The Social Gospel Part 4 -- By: Alan H. Hamilton

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 108:432 (Oct 1951)
Article: The Social Gospel Part 4
Author: Alan H. Hamilton


The Social Gospel
Part 4

Alan H. Hamilton

(Continued from the July-September Number, 1951)

{Editor’s note: Footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered 50–67, but in this electronic edition are numbered 1–18 respectively.}

While these developments were taking place within the theological realm, other tremendous thought-currents were finding expression in American life. They were political in nature, were responsible for the American Revolution, and gave the dominant note to American thought from approximately 1760 until the war between the states. Accordingly Tufts can designate this long period one in which primary value was attached to “liberty” and “equality,” i.e. the political era of American ethics. Such ideals, though frequently associated with the anti-religious French Revolution, are credited by a historian like Latourette with having an ultimate Christian origin.1 In the Declaration of Independence is to be found a concession to naturalism as well as to Christian conviction (“the laws of nature and nature’s God”), but the dominant note was to the effect that a divine providence had been operative in behalf of a right cause, and that government itself was a means by which that providence worked. So the Declaration closes: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

The years that followed brought many evidences that ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity had forcefully gripped the minds of the American people. A rising tide of idealism reached its greatest test in the abolition of slavery,

bringing this period to a close but leaving the atmosphere charged even more intensely with equalitarian ideals. It was an era of great philanthropic activity. The humanitarian movement had its rise in Europe, when the middle class became predominant in numbers and its membership learned to share mutual interests. America, to a much greater degree than Europe, was free from aristocratic tradition and class distinctions, therefore humanitarianism might be expected to flourish.

In the religious sphere, also, idealism was a dominant note. The kingdom of God as an attainable reality on earth was taking a continually larger place in the thinking and preaching of ministers. The various movements of the day tended to encourage their belief. In 1848 Professor B. B. Edwards, faculty member of Andover Seminary and editor of Bibliotheca Sacra, undertook to write an article entitled “The Advancement of Society in Knowledge and ...

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