Revival in Northampton—Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758)

As pastor of the church at Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards was instrumental in bringing the Great Awakening to his nation. The town was beset by loose living and factional bitterness. Instead of turning away from these problems, Edwards addressed them directly. He preached personal holiness and doctrinal soundness. This first irritated the parties involved, but God blessed his incisive preaching and revival occurred. In this excerpt from his Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, Edwards describes how the Spirit of God changed Northampton.

Although great fault was found with meddling with the controversy in the pulpit, by such a person and at that time, and though it was ridiculed by many elsewhere, yet it proved a word spoken in season here; and was most evidently attended with a very remarkable blessing of heaven to the souls of the people of this town…And then it was, in the latter part of December [1734], that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us; and there were, very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons who were to all appearances savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner…[1]

These awakenings when they have first seized on persons have had two effects: one was, that they have brought them immediately to quit their sinful practices, and the looser sort have been brought to forsake and dread their former vices and extravagancies. When once the Spirit of God began to be so wonderfully poured out in a general way through the town, people had soon done with their old quarrels, backbitings, and intermeddling with other men’s matters; the tavern was soon left empty, and persons kept very much at home; none went abroad unless on necessary business, or on some religious account, and every day seemed in many respects like a Sabbath day. And the other effect was, that it put them on earnest application to the means of salvation—reading, prayer, meditation, the ordinances of God’s House, and private conference; their cry was “What shall we do to be saved?” The place of resort was now altered; it was no longer the tavern, but the minister’s house, that was thronged far more than ever the tavern had been wont to be.[2]


[1] Jonathan Edwards, A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls in Northampton, and the Neighbouring Towns and Villages of New Hampshire in New England, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4, ed. C. C. Goen (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 148-149.

[2] Ibid., 160-161.