Revivals of the Past

One of the most significant periods of religious revival began around 1730 in what historians have named The Great Awakening, or the Age of Faith. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, all of England worshiped as one denomination under the umbrella of the Church of England. Colonists in the New World followed this doctrine of theology as well. The emphasis was on intellectual theology, making the sermons and services dry and uninspiring.

The belief was that God spoke to the monarchy, who in turn delivered the message to the people. That is until the 1730’s

when the Tennent family, led by Reverend William Tennent, began a series of revivals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, thus “awakening” their listeners to the idea that the people could talk to God directly via fervent prayer.


Personal Worship and Prayer spread like wildfire

Rev. Tennent, along with his four sons, preached with unbridled enthusiasm, imploring people to trust in God with their hearts instead of only their heads. He taught the colonists to embrace their feeling for God, especially in prayer. He wanted to elicit an emotional response from his listeners, not just an intellectual one. Complacency had become the norm under the Church of England, and Rev. Tennent was ready to shake things up. Helping to spread the word were preachers such as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. Their fiery, crowd drawing sermons were all the more effective because of their spontaneity. Traveling throughout the colonies, the idea of personal worship and prayer spread like wildfire.

This new religious enthusiasm quickly spread throughout the colonies and by the 1740’s religious revivals led by Baptist and Puritan clergy were starting up everywhere. This new found freedom to truly express religious feelings soon had the colonists wanting to break away from the “accepted” practice of worship under the Church of England and begin their own denominations. This movement broke apart the Puritans and the Anglicans. Several new Protestant denominations formed as the result of revivalist preachers moving from town to town. No longer would there be one dominating denomination in America.


The America Revolution - God as the Ultimate Power

The American Revolution, sometimes called the Presbyterian Rebellion, was largely brought about due to the religious revival of The Great Awakening. Once freed from the confines of the idea of one church and one truth, the colonists were determined to maintain the freedom to practice religion in the ways most meaningful to them, including heartfelt prayer. They felt they were capable of interpreting what God was trying to say to them – they did not need the monarchs to do it for them.

Note that the authors of the Declaration of Independence did not appeal to a particular church, but rather to the “Supreme Judge of the world”, in effect stating that the colonists now recognized God as the ultimate power, not the church itself. Added to a long list of other injustices, the furor aroused by this religious awakening provided the momentum needed to once and for all break free from England and revel in the freedom to worship as each person deemed fit.


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