After Jonathan Edwards: The Courses of the New England Theology

By Oliver D. Crisp; Douglas A. Sweeney | Go to book overview

9
Edwards in the Second Great
Awakening
THE NEW DIVINITY CONTRIBUTIONS OF EDWARD
DORR GRIFFIN AND ASAHEL NETTLETON

David W. Kling

THE PULSATING HEART of Edwards’s theology was God’s great work of redemption, in which revival was the lifeblood. In his lifetime Edwards experienced, promoted, and wrote extensively about revival. The core of his writings from 1734 to 1746 concerned revival. In letters, treatises, and sermons, Edwards explained, defended, promoted, and tracked revivals. He viewed revivals as the means to corporate renewal and moral reform—indeed, the means by which the millennium would come. Edwards conceded that the events of history “might appear like confusion,” but if viewed through the lens of providential design, if alert to the work of the Holy Spirit, the divine pattern was discernible.1 God’s work of redemption, “the great subject of the whole Bible” and subsequent history, would not be accomplished “by authority of princes, nor by the wisdom of learned men, but by the Holy Spirit” that “shall be gloriously poured out for the wonderful revival and propagation of religion.”2 The key to human history, then, was “glorious,” “wonderful,” “blessed,” “great,” “remarkable,” and “happy” revivals.3 And the key to personal human destiny was conversion—“the most important thing in the world.”4

If Edwards lived and breathed revival, and if by his estimation revivals were the center stage of God’s work of redemption, then any consideration of “after Edwards” must take into account his influence on the revivalist tradition.5 Indeed, as Avihu Zakai and others have pointed out, “By placing revival at the center of salvation history, Edwards conditioned many generations of

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