“As a Thief in the Night”
by Dan Erickson
[p.13]To understand the context and intensity of early Mormon millennialism, one must consider both the history of millennialism in the American tradition and the transformation of mainstream American Protestant thought from premillennialism to postmillennialism near the beginning of the nineteenth century. This postmillennial search for personal and community righteousness led to the great era of religious revivals from which Mormonism traces its origins.1
One’s search for meaning usually leads to eschatological inquiry. More than mere theology, millennialism is a way of looking at the world, human history, and the destiny of humankind.2 Leonard Sweet describes millennialism’s impact on a social structure as a “force that can exert formative influence over all strata [of] society.”3 At Mormonism’s inception two rival world views, premillennial and postmillennial, anticipated differing future millennial kingdoms. These differences included determining what type of supernatural [p.14]intervention was expected (or lack thereof) and deciding what humanity’s role in the winding-up scene would be.4
The earliest apocalyptic tradition stems from the Jews who saw themselves as God’s chosen, and their history as sacred history. Jews, aided by a sense of their own chosen condition, understood oppression and hardship as a sign that their deliverance was nigh. Inherent in this position is the view of an evil force which becomes increasingly wicked until it is suddenly overthrown by divine power. God then rewards the righteous who inherit his kingdom. Like the Jews, early Christians developed an apocalyptic tradition that salvation was imminent and their enemies would soon be destroyed.5 First-century Christianity is the background used to understand American millennialism because, as James West Davidson concedes, “eighteenth-century New England is closer to the first century than to the twentieth.”6
Although small in verse, the biblical account of a future millennium, contained primarily in the books of Daniel and Revelation, has proven to hold a profound effect on humanity’s concept of history. In describing the force of these accounts, Ernest Tuveson contends that “no other passage of comparable length has ever had such great and long-lasting influence on human attitudes and beliefs.”7 As described in the book of Revelation, millennialism predicts a linear view of time. God acts in history and uses humankind, yet he is not determinative and his influence is only made use of by free individuals. Imbedded in Christian mil-[p.15]lennialism is a deeply held belief that the Bible contained prophecies about the future including the return of Jesus Christ and his establishing a thousand-year reign of peace. Viewing all history as religious chiliasm, where the world is moving toward its imminent consummation, the Millennium becomes history’s last stage, offering the great reversal where God finally exalts the heretofore persecuted righteous saints. God’s plan from the beginning was to end the world with the return of Christ, and the daily events men and women participate in are merely an element of the Apocalypse. The book of Revelation concludes with John assured that the end is near and history will end with the righteous victorious.8
The biblical narrative cites the Millennium as but part of a world view that anticipates an overthrow of the current world order as it exists. Millennialism is a way for ordinary people to confront the changes facing them and their society, and make sense of new and bewildering experiences by providing hope and vision of the future as it should be. Millennial thought seeks to give meaning to the suffering of the innocent and righteous, and represents a moral order where vindication will prevail.9 Crisis, judgement, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal reward or damnation is humankind’s destiny.
After the death of Christ, the Christian tradition continued to view a chosen people, now the Christians, who would prepare and inherit the kingdom of God during the Millennium. Christ first came as a meek lamb, but when he returns it will be as a warrior (Rev. 18-19, 20:4-6). Christians, constantly on the watch for the “signs of the times,” viewed chaos, wars, plagues, famines, and droughts as signals that the end was near. Scripture emphasized the suddenness of Christ’s return, that he would come “as a thief in the night,” and the [p.16]troubles of the world would be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth.10
An early dualism in Christian thought drew the line between good and evil sustaining the first believers. History was seen as the continuous struggle of God against Satan: “it is [therefore] natural for adherents of the kingdom to perceive a coherent, sinister intelligence animating the various problems they encounter.”11 The book of Revelation is a great drama of angels and God’s people versus demons and the armies of Satan. As forces line up heading for either condemnation or redemption, there is no neutral ground. Yet human suffering is temporary, and ultimately good must overcome evil. When the Messiah returns, he will set things right. Millennial history is parallel in nature, where God redeems society and individual sows simultaneously.12 The apocalyptic model of history moves from crisis to judgement to vindication, mirroring “the evangelical conception of [an] individual sow’s pilgrimage from sin, though the storm to conversion, to new life.”13 Although the notion of the Millennium would bring different images and meanings to different people, all would see a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,” a perfect environment where humans would live without sin or suffering.14
In analyzing the history of early Christian eschatology, Medieval historian Norman Cohn created a model for classifying the unique eschatological characteristics defined as “millenarian.”15 For the pur-[p.17]pose of this study, the terms millenarian and premillennial will be used interchangeably. As a starting point, Cohn’s model is “simply a convenient label for a particular type of salvationism” but remains a useful tool for understanding the distinctive millenarian world view. Millenarian salvation is pictured as
a. collective, in the sense that it is to be enjoyed by the faithful as a collectivity;
b. terrestrial, in the sense that it is to be realized on this earth and not in some other-worldly heaven;
c. imminent, in the sense that it is to come both soon and suddenly;
d. total, in the sense that it is utterly to transform life on earth, so that the new dispensation will be no mere improvement on the present but perfection itself;
e. miraculous, in the sense that it is to be accomplished by, or with the help of, supernatural agencies.16
[p.18]In one sense the hoped-for millennium must be considered a “fantasy” in that its imminence has proven false, particularly when political and/or military battles with established authorities have failed.17
Millenarian strength was usually in rural areas, and in most instances has required a prophet to give a millenarian movement meaning and coherence. When social unrest occurred, the poor would seek improved conditions through divine intervention and by receiving prophets or would-be messiahs. They anticipated the final battle between the righteous and the wicked was about to transpire, after which Christ’s kingdom would be established.18 Norman Cohn summarizes the social setting for millenarian movements as an environment where people “living in a state of chronic frustration and anxiety [that frustration would] suddenly discharge … itself in a frantic urge to smite the ungodly—and by doing so to bring into being … that final kingdom where the Saints … were to enjoy ease and riches, security and power for all eternity.”19
The idea of imminence delivered the great reversal to the here and now, bringing judgement to the present as the Millennium “hastens the process of retribution and vindication.”20 Hillel Schwartz labels waiting for the destruction of the wicked the “ethos of judgement,” and by definition the Millennium is “a time when judgement future [comes] down to earth,” elevates the saints, and destroys the anti-Christ.21 The supernatural aspect of the great reversal guaranteed that the wicked’s present triumph was temporary and [p.19]that God would “soon set the scales of justice aright at the Day of judgement.”22
In summary premillennialists held that the Millennium was to be preceded by Christ’s advent followed by a thousand years of peace. God would not convert the masses; on the contrary, the world was moving steadily downward, declining both morally and physically. When the earth becomes ripe for destruction, God will unleash unprecedented destruction, taking vengeance on the wicked. This transformation would be both total and sudden, abruptly abolishing evil and sin and restoring peace. With the inauguration of his divine wrath, God would destroy and remove all corruption. For only after the wicked are destroyed can Christ abide on earth. Premillennialist thought could influence one’s outlook on life, and millenarians were seen as anxious, pessimistic, gloomy, less active, anti-progressive, and socially conservative, expecting cataclysmic solutions to solve current problems. Dualist in nature, premillennialism viewed the overturn of the wicked as the defeat of a superhuman enemy, restoring to humankind its divine inheritance at the apex of history.23
From the earliest days of Christianity, the apocalyptic tradition adapted to changing circumstances as disciples looked for Christ’s imminent return without obtaining a fulfillment. Although affliction was seen as an essential part of persecution, early Christians were faced with the fact that Christ did not return quickly and had allowed his Saints to suffer.24 In the third century a step towards a progressive millennium was initiated by the influential theologian Origen who interpreted millennial prophecies and predictions metaphorically,and a philosophical shift began to identify the Kingdom of God, not in time and space, but as something that would take place in the hearts and souls of believing men and women. In the fifth century [p.20]Augustine’s The City of God saw the Millennium as a spiritual allegory, already begun at Christ’s birth, now realized in the form of the church. Therefore the second coming of Christ would occur after the thousand-year period of bliss prophesied in the twentieth chapter of the book of Revelation.25 Millennialism gradually changed, solidified by Augustine’s emphasis on the “allegoric rather than the literal fulfillment of prophecies,” believing that hope in the church was the answer to eschatological desires.26
Yet through the Middle Ages a literal interpretation of the Millennium refused to die and the Christian apocalyptic tradition continued, particularly in the form of popular religion. Sixteenth-century papal Rome became identified with the “Church of the Devil,” and a re-emergence of premillennialism began to take place.27 Reformation millenarian doctrine rejected the Augustinian Christian belief that the Second Advent would occur after the Millennium.28
In America seventeenth-century New Englanders believed their new home was the place where the Reformation would be carried to its next level. They considered their “errand into this wilderness” was [p.21]a prelude to the world’s redemption. Many times calling themselves “Israel,” the Puritans saw providence separating them from the motherland, leading religious exiles to America as part of God’s plan to create a society prepared for the Millennium. Why else would the Almighty hold in abeyance the discovery of such a vast land as America until the earth was ready for the end of Babylon?29
Early Puritans developed a religious philosophy with America as the focus of their millennial hope. American theologians such as Increase and Cotton Mather and John Elliot expected that God would gather the elect and locate the new Jerusalem on American soil. Both Increase and Cotton Mather were premillennialists who believed in the supernatural and imminent return of Christ, and told parishioners they were living in the “last days.” Much of Cotton Mather’s theology focussed on biblical prophecies, believing that the seventh “day” of history, or the Millennium, like the day of creation, would be a time of rest, and he kept a close eye on the Jews since prophecy foretold their conversion prior to the winding up scene. Mather’s publications affirmed that the end was near and he died believing the Millennium was imminent.30
[p.22]In the late seventeenth century Puritan theologians continued to emphasize the premillennial belief that the righteous would reign with Christ for a thousand years prior to the final judgement and destruction.31 But gradually a disagreement developed over humankind’s role in the final scene, and to what exactly an individual should aspire. Must one wait patiently or should an activist role be taken? Those who hoped for a more gradual millennium supposed God was relying on them to speed the cause. Some contended that not all supernatural prophecy should be taken literally, literal meanings could be put aside provided sufficient justification existed. Those who leaned toward literalism preferred a supernatural reading of biblical prophecy, those who opted for metaphorical interpretations adopted a natural millennial process. Philosophically the great reversal troubled many, for if Satan had his way until the final hour, “earth’s history is but a long series of Satan’s acts frustrating God’s plan, until God is forced to use miraculous intervention to end the struggle.”32 Even premillennialist Cotton Mather feared that Christians who believed in a supernatural necessity would become lackadaisical.33
Revived in the eighteenth century, the American version of postmillennialism began as an increasingly secular vision of the transformation process which could occur by human effort. American colonists identified themselves with chosen Israel, and progress and America’s destiny became inseparable as Americanism and religion melded together in millennial terms. A new vision of the future saw the advancement of science and democracy as a sign the Millennium may be a period of peace, where large numbers of people could be saved ver-[p.23]sus premillennialist notions of a minor elect group redeemed at Christ’s coming. As such, American postmillennialism’s birth did not initiate with Jonathan Edwards but surfaced almost a century earlier in the hopeful expectations of Samuel Sewel, Cotton Mather, and Joseph Morgan, carried forward by John Owen and John Cotton.34
Postmillennialism was more than placing Christ’s return at the end of the thousand years of millennial bliss, it was a way of viewing progress and the world, an understanding that improvement would follow rational law which humans could master for their own betterment. Postmillennial philosophy was a compromise between an apocalyptic sense of the end based on the book of Revelation and a progressive view of humanity’s future. With the return of Christ placed at the end of the Millennium, there was now time for the gradual perfection of people and society, human effort counted, and evangelicalism could combine with American citizenry to create heaven on earth.35
Postmillennialists saw no need for divine intervention to overcome evil, human progress would gradually change society. The Millennium was no longer fixed in time but a gradual step of events realized by degrees. If Christ was not to inaugurate the Millennium, then human action could matter and there would be no need to wait. One must not abandon a quest for righteousness to await divine intervention but should continue to attempt to reform society. Postmillennial emphasis on human effort redefined the struggle between good and evil into thousands of small contests rather than one climatic battle, thus allowing for the weathering of disappointment by pushing the final victory far into the distant future. Postmillennialism did not remove God from humankind’s perfection; he became a co-participant. Down-playing millenarian godly intervention, the world’s perfection would occur by divinely [p.24]inspired mortals assuming a leading role in society. Saved souls would become more virtuous, political ethics would further evolve, and virtuous individuals would enthusiastically support religious and upright causes creating a heaven-bound spiral of upward achievement.36
In the Great Awakening God’s spirit appeared to be breaking out everywhere confirming that a renewal could take place without the direct appearance of Christ. Ministers identified the spiritual awakening with the bursting forth of the Holy Spirit that they anticipated would take place in the last days.37 Through his dissemination and streamlining of postmillennial thought into a consistent theology, Jonathan Edwards became the first American postmillennialist of stature.38 Edwards’s eschatology, which departed significantly from existing premillennial thought, believed that the redemption of humanity entailed subduing God’s enemies in the world as we know it.39 Edwards encouraged the practice and [p.25]spread of prayer meetings, hoping to augment the Holy Spirit’s influence. To Edwards the road to the Millennium all but bypassed Armageddon by occurring in a series of natural steps. Small events led to the grand vision of redemption as each believer placed “his own pilgrimage within an immensely larger and more important context.”40
Subsequent to the French and Indian War, many American colonists saw themselves following in the steps of the Reformation to become the new chosen people of God.41 Where millennialism was used in revolutionary ideology, it was tied to postmillennial notions of self-determination as the next step in human progress, a prelude to the commencement of a future world of righteousness.42 Terms such as “patriotic millennialism,” “civil millennialism,” and “republican millennialism” all described the merging of biblical millennial aspirations and American revolutionary ideology.43 Alexis de Toqueville would later describe the United States [p.26]as the most thoroughly Christian nation in the world. This assurance of America’s divine mission ingrained into the new nation’s self-identity a “civil religion” where sacred symbols took on political meanings. Here American Protestantism and nationalism joined to form a unity between citizenry and evangelicalism creating what Sidney Mead calls “a nation with the soul of a church” where “every patriot is a Christian and every Christian a patriot.”44 American millennialism’s vocabulary and ideas became entrenched, and by blending millennialism with nationalism the myth of America as a chosen land and a redeemer nation became “so common as to be almost canonical.”45
By the beginning of the nineteenth century postmillennialism was in full bloom. Characterizing Americans at the turn of the cen-[p.27]tury as living in the “shadow of Christ’s second coming more intensely than any generation,” scholars have described the United States during this period as “drunk on the millennium.”46 The power of the Second Great Awakening lay in its popular enthusiasm from below, and crucial to understanding postmillennialism’s influence on American society is the revival movement. Revivals were both a sign that a new religious age had occurred as well as demonstrating that people could influence a change for good, a taste of future bliss. Postmillennial revivalism shifted the emphasis from the world’s cosmic battle between Christ and Satan to the struggle between good and evil within the individual soul, and the conversion process became as important as theology.47 Religious revivals, missions, Bible societies, and social reform movements would mobilize people individually and in concert, and step-by-step humanity’s advance would lead to future triumphs.48
[p.28]The revival movement peaked in New York’s “burned-over district” and in northern Ohio. Here the “yearnings of people simply overwhelmed the traditional religious institutions,” and religious restlessness following the Revolution allowed seekers to move from denomination to denomination as never before. Francis Asbury’s description of a four-day revival meeting where over 3,000 seekers attended to hear 100 preachers typified the religious environment. The great revivalist Charles G. Finney stormed western New York and in 1830 spent six months in Rochester preaching revivalist salvation. Ordinary people, farmers, bricklayers, millers, carpenters, businessmen, mothers, wives, all sought certitude in this new-found way of viewing traditional conventional society.49 Yet with an air of optimism postmillennialists still felt anxiety about the unknown future and were not immune to paranoia and conspiratorial urgings. The dualistic struggle between good and evil still fell into apocalyptic images. And within this context Protestants saw God’s enemies in Mormonism, Catholicism, and freemasonry.50
The paradox of postmillennial-driven revivalism was that the more it was accepted and emphasized the distant future, the more secularized and less truly millennial it became, and the farther away the final goal seemed. If thousands of small steps led to perfection, this far-off millennium would never be achieved in one’s lifetime. For many postmillennialism became less useful as a way of ordering society in the more complex world of social and economic distress [p.29]and dislocation.51 With traditions of the past now breaking apart, ordinary people sought answers to new convulsions in the scriptures and biblical prophecy, and in the early nineteenth century a renewed premillennialism developed.52
A product of the Second Great Awakening’s bringing of religion to the outposts of an expanding American society was a more democratic, more personal, more evangelical religion where a new generation of common people became freer and more independent.53 Here rural New Englanders attempted to make sense of a changing environment and create social patterns capable of commanding allegiance. In this age of displacement and uncertainty, thousands became “seekers,” looking for heavenly manifestations and signs of God’s place in their lives, willing to accept new-found prophets who could explain and confront social tensions.54 By implementing their own brand of individualism, new millenarian and utopian movements challenged previously rigid church structures and became avenues for hope in a radically changed world.55 The capacity to embrace change enabled groups such as the Mormons, Shakers, and the Oneida community to form societies which dramatically altered existing norms.56
[p.30]In many ways the evangelical revivalism of the Second Great Awakening combined elements of the past and the future, tenuously walking a line between secular progress and premillennial apocalyptism which became more difficult to assimilate. Although Christ reigned supreme, common people sought personal responsibility for their salvation. Old folkways combined with enlightening science, and communal fellowship with a unique individualism, all striving for Christian unity, yet divided as never before. And people were on the move, individuals and families uprooting themselves as never before. With no solid ground, no religious center, new movements based on prophets found a home for those seeking religious authority.57
Prior to the nineteenth century millenarian movements were typically small unorganized groups of followers usually centered around a prophetic or charismatic leader. With American revivalism the environment changed dramatically and Millerites, Shakers, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all used millennialism to solidify beliefs, values, cohesiveness, and to mobilize adherents.58 Endowed [p.31]with extraordinary powers, their charismatic prophet-leaders were understood to be divinely inspired, not bound by existing societal norms or laws and, due to their revelatory nature, not required to remain static. No rule was unbreakable, for “rule-breaking validated spiritual superiority” and prophetic declaration necessarily superseded community standards.59
Antebellum America provided an ideal environment for Mormonism’s genesis, and within this context the movement originating with Joseph Smith came into being. Competition in the religious market place had muted the previous inherent authority of orthodox churches, giving credence to religious insurgents whose message of hope basked in the light of their new-found legitimacy. Emphasizing standard millenarian tenets, Joseph Smith’s prophetic calling, supported by sacred scripture in the form of the Book of Mormon, provided revelatory answers to religious “seekers.” Searching for spiritual authority, social cohesiveness, and divine direction in their [p.32]lives, these “seekers” hoped to join God’s elect saints gathered in the New Jerusalem on American soil. Here they would establish both physical and social boundaries, and consummate their American millennial dream. As the new elect of God, they were then prepared to meet the Savior at his glorious advent.60
1. Marvin S. Hill, “The Rise of Mormonism in the Burned-over District: Another View,” New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 419. William Warren Sweet calls Mormonism the “most completely indigenous” movement rising from the revivalist setting; see his Religion in the Development of American Culture, 1765-1840 (1952; reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1963), 285.
5. Walter Schmithals, The Apocalyptic Movement: Introduction and Interpretation, trans. John E. Steely (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1975), 13-150; Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1970), 19-24.
9. Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 23-25; Michael Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium: The Burned-Over District of New York in the 1840s (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1986), 9-10.
13. Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 30-31; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 122-75; Jerald C. Brauer, “Revivalism and Millenarianism in America,” in In the Great Tradition: In Honor a/Winthrop S. Hudson, Essays on Pluralism, Voluntarism, and Revivalism, eds. Joseph D. Ban and Paul R. Dekar (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1982), 147-59.
15. J. F. C. Harrison has suggested that “millenarian” be used for groups made up of popular, unlettered religious movements, and millennialists for more intellectual end-time arguments, i.e., based on biblical, chronological calculations; see his The Second Coming. 5-7. Michael Barkun disagrees since “the scholarly musings of one generation had a way of emerging in the popular religiosity of another”; see his Crucible of the Millennium, 11.
16. Cohn’s model was presented at a conference held at the University of Chicago, 8-9 April 1960, and originally published in a volume based on that conference. See Norman Cohn, “Medieval Millenarianism: Its Bearing on the Comparative Study of Millenarian Movements,” in Millennial Dreams in Action, ed. Sylvia L. Thrupp (The Hague: Mouton and Co., 1962), 31-43. See also Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 15-18. A sampling of other works which use Cohn’s model include Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 18; Harrison, The Second Coming, 8-9; David E. Smith, “Millennial Scholarship in America,” American Quarterly 17 (Fall 1965): 538-39. Grant Underwood used this model in classifying early-nineteenth-century Mormons as millenarian. See Underwood, “Millenarianism and the Early Mormon Mind,” Journal of Mormon History 9 (1982): 41-42; and Underwood, The Millenarian World of Early Mormonism (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993), 5-6, 24-41. A model similar to Cohn’s can be found in Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 29. Also useful is Bryan R. Wilson’s “response model” which analyzes how new religious movements respond to the outside culture. See Wilson, Magic and the Millennium: A Sociological Study of Religious Movements of Protest Among Tribal and Third-World Peoples (London: Heineman Education Books, 1973), 18-30.
18. Max Weber, The Sociology of Religion, trans. Ephraim Fischoff (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963), 46; Wilson, Magic and the Millennium, 499; Harrison, The Second Coming, 11; Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 16.
21. Hillel Schwartz, The French Prophets: The History of a Millenarian Group in Eighteenth Century England (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980),3-4; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 295.
24. Theodore Olson, Millennialism, Utopianism, and Progress (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), 84-92; Harrison, The Second Coming, xv-xvi, 4; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 114-2 I.
25. W. Stanford Reid, “The Kingdom of God: The Key to History,” Fides et Historia 13 (Spring-Summer 1981): 7; Robert G. Clouse, ed., The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (Downers Grove. IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1977), 9-10; Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium, 29. Earnest Tuveson expressed an aversion to the standard pre- vs. postmillennialist dichotomy, believing that Augustine would fall into a third category. Although technically postmillennial (the Millennium precedes the Parousia), there remain significant differences between Augustinians who saw the hoped for “City of God” as separate from the evil world and traditional postmillennialists. See Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, 34nl1.
27. Wilber B. Wallis, “Reflections on the History of Premillennial Thought,” in Interpretation and History, eds. R. Laird Harris, Swee-Hwa Quek, and J. Robert Vannoy (Singapore: Christian Life Publishers, 1986), 228.
29. For background on Puritan millennialism, see Peter Toon, Puritans, the Millennium and Future Israel: Puritan Eschatology, 1600-1660 (Cambridge, Eng.: James Clark, 1970); Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins Of American Self (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975); J. F. Maclear, “New England and the Fifth Monarchy: The Quest for the Millennium in Early American Puritanism,” William and Mary Quarterly 32 (Apr. 1975), 222-60; Alfred Cohen and Vavasor Powell, “Two Roads to the Puritan Millennium,” Church History 32 (Sept. 1963): 322-38; John F. Wilson, “Comment on ‘Two Roads to the Millennium,’” Church History 32 (Sept. 1963): 339-43; Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, 24-25, 97-99, 128.
30. Robert Middlekauff, The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 20-24; Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 23-25; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 36. Most early theories identifying American Indians as part of the lost tribes of Israel were associated with a millennial view of history. John Elliot, Samuel Sewel, and Cotton Mather believed the Indians descended from Israel’s lost tribes and that by converting them they could help usher in the Millennium. Joseph Mede speculated they may be used as part of Satan’s final army in the battle of Armageddon. See Dietrich G. Buss, “Meeting of Heaven and Earth: A Survey and Analysis of the Literature on Millennialism in America, 1965-1985,” Fides et Historia 20 (Jan. 1988): 5-6; Timothy Sehr, “John Elliott: Millennialist Missionary,” Historian 46 (Feb. 1984): 187-203; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 54-67; Smith, “Millennial Scholarship in America.” 539-40.
38. C. C. Goen, “Jonathan Edwards: A New Departure in Eschatology,” Church History 28 (Mar. 1959): 25-40; Stephen J. Stein, “A Notebook on the Apocalypse by Jonathan Edwards,” William and Mary Quarterly 29 (Oct. 1972): 623-34; Perry Miller, “The End of the World,” William and Mary Quarterly 8 (Apr. 1951): 171-91; Bercovitch, The American Jeremiad, 94-95, 98; Smith, “Millennial Scholarship in America,” 538-39; Moorhead, “Between Progress and Apocalypse,” 526-27.
39. Alan Heimert, Religion and the American Mind: From the Great Awakening to the Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1966), 66; Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, 28-31. Neither pre- nor post-millennialists fit given stereotypes and scholars question whether the line can be drawn so cleanly between the two. James Moorhead cautions against “simplistic caricatures,” showing that premillennialism sometimes included activism; see his “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 21-22, and “Between Progress and Apocalypse,” 525. Other works which call for a greater understanding of millennialism’s ambiguities include Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 28-36, 274-77; John M. Butler, “Adventism and the American Experience,” in Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America, ed. Edwin S. Gaustad (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 173-206; and Ernest R. Sandeen, “The ‘Little Tradition’ and the Form of Modern Millenarianism,” Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion 4 (1980): 165-80.
41. Tuveson, Redeemer Nation, 101-102; Nathan O. Hatch, The Sacred Cause of Liberty: Republican Thought and the Millennium in Revolutionary New England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), 9-10; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 28. See also Mark A. Noll, “From the Great Awakening to the War for Independence: Christian Values in the American Revolution,” Christian Scholar’s Review 12 (1983): 99-110; Bernard Bailyn, “Religion and Revolution: Three Biographical Studies,” Perspectives in American History 4 (1970): 85-169.
42. Buss, “Meeting of Heaven and Earth,” 10; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 213; Melvin B. Endy, Jr., “Just War, Holy War, and Millennialism in Revolutionary America,” William and Mary Quarterly 42 (Jan. 1985): 3-25.
43. Ruth Block titles her chapter on this topic “revolutionary millennialism.” See her Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought, 1756-1800 (Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 75-93; and Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 22.
44. Alexis De Toqueville, Democracy in America, 2 vols., ed. Phillip Bradley (1835; reprint, New York: Vintage Books, 1945), 1:314; Sidney E. Mead, “The Nation with the Soul of a Church,” Church History 36 (Sept. 1967): 262-83; Sidney E. Mead, The Nation with the Soul of a Church (New York: Harper and Row, 1975); William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 105-106. On America’s civil religion, see Robert N. Bellah, “Civil Religion in America,” Daedalus 96 (Winter 1967): 9-21; Catherine L. Albanese, “Dominant and Public Center: Reflections on the ‘One’ Religion of the United States,” American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 4 (Sept. 1983): 83-96; Robert Bellah and Philip E. Hammond, eds., Varieties of Civil Religion (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980); Robert D. Linder and Richard Pierard, Twilight of the Saints: Biblical Christianity and Civil Religion in America (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-varsity Press, 1978); John F. Wilson, “The Status of Civil Religion in America,” in The Religion of the Republic, ed. Elwyn Smith (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971); and Sidney E. Mead, The Old Religion in the Brave New World: Reflections on the Relation Between Christendom and the Republic (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977).
45. Moorhead, “Between Progress and Apocalypse,” 531; J. F. Maclear, “The Republic and the Millennium, in The Religion of the Republic, ed. Elwyn A. Smith (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 184-216; William A. Clebsch, “America’s ‘Mythique’ as Redeemer Nation,” Prospects 4 (1979): 79-94; Conrad Cherry, God’s New Israel: Religious Interpretations of American Destiny (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1971).
47. William G. McLoughlin, “Religious Freedom and Popular Sovereignty: A Change in the Flow of God’s Power, 1730-1830,” in In the Great Tradition, 173-92; Gordon S. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” New York History 61 (Oct. 1980): 372; Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 58; Davidson, The Logic of Millennial Thought, 129-31, 175; Moorhead, “Between Progress and Apocalypse,” 536-41.
48. Jerald C. Brauer, “Revivalism and Millenarianism in America,” in In the Great Tradition, 152-53; Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 147-48. On American revivalism, see William Warren Sweet, Revivalism in America: Its Origin, Growth and Decline (1944; reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1965); William Warren Sweet, Religion in the Development of American Culture 1765-1840 (1952; reprint, Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1963); Timothy L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform: Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957); Sidney E. Mead, The Lively Experiment: The Shaping of American Christianity in America (New York: Harper and Row, 1963); Perry Miller, The Life of the Mind in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1965); Martin E. Marty, Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America (New York: Dial Press, 1970); and Robert T. Handy, A Christian America: Protestant Hope and Historical Realities (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971).
49. Wood, “Evangelical America and Early Mormonism,” 372-73; Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity, 49-64; Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800•1850 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1950),3-109.
50. David Brion Davis, “Some Themes of Counter-Subversion: An Analysis of Anti-Masonic, Anti-Catholic, and Anti-Mormon Literature,” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 47 (Sept. 1960): 205-24. Anti-Catholic themes increased in the 1820s with increased Catholic immigration merging both social and economic American nationalist resentment. See Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 54-56.
56. Harrison, The Second Coming, 223; Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (1981; reprint, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984); Louis J. Kern, An Ordered Love: Sex Roles and Sexuality in Victorian Utopias—The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981). With 50,000 members at its peak, Millerism was the early nineteenth century’s largest millenarian group. Millerism’s distinctness was its willingness to set an exact date for Christ’s return, predicting that the advent would begin between 21 March 1843 and 22 October 1844. See Jonathan Butler, “From Millerism to Seventh-day Adventism: ‘Boundlessness to Consolidation,’’’ Church History 55 (Mar. 1986): 50-64; Barkun, Crucible of the Millennium, 33-39, Although modern scholarship has rejected previous notions that millenarians were “crackpots,” until the 1890s U.S. millenarianism battled to be viewed as not just a group of lunatics on the fringe of society. See Moorhead, “Searching for the Millennium in America,” 18-19; Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, 41-61.
58. Buss, “Meeting of Heaven and Earth,” 13. A new phase of millenarianism developed in the United States in the years 1845-80. Reviving premillennial tenets, theologians like William Aberhart preached that history’s downward course could only be redeemed by divine intervention. See David R. Elliott, “The Devil and William Aberhart: The Nature and Function of His Eschatology,” Studies in Religion 9 (1980): 325-37. Dwight L. Moody expressed these same sentiments, stating, “I look on this world as a wrecked vessel. God had given me a life-boat, and said to me, ‘Moody, save all you can.’’’ See James F. Findlay, Jr., Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist 1837-1899 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969), 253. See also William G. McLoughlin, ed., The American Evangelicals, 1800-1900: An Anthology (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1968), 171-85; Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism, 62-63, 172. This new premillennialism, termed dispensationalism, developed a distinct interpretation of millennial theology believing that when Christ returns Christians would be removed for their safety. This event, called the Rapture, could happen at any moment. Dating back to John Nelson Darby and the Plymouth Brethren in 1830 England, the uniqueness of the Rapture doctrine was its dividing the return of Christ into two phases: first, Christ would appear at the Rapture for the true believing Christians; then, after seven years of tribulation, he would return with the Christians. Dispensationalism gained prominence at the end of the nineteenth century and was the beginning of many modem-day fundamentalist movements. See Elliott, “The Devil and William Aberhart,” 326-33. On dispensationalism, see Timothy P. Weber, Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming: American Premillennialism, 1875-1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 13-32; Timothy P. Weber, “Premillennialism and the Branches of Evangelicalism,” in The Variety of American Evangelicalism, eds. Donald W. Dayton and Robert K. Johnston (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991), 5-21; George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism: 1870-1925 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), 11-62.