During the eighteenth century, political uncertainty and economic instability characterized colonial life and diverted devout Puritans from religious obligations.
Individual morals declined as Puritans within the community turned increasingly to Arminianism, the belief that preparation for heaven was easily managed and therefore less important, to justify their participation in secular affairs. The supporters of the Awakening pointed to the apparent collapse of Puritan values to explain the need for revival. Nomadic preachers succeeded in converting hundreds of unregenerate Puritans and increasing church membership throughout the colony. The Great Awakening witnessed a revival of outward conversions which occurred in three stages: the recognition of sin accompanied by fear, distress, or anxiety, a further dependence upon God's mercy, and, finally, a relief from distress characterized by euphoric emotion.
Influenced by Enlightenment Rationalism, critics of the revival argued for a rational interpretation of the Bible. One of the underlying issues of the Awakening was whether or not conversions were indeed a manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon God's chosen people or whether the emotional outbursts were merely expressions of deep human sentiment. Because the Congregational Church dominated all aspects of colonial life