Jonathan Edwards' preaching began the Great Awakening

Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards

American Minute with Bill Federer

On MARCH 22, 1758, Princeton University President Jonathan Edwards died from a smallpox inoculation.

Valedictorian of his class at Yale, Jonathan Edwards’ preaching began the Great Awakening, a revival so widespread history credits it with uniting the colonies prior to the Revolution.

Of the revival, Jonathan Edwards wrote:

“God made it, I suppose, the greatest occasion of awakening to others, of anything that ever came to pass in the town. I have had abundant opportunity to know the effect it had, by my private conversation with many. The news of it seemed to be almost like a flash of lighting upon the hearts of young people all over the town, and upon many others.”

Ben Franklin wrote of the awakening:

“It was wonderful to see…From being thoughtless or indifferent…it seemed as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in…every street.”

Jonathan Edwards’ grandson was 4th Yale President Timothy Dwight.

On July 4, 1798, Timothy Dwight explained how Voltaire’s atheism inspired the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror, 1793-1794, where 40,000 people were beheaded:

“In societies of Illuminati…the being of God was denied and ridiculed….The possession of property was pronounced robbery. Chastity and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices. Adultery, assassination, poisoning, and other crimes of the like infernal nature, were taught as lawful…provided the end was good….

The good ends proposed by the Illuminati…are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society, civil and domestic. These they pronounce to be so good that murder, butchery, and war, however extended and dreadful, are declared by them to be completely justifiable…

The means…were…the education of youth…every unprincipled civil officer…every abandoned clergyman…books replete with infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and obscenity…

Where religion prevails, Illumination cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves…

To destroy us therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath and seduce us from the house of God….

Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves, but not the freedom of New England.

If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it and nothing would be left which would be worth defending.”


The Moral Liberal contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.


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