“Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3
Between the years of 1730-1770, there was a spiritual awakening that swept over the American colonies and England. Many were used greatly by God, but none stand out so clearly as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John Wesley. We will look at each of these over the next three days.
Jonathan Edwards was the pastor of a congregational church in Northampton, Massachusetts in 1734. He inherited the pulpit from his maternal grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, who had introduced a way for the unconverted to become members.
This reduced their Christianity to an outward form that lacked the power of an experience with God and led to an atmosphere of frivolity and immorality. So when one popular young man was stricken down with an illness that led to his sudden death, Edwards seized the opportunity. Depicting an image of strikingly beautiful flowers of the field that are mowed over and ruined by the end of the day, Edwards reminded the weeping congregation of the fleeting beauty of youth. How foolish it was to center one’s life on short-lived pleasures. How much wiser it would be to trust in Christ, whose beauty far outshone the highest earthly glory, and in whom one’s joy would be for all eternity. (A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards; pg. 46)
As this spark grew to a fire, people started meeting during the week to pray, sing, and read. Lines of awakened young people gathered at Edward’s study door seeking spiritual counsel. People in Northampton talked of almost nothing but spiritual things. They dwelt on other topics only so long as it was necessary to conduct their daily work, and sometimes even neglected their work so that they could spend more time in spiritual activities. For a time, sickness almost disappeared. Astonished by the phenomena that surrounded him, Edwards wrote a booklet called: “A Faithful Narrative of this Surprising Work of God.” Wherever this account went, similar spiritual hunger broke out.
A fire had been lit that would eventually travel far and wide in the colonies and in England. These early moves of the Spirit would pale in comparison to what would happen in the next decade through an evangelist from England named George Whitefield who God would raise up to put gasoline on these early embers.