Called the “Whitefield of Nova Scotia”, Henry Alline was a leader of the second Great Awakening of 1792 onwards, although he experienced authentic revivals from 1776.
He was born and received his early education in Newport, Rhode Island and his family moved to Nova Scotia in 1760, when he was 12 years old. When he was nine he began to read theological works and became somewhat mystical, but after years of soul-searching and spiritual conflict he was powerfully converted in 1775, simultaneously receiving a call to the ministry.
Alone and desperate he prayed until…’redeeming love broke into my soul… with such power that my whole soul seemed to be melted down with love…and my will turned of choice after the infinite God. A year later he began to preach.
His preaching career lasted until his death eight years later. He was an itinerant preacher in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island in an ever-widening circuit, beginning what became known as the ‘New Light’ movement and which is still the greatest revival that Canada has ever seen. He preached the new birth powerfully and effectively and his admirers compared him to George Whitefield and John the Baptist.
Considered an emotional and dangerous fanatic by some and a ‘ravager of congregations,’ the Congregationalists withdrew his right to preach in their churches, so he spoke in barns, houses and the open air. In all he began eight ‘New Light’ Congregational churches based on his non-Arminian but anti-Calvinist views of free-will and predestination, and his strong rejection of outward religious form.
Ironically, despite his indifference regarding baptism, his major 19th century influence was amongst the Baptists of eastern Canada, many of whom were his converts.
Despite possibly unorthodox views and methods, his ministry was without doubt that of an extraordinary revivalist.
Bibliography: D. G. Bell, Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1730-1860, 1995; Earle E. Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendour, 1986: Harry Skilton, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1974.