who and when

Ran across this in my reading:

“Conservatives were contemptuous of [his] pulpit pyrotechnics, dubious of the validity of the sudden conversions he achieved, and sure that the church would degrade itself by diluting its message and making religion ‘easy’ for the common man.”

So… who is the preacher I mask by ‘[his]’ and when is the historical setting?

No Googling!



  1. Whitefield, 1730s.

  2. Roger Carlson says:

    If memory serves me correctly, that was Charles Spurgeon, one of the best indeed!

  3. Jerry Bouey says:

    Yup, Spurgeon seems about right – in the 19th century. Many of the Calvinists of the day did not like Spurgeon putting the Gospel out there on the lowest shelf for the common man to reach.

  4. Roger Carlson says:

    Jerry it wasnt just the Calvinists, for he was a strong one. The Arminians didn’t like him very much either. The downgrade Controversy was not over Calvinists. Two great books to read are “The Forgotten Spurgeon” Spurgeon Vs. Hyper-Calvinism.”

    • Well, didn’t stir up a lot of comments with this one.

      And sorry, Roger and Jerry, Duncan is right.

      “[his]” would be “Whitefield’s” and the period is the Great Awakening. I’ll post more on this a little bit later, it comes from the very interesting book I have been reading this summer, The Scotch-Irish. I think the author may be secular, he taught sociology at Washington and Lee University. But he has some really interesting insights, I posted an earlier note on it dealing with the Reformation in Scotland. Anyway, this quote is part of a larger section evaluating the state of the church in America preceding and after the Great Awakening.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Keith says:


    And Jonathan Edwards and others supported Whitefield. They were the “New Lights” on the “New Side” in the Old Light/New Light Controversy.

    The “Conservatives” were the “Old Lights” on the “Old Side.”

    Just one more example of how alliances deal with different issues at different times.

    • Now, Keith, don’t jump ahead of me… you are trying to anticipate my point and missing it, as usual. You are about as close to my point without me writing anything as you are when I have already written something, though.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. So, do I win a prize? Wait, I guess you didn’t promise one.

    • Isn’t your dear old dad enough of a reward??

      But tell me how you guessed Whitefield… I know this is your area of interest, but tell me how you figured it out.

      Dear old dad
      Jer 33.3

  7. I was going to guess Spurgeon until I saw Duncan’s answer and figured he got it right.

  8. @ox:

    OK, well if you ever have a contest with a prize I’ll play again!

    I wasn’t totally sure I had it, but the quote gave me a few clues to go on.

    1) “pulpit pyrotechnics” suggests an evangelist, not a preacher. Jonathan Edwards himself doesn’t fit this, even though there is some interesting debate about his use of means.

    2) “sudden conversion” was a catch phrase during the First and Second Great Awakenings, at least in my reading.

    3) If this were about Finney, conservatives were (and many still are) concerned about much more than mere populism. Heresy is a term people use. So a church “degrad[ing] itself by diluting its message and making religion ‘easy’ for the common man” is not a strong enough complaint.

    4) I knew that Whitefield disturbed “conservatives” (=formalists) for things like this, so he seemed like a good fit.

    I frankly never thought of Spurgeon. I don’t recall anyone associating him with pyrotechnics. By his time populism was already pretty much the norm, so I don’t think anyone minded that he made religion easy for the common man. In the Downgrade controversy I thought he was the conservative.

    @Andy: I was afraid that people wouldn’t play because I answered so quickly… I could have been wrong.

    @ox (again!): I approved Andy’s comment for you so I could respond to it :)

  9. Roger Carlson says:

    That was fun Don!