What Hath God Wrought?
This chapter considers the achievements of evangelicals in New York City at midcentury. It argues that Evangelical New Yorkers did nothing less than make the city between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Their systematic strategy of aggressively building in newly opening neighborhoods put them on the forward edge of urban development. Asylums, bethels, book concerns, missions, and orphanages supported by lay voluntary associations and denominations expanded that presence. However, their massive emotional, financial, and spiritual investment in the city came at a cost. The principles at the core of evangelical belief and practice—individual conversion and community-focused social activism—exist in continual tension. They provided the rationale for aggressive interventions in the city, hope to the hopeless, friends for the friendless, and homes for the homeless, but just as easily supplied an excuse for withdrawal, into meetinghouses, parlors, and even their own spiritual selves at moments when their presence was most needed.
Keywords: New York City, urban evangelicalism, evangelicals, urban developments, individual conversion, social activism