This book is review of American history from the perspective of the nation's experience of revival.
It presents every major revival movement from the time of the early colonists to the days of Moody and Sankey. An excellent volume for an overview or introduction to American revivals.
"Scarcely can a more memorable exhibition of God be found than that presented by a revival of religion. Historians seldom take note of so obscure an event; yet if the secret connections of revivals with the destiny of nations could be disclosed, they would appear to be more critical evolutions of history than the Gothic invasions. A volume has been compiled, narrating the decisive battles of the world. But more significant than this, and probing deeper the Divine government of the world, would be the history of revivals."--Austin Phelps.
We have included 4 of the 10 chapters.
“To my mind the great epochs in the world’s history are marked not by the foundation or the destruction of empires, by the migration of races, or by French revolutions. The real history of man is the history of religion. . This is the foundation that underlies all profane history; it is the light, the soul, and life of history; without it all history would be profane.”—Max Muller.
“From history we learn that the great function of religion has been the founding and sustaining of states.” — Prof. Seeley.
“Never was a state founded that did not have religion as its basis.” — Rousseau.
“We know that religion is the basis of civil society, and the fruitful source of all blessing and comfort in human intercourse. “ — Edmund Burke.
“All political and social questions refer for their ultimate solution to the religious principle.” — Guizot.
The forms and forces of national life take their rise in the religion of the people.
National life is feeble or strong according as the faith of the people is faint or vigorous. The fruitful periods of a nation’s history are those during which religion is flourishing, and periods of religious declension are marked by the withering of all social and political vitality. When faith begins to perish all things else begin to die, as, if the dew of heaven had been denied them, or the former and the latter rain had been withheld.
This was manifest in the history of ancient Israel, and not less so in the history of the Grecian and Roman commonwealths. The book of Judges in the Old Testament is a record of backsliding and bondage, and of revivals and restored prosperity. The annals of Greece and Rome equally reveal the connection between a loss of faith and a loss of power. Declension in religion was followed by declension in morality, and that in turn by the enfeebling of national life and the loss of political freedom.
The history of modern France emphasizes the lesson taught by the records of the world’s earlier governments. French governments have lacked steadiness and stability because they were not rooted in the depths of religion from which spring the conservative and inspiring powers of national life. Lamartine lamented this fact in the history of his people. He says: “I know, and I sigh when I think of it, that hitherto the French people have been the least religious of all the nations of Europe.
The republic of these men without a God was quickly stranded. The liberty, won by so much heroism and so much genius, did not find in France a conscience to shelter it, a God to avenge it, a people to defend it, against that atheism which was called glory.”
The founders of the American Republic perceived clearly the vital connection between the strength of religion and the welfare of the state.
At the outset of the War of Independence, Congress by formal action expressed its desire “to have the people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty to rely in all their lawful enterprises on His aid and direction.” Accordingly a general fast was proclaimed that the people might, “with united hearts, confess and bewail their manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life appease God’s righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ obtain his pardon and forgiveness.”
In the midst of the war General Washington issued an order commanding a proper observance of the Sabbath by the army.
In the Convention, assembled after the war, to frame the Federal Constitution, Benjamin Franklin, then above eighty years of age, offered a motion for daily prayers in the body, and in support of the proposition, said: “In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayer in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that ‘except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.’ I firmly believe this, and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed, in this political building, no better than the builders of Babel.” These were remarkable words, coming from a man of liberalistic opinions.
Washington in his Farewell Address exhorted the young republic to cling to religion and morality as the “indispensable supports” to political prosperity, and “the firmest props” of governmental stability.
It must be so. The deepest and most influential thing in the life of any people is its religion, and its customs and codes must inevitably be colored and controlled by its moral convictions. Atheism breeds anarchy as like begets like, and in all the gradations of civil government, from the lowest absolutism to the highest types of free institutions, the character of the political system is exactly determined by the faith that underlies it.The governments of all heathen lands are despotisms by the very law of their being. Civil freedom cannot live in the atmosphere of pagan superstition.
And in the nominally Christian lands it will be found that the power of political institutions is in direct proportion to the purity of the Christianity with which they co-exist. According to the different degrees of religious intelligence in the nations of Christendom will be found the elevation or degradation of their political systems. Romanism has made South America and Southern Europe what they are, and Protestantism has made England, Holland and North America what they are. As Romanism wanes in Italy freedom waxes stronger, but when a chill falls upon the Protestant Churches of the United States the moral vigor of the nation is impaired.
The Great Republic of North America is the offspring of revivals of religion in the Old World which aroused persecutions for righteousness’ sake and which led heroic souls to go forth, as did Abraham, upon migrations to preserve a spiritual religion in the earth. Its civil institutions were molded at the outset to conform to the faith of its founders, and its subsequent progress has moved under the impulses of moral forces, which have been quickened and intensified by “the great awakenings” which have marked the subsequent course of its history. It is at once the product and propagator of evangelical Christianity. In such Christianity it had its origin, and in such faith its mission must be fulfilled.
"It concerneth New England always to remember that she is a religious plantation, and not a plantation of trade. The profession of purity of doctrine, worship, and discipline, is written upon her forehead.' '--From Prince's "Christian History."
"A work which may, by the Providence of Almighty God; hereafter tend to the glory of his Divine Majesty, in the propagating of the Christian religion to such people as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God."--One of the reasons assigned for the grant in the first Charter of the Colony of Virginia.
"It is remarkable that in every charter granted to the Southern Colonies, 'the propagation of the Gospel' is mentioned as one of the reasons for undertaking the planting of them."--From Baird's "Religion in America."
"Religion gave birth to Anglo-American Society."-- M. de Tocqueville.
"They were driven forth from their fatherland, not by earthly want, or by the greed of gold, or by the lust of adventure, but by the fear of God, and the zeal for a godly worship."--From Green's "Short History of the English People.
"The great migrations of mankind," says Goldwin Smith, "are the great epochs of history." To the same purpose speaks Whipple, affirming that "there was never a great migration which did not give rise to a new form of national life."
These observations are abundantly confirmed by the history of that migration which has resulted in the American republic, a government which was brought forth in the open, before the eyes of mankind, and which has its origin fully exposed to view, unobscured by the myths and traditions of a pre-historic time. "This thing was not done in a corner," nor is its beginning shrouded in the mists of a remote antiquity. We may know certainly how it was done, and may analyse with accuracy the forces which brought it to pass.
And it is beyond question that religion was the prime and moving cause which gave rise to the migration, which, beginning with the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements, and continuing to the present time, has created the republican nation known as the United States. The call of Abraham and his departure from Chaldea, and the Exodus from Egypt, while attended by more miraculous circumstances, were no more truly religious events than the founding of the American Colonies. The coming of the Colonists was a movement from religious impulses as devout, and far more intelligent, than the inspiration which gave rise to the Crusades, and it can scarcely be doubted that the religious results which have followed their coming will affect the destiny of mankind during the centuries to come, when the influence of the Crusaders will be an utterly spent force.
The Colonists did not go to make a republic, nor did they come with any preconceived plans of political government. The political system which has sprung from their efforts was a by product of the purpose which brought them to these shores. In his noble address, entitled, "The Founders Great in Their Unconsciousness," Horace Bushnell has stated the case of all, in describing that of the New England Colonists. "Their end," he says, "was religion, simply and only religion. Out upon the lone ocean, feeling their way cautiously, as it were, through the unknown waves, exploring in their busy fancies and their prayers, the equally unknown future before them, they as little conceived that they had in their ship the germ of a vast republic that, in two centuries, would command the respect and attract the longing desires of the nations, as that they saw with their eyes the lonely wastes about them whitening with the sails and foaming under the swift ships of that republic, already become the first commercial power of the world. . . . No! they cross the sea in God's name only, sent by Him, as they believed, to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.' But whither those straightened paths will lead, and in what shape the new kingdom of the Lord will come, they as little conceive as John the Baptist himself."
It is impossible to form an adequate conception of this far-reaching movement to the shores of North America if the Providential purpose of God, or the pious submission of the Colonists to the Divine direction, be left out of the account. Emerson is not extravagant when he declares, "Our whole history appears like a last effort of the Divine Providence in behalf of the human race." In the colonisation out of which came the Great Republic, Providence sifted the best stocks of the Old World for the purpose of the divine kingdom in the New World. By persecutions and trials of faith a process of election was operated, whereby a chosen seed was secured for a land prepared and reserved to be the home of a type of evangelical religion such as had not been in the earth for centuries.
With what precision that process worked to its end is seen in the character of the emigrants who constituted at the first the primal germ of the nascent nation, whose after-growth has been conformed to the original type which they gave to it. After a careful analysis of their charters, customs, and laws, Dr. Robert Baird in his monumental work, entitled "Religion in America" thus summarises their case:
"1. They were not composed of the rich, the voluptuous, the idle, the effeminate, and the profligate, neither were they, generally speaking, composed of poor, spiritless, dependent, and helpless persons. They rather came from that middle class of society, which is placed in the happy medium between sordid poverty and overgrown, wealth. They knew that whatever comfort or enjoyment they could look for in the New World, was only to be attained by the blessing of God upon their industry, frugality and temperance.
"2. They were not an ignorant rabble, such as many ancient and some modern states have been obliged to expel from their borders. Taken in the mass, they were well-informed--many of them remarkably so for the age in which they lived--and which in the case of none of them was an age of darkness. . . . With few exceptions, they had acquired the elements of a good education. There were few persons in any of the Colonies that could not read.
"3. They were a virtuous people; not a vicious herd, such as used to be sent out by ancient states, and such as chiefly colonized South America and Mexico, men of unbridled passions and slaves to the basest lusts. The morality of the early Colonists of the United States was unrivalled in any community of equal extent, and has been lauded by almost all who have written about them, as well as by those who have governed them.
"4. They were religious men. They believed and felt that Christianity is no vain fancy--a fact that holds true even as respects those of them with whom religious motives were not the chief motive for expatriating themselves. The overwhelming majority stood acquitted of the slightest approach to infidelity. Neither were they what are called 'philosophers,' attempting to propagate certain new theories respecting human society, and suggesting new methods for rendering it perfect. By far the greater number of them were simple Christians, who knew of no way by which men can be good or happy but that pointed out by God in his Word.
"5. With few exceptions, the first Colonists were Protestants; indeed, Lord Baltimore's was the only Roman Catholic colony, and even in it the Romanists formed but a small minority long before the Revolution of 1775. The great mass had sacrificed much, some their all, for the Protestant faith. They were Protestants in the sense of men who took the Bible for their guide, who believed what it taught, not what human authority put in 'its place. 'What saith the Lord ?' This was what they desired first of all, and above all, to know. And it was the study of the Bible that opened their eyes to truths which bore upon every possible relation of life, and upon every duty. And while they learned from the Bible what were their duties, so they learned also what were their rights. This led then at once to practise the former, and to demand the latter.
"6. The great majority of them had suffered much oppression and persecution, and in that severe but effectual school had learned lessons not to be acquired in any other. It had led them to question many things to which otherwise their thoughts might never have been directed, and it gave them irresistible power of argument in favor of the right of the human mind to freedom of thought. Indeed it is remarkable how large a proportion of the early Colonists were driven from Europe by oppression. Although Virginia and the Carolinas were not expressly established as asylums for the wronged, yet during the Commonwealth in England they afforded a refuge to the 'Cavalier' and the 'Churchman,' as they did afterward to the Huguenot and the German Protestant. Georgia was colonized as an asylum for the imprisoned and 'persecuted Protestants;' Maryland as the home of persecuted Roman Catholics; and the Colony of Gustavus Adolphus was to be a general blessing to the 'whole Protestant world,' by offering a shelter to all who stood in need of one. Even New York, though founded by Dutch merchants, with an eye to trade alone, opened its arms to the persecuted Bohemian, and to the inhabitants of the Italian Valleys. So that, in fact, all of these Colonies were originally peopled more or less, and some of them exclusively, by the victims of oppression and persecution; hence the remark of one of our historians (Bancroft) is no less just than eloquent, that 'tyranny and injustice peopled America with men nurtured in suffering and adversity. The history of our colonization is the history of the crimes of Europe.'
"7. Though incapable of emancipating themselves from all the prejudices and errors of past ages, with respect to the rights of conscience, they were at least in advance of the rest of the world on these points, and founded an empire in which religious liberty is at this day more fully enjoyed than anywhere else--in short, is in every respect perfect.
"8. Lastly, of the greater number of the early Colonists it may be said, that they expatriated themselves from the Old World, not merely to find liberty of conscience in the forests of the New, but that they might extend the kingdom of Christ, by founding states where the Truth should not be impeded by the hindrances which opposed its progress elsewhere. This was remarkably the case of the Puritans of New England; but a like spirit animated the pious men who settled in other parts of the country. They looked to futurity, and caught glimpses of the glorious progress which the gospel was to make among their children and children's children. This comforted them in sorrow, and sustained them under trials. They lived by faith and their hope was not disappointed."
It is thus evident how the Great Republic is a nation founded by faith,--and it has been often saved by faith.
"These men came out from amid great awakenings; and after the first plantations, every arrival from the old country brought them news of the revivals which took place under the
Bunyans and Baxters of England."--Henry C. Fish, D. D.
"The period of the settlement of this country was singularly identical with that of the breaking up of the old religious life of Europe. Indeed, since the Crusaders the Old World had passed through no such convulsions as shook her whole religious, political, intellectual, and social framework at a time when every nation was sending forth her sons--albeit many exiles in the number--to establish themselves on the Atlantic coast of this continent. It was not from any stagnant nations that immigrants came to our wooded shores, but from stirred and aroused peoples . . Europe's best blood was hot with aspirations--we might better call them inspirations--at the very moment when this new field was opened for the greatest fulfillment in modern history."--Bishop John F. Hurst.
"When the Colonies in America were planted, both from England and the Continent, the people who constituted them arrived at the moment of Europe's awakening. They brought the best aspirations of the Old World, and determined to realize them in the New. The hour of American Colonization was the fittest one in all modem times for the New World to receive the best which the Old World had to give." --Ibid.
WHENCE came these founders to the shores of North America?
With reference to their former residence, and speaking geographically, the most of them. came from the British Isles,--in the main from England. So predominant were these English elements that as late as 1775, four-fifths of the people were of British origin and spoke the English language. In the earlier days the proportion of English to the whole population was even larger.
Having reference to their ecclesiastical antecedents and their religious position, they were cast on these shores by the expulsive forces of the Reformation and the religious convulsions in Europe consequent upon that mighty movement. It had set all Europe in a ferment, especially the nations of Northern Europe. Since religion had everywhere been connected with the state before it began, it naturally aroused the political energies of the people whom it touched, while it quickened their moral life; and thus it gave rise to the most fervent agitations and fierce persecutions of modern times. It was not an era of tepid religious convictions, when men account religion as of such little value as not to be worth fighting for; but it was an epoch of controversy, when men everywhere earnestly contended for the faith once delivered to the saints. From these contests in the Old World came these founders to the New.
Grandsires of the men who composed the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements were contemporaries of Ridley, and Latimer, and Cranmer. The hearts of these settlers in the New World had been stirred by stories of those stormy times, and perhaps from eye-witnesses of those martyrdoms some of the first Colonists had heard of how "without Bocardo Gate," opposite Baliol College, on a day in October 1555, the dauntless and saintly Latimer had died, exclaiming to his companion in suffering and glory, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." From the lips of saintly sires mayhap others had heard the story of lowland Taylor, the good Vicar of Hadleigh, who went to his death, by burning, amid the lamentations of his parishioners, who burst out crying, 'Ah, good Lord! there goeth our good shepherd from us! God save thee, good Dr Taylor; God strengthen thee and help thee; the Holy Ghost comfort thee! '
They themselves, as well as their immediate ancestors, were directly affected by the great revival which the reading of the Bible had produced in England during the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Of that period Green in his "Short History of the English People," says, 'No greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England during the years which parted the reign of Elizabeth from the meeting of the Long Parliament. England became the people of a book, and that book was the Bible. It was as yet the one English book which was familiar to every Englishman; it was read at churches and read at home, and everywhere its words, as they fell on ears which custom had not deadened, kindled a startling enthusiasm. . . The whole moral effect which is produced nowadays by the religious newspaper, the tract, the essay, the lecture, the missionary report, the sermon, was then produced by the Bible alone; and its effect in this way, however dispassionately we may examine it, was simply amazing. One dominant influence told on human action; and all the activities that had been called into life by the age that was passing away were seized, concentrated, and steadied to a definite aim by the spirit of religion. The whole temper of the nation felt the change. A new conception of life and of man superseded the old. A new moral and religious impulse spread through every class."
With such memories, influences, and dispositions in their hearts came the first Colonists to Jamestown in 1607 and to Plymouth in 1620. In the years that followed they drew after them men of like mind and mould. From the moment of their establishment in the New World the eyes of the pious and persecuted Protestants in every part of Northern Europe, and especially the eyes of their kindred fellow-christians in England, were fixed upon them. Drawn by the bonds of a common faith and natural affection, multitudes of congenial spirits soon hastened to join them in their Western home. Besides their friends and kinsmen from England, there flocked after them Huguenots from France, pious Swedes, saintly Swiss, and devout Dutch, together with sturdy Scotch, and ardent spirits from the north of Ireland.
It thus appears that the founding of the Colonies at the first, and their subsequent growth during the first century of their existence, was the result of great revivals of religion. The Reformation itself was strictly speaking a revival, and gave rise to a series of movements from which has been developed the evangelical type of life and the evangelistic methods of propagating Christianity which are today the hope of the world. It is a great mistake to consider that mighty revolution to have been only a change of speculative tenets, or a secular struggle, under the pretense of religion, for freedom of thought only. True, purification of doctrine and liberty of conscience were involved, but only because of the deep spiritual struggles which underlay them. It was the personal interests of souls, hungering and thirsting after righteousness until Christ was revealed in them the hope of glory, which raised the great issues between the Romanists and the Reformers. Not since the days of the Apostles were so many souls anxiously inquiring, "What must we do to be saved?" and never were there before so many genuine conversions. The correspondence of the Reformers, especially that of Luther and Calvin, shows that much of their time was spent giving counsel to inquiring souls and leading such souls to Christ. The subjects uppermost in their discussions were just those themes that to this day are considered of paramount importance in a revival season.
The Reformation in Scotland bore the same marks. Kirkton says of it "The whole nation was converted by lump. Lo! here a nation born in one day; yea, moulded into one congregation, and sealed as a fountain with a solemn oath and covenant." Fleming, in his "Fulfilling of Scripture," says, "It is astonishing, and should be matter of wonder and praise for after ages, to consider that solemn time of the Reformation (in Scotland) when the Lord began to visit his church. What a swift course the spreading of the kingdom of Christ had; and how professors of the truth thronged in amidst the greatest threatenings of those on whose side authority and power then was." In Holland, France, and Switzerland a similar spirit prevailed among the Reformers. We may be sure that it was not for mere speculative dogmas, or for motives of faction, that men endured torture and gave themselves to death. Nothing less than the experience of that "loving kindness of God" in personal salvation, which "is better than life," could have nerved them for the mighty struggles through which they passed on behalf of the freedom of the faith. If dogma was dear to them it was because it was the symbol of loyalty to the Lord of Life and Salvation.
In the British Isles, whence most of the early Colonists came, the contest between evangelical Christianity and its enemies was longest and fiercest. There also were the triumphs of a pure faith most signal and fruitful. In the century in which the first Colonies were founded there were many revival centres from which the ranks of the Colonists were constantly recruited. Men like Richard Baxter, John Owen, John Bunyan, John Howe and John Flavel called sinners to repentance and edified the churches of England in ministries of great power. Their writings, which remain, reveal how evangelical were their teachings, how fervent was their spirit, how abundant were their labours. The various acts of Parliament leveled against such pious endeavors show how great was their influence. The Act of Uniformity, passed in 1662, and strenuously enforced for twenty-five years, the Conventicle Act passed in 1664, and the Five Mile Act passed in 1665, all show how persistent and how ineffectual was the persecution of those mighty men who stood for a pure faith in a corrupt age. This proscriptive legislation did also send to the American Colonies some of the choicest spirits that the world ever saw. They had been fused and fashioned in revival fires, and they came to the New World in the spirit of the evangelism by which they had been encompassed from birth, and for which they and their fathers had suffered so much.
Of how nearly the revivals of this period of British history resemble the revivals of our day we may judge by reading the accounts of a revival which prevailed in the north of Ireland in 1625. It was from the labours of a company of faithful men who went over from Scotland--Brice, Glendenning, Ridge, Blair and others. They began in Ulster and endeavored with apostolic zeal to evangelize the whole island. The work continued for a considerable time, and of it Stewart says, "The ministers were indefatigable in improving the favourable opportunity thus offered for extending the knowledge and influence of the gospel. The people, awakened and inquiring, many of them both desponding and alarmed, both desired and needed guidance and instruction. The judicious exhibition of evangelical doctrines and promises by these faithful men, was in due time productive of those happy and tranquillizing effects which were early predicted as the characteristic of gospel times. Adopting the beautiful imagery of the prophets, the broken-hearted were bound up and comforted, the spirit of bondage and of fear gave way to a spirit of freedom and of love, the oil of joy was poured forth instead of mourning, and the spirit of heaviness exchanged for the garments of praise and thankfulness."
In the same year there was a great work of grace in Scotland which from the place of its beginning--Stewarton--was nicknamed by the godless as the "Stewarton Sickness."' Of this movement Fleming says, "Truly this great spring tide, as I may call it, of the gospel, was not of a short time, but of some years continuance; yea, thus, like a spreading moor-burn, the power of godliness did advance from one place to another, which put a marvellous lustre on those parts of the country, the savor whereof brought many from other parts of the land to see its truth."
Of the same sort was Baxter's work at Kidderminster. He himself gives us a glimpse of it in these words: "The congregation was usually full, so that we were led to build five galleries after my corning hither, the church itself being very capacious, the most commodious and convenient that ever I was in. Our private meetings were also full. On the Lord's day, there was no disorder to be seen in the streets, but you might hear a hundred families singing psalms and repeating sermons as you passed through the streets." Of the extent of his influence we may draw some inference from the fact that in a time when the population of England was not nearly so dense as now, nor reading nearly so general, his great work entitled "A Call to the Unconverted" attained a circulation of 20,000 copies within the first twelvemonth after its publication. What must have been the popular interest in the subject to secure so great and so speedy a circulation for a work of that kind? How powerfully must his call have affected the nation?
These facts all go to show how true is the statement that the first Colonists, who gave to the rising commonwealths in the New World their initial type of life, which type has dominated and assimilated to itself all subsequent immigration, "came out of great awakenings."
The Colonists were not unaccustomed to revivals when they came, nor were they startled when similar works of grace appeared among them in the New World. The "Venerable Stoddard," grandfather of Jonathan Edwards and the pastor of the Church at Northampton (where the Great Awakening of 1740 began) from 1672 to 1728 had, during the nearly sixty years of his ministry, "five harvests as he called them." In his "Narrative of the Surprising Work of God," Jonathan Edwards thus alludes to these seasons of grace in the ministry of his grandfather: "As he was eminent and renowned for his gifts and graces, so he was blessed from the beginning with extraordinary success in his ministry, in the conversion of many souls. He had five harvests as he called them: the first was about fifty-seven years ago; the second about fifty-three years; the third about forty; the fourth about twenty-four; the fifth and last about eighteen years ago. Some of these times were much more remarkable than others, and the ingathering of souls more plentiful. Those that were about fifty-three, and forty, and twenty-four years ago were much greater than either the first or the last; but in each of them, I have heard my grandfather say, the greater part of the young people in the town seemed to be mainly concerned for their eternal salvation." Reckoning, therefore, from the date of the "narrative" by Edwards, we find there were harvest times at Northampton in 1679, 1683, 1696, 1712 and 1718.
These revivals gave no surprise to men who had come out from the religious scenes of England; they were fruits of the religious awakenings in the Old World and forerunners of "The Great Awakening" which presently came to the New. They sprang up amid tender memories and holy ancestral traditions, and they renewed in the hearts of the Colonists the fervent experiences of their forefathers. This renewed spiritual life was the basis of a nobler social life, and the foundation of a higher political endeavour. With the revivals of Colonial times the evangelical faith that was hungering and thirsting in the wilderness was refreshed when it was famishing and ready to die. Without them the religious purposes of former generations would have failed, and the hopes of their posterity would never have been born. They are links in that apostolical succession of revivals which stretches from the Reformation to the great awakenings of the eighteenth century.
"The work is very glorious, if we consider the extent of it; being in this respect vastly beyond any former outpouring of the Spirit that ever was known in New England. There has formerly sometimes been a remarkable awakening and success of the means of grace in some particular congregation and this used to be much taken notice of and acknowledged to be glorious, though the towns and congregations round about continued dead; but now God has brought to pass a new thing, he has wrought a great work of this nature that has extended from one end of the land to the other, besides what has been wrought in other British Colonies in America."--Jonathan Edwards.
"In the period before 'the Awakening,' the sole organ of fellowship reaching through the whole chain of the British Colonies was the correspondence of the Quaker meetings and missionaries. In the glow of the revival the continent awoke to the conciousness of a common spiritual life. Ranging the continent literally from Georgia to Maine, with all his weaknesses and indiscretions, and with his incomparable eloquence, welcomed by every sect, yet refusing an exclusive allegiance to any, Whitefield exercised a true apostolate, bearing daily the care of all the churches, and becoming a messenger of mutual fellowship not only between the ends of the continent, but between the Christians of two hemispheres. Remote churches exchanged offices of service. Tennent came from New Jersey to labour in New England; Dickinson and Burr and Edwards were the gift of the Northern Colonies to the college at Princeton. The quickened sense of a common religious life and duty and destiny was no small part of the preparation for the birth of the future nation."--Leonard Woolsey Bacon, in "A History of American Christianity."
Notwithstanding the revivals in the Old World out of which the first Colonists had come to the New, notwithstanding the heroic and pious purposes which had inspired their coming, and notwithstanding the seasons of grace and the exercise of religion which they had enjoyed after their arrival, in the second and third generations following them were seen the most grievous moral and religious deterioration.
Migrations are periods of great peril to spiritual life. The transplanting of the best human stocks is attended with the greatest moral dangers. An emigrant people in a new and strange land are cut off from those vitalizing forces of life which issue from a well-established social system and which can be supplied from no other source. "All the old roots of local love and historic feeling, the joints and bands that minister nourishment, are left behind; and nothing remains to organize a living growth but the two unimportant incidents, proximity and a common interest."
Besides these perils, which inhere in all migrations, the American Colonists were beset by difficulties peculiarly their own and arising from the unprecedented conditions with which they were surrounded. No colonists had ever before removed so far from, their original seats or been so effectually separated from the lands that sent them forth. They had no central government to bind them together in anything akin to national unity, but on the contrary were divided among themselves by the intenseness of their religious convictions and by their isolation from each other. The French and Indian wars had fed all the fiercest passions of human nature within them and relaxed all moral convictions and restraints. Manners became coarse and mental cultivation was sadly neglected. A wild and adventurous spirit possessed the people as morals declined and religion decayed. Secret apostasies and flagrant sins corrupted and enfeebled the churches. Intemperance, profane swearing, licentiousness, and every form of vice prevailed as never before in their history. The first race was gone and its successors of the second and third generation were of a distinctly lower type. "We feel, in short, that we have descended to an inferior race. It is somewhat as if a nest of eagles had been filled with a brood of owls."
Such were the moral conditions on the eve of the "Great Awakening." In seeking to make religious commonwealths, citizenship had been by the founders conditioned on church membership, and as is always and inevitably the result of such methods, citizenship had not been elevated to a nobler level, but church membership had been degraded to the low plane of a political expedient. Even "the Venerable Stoddard" had been corrupted in doctrine by the pressure of such a situation, and had published a sermon, in which he maintained that "Sanctification is not a necessary qualification to partaking of the Lord's Supper," and that "the Lord's Supper is a converting ordinance." Such teaching accorded well with the popular desire to enjoy the credit and secure the advantages of church membership without the experience of personal piety or the inconveniences imposed by a life of self-denial. The godless spirit of the times coupled with his commanding influence spread the evil leaven far and wide, and a subtle sacramentarianism, mingled with a pervasive power derived from the political motives in which it was originated, filled the Churches with an unconverted membership and threatened the very life of religion wherever it came. Men felt no need of a justification or new birth beyond what the submission to the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper offered, and the vital experience of godliness was lost in a conventional observance of religious ceremonials. The sense of sin was deadened and the need of salvation was never felt. Dr. Increase Mather in a book entitled, "The Glory Departing from New England," bewailed the situation on this wise: "We are the posterity of the good old Puritan Non-conformists in England, who were a strict and holy people. Such were our fathers who followed the Lord into the wilderness. Oh, New England, New England, look to it that the glory be not removed from thee, for it begins to go. Oh, degenerate New England, what art thou come to at this day! how are those sins become so common in thee that were not so much as heard of in this land! " Of the state of things religious in New Jersey Jonathan Dickinson reports, "Religion was in a very low state, professors generally dead and lifeless, and the body of our people careless, carnal and secure." The case in Pennsylvania Rev. Samuel Blair thus sadly states, "Religion lay as it were dying, and ready to expire its last breath of life in this part of the visible chmrch." The same conditions obtained everywhere throughout all the Colonies, from New England to the far South.
But despite the general deadness in the Churches, here and there were not a few devout men, whose hearts God had touched. They revived the forgotten doctrine of justification by faith and called men to repentance. Most prominent among these may be mentioned Jonathan Edwards, the Tennents (Gilbert and William), Bellamy, Griswold, Wheelock, Robinson, and Blair. These were the American leaders of the "Great Awakening," and they were mightily assisted in 1740 by that most remarkable man George Whitefield, who caine over from England in 1739.
The movement began at Northampton, where Edwards had been the pastor since the death of his grandfather, with whom he was associated in the pastorate for two years, after which he became his successor. It began in the latter part of December, 1734. "Then it was," says Edwards, "that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work among us; and there were very suddenly one after another, five or six persons, who were, to all appearance, savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner. Particularly, I was surprised with the relation of a young woman, who had been one of the greatest company-keepers in the whole town; when she came to me, I had never heard that she was in any wise serious, but by the conversation I then had with her, it appeared to me, that what she gave an account of, was a glorious work of God's infinite power and sovereign grace; and that God had given her a new heart, truly broken and sanctified. I could not then doubt of it, and have seen much in my acquaintance with her since to confirm. it. The news of it seemed to be almost like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of the young people, all over the town, and upon many others. Those persons among us who used to be furthest from seriousness, and that I most feared would make an ill improvement of it, seemed greatly to be awakened by it; many went to talk with her concerning what she had met with; and what appeared in her seemed to be to the satisfaction of all who did so. Presently upon this a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and ages; the noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder; 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. Other discourse than of the things of religion would scarcely be tolerated in any company. There was scarcely a single person in the town, either old or young, that was left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. And the work of conversion was carried on in the most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and delivered out of a horrible pit, and from the miry clay, and set upon a rock, with a new song of praise to God in their mouths. This work of God as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town, so that in the spring and summer following, anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God; it never was so full of love, nor so full of joy, and yet so full of distress as it was then. There were remarkable tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought to them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The doings of God were then seen in his sanctuary, God's day was a delight, and his tabernacles were amiable." Such is the account of the beginning of this great work, give by a man the furthest possible removed from fanaticism.--a man of philosophic mind, a graduate of Yale College, amid of whom Robert Hall said, "I consider him the greatest of the sons of men."
Many of the neighboring towns came to see the wonderful work. "Many that came to town on one occasion and another had their consciences smitten and awakened, and went home with wounded hearts, and with impressions that never wore off till they had hopefully a saving issue; and those that before had serious thoughts, had their awakenings and convictions greatly increased." Thus the work spread, reaching rapidly South Hadley, Suffield, Sunderland, Deerfield, Hatfield, Northfield, and many other points throughout New England.
At about the same time there was, quite independently of the work at Northampton, an awakening in New Jersey, principally in connection with the labours of William and Gilbert Tennent.
While in the latter part of May, 1735, the work at Northampton began to decline, and continued to do so with various fluctuations until the coming of Whitefield in 1740, its effects remained. In the towns and churches to which it had been communicated there was a marked improvement in spirituality and a notable uplift in morals. More clear and correct views of the religious life began to prevail. Men began to realize the wide difference between a real and a nominal Christian, and of the great change by which that difference is brought to pass. Revivals like that at Northampton came to be regarded as very desirable; so that they were prayed for and expected. And prayer was answered, in that after the decline of the work at Northampton there were many awakenings at various points in the Colonies, until 1739 such events had become numerous and conspicuous. In August, 1739, there was a remarkable revival at Newark, N. J., under the ministry of Jonathan Dickinson, which, beginning mainly among the young people, increased in power and extent, until by November following, the whole town was brought under its influence. At. Harvard, Mass., under the ministry of Rev. John Seccomb, a similar Work of grace began in September of the same year. In March of the next year at New Londonderry, Pa., under the ministry of Rev. Samuel Blair, there was an awakening of considerable interest. These, and other instances which might be mentioned, show how the leaven of the new life was working in many places, widely separated from. each other, but all disclosing remarkably similar conditions and results.
But the "Great Awakening" did not reach its culinination until Whitefield caine. It was in the spring of the year 1735, when the town of Northampton was all ablaze with the first revival under Edwards, that this matchless evangelist was converted at Oxford, England. In 1730 he was ordained a deacon in the Church of England, and in May, 1738, when the glory of the awakening at Northampton had vanished, he arrived at Savannah, Ga. After a three months' stay in the new Colony he returned to England to secure for himself priest's orders, and to collect for the orphanage he had projected much-needed funds. He secured both the orders and the funds, and being providentially detained in the kingdom. lie began that wonderful career as an evangelist which he continued until his death. His amazing eloquence and irresistible fervor drew hundreds to the churches in which he first appeared. The multitudes so thronged to his ministry that the churches were eventually closed against him, and the Bishop of London issued a pastoral letter warning the people against him. Then he went to the fields, whither thousands of every rank and station of life followed him to hear the wonderful words of life which fell from his youthful lips, touched with heavenly fire. As soon as the embargo, whereby he had been detained in England, was lifted, he sailed for America, taking passage for Philadelphia, but bound for Georgia. His great and sudden fame had preceded him to the New World, notwithstanding the slow methods of communication common in those days. The party, with which he started back to his work in Georgia, consisted of seventeen persons, including himself and William Seward. After a voyage of eleven weeks they came to land, on October 30, 1739, at Lewistown, about a hundred and fifty miles from Philadelphia. On the next day he preached by request, and at five o'clock in the afternoon, in company with Seward and another friend, set out on horseback for Philadelphia, the rest of his party, which he called his "family," proceeding by water thither also. By eleven p.m., November 2nd, with his two friends he arrived at "the City of Brotherly Love." Next morning lie "went aboard the Elizabeth to see his family; " then visited the officials of the town, and after holding communion "with some precious souls," he "hired a house at a very cheap rate, and was quite settled in it before night." He was a man of swift movements, and he began preaching at once in the churches and on the "court-house stairs," preaching twice or thrice every day he remained in the city, and holding earnest conversations with men and women, ministers and laymen of all the churches, including Episcopalians, Quakers, Baptists and Presbyterians. Thousands flocked to hear him. The population of the city at that time did not exceed 12,000 souls, yet his audiences when he preached from the court-house stairs numbered from 6,000 to 8,000, thus showing how he drew not only the people of the city, but those also of neighboring places. Among others who came to see and hear him was the venerable William Tennent, founder of the famous "Log College" and father of Charles, John, William and Gilbert Tennent. He was now keeping an academy at Neshaminy and met Whitefield on November 10 in Philadelphia, who by his coming "was much comforted." On November 12 the great evangelist set out overland for New York. On the way he preached at "Burlington in the Jerseys," and at Brunswick he preached in the church of Gilbert Tennent, whom he describes as a man of about forty years of age and of whom he says: "He and his associates are now the burning and shining lights in this part of America." Tennent joined his party in the visit to New York, where they arrived at about four o'clock in the afternoon of November 14, having spent the time on the way "most agreeably in telling one another what God had done for their souls." They were hospitably received by a Mr. Noble, and at night in the "meeting-house" (not "the church") Tennent preached. Of the sermon Whitefield says: "I never before heard such a searching sermon. He convinced me more and more that we can preach the gospel of Christ no further than we have experienced the power of it in our own hearts. Being deeply convicted of sin, by God's Holy Spirit, at his first conversion, Mr. Tennent has learned experimentally to dissect the heart of the natural man. Hypocrites must soon be converted or enraged at his preaching. He is a son of thunder and does not fear the faces of men." He tarried but four days in New York, preaching in the open air and in the Presbyterian "meeting-house" in charge of Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton, since the Episcopal Church and the town-hall were both denied hum. Of his four days' ministry in New York a correspondent of Prince's "Christian History" (a periodical founded by the suggestion of Jonathan Edwards to promote the great revival by publishing the results of the work as it progressed) wrote: "I never saw in my life, such attentive audiences as Mr. Whitefield's in New York. All he said was demonstration, life and power. The people's eyes and ears hung upon his lips. They greedily devoured every word. He. preached during four days, twice every day. He is a man of middle stature of a slender body, of a fair complexion, and of a comely appearance. He is of a sprightly, cheerful temper, and acts and moves with great agility and life. The endowments of his mind are uncommon; his wit is quick and piercing; his imagination lively and florid; and, as far as I can discern, both are under the direction of a solid judgment. He has a most ready memory, and I think speaks entirely without notes. He has a clear and musical voice, and a wonderful command of it. He uses much gesture, but with great propriety. Every accent of his voice, every motion of his body speaks; and both are natural and unaffected. If his delivery be the product of art, it is certainly the perfection of it, for it is entirely concealed. He has a great mastery of words, but studies much plainness of speech. He spends not his zeal in trifles. He breathes a most catholic spirit; and professes that his whole design is to bring men to Christ; and that, if he can obtain this end, his converts may go to what church and worship God in what 'form they like best."
What a picture of a young preacher just twenty-four years of age. Nobody thought of such a man as a "boy preacher" for his power was not in any juvenile peculiarity of person or eccentricity of manner but in demonstration of the Spirit.
From New York he proceeded to Elizabethtown, N. J., in response to a letter from. the Rev. Jonathan Dickinson, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church there. There he preached on November 19, and then went on to New Brunswick, where he preached in the church of Gilbert Tennent three times on November 20. In his congregation was present that day Rev. Theodore J. Frelinghuysen, who was pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church at Raritan, N. J., and who later was very efficient in the promotion of the great evangelical movement. From New Brunswick he went to Maidenhead, where he preached from a wagon to about fifteen hundred people, by arrangement of Rev. John Rowland, an irregular but exceedingly effective revivalist, who was very useful in his day. From Maidenhead he went to Trenton, attended by a company of "above thirty horse," where he preached in the court-house.
Leaving Trenton on Thursday, November 22, he set out for Neshaminy twenty miles away, where the venerable William Tennent was keeping an academy, and had made an appointment for him to preach. He was delayed until about twelve o'clock in reaching the place, and when he arrived he found the aged minister and teacher preaching to a congregation of above three thousand people. When the belated evangelist came up, the old man stopped his discourse and after the singing of a Psalm, Whitefield began to speak, and at the conclusion of his discourse Gilbert Tennent, who had come with him from New Brunswick, gave a word of exhortation. After the exercises were over, they went home with "old Mr. Tennent, who entertained them like one of the ancient prophets," says Whitefield in his journal. Of this visit to the founder of the "Log College," a visit of great importance in the history of the "Great Awakening," the journal says, "His wife seemed to me like Elizabeth, and he like Zacharias; both, as far as I can find, walk in all the ordinances and commandments of thie Lord blameless. We had sweet communion with each other, and spent the evening in concerting measures for promoting our Lord's kingdom. It happens very providentially that Mr. Tennent and his brethren are appointed to be a presbytery by the synod, so that they intend breeding up gracious youths, and sending them out into the Lord's vineyard. The place where the young men study now, is in contempt called 'the College.' It is a log house, about twenty feet long, and nearly as many broad; and to me it seemed 'to resemble the school of the old prophets. From this despised place seven or eight worthy ministers of Jesus have lately been sent forth; more are almost ready to be sent; and a foundation is now laying for the instruction of many others. The devil will certainly rage against them; but the work I am persuaded is of God, and will not come to nought. Carnal ministers oppose them strongly; and because people, when awakened by Mr. Tennent or his brethern, see through them, and therefore leave their ministry, the poor gentlemen are loaded with contempt, and looked upon as persons who turn the world upside down."
And these "Log College men" were of the company of them who were to bear a considerable part in turning the New World upside down. The present-day graduates of Princeton University do not now affect more influentially the Republic than those men who then went forth from the "Log College" affected the Colonies. Among them were the four sons of Williant Tennent, and Rowland and Robinson and Samuel Blair. Whitefield was touching one of the very fountain heads of the "Great Awakening" when he preached on that bleak November morning at Neshaminy, and in the evening conferred with the Tennents and concerted "measures for promoting the Lord's kingdom."
From. Neshaminy he rode to Abingdon, ten miles distant, and preached "to above two thousand people from. a porch-window belonging to the meeting house." From Abingdon he hastened to Philadelphia, where he found his "family" in good order and all things carried on according to his desire. On the journey to and from. New York, he was gone from. Philadelphia ten days--from November 13 to November 23. But in that brief space he had stirred the young metropolis of the coming nation, kindled revival fires all along the way he had passed over, and contracted a lifetime friendship with the Tennents. All this meant much to the progress and power of the "Great Awakening."
He remained in Philadelphia six days, and then after settling all affairs of his "family" to his satisfaction, he directed them to set sail for Georgia immediately after his own departure from Philadelphia by land. During those six days, excepting November 27, when he went to Germantown for a service, he preached twice a day in the city. The church not being able to hold the people who thronged to hear him, on Wednesday, November 28, he went to the fields and "preached for an hour and a half, from a balcony, to upwards of ten thousand hearers, very attentive and much affected."
On the day he left Philadelphia, November 29, the people thronged around the door of the house where he lodged, from seven o'clock in the morning, weeping bitterly as they parted with him. Nearly a score of men accompanied him and William Seward out of town, and seven miles out they were joined by another company who were waiting to meet them, so that they proceeded to Chester in a band of "nearly two hundred horse." They reached Chester by three in the afternoon, and from a balcony he preached to "about five thousand people," nearly a thousand of whom had followed him from Philadelphia. Of the influence of his ministry upon the people of Philadelphia and its vicinity, Benjamin Franklin wrote in his journal, "From being thoughtless and indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk through Philadelphia in the evening without hearing Psalms sung in different families of every street."
From Chester he went to Wilmington, Del., where he met another of the Tennents, William the younger, whom he describes as "a faithful minister of Jesus Christ." Thence he went on to Newcastle, Christian Bridge, and Whiteclay Creek, which last place he reached on December 2. There he preached to about ten thousand people, assembled under a tent "erected by order of Charles Tennent, whose meeting-house was near the place." "The weather was rainy and cold," but the people flocked to hear him despite all discomforts and inconveniences. "Many souls were melted down," he says, at the two services he held under the tent at Whiteclay Creek.
From there he went into Maryland, preaching at North East, Joppa, Newton, Annapolis, and Upper Marlborough. He passed on through Virginia, and the Carolinas, preaching as he went, and after a journey of five weeks' duration, through primeval forests, uncultivated plains, and miasmal swamps, he reached Savannah January, 1740. his "family" he sent by water, while he went by land as "the voice of one crying in the wilderness."
Arrived at Savannah he busied himself with the erection of his Orphan House, and with preaching almost every day. His themes, according to the "Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia" by William. Stephens, Esq., were "Justification by Faith and Regeneration," which subjects and the sermons of Whitefield upon them, it should be remarked, the said William Stephens, Esq., and his associates in Georgia, did not relish.
He remained in Savannah about a month, when on February 11, he started to Frederica to "pay his respects to General Oglethorpe and to fetch the orphans in the southern part of the Colony" to his Orphan house at Savannah. He was gone seventeen days on this journey, and returned to the orphanage on February 28, with four orphans. A fortnight afterwards he embarked for Charleston to see his brother who was "lately arrived there from England." On March 21 he was again back in Savannah, having spent from the 15th to the 20th in Charleston, where he preached daily in the Independent and Baptist "meeting-houses," being denied admission to the pulpit of "the church," by the Rev. Alexander Garden, the pompous little "commissary" of the Bishop of London in the Colony of South Carolina.
After a stay of nine days in Savannah, on the 30th day of March, he took affectionate leave of his parishioners, "because it appeared that Providence called him towards the Northward." In their own sloop, "The Savannah," he and Seward set out on the journey which occupied the next two months, touching at Charleston, from which port they sailed on April 2. After a voyage of ten days they landed at Newcastle in Pennsylvania on April 13, which was Sunday. Whitefield preached in the Episcopal Church in the morning, and after the service, Seward rode to Christian Bridge and Whiteclay Creek (where Charles Tennent was pastor) to announce that the great evangelist would preach again at Newcastle in the afternoon. Quickly Tennent and others, to the number of two hundred; mounted their horses and galloped away to Newcastle to hear him. From Newcastle he proceeded to Philadelphia, stopping at Wilmington, on the way, where from the balcony of the house in which he lodged he preached to about 3,000 people. By this route he had gone southward, and now returning northward, he was met with many and striking evidences of the effectiveness of his first preaching in America. At Newcastle, Charles Tennent told him how that as the result of his former visit to that region "a general outward reformation was visible," and how "many ministers had been quickened and congregations increased." At Wilmington many friends came to see him, among them Mr. Jones, the Baptist minister, who informed him of the progress of "the Awakening," particularly mentioning the cases of two other ministers, who had been awakened by Whitefield's preaching. One of them, Mr. Morgan, on his conversion, had at once become active in the work, and "had gone forth preaching towards the seacoast in the Jerseys;" the other, Mr. Treat, "had told his congregation that he had been hitherto deceiving himself and them, and that he could not preach again at present, but desired them to join in prayer with him." These accounts deeply impressed and greatly encouraged Whitefield, who, in a letter written on the day he reached Philadelphia says: "I find that God has been pleased to do great things, by what he enabled me to deliver when here last year. Two ministers have been convinced of their formal state, notwithstanding they held and preached the doctrines of grace.. One plainly told the congregation he had been deceiving himself and them, and could not preach any more, but desired the people to pray with him. The other is now a flame of fire, and has been much owned of God. Very many, I believe, of late have been brought savingly to believe on the Lord Jesus. The work much increases. A primitive spirit revives."
He arrived in Philadelphia on April 14, and remained until the 23rd--nine days. The parish church was now denied him, as had not been the case on his previous visit. But this turned out to the furtherance of the gospel through him, for his friends erected a stage for him on what was called Society Hill, around which as if drawn by magic, congregations, numbering from five to fifteen thousand people, gathered to hear him. During the nine days he preached not only in the city but also at neighboring points, to thousands; visiting Abingdon, Whitemarsh, Germantown, Greenwich, and Gloucester.
Besides reviving the churches already in existence in Philadelphia, Whitefield's ministry led to the establishment of the Presbyterian church of which Gilbert Tennent some years later became the pastor. It began in a building, erected for the use of the Tennents and their associates. This building afterwards became the first seat of the University of Pennsylvania.
From Philadelphia, he proceeded over his former track to Neshaminy, Shippack, Amwell and New Brunswick. At Shippack he first met the celebrated Moravian, Peter Bohler, who was so intimately connected with John Wesley, at a critical point in the history of that great man. At Amwell, Gilbert Tennent, and three other Presbyterian preachers, from. New Brunswick came to meet him, in whose company he went to New Brunswick, and preached on Sunday, April 27, to congregations of seven or eight thousand souls.
From New Brunswick, he "dispatched" William Seward to England, to "bring over a fellow labourer, and to transact several affairs of importance," while he went on his itinerary, preaching at Woodbridge, Elizabethtown, and other points.
On April 29 he arrived at New York, where he "preached on the common to five or six thousand." During the night the people erected for him a scaffold from which on April 30 he preached twice, to congregations which it was estimated were composed of over eight thousand people. He stayed at New York four days, during which time, besides preaching eight times in the city, he preached once in a church, which the Dutch ministers of Long Island gave him the use of. Then, returning towards Philadelphia, he preached to multitudes at Freehold, Allentown, Burlington and Bristol.
On May 8, he preached in Philadelphia twice, to larger congregations than ever before. He remained until May 12, in "the City of Brotherly Love," preaching daily, as before, to immense assemblies. Then he set his face southward, preaching at Derby, Chester, Wilmington, Whiteclay Creek, Nottingham, Fagg's Manor, and Newcastle. At the last-mentioned place his sloop, The Savannah, awaited him, which he boarded on May 15. In the brief space of one month he had preached twice a day all the way from Newcastle to New York, and back again, and had stirred the people in all the intervening region as they had never been moved before. It is quite probable that he came as near preaching to every person in the whole district traversed as did John the Baptist in Palestine, when the excited multitudes of Jerusalem and Judea and the region around about Jordan went out to hear the gospel of repentance preached with unearthly power by the fiery prophet of the wilderness.
After an absence of nine weeks he was again in Savannah on June 5. He found revival fires kindled in the Orphanage and fanned them to a flame. On June 13 he wrote to a minister at New York: "Wonderful things have been done since my arrival at Savannah. Such an awakening among little children, I never saw before."
On June 23 he went up to Ebenezer to visit the Saltzburghers, of which visit he says: "I had sweet communication with their ministers." He stayed with them two days, and returned to Savannah, where he remained until June 30. Of his preaching at this time, William Stephens, in his "Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia," says: "Mr. Whitefield always preaches and prays extempore. For some time past he has laid aside his surplice; and has managed to get justification by faith and the new birth into every sermon." Robes and rituals had come to be of small importance to this man whose fervent soul was fixed on the great essentials of that life which is by the living Spirit. Unpersuasive dogmas, without practical value in inducing men to come to Christ, were also reckoned as of secondary importance, for while it is beyond doubt that he was an ardent Calvinist, he writes John Wesley, on June 25, "For Christ's sake, dear sir, if possible, never speak against election in your sermons. No one can say that I ever preached it in public discourse, whatever my private sentiments may be."
On June 30 he left Savannah and went to Charleston, S. C., where he remained three weeks, from July 2 to July 24, the twenty-two days being spent in preaching in the city and at neighboring points, and in defending himself against the persecutions and prosecutions of "Commissary Garden." Then he returned to Savannah, where he tarried about two weeks. On August 21 he was back in Charleston, preaching during a brief sojourn there once every day and twice on Sundays. The diverting "Commissary Garden" was still frothing and fuming against him. Some impression may be gathered of the situation in Charleston from the following passage from his journal: "The audiences were more numerous than ever. It was supposed that not less than four thousand were in and about the meeting-house, when I preached my farewell sermon. Being denied the sacrament at church, I administered it thrice in a private house; namely yesterday, yesterday seven-night and this morning. Never did I see anything more solemn. The room was large, and most of the communicants were dissolved in tears. Surely Jesus was evidently set forth before us. Baptists, Churchmen, and Presbyterians, all joined together, and received according to the Church of England, excepting two, who desired to have it sitting. I willingly complied, knowing that it was a thing quite indifferent."
What catholicity of spirit was this, and that too, in an age marked by theological controversy! This scene showed a characteristic feature of the effect of Whitefield's ministry; he was not concerned for things "indifferent," and the multitudes whom his sermons inherited caught from him the same spirit. It was well that such a ministry came to America at this time, and that it inspired such a spirit among the people. If the Colonists had been less tenacious of their denominational tenets at an earlier day, religion would have been suffocated by indifference; if the spirit of tolerance and catholicity had not now become prevalent, Christianity would have perished if the throes of faction, and national unity of action would have been impossible thirty years later, when the revolutionary contest with Great Britain began.
A few days afterwards he sailed for New England, and landed at Newport, R. I., on Sunday evening, September 14, 1740. There he remained until the 18th, preaching, as was the case wherever he went, to vast congregations. On the 18th he arrived in Boston, which was at that time the largest city in any of the Colonies, having as it did, considerably more than 15,000 inhabitants, he went to Boston on the invitation of the Rev. Dr. Colman, and was welcomed by all the Bostonians, "except a famous doctor of divinity, who met him in the streets, and said, 'I am sorry to see you here;' and to whom Whitefleld quietly remarked, 'So is the devil.'"
He spent ten days in Boston and its immediate neighborhood, preaching daily to immense congregations. The next seven days were occupied with visiting several important towns at a greater distance, including Ipswich, Marblehead, Salem, and Newbury. In the four days he rode one hundred and seventy-eight miles and preached sixteen times. Returning then to Boston, he tarried there and in the vicinity seven other days, preaching during the week at Charleston and Cambridge. On October 12th, he preached his farewell sermon to the Bostonians, assembled in the open air on the commons. The Governor of the Colony carried him in his coach to the service, where he was met by a congregation of nearly 20,000 people, of which occasion he writes in his journal. "I preached my farewell sermon to nearly twenty thousand people--a sight which I have not seen since I left Blackheath." In the month, which had passed since he landed at Newport, he had preached twice a day, and had addressed more people in New England than any public speaker had ever addressed before. Departing he writes thus of this, his first visit to Boston, and the surrounding region: "God works by me more than ever. I am quite well in bodily health. Ministers, as well as people, are stirred up, and the Government is exceeding civil. God shows me that America must be my place for action."
At his request and suggestion, Gilbert Tennent came to Boston, two months afterwards, to carry on the work, and continued to labor there nearly four months. This wondrous movement thus begun at Boston by Whitefield and prosecuted by Gilbert Tennent, continued for a year and a half. As a result of it thousands united with the churches, the zeal of those who had been members of the churches previous to Whitefield's coming was kindled into a flame, the ministers preached as never before, and thirty new religious societies were instituted in the city. Similar results followed in the neighboring towns.
Leaving Boston, Whitefield preached at Concord October 13, Sudbury and Marlborough on the 14th, and reached Northhampton, the home of Jonathan Edwards, on the 17th. He tarried with Edwards until the 20th, preaching daily in the church of which that extraordinary man was the pastor. They had never met before. Whitefiehd describes Edwards as "a solid, excellent Christian," and Edwards speaks of Whitefield's work while in Northhampton on this wise: "The congregation was extraordinarily melted by every sermon; almost the whole assembly being in tears. His sermons were suitable to the circumstances of the town; containing just reproofs for our backslidings; and, in a most moving and affecting manner, making use of our great mercies as arguments with us to return to God, from whom we had departed. Immediately after this, the minds of the people in general appeared more engaged in religion. The revival was at first principally among professors, to whom Mr. Whitefield had chiefly addressed himself; but in a short time, there was deep concern among young persons. By the middle of December, a very considerable work of God appeared, and the revival continued to increase."
The work at Northampton and vicinity continued, with scarcely a perceptible interruption, or decline, for the next two years. Thus, in 1740, Whitefield revived Edwards' revival of 1735.
Leaving Northampton, Whitefield proceeded to New York, preaching at Hatfield, Westfield, Suffield, Hertford, Weathersfield, Middletown, New Haven, Milford, Stratford, Fairfield, Newark and Stanford, during the ten days he was on the way. The region thus traversed had been blessed in the awakening which began at Northampton five years before, and Whitefield now rekindled the dying fires all along the journey as he passed.
He remained four days in New York, and preached seven times. "There was a great and gracious melting among the people," he says. Thence he started to Philadelphia, and during the five days of his journey thither, he preached at Staten Island, Newark, Baskinridge, New Brunswick and Trenton. At New Brunswick he met Gilbert and William Tennent, and arranged that the former should go and help carry on the work in Boston--an epochal step in the history of the "Great Awakening." About the first of November he reached Philadelphia, and wrote to Howell Harris, "Little did I think, when Mr. E--J-- wrote, that I should preach in all the chief places of America; but that is now done." And it was so, although since his arrival in America October 30, 1739, he had been in the country only a little more thian a year. In that time he had twice covered the distance between New York and Savannah, had made repeated visits to Charleston, S. C., had made the voyage to New England, stirred Boston and all the surrounding country, had passed over the track of the revival of 1735, revisited New York, preached for the third time over the way between New York and Philadelphia, and was now back at the latter place, where a year before he had seen the first great triumphs of his gospel in the New World. It is certain that he was now known by sight to more people in America than was any other man in the Colonies.
On Sunday morning, November 9, he preached in the house that had been built since his last visit, and which, as has been previously mentioned, became the home of Gilbert Tennent's Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and eventually, the first seat of the University of Pennsylvania. He describes it thus: "It is a hundred feet long and seventy feet broad. It was never preached in before. The roof is not up yet; but the people raised a convenient pulpit and boarded the bottom." During the ensuing happy week among his friends in Philadelphia, he preached in this roofless building twice every day, except one morning, when there was so much snow within the walls that it became necessary to repair to "the Presbyterian meeting-house."
He left Philadelphia November 17, and started for Savannah, preaching as he went to assembled thousands, at Gloucester, Greenwich, Piles Grove, Cohansie, Salem, Newcastle, Whiteclay Creek, Fagg's Manor, Nottingham, Bohemia, St. Georges, Reedy Island, and Charleston, S. C. He arrived at Savannah Saturday, December 13, after an absence of eighteen weeks, during which time he had preached nearly two hundred times, and had kindled great revival fires throughout all the Colonies from which came the name of the movement, "The Great Awakening of 1740," from the year in which Whitefield completed for the first time his circuit of the entire country.
He remained in Savannah until New Year's Day, 1741. While nominally incumbent of the parish for the three preceding years, he had really spent but twenty-nine weeks and two days, during the whole period, in the Colony of Georgia.
Leaving Savannah January 1, 1741, he went again to Charleston, where he arrived on January 4. He remained in Charleston twelve days, during which time he was brought before the civil magistrate in a proceeding for libel, which was no doubt instigated by "Commissary Garden." Nevertheless he preached twice every day to large congregations. On January 16 he went aboard the Minerva, and took passage for England, landing at Falmouth, March 11.
Thus was ended his second visit to America. This detailed account of his movements during that eventful period of a year and a half is given because, without such a particular narration, his part in the "Great Awakening" can not be justly measured, nor can that mighty movement be fully comprehended without it. Moreover, this first circuit of the Colonies is typical of all his five subsequent visits, except that his fourth visit was cut suddenly short, when it had scarcely begun, and that in his later visits he more deeply affected Virginia and the other Southern Colonies, and extended his labours to the Bermudas. A minute history of these visits are therefore unnecessary. His ministry to America may be expressed in the statement, that on behalf of this western world he crossed the Atlantic, in slow sailing vessels, thirteen times; evangelized the British Colonies from Maine to Georgia; rekindled the expiring fires of the revivals begun by Edwards and the Tennents, and fanned them to a flame which eventually swept as a general conflagration throughout all the Colonies by the instrumentality of his efforts; and perpetuated, by repeated circuits of the country, the movement in a greater or less degree of vigor until his death in 1770, a few years before the outbreak of the War for Independence, and a year after the arrival in the New World of the first Wesleyan preachers, by whom and their successors mighty revivals were brought to pass in later years.
Dr. Abel Stevens thus summarizes some of the more striking results of Whitefield's ministry in America: "The Congregational Churches of New England, the Presbyterians and Baptists of the Middle States, and the mixed Colonies of the South, owe their religious life and energy to the impulse given by Whitefield's powerful ministration. The 'Great Awakening' under Edwards had not only subsided before Whitefield's arrival, but had reacted. Whitefield restored it; and the New England Churches received under his labours an inspiration of zeal and energy which has never died out. He extended the revival from the Congregational Churches of the Eastern to the Presbyterian Churches of the Middle States. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where Frelinghuysen, Blair, Rowland, and the two Tennents had been labouring with evangelical zeal, he was received as a prophet of God; and it was then that the Presbyterian Church took that attitude of evangelical power and aggression which has ever since characterized it. Whitefield's preaching, and especially the reading of his printed sermons in Virginia, led to the founding of the Presbyterian Church in that State, whence it has extended to the South and Southwest. The stock from which the Baptists of Virginia and those in all the South and Southwest have sprung, was also Whitefieldian. And though Whitefield did not organize the results of his labours, he prepared the way for Wesley's itinerants. When he descended into his American grave, they were already on his track. They came not only to labour, but to organize their labours; to reproduce, amid the peculiar moral necessities of the New World, both the spirit and method of the great movement as it had been organized by Wesley in the Old."
Before passing from Whitefield's part in the "Great Awakening," it is important to notice several peculiarities of his work which wonderfully adapted it to exercise a controlling and benign influence during that period of the nation's history when the Colonies were to come together in a federal union. And first, let it be remarked that his doctrines of evangelical and experimental Christianity as opposed to sacramentarianism and formalism in religion, mightily contributed to the development of the spirit of freedom. A man, who without the intervention of priestly absolution or sacramentarian ceremony, feels that he is justified by faith and born of the Spirit, receiving directly from God the assurance of his deliverance from the guilt and power of sin, inevitably conceives that he must be free. Priestcraft in religion and absolutism in government go naturally together; but where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, even political liberty in the end. Puritan experience of that liberty, wherewith Christ makes men free, destroyed absolutism in England, and the same spirit, aroused and invigorated by the revival under Whitefield's ministry, prepared the way in no small degree for constitutional freedom in the United States. And this spirit of liberty, it should be observed, differs from that mad frenzy that made and marred the French Revolution, by so much as it is purged from the dross of selfishness and the virus of vindictiveness, by the fervent love with which it co-exists in the divinely renewed heart. One who is a son of God by the adoption of the new birth, not only conceives respect for his own manhood, but reverence for the rights of all other men.
Whitefield was a Calvinist of the Calvinists; otherwise he could never have secured access to the Churches which represented the organized Christianity of the Colonies at his coming. They would with one consent have rejected Wesley as a heretic and have closed their doors against him. But Whitefield did not, as he wrote Wesley, preach his Calvinism. He laid the emphasis of his ministry on the experimental doctrines of justification by faith and the new birth, leaving men to find their election by experiencing saying grace. Had he come, preaching and believing Arminianism as Wesley did, he would have raised a continental controversy, that would have hindered all the forces of union and multiplied all the divisive tendencies of the times. But coming with his gospel of saving grace, omitting to preach election, in which he believed, the revival which resulted from his ministry fused the discordant elements of the heterogeneous peoples of the Colonies into one family of God. The Baptists even united with him in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Thus the Colonists, who being mainly of British ancestry, had some bond of unity by birth, came to have a far nobler and more effective kinship by the new birth. And the spirit of unity was the more promoted because Whitefield organized no new Church, as Wesley most certainly would have done under similar circumstances. It was Whitefield, not Wesley, that America needed just at that moment.
But it would have been most unfortunate if Whitefield's sermons, by which the hearts of men were so strongly drawn and so firmly knit to him, had been of a character to forestall the Methodist itinerants of a little later day. This most surely would have been the case had he preached with his wonted zeal the Calvinism which he sincerely believed. But this he did not do, and the meetings of the Wesleyan preachers when they came, were more like Whitefield's revival than Whitefield's meetings were like the services of the Calvinists of the Colonies when he came. This meant much in the making of the nation.
Having examined in detail the history of the "Great Awakening," from its local beginnings under the ministry of Edwards and the Tennents, to its culmination in a national revival, under the leadership of Whitefield, we are prepared to sum up its effects, and to measure its influence on the British Colonies, as they moved towards the unity of a single nation, during this eventful period of their history.
In estimating the force and appraising the fruit of the great movement, it must be candidly conceded, that it was not unattended with some things which can not be approved. There were extravagances and irregularities wholly foreign to the spirit of Christ, such, for example, as the follies and foibles manifested by James Davenport. There was also a spirit of censoriousness sometimes engendered, which even Whitefield did not escape, and which he subsequently confessed most frankly and lamented most sincerely. But all these things are almost inevitable when such a work is done. A great spring-time can not burst upon the world with the precision and orderliness of a mechanically directed movement. It will give rise by its very nature, to exuberances and excesses. Such was the case in the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches in Apostolic times. Similar conditions attended the labours of Martin Luther and John Knox and Wickliffe. The greatest dangers to religion at such a time, however, is not the unwise and excessive fervor of inexperienced souls, but the cold, calculating criticism with which the worldly and phlegmatic members of the church, seek to restrain and correct the irregularities of the enthusiastic. A newly kindled fire will smoke most inconveniently and uncomfortably at the first; but if we seek to get rid of the smoke by pouring cold water on the smouldering flame we only make the matter worse. It is far better to help the fire to burn itself into a clear, smokeless flame. Paul's remedy for the disorders at Thessalonica was indicated by the exhortation "Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings." The critics of the "Great Awakening" were not so wise. They vainly attempted to clear away the smoke by putting out the fire. Thereby they made more smoke around themselves, and so came very naturally to say the benign movement was all smoke. But the fire of heaven was in it, and when all subtractions are made for the mistakes and sins of some who were identified with it, the following blessed results remain:
1. The churches were greatly multiplied, their membership amazingly increased, and the piety of both ministers and members vastly improved.
From 1740 to 1760 the Congregational Churches of New England were increased by 150 new churches. When it is remembered that the population of New England at the time was only 250,000, such an increase in the churches of one denomination was phenomenal. The Presbyterian, Baptist and other churches were proportionately increased.
As to the number of converts, James Hammond Trumbull estimates that in two or three years there were in New England alone thirty or forty thousand. If for the whole country we place the figures at 50,000--which is evidentally far too low--we have a most extraordinary harvest of souls. The entire population of all the British Colonies was then less than 2,000,000. The population of the United States now, excepting Porto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands, is 75,994,575, or in round numbers 76,000,000. If now we should be blessed with a continental revival, by which as great a proportion of the people were converted as was the case in "the Great Awakening," the result would be expressed by the number 1,900,000. How would not the country be stirred and revolutionized by the conversion of 1,900,000 souls now!
2. The piety of the churches was as wonderfully elevated as their numbers were increased, by "the Great Awakening'." It was qualitative, as well as quantitative in its power. We have seen how even "the Venerable Stoddard" had fallen under the influence of the opinion, prevalent before the revival, that a personal experience of grace was not requisite to church membership. And if such was his attitude to the subject what must have been the case of others? The colleges of that time received as candidates for the ministry, young men who were without even the semblance of piety. If a candidate for ordination was not heretical in doctrine, nor scandalous in life he was ordained without a question of his fitness. The ministry was therefore crowded with unconverted men. At the time of Whitefield's third visit to America, 1744 to 1748, there were not less than twenty ministers in the vicinity of Boston, who confessed that they had never been converted until he came in 1740-- and New England was then the home of the best type of piety in all the land. If the sons of Levi were thus without God, what must have been the condition of the unofficial membership of the churches?
But "the Great Awakening" changed all that. Members and ministers who had been the bane of the churches came by conversion to be blessings to the land. Since that time no man has dared to teach in the United States that an unconverted minister is tolerable in the churches. The evil leaven of that doctrine has been urged away forever. An immeasurable blessing that can not be overstated!
3. "The Great Awakening" created and promoted a new spirit of catholicity among the churches. It was no accident, but of Providential purpose, that the first Colonists were not all of one denomination; but were of divers theological systems. For a long time it was well that they were tenacious of their tenets even to intolerance; otherwise a spirit of indifference would have utterly overwhelmed their faith during the period of their temptation in the wilderness. We may look with much forbearance upon their occasional persecutions of each other, when we consider that men less earnest during such a period would probably have allowed religion to perish. But the hour was now arrived when the time of their ignorance could not longer continue without serious hurt to religion and permanent damage to the country. Whitefield with his broad, catholic spirit, and mightily absorbed in the work of saving souls without regard to denominational lines or sectarian systems, elevated to their proper position the essentials of a pure Christianity and depressed to a 'just subordination things non-essential and indifferent. Thereby in reviving the life and power of primitive Christianity he did also restore its true symmetry and proportions. This was great gain to godliness, and much advantage to the nation soon to be born. Hereby the Americans were saved from throwing away religion as did the French in their revolution, and also from quarreling over religion until purity perished in polemics.
4. A distinct and nobler manner of propagating Christianity was begun--a type more nearly a copy of the methods of the primitive church, set forth in the Acts of the Apostles, than anything the world had seen for over sixteen centuries before. It was not ritualistic but emphatically evangelistic. Some have called it contemptuously "revivalism." Let the name, given in derision, be accepted. Revivalisin is the characteristic American way of building up the churches--a way that began among the Colonists and their fathers before they came to America, and which since "the Great Awakening" has continued with increasing power to yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It is essentially a preaching type; its chief reliance is the gospel "preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven." It expects supernatural results from the Word, and it is not disappointed. It has resulted in the highest type of civilization and the purest form of Christianity on the planet. It can afford to endure with patience, the jeers of the unthinking and unconverted.
In this connection may be quoted to advantage a striking passage from ' The Americanization of the World," by W. T. Stead. He says: "Looking over the religious movements of the last century in the English-speaking world, there are five distinctly discernible. Of these five, only one is of English origin. The Tractarian movement of the Middle Century was distinctly Anglican, but beyond a certain stimulus given to the sensuous exercise of divine worship, its influence was strictly confined within the limits of its own sect. The other four movements have been much wider in their sweep. The first and most persistent has been Revivalism. This was distinctly American in its origin. No doubt, there have been revivals, or as the Catholics would say, missions, in all ages of the church, but the systematized revival, the deliberate organization of religious services for the express purpose of rousing the latent moral enthusiasm of mankind, is a distinctly American product of the last century. Wesley and Whitefield may have sown its seeds, but it grew up across the Atlantic. Revivalism flourished in the United States long before it was acclimatized on this side of the water. . . It is easy to sneer at Revivalism, but it has been the means by which. hundreds and thousands of men and women have found their way to a higher and purer life. The Revivalist may often seem rude, uncultured, even vulgar, but in his untutored eloquence millions of men have heard for the first time the echoes of the Divine voice that spoke on Sinai while the penitent form and the inquiry-room have been to many a sin stricken soul the antechamber of heaven. In this practical, work-a-day world, men affect great admiration for those who do things, as opposed to the men who talk about them. But Revivalism has done things which the more cultured and refined would not even have ventured to attempt."
5. "The Great Awakening" wove new bonds of affection between the British Isles and the American Colonies. Whitefield came to America from the "Holy Club" of the Wesleys at Oxford, and just after he had sounded in the open air the first notes of that great revival in England, which changed so greatly the whole face of civilization in both the Old and New Worlds. In seven successive visits to the New World he brought to the Colonies revival influences and carried back stimulating accounts of the work of grace in America which fired afresh the zeal of the revivalists in the British Isles. He was a century and more before Finney and Nettleton, and Moody and Sankey, the creator of a line of religious communication and fellowship between Great Britain and the United States, which from that time until the present, has been an increasingly potential factor in unifying the Anglo-Saxon prophets of the earth. This was highly important then when the revolutionary influences which culminated in the War of Independence were gathering force and taking form. It was necessary that the Colonies should be independent, but it was equally necessary that they should not be thrown off so far from the Mother Country as to fall under the influences of atheistic and revolutionary France--a dreadful peril that was barely escaped, and which would not have been escaped at all, if "the Great Awakening" in America and the Wesleyan revivals in the British Isles, had not intervened. Those seasons of grace were God-sends truly!
6. "The Great Awakening" turned the hearts of the fathers to the children, and prepared the way for the Sunday-school work of later times. Edwards says: "God has also made his hand very visible and his work glorious in the multitudes of little children that have been wrought upon: I suppose there have been some hundreds of instances of this nature of late, any one of which formerly would have been looked upon as so remarkable as to be worthy to be recorded and published through the land." It may be observed in passing that the same characteristic marked the Wesleyan movement in Great Britain. It is not accidental, nor mysterious that the Sunday-school work of the world to-day is mainly confined to the map of evangelistic Christianity, and that it scarcely goes beyond the lands directly affected by these great revivals of the eighteenth century.
7. The cause of missions was mightily set forward by "the Great Awakening." Tracy in his famous book on the "Awakening" says: "'The influence of this revival on the cause of missions to the heathen ought not to be overlooked. The New England Pilgrims had set the Protestant world the first example of such labors, and they and their descendants had sustained the work for more than a century. Societies had been formed in Great Britain to aid them; and at a later day, some kindred movements had been commenced on the continent of Europe. Within a few years, several missions had been established among the American Indians, but few conversions had followed them. The most prosperous was the Stockbridge Mission under Sargent. The revival gave an impulse to the work at nearly all the stations. On Long Island thirty-five adults and forty-four children were baptized in two years from 1741. Soon after there were numerous conversions among those near Stonington; and a visit from them was the means of awakening those in Westerly, R. I. . . . Heathenism seems to have been extirpated from that whole region. In 1743, Brainerd began his missionary career at Kaunaumeek. In 1745 he removed to New Jersey, and commenced his labors at the forks of the Delaware and Crosweeksing. His first visit to the latter place was attended with the evident presence of the Holy Spirit in the awakening and conviction of his hearers. When, after two weeks, he left them for a season, William Tennent was sent for and came to supply his place. The work went on under Tennent's preaching, and received a new impulse on Brainerd's return. All Christendom knows the glorious scenes that followed. These dates, and the name of Tennent, and the history of Brainerd while at New Haven, show that Brainerd's triumphs were a part of this great revival." Jonathan Edwards remarks: "The work is very glorious in its influences and effects on many that have been very ignorant and barbarous, as I before observed of the Indians and Negroes."
In this great revival was the promise and potency of all those subsequent efforts of American Churches to rescue the perishing Indian from the destructive vices of a secular civilization and the superstition of his own savage state. It may be doubted if there would be any Indians at all in the United States at the present day, but for the missionary enterprises of the churches.
Here also began those efforts on behalf of the salvation of the Negro, which have been the peculiar glory of the American churches. American Christianity is the Philip among the national evangelists, for more Africans have been brought to Christ by the American churches--especially by those labouring in the Southern States--than by all the other churches of the world combined.
8. The cause of education was greatly promoted by "the Great Awakening." It improved the religious spirit and tone of existing institutions of learning, and gave rise to new ones.
Thus was not a novel or unnatural effect. In the hundred years following the labors of Wickliffe, twenty-four universities sprang up. Ritualistic Christianity may be able to get on without producing or requiring for its propagation men of learning. Evangelistic Christianity comes preaching, and both makes and needs the learning it inspires.
The necessity for evangelical preachers gave birth to Princeton University. It was the child of the revival, and Jonathan Edwards was carried to its presidency, not because he was a Presbyterian, but because he was an evangelical scholar and preacher. He was received there, Puritan though he was, as Gilbert Tennent, the Presbyterian was warmly welcomed to the Congregational pulpits of New England.
Dartmouth College, the alma mater of the great Daniel Webster, was also the direct product of the "Great Awakening." Its founding was on this wise: Among the Mohegan Indians converted in 1741, was Samson Occum, then seventeen years of age. In December 1743, Rev. Eleazar Wheelock, an active factor in the revival, received him into his home at Lebanon, Conn., and taught him several years. In 1848, this godly preacher and teacher determined to commence a school for the education of Indian preachers. Joshua Moor, a farmer in Mansfield, who had been affected by the revival, gave the first donation for the founding of the school, and it was therefore, at first called "Moor's Charity School." The influence of the revival brought many Indian pupils to the school, and in 1766, Rev. Nathaniel Whittaker and Samson Occum went to England, to solicit funds for the institution. Whitefield aided them; Occum, the Indian preacher, attracted unusual attention; a large sum of money was obtained, Lord Dartmouth, a convert of the Wesleyan movement in England, giving the most. This gave the new name to the institution when it was removed to Hanover. Founded by the influence of the revival, its early history was marked by a series of remarkable revivals extending through several years.
The faculties of Harvard and Yale had sharp controversies with Whitefield, but for all that, they participated in the fruits of the continental revival, and both instructors and pupils were greatly blessed by its benign influence.
9. From all these influences combined, society at large was powerfully affected. The land was blessed with a moral revolution of the most beneficent sort. The greatness of any people is exactly measured by the amount of moral force that is generated among them, and the moral energy which had been set in motion among the Colonists by "the Great Awakening," brought to pass not merely a general reformation, but nothing short of a national regeneration. The Colonies were, so to speak, born again. They respected themselves and loved God and each other as they never had. And Whitefield "moving up and down the Atlantic coast as a shuttle, wove together the sentiments of the thirteen colonies, and made union possible by creating a national spirit."
Chapter 1 - Religion and National Life
Chapter 2 - A Nation Founded by Faith
Chapter 3 - Revivals in the Old World Made Colonies in the New
Chapter 4 - The Great Awakening
Chapter 5 - The Weslyan Revival
Chapter 6 - The Great Revival of 1800
Chapter 7 - The Revival of 1858
Chapter 8 - The Revival in the Days of Moody and Sankey
Chapter 9 - Evangelical Christianity and the Security of their Great Republic and the Hope of the World
Chapter 10 - The Next Great Awakening