When trying to define the great awakening, one would say it’s a period of time that consisted of numerous religious revivals that took place in American colonies during the 18th and 19th century. A revival is an upturn in the state or strength of something. However, when talking about the great awakening a revival is used in a spiritual context because it means an escalation in spiritual interest, awareness, and belief. There are two great awakenings that took place during the 18th century and the 19th century. These two great awakenings are known as the First Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening.
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There are comparisons between the two great awakenings as there are differences, however there are abundantly more differences between the two. This paper is going to emphasis on the dissimilarity on how the two awakenings arose, how they effected people, and how it terminated. After the 1688 Glorious Revolution in the 17th century there were no more fighting between religious and political groups. Also the Church of England was recognized as the governing church; this meaning that the people came to an agreement that, that was the only religion that was allowed, consequently suppressing all other religions.
Subsequently this event made everyone think everything was okay because when looking at it from a political stand point there seemed to be some type of solidity or order in society since everyone practiced the same religion. This however did not make things better instead it caused a uncritical satisfaction, like when you eat junk food to satisfy your hunger but in the long run, slowly but surely, its bad for your body and harms your body. After a few decades in the 18th century a young minister from Yale University named Johnathan Edwards declined to convert to the Church of England.
Edwards felt that people were losing sight of what was really important. He felt that people lost their purpose in this world and instead they became excessively disturbed by the worldly materials around them. Edwards did not like what he saw and what the
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people were portraying and who they were becoming so he spoke out and said “God is an angry judge, and humans were sinners! ” He spoke with so much irritation and rage that when he did speak people assembled and congregated to listen, thus igniting what we know as the First Great Awakening.
The great awakening affected the American colonies in many ways. First and foremost George Whitefield played an important role in this great awakening. He was a minister from Britain who was ordained by the Church of England. He toured the American colonies from Georgia to New England. Every time Whitefield gave one of his sermons he spoke with such desire, hunger, and passion, that people would cluster in thousands to go see him and to hear him speak.
Whitefield spoke so well that even Benjamin Franklin himself, a guy known for being religiously cynical, emptied his coin purse after hearing his sermon in Philadelphia. The awakening led to the creation of new colleges such as Princeton University. Despite the fact that all of this is happening, it seems to be some separation in America. This separation is being caused by the New Light ministers and the Old Light ministers. The New Light ministers, or awakening, were ministers who accepted the new style of worship, whereas the Old Light ministers refuse to agree to such new beliefs.
Regardless of the conflict between the people, an unanticipated outcome that came from this was that religious toleration was accepted more widely, thus making it obvious that in an area there can be more than one religion without one dominating that area. The Great Awakening was the first main event that broke down dissimilarities between the colonies. Overall, the First Great Awakening left a permanent impact on American religion. It stemmed from influential evangelization that gave people some type of guilt felt deep inside and of their necessity of redemption by Christ, giving them a greater purpose to live for.
The effects of Glorious Revolution in 1688 made religion something to pastime with and do the motions to during the religious services with no personal connection whatsoever, whereas the Great Awakening built a personal connection between religion and the average person and brought Christianity to African slaves. Although the awakening didn’t last for a long prepared of time, the Great Awakening was what prepared the colonies for the American Revolution. The American Revolution took place from 1775 to 1783. This was an event that
was not at all associated with religion, which is a little shocking since it took place after the first great awakening. The Founding Fathers showed a great disapproval of the conjoining of religion and politics in the first amendment by instituting the parting of church and state. As a result of religion not be controlled by political leaders, revivals started up again. This leading to what we know as the second great awakening, taking place between the endings of the 18th century till the second half of the 19th century.
In the beginning of the American Revolution there three main large dominations known, the Congregationalists, Anglicans, and Quakers. However as the second great awakening began Evangelical Methodism and Baptist were becoming very well-known and popular. The second great awakening took place all over the United States, however it was more exclusive in the Northeast and the Midwest. The Second Great Awakening manifested an essential transition in American religious life. The earlier American religious groups believed people could only be saved through salvation because of how wicked mankind is.
However, the new movement was to place a greater emphasis on mankind ability to change who they are to be a better person. From this you can see that the first and the second great awakening both played a big role on America and the growth of Christianity. The first great awakening opened the people eyes that there might be a possibility that religion should be something that you have a personal connection to. It also opened the door for Americans to accept the American Revolution. Thus leading to the second great awakening that showed people that there are able to express themselves and have free-will.See More on American Revolution