The Life and Legacy of Robert Matthias

1. Introduction

Robert Matthias was an American religious leader who is best known for his role in the early nineteenth-century religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Matthias was born in 1782 in New York City. His father was a German immigrant who had come to America in the 1760s. His mother was an Englishwoman. Matthias was raised a Lutheran. He married Mercy Jackson in 1804, and the couple had eight children.

Matthias’s first experience with evangelical Christianity came in 1808 when he attended a Methodist camp meeting. He was impressed by the emotional intensity of the experience and the way that it seemed to bring people together. In 1820, he met Charles Finney, an evangelical preacher who would have a profound impact on his life. Finney’s preaching emphasized individual responsibility and personal improvement, two themes that would become central to Matthias’s own understanding of religion.

In 1821, Matthias joined the Methodist church and began working as an itinerant preacher. He quickly rose to prominence within the church, and by 1823 he was appointed as a circuit rider, traveling around New York state to preach at different Methodist churches. In 1826, he left the Methodist church to join a group of former Methodists who had formed their own denomination, called the Evangelical Union. This group believed that Methodism had become too institutionalized and needed to return to its roots as a movement of spiritual rebirth and conversion.

The Evangelical Union soon disbanded, and Matthias began working with a group of men who shared his beliefs about the need for religious reform. In 1830, they founded a community called Zion Hill, located in upstate New York. The community was based on the principle of voluntary association and mutual aid, and its members lived together in harmony without any formal government or hierarchy.

In 1832, Matthias had a vision in which he believed he was called by God to lead a religious revolution. He began preaching that all Christians were called to work for social reform and that society could be transformed through evangelical Christianity. His message attracted a wide following, and he soon became one of the most important leaders of the Second Great Awakening.

Matthias’s community at Zion Hill continued to grow, and in 1834 he renamed it the “Matthias Kingdom.” The kingdom was based on what Matthias called the “Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.” He believed that all people were equal before God and should live in peace and harmony with one another. The kingdom attracted thousands of converts from all over America and Europe, making it one of the largest communes of its time.

However, not everyone agreed with Matthias’s ideas about equality and social reform. Some critics accused him of being a socialist or even a communist. In 1835, a group of men from New York City came to Zion Hill and attacked Matthias’s followers, causing considerable damage to property and injuring several people. The attackers were never identified or apprehended, but the incident made it clear that not everyone welcomed Matthias’s message of social change.

Despite opposition from some quarters, Matthias continued to preach his message of equality and social justice throughout the 1840s. He also began to advocate for women’s rights, arguing that women should be given greater opportunities for education
and employment. He believed that women were equal to men before God and should be treated as such in all areas of life.

In 1848, Matthias’s wife Mercy died, and he began to withdraw from public life. He sold Zion Hill and moved to New York City, where he lived in seclusion for the rest of his life. He died in 1872 at the age of ninety.

2. Matthias’s religious mission in the 1820s and 1830s

In the 1820s and 1830s, Matthias’s work as a religious leader was focused on two main goals: promoting evangelical Christianity and working for social reform.

Matthias was deeply influenced by the preaching of Charles Finney, an evangelical preacher who advocated for individual responsibility and personal improvement. Matthias believed that Finney’s message could help to transform society by inspiring people to change their lives and work for social reform.

To spread Finney’s message, Matthias established a community called Zion Hill in upstate New York. The community was based on the principle of voluntary association and mutual aid, and its members lived together in harmony without any formal government or hierarchy. In 1834, Matthias renamed the community the “Matthias Kingdom” and began preaching his message of equality and social justice to a wider audience.

However, not everyone welcomed Matthias’s message of social change. In 1835, a group of men from New York City came to Zion Hill and attacked Matthias’s followers, causing considerable damage to property and injuring several people. The attackers were never identified or apprehended, but the incident made it clear that not everyone agreed with Matthias’s vision of a more just society.

Despite opposition from some quarters, Matthias continued to preach his message of equality and social justice throughout the 1840s. He also began to advocate for women’s rights, arguing that women should be given greater opportunities for education and employment. He believed that women were equal to men before God and should be treated as such in all areas of life.

3. Matthias’s religious mission in the 1840s

In the 1840s, Matthias’s work as a religious leader continued to focus on promoting evangelical Christianity and working for social reform. However, he also began to advocate for women’s rights, arguing that women should be given greater opportunities for education and employment. He believed that women were equal to men before God and should be treated as such in all areas of life.

In 1848, Matthias’s wife Mercy died, and he began to withdraw from public life. He sold Zion Hill and moved to New York City, where he lived in seclusion for the rest of his life. He died in 1872 at the age of ninety.

4. Conclusion

Robert Matthias was a religious leader who is best known for his role in the early nineteenth-century religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. Matthias was born in 1782 in New York City but rose to prominence as a circuit rider preacher in upstate New York in the 1820s. In 1830, he founded a commune called Zion Hill which attracted thousands of converts from all over America and Europe. In 1834, he renamed the commune the “Matthias Kingdom.”

FAQ

Robert Matthias became a religious missionary because he felt it was his calling from God.

Some of the challenges that he faced in his work were opposition from other missionaries, as well as difficulty in getting people to convert to Christianity.

He went about converting people by preaching and teaching them about the Bible and Christianity.

His ultimate goal in undertaking this mission was to spread the gospel and lead people to salvation.

He did succeed in achieving this goal, as evidenced by the many converts he made throughout his career.

His experiences as a missionary shaped his own faith journey by making him more dedicated to his religion and more passionate about spreading its message.