by C.C. Goen
in Revivalism and Separatism in New England, 1740-1800
Goen is professor of history at Wesley Theological Seminary. This reading highlights the reasons the Great Awakening became such a cleavage among New England churches. The dispute could be said to be a key beginning for Unitarianism. Beyond all theological dispute about revivals, their advent posed the question of what was “proper” in religious practice and set a division between thought and feeling in preaching.
- The popularity of revivalists (Goen calls Whitefield America’s first national figure), their temporary work, and the undercutting of the institutional church, made the Great A wakening resented by established ministers. What were the polity threats in tie revival?
- Did revivals undercut Puritanism since they, in effect, denied election in favor of individual decision for salvation? Also in the emphasis on the person reaching God directly was there a certain heralding of transcendental thought? Could these trends be perceived rightfully as destructive to organized religion?