How the Great New England Revival Began

‘Remarkable Outpourings of the Spirit’
‘From the fall of man to this day…the Work of Redemption in its effect has mainly been carried on by remarkable pourings out of the Spirit of God.’ (Jonathan Edwards, Sermon: History of the work of Redemption quoted by Mark Noll, The Rise of Evangelicalism, IVP, p.129)

Jonathan Edwards is generally regarded as America’s greatest theologian. His ability as both preacher and writer, and his impact of the lives of millions is unprecedented in American religious literature.

However, like Calvin and the Puritans after the Reformation, Edwards is often caricatured as a hard hearted and even cruel preacher (at face value, this is because of his most famous sermon, ‘Sinners in the hands of an angry God’).

However, anyone who has read his sermons or other works will be pleasantly surprised to find a diligent and humble observer of revival as well as a powerful and moving preacher of God’s word.

Setting the Scene
The town of Northampton, Massachusetts comprising of about 200 families, had seen several local awakenings before Edwards’ ministry. There had been several ‘harvests’, seasons of conversions and church growth, but nothing as extensive as that which took place in 1735.

Jonathan Edwards Narrative Title Page
Jonathan Edwards Narrative Title Page

Edwards writes, ‘Then it was, in the latter part of December that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us; and there were very suddenly one after another, five or six persons, who were to all appearances savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.12)

The youth are the first to enter in
The awakening began amongst the youth.  A young lady who was well known for her lack of respect for the things of God was suddenly converted and began to evangelise everyone she met.

Her conversion experience had an unexpectedly powerful impact on others.  So much so that Edwards could write:

‘God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening to others, of any thing that ever came to pass in the town…

The news of it seemed to be almost like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of young people, all over the town, and upon many others.

Many went to talk with her, concerning what she had met with…’ (ibid p.12)

We’ll pick up the story next time…

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

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One thought on “How the Great New England Revival Began

  1. dave bish May 4, 2009 / 7:12 pm

    Edwards observations on Revival are stunning – I love Sam Storms modernisation of Religious Affections (Signs of the Spirit) for that. Edwards style is hard work (but then so is Owen!) but the guy’s affection for Christ is stellar, and when you look at the days he lived in… some of that today please!

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