Home         Articles         Study         Library         History         Heresy         Blogs

The First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening was a religious movement among American colonial Protestants in the 1730s to 1740s. It made religion intensely personal to the average person, by creating a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption, Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval," that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodism in England. [1] It brought Christianity to the slaves and was an apocalyptic event in New England that challenged established authority. Indeed, everywhere it incited rancor and division between the old traditionalists who insisted on ritual and doctrine and the new revivalists. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and German Reformed denominations, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers. Unlike the Second Great Awakening that began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety, and their self awareness. The revival began with Jonathan Edwards, a well-educated Congregationalist minister from Northampton, Massachusetts, who sought to leave the Puritans' strict Calvinist roots but recognized the importance and power of immediate, personal religious experience. Edwards was a powerful speaker and attracted a large following; "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" is his famous sermon. The Methodist preacher George Whitefield, visiting from England, continued the movement, traveling across the colonies and preaching in a dramatic and emotional style, accepting everyone into his audiences. The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. People became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. People began to study the Bible at home, which effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.

Further reading

Primary Sources
Jonathan Edwards, (C. Goen, editor):"The Great-Awakening: A Faithful Narrative..."; Collected contemporary comments and letters; 1972, Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-01437-6.
Alan Heimert and Perry Miller ed.; The Great Awakening: Documents Illustrating the Crisis and Its Consequences 1967

Secondary Sources
Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People (1972) (ISBN 0-385-11164-9)
Brekus, Catherine A. Strangers & Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845 University of North Carolina Press, 1998
Bonomi, Patricia U. Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America Oxford University Press, 1988
Bumsted, J. M. "What Must I Do to Be Saved?": The Great Awakening in Colonial America 1976, Thomson Publishing, ISBN 0-03-086651-0.
Butler, Jon. "Enthusiasm Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction." Journal of American History 69 (1982): 305-25.
Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. 1990.
Conforti, Joseph A. Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition and American Culture University of North Carolina Press. 1995.
Gaustad, Edwin S. The Great Awakening in New England (1957)
Goen, C. C. Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740-1800: Strict Congregationalists and Separate Baptists in the Great Awakening 1987, Wesleyan University Press, ISBN 0-8195-6133-9.
Hatch, Nathan O. The Democratization of American Christianity 1989.
Heimert, Alan. Religion and the American Mind: From the Great Awakening to the Revolution Harvard University Press, 1966
Isaac, Rhys. The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 1982, emphasis on Baptists
Lambert, Frank. Pedlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals; Princeton University Press, 1994
McLoughlin, William G. Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977 1978.
Schmidt, Leigh Eric. Holy Fairs: Scotland and the Making of American Revivalism (2001)
Schmotter, James W. "The Irony of Clerical Professionalism: New England's Congregational Ministers and the Great Awakening," American Quarterly, 31 (1979), a statistical study
Stout, Harry. The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism William B. Eerdmans, 1991
Tracy, Joseph. The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield, 1842; reprinted 1997
 

Copyright 2008 [www.seeking4truth.com]. All rights reserved .Revised: 05/17/2009