The Glorious Impact Of Revival
[Editor’s Note: The following example illustrates how the Lord is able to begin a great spiritual awakening through the devotion, prayers and preaching of a godly man – in this case Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758). May the Lord likewise stir hearts today toward consecration, prayer and ministry with the hope that He will pour out revival in our day!]
Jonathan Edwards was spiritually converted while reading First Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” This Word of God took possession of his heart: he experienced an inner view of the glory of the infinitely excellent God, and he felt a desire to be rapt up to this glorious God, to be swallowed up in Him forever. He was pleased that this glorious God should be sovereign in the disposal of all things. This was when he was seventeen years of age, after graduating from Yale College.
He began to discipline himself to be of utmost service to God. He wrote, “I resolved to live with all my might while I do live, in the most profitable way I possibly can.” He planned his life carefully, eating moderately. He examined himself nightly. By the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, he strove to overcome pride, and a tendency to dogmatism and brusqueness of manner, and every sinful inclination. He cultivated an invariable benevolence of speech and temper. But when he considered the holiness of God and the infinite heights of the law, he felt that he had bottomless depths of corruption and deceit in his heart. He was constantly conscious of God’s presence. The love of God flared up like sweet burning in his heart. He seemed to himself at times as if he were alone in the mountains, swallowed up in God. Holiness appeared beautiful to him. Read from Mr. Edwards’ own words:
“Once, as I rode into the woods…having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God as Mediator between God and man, and His wonderful, great, full, pure, and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens.
“The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception…I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love Him with a holy and pure love; to trust in Him; to live upon Him; to serve and follow Him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure with a divine and heavenly purity. I have several other times had views very much of the same nature and…effects.”
Edwards is considered one of the few really great theologians of the English speaking world. He became pastor of the Congregational Church of Northampton, Massachusetts.
In December 1734, there began in his parish an intense revival. The awakening began with a doctrinal sermon on justification by faith. ...Edwards urged sinners to flee from the damnation of hell, from the dreadful wrath of an angry God, provoked by their sins of infinite heinousness. He urged them to break off their sins and to pray with utmost importunity for regeneration by the Holy Spirit, to press into the kingdom of God, to strive with inflexible determination to enter in at the strait gate as our Lord Himself commanded (Luke 13:24).
The following is from his treatise, A Faithful Narrative of a Surprising Work of God:
“Souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvelous light. ...There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought unto them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The goings of God were 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 in sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for their neighbors.”
By May 1735, over three hundred experienced conversion, with love for the glorious and holy God, and of mankind. The morals and habits of the town were transformed. The presence of the Spirit of God was such that some, entering Northampton for business or court, were smitten with conviction which led to their salvation. The revival spread to other churches of the area.
The Narrative was published in London. Serious ministers there said that nothing like this revival had occurred since the days of the apostles. John Wesley read the account and was moved by it to pray for revival in England, and by 1738, he and Whitefield were laboring in the Methodist revivals. In 1740 – 1742, there was another revival in Northampton and the Great Awakening occurred in the colonies. It was estimated that fifteen thousand were converted.
By 1798, Edwards’ views had come to prevail among orthodox ministers of New England. Some met together to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. There began wave after wave of revivals with intense conviction of sin and the new birth.
A pamphlet by Edwards on united prayer for revival and advancement of Christ’s kingdom fired William Carey, missionary of Christ to India, to preach a sermon that began the modern missionary movement.
Christians, from this account, let us be stirred to full consecration, and inflexible determination to pray in private and in groups with importunity and all perseverance for the revival of true Christianity in our church, community, nation and the world.