The New Zealand Evangelist
The Effects Of A Revival
The Effects Of A Revival.
The following paragraphs are extracted from President Edwards's very interesting, judicious, and faithful “Narative of the Surprising work of God in the Conversion of many hundred souls in Northamnton page 149 North America.” This work of God, as it was carried on, and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town; so that in the spring and the summer following, anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God; it was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then. There were remarkable, tokens of God's presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought unto them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The goings of God were then seen in his Sanctuary, God's day was a delight, and his tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful: the congregation was alive in God's service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship; every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth; the assembly were, from time to time in tears while the word was preached; some were weeping with sorrow and distress; others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbours.
Our public praises were then greatly enlivened; God was then served in our psalmody, in some measure, in the beauty of holiness. It has been observable that there has been scarce any part of divine worship, wherein good men amongst us have had grace to drawn forth, and their hearts so lifted up in the ways of God, as in singing his praises. Our congregation excelled all that ever I knew in the external part of the duty before; the men generally carrying regularly, and well, three parts of music, and the women a part by themselves; but now they were wont to sing with unusual elevation of heart and voice, which made the duty pleasant indeed.
In all companies, on other days, on whatever oceasions persons met together Christ was to be heard of, and seen in the midst of them. Our young people, when they met, were wont to spend their time in talking of the excellency and dying love of Jesus page 150 Christ, the glory of the way of salvation, the wonderful, free, and sovereign grace of God, his glorious work in the conversion of a soul; the truth and certainty of the great things of God's word, the sweetness of the views of his perfections, &c. And even at weddings which formerly were mere occasions of mirth and jollity, there was no discourse of anything but religion, and no appearance of any but spiritual mirth. Those amongst us who had been formerly converted, were greatly enlivened and renewed with fresh and extraordinary incomes of the spirit of God; though some much more than others, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Many who had before laboured under difficulties about their own state, had now their doubts removed by more satisfying experience, and more clear discoveries of God's love.
Frequently when persons have first had the gospel ground of relief discovered to them, and have been entertaining their mind with, the sweet prospect, they have thought nothing at that time of their being converted. To see, that there is an all-sufficiency in God, and such plentiful provision made in Christ, after they have been borne down and sunk with a sense of their guilt and fears of wrath, exceedingly refreshes them. The view is joyful to them; as it is in its own nature glorious, gives them quite new and delightful ideas of God and Christ, and greatly encourages them to seek conversion. This begets in them a strong resolution to devote themselves and their whole lives to God and his Son, and particularly to wait till God shall see fit to make all effectual; and very often they entertain a strong persuasion that He will'in his own time do it for them.
There is wrought in them a holy repose of soul in God through Christ, with a sweet disposition, to fear and love him, and to hope for blessings from him in this way. Yet they have no imagination that they are now converted, it does not so much as come into their minds, and very often the reason is, that they do not see that they accept of this sufficency of salvation page 151 they behold in Christ, having entertained a wrong notion of acceptance; not being sensible that the obedient and joyful entertainment which their hearts give to this discovery of grace is a real acceptance. They know not that the sweet complacence they feel in the mercy and complete salvation of God, as it includes pardon and sanctification, and is held forth to them only through Christ, is a true receiving of this mercy, or a plain evidence of their receiving it. They expected I know not what kind of rest of soul, and perhaps they had no distinct view of it themselves. Their ideas of what conversion is seem to have been very imperfect.
Many fall under such a mistake as to be ready to doubt of their good estate, because there was so much use made of their own reason in the convictions they have received; they are afraid that they have no illumination above the natural force of their own faculties: and many make that an objection against the spirituality of their convictions, that it is so easy to see things as they now see them. They have often heard, that conversion is a work of mighty power, manifesting to the soul what neither man nor angel can give such a conviction of; but it seems to them that it was because they never thought of it. But very often these difficulties are soon removed by those of another nature; for when God withdraws they find themselves as it were blind again, they for the present lose their realizing sense of those things that looked so plain to them, and, by all they can do, they cannot recover it, till God renews the influences of his spirit.
Persons after their conversion often speak of religious things as coming new to them; that preaching is a new thing, that it seems to them they never heard preaching before; that the bible is a new book; they find there new chapters, new psalms, new histories, because they see them in a new light. Here was a remarkable instance of an aged woman, above seventy years, who had spent most of her days under Mr. Stoddard's powerful ministry. Reading in the page 152 New Testament concerning Christ's sufferings for sinners, she seemed to be astonished at what she read, as what was real and very wonderful, but quite new to her. As first, before she had time to turn her thoughts, she wondered within herself, that she had never heard of it before; but then immediately recollected herself, and thought she had often heard of it, and read it, but never till now saw it as real. She then cast in her mind, how wonderful this was, that the Son of God should undergo such things for sinners, and how she had spent her time in ungratefully sinning against so good a God, and such a Saviour; though she was a person very worthy, and of a blameless and inoffensive life. And she was so overcome by those considerations, that her nature was ready to fail under them; those who were about her, and knew not what was the matter, were surprised, and thought she was a dying.
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. 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.
While God was so remarkably present amongst us by his spirit, there was no book so delightful as the page 153 Bible; especially the Book of Psalms, the Prophecy of Isaiah, and the New Testament. Some by reason of their love to God's word, at times, have been wonderfully delighted and affected at the sight of a bible; and then, also there was no time so prized as the Lord's day, and no place in this world so desired as God's house. Our converts then remarkably appeared united in deep affection to one another, and many have expressed much of that spirit of love which they felt towards all mankind; and particularly to those who had been least friendly to them. Never, I believe, was so much done in confessing injuries, and making up differences, as the last year. This work of God had also a good effect to unite the people's affections much to their minister.
Although people did not ordinarily neglect their worldly business; yet religion was with all sorts the great concern, and the world was only a thing by the bye. The only thing in their view was to get to the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it. The eagerness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances.
We strongly recommend the perusal of the whole work to all who may have access to the book.