Tennent’s The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry

Publication Year: 1742


A transcript of the Gilbert Tennent Sermon may be found at the Evans Early American Imprint Collection through the Text Creation Partnership.

Tennent, Gilbert. The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, [second edition]. Boston:  Printed and Sold by Rogers and Fowle, 1742.  
PHS Call number: PAM P02717

Reading suggestions

See especially pages 1-3, 5-7, 10-12, and 17-20. This document was printed using the  "long s." 

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Source note

Gilbert Tennent (1703-1764) was an Irish-born Presbyterian minister  and a leader of the First Great Awakening. Tennent was ordained in 1726 and became  minister of a Presbyterian church in New Brunswick, NJ. Tennent promoted the  revivalist style of preaching along with George Whitefield, and was deeply critical of his  more conservative Presbyterian colleagues. In 1741, Tennent was instrumental in  bringing about the schism between the Old Side (anti-revival, largely Scotch-Irish  Presbyterians) and New Side (pro-revival, largely based in New England). Tennent later  worked to heal the split between Old Side and New Side, and the two factions did  reunite in 1758. In this sermon, Tennent often refers to “natural man,” a person who is  not a true follower of Christ and depends on good works and the intellectual aspects of  faith rather than the emotional and spiritual experience of faith.

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Reading questions
  1. Who is the author of this source? When was it written? What is the historical  context in which it was written?  
  2. What is the main problem that Tennent will address in this sermon (pages 2- 3)?  
  3. Tennent talks about the old Pharisees—to what contemporary group of people is   he drawing a parallel (pages 1-3)?  
  4. Given the context of this sermon within the First Great Awakening, what does Tennent mean by “natural man” (page 5)? What other sources can you find that define this  term?  
  5. Tennent forcefully denounces the “Pharisee-Teachers” for their misguided  ministry, claiming that “These fooling Builders do but strengthen Men's carnal  Security, by their soft, selfish, cowardly Discourses. They have not the Courage,  or Honesty, to thrust the Nail of Terror into sleeping Souls” (page 6). Why is it  important to terrify one’s congregation, according to Tennent? What could that  tactic accomplish?  
  6. In addition to praying for the people who have Pharisee-Teachers as their  ministers, what other action does Tennent suggest people take (page 11)? 7. 
  7. What is Tennent’s stance on “Persons going to hear others, besides their own  Ministers” (page 17)? Is it permissible for people to prefer the ministry of a  visiting minister over that of their parish minister?  
  8. How was this sermon likely received by anti-revivalists? How does this sermon fit  into the context of revivalism in the First Great Awakening?
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Source type
History Topics
American Religious History
Presbyterian History
Time Period
Colonial Settlement (1600s-1763)