Northern Perfectionism

Who is Charles G. Finney?

American North

In our quest to figure out what went terribly wrong in the Northern states, which is to say, why are Yankees so unusually attracted to utopian social reform movements like abolitionism, feminism, environmentalism, vegetarianism, gay rights, and anti-racism, we have identified what appears to be the root of the problem in the Christian heresies that emerged in North during the Second Great Awakening.

This is a topic we will expand upon in considerable detail in Yankee Month in December:

“It was through these early influences that Garrison beheld and tried to make sense of the major trends of his day – the concomitant rise, in the North, of economic modernization and of religious revivalism. Everywhere that the hallmarks of modernization were to be found – in proliferating cities and towns, with their “new”middle class of urban professionals and capitalists; in stunningly efficient factories, staffed by working-class wage earners, churning out goods such as textiles; along the networks of canals and railroads that transported such mass-produced goods to distant markets – so too did one find eager audiences for a new kind of evangelicalism. Popularized by itinerants like the charismatic Charles Finney, this religion was calculated to comfort and guide Northerners caught in a whirlwind of change.

Finney’s message was “perfectionism”: Individuals could and should seek to be as perfect as God, and thus seize control of their own destinies and fortunes. Perfectionism found expression in a wide array of charitable (or “benevolent”) causes embraced by antebellum Northerners, including campaigns to eradicate drunkenness and prostitution, to extend aid to impoverished orphans and widows, and to distribute religious tracts to the poor. Garrison and his circle of immediatists he gathered around him were caught up in this spirit of reform and drew out its most radical and egalitarian implications. They sought “moral revolution” not “moral renovation,” James Brewer Stewart explains, and “shattered religious orthodoxies time and again by improvising still more expansive ways of enacting God’s will in everyday life.” If they new “free labor” economy produced such wealth and opportunity, they asked, why shouldn’t its benefits extend to blacks and to the South itself? If reformers could promote moral perfection, why shouldn’t they seek to eradicate America’s worst sin, that of slaveholding? These questions formed the backdrop for the Liberator.

“Perfectionism” is the heretical core of the entire leftwing enterprise known as “progressivism.”

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  1. Finney was a hell & brimstone preacher—for those types who believe in every word of the Old Testament just as written!

    I wouldn’t look for any social gospel in Finney either, matter of fact, if you look you can probably find some really anti-semitic statements by Finney.

    From what I know Finney was well connected South of the Mason-Dixon Line and owned property there before the Civil War.

  2. Of course Finney was well connected South of the Mason-Dixon line! The Second Great Awakening was essentially a Southern phenomenon with roots in Kentucky and Tennessee! Illiterate whites jumped on the bandwagon with great fervor leading to the rise of the Baptist and especially Methodist sects.

    One of the most insidious results was the wholesale preaching of the Bible to the black slaves leading directly to Nat Turner’s rebellion and ultimately to Martin Luther king’s Civil Rights movement. The idea that this can all be laid at the feet of the Northerners is blatant tommyrot!

  3. Why wouldn’t WASPs fall for this? They were the top dogs on Earth, most of humanity were bug eating savages with a small elite of parasites at this time.

  4. It was out of the context of the Second Great Awakening in the Northern states that we see the launch of the first three great Yankee utopian social reform movements: abolitionism, temperance, and women’s suffrage.

    There are seven Yankee utopian social reform movements emerging in this period if you count the anti-war movement (opposition to Texas annexation and the Mexican War), opposition to Indian Removal (another popular cause in the Northern states), the “free love” movement in utopian communes like Oneida, and Transcendentalism.

    The Northern states were a hotbed of reform: “god-like” Yankees like John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison who were “free of sin” consolidating the federal government to perfect the world (starting with the South) in the image of their “shining City on a Hill.”

    The Shakers and the Oneida communists are two of the most colorful groups that were active back then. The Mormons who experimented with polygamy ultimately moved to Utah. They would prove more enduring.

    As for the “Civil Rights Movement,” it can be traced back to the year 1866 when Thaddeus Stevens and his fellow Radical Republicans passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to overturn the black codes.

    Prior to 1866, blacks were slaves and the federal government had no authority to dictate racial policy to the Southern states. The 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment changed that forever.

    As for Martin Luther King, Jr., he was a despised figure in the South, and a national hero in the North. MLK gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial. He wasn’t trying to impress anyone in the South by choosing that location.

  5. What was the “free love movement”?

    MARY GOVE NICHOLS (1810 – 1884)

    Having suffered from chronic ill health and four miscarriages as a young woman, Mary Gove Nichols became an early advocate of women’s healthcare, spreading her message through her writings, lectures, and clinics. Married to Hiram Gove, an unsuccessful businessman who expected both financial support and unquestioning obedience from his wife, she supported him and their surviving child by selling needlework until they moved to Lynn , Massachusetts , where she ran a girls’ school and began her career in health reform.

    Victoria Claflin Woodhull (September 23, 1838 – June 9, 1927) was an American leader of the woman’s suffrage movement, an advocate of free love; together with her sister, the first women to operate a brokerage in Wall Street; the first women to start a weekly newspaper; an activist for women’s rights and labor reforms and, in 1872, the first woman candidate for President of the United States.

    Woodhull went from rags to riches twice, her first fortune being made on the road as a highly successful magnetic healer before she joined the spiritualist movement in the 1870s. While authorship of many of her articles is disputed (many of her speeches on these topics were collaborations between Woodhull, her backers and her second husband Colonel James Blood[citation needed]), her role as a representative of these movements was powerful. Together with her sister, she was the first woman to operate a brokerage firm in Wall Street, and they were the first women to found a newspaper, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly.

    At her peak of political activity in the early 1870s, Woodhull is best known as the first woman candidate for the United States presidency, which she ran for in 1872 from the Equal Rights Party, supporting women’s suffrage and equal rights. Her arrest on obscenity charges a few days before the election, for publishing an account of the alleged adulterous affair between the prominent minister, Henry Ward Beecher, and Elizabeth Tilton, added to the sensational coverage of her candidacy. She did not receive any electoral votes, and there is conflicting evidence about popular votes.

    The term free love has been used [1] to describe a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social bondage. The Free Love movement’s initial goal was to separate the state from sexual matters such as marriage, birth control, and adultery. It claimed that such issues were the concern of the people involved, and no one else.[2]

    Much of the free-love tradition is an offshoot of anarchism, and reflects a civil libertarian philosophy that seeks freedom from state regulation and church interference in personal relationships. According to this concept, the free unions of adults are legitimate relations which should be respected by all third parties whether they are emotional or sexual relations. In addition, some free-love writing has argued that both men and women have the right to sexual pleasure. In the Victorian era, this was a radical notion. Later, a new theme developed, linking free love with radical social change, and depicting it as a harbinger of a new anti-authoritarian, anti-repressive sensibility.[3]

    Many people in the early 19th century believed that marriage was an important aspect of life to “fulfill earthly human happiness.” Middle-class Americans wanted the home to be a place of stability in an uncertain world. This mentality created a vision on strongly defined gender roles, which led to the advancement of the free love movement.[4]

    In 1857, Francis Barry wrote that “marriage is a system of rape,” stating that the woman is a victim where she can do nothing but be oppressed by her husband, as he tortures her in her home, which becomes a house of bondage.[6] In one of his articles, Barry wrote:

    ‘The Object of this [women’s emancipation] Society,’ according to Article 2 of its [free love] constitution, ‘shall be to secure absolute freedom to woman, through the overthrow of the popular system of marriage.’[7]

    19th century United States

    Christian socialist writer John Humphrey Noyes has been credited with coining the term ‘free love’ in the mid-19th century, although he preferred to use the term ‘complex marriage’. Noyes founded the Oneida Society in 1848, a utopian community that “[rejected] conventional marriage both as a form of legalism from which Christians should be free and as a selfish institution in which men exerted rights of ownership over women”. He found scriptural justification: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven” (Matt. 22:30).[22] Noyes also supported eugenics; and only certain people were allowed to become parents. Another movement was established in Berlin Heights, Ohio.
    Free love advocates sometimes traced their roots back to Josiah Warren and to experimental communities, viewed sexual freedom as a clear, direct expression of an individual’s self-ownership. Free love particularly stressed women’s rights since most sexual laws discriminated against women: for example, marriage laws and anti-birth control measures.[23] The most important American free love journal was Lucifer the Lightbearer (1883–1907) edited by Moses Harman and Lois Waisbrooker[24] but also there existed Ezra Heywood and Angela Heywood’s The Word (1872–1890, 1892–1893).[23] Also M. E. Lazarus was an important American individualist anarchist who promoted free love.[23]

    Elements of the free-love movement also had links to abolitionist movements, drawing parallels between slavery and “sexual slavery” (marriage), and forming alliances with black activists. They also had many opponents, and Moses Harman spent two years in jail after a court determined that a journal he published was “obscene” under the notorious Comstock Law. In particular, the court objected to three letters to the editor, one of which described the plight of a woman who had been raped by her husband, tearing stitches from a recent operation after a difficult childbirth and causing severe hemorrhaging. The letter lamented the woman’s lack of legal recourse. Ezra Heywood, who had already been prosecuted under the Comstock Law for a pamphlet attacking marriage, reprinted the letter in solidarity with Harman and was also arrested and sentenced to two years in prison.

    Victorian feminist Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927), the first woman to run for presidency in the U.S. in 1872, was also called “the high priestess of free love”. In 1871, Woodhull wrote:

    Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere. And I have the further right to demand a free and unrestricted exercise of that right, and it is your duty not only to accord it, but, as a community, to see that I am protected in it. I trust that I am fully understood, for I mean just that, and nothing less![25]

    The women’s movement, free love and Spiritualism were three strongly linked movements at the time, and Woodhull was also a spiritualist leader. Like Noyes, she also supported eugenics. Fellow social reformer and educator Mary Gove Nichols was happily married (to her second husband), and together they published a newspaper and wrote medical books and articles,[26][27][28] a novel, and a treatise on marriage, in which they argued the case for free love. Both Woodhull and Nichols eventually repudiated free love.

    Publications of the movement in the second half of the 19th century included Nichols’ Monthly, The Social Revolutionist, Woodhull & Claflin’s Weekly (ed. Victoria Woodhull and her sister Tennessee Clafin), The Word (ed. Ezra Heywood), Lucifer, the Light-Bearer (ed. Moses Harman) and the German-language Detroit newspaper Der Arme Teufel (ed. Robert Reitzel). Organisations included the New England Free Love League, founded with the assistance of American libertarian Benjamin Tucker as a spin off from the New England Labor Reform League (NELRL). A minority of freethinkers also supported free love.[29]

    The most radical free love journal was The Social Revolutionist, published in the 1856-1857, by John Patterson. The first volume consisted of twenty writers, of which only one was a woman.[7]

    In an edition of Lucifer, the Light-Bearer, there is a blurb about women and marriage:
    in order to live the purest life, must be free, must enjoy the full privilege of soliciting the love of any man, or of none, if she so desires. She must be free and independent socially, industrially,” — Page 265. This is only one specimen of the many radical and vitally important truths contained in “A CITYLESS AND COUNTRYLESS WORLD,” by Henry Olerich. Bound in red silk, with gold lettering on side and back; nearly 400 pages. Read it and you will see the defects of paternalism as set forth by Bellamy. Price $1. For sale at this office.[30]

    This quote demonstrated the journal’s fight to get women to see the light of how marriage truly was in the early 20th century.

    In 1852, a writer named Marx Edgeworth Lazarus published a tract entitled “Love vs. Marriage pt. 1,” in which he portrayed marriage as “incompatible with social harmony and the root cause of mental and physical impairments.” Lazarus intertwined his writings with his religious teachings, a factor that made the Christian community more tolerable to the free love idea.[5]

    Sex radicals were not alone in their fight against marriage ideals. Other 19th century Americans saw this social institution as flawed, but hesitated to abolish it. Groups such as the Shakers, the Oneida Community, and the Latter-day Saints were wary of the social notion of marriage. These organizations and sex radicals believed that true equality would never exist between the sexes as long as the church and the state continued to work together, worsening the problem of subordination of wives to their husbands.[5]

    The free love movement evolved through four stages between 1853 and 1910. The first stage was a collective stage, where sex radicals put out print materials. The second stage was when the sex radicals encountered strong opposition; editors risked being arrested for writing about sexual topics. During the third stage, sex radicals challenged the government’s power to control women’s bodies and their private lives. The fourth and final stage was when the movement started to lose its drive. A new type of women’s movement was born, thus making it impossible to keep the free love movement alive.[5]



    I am around these types every waking second. I hate them. I hate them more than anything.

    I hate them.


    Their belief their own ability to make the world int a perfect place is denser than any Dark Matter in the universe. Denser than any element. They do what they say they despise – they say that one must be humble in Christ – but their Pride in their moral infallibility makes Lucifer look like a shy, mealey-mouthed, self-doubting wallflower.

    It doesn’t matter what happens in the real world. ANY evidence offered, no matter how consistent, or damning, that teir “beliefs” are wrong, and in factv disastrous – well – it’s beyond cognitive dissonance. A real fury emerges, a murderous glint, a demonic red glare gleams out of their eyes. They’d truly like to gut any-one that contradicts them. They know they usually can’t – but they go for denunciations, a poisoned whispering campaign, and hopefully, getting their challenger fired.


  7. BTW, the new header, a plantation manor, is superb. Just think of that yankeepig Sherman burning such things down as an “object lesson”. During CW II, we will need to do an update of Sherman’s March, this time up thru the Beltway Corridor.

  8. “During CW II, we will need to do an update of Sherman’s March, this time up thru the Beltway Corridor.”

    Nice fantasy but it’s never gonna happen and you know it. As the USA disintegrates it will be replaced by corporate/regional alliances. Nobody is going to be going toe to toe with the U.S. military, rather what will happen will be that the existing military/police power will be replaced by private and/or regional authority.

  9. Rudel’s just sore that, once the South, the west, the midwest, etc., are back in the hands of the White man, he won’t be able to disguise the woman sitting across the table from him, whip in hand, as ‘the federal government’.

  10. My wife is a lady of breeding and refinement and I resent your scurrilous remarks which you wouldn’t dare to repeat to my face.

    BTW, in my neck of the woods the country is and always has been in the hands of the white man.

  11. Finney was NO CHRISTIAN, as far as the stalwart ‘historically orthodox’ Calvinists were concerned. If you read the real Calvinist Authors (not RINO’s – regenerate in name only) ‘preachers’ like John Piper, you see an undisguised HATRED for the Arminian heretical opinion that ‘man can save himself’ by his own bootstraps. From there, it was but a short step to thinking (fallaciously, in a day before DNA, ‘g’ Factor, Color of Crime, and all the rest of the scientific data that belies the fundamental premise) the Black Man could ‘save himself’ by his own bootstraps.’ BIG MISTAKE.

    Every single heresy and error that the TV Evangelists we all know and loathe from the last forty years, can find their evangelistic methods centered in, and grounded upon Finney’s approach. Was Finney smart? Oh, my yes. Was he also deranged? Oh, MY yes. The College that he started [Oberlin] is a HOTBED of anarchistic radical amoralism, coupled with socialist claptrap masquerading as ‘social justice.’ No sane man or woman would WANT to teach there, unless they were already of the damned. I ought to know. I have friends that went there, who are rather traditional catholics, who are some of the most rabid socialists, but they don’t even know they are….. all because of Oberlin’s atmosphere, the disturbing legacy of Finney…. may he rot in hell.

  12. ooops sorry. I didn’t make my sentence structure clear. John Piper is NOT ‘orthodox.’ His is a ‘latter day Finneyism’ as a matter of fact. No, the trad. Calvinists (Machen, Young, Packer, but esp. Hodge, Hodge, and Warfield) clearly decimate Finney’s person and his methodology, as not having ANYTHING to do with true Christianity (i.e., Calvinist orthodoxy, which WAS the reigning form in the USA, until roughly 1850).

    Sorry about that.

  13. The political tradition that we know today as “progressivism” began its shelf life among Christian heretics like the Quakers, Transcendentalists, and the Unitarians. It goes back to fanatical groups like the Shaker death cult, evangelists like Charles G. Finney, and the Oneida utopian commune.

    William Miller (February 15, 1782 – December 20, 1849) was an American Baptist preacher who is credited with beginning the mid-nineteenth century North American religious movement now known as Adventism. Among his direct spiritual heirs are several major religious denominations, including Seventh-day Adventists and Advent Christians. Later movements found inspiration in Miller’s emphasis on Bible prophecy. His own followers are known as Millerites.

    The Great Disappointment was a major event in the history of the Millerite movement, a 19th-century American Christian sect that formed out of the Second Great Awakening. Based on his interpretations of the prophecies in the book of Daniel (Chapters 8 and 9, especially Dan. 8:14 “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed”), William Miller, a Baptist preacher, proposed that Jesus Christ would return to the earth during the year 1844. The more specific date of October 22, 1844, was preached by Samuel S. Snow. Thousands of followers, some of whom had given away all of their possessions, waited expectantly. When Jesus did not appear, October 22, 1844, became known as the Great Disappointment.

  14. Charles G. Finney was one of the single most destructive radicals who ever lived:

    Charles Grandison Finney (August 29, 1792 – August 16, 1875) was a leader in the Second Great Awakening. He has been called The Father of Modern Revivalism.[1] Finney was best known as an innovative revivalist, an opponent of Old School Presbyterian theology, an advocate of Christian perfectionism, a pioneer in social reforms in favor of women and blacks, a religious writer, and president at Oberlin College.

    Finney was a primary influence on the “revival” style of theology which emerged in the 19th century. Though coming from a Calvinistic background, Finney rejected tenets of “Old Divinity” Calvinism which he felt were unbiblical and counter to evangelism and Christian mission.

    Finney’s theology is difficult to classify, as can be observed in his masterwork, Religious Revivals. In this work, he emphasizes the involvement of a person’s will in salvation.[10] Whether he believed the will was free to repent or not repent, or whether he viewed God as inclining the will irresistibly (as in Calvinist doctrine, where the will of an elect individual is changed by God so that they now desire to repent, thus repenting with their will and not against it, but not being free in whether they choose repentance since they must choose what their will is inclined towards), is not made clear. Finney, like most Protestants, affirmed salvation by grace through faith alone, not by works or by obedience.[11][12] Finney also affirmed that works were the evidence of faith. The presence of unrepentant sin thus evidenced that a person had not received salvation.

    In his Systematic Theology, Finney remarks that “I have felt greater hesitancy in forming and expressing my views upon this Perseverance of the saints, than upon almost any other question in theology.”[13] At the same time, he took the presence of unrepented sin in the life of a professing Christian as evidence that they must immediately repent or be lost. Finney draws support for this position from Peter’s treatment of the baptized Simon (see Acts 8) and Paul’s instruction of discipline to the Corinthian church (see 1 Corinthians 5). This type of teaching underscores the strong emphasis on personal holiness found in Finney’s writings.

    Finney’s understanding of the atonement was that it satisfied “public justice” and that it opened up the way for God to pardon people of their sin. This was the so-called New Divinity which was popular at that time period. In this view, Christ’s death satisfied public justice rather than retributive justice. As Finney put it, it was not a “commercial transaction.” This view of the atonement is typically known as the governmental view or government view.

    Princeton Theological Seminary Professor Albert Baldwin Dod reviewed Finney’s 1835 book Lectures on Revivals of Religion[14] and rejected it as theologically unsound from a Calvinistic perspective, not necessarily from a Christian perspective.[15] Dod was a defender of Old School Calvinist orthodoxy (see Princeton theologians) and was especially critical of Finney’s view of the doctrine of total depravity.[16]


    The doctrine is chiefly associated with the followers of John Wesley, founder of Methodism, from Wesley’s understanding of sanctifying grace. The doctrine is defined in Wesley’s book, “A Plain Account of Christian Perfection”. [1] Perfection can either define the journey to perfection or the state of perfection. Christian perfection is commonly referred to as “going on to perfection”.

    Perfection is the process of sanctification which is both an instantaneous and a progressive work of grace. It may also be called entire sanctification, in which the heart of the believer is cleansed from inbred sin by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Christian perfection, according to Wesley, is “purity of intention, dedicating all the life to God” and “the mind which was in Christ, enabling us to walk as Christ walked.” It is “loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves”.[2] It is “a restoration not only to the favor, but likewise to the image of God,” our “being filled with the fullness of God.”[3]

    Wesley was clear that Christian perfection did not imply perfection of bodily health or an infallibility of judgment. It also does not mean one no longer violates the will of God, for involuntary transgressions remain. Perfected Christians remain subject to temptation, and have continued need to pray for forgiveness and holiness. It is not an absolute perfection but a perfection in love. Furthermore, Wesley did not teach a salvation by perfection, but rather says that, “Even perfect holiness is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ.”[4]

    Wesley did not use perfection to describe sinlessness. Similarly, perfection is not the state of being unable to sin, but rather the state of choosing not to sin. Wesley’s perfection represents a change of life, a freedom from willful rebellion against God, impure intentions, and pride. Wesley also did not view perfection as permanent.

  16. “Video: The Blank Slate- The Modern Denial of Human Nature (by joo Steven Pinker)”

    That book is very much an argument in favor of the hereditary nature of human behavior. ie. Race matters.

  17. So December is “Yankee Month”? I got here just in time. 😛

    Interesting article, especially the bit about the free love movement. Having come from the North, I have known these types all too well.

    Denise, if you live up North and don’t like it, why not escape to the South like I did? I never looked back. Except for the food, sometimes.

  18. ” if you live up North and don’t like it, why not escape to the South like I did?”

    The heat and fetid swamps of the South are not a fit environment for the White man of Northern Europe.

  19. “The heat and fetid swamps of the South are not a fit environment for the White man of Northern Europe.”

    Haha, I don’t know, they seem to have adapted pretty well over the centuries. I wanted to leave the hellhole called New Jersey and live in a place that better reflected my values. Thank God for air conditioning, though. 😛

  20. “The heat and fetid swamps of the South are not a fit environment for the White man of Northern Europe.”

    Why, then, would you insist on our presence in your “union”?

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