American Culture in the Great Awakening

Religious questions remained central to the lives of most European Americans, however, and the central religious event of the eighteenth century, the Great Awakening, prompted new directions in theological writing and practice. Revivals of religious spirit had been promoted in individual churches, particularly by Solomon Stoddard and his grandson Jonathan Edwards in their church in Northampton, Massachusetts. William Tennent and Theodore Frelinghuysen also spread this spirit in the Middle colonies. The Great Awakening took off when the famous English evangelist George Whitefield arrived in 1738, to begin a two-year tour of the colonies from Georgia to New England. Huge crowds turned out to hear him wherever he went, preaching the need of individuals to come to terms with their sinfulness and their need for redemption. The clergy generally welcomed him and built upon the enthusiasm he invoked, and newspapers reported on his arrival and preaching successes as celebrity events. Notable supporters of the Awakening included Jonathan Edwards, William Tennent’s son Gilbert, and Samuel Davies in Virginia, and many others, including so-called itinerants, who spoke to public assemblies outside of their own towns. Such itinerants as James Davenport of Connecticut promoted an enthusiastic experience at the expense of religious and civil order or so Davenport’s critics charged. Edwards, perhaps the deepest philosophical mind of the colonial era, wrote The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God (1741) and A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections (1746) in order to analyze and describe the changes in mind and behavior that accompanied a genuine spiritual rebirth. Thomas Prince, minister of the Old South Church in Boston, who had earlier written the first volume of A Chronological History of New England (1736; second volume in 1755), edited a magazine reporting on the spread of the Awakening. Charles Chauncy of Boston published some of the most effective critiques of the awakeners in his Enthusiasm Described and Cautioned Against (1742) and Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in New England (1743). The Awakening’s emphasis on the necessity of individuals’ taking responsibility for their own lives, although restating the basically Calvinist belief that saving grace was in God’s hands alone, strengthened individualist sensibility in the colonies. The movement’s evangelizing energies supported the careers of the American Indian missionary Samson Occom and Eleazar Wheelock’s efforts to educate Native Americans at his school. Edwards’s powerful theology was recognized when he was appointed as president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Although he died shortly thereafter, his renewal of Calvinism echoed for generations in followers such as Joseph Bellamy and Nathaniel Emmons. How Art Leads Politics Adam Leipzig Cultural Weekly What were two effects of the Great Awakening APUSH : The Great Awakening

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