Our day began with a drive back across the border into the United States. Unlike the Canadian crossing, where we were required to provide our vaccination cards and Covid test results, there were no questions regarding either. We could have all been infected with the Bubonic Plague; Uncle Sam apparently didn’t care. What he does care about is alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, of which we had none.
On the drive across New York back to Massachusetts, we debated important issues like who played Captain Kirk in the pilot for the original Star Trek series. I said, Jeffrey Hunter. Ann and The Wife said, “He played Captain Pike; Kirk was not in the pilot.” A search on the internet supported their position. I then insisted on a lifeline call to my brother, a zealous Trekkie (he has the “enthusiasm”), but he also supported the gals’ position. In the end, I suggested we agree to disagree.
I tried to get everyone focused on our Great Awakening theme, but they were clamoring for wine from the region. So, I followed the signs to a vineyard, where wine tasting took place, while I waited in the car, plotting our course to the place in Connecticut where Jonathan Edwards preached his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.
When we took our detour to Enfield, Connecticut, it was getting late and we were now getting farther away from the hotel in Northampton where we were to spend the night. That was when the insurgency began. “So, it’s just a rock?” “Didn’t he preach that sermon in Northampton first?” “We’ve been on the road for eight hours today.” Knowing their revolutionary proclivities from our visit to Lexington and Concord, I’m confident if I had threatened to tax them for all the driving I had done, I would have had a full-scale armed rebellion on my hands.
Fortunately, we were able to find the place we were looking for without too much trouble. It is true Edwards preached Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God in his church in Northampton before he preached it in Enfield, Connecticut, but he used a different ending, and there was nothing particularly memorable about the response to the message.
When Edwards preached the sermon in Enfield on July 8, 1741, it was very different. Eyewitness accounts indicate Edwards presented the sermon in a normal dispassionate tone, but as he began to build his argument and describe the state of the unredeemed in the presence of a holy God, the people began to stir. Then the weeping began, and people began to cry out, “What must we do?’ Edwards tried to quiet down the congregation so he could continue his sermon, but he finally gave up, and he and the local minister walked out into the congregation and began ministering to those who had been moved by the Holy Spirit.
Historians make much of the sermon and its title and wrongly suggest the sermon was the catalyst for the Great Awakening. But Edwards had been preaching in Northampton for sixteen years at that point, and he had apparently preached the same sermon there first with no great effect.
Of course, secular historians start with a materialistic presupposition that excludes the possibility of God as a supernatural cause of the Great Awakening, so they are left with silly conclusions that attribute the reactions to emotional sermons or charismatic preachers, both which had always existed without the effect seen in the Great Awakening. The most logical conclusion to one who starts with an open mind is that the Great Awakening was initiated and sustained by God, not unlike was seen on Pentecost and is recorded in the book of Acts. See Acts 2:2-4.
Tomorrow we explore the town where the Great Awakening started. GS