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sins of the past. The promises of God are addressed only to those who repent. He insisted, therefore, upon immediate repentance. Means were nothing without repentance; strivings and resolutions were nothing. They were exhorted to cast themselves, just as they were, upon the mercy of God, and trust him to save them in his infinite love and grace.
The revival spread rapidly into all parts of the town, and reached persons of all ages and conditions in life. Religion "became the great subject of thought and conversation. There was scarcely a person in the town unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. In the spring and summer following, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God. Our assemblies were then beautiful. Our public praises were greatly enlivened. Our young people when they met, were wont to spend the time in talking of the love of Jesus Christ, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God; his glorious work in the conversion of souls, and the truth and certainty of the great things of God's word." Mr. Edwards believed that more than three hundred were brought to Christ, in that town, within six months, and that almost everybody in the town at that time, above sixteen years of age, was a true Christian. He mentions that some thirty children, of from ten to fourteen years, were among the subjects of this work. He gives an interesting account of the conversion of a child about four years of age.2 It appears from his statements that religious meetings for children were very common during the revival.
The work extended from Northampton into the adjoining towns. In March the revival was general in South Hadley and in Suffield. It soon appeared in Sundeland, Deerfield, Hatfield, West Springfield, Longmeadow, and 1 Narrative, p. 235.
"Works, Vol. iii. p. 265; also p. 348.
Northfield. There were revivals of great power in ten or twelve of the leading towns of Connecticut. It continued in the Connecticut Valley for about six months. It reached towns as far apart as Stratford, New Haven, Groton, Lebanon, and Coventry. The next year Mr. Edwards wrote his "Narrative of Surprising Conversions," which was published first in Great Britain, and, two years later, was republished in Boston, with several of the sermons that had been most useful in promoting the work.
It will not be necessary to follow minutely in this article the history of the Great Awakening in the ten years that followed 1735. Mr. Edwards had a very important part in the work through all those years. He was, in a sense, the moving spirit of the revival. By his preaching, and his personal labors, and his counsel to the pastors who were constantly consulting him, and by his publications, he helped on the work, and gave it steadiness and permanent influence. In 1740 and 1741, there was another work of grace in Northampton even more extended than the one some years before. There was another revival two years later, and a third two years afterwards. During these years the religious work extended into all parts of New England, and into the Middle and Southern colonies. 1740, Whitefield came to this country, and his preaching gave a great impulse to the revival. The period of religious inertia had been effectually broken up. A rift had been made in the old fatalism which had paralyzed so many of the churches. The revivals gave them a new sense of the spiritual power that was within their reach. A considerable number of pastors began to labor as evangelists in parishes near their own. There was an interchange of such labors at that time that was very profitable. There was also a class of itinerating evangelists, who were employed in many of the churches.
1 Christian History, Vol. i. p. 367.
We have accounts of the preaching of Mr. Edwards in Westboro, Leicester, Sutton, Enfield, Boston, and various other places. In some instances he spent several weeks in a place. Of the effect of his famous sermon at Enfield, we have an account written by an intelligent minister, who was present. He says: "While the people of the neighboring towns were in great distress for their souls, the inhabitants of Enfield were very secure, loose, and vain. A lecture had been appointed there, and the neighboring people, the night before, were so affected at the thoughtlessness of the inhabitants, that they spent a considerable part of the night praying for them. When the time for the lecture came, a number of the neighboring ministers attended, and some from a distance. The appearance of the assembly in the meeting-house was thoughtless and vain. The people hardly conducted themselves with common decency. Mr. Edwards preached, from a passage in Deut. xxxii. 35: Their foot shall slide in due time.' As he advanced in unfolding the meaning of the text, the most rigid logic brought him and his hearers to conclusions which the most tremendous imagery could but inadequately · express. The effect was such as might have been expected. Before the sermon was ended, the assembly appeared deeply impressed and bowed down with an awful conviction of sin and danger. There was such a breathing of distress and weeping that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people and desire silence, that he might be heard. This was the beginning of the same great and prevailing concern in that place, with which the colony in general was visited."2
This sermon is often quoted as though it were a fair
1 Journal of Rev. E. Parkman, of Westboro', in Library of The Antiquarian Society, Worcester.
2 Rev. Mr. Wheelock of Lebanon, quoted in Trumbull's History of Connecticut, Vol. ii. p. 145.
specimen of the ordinary preaching of Mr. Edwards. One has only to read the titles of his published sermons to learn how great a variety of topics he presented in the pulpit. "The excellency of Christ," "Ruth's Resolution," "The peace which Christ gives his true followers," "A divine. and supernatural Light imparted to the soul," "A God who heareth prayer," "God the best portion of the Christian,"these suggest a style of thought and discourse much more in accordance with the other works of the great preacher. He believed and taught that love is the chief of the Christian graces, and that from love of God all other graces flow. He felt that the state of opinion and practice at that time made it necessary to preach the "terrors of the Lord," and " he knew how to uncover the hypocrisy and unbelief of men in a convincing way, but the dominant tone of his preaching was argumentative and winning. If he was a "son of thunder," it was in the same sense with the apostles James and John.
It is not the purpose of this article to trace the controversies which grew out of the preaching of Whitefield and 'some others, who were active in connection with the revival. There is only space for a brief statement of the results of the Great Awakening.
! The most careful students of the history of this period agree that it was a religious work that has never been equaled in intensity in this country. One writer says, "There has never been so extensive a manifestation of religious feeling in New England in any period of similar duration." Estimates, by the older writers, of the number of conversions vary from twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand. The later and more careful historians make the number less than the smallest of these numbers. We have no reliable statistics of the number of churches and communicants at that time. So far as we can get reliable statements, it would appear that there were about three
hundred and eighty Congregational churches in New England, and that the entire population of New England was about three hundred thousand. Rev. Ezra Styles, afterwards President of Yale. College, states that between 1740 and 1760 about one hundred and fifty new churches were founded in the new towns and parishes. This does not include a large number of Baptist churches that were gathered in those years; and probably does not include the Separatist churches.
More important than the increase in numbers was the higher standard of piety in the churches. The revival led to the gradual disuse of the Half-way Covenant. Those who were friendly to the revival returned to the ancient practice of admitting to church-membership only those who gave credible evidence of piety.
The cold and formal Arminianism with its Arian and Socinian elements was no longer dominant in the Congregational churches. From the time of the Great Awakening, there were "two wings in the Congregational body." On the one side were the Old Calvinists and the followers of Edwards with his modified Calvinism. These were the friends of the revival, and they were confirmed in their theological views by the results of that work of grace. On the other side were the so-called Arminians, who found themselves out of sympathy with the spirit and methods. of the revival. These were numerous and influential. They continued the practice of admitting to their communion persons who were living moral lives, without reference to the question whether they gave evidence of personal piety. In the course of about two generations, these two divergent tendencies led to the great separation of the Puritan churches into two bodies which we designate as the Unitarian and the Orthodox Congregationalists.