The Spiritual Revival That Swept Through the Colonies
Editor’s note: This is the second in a four-part series exploring the need for America to transform from a culture of brokenness to a culture of life.
“Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
It’s not exactly a politically correct thought, is it?
I guess it also wasn’t “PC” when Jonathan Edward’s delivered his sermon by that title before America was even a country.
The year was 1741, and Colonial culture was immersed in decadence and selfishness. God, in His mercy and unfathomable love, began drawing people to Himself across the Colonies, including inspiring Edwards to deliver a no-nonsense sermon to a congregation described as “thoughtless and vain.”
That bold sermon became a powerful force in the Great Awakening that created the moral foundation and intestinal fortitude required to launch, persevere through, and win the Revolutionary War, securing both a new nation and personal liberty.
Make no mistake: This revival was not rooted in some amorphous sense of spirituality, wherein each man determined what was “right” for himself based on desires and emotions. The revival was centered around the God of the Bible, who says who He is and commands how we should live.
Today, our culture again is suffering from thoughtless vanity as Americans increasingly reject God Almighty. Our many societal problems — from violence to rising suicide rates to abortion to drug abuse to failed families to sexual disorientation — all stem from our cultural failure to worship the one triune God, to recognize him as the Creator and ourselves as men and women created in His image.
We have forgotten that it is “He that hath made us, and not we ourselves” (Psalms 100:3).
Our churches fail to boldly proclaim the raw, beautiful, challenging, captivating Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s immense love for us.
Our pastors too frequently deliver a candy-coated version of God’s love instead of the iron-clad love that cares enough to teach us how we must live in order to be whole.
We have discarded God’s moral absolutes and replaced His instruction book with the doctrine that it is possible to thrive living any ol’ way we wish.
Such pagan spirituality does not understand the difference between an angry God and a hateful one.
Jonathan Edwards preached that God is angry at our disobedience and pride because he knows it will lead to our destruction. The image is not unlike the father who is angry at his teenage son when he steals the car and careens down the road at 100 m.p.h. drunk on his foolish arrogance and ignorant bliss.
Most Americans are ignorant of both Scripture and our historical dance with death before our forefathers and mothers were challenged by the truth and fell to their knees in repentance and worship of their Creator. These colonists rediscovered the faith that their own forefathers and mothers — the Pilgrims — had known: a faith so strong that it sent them on a quest for freedom across dangerous seas.
If not for the spiritual revival that swept through the Colonies, the dream of freedom would have died along with their souls.
The Great Awakening also produced the wisdom of America’s founders who knew from whom liberty comes: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
If “the governed” do not recognize and worship God as Creator, then they will give their consent to be governed by something else. Life and liberty will not be protected as rights and will be infringed.
Tragically, this is America today.
If we continue to reject God and his moral absolutes, He will let us go our own way, neither interfering with our personal choices nor protecting us from their natural consequences.
Refusing to follow the steps of Christ and instead determining our own path has placed us on a slippery slope. Edwards warned in his sermon, quoting from Deuteronomy in the Old Testament: “Their foot will slide in due time.” So, too, will ours, unless we allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to our precarious condition and permit Him to rescue us from it.
America is in desperate need of healing, and the church must lead the way. 2 Chronicles 7:14 is clear: “If my people, which are called by name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
Next week: Fostering a culture of life.
Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]