“Romish” Revivalism: Methodism, the New Measures, and Evangelical Popery in Antebellum America

Andrew Denton


Opponents of revival-style evangelism in antebellum America commonly drew comparisons between revivalists and “papists.” While allegations of “popery” were issued quite promiscuously during this era, anti-revival Protestants such as John Williamson Nevin employed such rhetoric in a more than casually provocative manner, seeking to demonstrate a true resemblance between the purported deficiencies of Roman Catholicism and the modes of religious awakening promoted by Methodists and “new measures men” like Charles Finney, among others. This essay looks briefly at transatlantic eighteenth-century precedents for associating “enthusiasts” with “papists.” It then examines the manner in which nineteenth-century critics in the United States maintained this association, finding Methodists and other revivalists to be suspiciously “popish” in the irrationality of their piety, the ceremonialism of their worship, the Pelagian bent of their theology, and the authoritarian structure of their church and charitable organizations.


Anti-revivalism; Anti-Catholicism; Methodism; New Measures; John W. Nevin

Full Text:

PDF (Full Text)

Methodist Review, ISSN: 1946-5254 (online), copyright © 2009-2019 by The Methodist Review, Inc.