Revival and the Revelation of God's Grace and Love1
When revival swept through New England, and in particular in Northampton, Massachusetts, where Jonathan Edwards lived and ministered, the effect on men and women was profound. Said Edwards:
"It was very wonderful to see how person's affections were sometimes moved – when God did as it were suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds a sense of the greatness of his grace, the fullness of Christ, and his readiness to save . . . Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping. Sometimes they have not been able to forbear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration" (Faithful Narrative, 37-38).
This overwhelming assurance of saving love had varied effects on the people:
"Some persons having had such longing desires after Christ, or which have risen to such degree, as to take away their natural strength. Some have been so overcome with a sense of the dying love of Christ to such poor, wretched, and unworthy creatures, as to weaken the body. Several persons have had so great a sense of the glory of God, and excellency of Christ, that nature and life seemed almost to sink under it; and in all probability, if God had showed them a little more of himself, it would have dissolved their frame. . . . And they have talked, when able to speak, of the glory of God's perfections . . ." (45).
"Many, while their minds have been filled with spiritual delights, have as it were forgot their food; their bodily appetite has failed, while their minds have been entertained with meat to eat that others knew not of"" (46).
Edwards describes the "unparalleled joy" of many (46), which often expressed itself in "earnest longings of soul to praise God" (47). Others expressed a new love for the Bible: "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" (47).
Again, "never, I believe, was so much done in confessing injuries, and making up differences, as the last year. Persons, after their own conversion, have commonly expressed an exceeding great desire for the conversion of others" (47).
Oh, that God might be pleased to visit us again!