The Great Awakening
TO MANY THOUGHTFUL OBSERVERS LIVING IN THE COLONIES DURING THE OPEN- ing decades of the eighteenth century, it was all too apparent that the well-springs of religious fervor in America were rapidly drying up. Where once there was ardent devotion to things of the spirit now there were selfsatisfaction and lethargic indifference. The churches, once the supreme arbiters of community faith and practice, were losing their hold on the people. Drunkenness and debauchery were the order of the day; even among the clergy there was ample evidence of egregious conduct. Samuel Whitman's observation, in an election sermon preached in Connecticut in 1714, "that religion is on the wane among us," may well have been the understatement of the year.
Multitudinous forces contributed to this unhappy condition. The development of commerce and increase of wealth in the colonies helped to focus attention on materialistic interests. At the same time, the royal determination to abolish representative government and build up centralized power through intercolonial union evoked such concern among the colonists that politics became a chief topic of discussion. Intermittent wars plagued and harassed the settlers and added to the general tension of the times. New Englanders especially felt the impact of the bitterly fought King William's War ( 1689-1697) and Queen Anne's War ( 1701-1713). Up and down the western frontier there were sporadic conflicts with the