Date of Award

Winter 1985

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Based on the prosopographical analysis of twenty-five Maine and New Hampshire clergymen, this dissertation corrects the prevailing treatment of New Lights, who emerged during the Great Awakening, as if they were of a monolithic "mind." It counters the oversimplified labeling of mid eighteenth-century evangelicals with a typology that establishes subtle gradations of New Light piety according to appreciable differences in theology and religious practice. It examines the mysticism of the most extreme New Lights, and suggests that the strong pneumatic impulse that manifested itself in their violent yearnings for an emotionally satisfying relationship with God was a thread that continued unbroken from 1636, when Antinomianism was first suppressed in Massachusetts. It demonstrates that Jonathan Edwards's theological understanding of alienating radical behavior accounts for their conduct in a way that psychological theories have not, and illustrates that the radicals fell into precisely the behavioral pitfalls that Edwards warned were inevitable when Christians suffered various exclusively spiritual ills and deficiencies. It examines the New Light understanding of conversion and sanctification and argues that treatment of the New Light as "revolutionary" fails to account for moderate loyalty to Calvinist orthodoxy, blurs considerable differences within New Light ranks, and perpetuates ideas about pro-revivalists that are little more than caricatures. On the basis of a paradigm J. William T. Youngs developed to describe the nature of the Puritan encounter with God, it analyzes the inner spiritual experiences of New Light moderates; it also examines evidence that suggests that as a professional class, in various ways ministers on the eastern frontier do not fit the picture scholars have drawn of a problem-ridden clergy. Finally, on the basis of New Light responses to issues within their particular churches, it concludes with a portrayal of five distinct New Light temperaments.