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The event that has become known as the Great Awakening actually began years earlier in the 1720s. And, although the most significant years were from 1740-1742, the revival continued until the 1760s.
What was the Great Awakening? Know the Facts & Summary

Many of the early Puritans and pilgrims arrived in America with a fervent faith and vision for establishing a godly nation. Within a century the ardor had cooled. The children of the original immigrants were more concerned with increasing wealth and comfortable living than furthering the Kingdom of God. The same spiritual malaise could be found throughout the American colonies. The philosophical rationalism of the Enlightenment was spreading its influence among the educated classes; others were preoccupied with the things of this world.

When Theodore Frelinghuysen, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, came to begin his pastoral world in New Jersey during the 1720’s, he was shocked by the deadness of the churches in America. He preached the need for conversion, a profound, life-changing commitment to Christ, not simply perfunctory participation in religious duties. Presbyterian Gilbert Tennent was heavily influenced by Frelinghuysen and brought revival to his denomination. Tennent believed the deadness of the churches was in part due to so many pastors having never been converted themselves. His book On the Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry caused quite a stir!

Origins of the Great Awakening

The event that has become known as the Great Awakening actually began years earlier in the 1720s. And, although the most significant years were from 1740-1742, the revival continued until the 1760s.

Many of the early colonists had come to the new world to enjoy religious freedom, but as the land became tamed and prosperous they no longer relied on God for their daily bread. Wealth brought complacency toward God. As a result, church membership dropped. Wishing to make it easier to increase church attendance, the religious leaders had instituted the Halfway Covenant, which allowed membership without a public testimony of conversion. The churches were now attended largely by people who lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sadly, many of the ministers themselves did not know Christ and therefore could not lead their flocks to the true Shepherd. Then, suddenly, the Spirit of God awoke as though from an intense slumber and began to touch the population of the colonies. People from all walks of life, from poor farmers to rich merchants, began experiencing renewal and rebirth.

The faith and prayers of the righteous leaders were the foundation of the Great Awakening. Before a meeting, George Whitefield would spend hours–and sometimes all night–bathing an event in prayers. Fervent church members kept the fires of revival going through their genuine petitions for God’s intervention in the lives of their communities.

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“Prayer must carry on our work as much as preaching; he preacheth not heartily to his people that will not pray for them.” 

~ Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter Colour.jpg

Incomprehensible, Great, and Glorious God,

I adore thee and abase myself.

I approach thee mindful that I am
less than nothing,
a creature worse than nothing.

My thoughts are not screened from thy gaze.

My secret sins blaze in the light of thy countenance.

Enable me to remember that blood which cleanseth
all sin,
to believe in that grace which subdues
all iniquities,
to resign myself to that agency which can
deliver me from the bondage of corruption
into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

Thou hast begun a good work in me
and canst alone continue and complete it.

Give me an increasing conviction of my tendency
to err,
and of my exposure to sin.

Help me to feel more of the purifying, softening
influence of religion,
its compassion, love, pity, courtesy,
and employ me as thy instrument
in blessing others.

Give me to distinguish
between the mere form of godliness and its power,
between life and a name to live,
between guile and truth,
between hypocrisy and a religion that will bear
thy eye.

If I am not right, set me right, keep me right;

And may I at last come to thy house in peace.

The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, 95).

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