31 Mar

William E. McLellin, Journal (July to November 1831)

William E. McLellin is known for his conversion to the Church of Christ in 1831. McLellin became an Elder in the Church and was an original member of Joseph Smith’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Quorum was made of men who were considered apostles, or thought to have a special calling as evangelists. McLellin is also known for his excommunication from the Church by Joseph Smith in 1838. McLellin spoke out against the Church after his excommunication, but rejoined after Smith’s assassination in 1844.

McLellin was born in 1806 in Tennessee. He married Cynthia Ann in 1829. Cynthia Ann died before July 1831 when McLellin lived in Paris, Illinois and worked as a teacher. From July to November 1831 McLellin kept a journal of his interactions with the two travelling preachers, his baptism into the Church of Christ, and his early evangelism. McLellin’s journal is an important source for historians of American religion. It reminds scholars that in the nineteenth-century the Church of Christ appealed to many Americans. It was entertaining, a part of the evangelical print culture, and represented Christian truth. The movement looked like other Christian movements in the 1830s and emphasized similar ideas and theologies. It was also new and mysterious to many others. In any case, the new Christian movement attracted many Americans including McLellin.

Summary

McLellin first heard about the Church of Christ when he was teaching school in Paris, Illinois. Two men came to town and advertised an afternoon meeting in a local town where they would preach. The men said they were travelling to Zion ,”which they said was in upper Missouri.” They also had a book with them called the Book of Mormon, which they claimed was revelation from God. After school one day, McLellin set out “Anxious to see and hear those quear [sic] beings.” The two men preached outdoors in a sugartree grove. They talked about signs of the time, explained why they believed in the Book as a revelation, and “expanded the Gospel the plainest” McLellin “ever heard” in his life. One of the men described having “seen an Holy Angel who made known the record to him.” McLellin pondered “these strange things” in his heart and invited the men to preach in Paris. He also travelled with them to another town to listen to their testimonies and to talk to them more about their religion. McLellin “was induced to believe something about their mission.” The two men invited McLellin to travel with them to Jackson County, Missouri where he could meet other members, and Joseph Smith, a Prophet and the translator of the Book. McLellin accepted the invitation and travelled West.

McLellin’s journal catalogues his journey to Independence, Missouri. He stayed some nights and ate meals with his friends and family who he told about the travelling preachers and the Book of Mormon. Other days and nights he spent with the two men and attended meetings where they preached. One day he took them to the graves of his dead wife, Cynthia Ann, and their infant. Before departing with the two men again, McLellin bought the last Book of Mormon they carried with them. Other nights he stayed in towns. In all cases, he usually paid for his and his horse’s room and board. McLellin also bought a pocket Bible for 75 cents one day. At one of his stops he sold his copy of the Book of Mormon to a lady who boarded him. Two Elders had visited the town and preached, but they ran out of copies of their book to sell. The women convinced McLellin to sell his copy to her.

When McLellin arrived in Independence, he talked with the local people to see what they thought about the traveling preachers. The villagers called them “Mormonites.” They said the Mormonites were honest, but “much deluded by Smith and others.” McLellin met with the Mormonites and saw peace, love, harmony, and humility among them. They engaged in family prayer and talked about the Second Coming, and the rise and progress of their church. They gave testimonies about their conversion experiences. McLellin rose early the next day and prayed to God. He recorded in his journal, “I was bound as an honest man to acknowledge the truth and Validity of the book of Mormon and also that I had found the people of the Lord—The Living Church of Christ.” McLellin was baptized into the Church by immersion in a river and laying on of hands. Nevertheless, like many evangelicals, McLellin had doubts after his baptism. He attended a “sacrament meeting” where there was plain preaching and witnessing by men and women of the works of god. McLellin, however, was disappointed by the lack of shouting, screaming, jumping, and shaking of members at the meeting. Nevertheless, he felt happy and “saw more beauty in Christianity now than I ever had seen before.” A few days later, McLellin was ordained as an Elder in the Church of Christ and was called to preach the Gospel himself.

McLellin travelled with other Elders and preached at meetings. He had not been trained to preach, but God gave him an animated and burning heart. McLellin, like the other Elders, preached for hours on end. At two different meetings, Methodist ministers challenged McLellin and the other Elders. One Methodist accused them of teaching “a supernatural Religion.” Other Christian preachers accused them of being false prophets. McLellin continued to preach with the other Elders. They preached about the literal Second Coming of Jesus in Zion in Missouri, and encouraged people to prepare and gather in Zion. They also continued to sell the Book of Mormon. McLellin eventually returned home to Paris after his preaching circuit.

26 Mar

Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1989)

Nathan O. Hatch examines the cultural and religious history of the early American republic between 1780 and 1830. The Democratization of American Christianity is a history of popular religious movements– including the Christian movement, the Methodists, the Baptists, the black churches, and the Mormons–and their popular leadership. Hatch argues that “the theme of democratization is essential to understanding the development of American Christianity,” (3). The Second Great Awakening “sprang from a populist upsurge rather than from changing mores of established parishes….The heart of the movement was a revolution in communications, preaching, print, and song” (226). The Second Great Awakening was not a force of unifying revivalism. It delineated social conflicts among clergy and laymen that emerged from the social conflicts of the American Revolution.

Summary

Hatch traces the “fault lines” of democratization to the American Revolution, “the most crucial event in American history” (3). According to Hatch, “The Revolution and the beliefs flowing from it created a cultural ferment over the meaning of freedom. Turmoil swirled around crucial issues of authority, organization, and leadership” (6). This political and social turmoil incited struggles for religious authority among educated clergy and ordinary men. These struggles were also fueled by agrarian unrest that “was tightly linked to a vein of radical religious protest” (31). Common-folk preachers emerged from this crisis of authority who promoted mixtures of high and popular culture, expressed varied opinions, and exalted youth, free expression, and religious ecstasy. These ministers preached against established denominations, supported individuals’ interpretation of scripture, and deferred to the supernatural. These ministers formed five popular religious movements that exemplify the democratization of Christianity: the Christian movement, the Methodists, the Baptists, the black churches, and the Mormons. These movements highlighted the crisis in authority in popularity culture and expressed a “democratic spirit” in three respects. First, they denied leadership to the learned and elite, and approved the use of vernacular in word and print. Second, they empowered ordinary people by encouraging the recognition of the supernatural in everyday life. Third, they gave ordinary people the right to think and act for themselves, even in theology, as exemplified in development of a popular religious print culture.

Despite these democratic notions, “religious demagogues” emerged as leaders of these movements who quested for a new religious order. Among these popular movements, restoration movements, including the Adventists and Millerites, gained influence. These latter movements were made possible by “the sharp blows of the democratic revolutions in severing taproots of orthodoxy [Calvinism, the Reformed tradition] and the disconcerting reality of intense religious pluralism in the early 1800s” (169).  By the mid-nineteenth century, “the early republic’s populist religious movements were undergoing a metamorphosis from alienation to influence” (193). The denominational landscape of America was transformed by the nation’s democratic upheavals in three ways. 1) Leaders of the popular religious movements brought change to the established churches (Finney promoted Methodist revival techniques among Presbyterians); 2) The preachers of these movements sought respectability, gentility, and legitimation; 3) The trend toward formalization and respectability brought a new wave of “religious firebrands” (195). Popular religion in America rested on the paradoxical relationship of democratic leadership: common-folk preachers fitted the Gospel to ordinary Americans while they also re-inscribed order, tradition, and authority. It also rested on the “pervasive quality of dissent” in America. The democratic spirit influenced American Christianity to such an extent that “popular culture in the early republic became manifestly Christian” (209).

Historiography

The Democratization of American Christianity was a response to the void in the 1980s on the religious history of the early American Republic. Hatch suggested that this void emerged because of three trends in scholarship. 1) Historians treated the early American republic as a bookend to either the American Revolution or the Jacksonian era. Thus, the era was deemed insignificant in itself. 2) Historians did not question the ubiquitous linking of the Great Awakening with the Revolution. They traced America’s root and future identity to the revivals of the eighteenth-century. 3) Scholars continued to produce historical narratives that favored elite churches and clergy.

This book urges scholars to move beyond studying American Christianity from the perspective of elite theologians. This method of study obscures transformations and power struggles in religious leadership that emerged during this time and continued to shape American Christianity. Hatch’s method looks to ordinary men who challenged denominational authority and structure, and, in doing so, “rose to leadership positions” in popular religious movements. Hatch shows that religious debates in the early American republic were not merely clashes over theological and intellectual differences, but also social struggles over power and authority.

Hatch suggests that “historians failed to appreciate the influence of popular religion in a culture shifting from classical republican values to those of a vulgar democracy and entrepreneurial individualism” for three reasons. 1) Historians from the 1950s to 1980s downplayed the social impact of the Revolution. They assumed the Revolution was about defending “home rule,” not about social conflict. And, in the same vein, they assumed that the Second Great Awakening was about deepening religious piety, not about social and religious turmoil. Revivalism, for these historians, becomes the unifying force that drove American Christianity. According to Hatch, “Revivalism as a principle agent of change has obscured the achievements of flesh-and-blood leaders and the dramatic strategies to forge new movements. It has also blurred the vastly different social functions the revival could assume for proponents as diverse as Lyman Beecher and Francis Asbury” (222). Moreover, the Second Great Awakening had been interpreted “as an attempt by traditional religious elites to impose social order upon a disordered and secularized society.” Neither of these interpretations allowed for the power struggles experienced between the clergy and laymen, between institutions and new movements.

Hatch’s insights about social conflict and historical categories are invaluable. Yet, scholars may need to rethink Hatch’s notion that democratization stemmed from the Revolution. In recent years, scholars, like Linda K. Kerber (Women of the Republic: Intellect and Ideology in Revolutionary America) have moved away from seeing the Revolution as the most influential event in American history. They suggest that the Revolution was revolutionary in terms of ideas, not necessarily in terms of social conflict and action. The social statuses of enslaved Africans, women, and poor white males remained the same after the Revolution. The impact of the Revolution was not the event itself, but the ideas and social change that it fostered in the early American Republic. The early American Republic, not the Revolution called for social change. Democratization was an effect of social stagnation, not necessarily social change. People were not happy with the results of the Revolution. Nevertheless, Hatch’s insights about the Second Great Awakening remain significant for the study of American religion. The historical category of “the Second Great Awakening” obscures actual historical developments and the people involved.

Historians have also failed to interpret the influence of popular religion because 2) “church historians from the more popular denominations have had reasons to sanitize their histories” (223). Hatch suggests that some historian have focused on aspects of their own religious heritage “linked to cultural enrichment, institutional cohesion, and intellectual respectability” (223). These scholars presented histories of these movements as markers of civilization and progress. They ignore notions that churches and movements can act as forces of liberation and control. These historians also present Protestantism as a single, unified entity with a commitment to “the church.” Hatch warns that this presentation of unity obscures evidence and makes it “virtually impossible for church historians…to admit that God’s ultimate plans could entail the splintering of churches” (223). Church historians also presented the Second Great Awakening as a unifying force of evangelicalism in the face of secularism. Thus, American Christianity is always at odds with American culture.

Popular religious movements remained unexplored because of 3) the emphasis on class conflict, labor, and capitalism. “This neglect stems both from the neo-Marxist preoccupation with the formation of social classes and from the assumption that religion is generally a conservative and pernicious force” (224). Recent studies have incorporated Hatch’s criticism by incorporating the study of American religion with capitalism, the marketplace, and secularism. Studies also abound that trace evangelicals’ use of media in the nineteenth-century.

The Democratization of American Christianity revolutionizes the ways scholars should think about Christianity in the early American Republic. This book is not about popular religion in the sense that it looks beyond men in leadership positions. But, it opens the way for other scholars to delve deeper into the everyday religious lives of men, women, and children who influenced popular Christianity in the early American republic (See Heyrman, Southern Cross). Hatch shifts the study of American religion from elite to popular religion in order to see major transformations in the practice and popularity of Christianity.

26 Mar

Leigh E. Schmidt, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (2005)

Leigh E. Schmidt historicizes the search for spirituality in America by examining leading intellectuals and their religious seeking from the 1830s to 1940s. Restless Souls argues that America’s liberal tradition was central to the development of American spirituality. Liberalism, for Schmidt, “allows an array of movements, within Christianity and beyond it, to be considered under the same umbrella” (11). Liberalism refers to “as much a religious vision of emancipated souls as a political theory of individual rights and civil liberties or an economic calculus of the beneficence of free markets” (11). It grew out of a radical form of Protestant Christianity in the 1820s and eventually moved beyond Protestantism. In the mid-nineteenth century, religious liberalism culminated in: (1) individual aspirations for mystical or religious feeling; (2) the elevation of silence, solitude, and serene meditation; (3) the immanence of the transcendent – in each person and nature; (4) “the cosmopolitan appreciation of religious variety as well as unity in diversity”; (5) social salvation through moral reforms; and (6) an emphasis on creative self-expression and adventure seeking. From the 1830s to 1910s, religious liberals helped move “mysticism” and “spirituality” from obscurity to prominence, thought of themselves as “seekers,” located religion’s essence in individuals, and appreciated and appropriated other religious traditions as spiritual resources. Religious liberals of the nineteenth-century were the progenitors of the religious seekers of the 1960s and 1970s.

Summary

Restless Souls traces the beginnings of American spirituality to Transcendentalism in the 1830s and 1840s. Transcendentalists’ love of mysticism forged the path for American individuals’ inner search for and experience of the meaning of religion and life. From the 1850s to 1880s, Transcendentalists elevated the importance of the individual in religious and mystical experience through the trope of the hermit. The hermit was transformed in the American imagination from the social outcast to a figure who gloried in solitude and the “oasis of redemptive isolation amid myriad alienations of modernity” (16). Transcendentalists elevated the lone individual to a mystical status.

From 1890 to 1910, American spirituality emphasized the unity of all religions or their common, shared nature. Schmidt traces American spirituality’s focus on unity to its encounter with Asian religions from the Transcendentalists in the 1830s to the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. The importance of Asian religions to American spirituality emerged clearly in Americans’ “heightened emphasis on the practice of meditation and the value of the concentrated mind” (16). Spirituality’s focus on religious unity continued after the Parliament at spiritual retreats like Greenacre run by Sarah Farmer. Many Americans attended these retreats, including Society of Friends members. Between 1900 and 1940, Friends revived and populairzed the concept of “seekers,” and applied it to “a universalized way to the modern religious world” (18). The seeker concept remains an important aspect of American spirituality, which flourished through the babyboomer-years and is still evident in recent spiritual upsurges.

Historiography

Restless Souls is significant for the study of American religions as it departs from several trends in the historiography. First, it situates the study of American “spirituality” or “spiritual, but not religious” in historical terms. Rather than looking to the baby boomers of the 1960s and 1970s as the progenitors of contemporary spirituality, Schmidt searches for the roots of spirituality in American history. Americans have been religious seekers long before the mid-twentieth century. In fact, Schmidt suggests that the religious liberalism of contemporary spirituality emerged in the mid-nineteenth century.

Restless Souls also departs from other studies in its de-emphasis of evangelicalism. Evangelicalism, for Schmidt, is not essential to the story of American spirituality. Early American Protestants did not use the term spirituality in the way that later Americans did. Moreover, “the American invention of ‘spirituality’ was, in fair measure, a search for a religious world larger than the British Protestant inheritance” (5). Thus, for Schmidt, “it is not particularly fruitful to ground the history of American ‘spirituality’ in early American Protestantism” (6). Schmidt’s point is well-taken. American spiritualism is not a restoration movement looking back to the Puritans. American spirituality emerged from the development of religious liberalism in the 1820s, but grew beyond evangelicalism.  According to Schmidt, “The point is not to diminish [Protestants’] importance, but to recognize that American ‘spirituality,’ as the term is now broadly configured in the culture, was invented through a gradual disentanglement from these model Protestant practices or, at minimum, through a significant redefinition of them” (5).

Schmidt shows the beginnings of this disentanglement in the chapters on Transcendentalists who desired to move beyond traditional forms of Christianity. But, Schmidt does not draw out this disentanglement in any significant ways throughout the book. American spirituality survives through religious liberalism, which emerges as the driving force of religious progress. I understand historians’ desires to decenter evangelicalism. However, in many ways, Americans’ encounters with evangelicalism, like Asian religions, drove the development of American spirituality. The story of American spirituality must be situated in the longer history of American Protestantism to understand the deep tensions, disgusts, and searches for something else. Religious liberalism alone cannot explain the growth, expansion, and popularity of American spiritualism. Something else seems to loom in this history that bubbled and drove the seeker religion, something behind religious liberalism. Nineteenth-century Americans would have supported this notion of “religious liberalism” and progress. But, as historians look back to the World Parliament of Religions, we see that liberal Protestants were not all that liberal. They recognized white, liberal Protestantism as the pinnacle of religious progress.

Restless Souls also departs from other studies that seek to frame American spirituality by the marketplace. Schmidt moves away from analogies that compare American spirituality to “economic models of free competition, entrepreneurial promotion, and consumer demand” (20). This is not to say that American spirituality has not been influenced by commerce. Commerce “has been a powerful agent in the production and distribution of everything from Bibles to balloons; likewise, inner quests…never transcend the market” (20). Schmidt’s point is that historians need to move beyond “the trope of spiritual shoppers” as if “religious seekers were little more than spiritual gluttons gobbling up anything and everything that they can heap on their plates.” Schmidt’s points is, again, well-taken. However, it may be as equally helpful to historicize the influence of the marketplace on American spirituality. The spirituality that Schmidt describes developed with and within American capitalism, commodification, industrialization, and the printing press. True, scholars must look beyond the tropes. But, we must also historicize the tropes themselves. Rather than brushing off the marketplace, scholars can ask: How did nineteenth-century industrialization and commerce drive American spirituality in ways that the tropes do not fullly develop? Perhaps one reason Schmidt does not want to focus on the marketplace and economy is because he concentrates too heavily on individuals.

American spirituality is a history of individuals. “The spiritual life, as religious romantics imagined it, was nothing if not personal, and any adequate history of these developments has to emerge out of the inner lives of distinct figures” (14). In a history of individuals, religion, and the marketplace, individuals can only be conceptualized as gluttonous consumers. Individuals buys things, they do not work together to create and developed things and ideas. Schmidt’s concentration on individuals does more than obscure the importance of the marketplace for emerging American spirituality. It also reinforces the deceptive notion that American spirituality is ruggedly individual. It is true that religious seekers often looked to their inner selves to find and commune with the divine; to have a mystical experience. But, religious seekers shared these experiences with other people to make sense of them. They formed reading and discussion groups, reform movements, and retreats. They missionized, much like evangelicals, in newspapers, tracts, and at meetings. The hermit was elevated, but even Henry David Thoreau shared his experiences with others. Walden; or, Life in the Woods was meant to show how lone, personal reflection helped individuals understand society. A history of the inner lives of distinct figures reinforces romantics’ notions that the spiritual life was primarily solitary and personal. American spirituality was these things, but it was also social and filled with things, people, and organizations.

Restless Souls is an important contribution to the study of American religions. It historicizes American spirituality, rather than seeing the phenomenon as a mid-twentieth century invention. It moves beyond the trope of the marketplace to explain contemporary American spirituality. It also decentralizes the story of evangelicalism and makes way for the study of non-Protestant religions in American history. Restless Souls appropriately challenges many trends in the historiography of American religions, but it leaves room for further inquiry. Future studies of American spirituality may seek to incorporate more of the tensions between American spirituality and evangelicalism that drove “religious liberalism,” the historical role of the marketplace in American spirituality, and the material, social, and organizational cultures that transformed American spirituality.

26 Mar

Harry S. Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (1991)

The Divine Dramatist traces the biography of George Whitefield, “Anglo-America’s most popular eighteenth-century preacher” (xiii). Harry S. Stout recounts this life story through Whitefield’s published writings and diaries, letters, magazines, and newspapers from the eighteenth-century. This book examines Whitefield’s popularity in terms of social and cultural history. Stout argues that Whitefield “bequeathed a new, more modern sense to the term evangelical. His field preaching competed not only with the ‘velvet-mouthed’ preachers of his church, but also with the vendors, sportsmen, and entertainers of the marketplace” (65-66). According to Stout, “It was left to Whitefield to become Anglo-America’s first religious celebrity, the symbol for a dawning modern age” (xvi). Whitefield infused religion with modern forms of consumption and helped shift the meaning of “revival” by employing modern notions of epistemology to conversion. Stout concludes that Whitefield was an American icon, a Pauline evangelist, and an American patriot.

Summary

The young Whitefield enjoyed theatre, but scorned secular entertainment after an epiphany at Oxford. As a “boy preacher,” Whitefield harnessed the power of the press to debate Anglican Bishops and publish sermons. While in Georgia, Whitefield continued publishing in the Journal to maintain his religious audience. In the 1730s, Whitefield induced revivals in London, colonial America, and Scotland. He transformed the sermon into “a dramatic event capable of competing for public attention outside the arena of the church—in fact, the marketplace” (66). By 1750, America and Britain experienced the first seeds of a “consumer revolution” (xvii) that focused on the marketplace, manufacturing, capital, and leisure. The new language of consumption did not include religion and “threatened to overtake social discourse” (xviii). Whitefield integrated religious discourse into this language of consumption to show that “preaching could be both edifying and entertaining” (xvi). Whitefield attracted international attention, especially among women, as well as controversy. Samuel Foote satirized Whitefield as Dr. Squintum and criticized his use of theatrics to market religion.

In the 1740s, Whitefield worked to restore relationships with religious authorities and continued his revivalist mission. Stout argues that Whitefield “helped introduce a new concept of religious experience that grew throughout the nineteenth-century into a recognizably ‘evangelical movement’” (xx). This concept of religious experience was grounded in revivals, typified by Whitefield, that were based on personal conversion experiences. Whitefield’s revivals in the mid- eighteenth-century departed from Puritan revivals. This departure resulted from a shift in epistemology. Puritans “denied that conversion could be experienced by those who were ignorant of the theological terms on which it rested. This meant that the teaching function of the church had always received primary interest” (206). Whitefield reversed this emphasis so that “individual experience became the ground for a shared theology” of conversions and, therefore, revival. Stout traces this shift to Lockean epistemology, which focused on sensation and experience: “As sensation represented the only avenue for natural knowledge in Lockean epistemology, so the supernatural experience of New Birth became the sole authentic means to spiritual knowledge in the evangelical revivals” (205). Modern evangelicalism is marked by a shift in the ways Christians experienced conversion and revival. Conversion and revival transformed from “a mysterious, local, communal event to one that was predictable and highly subjective” (xxi). The conversions and revivals of Whitefield were based on individual, personal, and emotional experiences of the supernatural.

Historiography

The Divine Dramatist is an important contribution to the study of American religion. Stout provides a much needed historical account of George Whitefield’s itinerancy. As Stout notes, “Studies of Whitefield have too often abstracted him from the age in which he lived” (xvi). Scholars often present hagiographies of Whitefield, not historical analyses. Stout does much to correct this. However, Stout’s biography may overstate the degree to which Whitefield embodied “American” values. Stout suggests that both Whitefield and Americans “chafed against authority and arbitrary powers” (91). This reading presupposes “the revolutionary spirit” of “Americans.” Many colonial Americans, especially males, supported the white, male hierarchy of the colonies. Women, slaves, and non-landowning males had little political, social, or economic authority and could not challenge established order. A stronger biography might fully situate Whitefield within this hegemonic, Anglo structure. Whitefield was an Anglo-American in the sense that he, like other Anglo-Americans, were British subjects.

Stout also presents Whitefield as the driving force behind the integration of religious discourse into the marketplace. Whitefield is presented as a phenomenon and innovator for his use of media, the marketplace, and modern epistemology. Whitefield is a lone hero who transcended the public sphere and transformed religion: “Only Whitefield thought to transcend denominational lines entirely and, in effect, ply a religious trade in the open air of the marketplace” (xviii). In presenting Whitefield as a hero, Stout borders on elevating Whitefield’s biography to hagiography. To be sure, Whitefield was a popular itinerant preachers who achieved international celebrity. However, as Charles G. Finney remembered in “Measure to Promote Revivals,” Whitefield was not always so popular in British-America. According to Finney, “When Whitefield came to this country, what an astonishing opposition he raised! Often he well nigh lost his life, and barely escaped by skin of his teeth. Now, everybody looks upon him as the glory of the age in which he lived.” Many British-Americans did not recognize Whitefield as an American hero as Stout suggests.

Moreover, as other historians have shown, Whitefield’s tactics were not all that new. He did not initiate preaching outdoors, using the press for religious discourse, or calling for revivals based on personal experience. As David Hall argues in World of Wonder, Days of Judgment, print media were an integral part of popular religion in seventeenth-century New England. Moreover, Sarah Rivett challenges notions that Puritans were not modern. In The Science of the Soul in Colonial New England, Rivett shows how sixteenth and seventeenth-century Puritans employed Lockean epistemology to experience the supernatural for personal conversions. Whitefield was more of a product of his social and historical surroundings than Stout suggests. Nevertheless, Stout’s work remains significant for its recognition of the centrality of media, the marketplace, and modern epistemology to eighteenth-century Anglo-American religion, particularly Whitefield’s evangelism.