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The Second Great Awakening

Referencing Styles : Harvard | Pages : 1

The Second Great Awakening was a time of evangelical fervor and revival in the newly formed nation of America. The Second Great Awakening was a Protestant religious revival during the early 19th century in the United State. The movement began around 1790, gained momentum by 1800 and after 1820, membership rose rapidly between Baptist and Methodist Congregations whose preachers led the movement. It was past its peak by the last 1840s.

The Second Great Awakening can be divided into three phases. The primary section (1795 - 1810) was related to frontier camp conferences conducted by American preachers James McGready, John McGee, and Barton W. stone in Bluegrass state and Tennessee. The second and a lot of conservative part of the Awakening (1810–25) centered within the Congregational churches of recent England below the leadership of theologians Timothy Dwight, Lyman clergyman, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Asahel Nettleton. The third and final part (1825–35) stemmed from the activities of evangelist Charles Grandison Finney, who began his evangelicalism in tiny cities in western New York within the 1820 however eventually conducted revival conferences in the largest cities in the U.S. and United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

During the Second Great Awakening revivalistic theology in many denominations shifted from Calvinism to a practical Arminianism as preachers emphasized the ability of sinners to make an immediate decision for their salvation, theological differences almost disappeared among evangelical churches. Moreover, under Finney’s aegis a rationale for carefully contrived revival techniques evolved. After 1835 an irregular corps of professional revival experts traveled through the town and cities of America and Britain organizing annual revival meetings at the invitation of local pastors who wanted to reinvigorate their churches. Although many American Protestants lost interest in revivalism in the first half of the 20th century, tent revivals as well as annual revivals in churches in the south and Midwest continued to be an important feature of protestant church life.

In past some days of the nineteenth century, western New York was called the burned – over district because of the highly publicized revivals that crisscrossed the region. Charles Finney, a number one revivalist active within the area, coined the term. Linda K. Pritchard uses applied mathematics knowledge to indicate that compared to the remainder of recent royalty State, the Ohio River vale within the lower geographic region, and therefore the country as a full, the devoutness of the Burned-over District was typical instead of exceptional. The Methodist circuit riders and local Baptist preachers made enormous gains in increasing church membership. To a lesser extent, the Presbyteriansalso gained members, particularly with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in sparsely settled areas. As a result, the numerical strength of the Baptists and Methodists rose relative to that of the denominations dominant in the colonial period—the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists.

Great Revival:

In the beginning of the Second Great Awakening, preachers brought their message to the people with great fanfare and excitement in the form of a traveling revival. In the beginning, these focused on the Appalachian frontier. However, they quickly moved into the area of the original colonies. These revivals were looked upon as a social event where faith was renewed.

The Baptists and Methodists often worked together in these revivals. Both religions believed in free will with personal redemption. The Baptists were highly decentralized with no hierarchical structure in place. Preachers lived and worked amongst their congregation. The Methodists, on the other hand, had more of an internal structure in place. Individual preachers like Francis Asbury and Peter Cartwright would travel the frontier converting people to the Methodist faith. They were quite successful and by the 1840s were the largest Protestant group in America. 

Revival meetings were not restricted to the frontier. In many areas, blacks were invited to hold a revival at the same time with the two groups joining together on the last day. These meetings were not small affairs. Thousands would meet in Camp Meetings, and many times the event turned quite chaotic with impromptu singing or shouting, individuals speaking in tongues, and dancing in the aisles. 

Burned Over District:

The height of the Second Great Awakening came in the 1830s. There was a great increase of churches across the nation, particularly across New England. So much excitement and intensity accompanied evangelical revivals that in upper New York and Canada, areas were titled "Burned Over Districts."

The most significant revivalist in this area was Charles Grandison Finney who was ordained in 1823. In 1839, Finney was preaching in Rochester resulting in approximately 100,000 converts. One key change he made was in promoting mass conversions during revival meetings. No longer were individuals converting alone. Instead, they were joined by neighbors, converting en masse. 


One significant by-product of the revival furor in the Burned-Over Districts was the founding of Mormonism. Joseph Smith lived in upstate New York when he received visions in 1820. A few years later, he found the Book of Mormon, which he said was a lost section of the Bible. He soon founded his own church and began converting people to his faith. Soon persecuted for their beliefs, they left New York moving first to Ohio, then Missouri, and finally Nauvoo, Illinois where they lived for five years. At that time, an anti-Mormon lynch mob found and killed Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith. Brigham Young arose as Smith's successor and led the Mormons away to Utah where they settled at Salt Lake City.

The Significance of the Second Great Awakening:

Following are the significant fact to remember about the Second Great Awakening:

  • It pushed the idea of individual salvation and free will over predestination.
  • It greatly increased the number of Christians both in New England and on the frontier. 
  • Revivals and public conversions became social events that continue to this day.
  • Mormonism was founded and led to their settlement in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


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