Edwards in Revival
One of the contributory factors to Edwards’ depth and openness to the Spirit in his writings is simply the fact that he had experienced the power of God himself.
He was not merely an armchair theologian or commentator, writing from a remote perspective, without having seen the power of God at work in the conversions of men and women and the subsequent impact in a community.
This made a considerable difference in his ability to value peoples’ spiritual experience. To put it simply, he wasn’t freaked out by the operation of the Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives, and their various responses to His power.
Edwards was a participant as well as an observer. At just 33 years of age, he was an astute student of the ways of God.
From single to multiple conversions
It wasn’t long after the sudden conversion of a young lady that the whole town was in the grip of a full-scale revival. This was not a case of christian believers becoming more fervent in their faith. This was the major part of the population being suddenly drawn to God.
The impact on the town itself was palpable. The main topic of conversation was Jesus Christ and the way of Salvation. Hundreds were converted.
‘All other talk but about spiritual and eternal things, was soon thrown by; all the conversation, in all companies and upon all occasions, was upon these things only, unless so much as was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business.’ (Jonathan Edwards, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth, p.13)
‘But although people did not ordinarily neglect their worldly business; yet religion was with all sorts the great concern, and the world was a thing only by the bye.
The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it.
The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances.
It then was a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, in danger every day of dropping into hell;
and what persons’ minds were intent upon, was to escape for their lives, and to fly from wrath to come.
There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.
‘The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did as it were come by flocks to Jesus Christ. (ibid p.13)
The Town itself seemed altered
This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town…
the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.
There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. (p.14)
Our public assemblies were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God’s service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship,
every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth;
the assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbours. (p.14)
More next time…
You can purchase Edwards on Revival here
You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here
© 2009 Lex Loizides