Canada Fire

Canada Fire: Radical Evangelicalism in British North America, 1775-1812

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Canada Fire
    Book Description:

    Relative to evangelicalism elsewhere in the English-speaking world, radical evangelicalism in Canada was defined centrally (often almost exclusively) by the New Birth experience or by similar experiences, such as sanctification. Over time, however, there has been significant change regarding the centre of Canadian evangelicalism. This change, sometimes gradual and sometimes sudden, is of crucial importance in understanding all aspects of evolving Canadian Protestantism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prominent preachers such as Henry Alline, William Black, David George, Freeborn Garrettson, and Harris Harding as well as rank-and-file evangelists figure in The Canada Fire. Through letters, diaries, and autobiographies the actors and actresses in this unfolding religious drama speak for themselves, and their voices are permeated with vulnerability and honesty.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6490-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps and Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-1)

    During the first half of the eighteenth century, English-speaking Protestantism was profoundly affected by a series of revivals or religious awakenings that helped to define the emerging new evangelical impulse. The most visible Anglo-American human agents involved in these early pulsating religious and revitalizing movements were larger-than-life figures - men such as George Whitefield, the remarkable transatlantic itinerant; John Wesley, the saintly founder of Methodism; and Jonathan Edwards, the extraordinarily gifted New England theologian and preacher. But for every Whitefield in the eighteenth century, there were hundreds of lesser known evangelists, both men and women, who felt themselves to be...

  7. [Map]
    (pp. 2-2)
    • PART ONE Introduction
      (pp. 3-4)

      Nathan Hatch has perceptively observed that “modern church historians ... have had difficulty identifying with dimensions of their own ecclesiastical heritage that are diametrically opposed to the modern embrace of intellectual, liturgical, and ecumenical respectability.”¹ In the 1780s and early 1790s, Henry Alline, William Black, David George, Freeborn Garrettson, and Harris Harding were anything but “respectable.” Their aggressive proselytizing, together with their obsession with religious ecstasy and dramatic conversionism, helped them communicate with their Nova Scotia and New Brunswick contemporaries — who, like them, were determined to “storm heaven by the back door.”² These five men were truly charismatic leaders because...

    • 1 Henry Alline (1748—1784) The Shaping of the Conversion Paradigm
      (pp. 5-18)

      Henry Alline was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1748 and moved in 1760 with his parents, as part of the large Yankee emigration movement, to Falmouth in the Minas Basin region of Nova Scotia. He died in New Hampshire in early February 1784. Like most of his contemporaries in the so-called Yankee heartland of the British colony, Alline was raised in a pious, Calvinist, and Congregational Church atmosphere. There was little in his isolated and rural upbringing that was even to suggest that Alline, the well-known funloving “tanner and farmer,” would be transformed by his traumatic conversion experience in...

    • 2 William Black (1760—1834): Methodist New Light?
      (pp. 19-32)

      During Nova Scotia’s First Great Awakening, the young Methodist itinerant William Black was almost as influential as Henry Alline. But largely because of the preoccupation of so many scholars with Alline, Black has been pushed to a distant corner of contemporary historiography dealing with religion and the American Revolution.¹ Moreover - and this point is sometimes forgotten - by the late 1790s, Black himself was eager to play down his role in the Awakening, since by then he regarded his former New Light religious enthusiasm as an evil manifestation of “fanaticism” which automatically led to “infidelity.”² In the early nineteenth...

    • 3 David George (1743—1810): Black Nova Scotian New Light Baptist
      (pp. 33-43)

      David George’s New Birth in 1774, like that of Alline and Black, was the central and defining experience of his life – an amazing religious and ministerial career in what are now the United States, Canada, and Sierra Leone. For George, born a slave in Virginia in 1743, “the work of conversion was wholly God’s,” because this kind of conversion was his own intense, personal, and unforgettable encounter with the Almighty, and he therefore felt compelled to underplay significantly in his preaching the importance of what he referred to as “the use of means” such as “the instruction of children and...

    • 4 Freeborn Garrettson (1752-1827): A Methodist New Light
      (pp. 44-57)

      A little more than a year after Henry Alline’s death in New Hampshire on 2 February 1784, an intense religious revival swept through many of those same Yankee settlements in Nova Scotia that had, a few years earlier, been significantly affected by the First Great Awakening, which owed so much to the New Light Congregationalist Alline and the New Light Methodist William Black. This aftershock of the First Awakening owed a great deal to an extraordinarily able Methodist preacher from Maryland, Freeborn Garrettson.¹ The revival helped revitalize a rather moribund radical evangelical movement in the region, and it also provided...

    • 5 Harris Harding (1761-1854): An Allinite New Light Indeed
      (pp. 58-74)

      Harris Harding, like his hero Henry Alline, was “converted in a rapture,” and “ever after he sought to live in a rapture”; and he “judged ... his religious condition” and that of all others by the intensity of their conversion experience.¹ The New Light-New Birth was also the central and defining event of Harding’s long and fascinating ministerial and evangelistic career. In addition, like Alline, Garrettson, George, and the young William Black, Harding placed an almost inordinate “reliance on impressions, and often regarded them as direct intimations of the divine will, which it was his duty to obey.”² For example,...

    • PART TWO Introduction
      (pp. 75-75)

      The Allines and Garrettsons of this world obviously tell us a great deal about the complex ways in which the radical evangelical style developed in Maritime Canada at the end of the eighteenth century. Without question, these preachers played a critically important role in shaping the New Birth and the radical core of evangelicalism. But even though a very strong case can be made that a powerful symbiotic relationship linked these popular leaders to ordinary people - men and women so much like themselves - it is still necessary to probe, as best one can, into the rank-and-file religious mind...

    • [Map]
      (pp. 76-76)
    • 6 The Nova Scotia New Lights: From the Bottom Up, 1785-1793
      (pp. 77-101)

      During the decade after the American Revolution, scores of rankand-file Nova Scotians, men and women who were thoroughly ordinary settlers, described, often graphically, the powerful and continuing hold that the New Light-New Birth paradigm had on their religious lives. For every Henry Alline or Harris Harding and for every William Black, Freeborn Garrettson, or even David George, there were scores of Sarah Browns, Charlotte Prescotts, George Boyles, and Betsy Blairs. These women and men represented the broad mainstream of the radical evangelical movement, and their voices complemented those of their New Light mentors and leaderspeople disconcertingly like themselves.

      There are...

    • 7 The Canada Fire: Methodist Radical Evangelicalism in Upper Canada, 1784-1812
      (pp. 102-123)

      During the quarter century following the end of the American Revolution, radical Methodist evangelicalism grew at an even more dizzying rate in Upper Canada than it did in the United States. By 1810, actual Methodist church membership in the colony had risen to 2,603 from a mere handful of Palatine Loyalist Methodists in 1785. The total population of Upper Canada in 1810 was approximately 70,000, thus 3.7 per cent were Methodists (compared with only 2.5 per cent in the United States).'

      When the War of 1812 broke out, an estimated 60 per cent of the Upper Canadian population were recently...

    • 8 “A Total Revolution in Religious and Civil Government”: The Evolving Radical Evangelical Ethos of British North America, 1775-1812
      (pp. 124-140)

      In February 1805, some five months before the Hay Bay Camp Meeting, the eastern extremity of what is now New Brunswick witnessed the most violent and certainly the bloodiest manifestation of Maritime New Light antinomianism one of the sometimes forgotten legacies of Henry Alline’s charismatic ministry. This incident underscored some of the fundamental differences between Maritime and central Canadian radical evangelicalism during the interwar years and also some of the common compelling dynamics of the movement. In the spring of 1804 a religious revival had swept the region, a revival fuelled largely by the memories of Alline’s and Black’s remarkable...

    • PART THREE Introduction
      (pp. 141-141)

      Ecstatic conversionism and pulsating revivalism were not the only defining characteristics of radical evangelicalism in British North America during the period preceding the War of 1812. Radical evangelicals and their more moderate evangelical counterparts also experienced and expressed their intense religiosity by means of three amazingly popular Protestant rituals - the Methodist camp meeting, the Baptists’ believer’s baptism, and the Presbyterian long communion. Each of these rituals underscored the importance of community worship and individual commitment. Moreover, each took full advantage of the widespread rank-and-file belief in a form of peasant magic and mystery and a deep-rooted need for ritualized...

    • [Map]
      (pp. 142-142)
    • 9 “A Powerful Means of Awakening and Converting Souls”: The Hay Bay Camp Meeting, September 1805
      (pp. 143-161)

      At the 1805 annual conference of the New York Methodist Episcopal Church, William Case and Henry Ryan were appointed to the Bay of Quinte circuit, located near Kingston, in present-day Ontario. At this conference, these two young itinerants met Nathan Bangs and the other Methodist preachers from Upper Canada. Case and Ryan had already attended at least one camp meeting in New York and were eager to transplant the new instrument and religious ritual of Methodist evangelism in the fertile religious soil of British North America. They were certain that in the Wooster heartland, the Bay of Quinte region, there...

    • 10 The Rage for Dipping: Joseph Crandall, Elijah Estabrooks, and Believer’s Baptism, 1795—1800
      (pp. 162-184)

      The “rage for dipping,”¹ or what has recently been called the Baptist Reformation,² which affected much of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the turn of the eighteenth century, was not simply a carefully orchestrated policy implemented by recently minted Baptist ministers who were determined to impose their unique kind of hegemonic order over a deeply divided popular and radical evangelical movement. Most of the so-called Maritime Baptist patriarchs in the 1790s men such as Harris Harding, James and Edward Manning, Thomas Handley Chipman, Theodore Seth Harding, and Joseph Dimockwere in fact extremely reluctant Baptists. Their fear of the excesses...

    • 11 New Lights, Presbyterians, James MacGregor, and Nova Scotia’s First Long Communion, July 1788
      (pp. 185-206)

      From his own unique New Light evangelical vantage point, Henry Alline, during the American Revolution, found it virtually impossible to have anything positive to say about the two Scots Presbyterian ministers with whom he had two extremely bitter confrontations, one in 1777, the other in 1782. Nor was Alline overly impressed with the Christian qualities of the Scots Presbyterian laypeople to whom he preached. The New Light critique of Presbyterianism was matched in its animus by the often vituperative Scots Presbyterian denunciation of the extreme New Light disciples of Alline. The “fanaticism” of the Allinites, it was asserted, had at...

    • Conclusion
      (pp. 207-212)

      Some of the worst fears that the key Canadian Anglican Loyalist leaders had about the evils of American republicanism and religious enthusiasm seemed to be confirmed by the outbreak of the War of 1812. This negative view of Americans and the American republic considerably helped to strengthen a pro-British bias in what is now Canada, a bias that was further consolidated by the influx of hundreds of thousands of British immigrants after the war. Anti-Americanism triggered by the War of 1812, especially in central Canada, and the demographic transformation of British North America in the postwar period, together with the...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 213-240)
  12. Index
    (pp. 241-244)