The man’s ‘delusion’ was, having read that in the last times the Holy Spirit would give gifts to all believers and not just to ministers, he thought, because of the revival, the time must have come, and so he believed God. However, his leaders thought it was delusion. The finale is this:
He exceedingly laments the dishonour he has done to God and the wound he has given religion and has laid low before God and man for it.
In other words, he humbled himself and repented from thinking he could be used by the Holy Spirit.
In Edward’s day they seem to have believed two falsehoods. One, that only some people were ministers, and the other, that only those few people who were ministers could be led by the Spirit to give other people help in finding God. Today, we would see these as serious, unbiblical errors. We should thank God that we live with today’s light and correspondingly greater freedom.
Edward’s narrative said there were two people who had these delusions. It seemed to me that these were two witnesses pointing to where the Spirit of God wanted to take that revival, but it was not to be. This occurred in the year 1742, and that year saw the end of the revival.
The Great Awakening had two main periods, 1735-6, and then the height of the revival occurring from 1740-42. After Jonathan Edwards finished recounting the details of the ‘deluded’ man, he goes on, and without drawing any connections between events, he made this statement:
After these things, the instances of conversion were rare.
It seems it was all over. He further summarises:
The Spirit of God not long after this, appeared to be withdrawing from all parts of the country.
If we wish to maintain revival, or wish to remain in grace, here is the first error to be avoided – the error of resisting what God wants to do. There has never yet been a revival where God hasn’t sought to ‘push back the envelope’ (boundaries that are in our minds, not His), and of course the Lord will do it again.
In many of the great revivals, the Spirit of God did things that many of the established Christians declared to be the devil. If we remain locked into a traditional mindset of church life, we will be blind to much in the Scriptures. Jesus told the religious leaders of His day, “...you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15: 6) We have to be very careful about our traditions and cultural assumptions, which often cause us to not see, or not believe, what God has for us, even when the Scriptures plainly offer it.
A couple of days later, still seeking the Lord for answers to my question, I picked up the book again, and read the third article by Jonathan Edward’s, An Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton in 1742. Edwards tells of a most powerful time in the revival, the Spring of 1742. The revival was at its height, the whole town had been changed, and many were by this time converted. The town was alive with the presence and power of God by night and day. All night long all over town lights were burning, with people up worshipping, singing, and praying. He wrote the following about events in February, 1742:
... the people were exceedingly moved crying out in great numbers in the meeting house, and a great part of the congregation commonly staying in the house of God for hours after the public service. Many also were exceedingly moved in private meetings... almost the whole town seemed to be in a great and continual commotion, day and night, and there was indeed a very great revival of religion...
When I came home, I found the town in very extraordinary circumstances, such as, in some respects, I never saw it in before...
...and there were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining perhaps for a whole 24 hours motionless, and with their senses locked up; but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.
Edwards was so grateful to God for the revival that had transformed his people. God had blessed them so much in it that they must keep it at all costs. What were they to do to keep the people in revival?
He believed that to keep the revival, and to consolidate the work God had done, the people needed to enter into a solemn oath and covenant before God...