“It was no ‘superstitious panic,’ but a plentiful effusion of the Holy Ghost.” – George Whitefield
“Now, God is pleased again to pour out His Spirit upon us; and He is doing great things among us…You have had your life spared through these six years past, to this very time, to another outpouring of the Spirit.” –Jonathan Edwards, 1740.
The surprising work of God broke through the spirit of slumber among the people of Northampton in the 1730’s. Unfortunately, this gave way to “a long season of coldness and indifference” to the Word of God in the beginning of the 1740’s. However, “The Great Awakening broke upon the slumbering churches like a thunderbolt rushing out of a clear sky, ” one minister wrote.
The Great Awakening, often referred to as the First Great Awakening or the Evangelical Revival, was a series of Christian revivals that swept Britain and its thirteen North American colonies in the 1740s. The revival movement permanently affected Protestant churches as believers in Christ strove to renew their individual holiness and religious devotion to God and His Word.
The Great Awakening marked the emergence of American evangelicalism as a multi-denominational movement within the Protestant churches. The movement built on the foundations of three older traditions: Puritanism, Pietism and Presbyterianism. The major leaders of the revival include evangelist George Whitefield, John & Charles Wesley along with Jonathan Edwards. All of them articulated a theology of recommitment and salvation that transcended denominational boundaries. This helped to forge a common evangelical unity.
Characteristics of the Great Awakening were several. These included a passion for the doctrinal imperatives of the 16th century Protestant Reformation, an emphasis on the providential outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and the extemporaneous and expository preaching of God’s Word.
“Throughout New England, it is estimated that out of a population of 300,000, between 25,000 and 50,000 new members were added to the churches during the revival,” Dr. Steven J. Lawson states,
People became aware of a sense of deep personal conviction of their need of salvation by Jesus Christ. This repentance of sin and trust in Christ as Savior and Lord also fostered introspection and commitment to a new standard of personal and biblical morality. Revival theology stressed that religious conversion was not only an intellectual assent to correct Christian doctrine but had to be initiated by the “new birth” or regeneration (John 3:1-8). This was done solely by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of God’s Word.. The leading proponents also taught that receiving an assurance of salvation was a normal expectation in the Christian life.
“In 1740–42, God brought about another season of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as awakening came not only to the churches up and down the Colonies, but also in the lands of Old England. In Old England, George Whitefield and brothers John and Charles Wesley preached to tens of thousands—mostly gathered outdoors. Soon, Whitefield crossed the Atlantic and preached to crowds of similar size in the Colonies. An indefatigable evangelist, Whitefield crisscrossed the Atlantic and logged thousands of miles on horseback,” Dr. Stephen J. Nichols explains,
The Great Awakening would produce one of the most famous and most read sermons ever preached in America. Jonathan Edwards would be an instrument God would use to proclaim it. Join us next time as we examine Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
Soli deo Gloria!