Ohio History Journal

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"Reform is manifold and yet it is one," declared President

Asa Mahan of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in an address

before the American Physiological Society in Boston in 1839.

The true Christian reformer, he said, was a universal reformer,

seeking the correction of all evils. No man could consistently

be a temperance advocate and not an opponent of slavery nor an

enemy of war and not a sponsor of moral reform. He recognized

that the "great reformatory movement of the age" was legitimately

divided into special departments, but insisted that it was equally

true that all real reforms were "based upon one and the same

principle, to wit, that whatever is ascertained to be contrary to the

rights, and destructive to the true interests of humanity, ought to

be corrected." Among the evils deserving the attention of the

reformer he listed "intemperance, licentiousness, war, violations

of physical law in respect to food, drink, dress, and ecclesiastical

civil and domestic tyranny."1

In the years 1833 to 1835 the Reverend Charles G. Finney

and a group of his followers, including Asa Mahan, had founded

the Oberlin Collegiate Institute in the woods of the Connecticut

Western Reserve in northern Ohio as a training school for Christ-

ian crusaders.2  Here in the controlled environment of the pious

colony established "for the express purpose of sustaining this

Seminary" youth of both sexes were trained to become "gospel

ministers and pious school teachers" and ministers' wives and in

these capacities to spread the gospel of personal salvation and of

Christian reform. This was the means by which Oberlin was to

become, as one of the founders put it, "the burning and the shin-

ing light which shall lead on to the Millenium."


* A paper read at the April, 1938, meeting of the Mississippi Valley Historical

Association at Indianapolis under the title "Grahamism at Oberlin."

1  Advocate of Moral Reform (New York), June 15, 1839.