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


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

espousèd 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


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


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 preëminence 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 preëminence 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.