewise; so that in either case our preaching is vain, as you hearing is also vain. This then, is a plain proof that the doctrine of predestination is not a doctrine of God, because it makes void the ordinance of God; and God is not divided against himself. A Second is, that it directly tends to destroy that holiness which is the end of all the ordinances of God. I do not say, none who hold it are holy; (for God is of tender mercy to those who are unavoidably entangled in errors of any kind;) but that the doctrine itself, -- that every man is either elected or not elected from eternity, and that the one must inevitably be saved, and the other inevitably damned, -- has a manifest tendency to destroy holiness in general; for it wholly takes away those first motives to follow after it, so frequently proposed in Scripture, the hope of future reward and fear of punishment, the hope of heaven and fear of hell. That these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and those into life eternal, is not motive to him to struggle for life who believes his lot is cast already; it is not reasonable for him so to do, if he thinks he is unalterably adjudged either to life or death. You will say, “But he knows not whether it is life or death.” What then? -- this helps not the matter; for if a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die, or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is unreasonable for him to take any physic at all. He might justly say, (and so I have heard some speak, both in bodily sickness and in spiritual,) “If I am ordained to life, I shall live; if to death, I shall live; so I need not trouble myself about it.” So directly does this doctrine tend to shut the very gate of holiness in general, -- to hinder unholy men from ever approaching thereto, or striving to enter in thereat.… And as this doctrine manifestly and directly tends to overthrow the whole Christian Revelation, so it does the same thing, by plain consequence, in making that Revelation contradict itself. For it is grounded on such an interpretation of some texts (more or fewer it matters not) as flatly contradicts all the other texts, and indeed the whole scope and tenor of Scripture. For instance: The assertors of this doctrine interpret that text of Scripture, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated,” as implying that God in a literal sense hated Esau, and all the reprobated, from eternity. Now, what can possibly be a more flat contradiction than this, not only to the whole scope and tenor of Scripture, but also to all those particular texts which expressly declare, “God is love?” Again: They infer from that text, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,” Rom. 9:15 that God is love only to some men, viz.,the elect, and that he hath mercy for


Religion those only; flatly contrary to which is the whole tenor of Scripture, as is that express declaration in particular, “The Lord is loving unto every man; and his mercy is over all his works.” Psalm 145:9.12 Again: They infer from that and the like texts, “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy Rom. 9:16, that he showeth mercy only to those to whom he had respect from all eternity. Nay, but who replieth against God now? You now contradict the whole oracles of God, which declare throughout, “God is no respecter of persons:’ Acts 10:34 “There is no respect of persons with him.” Rom. 2:11. Again: from that text, “The children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her,” unto Rebecca, “The elder shall serve the younger;”you infer, that our being predestinated, or elect, no way depends on the foreknowledge of God. Flatly contrary to this are all the scriptures; and those in particular, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God; “ 1 Peter 1:2; “Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.” Rom. 8:29.

Wesley Preaching And “the same Lord over all is rich” in mercy “to all that call upon him:” Romans 10:12: But you say, “No; he is such only to those for whom Christ died. And those are not all, but only a few, whom God hath chosen out of the world; for he died not for all, but only for those who were ‘chosen in him before the foundation of the world.’” Eph.


Causes of the Civil War 1:4. Flatly contrary to your interpretation of these scriptures, also, is the whole tenor of the New Testament; as are in particular those texts: -- “Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died,” Rom. 14:15, -- a clear proof that Christ died, not only for those that are saved, but also for them that perish: He is “the Saviour of the world;” John 4:42; He is “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world;” John 1:29; “He is the propitiation, not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world;” 1 John 2:2; “He,” (the living God,) “is the Savior of all men;” 1 Timothy 4:10; “He gave himself a ransom for all;” 1 Tim. 2:6; “He tasted death for every man.” Heb. 2:9. If you ask, “Why then are not all men saved?” the whole law and the testimony answer, First, Not because of any decree of God; not because it is his pleasure they should die; for, As I live, saith the Lord God,” I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth.” Ezek. 18:3, 32. Whatever be the cause of their perishing, it cannot be his will, if the oracles of God are true; for they declare, “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;” 2 Pet. 3:9; “He willeth that all men should be saved.” And they, Secondly, declare what is the cause why all men are not saved, namely, that they will not be saved: So our Lord expressly, “Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.” John 5:40. “The power of the Lord is present to heal” them, but they will not be healed. “They reject the counsel,” the merciful counsel, “of God against themselves,” as did their stiff-necked forefathers. And therefore are they without excuse; because God would save them, but they will not be saved: This is the condemnation, “How often would I have gathered you together, and ye would not!” Matt. 23:37. … On this I join issue with every assertor of it. You represent God as worse than the devil; more false, more cruel, more unjust. … This is the blasphemy for which (however I love the persons who assert it) I abhor the doctrine of predestination, a doctrine, upon the supposition of which, if one could possibly suppose it for a moment, (call it election, reprobation, or what you please, for all comes to the same thing,) one might say to our adversary, the devil, “Thou fool, why dost thou roar about any longer? Thy lying in wait for souls is as needless and useless as our preaching. Hearest thou not, that God hath taken thy work out of thy hands; and that he doeth it much more effectually?13


How would you summarize Wesley’s arguments? What is Wesley basing his conclusions on?



Whitefield’s Response

Although Whitefield was loath to publicly speak against Wesley, whom he saw as a brother, he ultimately decided he had to write a public letter to defend the doctrine of predestination, which Wesley had attacked. Bethesda in Georgia, Dec. 24, 1740 Reverend and very dear Brother, God only knows what unspeakable sorrow of heart I have felt on your account since I left England last. Whether it be my infirmity or not, I frankly confess, that Jonah could not go with more reluctance against Nineveh, than I now take pen in hand to write against you. Was nature to speak, I had rather die than do it; and yet if I am faithful to God, and to my own and others’ souls, I must not stand neutral any longer. … I am apt to think, one reason why God should so suffer you to be deceived, was, that hereby a special obligation might be laid upon me, faithfully to declare the Scripture doctrine of election, that thus the Lord might give me a fresh opportunity of seeing what was in my heart, and whether I would be true to his cause or not; as you could not but grant.... First, you say that if this be so (i.e., if there be an election) then is all preaching vain: it is needless to them that are elected; for they, whether with preaching or without, will infallibly be saved.... O dear Sir, what kind of reasoning—or rather sophistry—is this! Hath not God, who hath appointed salvation for a certain number, appointed also the preaching of the Word as a means to bring them to it? Does anyone hold election in any other sense? And if so, how is preaching needless to them that are elected, when the gospel is designated by God himself to be the power of God unto their eternal salvation? And since we know not who are elect and who reprobate, we are to preach promiscuously to all. For the Word may be useful, even to the non-elect, in restraining them from much wickedness and sin. However, it is enough to excite to the utmost diligence in preaching and hearing, when we consider that by these means, some, even as many as the Lord


George Whitefield

Causes of the Civil War hath ordained to eternal life, shall certainly be quickened and enabled to believe. And who that attends, especially with reverence and care, can tell but he may be found of that happy number? Second, you say that the doctrine of election and reprobation directly tends to destroy holiness, which is the end of all the ordinances of God.... I thought that one who carries perfection to such an exalted pitch as dear Mr. Wesley does, would know that a true lover of the Lord Jesus Christ would strive to be holy for the sake of being holy, and work for Christ out of love and gratitude, without any regard to the rewards of heaven, or fear of hell. You remember, dear Sir, what Scougal says, “Love’s a more powerful motive that does them move.” But passing by this, and granting that rewards and punishments (as they certainly are) may be motives from which a Christian may be honestly stirred up to act for God, how does the doctrine of election destroy these motives? Do not the elect know that the more good works they do, the greater will be their reward? And is not that encouragement enough to set them upon, and cause them to persevere in working for Jesus Christ? And how does the doctrine of election destroy holiness? Who ever preached any other election than what the Apostle preached, when he said, “Chosen … through sanctification of the Spirit?” (2 Thess. 2:13). Nay, is not holiness made a mark of our election by all that preach it? And how then can the doctrine of election destroy holiness? The instance which you bring to illustrate your assertion, indeed, dear Sir, is quite impertinent. For you say, “If a sick man knows that he must unavoidably die or unavoidably recover, though he knows not which, it is not reasonable to take any physic at all.” Dear Sir, what absurd reasoning is here? Were you ever sick in your life? If so, did not the bare probability or possibility of your recovering, though you knew it was unalterably fixed that you must live or die, encourage you to take physic? For how did you know but that very physic might be the means God intended to recover you by? Just thus it is as to the doctrine of election. I know that it is unalterably fixed (one may say) that I must be damned or saved; but since I know not which for a certainty, why should I not strive, though at present in a state of nature, since I know not but this striving may be the means God has intended to bless, in order to bring me into a state of grace?… Further, you say, “This doctrine makes revelation contradict itself.” For instance, say you, “The assertors of this doctrine interpret that text of Scripture, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated, as implying that God, in a literal sense, hated Esau and all the reprobates from eternity!” And, when considered as fallen in Adam, were they not


Religion objects of his hatred? And might not God, of his own good pleasure, love or show mercy to Jacob and the elect—and yet at the same time do the reprobate no wrong? But you say, “God is love.” And cannot God be love, unless he shows the same mercy to all? Again, says dear Mr. Wesley, “They infer from that text, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy,’ that God is merciful only to some men, viz the elect; and that he has mercy for those only, flatly contrary to which is the whole tenor of the Scripture, as is that express declaration in particular, ‘The Lord is loving to every man, and his mercy is over all his works.’” And so it is, but not his saving mercy. God is loving to every man: he sends his rain upon the evil and upon the good. But you say, “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). No! For every one, whether Jew or Gentile, that believeth on Jesus, and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him. “But he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). For God is no respecter of persons, upon the account of any outward condition or circumstance in life whatever; nor does the doctrine of election in the least suppose him to be so. But as the sovereign Lord of all, who is debtor to none, he has a right to do what he will with his own, and to dispense his favours to what objects he sees fit, merely at his pleasure. And his supreme right herein is clearly and strongly asserted in those passages of Scripture, where he says, “Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15, Exod. 33:19).

Whitefield Preaching


Causes of the Civil War Further, from the text, “the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her [Rebekah], The elder shall serve the younger” (Rom. 9:11-12)—you represent us as inferring that our predestination to life in no way depends on the foreknowledge of God. But who infers this, dear Sir? For if foreknowledge signifies approbation, as it does in several parts of Scripture, then we confess that predestination and election do depend on God’s foreknowledge. But if by God’s foreknowledge you understand God’s fore-seeing some good works done by his creatures as the foundation or reason of choosing them and therefore electing them, then we say that in this sense predestination does not any way depend on God’s foreknowledge. … However, it may not be amiss to take notice, that if those texts, “The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9) and “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezek. 33:11)—and such like—be taken in their strictest sense, then no one will be damned. But here’s the distinction. God taketh no pleasure in the death of sinners, so as to delight simply in their death; but he delights to magnify his justice, by inflicting the punishment which their iniquities have deserved. As a righteous judge who takes no pleasure in condemning a criminal, may yet justly command him to be executed, that law and justice may be satisfied, even though it be in his power to procure him a reprieve. I would hint further, that you unjustly charge the doctrine of reprobation with blasphemy, whereas the doctrine of universal redemption, as you set it forth, is really the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God, and the merit of his blood. Consider whether it be not rather blasphemy to say as you do, “Christ not only died for those that are saved, but also for those that perish.” … Dear Sir, for Jesus Christ’s sake, consider how you dishonour God by denying election. You plainly make salvation depend not on God’s free grace, but on man’s freewill. And if thus, it is more than probable, Jesus Christ would not have had the satisfaction of seeing the fruit of his death in the eternal salvation of one soul. Our preaching would then be vain, and all invitations for people to believe in him would also be in vain. But, blessed be God, our Lord knew for whom he died. There was an eternal compact between the Father and the Son. A certain number was then given him as the


Religion purchase and reward of his obedience and death. For these he prayed (Jn. 17:9), and not for the world. For these elect ones, and these only, he is now interceding, and with their salvation he will be fully satisfied. … God knows my heart, as I told you before, so I declare again, nothing but a single regard to the honour of Christ has forced this letter from me. I love and honour you for his sake; and when I come to judgment, will thank you before men and angels, for what you have, under God, done for my soul. There, I am persuaded, I shall see dear Mr. Wesley convinced of election and everlasting love. And it often fills me with pleasure to think how I shall behold you casting your crown down at the feet of the Lamb, and as it were filled with a holy blushing for opposing the divine sovereignty in the manner you have done. But I hope the Lord will show you this before you go hence. O how do I long for that day! If the Lord should be pleased to make use of this letter for that purpose, it would abundantly rejoice the heart of, dear and honoured Sir, Yours affectionate, though unworthy brother and servant in Christ, George Whitefield

This theological disagreement between Whitefield and Wesley was never resolved on earth. While they did work together on some evangelistic outreaches later in life, their relationship was always strained because of their different views on how God works in salvation.


How would you summarize Whitefield’s arguments? What is he basing his conclusions upon? According to Whitefield, why does the doctrine of universal redemption cast the highest reproach upon the dignity of the Son of God?

Whitefield’s Impact

Because the religion of the people manifests itself in the culture, the impact of the Great Awakening on America was tremendous. The colonies were completely transformed through the preaching of Whitefield and many others. Benjamin Franklin, who was not a follower of Whitefield, but greatly respected him, wrote after George Whitefield preached, “It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without


Causes of the Civil War hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.”14 Whitefield became one of the most recognizable figures in America. Huge crowds gathered to hear him every day, and most of the colonists heard him preach live at least once. God used Whitefield mightily to spread the gospel and Calvinism throughout America.

Charles Finney

In England, the Great Awakening had a mix of Whitefield’s Calvinism and Wesley’s Arminianism, but in America Calvinism was restored. The founding documents of America reflect the ideas of Calvinism, but because of the growing Arminianism in England there was pressure for the religion of America to change through Methodist missionaries being sent to America. Within sixty years of the Great Awakening, there were two separate movements away from traditional theology – Arminianism in the west, and Unitarianism in the east. Perhaps the most influential man in the Northwest in the 19th century was Charles Finney. Finney was not always clear about his theology. In fact, when he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister, he said he agreed with the Calvinistic Westminster Confession of Faith. However, Finney later admitted in his autobiography that he had never read it: Unexpectedly to myself they asked me if I received the Confession of faith of the Presbyterian church. I had not examined it;—that is, the large work, containing the Catechisms and Presbyterian Confession. This had made no part of my study. I replied that I received it for substance of doctrine, so far as I understood it. But I spoke in a way that plainly implied, I think, that I did not pretend to know much about it. However, I answered honestly, as I understood it at the time.15 When I came to read the confession of faith, and saw the passages that were quoted to sustain these peculiar positions, I was absolutely ashamed of it, I could not feel any respect for a document that would undertake to impose on mankind such dogmas as those, sustained, for the most part, by passages of Scripture that were totally irrelevant; and not in a single instance sustained by passages which, in a court of law, would have been considered at all conclusive.16

Finney rejected the idea that God must put in us a new heart and instead held that man must, by his own strength, fix his own heart so that man can come to God. [Sinners] are under the necessity of first changing their hearts, or their choice of an end, before they can put forth any volitions to secure any other than a selfish end. And this is plainly the everywhere assumed philosophy of the Bible. That uniformly


Religion represents the unregenerate as totally depraved, and calls upon them to repent, to make themselves a new heart... 17

Although Finney was very popular and led large revivals, not everyone agreed with him and his techniques. Albert Baldwin Dod, a professor at Princeton University, wrote a rebuttal to Finney. After dealing with his Arminian theology point by point, he then dealt with Finney’s promise to uphold the Confession: We have not shown the discrepancies between Mr. Finney’s doctrines, and the standards of the church to which he belongs. … It is too evident to need elucidation, that on all subjects which we have gone over, his opinions are diametrically opposed to the standards of the Presbyterian church, which he has solemnly adopted. … [C]an he see no moral dishonesty in remaining in a church, whose standards of faith he has adopted, only to deny and ridicule them?18

Finney’s Arminian theology worked itself out in his practices. He became the promoter of what was called Revivalism. Since he believed that salvation rested upon the decisions of men, he tried to influence those decisions so that men would be convinced to choose Christ. Finney used a mourner’s bench set at the front of the crowd, emotional music to sway his hearers, and long impassioned pleas to come to Christ. He was successful in breaking down the minds of his listeners and many professed that they had been saved through his preaching. However, by Finney’s own admission, these conversions did not last and his converters returned to their old patterns of life, unlike people who are truly born again in Christ who walk in a new life.

Charles Finney


How did Finney’s methods flow from his theology? What aspects of his techniques are still used today in many churches?


The other major theological movement that happened at the beginning of the 19th century is the rise of an ancient heresy, Unitarianism, coming into the church through the


Causes of the Civil War universities. One of the impacts of the Great Awakening was the founding of new colleges to train pastors. In fact, many of America’s oldest colleges were founded for this purpose. Without the restraining influence of an overseeing church or an established confession of faith, many colleges became centers for the adoption of new, unorthodox theologies. An especially important college was Harvard University. Harvard was originally founded by the Calvinistic Puritans in 1636, but around 1800 its theology started to change. The new theology was Unitarianism, the belief that God is one person, not three in one. The change first began when Arminianism became accepted and Unitarianism is one step further. Unitarian theology holds if men have enough good in them to make the choice for their own salvation and to change their own heart, there is little to separate them from Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was simply better at cleansing himself. If He was a man who simply never sinned, and therefore became good enough to be with God and be made a lesser god, then anyone has the strength to do the same. Once people reject the truth that Jesus was eternally begotten, then there is nothing stopping any other man from living a perfect life and becoming part of God. This is the belief of Unitarianism. It is a complete rejection of Biblical Christianity, and modern Unitarian Universalists no longer even claim to be Christians. The center of American Unitarianism became New England, which had once been the bastion of Calvinism. Most of the old churches hired pastors that had been trained in Unitarianism from the universities which resulted in the churches becoming Unitarian. It especially became the religion of choice among the elite of New England. Various leading men of the period, many of whom were sons of the founders, were actually Unitarian. These included John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Presidents of the United States; William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the Liberator; poets Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women; Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, and Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden. Consider one of these men, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the famous author and poet. His grandfather was William Emerson. William Emerson was the minister at Concord, Massachusetts during the War for Independence, and encouraged his congregation in their resistance of the British at Concord Bridge. He became a chaplain in the Provincial Congress and in the Continental Army. He died of camp fever while in the Army. His son, also named William Emerson, departed from orthodoxy and became a Unitarian as minister of Boston’s First Church. One of his sons was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the leader of Transcendentalism, intellectually the next step from Unitarianism. Transcendentalism was the departure from the traditional view of God,


Religion instead viewing the entire world as divine. It is called transcendentalism because it holds that the basis for knowledge is not God or His word, rather it is principles that are sourced in the natural goodness of nature and of man. The theory is that the principle of the goodness of nature and man transcends all other knowledge. Since the ultimate is always god, the transcendentalists hold that goodness makes everything have a spark of the divine. Irrespective of all evidence to the contrary, transcendentalism is a religion that is based on a complete rejection of the doctrine of total depravity. It believes in total goodness. The foundation of this movement was Nature, an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1836. He urged people to become one with nature as “the Supreme Being, does not build up nature around us, but puts it forth through us.... Who can set bounds to the possibilities of man? Once inhale the upper air, being admitted to behold the absolute natures of justice and truth, and we learn that man has access to the entire mind of the Creator, is himself the creator in the finite.�19 He concluded, Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit. So fast will disagreeable appearances, swine, spiders, snakes, pests, madhouses, prisons, enemies, vanish; they are temporary and shall be no more seen. The sordor and filths of nature, the sun shall dry up, and the wind exhale. As when the summer comes from the south; the snow-banks melt, and the face of the earth becomes green before it, so shall the advancing spirit create its ornaments along its path, and carry with it the beauty it visits, and the song which enchants it; it shall draw beautiful faces, warm hearts, wise discourse, and heroic acts, around its way, until

Ralph Waldo Emerson

evil is no more seen. The kingdom of man over nature, which cometh not with observation, -- a dominion such as now is beyond his dream of God, -- he shall enter without more wonder than the blind man feels who is gradually restored to perfect sight.20

This theme of nature being divine was just old pagan beliefs being expressed in a new way by Emerson. It was a departure from the beliefs of his fathers. In his introduction to Nature he wrote, Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies,


Causes of the Civil War histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?21

This departure from the paths of his forefathers was not a constant theme for Emerson. He wrote his poem, Concord Hymn, for the 1837 dedication of a monument at the battlefield of Concord Bridge. The poem was to honor the men who had fought for American freedom, including his own grandfather. This was in 1837, the year after his essay Nature, which rejected the religion which had impelled the patriots in their fight. By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled; Here once the embattled farmers stood; And fired the shot heard round the world. The foe long since in silence slept; Alike the conqueror silent sleeps, And Time the ruined bridge has swept Down the dark stream that seaward creeps. On this green bank, by this soft stream, We set to-day a votive stone, That memory may their deeds redeem, When, like our sires, our sons are gone. O Thou who made those heroes dare To die, and leave their children free, -Bid Time and Nature gently spare The shaft we raised to them and Thee.22

Ralph Waldo Emerson


What is the major issue that separates Calvinism from Arminianism? How is that idea further changed in Unitarianism? Define Unitarianism in your own words.

Anthony Burns

Once the change of the theology of the North to Arminianism and Unitarianism had taken place, it began to transform the culture around it. One of the most important ways was through the rise of the Abolitionist Movement. As we will see in the next


Religion chapter, the theology of Arminianism leads directly to the opposition of slavery. Physically, it is easy to see the correlation. In the Northeast, the center of the Abolitionist Movement was Boston, which was also the center of the theological change to Unitarianism. In the Northwest, the driving force in the change to Arminianism was at Oberlin College which was also the college sending out most of the men who were speaking against slavery. In the years leading up to the Civil War these communities took many actions against slavery. One of these, in Boston, was the attempt to recapture Anthony Burns, an escaped slave. Burns had escaped from a Southern plantation, but was recaptured in Boston. He described his capture this way: I kept my own counsel, and didn’t tell anybody that I was a slave, but I strove for myself as I never had an opportunity to do before. When I was going home one night I heard some one running behind me; presently a hand was put on my shoulder, and somebody said: “Stop, stop; you are the fellow who broke into a silversmith’s shop the other night.” I assured the man that it was a mistake, but almost before I could speak, I was lifted from off my feet by six or seven others, and it was no use to resist. In the Court House I waited some time, and as the silversmith did not come, I told them I wanted to go home for supper. A man then come to the door; he didn’t open it like an honest man would, but kind of slowly opened it, and looked in. He said, “How do you do, Mr. Burns?” and I called him as we do in Virginia, “master!” He asked me if there would be any trouble in taking me back to Virginia, and I was brought right to a stand, and didn’t know what to say. He wanted to know if I remembered the money that he



Causes of the Civil War used to give me, and I said, “Yes, I do recollect that you used to give me twelve and a half cents at the end of every year I worked for you.” He went out and came back next morning. I got no supper nor sleep that night. The next morning they told me that my master said that he had the right to me, and as I had called him “master,” having the fear of God before my eyes, I could not go from it. Next morning I was taken down, with the bracelets on my wrists -- not such as you wear, ladies, of gold and silver -- but iron and steel, that wore into the bone.23

The Massachusetts Spy recorded the attempt to rescue him: On Friday evening, Faneuil Hall was filled to overflowing, with the people of Boston and vicinity, to consider what steps should be taken to save Massachusetts from the disgrace of having a man, who claimed the protection of her laws, taken by violence from her metropolis and consigned to perpetual slavery. So intense was the feeling of the community, that at seven o’clock it was impossible to gain admittance, and thousands who wished to get in were disappointed. … The great majority of the audience seemed to be impressed with the force of Mr. Phillips’s arguments, and the meeting was about to adjourn in quiet, when a person in the gallery cried out with a stentorian voice, “that a large body of negroes were assembled in Court Square, determined to rescue the fugitive to-night.” There was an immediate rush to the door, and the crowd, without organization, without leaders, or any settled purpose, proceeded to the Court House. Entering upon the Eastern Avenue, in the space of a minute or two, several hundred people had collected, and the officers in the building closed the doors. Presently there was a rush to the West side, and a crowd of several hundred persons was assembled upon the opposite sidewalk. Several heads appeared from the windows in the third story, from one of which two pistols were discharged in quick succession. This seemed to exasperate the crowd most intensely, and a rush was made to the door. Finding that it would not yield readily, a piece of joist about ten feet long, seven inches wide, and two inches thick, was procured, and with it some six or eight strong men, soon battered down the door. The menials of the kidnapper, inside, all armed to the teeth, made a desperate resistance in the entry way, with clubs and cutlasses, and, just at this juncture, a dozen policemen from the Centre Watch House, arrived upon the ground, and, in a few moments arrested several persons, and took them to the Watch House. While thus engaged, several pistol shots were heard in the entry, by those outside, one of which, it was afterwards ascertained, had resulted in the death of one of the hired assassins of Liberty, in the employ of the kidnappers, named


Religion James Batchelder. – As but two of the persons of the crowd had effected an entrance into the building, and these were compelled immediately to retreat by the police force outside, who arrived at the very moment the door was broken down, there is every reason to believe that Batchelder fell by the demonstration made upon the door, and there can be little doubt, that in the darkness, confusion, and terror, that prevailed inside at the time, he received the fatal shot from one of the bungling assistants of the Marshall, who report says, had been supplied with an abundance of Dutch courage [liquor] from a neighboring restorator.24

Massachusetts was bound to return escaped slaves by the U.S. Constitution25 as was the rest of the country. But, because of the shift in religious attitudes, returning Burns in accordance with the law inspired many to discuss leaving the union so that they would no longer have to perform an act in violation of their consciences.


What recent events have marked a substantial change in the attitude of the people? How should the Massachusetts government have responded to the widespread view of its citizens that the United States law should not have been upheld?

Further Study

Introduction to Death of Death in the Death of Christ by J. I. Packer Complete Canons of Dort Complete letters to Wesley and Whitefield On Revivals of Religion by Albert B. Dod George Whitefield: The Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival by Arnold Dalimore Avaliable online at


Causes of the Civil War

Footnotes 1 Romans 1:25: “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” 2 The Calvinistic Concept of Culture by Henry Van Til (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), p. 39-44. 3 The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1958) p. 5. 4 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1. 5 A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot (Hendrickson Publishers) p. 288. 6 Romans 3:23. 7 Romans 5:12-19. 8 Psalm 51:4-5. 9 Galatians 2:19-20. 10 John 6:39-40. 11 Galatians 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” 12 Wesley was quoting the psalter from the Book of Common Prayer. Psalm 145:9 in the King James Version says “The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.” 13 The Works of the Reverend John Wesley by John Emory (New York: B. Waugh and T. Mason, 1835) vol. 1, p. 482-490. 14 The Works of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (Boston: Hilliard Gray, and Company, 1840) vol. 1, p. 136. 15 Charles G. Finney: An Autobiography by Charles G. Finney (Westwood, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1908) p. 51. 16 Ibid, p. 60. 17 Lectures on Systematic Theology by Charles G. Finney (Oberlin:Oberlin Press, 1846) p. 454. 18 Essays, Theological and Miscellaneous, Reprinted from the Princeton Review (New York and London, Wiley and Putnam, 1847) second series, p. 111-112. 19 Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson by Ralph Waldo Emerson (London: George Routledge and Sons 883) p. 561. 20 Ibid, p. 564. 21 Ibid, p. 547. 22 Ibid, p. 543. 23 N.Y. Tribune, n.d., in the Liberator, March 9, 1855. 24 Massachusetts Spy, May 31, 1854. 25 US Constitution, Article 4 Section 2 “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under

the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.”


Causes of the Civil War Study Guide - Religion  

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