Dr. Robert Wooster
19 September 2014
The Spiritual Revolution
The Great Awakening in the New England colonies was a time of chaotic religious uprisings and divisive turmoil. The two main characters in this period were the old and upright Charles Chauncy and the radical new prophet James Davenport. Both were men of God. Both fought against the evil of misguided teachings and claimed that the other was an agent of the devil himself. In such a serious time these men competed for the souls of the entire colonies. Religion in America in the early 1700s was very set in tradition. Christian churches consisted of very long, melancholy lectures to the crowd because the priest spoke to his congregation in a flat tone. All the teachings came straight from the bible and there was no veering off course. In this time, the preacher was always right. No one ever had any doubts or if they did then they were respectful enough not to say anything because it was weird and rude to do so. The preacher was always respected because they were a righteous, upstanding leader in the community.
Since the preachers were regarded as very important leaders that guided people to make moral decisions, religion also dictated many government policies. John Hollitz said in his essay from Contending Voices that to the colonists in this time thought of, “political and religious controls as inseparable” (44). The combination of church and state was regarded as so important that Charles Chauncy believed if it was not set up in this manner, then the people would be
“brought into a state of the most abject tyranny,” (qtd. in Hollitz 44). This idea came from the assumption that all men are evil. If the colonists have a government it will be subject to evil influences such as corruption and the only way to protect the government and the people it rules over from the devil, is to intertwine it with the church. This meant many of the people who committed moral crimes against God, would end up in a court room facing charges here on earth. The Great awakening started with a few young preachers that did not agree with the way the churches of the day were being run. They believed that no one could connect to a God if worship was so dull and boring. They also had different beliefs that they wanted to spread such as predestination. Members of this small group were David Farris, Anne Hutchinson, and James Davenport but there were several other less memorable faces. Reverend James Davenport was born in Southhold, New York but his family ties were in Connecticut. Davenport graduated from New Haven’s Yale College at the age of sixteen then continued his theological studies and received a Congressional Minister License in 1735. He then spoke to many audiences before he temporarily settled at The First Church of Southhold (Hollitz 35-36).
After a few zealous preachers popped up, Davenport abandoned his current church to travel and to preach the new teachings that the Great Awakening was famous for. Davenport’s meetings were full of passion. He raised people’s emotions to levels were they would scream, faint, and riot. They sang songs through the streets that praised the lord. Davenport believed that with this more emotional worship people could get closer to their God and not see him as that guy my preacher keeps talking about. He spoke about how the individual was in charge of their relationship with God and not to rely so heavily on what the preacher at church said. This idea of
not relying on the preacher was very new and caused the colonists to put less emphases on the importance of religious leaders. This lead to religious leaders and political leaders to become more separate in a colonist’s mind.
He taught that only a select few were going to heaven. This concept now predestination is when God has determined before you were born whether or not you were going to go to heaven or to hell....
Cited: Hollitz, John Erwin. “Enthusiasm, Authority, and the Great Awakening: James Davenport and
Charles Chauncy” Contending Voices: Biographical Explorations of the American Past
3rd ed. Vol. I. Boston: Wadsworth, 2010. 34-50. Print.
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