Heaven as Home
The Victorians and Heaven, 1830–1870
In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, Americans’ vision of heaven changed dramatically, from one centered on God to one focused on humans. The subjects of heavenly recognition, the fellowship of the saints with loved ones and the heroes of the Bible and church history, and infant salvation received much more emphasis than in earlier (and later) periods. The picture of heaven as a celestial home, largely modeled on the most cherished features of the Victorian home, became widely accepted. Personal identity, warm communion, and pleasurable interactions of family and friends loomed large in the biblical analyses of Henry Harbaugh and other ministers and the imagined worlds of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, and other novelists. Almost all mid-nineteenth-century Protestants agreed that in order to spend eternity with God, individuals must repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their savior.
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