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The Great Awakening





It was not wholly dark in American Christendom before the dawn of the
Great Awakening. The censoriousness which was the besetting sin of the
evangelists in that great religious movement, the rhetorical temptation
to glorify the revival by intensifying the contrast with the antecedent
condition, and the exaggerated revivalism ever since so prevalent in
the American church,--the tendency to consider religion as consisting
mainly in scenes and periods of special fervor, and the intervals
between as so much void space and waste time,--all these have combined
to deepen the dark tints in which the former state is set before us in
history.

The power of godliness was manifest in the earlier days by many
infallible signs, not excluding those times of refreshing in which the
simultaneous earnestness of many souls compels the general attention.
Even in Northampton, where the doctrine of the venerable Stoddard as to
the conditions of communion has been thought to be the low-water mark of
church vitality, not less than five such harvest seasons were within
recent memory. It was to this parish in a country town on the frontier
of civilization, but the most important in Massachusetts outside of
Boston, that there came, in the year 1727, to serve as colleague to his
aged grandfather, Pastor Stoddard, a young man whose wonderful
intellectual and spiritual gifts had from his childhood awakened the
pious hopes of all who had known him, and who was destined in his future
career to be recognized as the most illustrious of the saints and
doctors of the American church. The authentic facts of the boyhood of
Jonathan Edwards read like the myths that adorn the legendary Lives of
the Saints. As an undergraduate of Yale College, before the age of
seventeen, his reflections on the mysteries of God, and the universe,
and the human mind, were such as even yet command the attention and
respect of students of philosophy. He remained at New Haven two years
after graduation, for the further study of theology, and then spent
eight months in charge of the newly organized Presbyterian church in New
York.[156:1] After this he spent two years as tutor at Yale,--one of
the pillar tutors, and the glory of the college,--at the critical
period after the defection of Rector Cutler to the Church of
England.[156:2] From this position he was called in 1726, at the age of
twenty-three, to the church at Northampton. There he was ordained
February 15, 1727, and thither a few months later he brought his
espousŤd saint, Sarah Pierpont, consummate flower of Puritan
womanhood, thenceforth the companion not only of his pastoral cares and
sorrows, but of his seraphic contemplations of divine things.

The intensely earnest sermons, the holy life, and the loving prayers of
one of the greatest preachers in the history of the church were not long
in bearing abundant fruit. In a time of spiritual and moral depression,
when the world, the flesh, and the devil seemed to be gaining against
the gospel, sometime in the year 1733 signs began to be visible of
yielding to the power of God's Word. The frivolous or wanton frolics of
the youth began to be exchanged for meetings for religious conference.
The pastor was encouraged to renewed tenderness and solemnity in his
preaching. His themes were justification by faith, the awfulness of
God's justice, the excellency of Christ, the duty of pressing into the
kingdom of God. Presently a young woman, a leader in the village
gayeties, became serious, giving evidence, even to the severe judgment
of Edwards, of a heart truly broken and sanctified. A general
seriousness began to spread over the whole town. Hardly a single person,
old or young, but felt concerned about eternal things. According to
Edwards's Narrative:

The 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, anno 1735, the town
seemed to be full of the presence of God. It was never 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 the
account of salvation's being brought unto them; parents
rejoicing over their children as being new-born, and husbands
over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The goings of
God were then seen in his sanctuary. God's day was a delight,
and his tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were
then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God's service,
every one intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to
drink in the words of the minister as they came from his
mouth; the assembly in general were from time to time in tears
while the Word was preached, some weeping with sorrow and
distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and
concern for the souls of their neighbors. Our public praises
were then greatly enlivened; God was then served in our
psalmody in some measure in the beauty of holiness.

The crucial test of the divineness of the work was given when the people
presented themselves before the Lord with a solemn act of thanksgiving
for his great goodness and his gracious presence in the town of
Northampton, with publicly recorded vows to renounce their evil ways and
put away their abominations from before his eyes. They solemnly promise
thenceforth, in all dealings with their neighbor, to be governed by the
rules of honesty, justice, and uprightness; not to overreach or defraud
him, nor anywise to injure him, whether willfully or through want of
care; to regard not only their own interest, but his; particularly, to
be faithful in the payment of just debts; in the case of past wrongs
against any, never to rest till they have made full reparation; to
refrain from evil speaking, and from everything that feeds a spirit of
bitterness; to do nothing in a spirit of revenge; not to be led by
private or partisan interest into any course hurtful to the interests of
Christ's kingdom; particularly, in public affairs, not to allow ambition
or partisanship to lead them counter to the interest of true religion.
Those who are young promise to allow themselves in no diversions that
would hinder a devout spirit, and to avoid everything that tends to
lasciviousness, and which will not be approved by the infinitely pure
and holy eye of God. Finally, they consecrate themselves watchfully to
perform the relative duties of parents and children, husbands and wives,
brothers and sisters, masters, mistresses, and servants.

So great a work as this could not be hid. The whole region of the
Connecticut Valley, in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and neighboring
regions felt the influence of it. The fame of it went abroad. A letter
of Edwards's in reply to inquiries from his friend, Dr. Colman, of
Boston, was forwarded to Dr. Watts and Dr. Guise, of London, and by them
published under the title of Narrative of Surprising Conversions. A
copy of the little book was carried in his pocket for wayside reading on
a walk from London to Oxford by John Wesley, in the year 1738. Not yet
in the course of his work had he seen it on this fashion, and he
writes in his journal: Surely this is the Lord's doing, and it is
marvelous in our eyes.

Both in this narrative and in a later work on The Distinguishing Marks
of a Work of the Spirit of God, one cannot but admire the divine gift
of a calm wisdom with which Edwards had been endowed as if for this
exigency. He is never dazzled by the incidents of the work, nor
distracted by them from the essence of it. His argument for the
divineness of the work is not founded on the unusual or extraordinary
character of it, nor on the impressive bodily effects sometimes
attending it, such as tears, groans, outcries, convulsions, or
faintings, nor on visions or ecstasies or impressions. What he claims
is that the work may be divine, notwithstanding the presence of these
incidents.[159:1] It was doubtless owing to the firm and judicious
guidance of such a pastor that the intense religious fervor of this
first awakening at Northampton was marked by so much of sobriety and
order. In later years, in other regions, and under the influence of
preachers not of greater earnestness, but of less wisdom and discretion,
there were habitual scenes of extravagant and senseless enthusiasm,
which make the closing pages of this chapter of church history painfully
instructive.

It is not difficult to understand how one of the first places at a
distance to feel the kindling example of Northampton should be the
neighborhood of Newark. To this region, planted, as we have seen, with
so strong a stock from New England, from old England, and from Scotland,
came, in 1708, a youth of twenty years, Jonathan Dickinson, a native of
the historic little town of Hatfield, next neighbor to Northampton. He
was pastor at Elizabeth, but his influence and activity extended through
all that part of New Jersey, and he became easily the leader of the
rapidly growing communion of Presbyterian churches in that province, and
the opponent, in the interest of Christian liberty and sincerity, of
rigid terms of subscription, demanded by men of little faith. There is a
great career before him; but that which concerns the present topic is
his account of what took place sometime in August, 1739 (the summer
before Mr. Whitefield came first into these parts), when there was a
remarkable revival at Newark.... This revival of religion was chiefly
observable among the younger people, till the following March, when the
whole town in general was brought under an uncommon concern about their
eternal interests, and the congregation appeared universally affected
under some sermons that were then preached to them.

Like scenes of spiritual quickening were witnessed that same season in
other parts of New Jersey; but special interest attaches to the report
from New Londonderry, Penn., where a Scotch-Irish community received as
its pastor, in the spring of 1740, Samuel Blair, a native of Ireland,
trained in the Log College of William Tennent. He describes the people,
at his first knowledge of them, as sunk in a religious torpor,
ignorance, and indifference. The first sign of vitality was observed in
March, 1740, during the pastor's absence, when, under an alarming sermon
from a neighbor minister:

There was a visible appearance of much soul-concern among
the hearers; so that some burst out with an audible noise into
bitter crying, a thing not known in these parts before.... The
first sermon I preached after my return to them was from
Matthew vi. 33: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness.' After opening up and explaining the parts of
the text, when in the improvement I came to press the
injunction in the text upon the unconverted and ungodly, and
offered this as one reason among others why they should now
first of all seek the kingdom and righteousness of God, viz.,
that they had neglected too long to do so already, this
consideration seemed to come and cut like a sword upon several
in the congregation; so that while I was speaking upon it they
could no longer contain, but burst out in the most bitter
mourning. I desired them as much as possible to restrain
themselves from making any noise that would hinder themselves
or others from hearing what was spoken; and often afterward I
had occasion to repeat the same counsel. I still advised
people to endeavor to moderate and bound their passions, but
not so as to resist and stifle their convictions. The number
of the awakened increased very fast. Frequently under sermons
there were some newly convicted and brought into deep distress
of soul about their perishing estate. Our Sabbath assemblies
soon became vastly large, many people from almost all parts
around inclining very much to come where there was such
appearance of the divine power and presence. I think there was
scarcely a sermon or lecture preached here through that whole
summer but there were manifest evidences of impressions on the
hearers, and many times the impressions were very great and
general. Several would be overcome and fainting; others deeply
sobbing, hardly able to contain; others crying in a most
dolorous manner; many others more silently weeping, and a
solemn concern appearing in the countenances of many others.
And sometimes the soul-exercises of some (though comparatively
but very few) would so far affect their bodies as to occasion
some strange, unusual bodily motions. I had opportunities of
speaking particularly with a great many of those who afforded
such outward tokens of inward soul-concern in the time of
public worship and hearing of the Word. Indeed, many came to
me of themselves, in their distress, for private instruction
and counsel; and I found, so far as I can remember, that with
by far the greater part their apparent concern in public was
not just a transient qualm of conscience or merely a floating
commotion of the affections, but a rational, fixed conviction
of their dangerous, perishing estate....

In some time many of the convinced and distressed afforded
very hopeful, satisfying evidence that the Lord had brought
them to true closure with Jesus Christ, and that their
distresses and fears had been in a great measure removed in a
right gospel way, by believing in the Son of God. Several of
them had very remarkable and sweet deliverances this way. It
was very agreeable to hear their accounts how that when they
were in the deepest perplexity and darkness, distress and
difficulty, seeking God as poor, condemned, hell-deserving
sinners, the scene of recovering grace through a Redeemer has
been opened to their understandings with a surprising beauty
and glory, so that they were enabled to believe in Christ with
joy unspeakable and full of glory.[162:1]

The experience of Gilbert Tennent at New Brunswick had no connection
with the first awakening at Northampton, but had important relations
with later events. He was the eldest of the four sons whom William
Tennent, the Episcopalian minister from Ireland, had brought with him to
America and educated at his Log College. In 1727 he became pastor of a
church at New Brunswick, where he was much impressed with what he saw of
the results of the work of the Rev. Theodore Frelinghuysen, who for
seven years had been pastor of a neighboring Dutch church. The example
and fraternal counsel of this good man made him sensible of the
fruitlessness of his own work, and moved him to more earnest prayers and
labors. Having been brought low with sickness, he prayed to God to grant
him one half-year more in which to endeavor to promote his kingdom with
all my might at all adventures. Being raised up from sickness, he
devoted himself to earnest personal labors with individuals and to
renewed faithfulness in the pulpit, which method was sealed by the Holy
Spirit in the conviction and conversion of a considerable number of
persons, at various times and in different places, in that part of the
country, as appeared by their acquaintance with experimental religion
and good conversation. This bit of pastoral history, in which is
nothing startling or prodigious, was at least five years previous to the
Surprising Conversions at Northampton. There must have been generally
throughout the country a preparedness for the Great Awakening.

* * * * *

It was in that year (1735) in which the town of Northampton was all
ablaze with the glory of its first revival under Edwards that George
Whitefield, first among the members of Wesley's Holy Club at Oxford,
attained to that sense of the divine love from which he was wont to
date his conversion. In May, 1738, when the last reflections from the
Northampton revival had faded out from all around the horizon, the young
clergyman, whose first efforts as a preacher in pulpits of the Church of
England had astonished all hearers by the power of his eloquence,
arrived at Savannah, urged by the importunity of the Wesleys to take up
the work in Georgia in which they had so conspicuously failed. He
entered eagerly into the sanguine schemes for the advantage of the
young colony, and especially into the scheme for building and endowing
an orphan-house in just that corner of the earth where there was less
need of such an institution than anywhere else. After three months' stay
he started on his return to England to seek priest's orders for himself,
and funds for the orphans that might be expected sometime in Georgia. He
was successful in both his errands. He was ordained; he collected more
than one thousand pounds for the orphan-house; and being detained in the
kingdom by an embargo, he began that course of evangelistic preaching
which continued on either side of the ocean until his death, and which
is without a parallel in church history. His incomparable eloquence
thronged the parish churches, until the churches were closed against
him, and the Bishop of London warned the people against him in a
pastoral letter. Then he went out into the open fields, in the service,
as he said, of him who had a mountain for his pulpit, and the heavens
for his sounding-board, and who, when his gospel was refused by the
Jews, sent his servants into the highways and hedges. Multitudes of
every rank thronged him; but especially the heathenized and embruted
colliers near Bristol listened to the unknown gospel, and their awakened
feelings were revealed to the preacher by his observing the white
gutters made by the tears that ran down their grimy faces. At last the
embargo was raised, and committing his work to Wesley, whom he had drawn
into field-preaching, he sailed in August, 1739, for Philadelphia, on
his way to Georgia. His fame had gone before him, and the desire to hear
him was universal. The churches would not contain the throngs. It was
long remembered how, on those summer evenings, he would take his stand
in the balcony of the old court-house in Market Street, and how every
syllable from his wonderful voice would be heard aboard the river-craft
moored at the foot of the street, four hundred feet away.

At New York the Episcopal church was closed against him, but the pastor
of the Presbyterian church, Mr. Pemberton, from Boston, made him
welcome, and the fields were free to him and his hearers. On the way to
New York and back, the tireless man preached at every town. At New
Brunswick he saw and heard with profound admiration Gilbert Tennent,
thenceforth his friend and yokefellow.

Seeing the solemn eagerness of the people everywhere to hear him, he
determined to make the journey to Savannah by land, and again he turned
the long journey into a campaign of preaching. Arriving at Savannah in
January, 1740, he laid the foundation of his orphan-house, Bethesda,
and in March was again on his way northward on a tour of preaching and
solicitation of funds. Touching at Charleston, where the bishop's
commissary, Dr. Garden, was at open controversy with him, he preached
five times and received seventy pounds for his charitable work. Landing
at New Castle on a Sunday morning, he preached morning and evening.
Monday morning he preached at Wilmington to a vast assemblage. Tuesday
evening he preached on Society Hill, in Philadelphia, to about eight
thousand, and at the same place Wednesday morning and evening. Then
once more he made the tour to New York and back, preaching at every
halting-place. A contemporary newspaper contains the following item:

New Castle, May 15th. This evening Mr. Whitefield went on
board his sloop here in order to sail for Georgia. On Sunday
he preached twice in Philadelphia, and in the evening, when he
preached his farewell sermon, it is supposed he had twenty
thousand hearers. On Monday he preached at Darby and Chester;
on Tuesday at Wilmington and Whiteclay Creek; on Wednesday,
twice at Nottingham; on Thursday at Fog's Manor and New
Castle. The congregations were much increased since his being
here last. The presence of God was much seen in the
assemblies, especially at Nottingham and Fog's Manor, where
the people were under such deep soul-distress that their cries
almost drowned his voice. He has collected in this and the
neighboring provinces about four hundred and fifty pounds
sterling for his orphans in Georgia.

Into the feeble but rapidly growing presbyteries and the one synod of
the American Presbyterian Church the revival had brought, not peace, but
a sword. The collision was inevitable between the fervor and
unrestrained zeal of the evangelists and the sense of order and decorum,
and of the importance of organization and method, into which men are
trained in the ministry of an established church. No man, even at this
day, can read the standards of the Presbyterian Church without seeing
that they have had to be strained to admit those revival methods which
ever since the days of Whitefield have prevailed in that body. The
conflict that arose was not unlike that which from the beginning of New
England history had subsisted between Separatist and Nationalist. In the
Presbyterian conflict, as so often in religious controversies,
disciplinary and doctrinal questions were complicated with a difference
of race. The Old Side was the Scotch and Irish party; the New Side
was the New England party, to which many of the old-country ministers
adhered. For successive years the mutual opposition had shown itself in
the synod; and in 1740, at the synod meeting at Philadelphia, soon after
the departure of Whitefield, the real gravamen of the controversy
appeared, in the implied and even express impeachment of the spiritual
character of the Old Side ministers. The impeachment had been implied in
the coming of the evangelists uninvited into other men's parishes, as
if these were mission ground. And now it was expressed in papers read
before the synod by Blair and Gilbert Tennent. The action of the synod
went so far toward sustaining the men of the New Side as to repeal the
rule restraining ministers from preaching outside of their own parishes,
and as to put on record a thanksgiving for the work of God in the land.
Through all the days of the synod's meeting, daily throngs on Society
Hill were addressed by the Tennents and other hot gospelers of the
revival, and churches and private houses were resounding with revival
hymns and exhortations. Already the preaching and printing of Gilbert
Tennent's Nottingham Sermon had made further fellowship between the
two parties for the time impossible. The sermon flagrantly illustrated
the worst characteristic of the revivalists--their censoriousness. It
was a violent invective on The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry,
which so favorable a critic as Dr. Alexander has characterized as one
of the most severely abusive sermons which was ever penned. The answer
to it came in a form that might have been expected. At the opening of
the synod of 1741 a solemn protestation was presented containing an
indictment in seven grave counts against the men of the New Side, and
declaring them to have at present no right to sit and vote as members
of this synod, and that if they should sit and vote, the doings of the
synod would be of no force or obligation. The protestation was adopted
by the synod by a bare majority of a small attendance. The presbytery of
New Brunswick found itself exscinded by this short and easy process of
discipline; the presbytery of New York joined with it in organizing a
new synod, and the schism was complete.

It is needless further to follow in detail the amazing career of
Whitefield, posting o'er land and ocean without rest, and attended at
every movement by such storms of religious agitation as have been
already described. In August, 1740, he made his first visit to New
England. He met with a cordial welcome. At Boston all pulpits were
opened to him, and churches were thronged with eager and excited
hearers.[168:1] He preached on the common in the open air, and the
crowds were doubled. All the surrounding towns, and the coast eastward
to Maine, and the interior as far as Northampton, and the Connecticut
towns along the road to New York, were wonderfully aroused by the
preaching, which, according to the testimony of two nations and all
grades of society, must have been of unequaled power over the feelings.
Not only the clergy, including the few Church of England missionaries,
but the colleges and the magistrates delighted to honor him. Belcher,
the royal governor at Boston, fairly slobbered over him, with tears and
embraces and kisses; and the devout Governor Talcott, at New Haven, gave
God thanks, after listening to the great preacher, for such refreshings
on the way to our rest. So he was sped on his way back to the South.

Relieved thus of the glamor of his presence, the New England people
began, some of them, to recognize in what an earthen vessel their
treasure had been borne. Already, in his earlier youth, when his vast
powers had been suddenly revealed to him and to the world, he had had
wise counsel from such men as Watts and Doddridge against some of his
perils. Watts warned him against his superstition of trusting to
impressions assumed to be divine; and Doddridge pronounced him an
honest man, but weak, and a little intoxicated with popularity.[169:1]
But no human strength could stand against the adulation that everywhere
attended him. His vain conceit was continually betraying him into
indiscretions, which he was ever quick to expiate by humble
acknowledgment. At Northampton he was deeply impressed with the beauty
of holiness in Edwards and his wife; and he listened with deference to
the cautions of that wise counselor against his faith in impressions
and against his censorious judgments of other men as unconverted; but
it seemed to the pastor that his guest liked him not so well for
opposing these things.

The faults of Whitefield were intensified to a hateful degree in some of
his associates and followers. Leaving Boston, he sent, to succeed to his
work, Gilbert Tennent, then glowing with the heat of his noted
Nottingham sermon on An Unconverted Ministry. At once men's minds
began to be divided. On the one hand, so wise and sober a critic as
Thomas Prince, listening with severe attention, gave his strong and
unreserved approval to the preaching and demeanor of Tennent.[169:2] At
the other extreme, we have such testimony as this from Dr. Timothy
Cutler, the former rector of Yale College, now the Episcopalian minister
of Boston:

It would be an endless attempt to describe that scene of
confusion and disturbance occasioned by him [Whitefield]: the
division of families, neighborhoods, and towns, the
contrariety of husbands and wives, the undutifulness of
children and servants, the quarrels among teachers, the
disorders of the night, the intermission of labor and
business, the neglect of husbandry and of gathering the
harvest.... In many conventicles and places of rendezvous
there has been checkered work indeed, several preaching and
several exhorting and praying at the same time, the rest
crying or laughing, yelping, sprawling, fainting, and this
revel maintained in some places many days and nights together
without intermission; and then there were the blessed
outpourings of the Spirit!... After him came one Tennent, a
monster! impudent and noisy, and told them they were all
damn'd, damn'd, damn'd; this charmed them, and in the most
dreadful winter I ever saw people wallowed in the snow night
and day for the benefit of his beastly brayings, and many
ended their days under these fatigues. Both of them carried
more money out of these parts than the poor could be thankful
for.[170:1]

This is in a tone of bitter sectarian railing. But, after all, the main
allegations in it are sustained by the ample evidence produced by Dr.
Charles Chauncy, pastor of the First Church in Boston, in his serious
and weighty volume of Seasonable Thoughts on the State of Religion in
New England, published in 1743, as he sincerely says, to serve the
interests of Christ's kingdom, and faithfully pointing out the things
of a bad and dangerous tendency in the late and present religious
appearance in the land. Dr. Chauncy was doubtless included in the
sweeping denunciation of the Christian ministry in general as
unconverted, Pharisees, hypocrites. And yet it does not appear in
historical evidence that Chauncy was not every whit as good a Christian
as Tennent or Whitefield.

The excesses of the revival went on from bad to worse. They culminated,
at last, in the frenzy of poor James Davenport, great-grandson of the
venerable founder of New Haven, who, under the control of impressions
and impulses and texts of Scripture borne in upon his mind,
abandoned his Long Island parish, a true allotrio-episcopos, to thrust
himself uninvited into the parishes of other ministers, denouncing the
pastor as unconverted and adjuring the people to desert both pastor
and church. Like some other self-appointed itinerants and exhorters of
the time, he seemed bent upon schism, as if this were the great end of
preaching. Being invited to New London to assist in organizing a
Separatist church, he published the messages which he said he received
from the Spirit in dreams and otherwise, importing the great necessity
of mortification and contempt of the world; and made them believe that
they must put away from them everything that they delighted in, to avoid
the heinous sin of idolatry--that wigs, cloaks and breeches, hoods,
gowns, rings, jewels, and necklaces, must be all brought together into
one heap into his chamber, that they might by his solemn decree be
committed to the flames. On the Sabbath afternoon the pile was publicly
burned amid songs and shouts. In the pile were many favorite books of
devotion, including works of Flavel, Beveridge, Henry, and like
venerated names, and the sentence was announced with a loud voice, that
the smoke of the torments of such of the authors of the above-said books
as died in the same belief as when they set them out was now ascending
in hell, in like manner as they saw the smoke of these books
arise.[171:1] The public fever and delirium was passing its crisis. A
little more than a year from this time, Davenport, who had been treated
by his brethren with much forbearance and had twice been released from
public process as non compos mentis, recovered his reason at the same
time with his bodily health, and published an unreserved and
affectionate acknowledgment of the wrong that he had done under the
influence of a spirit of delusion which he had mistaken for the Spirit
of truth. Those who had gone furthest with him in his excesses returned
to a more sober and brotherly mind, and soon no visible trace remained
of the wild storm of enthusiasm that had swept over New England, except
a few languishing schisms in country towns of Connecticut.

As in the middle colonies, the revival had brought division in New
England. But, after the New England fashion, it was division merely into
ways of thinking, not into sects. Central in the agitated scene is the
calm figure of Edwards, uniting the faith and zeal of an apostle with
the acuteness of a philosopher, and applying the exquisite powers of his
intellect to discriminate between a divine work and its human or Satanic
admixtures, and between true and spurious religious affections. He won
the blessing of the peacemaker. When half a generation had passed there
had not ceased, indeed, to be differences of opinion, but there was none
left to defend the wild extravagances which the very authors of them
lamented, and there was none to deny, in face of the rich and enduring
fruits of the revival, that the power of God had been present in it. In
the twenty years ending in 1760 the number of the New England churches
had been increased by one hundred and fifty.[172:1]

In the middle colonies there had been like progress. The Presbyterian
ministry had increased from forty-five to more than a hundred; and the
increase had been wholly on the New Side. An early move of the
conservative party, to require a degree from a British or a New England
college as a condition of license to preach, was promptly recognized as
intended to exclude the fervid students from the Log College. It was met
by the organization of Princeton College, whose influence, more New
Englandish than New England, directed by a succession of illustrious
Yale graduates in full sympathy with the advanced theology of the
revival, was counted on to withstand the more cautious orthodoxy of
Yale. In this and other ways the Presbyterian schism fell out to the
furtherance of the gospel.

In Virginia the quickening was as when the wind breathed in the valley
of dry bones. The story of Samuel Morris and his unconscious mission,
although authentic fact, belongs with the very romance of
evangelism.[173:1] Whitefield and One-eyed Robinson, and at last
Samuel Davies, came to his aid. The deadly exclusiveness of the inert
Virginia establishment was broken up, and the gospel had free course.
The Presbyterian Church, which had at first been looked on as an exotic
sect that might be tolerated out on the western frontier, after a brief
struggle with the Act of Uniformity maintained its right to live and
struck vigorous root in the soil. The effect of the Awakening was felt
in the establishment itself. Devereux Jarratt, a convert of the revival,
went to England for ordination, and returned to labor for the
resuscitation of the Episcopal Church in his native State. To him, and
such as he, the first workings of the renewed energy of the church in
Virginia are to be traced.[173:2]

An even more important result of the Awakening was the swift and wide
extension of Baptist principles and churches. This was altogether
logical. The revival had come, not so much in the spirit and power of
Elijah, turning to each other the hearts of fathers and of children, as
in the spirit of Ezekiel, the preacher of individual responsibility and
duty. The temper of the revival was wholly congenial with the strong
individualism of the Baptist churches. The Separatist churches formed in
New England by the withdrawal of revival enthusiasts from the parish
churches in many instances became Baptist. Cases of individual
conversion to Baptist views were frequent, and the earnestness with
which the new opinion was held approved itself not only by debating and
proselyting, but by strenuous and useful evangelizing. Especially at the
South, from Virginia to Georgia, the new preachers, entering into the
labors of the annoyed and persecuted pioneers of their communion, won
multitudes of converts to the Christian faith, from the neglected
populations, both black and white, and gave to the Baptist churches a
lasting preŽminence in numbers among the churches of the South.

Throughout the country the effect of this vigorous propagation of rival
sects openly, in the face of whatever there was of church establishment,
settled this point: that the law of American States, by whomsoever
administered, must sooner or later be the law of liberty and equality
among the various religious communions. In the southern colonies, the
empty shell of a church establishment had crumbled on contact with the
serious earnestness of the young congregations gathered by the
Presbyterian and Baptist evangelists. In New England, where
establishment was in the form of an attempt by the people of the
commonwealth to confirm the people of each town in the maintenance of
common worship according to their conscience and judgment, the standing
order had solid strength; but when it was attempted by public authority
to curb the liberty of a considerable minority conscientiously intent on
secession, the reins were ready to break. It soon came to be recognized
that the only preŽminence the parish churches could permanently hold was
that of being servants of all.

With equal and unlimited liberty, was to follow, as a prevailing
characteristic of American Christianity, a large diversity of
organization. Not only that men disagreeing in their convictions of
truth would be enrolled in different bodies, but that men holding the
same views, in the same statement of them, would feel free to go apart
from one another, and stay apart. There was not even to be any one
generally predominating organization from which minor ones should be
reckoned as dissenting. One after another the organizations which should
be tempted by some period of exceptional growth and prosperity to
pretend to a hegemony among the churches--Catholic, Episcopalian,
Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist--would meet with some set-back as
inexorable as the law of nature that prevents the trees from growing up
into the sky.

By a curious paradox, the same spiritual agitation which deepened the
divisions of the American church aroused in the colonies the
consciousness of a national religious unity. We have already seen that
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 consciousness 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
labor 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.

Whether for good or for evil, the few years from 1740 to 1750 were
destined to impress upon the American church in its various orders, for
a hundred years to come, the character of Methodism.[176:1]

In New England, the idea, into which the first pastors had been trained
by their experience as parish ministers in the English established
church, of the parochial church holding correlative rights and duties
toward the community in all its families, succumbed at last, after a
hundred years of more or less conscious antagonism, to the incompatible
principle, adopted from the Separatists of Plymouth, of the church
formed according to elective affinity by the social compact of persons
of the age of discretion who could give account to themselves and to one
another of the conscious act and experience of conversion. This view,
subject to important mitigations or aggravations in actual
administration, held almost unquestioned dominance in the New England
churches until boldly challenged by Horace Bushnell, in his
epoch-making volume on Christian Nurture (1846), as a departure from
the orthodoxy of the fathers.

In the Presbyterian Church, revivalism as a principle of church life had
to contend with rules distinctly articulated in its constitutional
documents. So exclusively does the Westminster institute contemplate the
church as an established parish that its Directory for Worship
contains no provision for so abnormal an incident as the baptism of an
adult, and all baptized children growing up and not being of scandalous
life are to be welcomed to the Lord's Supper. It proves the immense
power of the Awakening, that this rigid and powerful organization, of a
people tenacious of its traditions to the point of obstinacy, should
have swung so completely free at this point, not only of its
long-settled usages, but of the distinct letter of its standards.

The Episcopal Church of the colonies was almost forced into an attitude
of opposition to the revival. The unspeakable folly of the English
bishops in denouncing and silencing the most effective preachers in the
national church had betrayed Whitefield into his most easily besetting
sin, that of censorious judgment, and his sweeping counter-denunciations
of the Episcopalian clergy in general as unconverted closed to him many
hearts and pulpits that at first had been hospitably open to him. Being
human, they came into open antagonism to him and to the revival. From
the protest against extravagance and disorder, it was a short and
perilously easy step to the rejection of religious fervor and
earnestness. The influence of the mother church of that dreary period
and the influence of the official rings around every royal governor were
all too potent in the same direction. The Propagation Society's
missionaries boasted, with reason, of large accessions of proselytes
alienated from other churches by their distaste for the methods of the
revival. The effect on the Episcopal Church itself was in some respects
unhappy. It lowered a spiritual temperature already too low,[177:1]
and weakened the moral influence of the church, and the value of its
testimony to important principles which there were few besides
efficiently to represent--the duty of the church not to disown or shut
out those of little faith, and the church's duty toward its children.
Never in the history of the church have the Lord's husbandmen shown a
fiercer zeal for rooting up tares, regardless of damage to the wheat,
than was shown by the preachers of the Awakening. Never was there a
wider application of the reproach against those who, instead of
preaching to men that they should be converted and become as little
children, preach to children that they must be converted and become like
grown folks.[178:1] The attitude of the Episcopal Church at that period
was not altogether admirable; but it is nothing to its dishonor that it
bore the reproach of being a friend of publicans and sinners, and
offered itself as a refugium peccatorum, thus holding many in some
sort of relation to the kingdom of Christ who would otherwise have
lapsed into sheer infidelity.

In all this the Episcopal Church was affected by the Awakening only by
way of reaction. But it owes a debt to the direct influence of the
Awakening which it has not always been careful to acknowledge. We have
already seen that the requickening of the asphyxiated church of Virginia
was part of the great revival, and this character remains impressed on
that church to this day. The best of those traits by which the American
Episcopal Church is distinguished from the Church of England, as, for
instance, the greater purity of the ministry and of the membership, are
family traits of the revival churches; the most venerated of its early
bishops, White and Griswold, bore the same family likeness; and the
Evangelical party, for a time so influential in its counsels, was a
tardy and mild afterglow from the setting of the Great Awakening.[179:1]

An incident of the revival, failing which it would have lacked an
essential token of the presence of the Spirit of Christ, was the
kindling of zeal for communicating the gospel to the ignorant, the
neglected, and the heathen. Among the first-fruits of Whitefield's
preaching at the South was a practical movement among the planters for
the instruction of their slaves--devotees, most of them, of the most
abject fetich-worship of their native continent. Of the evangelists and
pastors most active in the revival, there were few, either North or
South, whose letters or journals do not report the drawing into the
churches of large numbers of negroes and Indians, whose daily lives
witnessed to the sincerity of their profession of repentance and
Christian faith. The Indian population of the southeastern corner of
Connecticut with such accord received the gospel at the hands of the
evangelists that heathenism seemed extinct among them.[179:2]

Among the first trophies of the revival at Norwich was a Mohegan boy
named Samson Occum. Wheelock, pastor at Lebanon, one of the most ardent
of the revival preachers, took him into his family as a student. This
was the beginning of that school for the training of Indian preachers
which, endowed in part with funds gathered by Occum in England, grew at
last into Dartmouth College. The choicest spiritual gifts at the
disposal of the church were freely spent on the missions. Whitefield
visited the school and the field, and sped Kirkland on his way to the
Oneidas. Edwards, leaving Northampton in sorrow of heart, gave his
incomparable powers to the work of the gospel among the Stockbridge
Indians until summoned thence to the presidency of Princeton College.
When Brainerd fainted under his burden, it was William Tennent who went
out into the wilderness to carry on the work of harvest. But the great
gift of the American church to the cause of missions was the gift of
David Brainerd himself. His life was the typical missionary's life--the
scattering of precious seed with tears, the heart-sickness of hope
deferred, at last the rejoicing of the harvest-home. His early death
enrolled him in the canon of the saints of modern Christendom. The story
of his life and death, written by Jonathan Edwards out of that fatherly
love with which he had tended the young man's latest days and hours, may
not have been an unmixed blessing to the church. The long-protracted
introspections, the cherished forebodings and misgivings, as if doubt
was to be cultivated as a Christian virtue, may not have been an
altogether wholesome example for general imitation. But think what the
story of that short life has wrought! To how many hearts it has been an
inspiration to self-sacrifice and devotion to the service of God in the
service of man, we cannot know. Along one line its influence can be
partly traced. The Life of David Brainerd made Henry Martyn a
missionary to the heathen. As spiritual father to Henry Martyn, Brainerd
may be reckoned, in no unimportant sense, to be the father of modern
missions to the heathen.





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