John Morgan (1803–1884)

John Morgan and Finney were colleagues at Oberlin College and both embraced the doctrine of perfectionism. After graduating valedictorian from Williams College in 1826, Morgan became an instructor in Latin at Lane Theological School in Cincinnati, Ohio. During his time at Lane, the students formed an antislavery society. Morgan was the sole faculty member to support the student movement.

The trustees of the school—some of them slave-owners—were appalled at the student’s actions. In spite of opposition from the school’s president, Lyman Beecher, and from benefactors Arthur and Lewis Tappan, the trustees took action against the society. Among their actions were the banning of all extra-curricular student societies and the dismissal of John Morgan. The students, infuriated by this response, withdrew from Lane. Soon afterward, John Jay Shipherd met with these students to persuade them to enroll at a new school he hoped to establish at Oberlin.

The students agreed to come if several conditions were met; among them: John Morgan must be given a professorship. Shipherd agreed to all the student’s demands. Morgan accepted the invitation and in June 1835 began teaching New Testament exegesis and literature. At the same time Charles Finney became Oberlin’s professor of theology.

In the fall of 1836, several of the faculty members, including Morgan and Finney, began to stress the doctrine of perfection. Many prominent Christian leaders severely criticized Oberlin’s position. Morgan answered these attacks in the Oberlin Quarterly Review.

Throughout his 32 years at Oberlin, John Morgan, a versatile scholar, taught in every branch of the school. He corresponded with the traveling Finney several times seeking to influence ...

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