Jonathan Edwards: The Surprising Work of God.

“We acknowledge that some particular appearances in the work of conversion among men may be occasioned by the ministry which they sit under, whether it be of a more or less evangelical strain, whether it be more severe and affrighting, or more gentle and persuasive. But wheresoever God works with power for salvation upon the minds of men, there will be some discoveries of a sense of sin, of the danger of the wrath of God, and the all-sufficiency of his Son Jesus, to relieve us under all our spiritual wants and distresses, and a hearty consent of soul to receive him in the various offices of grace, wherein he is set forth in the Holy Scriptures.” – Isaac Watts & John Guyse, 1737.  

It was in 1734 that Jonathan Edwards witnessed the first occasion of spiritual power and success in his pastoral ministry. It was in December of that year that Edwards wrote the following words in an article entitled The Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God.

“In the latter part of December, 1734, 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.”

The conversion of souls continued in the initial weeks of 1735. A great interest and concern of the Christian Gospel began to take hold upon the residents of Northampton. A noticeable difference in behavior and conviction began to be seen in the life of the town.

Edwards wrote, “The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world. It was treated amonst us as a thing of very little consequence. When once the Spirit of God began to be so wonderfully poured out in a general way through the town, people had soon done with their old quarrels, backbiting’s, and intermeddling with other men’s matters. The tavern was soon left empty and persons kept very much at home.”

The surprising work of God reached its peak in March and April of 1735. Edwards’ biographer Iain Murry explains, “Edwards believed the work of conversion appeared to be at the rate, at least, of four persons in a day, or near thirty in a week.

This surprising work was not uniformly believed or received by others within New England. A widespread revival was unheard of at that time. Edwards’ contemporaries, Isaac Watts and John Guyse with whom he corresponded and who lived in England, not only believed the news but shared it with their congregations. They said, “So strange and surprising work of God that we have not heard anything like it since the Reformation…should be published and left upon record.”

“ The most successful method of preaching is that which aims at thorough and radical convictions of sin. The law must be applied with power to the conscience, or the precociousness of grace will be inadequately known.” – James Henley Thornwell

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

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