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America needs another ‘Great Awakening’

 

The “Great Awakening” was a powerful 25-year-long Christian revival that swept across the American colonies from Maine to Georgia between about 1725 and 1750. Historians and theologians often credit this awakening and its four important leaders, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John and Charles Wesley, with having had a strong positive influence on America’s early historical foundation.

Unlike the earlier doctrines of the Puritans, this revival movement promised the grace of God to all who acknowledged a desire for it. It resulted in a distinctive increase in the interest of religion, widespread revivals, a jump in evangelical church memberships, and the formation of new religious movements and dominations.

Earlier, in the 16th century during our country’s colonial period, most sermons were theologically dense and advanced a particular theological argument or interpretation. Because of that, most ministers read their sermons. Conversely, pastors who lead this Great Awakening showed little interest in such presentations. Instead, they chose a presentation style that would elicit an emotional response from their congregations, a spiritual response which would promote the workings and evidence of saving grace.

Minister and historian, Joseph Tracy, was the first to refer to this spiritual phenomenon as the “Great Awakening.” In his influential 1842 book, The Great Awakening, Tracy (1) credits this spiritual movement with serving as a precursor to the American Revolution, (2) as having played a key role during the 1740s in the development of our democratic concepts for governing, and also (3) credits this spiritual movement with having greatly influenced our Founding Fathers in the establishment of America’s form of government throughout that 1765-83 “Revolutionary War” era.

The following excerpts from a 1743 letter that Jonathan Edwards wrote to a Boston pastor provide a glimpse of the power of that Great Awakening:

“Ever since the great work of God that was wrought here about nine years ago, there has been a great abiding alteration in this town in many respects. There has remained a more general seriousness and decency in attending the public worship ... There has been a very great alteration among the youth of the town with respect to reveling, frolicking, profane and unclean conversation, and lewd songs. Instances of fornication have been very rare. There has also been a great alteration among both old and young with respect to tavern haunting. I suppose the town has been in no measure so free of vice in these respects for any long time together for this sixty years as it has been this nine years past.

“Mr. Whitefield came to town about the middle of October 1740 ... The congregation was extraordinarily melted by every sermon ... By the month of May 1741 ... many of the young people and children that were professors (converts) appeared to be overcome with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things, and with admiration, love, joy and praise, and compassion to others ... Others in several parts of the town heard of these meetings and came to them; and what they saw and heard there was greatly affecting to them; many of them were overpowered in like manner. And it continued thus for some hours, the time spent in prayer, singing, counseling, and conferring ... There seemed to be a consequent happy effect of that meeting ... and in the state of religion in the town in general.”

As we evaluate the state of our beloved United States of America today, doesn’t it appear that we are in need of another Great Awakening? May God bless America!

Ken and Nan Webster have collected inspiration for many years from many sources, and now inspire readers of “A Matter That Matters.” Contact them at kennanco@gmail.com or visit www.kennancompany.com.

 
 
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