Friday, May 1, 2009

Half-Way Covenant

Half-Way Covenant: Conceived by New England Puritans in 1662 as a means to incorporate partial church membership, the Half-Way Covenant offered a viable alternative for congregants to participate in ecclesiastic circles without having had an authentic "conversion experience." Reverend Solomon Stoddard advocated this doctrine in order to extend the church's influence throughout the Puritan community, which was becoming evermore impious due to the growing commercialization of New England in the late seventeenth century. The central problem, however, rested with the third generation of Puritan settlers, whose religious affinities seemed increasingly aloof. Less parishioners received baptism, and thus, the rights to exercise the church's fundamental dogma. Therefore, ministers preached warnings of moral decay, otherwise known as "jeremiads" after the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, as a great fear of societal declension swept through the colony. Often cited as one of the first religious crises in early America, the controversy surrounding the Half-Way Covenant served as a precursor to the First Great Awakening, which entailed Reverend Jonathan Edwards delivering his notorious Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God sermon in 1741.

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