Since the beginning of civilization, man has always questioned himself on the lines of the creator of the universe and God. As time passed by, different religions started being formed and the preachers did well to make people a part of their religion. Christianity has been spread far and wide, but there was time when people though had accepted Christianity as their religion, they weren’t playing much into their religious part of their lives. The ‘Great Awakening’ is referred to the time, when a religious upsurge was done and the objective of this revival was to gain people’s religious sentiments back. This was period of delicate religious activity which was catching attention and was the foundation for the future ‘Great awakenings’. This was an exciting period of revival of the Protestants in America which was under the colonial rule. There was very high thinking of gaining and amassing wealth and the interest in the religion had gone down because of their agendas of money. The Great Awakening is also deemed as the first period of religious resumption that made breakaways in gaining people’s confidence in religion again.
One of the main architects of this period is referred to a person named Jonathan Edwards who was born to a family which had very high religious roots and his parent’s foundations were of Calvinistic and Puritan in nature. Born in an environment of richness and aristocracy, Jonathan Edwards was more into cultural and religious enlightment. Since he had the best of education and society, he always questioned faith on the lines of its necessary revival and was considered as a rebellious young man with his thinking.
After his education, when he was seventeen he underwent the experience of conversion he started doing a job as a supply preacher at a Presbyterian church in New York. After this Edwards joined as a pastor in Northampton and here is where the bricks were being laid and fiery sermons were given by him to rekindle the interest of religion and his preaching had intent of passion and he resuscitate the trepidation of God and he was also chief originator in making people aware of sins that they were doing in their race for acquiring riches. The following will give one of the insights of the need the Great Awakening:
‘Many devout church members believed the Great Awakening of 1735-1745 was necessary to combat secular influences in the lives of the Puritans. It heightened Puritan belief in man’s inherent depravity and pointed to the need for revival’ (Sarah Valkenburgh.1995). This was an exciting period that was brought up for redemption of faith and there was a uniqueness that was associated with the revival of Protestant church.
George Whitefield was also a preacher that could be labeled as on chief planners of the Great Awakening. He considered to be an evangelist at the age of twenty six and was very much known for passion and emotions sermons which he preached. He was the one who gave a spirit and the necessary energy that was required for the movement to happen. Whitefield was the central one who advocated the justification of faith and aroused interest amongst people by preaching about sinners and the much needed concern for a person’s salvation. His popularity started rising and he started receiving invitations
from all quarters of churches to preach and extend the interests of revival of faith to other parts of the country. His preaching got so popular that he received proposals from the house of Consociation and requested Whitefield to share the ministry and serve this purpose. White field started going through the colonies and started this mission for revival with passion which moved people and brought them to the point of learning about salvation and the depended on affection and tears. His enthusiasm became a benchmark and it was sometimes even moved the hardest of the church members. There was always a huge no. of people mostly in thousands that were getting attracted to his fame of preaching style and would always line to hear his preaching just to anticipate a conversion. All the church in the colonies were always waiting for a chance to have his preaching and sermons being done in the church and always hoped that while he spread the message of revival, he would anticipate conversions. The critics of Whitefield always endorsed him as a man who moved people with his manipulative emotional scenarios and urged them to drown in his mesmerizing sermons. This kind of preaching was always denoted as a ‘New Light’, where sermons and preaching were said in a fashion to jolt the listener emotionally and to believe the path of salvation by reviving his faith in the religion. These New light preachers sprang up in the colonies during the period of 1740s and induced people on the grounds of emotion and started rekindling their will of following a religious path. The following will shed light on the people from different
colonies who interested in the period of Great Awakening:
‘New Englanders who supported the Great Awakening traced their too roots to the British seabed of evangelism. During the revival descended from the 25 percent who emigrated from the Northwest and the 10-15 percent who hailed from the South east’. (Frank Lambert. Page 29. 2001)
William Tennet was another speaker who played the part in the Great Awakening in a very different fashion. Not only he was himself a mover of sermons and preaching like his counterparts Edwards and Whitefield, but he innovated the concept of teaching and started a religious school which showed the prospective ministers a chance of redemption of faith by teaching them to give preaching in an emotional ways. His school was popularly known as the log school and he also generated the idea of having ministers who were of poor backgrounds and infused a thought of equality amongst the rich aristocrats and the poor. These three pioneered the great Awakening in a way that would bring consequences of a kind which made history. Not only they infused a sense of character with their preaching but also made people interested in faith and religion to the extent of people reading bibles at homes. The Great Awakening was also the foundation stone of future religious awakenings that were set to happen in the United States of America, which though was under the British Colony rule. Before the movement it was seen in the country that the church was an object of religion only for the women and men rarely went for religious sermons. During the time of the Great Awakening it was comprehended that
the there was a huge upsurge in the no. of men that started getting attracted to church and religion. People started the preaching style of ministers who were labeled as ‘new light’ and started responding to their sermons as they felt very touched by the moving sermons. Because of the movement there was increase in the lack of interest of conventional ministers and they were labeled as ‘Old light’, as they found their preaching and sermons not only to be monotonous but also to a degree where the religion could be questioned. An amount of censure is given to the great Awakening as it was the first kind of movement that united people in a different way and have been credited for the ‘American Revolution’ that took place. This was the biggest impact of the Great Awakening on America, and it not revolutionized religion but also gave thoughts of uprising to people. The ministers preaching in America, showed a lot of passion towards nationalism, and showed loath towards a society which was colonized and ruled thousand miles apart. They connected God’s will and wished of a free society and gave their feeling of the corruptness of England, and labeled it as sinful. The though was put into the people’s mind that if America would be free from colonization, they would enter into a world of God and would follow the significance of God’s will would be achieved. The Great Awakening is not only a period of revival of the religion but also for America it can be seen as a time for the though process of revolution to be started.
1) Sarah Valkenburgh, “A DRAMATIC REVIVAL: THE FIRST GREAT AWAKENING IN CONNECTICUT”. 1995.http://18.104.22.168/search/cache?ei=UTF-8&p=The+Great+Awakening+%281720-1760&fr=slv1-&u=www.tcr.org/tcr/essays/EPrize_Awakening.pdf&w=great+awakening+1720+1760&d=bMgJykLURvbr&icp=1&.intl=us1
2) Frank Lambert, “Inventing the “Great Awakening” Published by Princeton University Press, 2001
3) Thomas S. Kidd, “The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America”.Published by Yale University Press, 2007
4) Richard L. Bushm,”The Great Awakening: Documents on the Revival of Religion, 1740-1745”.Published by UNC Press, 1989
5) Joseph Sylvester Clark,” Historical Sketch of the Congregational Churches in Massachusetts: From 1620 to 1858”Published by Congregational board of publication, 1858.