Now this may come as a surprise, especially if you are aware of Edwards’ position on the cessation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12, at least ‘the extraordinary gifts’ as he puts it.
But good Mr. Edwards faithfully recounts what actually happened in Northampton during the season of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1735.
And one of the tremendous surprises, as we read the Narrative is his testimony of a season of supernatural health that literally affected the whole town.
The passage is tucked away and rarely brought out, but here it is:
‘In the former part of this great work of God amongst us, till it got to His height, we seemed to be wonderfully smiled upon and blessed in all respects.
Satan seemed to be unusually restrained; persons who before had been involved in melancholy, seemed to be as it were waked up out of it;
and those who had been entangled with extraordinary temptations, seemed wonderfully freed.
And not only so, but it was the most remarkable time of health that ever I knew since I have been in the town.
We ordinarily have several bills put up, every Sabbath, for sick persons; but now we had not so much as one for many sabbaths together.’ (From, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, in Jonathan Edwards on Revival, Banner of Truth, p. 69)
This amazing season of health didn’t last forever. Indeed he declares honestly that ‘after this it seemed to be otherwise.’ But the reality is that Jonathan Edwards did actually witness a season of supernatural health and healing in his own town during his ministry.
Why he didn’t consider this season of health an ‘extraordinary gift’ of healing, though it was truly extraordinary we don’t know. Why this experience of health over a whole community didn’t impact his thinking about the continuance of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12 we don’t know.
What we do know is that God did grant such a season of health, and that God does continue to answer prayer even now, though perhaps not on such a widespread scale as Jonathan Edwards saw.
© 2009 Lex Loizides