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Gilbert Tennent (February 5, 1703, County Armagh, IrelandmarkerJuly 23, 1764, Philadelphiamarker, Pennsylvaniamarker, United Statesmarker) was a religious leader.

Tennent was an Irish-born American Presbyterian clergyman, son and brother of three other Presbyterian clergymen. His father, William Tennent, emigrated to America in 1718, and was the founder of a theological school at Warminster, Pennsylvaniamarker called, because of the way it was housed, the Log College. Log College is regarded as the precursor to Princeton Universitymarker. Gilbert was one of the leaders of the Great Awakening of religious feeling in Colonial America, along with Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. His most famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry" compared anti-revivalistic ministers to the Pharisees described in the gospels.


The Presbyterians split on the wisdom of revivals, with the “New Side” faction strongly supportive and the “Old Side” holding back. Tennent was the most uncompromising of New Side Presbyterians. His sermon, "The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry" (1739) played a major role in the schism that divided the Old Side and New Side. However, there was another side of Tennent's faith, one characterized by the pietism that nurtured religious renewal in the 18th century. This pietism is best seen in Tennent's celebration of the Sacramental Season, with its emphasis on Christian love and fellowship. Indeed, Tennent, like other revivalists, drew inspiration from the communal emphasis that permeated the sacramental celebration. In 1757, Tennent wrote a sacramental sermon, entitled "Love to Christ." It contains those elements of pietistic communion that inspired this "Son of Thunder" to work feverishly for the reunion of the New York and Philadelphia Synods, which took place the very next year.

Further reading

  • For notices of Gilbert and other prominent members of the Tennent family, consult W. B. Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, volume iv (New York, 1858).
  • Coalter, Milton J. Gilbert Tennent, Son of Thunder: A Case Study of Continental Pietism's Impact on the First Great Awakening in the Middle Colonies 1986) excerpt and text search

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