[ What happened at Northampton, Mass. in the 18th century–a genuine spiritual awakening–known as the First Great Awakening, is now the final and only hope that America has; there is nothing that will save our land except this. And we must remember that the glory and honor of God is the only right motive to pray for a revival. – Mack T. ]
Jonathan Edwards on Revival
Edwards’ definition of revivals- ‘a special season of mercy during which God pours out his Spirit, producing greater sanctification among Christians and in the conversion of the lost.’
Revivals, for Edwards, did not represent the usual mode of God’s working in the church, but rather those ‘remarkable effusions’ of God’s Spirit at special seasons of mercy.
Edwards used the word ‘extraordinary’ rather than the word ‘surprising’. Edwards’ early account of the revival was given the title “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundreds in Northampton”, a title given not used by Edwards but the British editors who published an account about the Northampton revival. Edwards used the word ‘extraordinary’ instead– an extraordinary work of God.
There have been many revivals in history, thousands of different outpourings of the Spirit since Pentecost. Revivals are extraordinary times of blessing that are sovereignly sent and controlled by God. They cannot be humanly produced, created, or manipulated into existence, though they can be distorted, corrupted, and quenched by men.
God sends revival when He chooses, Edwards asserted, and He works in human hearts in such times as He pleases.
What we are to do in desiring a revival and looking to God for such a work is to be faithful in the ordinary means of grace- preaching, witnessing, praying, worship, and faith in the promises of God.
Here are some of Edwards’ words about the revival in Northampton:
A great concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world became universal in all parts of the town and among persons of all degrees and all ages. The noise among the dry bones waxed louder and louder, and all other talk except about spiritual things was thrown aside. Other conversation on other subjects was scarcely tolerated in any company.
The minds of people were wonderfully taken off the world and there was hardly a single person in town, young or old, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. And the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner and increased more and more. Souls did come, as it were, by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months, there was seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness and delivered out of a horrible pit, and set on a rock, with a new song of praise to God in their mouths.
– David Calhoun