Religious rationalism, despite its appeal to intellectuals, provoked
considerable religious reaction. Part of this came from theologians such as
both of whom defended Christianity and challenged deism on its own rational
grounds. Even more significant was a widespread emotional revival, stressing
religion of the heart rather than the mind.
The new movement, known as pietism, began in England after 1738, when the
brothers John (1703-1791) and Charles (1708-1788) Wesley began a crusade of
traditional formalism and stilted sermons in favor of a glowing religious
fervor, producing a vast upsurge of emotional faith among the English lower
classes. “Methodist,” at first a term of derision, came to be the respected
and official name for the new movement. After John Wesley‘s death in 1791, the
independent religious force in England.
On the continent, Lutheran pietism, led by Philipp J. Spener (1635-1705)
and Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), followed a pattern similar to Methodism.
Swedenborg’s movement in Sweden began as an effort to reconcile science and
revelation; after Swedenborg’s death it became increasingly emotional and
mystical. Spener, in Germany, stressed Bible study, hymn singing, and powerful
preaching. The Moravian movement sprang from his background. Under the
sponsorship of Count Nicholaus von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), it spread to the
frontiers of Europe and to the English colonies in America.
The “Great Awakening,” a tremendous emotional revival sustained by
Moravians, Methodsts, Baptists, and Quakers, swept the colonial frontier areas
from Georgia to New England in the late eighteenth century. Women played
prominent roles in this activity, organizing meetings and providing auxiliary
services, such as charities and religious instruction. Among the Quakers,
women were often ministers and itinerant preachers. One was Jemima Wilkinson
(1752-1819), leader of the Universal Friends; another was Ann Lee (1736-1784),
who founded Shaker colonies in New York and New England.
By the 1780s, religious rationalism and pietism stood in opposition to
each other. Proponents of each disagreed passionately on religious principles
though they agreed on the issue of religious freedom. Both rationalists and
pietists were outside the state churches, both feared persecution, and both
recognized the flagrant abuses of religious establishments. The two movements
were therefore almost equally threatening to state churches and the old