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What Happened To Radio?

Rock and roll has been described as a merger of country music and rhythm and blues, but, if it were that simple, it would have existed long before it burst into the national consciousness. The seeds of the music had been in place for decades, but they flowered in the mid-1950s when nourished by a volatile mix of Black culture and white spending power.

Black vocal groups such as the Dominoes and the Spaniels began combining gospel-style harmonies and call-and-response singing with earthy subject matter and more aggressive rhythm-and-blues rhythms. Heralding this new sound were disc jockeys such as Alan Freed of Cleveland, Ohio, Dewey Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee, and William (“Hoss”) Allen of WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee—who created rock-and-roll radio by playing hard-driving rhythm-and-blues and raunchy blues records that introduced white suburban teenagers to a culture that sounded more exotic, thrilling, and illicit than anything they had ever known. In 1954 that sound coalesced around an image: that of a handsome white singer, Elvis Presley, who sounded like a Black man.

rock and roll, also called rock ’n’ roll or rock & roll, style of popular music that originated in the United States in the mid-1950s and that evolved by the mid-1960s into the more encompassing international style known as rock music, though the latter also continued to be known as rock and roll.

Rock and roll has been described as a merger of country music and rhythm and blues, but, if it were that simple, it would have existed long before it burst into the national consciousness. The seeds of the music had been in place for decades, but they flowered in the mid-1950s when nourished by a volatile mix of Black culture and white spending power. Black vocal groups such as the Dominoes and the Spaniels began combining gospel-style harmonies and call-and-response singing with earthy subject matter and more aggressive rhythm-and-blues rhythms.

Heralding this new sound were disc jockeys such as Alan Freed of Cleveland, Ohio, Dewey Phillips of Memphis, Tennessee, and William (“Hoss”) Allen of WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee—who created rock-and-roll radio by playing hard-driving rhythm-and-blues and raunchy blues records that introduced white suburban teenagers to a culture that sounded more exotic, thrilling, and illicit than anything they had ever known. In 1954 that sound coalesced around an image: that of a handsome white singer, Elvis Presley, who sounded like a Black man.

The music industry’s response was to sanitize the product: it had clean-cut, nonthreatening artists such as Pat Boone record tame versions of Little Richard songs, and it manufactured a legion of pretty-boy crooners such as Frankie Avalon and Fabian who thrived on and who would essentially serve as the Perry Comos and Bing Crosbys for a new generation of listeners.

By the end of the 1950s, Presley had been inducted into the army, Holly had died in a plane crash, and Little Richard had converted to gospel. Rock and roll’s golden era had ended, and the music entered a transitional phase characterized by a more sophisticated approach: the orchestrated wall of sound erected by Phil Spector, the “hit factory” singles churned out by Motown Records, and the harmony-rich surf fantasies of the Beach Boys. By the mid-1960s this sophistication allowed the music greater freedom than ever before, and it fragmented into numerous styles that became known simply as rock.

What was the Great Awakening?

The event that has become known as the Great Awakening actually began years earlier in the 1720s. And, although the most significant years were from 1740-1742, the revival continued until the 1760s.

  • Diane Severance, Ph.D.
  • 201028 Apr
What Was The Great Awakening? Know The Facts &Amp; Summary

Many of the early Puritans and pilgrims arrived in America with a fervent faith and vision for establishing a godly nation. Within a century the ardor had cooled. The children of the original immigrants were more concerned with increasing wealth and comfortable living than furthering the Kingdom of God. The same spiritual malaise could be found throughout the American colonies. The philosophical rationalism of the Enlightenment was spreading its influence among the educated classes; others were preoccupied with the things of this world.

When Theodore Frelinghuysen, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, came to begin his pastoral world in New Jersey during the 1720’s, he was shocked by the dead-ness of the churches in America. He preached the need for conversion, a profound, life-changing commitment to Christ, not simply perfunctory participation in religious duties. Presbyterian Gilbert Tennent was heavily influenced by Frelinghuysen and brought revival to his denomination. Tennent believed the deadness of the churches was in part due to so many pastors having never been converted themselves. His book On the Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry caused quite a stir!

Origins of the Great Awakening

The event that has become known as the Great Awakening actually began years earlier in the 1720s. And, although the most significant years were from 1740-1742, the revival continued until the 1760s.

Many of the early colonists had come to the new world to enjoy religious freedom, but as the land became tamed and prosperous they no longer relied on God for their daily bread. Wealth brought complacency toward God. As a result, church membership dropped. Wishing to make it easier to increase church attendance, the religious leaders had instituted the Halfway Covenant, which allowed membership without a public testimony of conversion.

The churches were now attended largely by people who lacked a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Sadly, many of the ministers themselves did not know Christ and therefore could not lead their flocks to the true Shepherd. Then, suddenly, the Spirit of God awoke as though from an intense slumber and began to touch the population of the colonies. People from all walks of life, from poor farmers to rich merchants, began experiencing renewal and rebirth.

The faith and prayers of the righteous leaders were the foundation of the Great Awakening. Before a meeting, George Whitefield would spend hours–and sometimes all night–bathing an event in prayers. Fervent church members kept the fires of revival going through their genuine petitions for God’s intervention in the lives of their communities.

The early rays of the Great Awakening began with Theodore Frelinghuysen of the Dutch Reformed Church in New Jersey. Through his ministry, the hearts of his church members were changed. It was the young people who responded first and experienced the regeneration of becoming new creations. They, in turn, spread the message to their elders. Thus began the first spark of the Great Awakening.

In 1727, about the time that Frelinghuysen and Tennent were seeing a revival in New Jersey, Jonathan Edwards went to Northampton, Massachusetts to become assistant minister to his grandfather Solomon Stoddard. Stoddard had ministered at Northampton almost sixty years and during that time had seen five periods of revivals or “harvests,” as he called them.

Stoddard recognized that a church goes through periods of spiritual refreshing and depression: There are some special Seasons wherein God doth in a remarkable Manner revive Religion among his People. God doth not always carry on his work in the church in the same proportion…there be times wherein there is a plentiful Effusion of the Spirit of God, and Religion is in a more flourishing Condition.

Jonathan Edwards, Father of the Great Awakening

Jonathan Edwards

Pictured Above: Portrait of Jonathan Edwards

The preacher’s monotone voice filled the church in Northampton, Massachusetts. As the brilliant Jonathan Edwards spoke, he kept his eyes focused on the back wall of the church. Gently, Edwards’ words began to sink into the hearts of the assembly, and although his method of speaking lacked enthusiasm, his words were powerful. Revival followed.

During the 1730s, the church in Northampton felt the stirring of the Holy Spirit, moving them from their lukewarm apathy to an awakening of their souls. Delivering his most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” on July 8, 1741, in Enfield, Connecticut, Edwards helped spread the revival. A great commotion swept over the people and they began wailing, crying, and screeching loudly. Frequently Edwards asked the congregation to control themselves so he might finish his sermon. As a result of his preaching and the work of the Spirit, lives began to change and complete towns were transformed.

The most prominent theologian of the Great Awakening was Jonathan Edwards. Not a powerful speaker, Edwards still managed to spread the revival. From his brilliant mind, he constructed one of the most impressive sermons ever preached. He also wrote many books and pamphlets describing the events he saw in his own church. The only son in a family of eleven children, Edwards was born on October 10, 1703. At the young age of thirteen, he entered Yale (not unusual during that era of history) and graduated in 1723. Four years later Jonathan married the remarkable and virtuous Sarah Pierpont. Faithfully Sarah helped Edwards in his ministry and personal endeavors.

In 1727, Edwards became the assistant minister at the Northampton church. When his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, died, Jonathan became the minister and served in that church for nearly twenty-four years. He spoke boldly against the Halfway Covenant. Since many of the members who promoted the Halfway Covenant were merchants (or river gods, as Edwards called them), they were able to make most of the decisions for the community, thus giving them the power over the rest of the populace. Edwards did much to help alleviate the tyrannical practices that followed.

In the 1730’s, when Jonathan Edwards became the minister at Northampton, he found only spiritual deadness in the church. He was concerned about the immorality of the young people and began visiting them in their homes. In 1734 he preached a series of sermons on justification by faith alone. “By December,” wrote Edwards, “the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in. Revival grew, and souls did as it were come by floods to Christ.” Over a six month period, Edwards recorded three hundred conversions. He wrote a book, Narratives of Surprising Conversions, describing the revival and its effects on the life of the town.

The Far-Reaching Revival

In his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Edwards emphasized that true religion must affect the heart. In The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Edwards taught from I John 4 NIV Bible what the evidence of a true revival and work of the Spirit would be.

The individual would be confirmed in the truth of the gospel, that Jesus was the Son of God and the Savior of people (vs. 2-3). The convert would avoid sin and worldly lust (vs. 4-5). He would have a greater regard for the Holy Scriptures, accepting their truth and divine origins (v. 6). Finally, his life would evidence a love to God and his fellow man (vs. 6ff.) Edwards’ printed works describing and analyzing the revival in Northampton were read throughout the American colonies and Britain. They stimulated ministers on both sides of the Atlantic to begin praying and looking for a revival.

Great Awakening Crowds – the people came “en mass”

George Whitefield, an Anglican evangelist and friend of John and Charles Wesley, not only traveled throughout Britain bringing the gospel of Christ, but he also made seven trips to America between 1738 and 1770. He was probably the most well-traveled man in the colonies and drew large crowds wherever he spoke. A widespread revival was most clearly seen during his second journey (1739-1741). As he toured the colonies, he would daily preach to large crowds in the open air; the crowds were too large for the churches.

Pictured Below: A Portrait of George Whitefield

George Whitefield

Ben Frankin and George Whitefield

Benjamin Franklin was fascinated with Whitefield’s speaking ability and the effects his teaching had on the people. Though Franklin never openly became a Christian himself, he did become a friend of Whitefield’s and his publisher in America. He was impressed with the change Whitefield’s gospel preaching brought on society.

Franklin wrote that It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.

The faith and prayers of the righteous leaders were the foundation of the Great Awakening. Before a meeting, George Whitefield would spend hours–and sometimes all night–bathing an event in prayers. Fervent church members kept the fires of revival going through their genuine petitions for God’s intervention in the lives of their communities.

While Edwards was the most prominent theologian of the time, by far the most influential and famous evangelist of the Great Awakening was George Whitefield. He was born in England and educated at Oxford, where he met and became friends with John and Charles Wesley. During his spare time at college, he visited the poor and those in prison.

On June 20, 1736, at the age of twenty-two, he became an ordained minister. God blessed him with an amazing ministry, and wherever he spoke revival accompanied him. At the Wesley brothers’ request, he joined them in Georgia to continue his ministry. After a few months, he returned to England and again reached thousands through his preaching. He became well-known in both the Colonies and Great Britain. His preaching spread revival and a new birth to the hearts of those who listened.

Unfortunately, many ministers became jealous of his God-given ability. In Bristol, the churches refused to allow him the use of their buildings. Undeterred, Whitefield preached outside On more than on occasion he addressed 30,000 people. He spoke persuasively with a loud, commanding, and pleasant voice. With weighty emotion and dramatic power Whitefield presented the gospel message to the masses, spreading the light of Christ with vigor and enthusiasm. He also united the independent movements of the Great Awaking and bound the separate colonies into a unit.

Breaking through denominational boundaries he once said, “Father Abraham, who have you in heaven? Any Episcopalians? No! Any Presbyterians? No! Any Independents or Methodist? No, no, no! Whom have you there, then Father Abraham? We don’t know those names here! All who are here are Christians–believers in Christ, men who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of his testimony. Oh, is that the case? Then God help me, God help us all, to forget having names and to become Christians in deed and in truth!” During his life, he made seven tours of the colonies and preached 18,000 sermons! There was hardly a portion of the colonies that did not feel his influence and love.

Old Lights vs. New Lights

Not everyone welcomed the beliefs of the Great Awakening. One of the principal opinions of the opponents was Charles Chauncy, a minister in Boston. Chauncy was especially critical of Whitefield’s preaching and instead supported a more traditional, formal style of religion.

By about 1742, a debate over the Great Awakening had divided the New England ministry and many colonists into two factions.

Preachers and followers who embraced the new ideas brought forth by the Great Awakening became distinguished as “new lights.” Those who affirmed the old-fashioned, traditional church ways were designated “old lights.”

Effects and Results of the Great Awakening

The Great Awakening in America in the 1730s and 1740s had tremendous results. The number of people in the church multiplied, and the lives of the converted manifested true Christian piety. Denominational barriers broke down as Christians of all persuasions worked together in the cause of the gospel. There was a renewed concern with missions, and work among the Indians increased. As more young men prepared for service as Christian ministers, a concern for higher education grew.

Princeton, Rutgers, Brown, and Dartmouth universities were all established as a direct result of the Great Awakening. Some have even seen a connection between the Great Awakening and the American Revolution –Christians enjoying spiritual liberty in Christ would come to crave political liberty. The Great Awakening not only revived the American church but reinvigorated American society as well.

The significant working of God during the Great Awakening was far-reaching. Truly converted members now filled the pews. In New England, during the time from 1740 to 1742, memberships increased from 25,000 to 50,000. Hundreds of new churches were formed to accommodate the growth in church-goers.

For the first time, the individual colonies had a commonality with the other colonies. They were joined under the banner of Christ. Clearly, their unity gave them strength to face the impending danger of war with England. Not only did the Great Awakening unite the colonies religiously but also politically. After being freed from inner sin, the colonists also sought freedom from external tyrants. The motto of the Revolutionary War was, “No King but King Jesus!”

Excerpts provided form Amy Puetz: The Great Awakening

Article Photo Credit: WikimediaCommons


Great Awakening, British History Artical

First Great Awakening, Great Awakening Article

The Great Awakening, Great Awakening in US History



The dates of the beginning of the Great Awakening in America and its conclusion are a matter of supposition. If the long view is taken and includes the revivals in the early 1720s and concludes with the waning of the Awakening’s long-term effects on society, then The Great Awakening can be said to span from about 1720 to the conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783.

[1] Other historians date the Awakening as beginning with the 1735 revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards and ending with the conclusion of the powerful and unprecedented season of revivals that occurred during 1740-1743.

[2] A third view dates the Awakening as occurring between 1735 and 1760 which is considered by many to be the period of greatest frequency and intensity of revivals in eighteenth century America.[3]

The Great Awakening is a massive subject that covers decades and involves a host of revivals, participants, and consequences which are far beyond the scope of this book. Our purpose is to obtain a general understanding of these revivals, how they came about, what occurred during those revivals, and the long-term consequences after the revival fires had subsided. To do so we shall briefly look at some of the major revivalists of The Great Awakening, the conflicts and issues that arose between revivalists and anti-revivalists and between moderate and radical evangelicals, and the long-term consequences for the Protestant churches and the colonies both before and during the fight for independence from British rule.

Renowned revival historian J. Edwin Orr believed that The Great Awakening actually began with a revival among the Pietists in New Jersey. This revival occurred eight years earlier than the general consensus that the Awakening began in Jonathan Edward’s Puritan church at Northampton, Massachusetts, in the latter part of December 1734. The 1727 Pietist revival in New Jersey sprang from the preaching of a Dutch Reformed minister named Theodorus Frelinghuysen who arrived in New York City in the early 1720s. Through Frelinghuysen’s influence, revival spread to Scots-Irish Presbyterians under the leadership of Gilbert Tennent and then to the Baptists in Virginia.[4]

However, Thomas Kidd points to the beginning as an extraordinary series of revivals in towns along the Connecticut and Thames Rivers from 1720 to 1722. The Connecticut revival was “the first major event of the evangelical era in New England” which “…touched congregations in Windham, Preston, Franklin, Norwich, and Windsor.” One of the largest of the Connecticut revivals occurred in the Windham church during 1721 with eighty people joining the church in six months. Over the three-year course of the revivals, several hundred new members and possibly more conversions were reported. The significance of this revival has been generally forgotten because of its lack of publicity through the print media which may also account for the revival not spreading beyond its regional borders.[5]

The Tennent Brothers – Gilbert, William, Jr., John, and Charles

William Tennent, Sr. and his family left Ireland in 1718 and arrived in Philadelphia where he joined the Presbyterian Synod of that city and soon established the “Log College” in which he trained candidates for the ministry. The Log College became the well-known forerunner of the College of New Jersey which later became Princeton University. His four sons followed their father into the ministry. Gilbert and William, Jr. along with the graduates of the Log College became a powerful revivalist force in the Scots-Irish Philadelphia Presbyterian Synod of Northeast Pennsylvania and east New Jersey.[6]

While at New Brunswick, Gilbert’s work was described as one of steady success that resulted in a considerable number of conversions. At one revival on Staten Island in 1728, the Holy Spirit was “suddenly poured down upon the Assembly.” The congregation was initially passive or complacent, but after a while several fell to their knees and prayed for mercy. Others “cried out ‘both under the Impressions of Terror and Love,’ depending on their stage of conversion.”

John Tennent, the third son, showed great promise as a powerful revivalist but died at young age in 1732. William, Jr. recalled that as a result of his brother John’s preaching at Freehold, several congregants began “sobbing as if their Hearts would break, but without any public Out-cry; and some have been carry’d out of the Assembly (being overcome) as if they had been dead.”[7]

During the 1730s there began a debate among the Presbyterian ministers of the Philadelphia Synod with regard to itinerancy and licensing. Disagreements arose between the pro-revivalists (“New Side”) and the anti-revivalists (“Old Side) Presbyterians. The conflict escalated in 1738-1739 over the appointment of John Rowland, a graduate of the Tennents’ Log College, by the New Brunswick Presbytery which was controlled by the Tennent camp. The Philadelphia Synod revoked Rowland’s license because of “disorderly” and “divisive” conduct. Some believed that Rowland’s preaching encouraged emotional outbreaks which “led not to solid piety but to dangerous enthusiasm.”[8]

In March 1740, the division between the two sides intensified with the publication of Gilbert Tennent’s controversial sermon, The Danger of an Unconverted Ministry, in which “he called supposedly unconverted ‘hireling’ ministers just about every bad name he could use in religious company.” Tennent believed that as a result of their un-renewed Nature they preached “easy, human-centered doctrines.”[9] The conflict between the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians was a preview of the deep divisions to come between evangelicals and the leaders of the more formal, institutional wings within other Protestant denominations. Those festering divisions eventually resulted in several denominational separations at various times during the Awakening and which continued to periodically occur over the next two hundred and fifty years.

Irrespective of the conflicts between the New Side and Old Side Presbyterians, the Tennents became the “single most influential family of the revivalist movement in the Middle Colonies”[10] generally considered to be the mid-Atlantic colonies (Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) that lay between the New England and Southern colonies.

Jonathan Edwards

Although not the first, largest, or most widespread revival of the Great Awakening, the revival led by Jonathan Edwards at Northampton in 1734-1735 is perhaps the best known and most influential revival of the Awakening. Edwards had an impressive background. He was the grandson of the venerable Solomon Stoddard who led the Northampton congregation for sixty years until his death in 1729. Born in 1703, Edwards had a brilliant mind. At Yale University he earned his B.A. in 1720 and M.A. in 1723. Already an assistant in his grandfather’s church, the twenty-six year old became the pastor of Northampton Church in 1729 upon the death of his grandfather.[11]

The young Edwards was no stranger to revivals and was taught to expect seasons of revival characterized by special outpourings of the Holy Spirit. Timothy Edwards, Jonathan’s father, pastored the East Windsor Church and had led four or five revivals before 1734-1735. Two of these revivals occurred in the 1710s and had a great influence on the young Edwards. The Northampton Church had experienced six significant “harvests” as the revivals were called under Stoddard’s tenure (1679, 1683, 1687, 1690, 1712, 1718, and 1727). The 1727 revival occurred on the occasion of a major New England earthquake. This was the first revival to be highly publicized.[12]

When Edwards took the pulpit of Northampton in 1729, the spiritual state of the young people of the congregation was a cause for concern since they would not abandon their “carousing for the holy ways of the Lord.”[13] Thomas Kidd described Edwards’ efforts to curtain the continued waywardness of the young at the Northampton Church.

In 1733 Edwards began to notice the congregation’s young people had adopted a new “flexibleness” in their attitudes toward his preaching. He insisted that they give up their “mirth and company-keeping” on Sunday evenings, and he began to see in them a willingness to comply. At the time Edwards also organized neighborhood meetings (the settlements encompassed by the Northampton congregation were far-flung) of fathers concerning the governance of their children. Surprisingly, the fathers reported that their children needed no extra chastening to get them to remain faithful to the Sabbath. The youths themselves were convinced by Edwards’ preaching.[14]

It was the occurrence of two untimely deaths of young people that broke the complacency with regard to the young Northampton congregants’ dismal spiritual state. In Pascommuck, three miles from Northampton but in Edward’s parish, a young man had fallen ill with pleurisy and died in two days. Soon thereafter a young married woman fell ill and died but only after assuring those around her of her salvation. Edwards used the shock of those deaths to encourage the distraught young people to gather into small groups for “social religion.”[15]

But preaching and gatherings for “social religion” were not the primary impetus by which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Northampton congregation. For several years Edwards and his wife had prayed day and night for revival of their church. In the latter part of December 1734, there were five or six people who were wonderfully converted which created considerable excitement in the congregation. On the evening preceding the day the revival broke out several “Christians met and spent the whole night in prayer.”[16] Prayer was the kindling that set ablaze the Northampton revival of 1734-1735. Edwards reported the events that caused the revival to break forth.

…the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in and wonderfully to work among us; and there were very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons, who were, to all appearance, savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.

One of these converts was a young woman who had been notorious as a leader in scenes of gayety and rustic dissipation. Edwards was surprised at the account which she gave of her religious exercises, of which he had heard no report till she came to converse with him, apparently humble and penitent.[17]

Edwards was at first concerned that the conversion experience of a person with such questionable character would hinder the progress of the conversion of others. However, he was happily surprised when the news of her conversion became a great encouragement to other young people who went to talk with her and observed her remarkable transformation.[18]

Many miraculous and ecstatic manifestations of the Holy Spirit were present during the Northampton revival. These manifestations included emotional ecstasies and mysterious signs and wonders such as visions and healings. This was not unusual for these manifestations accompanied most of the major revivals that occurred during the eighteenth century. Edwards approved of emotional expressions in revivals, but he also knew the importance of balance because too much spiritual passion could lead to excess. Even though he did not understand some of the mystical experiences that occurred, Edwards did not condemn them when they were accompanied by “a great sense of the spiritual excellency of divine things.”

Edwards believed that such ecstatic expressions in worship could be tested: “…did they lead the worshipper to a greater appreciation of God’s glory? Or did they encourage self-glorification?” If it was a greater appreciation of God’s glory, then “the expressions were likely to be incidental operations of the Holy Spirit in persons receptive to them because of their particular mental constitution.” He cautioned that worshippers must not “mistake the vain and imaginary for the truly spiritual.”[19] Within five years these manifestations would become the source of great conflict between the revivalists and anti-revivalists and between the moderate and more radical evangelicals.

Three hundred people were saved during the first six months of the Northampton revival including children, adults, and the elderly. Eventually, 220 families totaling 620 people were entitled to take communion at Edwards’ church which included almost all adults in the town. At the revival’s peak in March and April of 1735, an average of thirty souls were saved each week. During 1735 Edwards wrote, “The town seemed to be full of the presence of God…There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house.”[20] The revival that began at Northampton in late December 1734 spread to the north and south along the Connecticut River to thirty-two communities about evenly divided between Massachusetts and Connecticut.[21]

By mid-1735, the revival at Northampton was coming to an end, but the effects of the awakening would reverberate for centuries afterward through the medium of print. Edwards’ account of the Northampton revival was published under the title Faithful Narrative. The publisher printed an abridged version in 1736 and a full edition appeared in London in 1737. Although the Northampton revival was just one in a series of earlier revivals that began in the 1720s, Edwards account of the revival “became the model revival of evangelicalism. It dramatically heightened expectations in Britain and America for new awakenings, and it provided a framework for local pastors to use to promote revival in their own congregations.”[22]

As the revival in Northampton and the other communities to which it spread began to subside, the effects would continue on as churches remained strong in numbers and piety. In 1739, the instances of revival once again began to increase in other parts of the country and also at Northampton. The church at Newark was originally established by New Englanders. Religious life in Newark was in a low state and exhibited little evidence of godliness among its people during the 1730s.

This began to change in August 1739 when a revival began among the young people and spread to the whole church body by March 1740. The church at Harvard, Massachusetts, followed the same pattern. In September 1739 there began a spiritual stirring among the people who exhibited a noticeable increase of seriousness about spiritual matters, church attendance, and attentiveness to the preaching of the Word and sanctity of the Sabbath. From that beginning until June 1741 over a hundred came into communion through a steady procession of conversions.[23]

The effects of the Northampton revival had a lasting beneficial effect on the religious and community life of its citizens. However, compared to the conditions at the close of the revival in 1735, Edwards later wrote that there had been “…a very lamentable decay of religious affections, and eagerness for prayer and social religion.” But this began to change in the spring of 1740 as the church moved toward a renewed seriousness with regard to matters concerning religion and spiritual life, especially among the young people. This move of the Holy Spirit continued until October 1741 when George Whitefield arrived at Northampton.[24]

Theology of salvation: Debating who and how one may be “born again”

Much of the theology of conversion held by Solomon Stoddard was held by his grandson Jonathan Edwards. Stoddard believed that it was through the Holy Spirit that God drew sinners to salvation. Without the Holy Spirit conversions would not take place. He also considered powerful preaching as a tool used by God to draw sinners to God. The power in this preaching was a result of the Spirit who allowed ministers to effectively preach God’s judgment. Like other revivalists, Edwards believed there would be seasons of revival in which there would be special outpourings of the Holy Spirit.[25]

Although Solomon Stoddard and his grandson held similar views on revival and the theology of conversion, Edwards would significantly differ on two points embraced by his grandfather. Recall that in the last chapter the half-way covenant emerged from the Synod of 1662 which allowed the children of parents who were avowedly unregenerate and excluded from the Lord’s table to be baptized if the parents were otherwise qualified. Stoddard agreed with the halfway covenant.

In 1707, Stoddard also began preaching that sanctification (to set apart, make holy) was not a necessary qualification for participation in the Lord’s supper and that “the Lord’s supper is a converting ordinance.” However, during his tenure at the Northampton Church, Edwards opposed these all-inclusive policies of his grandfather and preached that only the children of parents who were full communicant members of the church should be allowed to be baptized. This doctrinal stance was very unpopular compared to the beliefs preached by his grandfather. Edwards’ stance eventually led to his dismissal as pastor of the Northampton Church in 1750 and “signaled his own church’s bitter repudiation of his evangelical ideal of a pure church of converted saints.”[26]

The “heart religion” of evangelicalism

In Chapter 5 it was noted that first generation New England Puritans believed that a man must be “born again,” and this transformation was observable by both the person and others. They also believed there was a difference between the unregenerate and regenerate in which the latter would exhibit good qualities through their thought, feeling, and conduct. But these desired qualities are not a matter of works but flowed from a heart change which must invariably testify to the transformative power of true salvation.

This was the central issue of the Reformation: justification by faith alone. And it was this same justification by faith alone that was at the core of evangelicalism’s “heart religion” which propelled the Great Awakening in America. However, there would continue to be differences with regard to the meaning of salvation and its related doctrines among the revivalists of The Great Awakening and thereafter as will be seen in the next chapter.

Before we leave the early history of The Great Awakening, we must once again clarify and better understand the core elements that precipitated the revivals. As previously discussed, revivals are necessary when the spiritual and moral conditions of the church and society at large are in various stages of decline or decay. However, it must be remembered that revival of the culture can never precede revival of the church. Revival of the culture is made possible only through the influence of a revived church (individual Christians who comprise the body of Christ). Therefore, revival is ultimately a matter of renewal of the hearts of individuals—both renewal of the hearts of the spiritually languishing Christians and the dead hearts of lost sinners.

Larry G. Johnson


[1] Thomas S. Kidd, The Great Awakening – The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America, (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2007), pp. xix, 9-10.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Mathew Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings-Thirty Six Visitations of the Holy Spirit, (ByFaith Media, 2009, 2012), p. 27.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Kidd, The Great Awakening, pp. 9-10.
[6] Ibid., pp. 31, 35.
[7] Ibid., pp. 32-33.
[8] Ibid., p. 37
[9] Ibid., pp. 59-60.
[10] Ibid., p. 31.
[11] Ibid., pp. 13-15.
[12] Ibid., pp. 6-7, 9, 10, 15.
[13] Ibid., p. 15.
[14] Ibid. p. 16.
[15] Ibid., pp. 16-17.
[16] Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings, p. 26.
[17] Joseph Tracy, The Great Awakening – A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Edwards and Whitefield, Public Domain. Facsimile edition reproduced from original documents,
p. 12. Originally published in Boston, Massachusetts by Tappan and Dennet, 1842.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Kidd, The Great Awakening, pp. 19-20.
[20] Backholer, Revival Fires and Awakenings, p. 26.
[21] Kidd, The Great Awakening, p. 18.
[22] Ibid., pp. 21-23.
[23] Tracy, The Great Awakening, pp. 18-21.
[24] Ibid., pp. 21-22.
[25] Kidd, The Great Awakening, pp. 6-7.
[26] Ibid, p. 194.