The Great Awakening: A Pattern Revival -- By: Robert H. Lescelius

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 04:3 (Summer 1995)
Article: The Great Awakening: A Pattern Revival
Author: Robert H. Lescelius


The Great Awakening: A Pattern Revival

Robert H. Lescelius

The Great Awakening (1726–56) in the American Colonies has been recognized by even secular historians as “the most potent, constructive force in American life during the mid-century.” Though it was made up of a series of local revivals, it has been called a Great Awakening, because it was a general movement of spiritual renewal touching many regions and dimensions of colonial life. The rehearsing of the mighty works of God during the Great Awakening thrill the heart of the child of God, who longs to see such times of refreshing again. It also stands as a model for subsequent generations of the church to study, for it is a microcosm of features, problems, solutions and blessings that arise from the phenomenon of spiritual awakening, or revival. We will look at this great event with respect to its context, course, and consequences, and close with some considerations.

Its Context

1) The historical context

The Great Awakening must be seen in relation to the broader spectrum of what has been called the First Great Awakening (1726–76). God in sovereign mercy poured out His Spirit in Germany and Great Britain as well as in the American Colonies. About the same time as there were stirrings of revival in the Raritan Valley of New Jersey under Theodore Frelinghuysen, the Moravians were experiencing their “Pentecost” (August 13, 1727) on the estates of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf at Hernnhut. The Moravian Revival was a perpetuation of the Pietist movement that had been led by such men as Philip Spener (1635–1705) and August Franke (1663–1727) in renewing the Lutheran Church, deadened by Protestant scholasticism. It is interesting that Frelinghuysen (1691–1747), who was born in Germany, trained in Holland and sent by the Dutch Reformed Church to America, was influenced by Pietism in his concepts of conversion and the Christian life.

About the time Jonathan Edwards was seeing a remarkable

work of the Spirit of God in New England (1734–35), God also was beginning to use George Whitefield in revival in England (1737 on). Both of these men were greatly influenced by the heritage of the Puritans, and both were to play key roles by the hand of God in the mighty movement in America. Thus we see the sovereignty of God displayed in the dispensing of His grace to His church and the world. This was a truth believed by Frelinghuysen, Edwards, Whitefield and the church in general of that day.

2) Its religious context

It was a time of spiritual declension. We made note of the dead orthodoxy of Germany, and the same spiritual deadness was evident in Great Britain and t...

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