The charismatic Nova Scotia preacher Henry Alline and his New Light disciples profoundly affected the nineteenth-century evangelical ethos of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and neighbouring New England. Alline’s pietistic and mystical gospel was channelled into the Free Will and Calvinistic Baptist churches, but it also gave shape and substance to the region’s revivalistic tradition. In his provocative discussion of religious revivals, G. A. Rawlyk argues that at the heart of these significant social movements was a collective yearning for intimacy and a desperate search for meaningful relationships. There was also a tendency, as the nineteenth century unfolded, for various Baptist preachers to assert their authority over congregations by virtually “willing” revivals into being.
Rawlyk’s view is that the Baptists of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick reached the zenith of their influence during the latter half of the nineteenth century, but his often controversial analysis defines differences between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia Baptists which extend into the twentieth century.
Ravished by the Spirit does not deal merely with the distant historical past. Rather, in its emphasis on the symbolic relationship existing between the past and the present, it raises some fundamental and disconcerting questions about the vulnerable nature of the Baptist denomination in contemporary Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Ravished by the Spirit may be regarded as a historical Jeremiad which, by glancing backwards, sees the possible hope or despair of the future.