substantially 'to the union and prosperity of the nation'.3 America's republican, independent and antiauthoritarian experiment - especially when riven by sharp economic, political and racial differences - was hardly capable of putting together a national culture. Evangelical Protestants, because they adapted so well to the new nation's republican values and to the circumstances of a far-flung population, did the job.

They also opened the door to public service by women. The sisters Sarah (1792-1873) and Angelina Grimke (1805-79) became active advocates against slavery after they moved from their native South Carolina to Philadelphia. Angelina's tract, An appeal to the Christian women ofthe South (1836), won recognition in the abolitionist movement but also caused conservatives to worry about the dissolution of family order. When such public advocacy came under fire, Sarah responded with biblical, political and philosophical arguments in Letters on the equality of the sexes, and the condition of women (1838). Other women, like the revivalist Harriet Livermore, who in 1827 was the first woman to preach a sermon before the United States Congress, innovated as public speakers. Still others won recognition for service alongside their husbands, such as Ann Hasseltine Judson (1789-1826), Sarah Boardman Judson (1803-45) and Emily ChubbuckJudson (1817-54), successive wives of Adoniram Judson, pioneer Baptist missionary to Burma; their labours as translators and their fortitude in suffering and death made them well-publicised icons of evangelical faithfulness.

The driving force of Methodist expansion also exerted a considerable impact on American theology. Varieties of Calvinism that had dominated the colonial period remained alive in the new republic, especially through the works of Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). Against such views, Methodists urged a stronger sense of human ability, both in appropriating salvation and in exercising the rights of the redeemed to advance towards Christian perfection. Methodists at first did most of their theologising through sermons, hymns and personal exhortations. But by the 1830s more formal presentations came from scholars like Wilbur Fisk (1792-1839), who explained Methodist reliance on divine grace in terms of the era's popular faculty psychology, and from authors like Phoebe Palmer (1807-74), who stressed the immediate availability of holiness to the earnest biblical seeker.

American theology was affected even more directly when traditional Calvin-ists adjusted their convictions to fit the ideological certainties of the new

3 Nathan Bangs, A history ofthe Methodist Episcopal Church, 4 vols. (New York: T. Mason and G. Lane, 1838-41), vol. 1, p. 46.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment