Gull

Chapter Five continued...
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In another reference, he was a shepherd "for those poor lambs of the flock who hitherto had been wandering in the paths of ignorance." These metaphors - water bearer to thirsty sinners or shepherd to a hapless flock - established powerful analogies between Reverend Gallaudet's function as chaplain to unchurched deaf students and the savior whose life he emulated.

Gallaudet's desire to convert deaf people to Christianity was born in the Second Great Awakening - an evangelical religious enthusiasm - that called a backsliding generation of Protestants to renewed spiritual passion. Gallaudet experienced the compelling, emotional immediacy of the Protestant revivals that swept Connecticut in successive waves, beginning in 1798 and ending in the 1830s. With great fervor, evangelicals "looked forward to that delightful day, when the earth shall be filled with righteousness and peace," as Reverend Gallaudet described their effort to Christianize every aspect of American life. Concerned with a myriad of social problems - financial support for Hartford's widows, aged and impoverished laboring classes, the conversion of "heathen" Jews and Indians to Christianity and the colonization of former American slaves in Africa - evangelicals were also interested in educating deaf persons.

This drive for social reform resulted from the fusion of evangelical Christianity with postmillennialism. Certainly millennial theology had always been important in Puritan New England. It was as old as primitive Christianity; colonial Puritan divines from Increase Mather to Jonathan Edwards had preached that a thousand years of blessed peace on earth - a millennium - would be initiated by Christ's return to earth. But, after the Second Great Awakening, great evangelical leaders such as Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards and the major architect of Connecticut's revivals, were convinced that "the advent of Christ is at least at our doors."

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