William Bentley was pastor of the East Church in Salem Massachusetts from 1783 intil his death in 1819. There, he ministered to the sailors, widows, artisans, and captains of the waterfront. He offered his flock a new version of Christianity, a faith grounded by the dual pillars of a benevolent deity and salvation through moral living. Unlike deists, he believed in the Biblical God and in the essential Christian narrative. Unlike the more moderate liberals, he also believed that after the resurrection of Christ, God has chosen to stand back and watch, without interference, the unfolding of the Christian message. Bentley's life, ministry, and thought allow an original exploration not only of theology and philosophy but also of ideology: of the social politics of race and class and gender, the ecclesiastical politics of establishment and dissent, the ideological politics of republicanism and classical liberalism, and the party politics of Federalism and Democratic-Republicanism.

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