Lyman Beecher

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Lyman Beecher (1775-1863), Congregational and Presbyterian clergyman, revivalist and social reformer, was President of Lane Theological Seminary, and in addition was one of the most famous preachers in America during his day. Educated at Yale and licensed as a Congregationalist, Lyman was active in Presbyterian churches for nearly his entire life. Lyman published on a variety of topics aimed at spreading Christianity and combating what he considered religious and political atheism. Lyman’s voluntary efforts, designed to restrict social ills, together with his influence from Charles Finney, led him to the belief that individuals possessed a free will. The result of this adjustment was a modification of the Calvinism he had received from an earlier generation. This endeavor met with strong resistance, and in 1835 he was tried for heresy on the grounds that he had departed from the Westminster Confession of Faith. He was subsequently cleared of the charges and resumed his ministerial and administrative duties. Many of Lyman’s reform efforts were continued by the next generation, including two of his children, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Henry Ward Beecher, the Congregational minister.

For further reading see V. Harding, A Certain Magnificence: Lyman Beecher and the Transformation of American Protestantism, 1775-1863 (Carlson, 1991). 

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