Commonly called “The Great Awakening” this was certainly not the greatest revival in numerical growth or geographical scope. Nevertheless, it well deserves the title because it was the first discernible occasion that God’s Spirit was outpoured simultaneously across different nations.
Historically, the beginning of this awakening can be traced to the Moravian community called “Herrnhut” (the Lord’s watch), where a visitation from God was experienced after a period of prayer, repentance and reconciliation in 1727. Nikolas Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, a German, was the leader of the movement that began a 24 hour-a-day prayer meeting, which lasted the next 100 years. In the next 65 years that small community sent out 300 radical missionaries. Their revived German Pietism was destined to influence two other harvest fields, which were on God’s agenda for that time - England and America.
Griffith Jones, a young Anglican clergyman, often called the ‘morning star of the revival,’ was making a mark in Britain through his revival preaching for at least 10 years before Theodore Frelinghuysen, a Dutch reformed Pietist, began to see remarkable conversions in America. He preached in 1727 with revival signs following his ministry in New Jersey. The revival spread to the Scottish-Irish Presbyterians under the ministry of Gilbert Tennant, whose father, William, founded the famous “Log College”, which later became the Princeton University. Revival then spread to the Baptists of Pennsylvania and Virginia before the extraordinary awakening that occurred on Northampton, Massachusetts, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in 1734. Edward’s personal experience of revivals and his sharp mind enabled him to produce a number of revival theologies and pastoral observations, which have yet to be surpassed in their wisdom and insight. Thereafter, the revival spread to England and was further advanced in America by a visit of George Whitefield in 1739.
The effects of the revival were phenomenal. Statistics are hard to find, but we know that 150 new Congregational churches began in a 20-year period and 30,000 were added to the church between 1740 and 1742, probably doubling its size. Moral results were equably noticeable. Nine university colleges were established in the colonies. The wild frontier society was thoroughly Christianised. Early missionary desire began to emerge, most notably in the ministry of David Brainerd among the Indians. His journals are essential reading for all those seeking revival.
Back in Britain a massive movement of revival had began and was bound up with the ministries of two young men, George Whitefield and John Wesley. Both had been members of the Holy Club in Oxford while they were students. Wesley went off, still unconverted, to America to preach to the Indians in 1736, returning in 1738. The only benefit of this venture was his contact with the Moravians, who he could not understand, but for whom he had a great respect. On Wesley’s return, Whitefield had been converted and was already preaching with great effect. For 34 years he exercised a most amazing preaching ministry, with revival signs often following him. His eloquence was commanding and convincing, full of vivid pictures and graphic expressions. “His hearers were taken by surprise and carried by storm” (J C Ryle).
The height of Whitefield’s ministry was at the famed Cambuslang Awakening in 1742, when 20,000 and 30,000 people gathered to hear him preach, followed by mass weeping and repentance for 1½ hours.
During Whitefield’s ministry he preached in almost every town of England, Scotland and Wales, crossing the Atlantic seven times; winning countless souls in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. He publicly preached an estimated 18,000 power-packed messages, although none of his 75 recorded sermons do justice to his style and delivery.
Whitefield’s friend, John Wesley, must go down in history as the architect of the 18th century evangelical revival. Converted in 1738, at the well-known Aldersgate Street prayer meeting, he proceeded to preach whenever the opportunity afforded itself, usually in church. Then, in 1739, at Whitefield’s request, he preached in the open air at Bristol and followed Whitefield in his preaching places. There began those unusual manifestations, which periodically attended his and Whitefield’s ministry; falling, crying out, fainting, shrieking, convulsions etc.
Wesley wisely began small societies designed for mutual encouragement and support. These became forerunners of the class-meetings and then of the Methodist Church. They were surely used to conserve the fruits of his revivalistic work. Wesley was an itinerant preacher for 65 years. He travelled an estimated 250,000 miles on horseback to preach 40,000 sermons! He wrote 233 books, including his voluminous journals and a complete commentary on the whole bible. He left behind him 750 preachers in England, 350 in America; 76, 968 Methodists in England and 57,621 in America. With Charles, his brother, he penned 9,000 hymns. Wesley’s influence has far outrun his long life. His practices and theology has affected Holiness, Revivalist, Pentecostal and Charismatic groups right down to the present day.
Clearly, then this Awakening was truly ‘Great’ and had notable affect on the majority of countries where Evangelical Christians could be found. It affected the existing church, saw thousands converted and impacted social conditions. Historians usually refer to 1766, the year of the American Revolution, as the year by which the revival had spent itself and had began to decline.
This fascinating book presents a number of biographical sketches of the founder and principal alumni of William Tennent’s theological school, contemptuously called ‘The Log College,’ together with an account of the revivals that followed their ministries.
During cold and unreligious times these men are described by Tennent as men who ‘lived fast … they did much for their Lord in a short time…being burning and shining lights, they were consumed while they gave light to others…. Oh that a race of ministers, like-minded, burning with a consuming zeal, might be raised up among us!’
Martin Lloyd Jones asked "Would you know something of what is meant by the term "revival"? Would you know the real meaning of, "the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God"? Would you know more of "life in the Spirit," and "prayer in the Spirit," and something of "the powers of the world to come"?
Then read this book.
Samuel Blair was one of William Tennent’s Log College men, one of the colleges earliest students. His second pastorate at New Londonderry (Fagg’s Manor) Pennsylvania, was distinguished by a most gracious revival. Dr. Finley described Blair as a man most remarkably grave and solemn in his aspect and deportment. It was said that his appearance was such as to strike his hearers with awe.
This work was originally published as No. 83 in Thomas Prince's Christian History series provides one of the best contemporary descriptions of an actual revival during the Great Awakening.
Brainerd was supremely a man mighty in prayer. It was his habit to spend long nights in the dark forests, with strong cryings to God, wrestling with the Almighty for the salvation of precious souls.
And God did not disappoint him. Copious outpourings of the Holy Spirit attended his ministry, despite extreme weakness, depression and illness. This is a story all Christian ministers should ponder.
David Brainerd (1718-1747) was an outstanding revivalist and prayer warrior, whose journals have been a source of inspiration and challenge to the Christian Church for three centuries.
When John Wesley was anxious to preserve the zeal of his people, he put to his leaders this question: 'What can be done to revive the work of God where it is decayed?' answering it with the emphatic counsel, 'Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd.'
In only twenty-nine years David Brainerd made a deeper and more lasting impression on the world in which he lived than most men make in a lifetime.
After he was converted he became a prayerful evangelist whose brief ministry yielded remarkable conversions and gracious outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
This is Jonathan Edwards' personal account of the extraordinary awakening that began in 1734 in Northampton, Massachusetts, New England, USA. It was this revival, and Edwards' reporting of it, that provoked others on both sides of the Atlantic to seek God in prayer for a move of God in their days. This revival became known as 'the most glorious and extensive revival of religion and reformation of manners' the country had ever known and subsequently spread to Europe and other parts of the civilized world .
‘Born in Connecticut and educated at Yale College, Jonathan Edwards joined his venerable grandfather Solomon Stoddard as associate pastor of the Congregational church at Northampton, Massachusetts in 1727. This became the scene of his greatest victory and his deepest humiliation. The parish was visited with most remarkable seasons of revival, and Edwards himself was unjustly expelled from the pastoral office. A preacher of rare power, Edwards was the foremost American leader of the Great Awakening.
Jonathan Edwards experienced two seasons of revival during his pastorate in Northampton, New England - one in 1734-5 and the other a few years later in 1740-42.
In this book, written in 1742, he sought to defend the latter revival, producing an incredibly insightful understanding of authentic Holy Spirit-inspired revival for succeeding generations.
Scotland’s 18th century revival will always be closely associated with Cambuslang, a small parish near Glasgow, where ‘a spark of grace set the kingdom on a blaze.’ In 1742 the heavens opened as God visited His people north of the border. Hundreds were added to the churches and by 1751 a third of the nation were communicants in the Scottish churches.
The writer focuses on two of the revivals leaders, William M’Culloch of Cambuslang and James Robe of Kilsyth, together with the ministry of George Whitefield who was a lifelong associate of the Scottish Evangelical leaders.
No library of revival histories could ignore the amazing effects of the Moravian Church over the past 500 years.
The Moravian influence on John Wesley during his first missionary trip to America, including the journey both ways is well known. Wesley is also indebted to Peter Böhler, another Moravian, for clarifying the way of salvation to him, ultimately leading to his conversion. The rest is history and that’s what this book is all about.
Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, (1707-91) was converted in early 1739 and had very close links with the Wesley brothers. She broke with the Wesley’s in 1740, joining forces with the more Calvinistic elements of the day, notably George Whitefield.
Clearly she was a very influential lady and had contact with many of the evangelical giant’s of the day. This particular book does a superb job of describing the evangelical revival in Britain and it’s principal labourers.
This book gives a vivid account of events in and around the small Scottish town of Cambuslang in the spring and summer of 1742, when many hundreds of people came to faith in Christ.
The book’s contents are drawn mainly from the diaries of the Rev. William McCulloch, the minister of the church in Cambuslang, amongst other ministers of the day.
This article appeared in the ‘Historical Collections relating to remarkable periods of the success of the Gospel and eminent instruments employed in promoting it,’ compiled by John Gillies. This truly wonderful work was the first comprehensive overview of revival history from the close of the apostolic age to the book’s publication in 1754. It was later expanded and reprinted in 1845 by Horatius Bonar and others.
This particular section deals with the amazing outpouring that occurred in Cambuslang, Scotland from 1742 and was originally penned by the local church minister, William M’Culloch who collected a variety of testimonials from eye-witnesses of the events.
John Nelson was the pioneer of Yorkshire Methodism. He was working in London when he heard John Wesley preaching in the open air at Moorfields.
He was soon converted and a year later returned to Yorkshire where he assisted Benjamin Ingham before he accompanied John Wesley on a preaching tour of Cornwall. Thereafter he became an intrepid evangelist, sometimes in the face of fierce persecution, throughout the north of England and then the Midlands.
These sketches of Daniel Rowlands, John Wesley and George Whitefield first appeared in 'The Family Treasury' along with eight other pen sketches of 18th century divines. They were published as 'Christian Leaders of the Last Century.'
These three are the finest examples of powerful evangelists and these brief biographies are amongst the most useful ever penned.
This book, being the published transcript of a formal lecture, is more descriptive, more analytical and less dramatic than many of the other texts on this site.
It is in no way less valuable because of this. Readers wishing to understand the context in which to place the lives of Wesley, Whitefield, Nelson, the Countess of Huntingdon and their contemporaries could do no better than to start here.
This abridged volume of John Wesley's Journal's is about ¼ of the original work, first produced in a 26-part serial over the course of his life. And what a life it was!
He was converted in 1738 and devoted his life to preaching the gospel – with astounding success. He travelled about 8,000 miles on horseback each year for fifty years, eventually leaving behind him over 71,000 Methodists in Great Britain and 43,000 in America!