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First Great Awakening

The Great Awakening, was an evangelical and revitalization movement that swept Protestant Europe and British America, and especially the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American Protestantism. It resulted from powerful preaching that gave listeners a sense of deep personal revelation of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. Pulling away from ritual, ceremony, sacramentalism and hierarchy, the Great Awakening made Christianity intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual conviction and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.[1]

The movement was a monumental social event in New England, which challenged established authority and incited rancor and division between traditionalist Protestants who insisted on the continuing importance of ritual and doctrine, and the revivalists, who encouraged emotional involvement. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational church, the Presbyterian church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed denomination, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist Anglican denominations. It had little impact on most Anglicans, Lutherans, Quakers and non-Protestants.[2] Throughout the colonies, especially in the south, the revivalist movement increased the number of African slaves and free blacks who were exposed to, and subsequently, converted to, Christianity.[3]

Unlike the Second Great Awakening, which began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. To the evangelical imperatives of Reformation Protestantism, 18th century American Christians added emphases on "outpourings of the Holy Spirit". Revivals encapsulated those hallmarks and spread the newly created evangelicalism into the early republic.[4] Evangelical preachers "sought to include every person in conversion, regardless of gender, race, and status."[5]


  • International dimension 1
  • American colonies 2
  • Prominent leaders 3
    • Jonathan Edwards 3.1
    • George Whitefield 3.2
    • Samuel Davies 3.3
  • Impact on individuals 4
  • Schisms and conflict 5
    • Connecticut 5.1
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Scholarly studies 8.1
    • Historiography 8.2
    • Primary sources 8.3
  • External links 9

International dimension

Calvinism portal

The evangelical revival was international in scope, affecting predominantly Protestant countries of Europe. The emotional response of churchgoers in

  • Lesson plan on First Great Awakening
  • The Great Awakening Comes to Weathersfield, Connecticut: Nathan Cole's Spiritual Travels
  • "I Believe It Is Because I Am a Poor Indian": Samsom Occom's Life as an Indian Minister
  • "The Joseph Bellamy House: The Great Awakening in Puritan New England", a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan
  • Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" text

External links

  • 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
  • Davies, Samuel. Sermons on Important Subjects. Edited by Albert Barnes. 3 vols. 1845. reprint 1967
  • Gillies, John. Memoirs of Rev. George Whitefield. New Haven, CN: Whitmore and Buckingham, and H. Mansfield, 1834.
  • Jarratt, Devereux. The Life of the Reverend Devereux Jarratt. Religion in America, ed. Edwin S. Gaustad. New York, Arno, 1969.
  • Whitefield, George. George Whitefield's Journals. Edited by Iain Murray. London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1960.
  • Whitefield, George. Letters of George Whitefield. Edited by S. M. Houghton. Edinburgh, UK: Banner of Truth Trust, 1976.

Primary sources

  • Butler, Jon. "Enthusiasm Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction." Journal of American History 69 (1982): 305–25. in JSTOR
  • Goff, Philip. "Revivals and Revolution: Historiographic Turns since Alan Heimert's Religion and the American Mind." Church History 1998 67(4): 695–721. Issn: 0009-6407 full text online
  • McLoughlin, William G. "Essay Review: the American Revolution as a Religious Revival: 'The Millennium in One Country.'" New England Quarterly 1967 40(1): 99–110. Jstor


  • Ahlstrom, Sydney E. A Religious History of the American People (1972) (ISBN 0-385-11164-9)
  • 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. 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.
  • Fisher, Linford D. The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Gaustad, Edwin S. The Great Awakening in New England (1957)
  • Gaustad, Edwin S. "The Theological Effects of the Great Awakening in New England," The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 40, No. 4. (Mar., 1954), pp. 681–706. in JSTOR
  • 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 (1966)
  • Isaac, Rhys. The Transformation of Virginia, 1740–1790 1982, emphasis on Baptists
  • Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2009) ISBN 0-300-15846-7.
  • Kidd, Thomas S. God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (2010).
  • Lambert, Frank. Pedlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals; (1994)
  • Lambert, Frank. "The First Great Awakening: Whose interpretive fiction?" The New England Quarterly, vol.68, no.4, pp. 650, 1995
  • Lambert, Frank. Inventing the "Great Awakening" (1999).
  • 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 in JSTOR
  • Smith, John Howard. The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775 (2015) 345 pp.
  • Smith, Lisa. The First Great Awakening in Colonial American Newspapers: A Shifting Story (2012)
  • Stout, Harry. The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (1991)

Scholarly studies

Further reading

  1. ^ Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (2009)
  2. ^ Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (1972) pp 280–330
  3. ^ "Slavery and African American Religion." American Eras. 1997. (April 10, 2014).
  4. ^ Harry Stout, The Divine Dramatist: George Whitefield and the Rise of Modern Evangelicalism (1991)
  5. ^ Alan Taylor, American Colonies (2001), p. 354.
  6. ^ Gillies, John. "Memoirs of George Whitefield". Hunt & Co., 1841, pp. 38–39.
  7. ^ Ahlstrom p. 263
  8. ^ Kee, Howard C (1998), Christianity: A Social and Cultural History, et al (2nd ed.), Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, p. 412 .
  9. ^ Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening: A Brief History with Documents (2008), p.19.
  10. ^ Lambert, Frank. ""I Saw the Book Talk": Slave Readings of the First Great Awakening." The Journal of African American History, Vol. 87, The Past before US (Winter, 2002) pp. 12–25.
  11. ^ Butler, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).
  12. ^ Brooks, Walter Henderson. The Silver Bluff Church: A History of Negro Baptist Churches in America. Electronic Edition. Documenting the American South. PRESS OF R L PENDLETON: WASHINGTON D C, 1910.
  13. ^ See Holly Reed, "Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758)" (2004) online
  14. ^ Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening,(New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007).
  15. ^ Winiarski, Douglas L. (2005). "Jonathan Edwards, enthusiast? Radical revivalism and the Great Awakening in the Connecticut Valley". Church History 74 (4): 683–739.  
  16. ^ Clarke, Joseph S, DD (1858). A Historical Sketch of the Congregational Churches in Massachusetts, from 1620 to 1858. Boston (Digitixczed by Google books): Congregational Board of Publication. p. 148. 
  17. ^ Whitefield, George. To the Inhabitants of Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina (Philadelphia: 1740); quoted in Thomas S. Kidd. The Great Awakening: A Brief History with Documents. (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2008) 112–115.
  18. ^ Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening, (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2007) p. 217.
  19. ^ Walter Isaacson, Benjamim Franklin, An American Life (2003) p.110
  20. ^ Isaacson pp. 107–13
  21. ^ Presidents of Princeton from Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  22. ^ Samuel Davies and the Transatlantic Campaign for Slave Literacy in Virginia, an abridged version of Jeffrey H. Richards' article. from Retrieved April 8, 2012.
  23. ^ Letters from the Reverend Samuel Davies (London, 1757), p.19.
  24. ^ Lambert, Frank. ""I Saw the Book Talk": Slave Readings of the First Great Awakening." The Journal of African American History, Vol. 87, The Past before US (Winter, 2002) p. 14.
  25. ^ Catherine A. Brekus, Strangers & Pilgrims: Female Preaching in America, 1740–1845 (1998)
  26. ^ Barbara E. Lacey, "The World of Hannah Heaton: The Autobiography of an Eighteenth-Century Connecticut Farm Woman," William and Mary Quarterly (1988) 45#2 pp 280–304 in JSTOR
  27. ^ Wheatley, Phillis. “On Being Brought From Africa to America.” (London: 1773). Poems By Phillis Wheatley.
  28. ^ Wheatley, Phillis. "An Elegiac Poem On the Death of that celebrated Divine, and eminent Servant of Jesus Christ, the Reverend and Learned Mr. George Whitefield." (London: 1773). Massachusetts Historical Society.
  29. ^ Brekus, Catherine A. Sarah Osborn's World: The Rise of Evangelical Christianity in Early America. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013).
  30. ^ Balmer, Randall, Jon Butler, and Grant Wacker. Religion in American Life: A Short History. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) pp. 112–113.
  31. ^ Howard C. Kee, et al., 415
  32. ^ Howard C. Kee, et al., 416
  33. ^ Patricia U. Bonomi (1986). Under the Cope of Heaven: Religion, Society, and Politics in Colonial America. Oxford University Press. pp. 162–68.  


See also

[33] In Connecticut, the


The Calvinist denominations were especially affected. For example, Congregational churches in New England experienced 98 schisms, which in Connecticut also had impact on which group would be considered "official" for tax purposes.[31] These splits were between the New Lights (those who were influenced by the Great Awakening) and the Old Lights (those who were more traditional). It is estimated in New England that in the churches there were about 1/3 each of New Lights, Old Lights, and those who saw both sides as valid.[32]

Schisms and conflict

The Awakening led many women to be introspective; some kept diaries or wrote memoirs. The autobiography of Hannah Heaton (1721–94), a farm wife of [28] Sarah Osborn adds another layer to the role of women during the Awakening. A Rhode Island schoolteacher, Osborn's writings, including a 1743 memoir, various diaries and letters, and her anonymously published The Nature, Certainty and Evidence of True Christianity (1753) offer a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual and cultural upheaval of the time period.[29] The emotionality of the revivals appealed to many Africans and soon after they converted in substantial numbers, African leaders started to emerge from the revivals. These figures would pave the way for the establishment of the first black congregations and churches in the American colonies[30]

The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. Participants became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were generally called "new lights", while the preachers who remained unemotional were referred to as "old lights". People affected by the revival began to study the Bible at home. This effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious matters and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation. The Awakening played a major role in the lives of women, especially, though rarely were they allowed to preach or take public roles.[25]

Impact on individuals

Samuel Davies, a Presbyterian minister who would later become the fourth president of Princeton University,[21] was noted for converting African slaves to Christianity in unusually large numbers, and is credited with the first sustained proselytization of slaves in Virginia.[22] In a letter Davies wrote in 1757, he references the religious zeal of an enslaved man he had encountered during his journey, "I am a poor slave, brought into a strange country, where I never expect to enjoy my liberty. While I lived in my own country, I knew nothing of that Jesus I have heard you speak so much about. I lived quite careless what will become of me when I die; but I now see such a life will never do, and I come to you, Sir, that you may tell me some good things, concerning Jesus Christ, and my Duty to GOD, for I am resolved not to live any more as I have done.".[23] Samuel Davies became accustomed to hearing such excitement from many blacks who were exposed to the revivals. Davies believed that blacks could attain knowledge equal to whites if given an adequate education and he promoted the importance for slaveholders to permit their slaves to become literate so that they could become more familiar with the instructions of the Bible.[24]

Samuel Davies

Benjamin Franklin became an enthusiastic supporter of Whitefield.[19] Franklin, a Deist who rarely attended church, did not subscribe to Whitefield's theology, but he admired Whitefield for exhorting people to worship God through good works. Franklin printed Whitefield's sermons on the front page of his Gazette, devoting 45 issues to Whitefield's activities. Franklin used the power of his press to spread Whitefield's fame by publishing all of Whitefield's sermons and journals. Many of Franklin's publications between 1739–1741 contained information about Whitefield's work, and helped promote the evangelical movement in America. Franklin remained a friend and supporter of Whitefield until Whitefield's death in 1770.[20]

[18] Whitefield shared a common belief held among Evangels that after conversion slaves would be granted true equality in the Heaven. Despite his stance on slavery, Whitefield became influential to many Africans.[17] The arrival of the young Anglican preacher

George Whitefield

Winiarski (2005) examines Edwards's preaching in 1741, especially his famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." At this point, Edwards countenanced the "noise" of the Great Awakening, but his approach to revivalism became more moderate and critical in the years immediately following.[15]

[14] The revival began with

Monument in Enfield, Connecticut commemorating the location where Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was preached

Jonathan Edwards

Prominent leaders

Although the idea of a "great awakening" has been contested by Butler (1982) as vague and exaggerated, it is clear that the period was a time of increased religious activity, particularly in New England. The First Great Awakening led to changes in Americans' understanding of God, themselves, the world around them, and religion. In the Petersburg, Virginia, two black Baptist churches were founded.[12]

American colonies

[8].itinerant preachers, and featured Presbyterians among Scotland, a critical component of the Great Awakening, actually began in the 1620s in Revivalism [7] in England.Methodism and Evangelical Revival in Germany, the Pietism sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Sydney E. Ahlstrom marked the start of the English awakening. Historian [6]

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