The Great Awakening was time of widespread spiritual renewal that swept through the American Colonies during the early 1700s. This period of time was characterized by a large abandonment of the established churches by a good portion of the Christian community who grew weary of the sense of complacency in the church. These would adopt another form of worship characterized by emotional or “fervent” prayer.
It began with great evangelists and orators in Europe like the Wesley brothers or George Whitefield but it soon spread through to the colonies of New England. The new wave of spiritual renewal ushered in a wave of spiritualism that was strikingly different from the somber piety of the Puritan Church that was the accepted norm before the 1700s.
What caused the Great Awakening?
Throughout the 17th century Europe had seen some of the most devastating religious conflict since the Spanish Inquisition, a criminal defense. It came all culminated in the Glorious Revolution in 1688, where the Church of England was established as the ruling church in England. After this point any other form of worship was suppressed.
Rather than attain a sense of spiritual union, the result of this was a sense of complacency in which the church was nothing more than a social duty where all meaning was lost in a series of dry traditions and practices. It was only after this had continued for almost 60 years did the people feel the need for a widespread spiritual awakening.
What were the most significant effects of the Great Awakening?
The biggest effect that the Great Awakening had in the American Colonies was pulling them together in preparation for the upcoming war of independence. The important precedent set by the Great Awakening was that if your churches or authorities re not living up to their responsibilities they should be challenged and abandoned.
Through the Awakening the American Colonies came to understand the power to change things rested in their hands alone. This was soon applied to the business of governing. It was here the idea that the freedom and rights to rule were better kept close at hand rather than coming from a monarch or bishop across the sea.
Within a few short generations, the colonists had agreed that they did not share the same religious or political ideals with their government back in England. In many ways, the Great Awakening made it possible for the American Revolution.