tv Lectures in History Salem Witch Trials and the Great Awakening CSPAN August 24, 2021 7:47pm-9:02pm EDT
next on lectures in history, baylor university thomas kate teaches a class on the first great awakening in the americas, a period in the mid 18th century of christian revitalization that swept through the colonies. he explains how the salem witch trials and the decline of puritanism that to an era of traveling preachers and an emphasis on evangelism. his class is about 70 minutes. >> we've been talking about the
founding of the american colonies and we're getting now into the 1700s. today, in this week, i'm going to focus mostly on religion and the late control colonial period, and the coming of the great awakening in the 17 thirties and forties. and i know this has been on you all's mind since you have a paper on that coming up. so we are going to give some of the background to religion in the colonial period, and then the lead up to the great awakening, some overview of what's happening in the great awakening. and hopefully that will set you up better for your papers. you can see here on the screen we have an image of george whitfield, who is the most famous preacher of the great awakening, preaching in london. they're in their 17 thirties, 17 forties, he is the sensation of the age. but we'll talk more about him when we get there. first, i want to take a look at the background to what's
happening in 18th century america with regard to religion. and we've talked about some of this already, before, in class, about the scope of religion and religious commitment across the colonies. if you look first at the southern colonies, from maryland down to georgia, mostly what we have is a formal commitment to the church of england and the church of england, of course, is the national, official church of england, of britain. and most of those colonies adopt what we would call a kind of formal establishment of the church of england but the southern colonies overall are probably the least religious of all the colonial regions, which if you think about that for a second, you will see why that's a little weird, because we think of the south today as the
bible belt. correctly, but in the colonial period, it's different. in the colonial period, there is a kind of formal establishment, at least, of the church of england, but once you get out past the colonial cities, places like williamsburg and charleston and savannah, the rates of churchgoing and commitment to the church of england is pretty limited. and part of the reason for that, as you will remember going back to the founding of jamestown in 16 oh seven, these colonies are mostly being funded for business purposes. and it's a little difficult to set up churches in the back country where settlement is so scattered, and so people living in the rural south, in the early 1700s, i mean, they might have been christians for sure, i'm sure most of them would have considered themselves to be questions. if they were vigilant, they probably read the bible. maybe they had family devotions. but many, many of them did not
go to church because maybe the nearest church is 50 miles away and, if that's the, case if you're going on a wagon you're not going to go to church, right? so the south and -- people in the north, in the northern colonies, recognized, just looking back as a historian, people in new england would talk about their worry for the south. and it's relative godlessness. there just weren't that many people going to church there, and there weren't enough churches, weren't enough pastors. and so, the south was really regarded as the the religious part awe of the colonies the. the middle colonies, and here we're talking about new jersey, pennsylvania, new york, delaware, is a real mix of different kinds of christian denominations. and they are often connected to a particular ethnicity so you
have scottish presbyterian's or, or scotch irish presbyterian. you have ducked reform to people. this is the people who founded new netherlands in the 16 twenties, the dutch reformed church. german crew threatens. there are quakers, of course. we've seen that. there's different baptist groups in the middle qualities. and so, the middle colonies, i think, is representative of the kind of diversity that you see in modern america, but there's just a lot of different kinds of religious groups, a lot of kinds of ethnicities, sometimes they don't get along with each other, they are competing for adherence, but it's kind of hard to tell the one single linear story of the south and slavery, new england and puritanism. the mueller middle colonies is more like that. and in new england, when you get into the early 1700s, when you're talking about the 18th
century, we mean the 1700s, new england sees the decline of puritanism, and remember, they had been found it, massachusetts, connecticut especially, these kind of colonies are founded as puritan colonies. and puritanism, by the early 1700s, is in decline. or now we are now 78 years past the time of the founding. and the puritan movement has started to fade away, so now, historians debate about just how much puritanism is really declining. some of this may just be taught, because, you know that pastors, especially, but lots of christians will talking about, oh, you know, our founders were much more committed than we are, right? i don't know if you've ever heard that in a church service or something, but it used to be so much better, but now we've fallen away. and that's a very common rhetorical move, that you would
get in churches, and you started to see that in the new england churches, too, in the late 16 hundreds, the early 1700s. and it even breeds a type of sermon, it characteristic kind of new england sermon instead you get in this period, that historians call, the jeremiad's. the jeremiad's. now, if you know your bible well, you will hear a name, and that's from jeremiah, who was a very gloomy gloomy kind of profit. and he was a sort of profit that said to israel, you've fallen away from god, you need to straighten up, or else judgment is coming. and that kind of sermon became very common in new england to see, too, starting in the 60 70, 70 6:16, eighties early 1700s. that the pastors would say, you've fallen away from your first love, you've fallen away from that original mission of the founding puritan generation
the, 16 thirties, and you need to turn around, turn back to god, and renew your devotion to the lord. no, how reflective this is of actual reality on the ground, i mean, had the re-people really turned away from got? it's sort of hard to know how to measure that. it's hard, obviously, to judge people's hearts. but there is some evidence that, at least, new england is becoming more diverse, not just exclusively puritan. you may remember that, when we talked about it, and then in 16 90, england started requiring massachusetts to tolerate other kinds of protestants. not just puritans, but now you have to tolerate quakers and baptist, and other kinds of protestant groups. there are some increasing intriguing pieces of evidence about rising, at least access to sort of immorality and so
forth in the 16 eighties, it looks like the that boston probably gets his first brothel. you know, the characteristic of colonial cities, london and so forth at the time, but, you know, putin boston gets a brothel, a house of prostitution. this is horrifying for a lot of people. there occasionally are dancing classes being offered in boston in this era. so, you know, i mean, the puritans were not keen on dancing, especially between unmarried couples. you know, so there are actually some pieces of evidence that you can look at and say, well, maybe this is becoming a sort of more diverse, non puritan kind of society. so, you know, maybe there is something there to that jeremiad kind of thing. probably the most horrific episode for the pastors in new england in the late 16 hundreds, for sure, is the salem
witchcraft process. and we read a document on this for the debut, i want to you to put out part of your book out and take a look at that. at the seven witchcraft crisis is horrific for the leaders in new england, first and foremost for them, because they see it a great attack of satan on their society. the puritans believe that they had this very high calling from god, and so they thought, well, of course, what would you expect? that statement is going to break out in these attacks against us. and that's how they saw what happened in 16 92 is that satan had raised up a cohort of which is to come and attack their people, and try to disrupt new england society. so that's how they first and foremost interpreted what's going on in salem. and so, dozens of people start being accused of being which is, and probably, if you remember some of the story, even from
maybe reading something like " the crucible " by other miller, there was a group of mostly teenage girls who probably had gotten involved in, at least, some kind of white magic type of practice, trying to tell the future and so forth. and then those girls started to have signs of what the puritans would have considered the sort of demonic attacks, they want to give you oppression, and having convulsions and being tormented. and they would say that it was this woman, that woman who is coming, especially in the spirit realm, to attack them spiritually, and to physically harm them. and so, ultimately, by the way, it's mostly younger women accusing older women of being witches. so in almost all of the accused
are women, but almost all the accusers are women, too, and so one interesting historical investigation that historians have engaged is, was this a kind of what you would call a misogyny stick episode where women hating kind of, gender episode, loathing of women, especially the older women who were difficult to deal with, maybe had gotten into altered altercations with their neighbors and so forth? and that's an interesting thesis, but one, kind of problem with it, is it's almost always women, too, who are you kidding. it would be a little more convenient if it was men accusing women to read it as a misogynistic episode. but there are some men who get accused of being more locks, and it ends up being hundreds of people who get accused across the region.
it's not just in salem, but ultimately some very elite people start getting accused, and i think not coincidentally, that's when the judges he and other officials start thinking about closing the thing down, because they can see that the accusations have started to just go completely viral, haywire, and they say, wait a minute, it's too many people, and they start to doubt some aspects of the trials. now everyone in salem, in new england approaching 100% of everybody, believes which is exist. so even the critics of the trials are saying, we know which is exist but there are problems we have with the way the trials are being run. okay? we will talk about why any minute. that is a really important aspect to understand. this is not, you know, the
puritans in their religious fervor who believe in the existence of which is. and then they are standing outside of that. you have the skeptics saying you fools. no, everybody realizes, or believes at the time that the supernatural is real. and that at least in isolated cases people can make covenant with the devil in order to have malevolent spiritual power. to be able to cast spells on people, to torment them in the spirit well at least. so let's take a look at this document. and i will get you to give me some comments about this. on page 43 in your book you see we have the indian woman, it is debatable exactly who she was. she seems to have been maybe an
indentured servant or a slave in a household of one of the pastors involved. when they see indian we think it might mean native american, partly native american. it's more likely she's probably from the caribbean. okay? do you remember columbus, he says these are the indians. sometimes when they said in indian in meant somebody from the caribbean. so we don't know a lot about her other than testimonies. she's being interrogated, and they start off on page 44. they say, the judge says, did shiva, would evil spirit have you familiarity with? she says none. why do you heard these children? i do not hurt them. who is it then? the devil for all i know. so on, so forth. now when you lead in like that
in this trial, what does it tell you about the way judicial proceedings went in the 16 hundreds? want to bring the mic over? >> it's very face value. there is no evidence to back it up. it is straight-up asking, seeing if it happened. >> it's very matter of fact. especially about the spiritual dynamic as well. they are very willing to take testimony about when the devils doing. where does it tell you about those proceedings, what else? >> in this case there isn't much innocence to proven guilty. they believe she is guilty. they don't necessarily have the evidence to back up to claims. but they do believe she is
guilty. without a doubt. >> yes, there's no presumption of innocence. that is not unusual in the 16 hundreds. english legal system at this time, there is no guarantee you are going to be assumed to be innocent. the way they interrogate these people is if you've been accused you are assumed to be guilty. so when they are truly trying to do is get her to admit that she's guilty. you may have picked it up, she initially says, as we saw here, i did not hurt them. it's not too long into the interrogations she goes ahead and admits she is a witch. now whether she is doing this because she wants to be let off, because it becomes clear the people who won't intimate there which is are the most likely to get executed. so you are in a catch-22. should i go ahead and emitted?
even if you don't believe you are a witch. it could be in some of these cases, maybe in her case, some of these people may have actually been engaged in what they thought of as, at least magical practices. there may be a few that did regard themselves as which is. that makes it a real conundrum about how to run these things. if you have people who consider themselves to be which is in a society where everyone believes in which is, then it becomes a law enforcement matter. doesn't it? you see what i mean? it is tough for us to know in our secular age, how do you deal with these kind of issues? okay? so if you look on further, they said what is disappearance you see? she says sometimes it's like a
hog. sometimes like a great dog. a what did this animal, being say to you? she says the black dog said serving me. okay? i said i am afraid. he said if i did not he would do worse to me. now who is the black dog? who do you think the black dog is? >> is it supposed to be satan? >> i think so. maybe a demon. probably the devil who's taken on this animal spectrum. when she is testifying about it, lots of people testified along these lines. either an animal spirit attack to me, talked to me, or the bottom of the page, she's talking about what else have
you seen? to rats, a red rat, a black red. do you see who torments these children now? yes, it's good wife good. she hurts them in her own shape. she's come to them in spirit. she is tormenting them. the spirit welcome have physical consequences. so what do you think is going on here? when she testifies to seeing these things, sort of, in the spirit realm. what do you think? does she believe it? this is speculative. there is no wrong answer. did you have something? >> i don't think she actually believes in what they believe in. i think she is manipulating them. she doesn't want to be a slave anymore. >> maybe telling them what she thinks they want to hear. also, it is bad news if you are
goody good, to get accused like this. maybe there are people they're trying to settle scores with. do you think most of these accusations are people thinking consciously i am going to lie about the accusations? again, there is no right answer on this. it's speculative. do you think there are people who are so deeply convinced witchcraft -- this is a traditional christian belief, at least indictments. the mentor in the bible. so remember their mentality. the 16 hundreds, the evil mentality is in effect. do you think there are people who really do believe in these kinds of things? this is just a big sham? >> i think there probably are
people who generally do believe in it. but i think the people who are being accused of it, at that point and time, they probably don't go into it thinking i'm going to lie about this. but when they are put on the spot to probably get so desperate they don't want to get in trouble for something that didn't happen. they probably end up pushing the blame on someone else. >> i think we can verify that. there are cases when it late in the trials some people start recanted their testimony. among the things they say is i was put under so much pressure. and i think some of them would say even started imagining things were happening to me. now that i think about it i am not sure. some people definitely say they were put under so much psychological duress that they just went ahead and enmity to things that they knew were not true. there are even a couple cases
where we know people were physically tortured. they are not supposed to be doing that in english law. you are not supposed to extract confessions from people by torture. but a couple people were. one of the things for torture, you say, you say whatever the people want you to say. i think it's true. i think there probably are some people -- it is hard to know exactly what the mentality is. they think something is happening, spiritually. of course everyone involved pretty much believes the devil was doing something and these trials. either making covenants with which is or dubbing the people deceiving the people making the accusations. the opponent said how do you know the devil isn't deceiving people into believing these attacks are real? it's tough to interpret it.
in the end, 19 people were executed for being which is. most of them were executed by hanging. one poor man was pressed to death with boulders until he suffocated. they were trying to get him -- there's an instance of torture they were trying to get him to admit he was a witch. and he wouldn't. so it's a tragic situation. if you dogs were executed. under suspicion of being which is familiar's. because a which has a little animal companion that goes along with them. that does their bidding, so forth. there were a few dogs like it executed. as a part of it. by the end most people involved, even some of the judges,
realized taking testimony about a person's spirit, their specter as it was called, taking testimony about this person specter coming to me, encouraging me to sign the devil's book, their specter came to me and physically tormented me, the judges, even some of them, said it's not enough to convict somebody of witchcraft. so we need to take a step back. so they shut things down. by that 0.19 people died. by far the biggest outbreak of witchcraft in the colonial american period. most cases before, and after, where one person being accused. there were witchcraft episodes after this. but they were kind of on the way out. partly because of the embarrassment of salem.
okay? so salem is definitely feeding into a broader sense in the late 16 hundreds, early 1700s, of religious crisis in the colonies. especially new england. new england, again, it is the easiest story to tell about the coming of the great awakening. because there is such a linear colonial story in new england of the puritan founding, the decline of puritanism, a sense of building religious crisis in the early 1700s, and the 17 thirties, forties, an outburst of new religious commitment as signaled in the great awakening. a lot of what i will talk about, the background of the great awakening, is tracing the story most specifically of colonial new england.
which is the epicenter of the great awakening in america. but the other colonies are definitely affected. okay? why do they have a sense of religious crisis? well one reason you see here is a rise, apparently, in agreed, immorality. we talked about this. about the science people were falling away from their puritan commitment. the pastures are talking all the time about how people are consumed with business affairs, forgetting about their love for god. they are worried society is becoming dominated by greed, business, and the kinds of immorality they see coming along with it. another reason for the sense of religious crisis is the rise of what we call enlightenment thought.
a related trend, the rise of rational theology, quote unquote. the enlightenment, a term i'm sure you've come across before and other classes, is a controversial term among historians. historians, these days, are not necessarily so keen on talking about the enlightenment as if it's one thing, capital e, that works the same way everywhere. we know for sure there are different kinds of enlightenment depending on whether you're in, say, france or in scotland. or your in america. some parts of the indictment are a lot more anti christian. say in america, the enlightenment tends to be fairly friendly to christianity. it's we will have maybe a little bit of an updated version of christianity, a more modern version. most of the advocates of the indictment will say of course we are christian.
christianity is the best religion of all. it accords with rationality. with modern learning. they wouldn't have seen a tension between those things. one of the ways it plays out is there is a growing tendency to explain things naturally. who is sure when you compare the mentality of americans from, say, 16 92, the salem witch trials are happening, to say 1800, the years after the american revolution, something is definitely changing on a popular level. there are still people who believe in strong super naturalism. even in things like witchcraft. but if you go from 16 90 to two 1700s, 2:17 fifties, 18 hundreds, there is a declining tendency to see things and
exclusively supernatural terms. say you have a cow that dies unexpectedly. your cab is fun one day, the next day the cow is frothing at the mouth, he kills over and dies. what has happened? right? in 16 92 you might think, especially if you've had a recent argument with a spooky neighbor, that a spell has been cast it on your cow. it's a reflection, that's the world you live in. a world of wonders, magic, these kinds of things. you might think maybe it's a malevolent spiritual attack on me, my livestock. in 1800, some people might still think it. it's a lot more likely people will think, oh, well, they got a disease. these things happen. there is a medical reason fort. you might not have a good medical explanation for it.
but you tend to think about it not in terms of spiritual powers but the natural world. these things happen. there's no explanation for it. it's not god is getting us, which is, something like that. my cow got sick and died. it's a very important mental change. isn't it? you see it at the beginnings of the modern secular world. even today devout religious people, if something bad happens to them, they don't naturally think it's a spiritual attack on them. some people might. most people think, well, what can you do? bad things happen. okay? and theology there is a related tendency to say we still studied theology, we still want to understand goddess best as we can but anything we believe biblically about god must accord with rationality. okay? so you take something like the
doctrine of pre destination, when the puritans, where god elects only certain people to be saved. he leaves everybody else to their own devices. which means judgment and damnation. irrational theologian says to my mind that doesn't make sense. i don't think god would act like that. i think god would give all the freedom to decide for themselves whether to believe or not. that accords with normal standards of rationality. but you can see what's happening. i'm sure some of you might agree with that. i'm sure what you can see here is that there's a step towards a human centered type of theology. because god must be understandable. he must be accessible. you must live up to our standards of rationality. that starts to influence the
way that you interpret the bible. okay? now that sort of theology, rational theology, had become dominant at harvard college by the early 17 hundreds. harvard had been found in the first american college, founded almost exclusively for training puritan pastors in the 16 thirties. by the early 1700s it had become captured by -- still absolutely christian theology, but this rational, non-predestined area, some went on puritan type of theology. so they start a new college as a more conservative alternative that will go back more to puritan type of theology. purethat was yale. yale was the conservative bible college. right? [laughs] so that we could have an
alternative to harvard. almost all the colonial american colleges, the ivy league schools, most were founded in the colonial period, almost all founded as colleges for the training of pastors. almost nobody else went to college. no women went to college. almost no man went to college in those days. if you were a man who went to college, it was almost always the colonial period to become a pastor. okay? so what they saw as a rise in immorality, enlightenment thought, more modern philosophy and theology, than a third reason for the sense of crisis, the ongoing war with catholic france and spain. they are native american allies. starting in the 16 nineties. the colonies, especially new england go through a couple generations of imperial war
between britain and the british colonies. then either france or spain, the new england, the main issue is fighting against the forces of france coming out of canada. or new france, what it was called new france. there's no natural boundary there. you think about it, england and france are fighting at the same time period as well. the english channel separates them though. for the colonists new england there is no natural barrier. so the french had more native american allies and the british did. you had a tax from the french on frontier villages, native american raids on frontier villages. even when britain and france were not technically at war you would have new england and new france fighting these low level but vicious wars with one another.
17 twenties, there is a war on the eve of the great awakening. a war between new france and new england that's inspired by a french catholic missionary who's operating in maine. he's telling the indians stick up for your rights against the english. don't let them take your land. they have this war. the new england years commission a bounty against this priest in maine, a catholic priest whose encouraging the native americans. they sent out a war party against him. they shoot him, kill him, they scalp him. the missionary, right? they scalp, bring it back. traditionally we talk about native americans are barbaric. who is barbaric? if the english art commissioning scalp bounties against a catholic missionary? it's a vicious time all the way around.
so if you've got these troubling intellectual changes, you've got social changes, you have war. war is such a contributing factor, the fear of the judgment of god. if we don't stick close to god, we may be overrun by the french. we might be overrun by the native americans. all these things are feeding into salem witchcraft trials, the memory of that horror. feeding into the sense of religious crisis. through the colonies, 17 twenties, guess what? you get the great awakening. most people feel like the time they live in is a time of crisis. there was no doubt the colonists felt that crisis in the 17 thirties. i think culturally, religiously,
that set them up for a new religious awakening. the first great awakening, 17 thirties and forties is the main event. the cascading effects of the revivals keep on coming into the revolutionary period, the 17 seventies. in theit is hard to explain whe great awakening happened exactly. you can look at sculptural, cultural factors. you can look at the history of the decline of puritanism. i'm sure some of you would look at spiritual factors. still today the people will say there are spiritual divine reasons why god made this happen. and a history class, we don't spend it much time on that kind of thing. in the 17 twenties, 17 thirties, there's no question you find evidence of pastors across the
colonies, new england, telling their people that they need to pray for revival. it's a term that's occasionally used in the bible, in the psalms. revive us again, and what they are talking about is that they want for the people to be praying for an outpouring of the holy spirit. to be poured out so that people will come back to god, so that people will convert to christianity for the first time even though basically all these people were at least nominally christian. they will have a conversion experience. maybe people who fallen away from god, they will return to god. they will return their commitment to god. the message had been we need to straighten up, we need to start
living right, doing what we know god wants this to do. and his 17 twenties, thirties, the tweet the message a little bit. they say we are so far gone. what we need is divine rescue. it's not about morality anymore. what we need is a revival through the holy spirit to change our society. we can reasonably expect of pastors are calling on people to pray like this, some people were responding to the pastors calls and praying for revival. in the 17 thirties and forties, revival comes in a big way. when you think about that has everything to do with what your belief is about prayer. but a lot of christians for sure would say, well, people prayed and god responded to their prayers. to a significant extent. it also could be if you're more
skeptical you, would say, look, the more they talk about the bible, the more likely it's going to happen. actually identities explanations can work together. so what is different about the great awakening? one is that it's an outbreak of great religious intensity and fervor, individual passion conversion, life-changing events, autobiographies. but another thing the difference is itinerant preachers during the great awakening. before this point, the standard model for a pastor, most of the time in churches tree, is that you have a pastor who pastors his congregation and doesn't do much traveling around, speaking. your parish, your church, that's who you speak to. in the first great awakening
you start to see a critical role for traveling preachers who caused a sensation everywhere they go. they are brilliant preachers, george whitfield is first on the list. brilliant preachers who droplet round and become famous, at least regionally, it's not internationally, whitfield becomes famous internationally, having a reputation of being this brilliant preacher. you cannot wait for them to get there. it is new, it is exciting. and they have a laser focus, these itinerant do, on the message that you need to accept christ, free offer of salvation, and you need to be born again. born again, if you remember, jesus talks about the born again experience in the gospel of john chapter three. in order to see the kingdom of god you must be born again. they're not inventing this kind
of experience out of nowhere. it's a long time biblical message. people in the past maybe had different understandings of wood born again meant. people in the first great awakening were clear what you need is that as an adult, or as a teenager, you need to understand for yourself that your center, your senate has caused a serious problem between you and god. god is offering you forgiveness to christ and what quest has done on the cross, and that you need to personally accept that offer of give news forgiveness in order to be in right stand with god and when you do that, usually, in a time at least of short spiritual crisis free, when you do that, that is your moment of being born again. and that everybody needs to have this experience. okay? so, perished minister, parish pastor, you know, might be
talking about a lot of different topics from week to week and preaching through the bible and various topics. the itinerant's are really focused on you need to be born again. and they travel and tell people in these impassioned servants that you need to be born again. that's the center of their message. sometimes they don't talk about much else. now, the greatest mind, the greatest theologian of the great awakening is jonathan edwards, who we have a picture of in the upper right hand corner. edwards is best known for his sermon, seniors in the hands of an angry got, 1741. and edwards is a minister in northampton masha massachusetts. he does a little bit of
traveling, i generating. most of the time he sticks at his church that most average pastors to. senators in the hands of an angry got, he actually gives in a nearby village in connecticut while he's traveling around in the summer of 1741. so it which is not the most famous pastor preacher at the time, but edwards has come down to us as the greatest intellectual figure of the great first great awaiting and arguably the greatest intellect of the whole colonial american period and we can do a whole class on just jonathan edwards, because he wrote a ton and is a very intellectually and theologically sophisticated and challenging, but he's best known for this one sermon, seniors in the hands of an angry got. and it gets anthology eyes and
people read it today, and it's it good news, bad news kind of thing, because it's an absolutely brilliant sermon, there's no question about that and it frightening if you've ever read it. i'm going to read it from it here in a second. but we should not mistake edwards forces some kind of just screaming crazy person you see on late night tv or something yelling about your are going to hello this kind of thing but he is a titanic intellect. the last job he had in his life was the president of the college of new jersey in princeton, so he was the president of france and college, because he had that kind of intellectual reputation. and he also, when he preached, including "sinners in the hands of angry god", when he preached he, had a manuscript in front of him that he had handwritten out, and he read the manuscript.
now, i think it would try to give it some feeling, but the power of his sermons is in the content, it's not in the rhetorical fire works, right? so when he gave "sinners in the hands of angry god" in 70 41, it got an intense reaction from the people who were there, and some of the people at the meeting when he gave it started crying out for mercy. you know, what can i do to be safe? right? they were terrified of the judgment of god, and sort of falling out in the aisles and crying, and this sort of thing. andrew edward when edwards saw what was happening and it was getting noise here and noisy are in the meeting room, he closed up his some. he said, i think -- we don't need to get this crazy, right? so he's not necessarily looking for? you know this outlandish atlanta's response, but he gets it because of the power of the rhetoric that he uses, and even
secular scholars of the colonial period of edwards, people who don't believe in christianity and so forth, they know that edwards is intellectually brilliant and that his rhetoric is just stunning and that's one of the reasons why people today still study "sinners in the hands of angry god" it is because of the rhetoric of it, and especially if you've ever read it you will never forget the image of the spider hanging over the fire. do you remember this? have you read it in an anthology? he says, and this, i'll just read a couple of paragraphs here -- he says, your wickedness makes you, as it were, heavy as led and tend to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell. and if god should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless golf. theveand then he says, the got o hold you over the pit of hell
much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, a pure as you, and is dreadfully provoked, his wrath towards you burns like fire. he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. he is of pure ice them to bear you in his sight. you are 10,000 times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in hours. you have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince, and yet, and yet, it is nothing but his hand that hold you from falling into the fire every moment. so, you see the contrast between god's judgment and god's grace. both very intense, and he says, how dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great rat and
infinite misery! but this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again. you see what i'm saying? so we lay out people's death desperate case because of their skin, and you say the rescue is available to you through being born again. that's the basic content of virtually every great awakening storm. these are focused. you need to be bone again. okay? and you can imagine, people, i mean, it's frightening, isn't it? i mean, the pit of hell, the insect over the fire, and what if he lets you go? but if you let you go? i mean, you can imagine people falling down. and they are as sure about this as we sure about the sun coming up in the one. i mean, this is absolutely no
doubt this is true to them. they don't have any doubt. and they want to make sure they're right with god. so, it which is the great defender of the great awakening. he gets stereotyped because of the sermon as a fire and brimstone preacher. most of his sermons are not like this. i have to say. and he preaches a lot more about the love of god and he does about the judgment of god. i think he's most representative sermon, if i had to recommend one sermon for people to read by edwards, it's called, heaven is a world of love. find it on the internet, right? and that's, i think, the core of edwards. but if he's on the topic, he'll also preach about the judgment of god and he'll put it in terrifying terms, okay? but he's incredible, and allow me, i can't tell you everything every thing edwards is writing about, definitely about
pre-destination, he's writing about original sin, he's writing about enlightenment challenges to the traditional christian christian faith. and so, he becomes, is definitely one of america's best physiology as ever if you care about this sort of thing, definitely got to read edward. he matches indictment thought with traditional christianity. he says, we know, this from say, john like. but this is how this works with traditional christianity. he's read everything, he's using it to show why even in an indictment inch traditional christianity still is the most compelling compelling theological system. it's absolutely brilliant. but what he gets known for is this one sermon. not saying it's a bad sermon, but there's a lot more to it than this. okay? edwards is not the most famous preacher in the time but.
he's more famous today. the most famous preacher at the time, for sure, is george whitfield. i don't know the way is spelled it looks like it would be white field. but don't go to authority, i'm told, it's pronounced whitfield. he is, by far, the most famous creature of the 17 forties. and it's even more than that. he is the most famous person in britain and america in his time. the only competitor that he has 's king george. and maybe more people know than king no king george's know. but a lot more people have seen whitfield in person, have read whitfield's stuff -- his journals, his sermons. his we think that probably by te
end of his career -- he dies in 70 70 -- that probably like three quarters of all the people that lived in america had heard him preach. he's a bigger celebrity in his time then anybody we have in our culture today. because in our culture, we live in a celebrity driven culture, you know that, right? but we are dispersed. right? some people like justin people, some people don't like justin bieber. right? i'm not going to do a ball, but you know what i'm saying. everybody knows wakefield. even if you are a critic, i mean, you've had to sort of deal with wakefield. he is arguably the first modern celebrity.
i didn't say religious celebrity, i said, first modern celebrity. when he shows up in a town, he draws crowds, often, that are because and the population of the town itself. so he gives a farewell sermon in boston in the early 17 forties, say 25,000 people show up when there's about 70,000 people living in boston at the time. so, effectively, the whole population of the town plus people from the hinterland. when he preaches in london, they say, 60, 70, 80,000 people were coming to hear him. and you remember, this is pre-electricity. so he does not have wet? a microphone. and if you've ever read ben
franklin's autobiography, here and frankly were close, business associates first, and then friends. frankly, when whitfield first came to philadelphia, frank and did a little experiment, and franklin does experiments, right? so he's walking around the edges of the crowd trying to figure out how many people can hear him speak at one time. and frankly said, you know, i think maybe 25 or 30,000 people could hear him speaking at one time. so that tells you that whitfield, he had a background in the theater as a teenager, he was a play actor before his conversion. he knew how to protect his voice. and i think you must have just been enormously long okay? a lot of the portraits we have whitefield of when he's old in kind of sick, so i like portraits like this one, when he's a young man, relatively young.
they thought he was good-looking. you can tell for yourself what do you think about that. young man, very dynamic. and unlike edwards, whitefield's presentations were without the manuscript. he would pretty much memorize his sermons, and he had a repertoire of, you know, a selection of say, ten or 15 sermons that he would kind of rotate through, because all he did was itinerate. he didn't have a congregation. so he could really polished shortness of sermons, and he had the memorized. on the fly, he could see what people were reacting to. he's moving around the stage and he would in effect act out. if he's talking about, say, the story of the prodigal son from
the gospels, he would put himself almost in the character of say, the farther waiting for the prodigal son to come back. and, you know, he would act it, and, he thinks i see the father waiting. for the lost some to come back. anti redacted out, you know, and act out the part of the sun, they're in the big ben, eating the stuff that they threw out, only fit for the picks to it. he's acting these things and sometimes he would even be, you know, reaping the way that an actor wheat. not because it's fakes, but because he's into the story. it was very powerful. if i could just have a youtube clip. you know, of anybody besides, maybe jesus, right? i would love to have a youtube clip of george whitefield, because he would just see what it was like. but people were just blown away
when they would hear him speak. i love this picture. this might be my favorite painting of whitefield, and it's because of the woman. not so much -- i like it that it is young whitefield, but i love the women in this. she's like, i can't believe i'm in the front row of a whitefield meat! right? and she's smitten. we think this may be a portrait of whitefield's wife. he was married. they weren't together very often, because he was always on the road. but you can tell, i mean, she smith. i mean, this is the first british sensation. it's not trivializing it to say this is like the beatles. in a much lighter electronic age but that's the kind of effect that whitefield had on people. obviously very different
message. but this is revival for sure, but there's a celebrity sensation that he creates. so, huge responses, huge crowds. reports that he's coming, you know, once in advance. got to get there early, right? and they would tell people, park your horses! at the margins of the crowd, so that more people can get in. it's a much bit by being upfront. i mean, tacked together. as close as you can get. if you are are on the margins of the crowd, you want to be, just off in the distance, you could hear him preach. but hey, it's a whitefield event. britain, america, had never seen anything like this before. the reason why whitefield it is not more famous today -- i mean, he's no, kind of christian
devotees of whitefield but it's because his brilliance was encapsulated in the serve someone as delivered. you had to be there to really get it. i've written a book on whitefield and i have the sense that i still don't quite get it because i don't have my youtube clip. right? where edwards's brilliance is captured on the printed page, you didn't have to be there, because it's his ideas. i mean, they are captured on the page. okay? so the first great awakening is obviously this and renewal of religious fervor and to people who are not into this sort of thing, people who are not question, not religious, not devout themselves, it may seem like, well, it's sort of this
quaint thing that happened in the 70 thirties and forties, worth knowing about, but maybe not that interesting to people on the outside. but i will say that the great awakenings also significant because of the controversy, culturally, socially, that it creates. it is extraordinarily controversial and disruptive in colonial society. it is the biggest upheaval in the british colonies before the american revolution, happening 30 years before the american revolution. it's the biggest social upheaval in the colonies before the american revolution. so even from secular perspective, this is a big deal. part of the reason for this is because during the great awakening, pastors are getting challenged like they never have before. of course, in the 70 thirties, 70 forties, being a pastor is a
very socially respected office. and if you have any state church, and established religion, then the pastor is on the government payroll, and he's a representative of the government as well as the church. as welland so, if you attack the pastor, you're attacking a representative of the state. and that just never was done, at least not very often before the great awakening. but some of the itinerant, even whitefield from time to time, especially early on, would suggest incredibly controversial things about the official ministers, and he would say, you know, your pastor is not very supportive of the revival, is he? he's uncomfortable with this new work of god [inaudible] . do you know why that might be?
i think it's because your pastor himself may not actually be a converted question. [laughs] now, that's a rude thing to say about the pastor, isn't it? i mean, you know, this is -- and the pastor does not like this. the pastor is extremely offended to have these touring itinerant come around, come into town, maybe even stand up in the pulpit of your church, and say, i think your pastor may not even be converted, and that's why he's not sufficiently supported supportive of the revivalists. nobody's ever spoken about pastors this week before. extremely controversial. the radical people -- preachers -- the ones who were just really inflammatory, an example is james davenport, who you all have read about, he's the most radical, controversial preacher in new england, he goes into churches early on, and he
starts naming names. i've got a list here of all the pastors in boston who are not convicted. they're going to help. can you imagine? i mean, especially in the colonial world, someone showing up and saying that sort of thing? they start passing laws against itinerant like this, telling them that they cannot go uninvited into a pastor's pulpit. they'll be arrested if they do. so this is becoming a legal, political controversy, okay? another reason it's controversial is because you start to see some common people, usually man but even occasionally women, who believe that they should be able to preach without a formal education. the way this works is that they say, look, i know i'm converted. i know i'm born again. i know what had happened. i mean, three months ago.
i'm filled with the holy spirit. my pastor is not supportive of the revivals. i'm not even sure he's a converted christian. i should be able to preach. it doesn't matter whether i have gone to harvard and yale or oxford or cambridge, that doesn't matter. what matters is that you're filled with the holy spirit and that your support of all of the work of god. so farmers, you know, who don't go to college, for sure. occasionally native americans who were convicted in the revivals. occasionally sleeves start standing up in the meeting and say, i have a word from god for you. and pastors like james davenport will say, listen to this brother. listen to this sister. she has something to say to us that's from the lord. there are no social settings
anywhere else in colonial america where you will see women, slaves, native americans, standing up and addressing in this even so much alternative way, white men. you just don't see it. it doesn't happen anywhere else but these kind of revival meetings. so, you can understand, the critics say, this is crazy! man, you all are nuts! this is socially disruptive. okay? moving out from beyond just the simple religious message, this is socially disruptive. and the critics say, this is just a bunch of frenzy. it's what they would call enthusiasm at the time. it's bad in the 1700s to be " enthusiastic ".
that means your half crazy. and that's what the critics said this was. it's just a bunch of who we. but it doesn't mean anything. and these people are just getting ripped up into emotion but it's not actually doing anything for them spiritually. the critics say, what we need is love, charity, devotion to your pastor. . all right. what difference does the great awakening make? one of the most obvious differences is that the great awakening brings about a sea change in which churches are the most popular and prominent and this is a change that continues on into the 1800s as part of the second great awakening.
in the colonial period, the most prominent churches are a church of england, the congregation list church, which is the church of the pyramids, of the puritans, and some other domino emanations like that. in the great awakening you start to see the emergence of new denominations that are eventually going to become the largest protestant churches in america, especially, most notably, the baptist church is, which have been around for a while but pretty small, isolated. they start to become more popular because of the great awakening and evangelistic. and one of the first places that the baptist sent missionaries coming out of the great awakening's guess where? the south. all right? so the great awakening starts to begin the process by which
the south would become much more heavily christian and some of the most popular churches, of course, in the south are going to be the baptist and then a methodists. the methodists are a movement first within the church of england. whitfield is a methodist. you may know the name john wesley who becomes sort of the founding father of methodist in. these are almost always in britain, but wesley's missionaries and pastors start becoming active in the first great awakening and especially after the american revolution, the methodist go out on the frontier and establish, eventually, thousands of new churches so that by the time of the civil war the methodists have gone from being nonexistent in the beginning of the great awakening to by the time of the civil war they're the largest protestant denomination in america.
so the congregation lists the, church of england, anglican church, what comes to be known as the episcopal church, they are kind of left behind in in terms of numbers. and the baptist and methodists come to the four. obviously, for baylor, that is a significant baptist. get as far out of central texas by 18 forties and establishing not only churches but in college, baylor. okay? so that's pretty important to us. the revivals, as you can see, begin in new england, in the middle colleges, new jersey, pennsylvania very heavily affected by the revivals. slowly spread into the southern colonies by the 17 fifties. they're also happening in britain and continental europe the. great awakening i've talked exclusively about america today,
but it is an international phenomenon. okay? it is a transit transatlantic event. seen most obviously in the person of whitefield, who is from britain. but he comes to america seven times. okay? what's the importance of the great awakening? some historians have argued that it's an important prelude to the american revolution. it's vivid it's debatable. it's a debatable issue because of the way the argument goes, well, if it does big social upheaval, and it's 30 years before the american revolution, doesn't it have a kind of conditioning effect on american culture to get it ready for the american revolution? and i'd say, yeah, i mean probably in an indirect way, it does. but we also have to remember that britain has its great
awakening too, and britain, you know, is our upon it in the american revolution. so it's not quite as simple as, i definitely wouldn't want to say that the great awakening somehow causes the american revolution. but influences the culture? yeah, i think so. i think. so and then for sure, i mean, you're on more solid ground if you say, well, the great awakening inaugurated this evangelical movement within christianity, which remains, in some kind of different forms, it's taken twists and turns, you know, billy graham and people look like this in the 20th century. you know, different formats and so forth, but really, whitefield is the beginning of this sort of evangelical movement within christianity that especially when you look at it in a global context is enormously significant today and shows no sign of slowing down, and in many parts of the
world, continues to be growing. and some of the leaders in places like sub-saharan africa and similar to the evangelical movement. guess what? they look to people like whitefield and john where do it's edwards as examples. i guess there's kind of continuity in the evangelical movement from at least 17 thirties and forties right on through today. so for sure, that's a reason why the great awakening is significant, okay? all right, that's all i have today. thank you, and let me know if you have any questions about your paper, okay?
next, from purdue university, historians talking about religious influence on u.s. politics and foreign policy in the 20th century, and why they believe this isn't a widely studied topic. this was part of a two day conference called, remaking american political history. >> thank you all for coming. i'm [inaudible] and i'm cheering i'm ronit stahl and sharing this roundtable today and i give you a brief