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The Second Great Awakening

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Roberta Appiah

Christopher Patke

U.S. History 1301

Friday 9-12

March 26, 2016

The second Great Awakening comes 35 years after the First Great Awakening. And it came in several episodes and different denominations. It reflected Romantism which brought about enthusiasm, emotion and super-natural beliefs; rejecting in the process anything to do with rationalism, deism and sceptism. The Great Awakening is well known for bringing a large group of people together which led to a high conversion of human belief through an enthusiastic form of preaching to the people where by with a great participation of the audience as well. It portrayed God as benevolent, and a compassionate ruler who wanted salvation for mankind rather that angry and vengeful.

One major feature of the 19th century religion was religious revival. A religious revival is defined as a phenomenon in which churches experience an unexpected increase of religious concern. During this time, the amount of conversions to Christianity was surprisingly high, which led to the church being a major source in society. Conversions were popular in men and women between the aged of 15-30. Revivals took place in a variety of forms. Initially in the early 19th centuries, there most prominent in what was called camp meetings. “The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly. Towards the close of the sermon, the cries of the distressed arose almost as loud as his voice. After the congregation was dismissed the solemnity increased, till the greater part of the multitude seemed engaged in the most solemn manner. No person seemed to wish to go home—hunger and sleep seemed to affect nobody—eternal things were the vast concern. Here awakening and converting work was to be found in every part of the multitude; and even some things strangely and wonderfully new to me” (Christian History Institute). These meetings took place in western Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio frontiers and were invented by Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist. They experienced a series of intense religious exercises and sermons. Another form was the Protestant meeting which was most prominent in the western regions in the United States. They normally lasted about 2-3 weeks and consisted of 2-3 sermons each day. The preachers would work with the congregation one on one praying with them and counselling them. These religious revivals spread as more and more converted Christians became evangelists of the unconverted around them. It was a new style of evangelism and it focused on more than just religious doctrines and devotions. And by the 1820s, evangelists became the most powerful form in America. Evangelism took over denominational   boundaries and unified the Christian people. Another effect of the revivals was the slow arson of the older pyratine and Calvinists believe such as the idea of predestination.

Additionally, the Second Great Awakening let to the belief that Christs second coming was eminent and therefore Americans saw to reform society. The Methodist denominations were the most successful group. They started out with 70,000 in 1800 their number quickly reached one million in 1844. It was emphasized that religion came from the heart and not from the head. They did have preacher who stayed with on church but young men who traveled around America preaching to different communities. They also saw to promote law in order. Methodists wanted to raise moral standards and thought discipline in their camp meetings. They worked together to fight social corruption and set the standard for class in America.

About 20,000 people attended this revival including a young man at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1802 which captured the spirits of the activities going on at the camp. The young man was so moved that he became a Methodist Minister. “The noise was like the roar of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching at one time, some on stumps, others on wagons. Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy. A peculiarly strange sensation came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lips quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground” ( The revival had seven ministers, who were all preaching at the same time. The churches seemed to have favored ordinary people over elites. For example, they saw pity for salvation then having a formal university education that was needed for the ministers of the traditional churches.

Charles Grandison Finney lead large revivals and converted thousands, but many of these revivals did not last. Charles Finney was by far the greatest revivalist the American has ever seen. After he published his lectures on revival, it broke out all over the world. Its believed that God used him to shake our country in its earlier stages with his spirit filled prayers and preaching which ultimately paved the way for hundreds and thousands of souls to come into the kingdom of heaven. His short messages and persistence has challenges the face of common religion even in our present day, these messages tell us to follow Christ or perish in the world. He and alongside his followers worked to make our nation a Christian nation. He was a strong abolitionist, which led to his encouragement to Christians to be involved in the antislavery movement. Finney rejected the Calvinist idea that humans were naturally inclined to commit sin. He told them what they wanted to hear; which is why he was so successful. “It is the great business of every Christian to save souls. People complain that they do not know how to take hold of this matter. Why, the reason is plain enough; they have never studied it. They have never taken the proper pains to qualify themselves for the work. If you do not make it a matter of study, how you may successfully act in building up the kingdom of Christ, you are acting a very wicked and absurd part as a Christian.” ― Charles Grandison Finney



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