Second Great Awakening

This second “national revival” in the United States (c.1787-1825) served as a corrective to the spiritual declension that set in during and following the revolutionary period. Deism and skepticism were popular among the educated, especially the students. The rigorous life on the rapidly expanding frontier without benefit of church and society was demoralizing.

The revival in the East was centered in the colleges and towns along the coast. Hampden-Sydney College experienced revival during 1787, and the movement spread to Washington College. At Yale under the preaching of Timothy Dwight* revival came in 1802. Amherst, Dartmouth, and Williams colleges became part of the movement. Through the influence of students and preachers the revival spread. The eastern phase was characterized by orderliness and restraint.

The revival in the West was filled with religious excitement and emotional outbursts. It apparently began in 1797 in the three Presbyterian churches James McGready* pastored in Logan County, Kentucky, which climaxed in a large outdoor Communion service during the summer of 1800. Barton Stone* carried the revival to Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where a year later (1801) a larger interdenominational six-day camp meeting* was held with 10,000 to 20,000 in attendance from as far away as Ohio. This technique was widely used later by the Methodists. The revival, accompanied by unusual physical phenomena, spread throughout the western frontier, largely among the Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists.

Significant church growth, improvement of morals and national life, check to the spread of Deism, schism and emergence of new religious groups such as the Cumberland Presbyterians* and Disciples,* home and foreign missionary outreach, abolition and social reform movements, introduction of the camp meeting, and influence upon great men like Archibald Alexander,* Adoniram Judson,* and Samuel J. Mills-these were all results of this Awakening.