The decline in piety among the second generation of Puritans, which stemmed from economic changes, political transformations, and Enlightenment rationalism, was the primary cause of the Great Awakening. During the eighteenth century, political uncertainty and economic instability characterized colonial life and diverted devout Puritans from religious obligations. Individual morals declined as Puritans wealth the community turned Increasingly to Aryanism, the belief that preparation for heaven was easily managed and therefore less important, to Justify their participation in secular affairs.
The porters 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 to sin accompanied by tear, 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 to deep human sentiment. Because the Congregational Church dominated all aspects of colonial life during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The formation of separate churches posed a tremendous threat to the established order of the colony.
Ministers were the leaders of the community, usually serving for life. Although the Great Awakening only lasted from 1735-1745, it not only increased church membership but also stimulated education and promoted a separation to church and state. As itinerants inspired New Lights to study the Bible, converts focused increasingly on education in lieu of games, music, and other forms of entertainment. The Great Awakening Influenced the founding of prestigious universities, including Princeton, mom n, Brown, Rutgers, Washington and Lee, and Handmade-Sydney.
Therefore, the Great Awakening affected not only affairs thin the church, but it also transformed the colonial government and had a profound impact on secondary education. The Great Awakening, furthermore, effected significant social leveling and led to increased religious tolerance within the colony of Connecticut. The Awakening underscored the inherent depravity of the human soul, teaching that all were sinners in the eyes of God, regardless of class. Common emotional experiences united the rich and the poor under a common self-consciousness, and lay participation increased dramatically.
James Davenport claimed that the right to speak out was a gift from the Holy Spirit, and a new, informal language of worship emerged as the congregation gained a voice in religious affairs. Because the revivalists taught that Joy and salvation were available to all laymen, regardless of class, there was an infusion of democracy into the churches which ultimately led to an increase in democracy and social mobility within the community. Moreover, the divisions inspired by the Great Awakening and the subsequent decline of the Congregational monopoly, presented there denominations with the opportunity to establish new churches.
Ironically, the Great Awakening promoted religious tolerance as the Congregational Church split into Old Light and New Light factions and new denominations, such as the Baptist Church, attracted new members. The Awakening also established voluntarism, asserting that religious affiliation was not an obligation but a right that men and women could freely exploit. The first Great Awakening in Connecticut, which occurred nearly two hundred and fifty years ago, dramatically affected the lives of Americans.
A reaction to a laxity in morals within the church, the Great Awakening spread through the words of nomadic evangelists and stimulated dramatic conversions and a powerful commitment to the church. Although the movement ultimately subsided as excesses alienated established members of the church, its repercussions extended beyond colonial borders and the year 1745. All religions depend on revivals to awaken piety and complete a steady, devout place to live in. The Great Awakening of 1735, though all- encompassing and dramatic, was one in a number of recorded revivals throughout church history.
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