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Aiihtant Professor of Political Science in the
University of Pennsyl-vania


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Centennial celebrations of what Jonathan Edwards called the
"Revival of Religion in New England in 1740," suggested to Joseph
Tracy the preparation of a history of that revival. His design was
admirably executed. Subordinate attention was given by him to the
progress of the revival in other sections of the country and in Great
Britain, but in the main his Great Awakening is an exhaustive history
of the revival proper in New England. It gives extended quotations
from the personal narratives of many promoters of the revival which
were written in 1 743 and 1 744 for Prince's Christian History.

Approaching my task almost three-fourths of a century after Tracy,
I find myself more in sympathy than was common in Tracy's day with
the catholicity of Whitefield and with the democratic tendencies of the
revival which were so largely responsible for the destruction of the
ecclesiastical system of New England. Tracy wrote with the purpose of
encouraging a similar quickening in his own time but wished to avoid
resort to measures which he imagined to be harmful. I find my purpose
not in the advocacy of a program but in the attempt to demonstrate
that the religious energies liberated by the Great Awakening were trans-
formed into forces, social, humanitarian, educational, and political, which
have been of almost incalculable importance in the making of the
American people.

This study, much briefer than Tracy's, will make only such reference
to the revival in New England as is demanded for understanding the
movement in the Middle Colonies. The statement of the relation of the
revival in the Middle Colonies to its extension southward will not be so
abbreviated, because that relation was very close, and because there is
no account of the revival in the South like that of Tracy for New England.

I made a journey from Boston, Massachusetts, to Charleston, South
Carolina, visiting most of the libraries which possess important collections
of colonial newspapers. I gathered a mass of material on the moral
and religious conditions of the colonies and the progress of the Great
Awakening. Though everywhere courteously received, I feel myself
xmder special obligation to the gentlemen in charge of the splendid col-
lections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. In the notes a number
of references to the newspapers, a neglected source material, will be



I have also visited libraries at New York, New Brunswick, Princeton,
Trenton, and Philadelphia. Special mention must be made of some
among the many visited. At the library of Union Theological Seminary
I was given kindly assistance and access to rare books of the eighteenth
century. At the Sage Library, New Brunswick, I found useful material
on the relation of the Dutch church to the revival. At the Princeton
Theological Library I was given access to the incomparable Sprague
Collection. At Trenton the permanent clerk of the presbytery of New
Brunswick, Rev. George H. Ingram, permitted me to inspect the manu-
script records of that body and kindly presented me with a typewritten
copy of the first record book. He was then writing a history of the pres-
bytery of New Brunswick for the Presbyterian Historical Review. At
Philadelphia my indebtedness among a number of libraries is greatest
to that of the Presbyterian Historical Society. Here the extensive col-
lection of Tennent papers, mostly manuscript sermons of Gilbert
Tennent, was put at my disposal, as were also the records of the Second
Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia and many old books and pam-
phlets not found elsewhere.

Source materials other than those mentioned in the statement of my
obligations are the journals of Whitefield and Brainerd, Prince's Chris-
tian History, the Records of the Presybterian Church, and many excerpts
from eighteenth-century documents which are incorporated in the his-
tories of churches, presbyteries, and denominations and in the biog-
raphies of men who were concerned in the movement. The Ecclesiastical
Records of the State of New York are a mine of information upon the
progress of revivalism in New York and New Jersey and to some extent
in Pennsylvania.

The story of Pietism in Pennsylvania is based principally upon the
extensive researches of Sachse and serves as an introduction to the more
important phases of the revival, the story of which follows. Chapters
ii to viii and the greater part of chapter ix are based on original material.
So far as chapter ix deals with denominations other than the Presbyterian
and Dutch Reformed it is based for the most part on denominational
histories, secondary sources, though Edwards' Material may very
properly be regarded as original. This part of chapter ix simply fills
out the story and shows the remarkable parallelism in the results of the
Great Awakening in the various denominations. The final chapter
sums up a number of the distinguishing marks of the evangeUcal revival.



I. Introduction, AND Pietism IN Pennsylvania ...... i

II. Frelinghuysen, and the Beginning of the Revival among

THE Dutch Reformed ii

III. The Tennents, and the Beginning of the Revival among
the Presbyterians 21

IV. George Whitefield, and His Alliance with the New Bruns-
wick Presbyterians 40

V. The Year 1740, THE Great Awakening AT High Tide ... 54

VI. The Schism in the Presbyterian Church in the Year 1741 . 69

VII. Period of Expansion and Organization 80

VIII. Whitefield the Pacificator 104

IX. Triumphant Evangelism IN AN Age of Unbelief . . . . 112

X. Conclusion 139

Bibliography . 152


In the middle of the eighteenth century a tidal wave of religious
fervor and reforming zeal swept over the British colonies in America.
When this wave of emotionalism had passed, when the extraordinary
in Christian experience and activity had given place to the ordinary, the
friends of the revival, and after them their sons and sons' sons, called it
the Great Awakening.

The term "Great Awakening," however, is not employed in this
study in a restricted sense as applying only to the religious excitement of
1740, or even to the series of widely extended and closely related revivals
among which that of 1 740 was the most remarkable. The name is used
as an appropriate designation of the whole evangelical quickening in the
colonies. This change in the attitude of the people toward religion, by
which after a period of decay it became a power in the lives of thousands,
had numerous and widely separated beginnings very early in the century.
Among these beginnings the most important were the revival of Pietism
among the Germans of Pennsylvania, the rise of a radical evangelism
among the Dutch of New Jersey, a similar revival among the English-
speaking Presbyterians of the Middle Colonies, and, following these, the
remarkable outburst of old-time Puritan feeling among the Congrega-
tionalists of New England. Though this intercolonial and interdenomi-
national quickening rose at times to astonishing heights of excitement,
these seasons were but passing manifestations of an abiding movement.
It was still powerful in parts of the country at the breaking out of the
Revolutionary War.

Though the Great Awakening, conceived of as a long-sustained move-
ment, was professedly unsectarian, and its promoters were not concerned
with the ecclesiastical affiliations of the religiously awakened, yet the
denominations which heartily accepted its principles became strong
and popular. The degree of their acceptance of these evangelistic ideals
was the measure of their ultimate numerical strength. This building
up of large bodies of aggressive religionists which possessed no special
privileges and opposed the union of church and state contributed greatly
to a social and political revolution. However vivid to the imaginations


of New Lights and New Sides^ were heaven and hell, they excelled their
more conservative brethren in determined pursuit of practical aims.
Their awakened sympathy established orphanages and other institutions
for social betterment. They gave new life to missions. In that time
there were no other founders of schools like them. When a conservative
majority in a colony held the evangelical minority in unwilling restraint,
relief was found in emigration, and whole churches of the discontented
moved beyond the jurisdiction of the persecuting government. Thus
the Great Awakening was not wave on wave of excitement which, having
passed, left no trace upon the placid waters. sJt was a powerful ferment
which was destined to revolutionize colonial society. As an intercolonial
movement it was the beginning of a unifying process which was carried
still farther by common effort in the French and Indian War and to
political union by the Revolutionary War. }

"Not only was the Great Awakening an intercolonial movement ; it
was part of a larger awakening within the whole British Empire which
may very properly be called the Methodist Revival. Waves of influence
crossed the Atlantic in both directions. The remarkablfe revival which
began in 1 734 at Northampton under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards,
already mentioned as one of the beginnings of the Great Awakening,
was reported in Great Britain, first by the letters of American correspond-
ents, and afterward by the publication in 1737 of Edwards' Narrative of
Surprising Conversions.^ Dissenters and conformists were stirred by its
reading,^ and it was influential in the spread of the revival spirit in the
homelands." Pious colonists in turn became expectant and hopeful

' The former term was employed in New England and was frequently applied to
the radical supporters of the revival; the latter term was employed in the Middle
Colonies, but there it was applied to the evangelical party in the Presbyterian Church.

* Rev. W. Williams, of Hatfield, wrote a letter to Dr. Colman, of Boston, on the
"Remarkable Success of the Gospel" in Hampshire county, dated April 28, 1735,
which was published in the New England Weekly Journal, May 12, 1735. Colman
forwarded this and other accounts to his correspondents, Drs. Watts and Guyse, of
London. They asked for a fuller statement, which request Edwards received in a
letter written by Colman to Williams. The narrative was dated November 6, 1 736,
and was pubUshed in London in 1737. The Boston Gazette, December 20, 1736,
advertises that "An Account of the late wonderful Work of God by Rev. Jonathan,
Edwards is JUST PUBLISHED." This is the narrative of November 6, 1736,
abridged by Dr. Colman. The same paper, December 11, 1738, advertised Edwards'
Surprising Work of God. This was the unabridged narrative of 1 736. The statement
in Dwight's Edwards, Vol. I of Edwards' Works, pp. 137-40, is not accurate.

3 Hoskins, "German Influence," Princeton Theological Review, 1907-
^Tyerman's Wesley, I, 220; Macpherson, A History of the Church in Scotland,
p. 324.


when the beginnings of a rehgious quickening in England were reported
to them. Readers of the colonial newspapers' in January, 1738, found
astonishing accounts of the preaching in the preceding October of a
young deacon of the Church of England, Whitefield by name, a member
of John Wesley's student club, derisively called the Methodists. Later
the colonial papers^ copied from their London exchanges almost incredible
stories of the throngs which crowded around the young orator, now become
a field preacher. When, therefore, he arrived at Lewes, Delaware, on
October 30, 1739, interest in the great evangelist was already raised to
the highest pitch. From that day George Whitefield, the English Metho-
dist, was the chief figure in the Great Awakening in the American colo-
nies. For nearly a decade there was constant interchange of reports by
both friends and enemies of the revival. English and Scotch tracts and
sermons were republished by enterprising printers from Charleston to
Boston, and colonial publications reappeared in Glasgow and London.

But the Great Awakening was not only part of the larger Methodist
Revival, a movement within the British Empire; it was part of an inter-
national evangelical revival which among the Protestants of Germany
was known as the pietistic movement.^ In this world movement
emphasis was not put upon distinctive names, formal creeds, the claims
of this or that system of church polity, or upon the efficacy of merely
external rites. Its fundamental ideas were vital piety, the mystic union
of the believer with God, the enthronement of emotion upon its rightful
seat, and a thoroughgoing reformation of morals.

Spener, of Frankfort, was the founder of Pietism.* Beginning in
1670 he established collegia pietatis, or private devotional societies,

' American Weekly Mercury, January 24, 1738, and other papers.

^ Boston Gazette, June 25, 1739, and many other papers.

3 Christian History for 1 744, pp. 262-84. This weekly paper, edited by T. Prince,
Jr., was the first religious periodical published in the colonies. Similar weekly histories
of religion had recently been established in London by Whitefield and in Glasgow by
McLaurin. These papers illustrate the international character of the revival, in the
promotion of which they were established. The Christian History prints an account
of the revival in Germany, which account was the preface to the English edition of
1705 of Francke's Pielatas Hallensis. Cotton Mather had previously corresponded
with Francke and contributed to his work. They exchanged books. Knowledge of the
revival in Germany must have awakened the desire for revival in New England and
may have contributed to the revival of 1734. On Mather see Hoskins, pp. 210, 225.

I The term "Pietism" is employed here in the sense of Riggenbach as a reaction of
practical faith from barren orthodoxy, not as a vague term including various specula-
tive and mystical phenomena. Yet there is an undoubted relation between the
Labadists, Quakers, Quietists, and Pietists. Kaufmann, " Latitudinarianism and
Pietism," in Cambridge Modern History, V, 753 ff.


within the churches, through which he hoped to leaven the whole lump.
In these societies the Bible was enthusiastically studied, and the spiritual
priesthood of laymen was exercised. Spener advocated gentleness in
the intercourse of Lutherans and the Reformed and was called to Berlin
by the king of Prussia as a pacificator. Under his influence the new
University of Halle was manned with professors of pietistic sentiment.
Halle accordingly became the center of evangelism in Germany. Pres-
ently the Lutheran communion was divided into two parties. The
minority held to Pietism, though repudiating every charge of separation
and heresy. The majority charged that the establishment of a church
within the church inevitably paved the way to separation, and that
the boasted Catholicism of the Pietists but opened the door to heresy,
enthusiasm, and chiliastic reveries.^

Spener died in 1705, but already Francke had succeeded him as a
vigorous leader of the movement. It was Francke who established the
famous orphan house at Halle with its affiliated schools and various
institutions for the propagation of this warm type of religion. Under
his direction Pietism continued to exercise a wholesome influence upon the
Lutheran Church, for it was a protest against dogmatism and formalism.
Yet it was narrow in its tendency to define conversion in the terms of a
single type. This narrowness was transmitted to the Methodist Revival.

The course of Pietism in the Lutheran Church of Germany may be
dismissed with this brief characterization, but a word is demanded
concerning the influence of the revival upon the various religious bodies
the members of which swarmed to the New World and here participated
in the Great Awakening. The Reformed as well as the Lutherans of
the Palatinate, from which principality the main emigration was made
from Germany to Pennsylvania, were under strong pietistic influences.
But none responded more quickly to the new touch of life than the so-
called "Sectarian" bodies. The pietistic propaganda was a boon to
them, for they too stood for experimental rehgion and the universal
priesthood of believers. In addition to these principles, held in common
with the revivalists of the established churches, they more or less gener-
ally held such doctrines as the separation of church and state, non-
resistance, prohibition of oaths, plainness of dress, the love feast, the
kiss of charity, and foot-washing.^

Of these Sectarians, aroused by the revival to activity, the most
numerous connection was that of the Mennonites, the representatives

' Mirbt, "Pietism," in New Schaff-Hersog Rel. Enc, Vol. IX.

* Kuhns, The German and Swiss Settlements of Colonial Pennsylvania, p. 173.


of the Anabaptists of the Reformation. The Schwenkfelders were
another survival of the same period. More important than the Schwenk-
felders, but like them insignificant in numbers, were the Dunkers, or
German Baptist Brethren.' Though the spirit of Pietism was opposed
to the organization of new sects, this brotherhood was none the less the
fruit of the revival. The Moravians illustrated the opposite and pre-
vailing tendency of the revival, the tendency to union and affiliation
with all denominations. The Unitas Fratrum, the ancient Moravian
Church, uprooted from its ancestral home, was reorganized by Count
Zinzendorf in Germany and became beyond any other sect the very
embodiment of Pietism. Moravianism was a wonderful system with its
classes and discipline, with its hierarchy and co-operative business enter-
prises, with its orphanages and schools, with its vent for emotion and
recreation in strangely appealing music, and above all with its truly
heroic prosecution of foreign missions.^

Again the general international character of the whole religious move-
ment can be seen from the relation between the German reformers and
the men of England whom the new spirit was beginning to move.
John Wesley was converted through the instrumentality of Peter Boehler,
the Moravian. The Methodist societies in the Church of England
adopted many features of Moravianism. Indeed the members of that
brotherhood were pre-eminently the mediators of German Pietism to the
revivahsts of England. Moreover, George Whitefield, the chief apostle
of the Great Awakening, was influenced profoundly by Pietism. In
the story of his youth Whitefield tells of his first meeting with Charles
Wesley.^ Whitefield was then a young Pembroke College student, shy
but thirsting for spiritual friendship. Wesley understood his need and
put into his hands Francke's treatise, the Fear of Man. This was White-
field's introduction to the German Pietist whose orphan house at Halle
was the model of his own in Georgia, and to whose example he frequently
appealed. Whitefield 's reading was not in systems of doctrine^ but
in devotional books, pietistical and mystical, sometimes passionate in
their portrayal of the struggles of the tempted. Ardent and imaginative
as he was by nature, he experienced the very struggles of which he read,
even suffering the torments of the damned. His surrender to these
suggestions in such extreme fashion he afterward regarded as yielding to

' Brumbaugh, A History of the German Baptist Brethren, p. 12.

'Pennsylvania Gazette, February 24, 1743.

J Whitefield, Brief Account, pp. 19, 20.

^Whitefield, A Letter . ... in Answer to ... . Querists, p. 61.


the temptations of Satan. But these struggles were very real to him
and threw him into serious illness. At last his cry for relief was heard.
Then his exaltation of spirit even exceeded the measure of his former
distress. He was the first of the band of Methodists to pass through
what the Moravians called "holy mourning" to its happy issue in

The influence of Pietism upon Whitefield did not end with his con-
version. There are frequent references in his journals to pietistic litera-
ture.* The native tendency of his mind to eschew plodding logical
processes and to leap at one bound to conclusions was encouraged by
the mystical books which he read and by his intercourse with the Mora-
vians. Deep impressions and sudden impulses were followed as inspira-
tions of the divine Spirit, but if they proved harmful and erroneous they
were afterward attributed to Satan. It was this that Jonathan Edwards
criticized in friendly conversation with Whitefield, and it was this that
Charles Chauncy openly denounced as Quakerish and Jesuitical super-
stition.3 But impulses and impressions were incidental; from Pietism
the evangelist had learned that Christianity is a life, not a creed; the
glow and warmth of that life he had come to feel himself.

But Pietism had another connection with the religious movement
which is to be traced in these chapters, more direct, if less potent, than
that indicated by its effects upon the Wesleys, Whitefield, and other
Methodist leaders, for Pietists came in great numbers to the Middle
Colonies, and their influence ultimately determined the dominant char-
acter of the colonial German population. In 1683, two years after
William Penn obtained his charter, the first body of German emigrants
arrived in Philadelphia and soon afterward founded German town. They
were attracted by the proposals of Penn's Holy Experiment. The com-
pany was composed of Mennonites and German Quake rs.^

The Mennonites were followed in 1694 by a strange body of mystics,
forty in number, including university men of varied learning. First of
all these mystics were Pietists, but they were also chiliasts.s It is remark-

' Whitefield, Brief Account, pp. 31, 40. Whitefield was converted in 1735 and
Wesley in 1738; that is, in those years they passed through the emotional experiences
which they accounted their conversions.

"Whitefield's Journals for January 6, 9, and March 26, 1738; September 15,
1739, etc.

3 Hoskins, op. cit., p. 223; Dwight, op. cit., p. 147; Chauncy, Seasonable Thoughts,
P- 173-

* Sachse, German Pietists, p. 4. * Ibid., pp. 37, 38, 80, 129, 130.


able that every revival of religion revives too the belief of the early Chris-
tians in the speedy return of the Lord. This body was sometimes called
the Order of the Woman in the Wilderness, for were its members not
carried over the sea by the ''wings of the great eagle," and did they not
flee into the wilderness, where God, as they imagined, had prepared a
place for them ?' Here they would wait for the harbinger of the millen-
nium soon to dawn upon the world, according to the calculations of their
astronomers and astrologists. They were orthodox Lutherans, but
they held in addition to the usual articles of faith these esoteric doctrines.
Science and pseudo-science were strangely commingled, for they prac-
ticed medicine and manufactured amulets, studied botany and employed
the divining rod to determine the location of springs of water.^

In contrast with the coming of this little band of enthusiasts there
was in 1 709 the arrival of a horde of destitute Palatines. Most of them
were brought to the province of New York by the English government.
A few of those who first settled in New York made their way down the
Susquehanna River and finally reached the more hospitable province of
Pennsylvania. In 171 7 the immigration of Palatines direct to Pennsyl-
vania was suddenly swelled by the coming of six or seven thousand.
They were Reformed and Lutherans in approximately equal numbers,
many of both communions holding pietistic views. They were driven
from the fatherland by religious persecution and economic distress.^

Not all these Germans who year by year sought refuge in the New

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Online LibraryCharles Hartshorn MaxsonThe great awakening in the middle colonies → online text (page 1 of 17)