Morris N. Barton served as pastor of the Presbyterian church in Romulus, N.Y., through the most crucial stages of the Second Great Awakening. Barton was educated at Hamilton College (class of 1823) and the Auburn Theological Seminary, and began his ministry at the Presbyterian Church in Romulus in 1825, just as the evangelical fervor of the Awakening reached its peak. These two institutions were among the intellectual centers of the religious movement that dominated the "Burned-Over District" of New York State through the 1820s and much of the 30s, and many of the ministers who conducted the revivals and inspired religious enthusiasm studied there. Thus, Barton's writings serve as an illustration of the intellectual discourse around the Awakening, one of the most significant intellectual and religious phenomena of the nineteenth century.
Like many men and women who were stirred by the Second Great Awakening, Barton developed interests in a wide range of social and moral reform movements. His essays and sermons reflected a strong desire to bring about the moral regeneration of his parishioners, and more generally, the world, and he longed equally to see his religious principles expressed in everyday life. Clearly, Barton held Arminian tendencies, believing that salvation depended on actions in this world, and was not solely the product of divine grace. As a result, he favored active intervention to eliminate America's greatest moral issue, slavery, preferring financial and moral support for the colonization of freed slaves as a way to atone for this transgression. In general, Barton felt that there were spiritual benefits in the cultivation of popular associations because such groups encouraged feelings of brotherhood and cooperation, feelings which created a predisposition to spiritual improvement.
Barton married in his late 20s and he and his wife Ann had 9 children. He held the pastorate at the Presbyterian Church in Romulus for 24 years and died there in 1857 at the age of 57.