• Joe D'Orsie

The Dawn of the 1st Great Awakening

Updated: Jun 6, 2019

Although surprisingly hard to find information about what really happened in the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Great Awakenings in our country, it is indeed there. And in reading about its opening act just the other night, something caught my attention. I was reading about Jonathan Edwards, the reformer and revivalist from Connecticut, and noticed the catalyst, seemingly, for this first wave of repentance, prayer, holiness, and signs and wonders. It wasn't dynamic preaching or sound doctrine that had people fasting, praying, and crying out for revival; it actually started with an earthquake. The Great Boston Earthquake of 1727 to be precise. In the scope of Hurricane Irma barreling west toward Florida, I must ask the question - in view of its catastrophe, or any other natural disaster or calamity, what will our response be? Will it be a political debate over climate change or sack cloth and ashes? (I'm not necessarily comparing Irma or Harvey to the Earthquake of 1727)


JONATHAN EDWARDS

Their Reaction - Although there was widespread panic in New England, and earthquakes are not common to that region, what ultimately sunk in was the precursor to every great revival in the Church's history - REPENTANCE. It was a "great humbling" that came over the region, and a reverent dependence on God. This position of the heart spread through every facet of society much like the earthquake that spawned it, with aftershocks affecting church, home, education, and politics.

The Result - The Great Earthquake of Boston, followed by the convicting message of Jonathan Edwards, and picked up and planted near and far by the evangelist George Whitefield, in a nut shell, birthed America's 1st Great Awakening. But it couldn't have happened without all or any of these factors. Edwards, almost immediately after the earthquake, in fact in its aftermath, began to preach out of the book of Jonah, calling on New Englanders to recall that God relented in His judgment on the condition that the Ninevites repent for their wrongdoing. You could say that that's a bit 'doom and gloom,' to which I'd reply - it led directly to revival and reform. It's always tough to argue with good fruit and the power of the Holy Spirit...


GEORGE WHITEFIELD

So much of New England, deeply convicted in light of the quake, began to fast, pray, and repent to a greater degree than the continent of America had seen to date. What followed was an Acts 2 Pentecost season. Many things that characterized our nation to follow came out of this wave, like abolition and independence from Britain. This supernatural weightiness was carried south by Whitefield, from Boston to Savannah, and it caught like wildfire. 


What Now? I would like nothing more than for revival to be sparked now in America, regardless of whether a hurricane pushes us over the edge or not. I think it's exceedingly important, in light of church history and Bible prophecy, to get right with God right now because I sense the intensification of judgement's birth pangs (see Luke 21:21:25-26). It's undeniable, as we see strange natural phenomena and a degree of wickedness unmatched in our nation's history, that creation both earnestly awaits the manifestation of the sons of God and groans and labors with birthpangs (Romans 8:18-25). And as the late Leonard Ravenhill pointed out: "the judgments are going to fall if we don't get revival and maybe it's not an alternative to Christ or chaos but Christ and chaos."


[below is the rough time frame of America's three 'official' Great Awakenings]

- 1730's & 40's - 1st Great Awakening 

- 1790 - 1850  - 2nd Great Awakening

- 1860 - 1910 -  3rd Great Awakening

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