The Great Awakening
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Although a considerable number of scattered records accompanied what Jonathan Edwards called the ‘Revival of Religion in New England in 1740' it was not until 1841 that Joseph Tracy thoroughly sifted these original sources and became its first historian. He aimed to provide ‘a work which should furnish the means of suitably appreciating both the good and the evil of that period of religious history.' ‘His design,' as C. H. Maxson has written, ‘was admirably executed.'
Scarcely any phenomenon could be more exacting for a church historian than the Great Awakening, for assessments of its nature and value differed widely at the time of its occurrence and have done ever since: ‘The doctrine of the new birth made its way like lightning into the hearers' consciences', wrote George Whitefield, but an adverse contemporary critic asserted that ‘Multitudes were seriously, soberly and solemnly out of their wits.' Certainly the Great Awakening does not fit into any of the usual norms. It had no procedures – neither ‘altar-calls' nor enquiry rooms – for making and recording conversions, yet the numbers added to the churches in New England alone have been estimated at between twenty-five and fifty thousand. Emotion was profoundly stirred, yet some of the finest intellects of that age were among its leaders. It moved the common people, yet it led to the establishment of such new colleges of learning as Princeton and Dartmouth, Brown and Rutgers. Again, while the revival supplied neither social nor political messages, the changes it brought about in society were as far reaching as those associated with the 1776 Revolution itself; indeed, Tracy argues that the effects of the Revolution would have been very different if the country had not been ‘strengthened by so many tens of thousands of converts'.
The author follows his theme from the local revivals of the 1730s to the floodtide of 1740-42. While such major figures as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield are frequently prominent in the narrative, the material is broad-based and no small part of its fascination lies in the quotations given from the personal narratives and diaries of such men as Eleazar Wheelock, with his ‘close, searching, experimental' preaching, and William Cooper of Brattle Street Church, Boston, who in one week in 1741 had more persons coming to him ‘in deep concern about their souls' than in the 24 years of his preceding ministry. Extended treatment is also given to the ebb of the revival down to 1745, with a penetrating discussion of the aberrations and divisions which marked those years. The school of opinion which treated the Great Awakening as a movement of mass hysteria, generated by a few pulpit orators, has been losing ground of late years.
But while a number of modern writers have seen reason to question that thesis, they have not recognised, as Tracy did, that just as the doctrines of the Awakening were biblical so also were the phenomena. That is not to say that Tracy approves all that occurred in the 1740s (any more than the New Testament approves all the phenomena of the apostolic age), and much of the importance of his work lies in the mature and discerning judgment which he brings to his factual material.
This volume remains second to none in its definitive treatment of one of the most important and remarkable eras in the history of the Christian church in modern times.
Table of Contents Expand ↓
|1||INTRODUCTORY —Previous State of Religious Opinions and Practices —Decline of Piety —Preaching of Edwards —‘Surprising Conversions' at Northampton, and in other Places||1|
|2||REVIVALS OF 1739, 1740; at Newark, Harvard, Northampton, New Londonderry, and New Brunswick — Remarks on the Presbyterianism of that Age||19|
|3||WHITEFIELD IN EARLY LIFE —His Birth, Education, and Religious Experience —His Success as a Preacher — His first Visit to Georgia —His Return to England, Opposition and Success —Controversy with the Bishop of London —His Intercourse with Watts and Doddridge —His Return to America||37|
|4||WHITEFIELD'S LABORS —His Preaching and Success at Philadelphia, at New York, and in the Middle and Southern Colonies||53|
|5||PARTIES IN THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH —Different Views of Regeneration, and Controversies growing out of them —Acts of the Synod in 1728, 1737, 1738, and 1739 —Meeting of the Synod in 1740 —Tennent's Nottingham Sermon —Meeting of the Synod in 1741 —The ‘Great Schism'||63|
|6||WHITEFIELD AT THE SOUTH —Scenes at the Orphan House —Visit to Charleston —Ecclesiastical Prosecution —Conversions at and around Charleston —Schools for Negroes —The Bryans||79|
|7||WHITEFIELD'S FIRST VISIT TO NEW ENGLAND||87|
|8||WHITEFIELD IN NEW YORK, AND AT THE SOUTH||109|
|9||THE REVIVAL IN BOSTON —The Period from Whitefield's Departure to the Arrival of Davenport; including the Labors of Gilbert Tennent||117|
|10||THE REVIVAL IN NEW ENGLAND —Natick, Wrentham, and Bridgewater —Exhorters and Raptures in Bridgewater||125|
|11||THE REVIVAL IN NEW ENGLAND —Lyme, and other Places in that part of Connecticut —The ‘Needful Caution in a Critical Day '—Pastors Itinerating||139|
|12||THE REVIVAL IN NEW ENGLAND —Plymouth, Sutton, Taunton, Middleborough, Halifax, Portsmouth, Gloucester, Reading, Newcastle, Westerly, Northampton||165|
|APPENDIX TO CHAPTER 12 —Extracts from the Private Journal of the Rev Eleazer Wheelock —Extracts from the Private Journal of the Rev Ebenezer Parkman, of Westborough, Mass||206|
|13||EDWARDS —The Revival at Enfield —Outcries, Faintings, and Convulsions||223|
|14||DAVENPORT — His Rise, Progress, Excesses, Recovery, and ‘Retractations'—His Posthumous Influence The Eleventh Congregational Church in Boston —Note, on the Catastrophe of Hugh Bryan||241|
|15||WHITEFIELD IN ENGLAND —His Breach with Wesley —The Revival in Scotland||267|
|16||THE REVIVAL IN NEW ENGLAND —Conventions and Testimonies||299|
|17||OPPOSITION TO THE REVIVAL IN CONNECTICUT —Pains and Penalties —The Separatists||321|
|18||THE CONTROVERSY IN MASSACHUSETTS —Whitefield' Second Visit to New England —His subsequent Labors and Death||345|
|19||THE REVIVAL CONTINUED AT THE SOUTH —The Presbyterian Synods —The Rise of Presbyterianism in Virginia —Whitefield's Labors in the Southern Colonies —The Healing of the ‘Great Schism'||393|
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