We recently enjoyed hearing a sermon at NCC by our friend Dave McDowell, chaplain of the Wheaton Graduate School. Prior to ministry in the Midwest, David was senior pastor at College Church, Northampton MA, the town in which Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) served nearly 300 years ago. You may recall that it was in Northampton where Edwards was instrumental in bringing the Great Awakening to his day. The town had been beset by loose living and factional bitterness. Instead of retreating from these problems, Edwards addressed them directly. He preached personal holiness and doctrinal soundness, which resulted in a dramatic response. In this excerpt from his Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, Edwards describes how the Spirit of God changed Northampton.
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, back-bitings, 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.1
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), 160-161.