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The Great Awakening

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  • December 2005
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The Great Awakening

By the early 1700's religion had begun to slack in the colonies. Partly because many of the

colonists were starting to worry more about personal riches than their own religious observances.

It began after the religious developments in Europe as new ministers started arriving and

spreading their word. One of the principal figures in the Great Awakening was Jonathan

Edwards. Edwards is known for his "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" sermon. In it he

used the image of a spider hanging by a web over a hellish fire to describe the human

position. His point was that at any moment, our hold on life could break and we would be

plunged into the fires of eternal damnation. Edwards preaching provoked such a response

because he was speaking about a matter the people were very interested in. The newer

generations had inherited the puritan way of looking at things, but had begun to forget it, and the

older ones were concerned about this. But by the 1750's religious extremism began to be

unpopular. Edwards was dismissed by his parishioners in 1749 and he later died on a mission

with Indians. The great awakening also instilled religious toleration in the colonies. One of the

major results of the Great Awakening was it unified most of the Americans in a common

understanding of the Christian faith and life. Education also was a major result of the

Awakening. The colleges of Princeton, Brown, Rutgers, and Dartmouth were all founded

because of the Awakening. It also led most evangelicals to denounce slavery as sinful. With the

end of the Great Awakening drawing near, Americans were already rejecting both the radical

Calvinistic views as well as Arminian ones. Europe was going through another change of their

own as well, the Enlightenment. This like the Great Awakening had a keen affect on the

colonists since many of its great leaders were greatly influenced...