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Edwards's sermon is best understood in the context of the so-called Great Awakening, a phrase used to describe the religious revivial that took place throughout the colonies beginning in the 1730s. In New England, the Great Awakening as experienced by Congregationalists was marked by attempts by ministers like Edwards to reinvigorated a community that they believed had fallen from its original religious purpose. In particular, they believed that the increasing commercialism in New England had caused its people to become too self-satisfied and materialistic. Many churches embraced the emotional appeals of ministers like Edwards, but some did not. The congregation in Enfield, Connecticut to whom Edwards delivered this famous sermon was viewed as particularly apathetic and unreceptive to emotional appeals. Edwards thus sought to pull out all the stops in seeking to awaken the congregation.
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