The First Great Awakening was the revitalization and evangelical movement that spread through the American colonies, particularly from the 1730s to the 1770s. The movement permanently affected the view of the American Protestantism. It is vital stating that the First Great Awakening was more of an evangelical awakening in the English-speaking world. It reaffirmed the view that a true observance of religion implied putting trust on the heart instead of the head, making arguments based on biblical revelation instead of human rationale, and valuing of feelings rather than thinking (Heyrman). In view of this, it should be noted that the First Great Awaking had a considerable number of effects on the colonies. Some of the notable impacts on the American colonies were paving the path for the realization of the American Revolution and changing of individuals’ views on religion.
To begin with, the First Great Awakening led to the view that religion should be based primarily on devotion rather than rituals. In fact, the period saw the rise of a new Age of Faith in which people developed the attitude that religion should be an issue of biblical revelations and not the human rationale that had previously characterized religious movements. In keeping with Yeager, religious revival was a key feature of the First Great Awakening since the movement altered religious relationships, practices, and beliefs in the American colonies (1732). The movement advocated the freedom of conscience and enabled many Americans to abandon their previous religious traditions while seeking out personal beliefs and common shared values. The movement paved the way for people to refine their relationships with other persons, themselves, and the Supreme Being. The change in the religious perspectives of the Americans was highly possible considering that the First Great Awakening focused on the heart. In fact, the movement was more relatable than the other existing movement in the 1700s, the Enlightenment, which fundamentally supported the use of mind when dealing with religious matters Yeager (1732). A good number of preachers focused on the elimination or avoidance of the things that could were tempting and could lead to sin. Apparently, the First Great Awakening led to many people’s change about religion and abandonment of previous American religious beliefs.
At the same time, the First Great Awakening affected the colonies by instilling in people a more open approach to dealing with daily issues rather than relying on authorities such as the English government. The events that accompanied the First Great Awakening inspired the people in the colonies to think more democratically and such points of view were vital to the actualization of the American Revolution (J. Smith 12). As an illustration, the movement allowed people to think about religion in their own fitting way and to do away with the old religious ways and beliefs. In other words, the people were convinced that they could understand what God wants without the help of highly-educated priests. In this way, the differential view of authority became less significant as compared to the belief in the viewpoints of the common people. In the American colonies, less differential approach to authority made it possible for the people to rebel against England.
What is more, it is vital stating that the First Great Awakening was fundamental to the actualization of the American Revolution. In fact, the movement was partly a response to the rise in the market economy. The freedom of conscience that characterized the First Great Revolution led to the rise of the free price system in which prices of goods and services were based primarily on demand and supply. According to Lindley, one of the facets of the First Great Awakening was the message that every person was personally responsible for his or her own salvation (1912). In this way, people had the choice of seeking for salvation through prayers and repentance. In view of this, the rise of the market economy provided an ease of mind to the businesses and employers who may have abandoned their duties of being responsible for what they offer to the marketplace. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the rise of the market economy in the colonies due to the First Great Awakening allowed for a controlled utilization of the resources. Competition in the market kept prices low and affordable for the common people.
Furthermore, one of the adverse effects of the First Great Awakening to the colonies was the creation of disagreements among members of various religious denominations. At the time when the First Great Awakening was taking place, some people help on to their old religious ways while others saw it wise to change to the new ways (L. Smith 22). The implication of this difference in religious perspectives due to the movement was the open split that developed among members of the different denominations as they had rifts concerning the new approaches and the old approaches to religion. The open outcome of such differences was a reduction in the solidary among people in the colonies considering that each side believed they were on the right way to religion. Eventually, notable differences could be seen based on religious beliefs and even the societal class to which individuals were categorized.
The other impact of the First Great Awakening on the colonies was the development of the traditions of evangelical Christianity. The values of Christianity that were observed and developed in the colonies during the movement have been crucial to the growing Christianity reforms and way of operations even in the world today (Heyrman). In particular, most of the pastors who were actively involved in the spread of Christianity during the Great Awakening advocated direct experience of a person or believer with God. As a matter of fact, this approach to religion has been the core of Christianity even in the world today, as believers have the belief that they can experience the God in their lives even without the divine intervention of highly experienced or educated pastor. As an illustration, one of renewal movement within the Protestant Christianity is Pentecostalism, which emphasizes a direct individual interaction and experience of God based on baptism with the Holy Spirit. In view of this, it is justifiable to assert that the First Great Awakening was fundamental to the development of the current traditions or customs of evangelical Christianity.
In addition, the First Great Awakening led to the spread of religious enthusiasm, which was experienced by the Baptists of New England, the Presbyterians of the Middle Colonies, and the Congregationalists. In line with Heyrman, the clergymen who were associated with each of these churches ensured the continuation of evangelical revival missions in the colonies. The key message that each preacher of the Great Awakening delivered was the merciful nature of God. One of the positive aspects of religious enthusiasm is its role of converting many slaves into Christianity. On the other hand, the concept of Christianity did a little in the freeing of the converted slaves from the chains of enslavement. More importantly, religious enthusiasm focused on the concept of equality, as God was and has always been depicted to be just and merciful to all believers (Yeager 1730). Apparently, the messages of the First Great Awakening preachers drew many enthusiastic crowds who accepted the idea of God’s mercy and love. These values have always been some of the main messages for even the current preachers in the current-day America.
To be brief, the First Great Awaking had a considerable number of effects on the colonies. The movement changed people’s view of religion, as Gog was depicted by the preachers to be merciful and loving. In addition, the people in the colonies were informed of the fact that they could experience God at an individual level by reaching out to Him personally rather than depending on the intervention of a preacher. Lastly, the First Great Awakening paved the way for the realization of the American Revolution.
- Heyrman, Christine Leigh. “The First Great Awakening.” Diving America. National Humanities Center, January 2016. Web. 5 Oct 2016
- Lindley, W.T. “Smith, John Howard. The First Great Awakening: redefining religion in British America, 1725-1775.” CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries 2015: 1912-1914. Print.
- Smith, John Howard. The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725–1775. Madison, [NJ]: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015. Print.
- Smith, Lisa. The First Great Awakening in Colonial American Newspapers: A Shifting Story. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books, 2012. Print.
- Yeager, Jonathan M. “The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775.” Church History 2 (2016): 389-393. Print.