Chapter

Grassroots Changes and Regional Ideology 1800–1815

Jonathan D. Sassi

in A Republic of Righteousness

Published in print February 2002 | ISBN: 9780195129892
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834624 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/019512989X.003.0005
Grassroots Changes and Regional Ideology 1800–1815

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The first fifteen years of the nineteenth century constituted a transitional period for orthodox Congregationalists, as they moved from their eighteenth‐century establishmentarianism toward a new, evangelical social ideology. Despite what appeared to them as the baleful state of politics, standing‐order ministers maintained their commitment to engaging society through both their providential interpretations and pronouncements about a righteous social order. The experience of religious revivals during the Second Great Awakening and news of missionary advances fostered renewed optimism and a new conception of the church's impact on society. Congregational ministers of an evangelical bent now portrayed the church as the key institution that would spread godliness and counteract social disorder, and they created new missionary and moral reform societies to put this vision into effect, thereby creatively substituting for their earlier reliance on the religious establishment and civil magistracy. As a microcosm of changes taking place throughout southern New England, the chapter examines events in Worcester County, Massachusetts, where Congregational ministers such as the Rev. Joseph Goffe of the North Parish of Sutton led grassroots religious revivals and founded new local organizations for evangelization and public morality.

Keywords: Congregationalists; Joseph Goffe; Second Great Awakening; Worcester County, Massachusetts

Chapter.  12320 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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