There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. Those who were wont to be the vainest and loosest, and those who had been disposed to think and speak lightly of vital and experimental religion, were now generally subject to great awakenings. And the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did as it were come by flocks to Jesus Christ.
Several of the awakened told me, that they were brought to a concern about their souls by such reasoning as this within themselves:—These people under so much distress are far from being so great sinners as I have been and am: how stupid and hard-hearted then am I who am altogether unconcerned. And if they are afraid of the wrath of God, I have far greater reason to be so. There appeared to me nothing more unreasonable in making use of the example of the distressed, to make other secure sinners afraid of sin and the wrath of God than there is in the law punishing crimes publicly to make others afraid to commit them. I was also convinced that it was sinful in me to wish or desire that the infinitely wise and sovereign Lord should order his own work in another way than what pleased himself. There were also some brethren who did not think the way 1 had taken, to remove the distressed, to be the best: and therefore, after some weeks’ trial, I altered it: I am now of opinion, after all, that I have seen and experienced relating to this work, that it is best to leave the distressed to their liberty, and in the congregation, if they incline, until it be dismissed. No means that Providence puts in our hands is to be omitted that hath a tendency to awaken secure sinners.
This rare sermon is not among the 50 sermons that are commonly reprinted in our day. It is taken from the history of the revival at Cambuslang 1742. A Sermon, Preached on Saturday Forenoon, September 12th, 1741, in the High-Church-Yard of Glasgow, Upon Luke 4:18,19
THEODORUS JACOBUS FRELINGHUYSEN: FIRST MINISTER OF THE REFORMED PROTESTANT DUTCH CHURCH IN SOMERSET COUNTY, NEW-JERSEY. 1691-1747
Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, a Dutch Reformed clergyman, was a noted exhorter and revivalist who initiated the Great Awakening in America’s Middle colonies.
Frelinghuysen, educated at the University of Lingen and influenced by pietistic followers of Gisbertus Voetius, served two pastorates in the lowlands before immigrating to America. When Frelinghuysen arrived in New York in 1720, his contumacious behavior immediately aroused the suspicions of the Dutch ministers there. A fervent pietist, Frelinghuysen chided his clerical colleagues for their personal vanity.
Woe to you, wicked and unconverted ones ! it shall be ill with you. (Isa. 3: 11.) You may here for a time prosper in things temporal, but in the day of death, and of the last judgment, it shall be ill with you; for the fruit and reward of your hands shall be given you, saith the prophet ; that is, you shall be rewarded according to your works ; for ” tribulation and anguish shall be rendered to every soul of man that doeth evil. (Rom. 2 : 9.)
In early 1741, McCulloch began to preach a series of sermons on the subject of spiritual regeneration, including within his addresses selected excerpts from published reports of the revival then occurring in the American colonies through the ministries of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield. During this same year, in July, evangelist George Whitefield conducted his first preaching tour of Scotland, ‘where he abode some time, and preached many awakening sermons in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other places’. Some members of the Cambuslang parish, including two prominent elders, Ingram, More, and Robert Bowman, were strongly impressed by the preaching of Whitefield at meetings they attended at the High churchyard in Glasgow. More and Bowman subsequently ‘went through the Parish, and procured about a hundred Subscriptions to a petition desiring the Minister [McCulloch] to preach to them every Thursday, which he, at their Request, complied with’.
About the beginning of March 1742, I came to Cambuslang & heard a minister on that text, what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world & loses his own Soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul at the hearing of which I began to turn thoughtful and concerned, about my soul & my eternal salvation, and thought that I had all along before that, lived without any thought or concern about it: And for a long time after, when I was at home, that word, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul, came every now & then into my mind, & made me look on all worldly concerns as nothing compared to soul-concerns. I came frequently to Cambuslang but nothing I heard there further touched me, till toward the End of April 1742, when hearing a minister on a Thursday preach on that text, They shall look on him whom they pierced & mourn, at which I was made to see that I had been along my life piercing and wounding Christ by my sins, and was made to weep and mourn and melt on that account.
If we rise to the survey of the world—if ascending the lofty eminence which is occupied by the genius of history, we review the annals of our race; or setting out with the traveler, we bring the eye of observation to bear on the existing condition of mankind—what a mournful picture is presented to the reflecting mind! Over by far the larger portion of that wide expanse, what does either the past or the present exhibit, but” darkness covering the earth and gross darkness the people”? Millions upon millions of our fellow-creatures, possessed of the same rational, moral, and immortal nature with ourselves, sunk to the level of the beasts that perish; ignorant alike of their origin and of their end—”changing the glory of the incorruptible Jehovah into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.”
“It is transporting and astonishing, that after all the great and horrid provocations we have given the Most-High in this church and land, by growing deism and infidelity, carnality and profanity, formality and hypocrisy, our bitter envyings and unreasonable divisions, but most of all by a general rejecting of the blessed Son of God by unbelief, and using gospel ordinances contentedly without feeling the power of them, the Lord hath been so far from utterly forsaking us, and making our country desolate by some destroying judgment, that he is in ” wrath remembering mercy,” and beginning manifestly to revive his work, and help us in such a situation as was become hopeless and helpless by any human possible means.”
In this town there has always been a great deal of talk about conversion and spiritual experiences; and therefore people in general had formed a notion in their own minds what these things were. But when they come to be the subjects of them, they find themselves much confounded in their notions, and overthrown in many of their former conceits. And it has been very observable, that persons of the greatest understanding, and who had studied most about things of this nature, have been more confounded than others.
Hodge’s masterful analysis of the aberrations that happened during the Great Awakening. Agree with him or not, this is Hodge at his best and must be consulted by any serious historical student. “there must have been something very wrong in the revival itself. It may, however, be said, that the decay of religion through the land generally, is perfectly consistent with the purity of the revival and the flourishing state of those particular churches which had experienced its influence. The facts of the case, unfortunately, do not allow us the benefit of this assumption. It is no doubt true, that in some congregations… religion was in a very desirable state, in the midst of the general decline; but it is no less certain, that in many instances, in the very places where the revival was the most remarkable, the declension was the most serious.”
What has more especially given offence to many, and raised a loud cry against some preachers, as though their conduct were intolerable, is their frightening poor innocent children with talk of hell-fire, and eternal damnation. But if those who complain so loudly of this, really believe what is the general profession of the country,viz. That all are by nature the children of wrath, and heirs of hell— and that every one that has not been born again, whether he be young or old, is exposed every moment to eternal destruction— then such a complaint and cry as this betrays a great deal of weakness and inconsideration. Innocent as children seem to us, yet,
if they are out of Christ, they are not so in the sight of God