Part 8: Revivals in New England
This is a reprint of The Haystack Prayer Meeting. It was written by Edward Warren Capen, PH.D. president of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, now Global Ministries, and published as one of the 1906 Envelope Series. Subscribers paid 10 cents per year for the series.
PLEASE NOTE: This piece was written in 1906 and therefore reflects the language of that time.
Almost simultaneously with this movement abroad there came a revival of religion in New England, especially in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The times were ripe for it, because vital religion was very feeble at the close of the eighteenth century. French infidelity had become so popular that in 1795 most of the students at Yale were skeptics and men called one another by such names as Voltaire and Rousseau.
In eastern Massachusetts the revival took the form of a differentiation between the conservatives and those who were soon to separate in the Unitarian schism. The Massachusetts General Association was formed in 1803 by the conservative element. Steps were taken to secure theological training under orthodox auspices, and this resulted in the opening of Andover Seminary in 1808. While the primary purpose of this was theological, one of the generous benefactors, John Norris of Salem, refused to assist until convinced that without such an institution no missionaries could be sent to India and the East. The truth is, that without this meeting-place for students from Williams, Union, Harvard, and Brown, there could have been no such united effort as came in 1810, and the men of the Haystack would have had a far more difficult task in arousing the churches to action.