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The Great Awakening

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  1. The Great Awakening • The big picture context: Late 1600s – early 1700s • The pendulum of religion in the colonies was swinging towards religious diversity throughout the colonies • The diverse opportunities brought many to the colonies and swung the pendulum away from the piety of the early settlers.

  2. 1734 Northampton, MA Revival • 1729—Jonathan Edwards became the Northampton pastor • 1734—Congregation experienced an upswing in attendance and converts • 300 new converts

  3. 1734 Revival • Important similarities with the Salem Witch Craze • Began with local town’s youth and resulted in challenges to authority • Northampton was a town in transition • Land became more consolidated in fewer hands • Younger generations left landless and jobless • Frustration was funneled through religion

  4. The Great Awakening • George Whitfield, English priest and graduate of Oxford University in 1730s • Noted for persuasive and powerful preaching • Used theatre techniques to engage congregations during sermons • 1738—Set sail to build an orphanage in Georgia

  5. Whitfield’s Impact • Toured and preached throughout the American colonies by invitation and garnered acclaim for his intense sermons • Benjamin Franklin estimated he could be heard by 30,000 people by voice alone • Franklin became Whitfield’s American publisher • Each city’s acclaim attested to Whitfield’s talents and the Pietist message of the Great Awakening

  6. “Whitfield could throw an audience into a paroxysm just by the way he pronounced the word, ‘Mesopotamia.’” —David Garrick

  7. Great Awakening Spreads • Jonathan Edwards invited Whitfield to Northampton—the Revival in western Mass. was greater than in 1734 • Edwards was poised to follow Whitfield’s wake and develop the Great Awakening’s philosophic rationale • Edwards delivered his landmark sermon in 1741, “Sinners, in the Hands of an Angry God”

  8. The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep…

  9. Legacy of the Great Awaking Divisions grew amongst different congregations in different states New Lights—Embraced the Great Awakening and a turn towards more enthusiastic and mystical relationship with God Old Lights—Most church authorities that rejected Whitfield and the anxieties religious “enthusiasm” represented

  10. Legacy of the Great Awaking • 350 new churches throughout the American colonies • 50,000 new converts • New Lights created several new colleges: • Dartmouth, Brown, Rutgers, Princeton, etc. • The cultural impact of the Great Awakening was felt more acutely at the time

  11. Legacy of the Great Awaking Mass marketing of Whitfield’s sermons undermined the traditional colonial elite’s authority in the 1700s Revived New England’s dormant idea of mission—to be a “City Upon a Hill” The Awakening empowered individuals to question and fire church leaders