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The Doctrine of the Everlasting Covenant in the
Writings of Ellet J. Waggoner

The Nineteenth Century and the Second Great Awakening

Towards the end of the eighteenth century and the carrying into the nineteenth, there was a movement to return to Bible-based primitive Christianity.14 One reason for this movement was due to the fact that after the War of Independence, people recognized the loosening of moral standards which had prevailed during wartime. There were those who publicized the rise in crime, the breaking of the Sabbath, the decline in church attendance, and the growing influence of French liberalism.15 Many other faiths began to rise up all over the newly independent nation. The general trend was the shying away from the state churches and their dogma, leaning more towards a "personal and emotional religious experience."16 Those churches that incorporated the democratic way of organization, such as the Baptists and the Methodists, tended to grow much more rapidly, especially in the frontier lands.17 However, in the churches in the east, which were more settled and where scholarship and theology were highly esteemed, the revival movement took on a more sober and steady nature.18

The Second Great Awakening was an opportunity to incorporate religion into daily living. Both secular and religious groups sought to remove a variety of abuses in the areas of temperance, education, and social responsibility. Many religious groups that began during this time formed communes in the hope of escaping the evils of the world and establishing a pure church. The motivation for these endeavors was found in preparing for the imminent coming of Christ.19 Some of the reforms were quite practical, such as vegetarianism: yet, there were other groups that got fanatical like the "complex marriage" doctrine of John Noyes of the Oneida group.20

One would not be wrong in stating that this reform movement gave great opportunities to those who understood the covenant concept. With the emphasis upon primitive Bible religion, and the growing awareness of the fulfilling prophecies in the books of Daniel and Revelation, one would think that the work of reform would produce results that would shake the earth. The actual results of this period are far from spectacular. The health and temperance reforms gradually faded from the consciousness of many main-stream churches as did educational reform. One cannot say that these churches also gave up the study of the Scriptures, yet the action which they were to take in the latter half of the century reveals convictions that are far from Biblical.

The National Reform Movement

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Waggoner's View of the Covenants