The First Great Awakening in America is generally placed in the period of time between 1730 -1740. Historians credit Jonathan Edwards with the beginning of the revival at the Congregational Church he pastored in Northampton Massachusetts, but it’s worth noting that he succeeded his grandfather Solomon Stoddard as the pastor of that church.
Solomon had been praying for and preaching about revival for nearly fifty years before it began with his grandson. It doesn’t seem right to credit those who experienced the revival with the beginnings of revival, when there were people who labored in prayer and teaching for years beforehand.
When the revival swept through Northampton it affected the young people the most. One of the interesting affects of the revival was that the average marrying age dropped drastically. Before the revival young men and women waited till they were in their upper twenties to get married and the results were hundreds of children born out of wedlock. When those young people experienced the conviction of the Holy Spirit and gave themselves to following Christ their values and morals changed drastically. Marriages happened and the college that we know of as Princeton University was born out of the need for a college for “revival minded” teachers and students.
George Whitefield was one of the most well known preachers in the first awakening and there are accounts of word spreading that he was about to preach in a location and literally thousands of people would drop what they were doing and run, ride, or boat as fast as they could to the location in fear that they might miss out on hearing George preach. There are accounts of over 30,000 people listening to him preach with such quietness that everyone could hear him. They said that the only sounds other than Whitfield’s voice were the sounds of quiet weeping as people came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
There isn’t enough space here to write of orphanages begun, sermons preached, lives changed, and missions planted, but the affects of this awakening are still with us today. It was the first that the churches began to welcome black slaves into some of the congregations and gatherings. One story is told of a slave owner who discovered one his recently converted slaves preaching in Whitefield style. The slave owner was amused and he called his friends over for some after dinner entertainment and made the slave stand on a box and preach. What he didn’t account for was the conviction of the Holy Spirit and he was dismayed as his friends listened intently and many were converted and changed for the rest of their life.
My Prayer: Lord, would you again place such a hunger in our hearts for your truth that we would drop what we are doing just to be fed by you? We have again become cold to Your conviction and need You to break through the cynicism and carelessness and stir our hearts again in such a way that changes us forever!