Second Great Awakening

Second Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening (1790–1840scite web | url= | date=2008-05-07 | title=Rise of Evangelicalism] ) was the second great religious revival in United States history and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings. Major leaders included Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Peter Cartwright, Asahel Nettleton, and James Finley. It also encouraged an eager evangelical attitude that later reappeared in American life in causes dealing with prison reform, temperance, women's suffrage, and the crusade to abolish slavery.

pread of Revivals

In New England, the renewed interest in religion inspired a wave of social activism. In western New York, the spirit of revival encouraged the emergence of new Restorationist and other denominations, especially the Mormons and the Holiness movement. In the West especially—at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and in Tennessee—the revival strengthened the Methodists and introduced into America a new form of religious expression—the Scottish camp meeting. [ On Scottish influences see Long (2002) and Elizabeth Semancik, "Backcountry Religious Ways" at [] ]

The Congregationalists in Florida, Kansas, and Hawaii set up missionary societies, to evangelize the West. Members of these societies acted as apostles for the faith and as educators, exponents of Eastern urban culture. Publication and education societies promoted Christian education; most notable among them was the American Bible Society, founded in 1816. Social activism inspired by the revival gave rise to abolition groups as well as the Society for the Promotion of Temperance, and began efforts to reform prisons and care for the handicapped and mentally ill. They believed in the perfectibility of people and were highly moralistic in their endeavors.

The Methodists and Baptists made enormous gains; to a lesser extent the Presbyterians gained members. Among the new denominations that were formed, and which in the 21st century still proclaim their roots in the Second Great Awakening are the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Latter Day Saint movement, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This cultural phenomenon also contributed to growth in non-denominational churches such as the Churches of Christ, as many sought the concepts of New Testament Christianity in preference to the later doctrines and practices developed in Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and various Protestant traditions.


In the Appalachian region, the revival used and promoted the camp meeting, and took on characteristics similar to the First Great Awakening of the previous century. The camp meeting was a religious service of several days' length with multiple preachers. Settlers in thinly populated areas looked to the camp meeting as a refuge from the lonely life on the frontier. The sheer exhilaration of participating in a religious revival with hundreds and perhaps thousands of people inspired the dancing, shouting, and singing associated with these events. More important than the social life was the profound impact on the individual's self esteem — shattered by a sense of guilt, then restored by a sense of personal salvation. Most of the converts joined small local churches, which thereby grew rapidly.

One of the early camp meetings took place in July 1800 at Creedance Clearwater Church in southwestern Kentucky. A much larger gathering was held at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801, attracting perhaps as many as 20,000 people. Numerous Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist ministers participated in the services. This event helped stamp the revival as a major mode of church expansion for denominations such as the Methodists and Baptists. Cane Ridge was also instrumental in fostering what became known as the Restoration Movement and the non-denominational type churches that were committed to the original Christianity of the New Testament (particularly the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and the Church of Christ).

Long (2002) notes that since the 1980s, scholars have connected American religious camp meetings, formerly thought to have their roots only in the American frontier experience, to Scottish holy fairs of the 17th-18th centuries. Long examines the sacramental theology in the communion sermons of James McGready given in Kentucky during the first decade of the 19th century. McGready's sermons demonstrate adherence to reformed theology, a Calvinist understanding of salvation, and a sacramental emphasis. A central theme of McGready's sermons stressed the believer meeting Christ at the communion table.

Prominent figures

* Lyman Beecher (Presbyterian)
* Alexander Campbell (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ))
* Thomas Campbell (Presbyterian)
* Peter Cartwright (Methodist)
* Lorenzo Dow (Methodist)
* Timothy Dwight IV (Independent congregationalist)
* Charles Finney (Presbyterian non-Calvinist)
* Asahel Nettleton (Reformed)
* Joseph Smith, Jr. (Latter Day Saint, or Mormon)
* Barton Stone (Presbyterian non-Calvinist)
* Nathaniel William Taylor (anti-Calvinist)

The great revival quickly spread throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and southern Ohio. Each denomination had assets that allowed it to thrive on the frontier. The Methodists had an efficient organization that depended on ministers known as circuit riders, who sought out people in remote frontier locations. The circuit riders came from among the common people, which helped them establish a rapport with the frontier families they hoped to convert.

The Second Great Awakening exercised a profound impact on American religious history. The numerical strength of the Baptists and Methodists rose relative to that of the denominations dominant in the colonial period—the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Reformed. Efforts to apply Christian teaching to the resolution of social problems presaged the Social Gospel of the late 19th century. The United States was becoming a more culturally diverse nation in the early to mid-19th century, and the growing differences within American Protestantism reflected and contributed to this diversity. The Awakening influenced numerous reform movements, especially abolitionists.

Political Implications

In the midst of shifts in theology and church polity, American Christians took it upon themselves to reform society during this period. Known commonly as antebellum reform, this phenomenon includes reforms in temperance, women's rights, abolitionism, and a multitude of other questions and problems faced by society.

Historians stress the understanding common among participants of reform as being a part of God's plan. As a result, individual Christians contemplated their roles in society in purifying the world through the individuals to whom they could bring salvation.

Interest in transforming the world eventually became reapplied to mainstream political action, as temperance activists, antislavery advocates, and proponents of other variations of reform would seek to implement their beliefs into national politics. While religion had previously played an important role on the American political scene, the Second Great Awakening would highlight the important role which individual beliefs would play, doing much to illuminate issues of faith through present day.

ee also

* The First Great Awakening (often referred by historians as the "Great Awakening") (1730s - 1750s)
* The Third Great Awakening (1880s - 1900s)
* The Fourth Great Awakening (1960s - 1970s)
*Burned-over district
*Red River Meeting House
*Temperance movement


Further reading

* Abzug, Robert H. "Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination" (1994) (ISBN 0-195-04568-8)
* Ahlstrom, Sydney. "A Religious History of the American People" (1972) (ISBN 0-385-11164-9)
* Birdsall Richard D. "The Second Great Awakening and the New England Social Order." "Church History" 39 (1970): 345-64.
* Bratt, James D. "Religious Anti-revivalism in Antebellum America." "Journal of the Early Republic" (2004) 24(1): 65-106. ISSN 0275–1275 Fulltext: in Ebsco. Examines oppositional literature of the antirevivalists, namely, the doubters and critics. The article includes an appendix of selected revivalist critiques.
*Brown, Kenneth O. "Holy Ground; a Study on the American Camp Meeting." Garland Publishing, Inc., 1992.
*Brown, Kenneth O. "Holy Ground, Too, the Camp Meeting Family Tree." Hazleton: Holiness Archives, 1997.
* Bruce, Dickson D., Jr. "And They All Sang Hallelujah: Plain Folk Camp-Meeting Religion, 1800–1845" University of Tennessee Press, 1974.
* Butler Jon. "Enthusiasm Described and Decried: The Great Awakening as Interpretative Fiction." Journal of American History 69 (1982): 305-25. online in JSTOR
* Butler Jon. "Awash in a Sea of Faith: Christianizing the American People." 1990.
* Carwardine, Richard J. "Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America." Yale University Press, 1993.
* Carwardine, Richard J. "The Second Great Awakening in the Urban Centers: An Examination of Methodism and the 'New Measures,'" "Journal of American History" 59 (1972): 327-340. online in JSTOR
* Joseph A. Conforti; " Jonathan Edwards, Religious Tradition and American Culture" University of North Carolina Press. 1995.
* Cross, Whitney, R. "The Burned-Over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800–1850" 1950.
* Foster, Charles I. "An Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front, 1790–1837" University of North Carolina Press, 1960.
* Clifford S. Griffin. "Religious Benevolence as Social Control, 1815-1860," "The Mississippi Valley Historical Review," Vol. 44, No. 3. (Dec., 1957), pp. 423-444. [ in JSTOR]
* Hambrick-Stowe, Charles. "Charles G. Finney and the Spirit of American Evangelicalism." Wm B. Eerdmans, 1996.
* Hankins, Barry. "The Second Great Awakening and the Transcendentalists." Greenwood, 2004. 200 pp.
* Hatch Nathan O. "The Democratization of American Christianity" 1989.
* Charles A. Johnson, "The Frontier Camp Meeting: Contemporary and Historical Appraisals, 1805-1840" "The Mississippi Valley Historical Review," Vol. 37, No. 1. (Jun., 1950), pp. 91-110. [ in JSTOR]
* Long, Kimberly Bracken. "The Communion Sermons of James Mcgready: Sacramental Theology and Scots-Irish Piety on the Kentucky Frontier." "Journal of Presbyterian History" 2002 80(1): 3-16. Issn: 0022-3883

* Loveland Anne C. "Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800-1860." 1980
* Marsden George M. "The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience: A Case Study of Thought and Theology in Nineteenth-Century America." 1970.
* McLoughlin William G. "Modern Revivalism" 1959.
* McLoughlin William G. "Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform: An Essay on Religion and Social Change in America, 1607-1977" 1978.
* Noll; Mark A. ed. "God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790-1860" Oxford University Press. 2002.
* Walter Brownlow Posey, "The Baptist Church in the Lower Mississippi Valley, 1776-1845" University at Kentucky Press, 1957
* Roth Randolph A. "The Democratic Dilemma: Religion, Reform, and the Social Order in the Connecticut River Valley of Vermont, 1791-1850." 1987
* Shiels Richard D. "The Second Great Awakening in Connecticut: Critique of the Traditional Interpretation." "Church History" 49 (1980): 401-15.
* Smith, Timothy L. "Revivalism and Social Reform: American Protestantism on the Eve of the Civil War" 1957

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