Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"We are going to have to pray!"

A good friend of mine, Darryl Dash took some notes from a message by Tim Keller (See picture) on prayer and revival. These words are worth the time to absorb.

Kingdom-Centered Prayer by Tim Keller

If we are really going to have a city-shaping movement of the gospel, we are going to have to pray.

Every renewal, in the Bible and in history, is different. Methods change, but there is one thing that is always there.

This isn’t just individual prayer, and it isn’t just saying your prayers.

***Biblically and historically, the one non-negotiable universal ingredient in times of corporate renewal is corporate, prevailing, intensive, kingdom-centered prayer. So what is that?

FIRST, IT’S PRAYER THAT IS FOCUSED ON GOD AND HIS KINGDOM. We have to pray for our personal needs. But when it comes to renewal of a church or a city, that’s not the prayer that brings renewal. What brings renewal is prayer focused on God and his kingdom.

One old pastor used to talk about the difference between maintenance prayer and front-line prayer meetings. Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and totally focused on meeting physical and personal needs. Front-line prayer has three basic traits:

a) It’s a request for grace to confess sin and to humble ourselves;

You have to be incredibly happy to be sad in the right way. When our identity is based on living up to standards, we can’t admit what’s wrong with us because it shakes our foundations. But when the gospel is not just a concept, but when the love of Jesus for you is so real that it can’t be shaken, that gives you the freedom to be real about what’s wrong with you. Repentance becomes sweet. We can get out of denial. Repentance is born out of assurance of God’s love. This isn’t morbid repentance.

b) It is a request for passion and zeal for the church

You want to see the quarrels cease, the lethargy and mechanical worship gone. You want to see the church be what it’s supposed to be.

c) It’s a yearning to know God and to see his face and see his glory

That is the big request: “Show me your glory. I know it may kill me but let me see a glimpse before I die.” We want to sense God’s presence in our midst.

That’s front-line prayer. If you read through Scripture and history, this is what happened in prayer when renewal happened.

SECOND, IT’S BOLD AND SPECIFIC PRAYER. When you read the prayer leaders of the Old Testament, who didn’t have the assurance that we do, it’s amazing how they argue with God. There’s a boldness and specificity.

Supposedly when Alexander the Great had one of his leading generals with a daughter to be married, Alexander said he would be happy to contribute to the wedding, so just ask. The general wrote out a request for an enormous sum. When Alexander’s treasurer saw it, he brought it to Alexander and said, “I’m sure you’re going to be cutting this man’s head off now for asking so much. The audacity of asking for all of this! Who does he think you are?” Alexander said, “Give it to him. By such an outlandish request, he shows that he believes I am both rich and generous.” He was flattered by it.

John Newton wrote a hymn with these words: “Thou art coming to a king; large petitions with thee bring; for his grace and power are such, none can never ask too much.”

LASTLY, IT’S PREVAILING PRAYER. Why can’t we ask just once? I’ve read a few sermons by Jonathan Edwards recently. It’s opened my eyes to why it’s best for us that God waits and doesn’t give us what we pray for until we’ve asked for a long time. If our prayers are sporadic and brief, this shows a lack of dependence, a self-sufficiency. We haven’t really built an altar unless we pray and prevail in that prayer together.

Revival isn’t something we can bring about, but it’s also not something we wait passively for God to do. The best illustration is what Elijah did: he built the altar, laid the sacrifice out, and down comes the fire. You know what’s good about this metaphor? On one hand, God’s fire didn’t come down to the mud. On the other hand, building the altar doesn’t bring about the fire. God has to send the fire.

Let's build the altar and ask God to send the fire.

Darryl Dash

Monday, January 29, 2007

Keep on Praying!

Good Morning.

Vern Sheridan Poythress wrote an article a few years back on pressing on with prayer. It is a good read to motivate us to stay at it as we prayer for revival.


Keep On Praying!
by Vern Sheridan Poythress

[Published in Decision magazine 39/10 (Oct. 1998) 31-35. Used with permission.]

For about fourteen years my wife and I have prayed that God would put a stop to abortion. For fourteen years we have prayed that God would end the persecution of the house churches in Mainland China. For years we have prayed for deep revival to come to our country. In all these cases, we haven’t seen much change. Are our prayers doing any good? Will there ever be an answer?

It is easy to give up hope if God does not answer our prayers right away. Jesus knew that we were prone to become discouraged, so he told the story in Luke 18:1-8. “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.”1

How Do We Respond to a Hopeless Situation?

Jesus tells about a widow who had every reason to give up. We must picture a situation where some wicked person has wronged a widow. Perhaps he had taken over her home and kicked her out.2 Whatever the details, the widow desperately needs help.

The woman’s situation looks especially hopeless for several reasons. To begin with, she is a widow. Without a husband, she has no steady income or shelter in social situations.

She is also legally insecure. In ancient Jewish society the man who headed a family or clan would normally handle legal disputes. He would be familiar by experience with legal matters, and would probably know the judge personally. But this widow has no man to represent her—no husband, not even a father or a brother. She has to go herself, without the experience or social leverage that a man would have.

Now the situation worsens. The judge to whom she goes is unjust.3 He cares nothing for her plight. Can the widow perhaps hope to persuade him nonetheless? She can point out to him that God threatens to punish judges who pervert justice.4 But no, the judge does not fear God.5 Or the widow can argue that the people of the town will despise him for not helping her. No, this stratagem will not avail either. The judge “neither feared God nor cared about men.”6 He is indifferent to human opinions about him. Can she appeal to the man’s conscience, and make him realize how low he has sunk? No, the judge is already well aware of his position, and admits it freely to himself: “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men ... .”7 The judge has so hardened himself that no human appeal can get through. Apparently nothing that the woman might say will have the least effect. There is no hope for a change.

Have you ever suffered through a situation as bleak as this one? Have you felt despair because there seemed to be absolutely nothing you could do? “Just give up,” the Devil tempts us. “Curse God and die!” Job’s wife says.8 Jesus understands how despair may sometimes grip us like an iron vise.

Amazingly, though everything is against her, the woman does not give up. “For some time he refused,”9 yet the woman persists. She continues to bother him, to pester him. Finally, the judge wakes up to his own selfish interests. He decides to give justice, but only because otherwise she will “eventually wear me out with her coming.”10 The woman gets relief because she persevered.

What Kind of Perseverance Do We Have?

Now what is Jesus’ point? He tells us to pray and not give up. God will answer. Jesus says, “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.”11

Jesus is making a comparison. The persistence of the widow is like the persistence that characterizes “God’s chosen ones.” The widow cries out to the judge to give her justice. Likewise, God’s chosen ones cry out to God to give them what they need. After awhile, the unjust judge gave justice to the widow. After awhile, God will answer his people , the chosen ones. Jesus gives the parable to encourage “God’s chosen ones.” To them he says, “Don’t give up. Persevere in praying to God. He will do what is right.”

How Does God Respond to Our Prayers?

But this comparison leaves many people uneasy. “What?” they say, “Is God unjust and reluctant and in need of being pestered like this horrid human judge?”

Jesus assumes that we know enough about God to see the point of the comparison. The Bible indicates that God is both compassionate and absolutely just.12 Far from being reluctant, God is like a father eager to give his children good gifts. “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”13

The comparison with an unfair judge shows how much more we can expect from God. If even an unfair judge can be persuaded, how much more can we expect God to answer us for our good? If even someone who has no love or care for us can decide to help, how much more will God respond to us in outpoured love? The Bible well expresses the depth of God’s love and commitment to us in Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”14 How tremendous a commitment God has made! We are to come boldly to God, knowing that he will answer us fully and compassionately. He has proved his faithfulness and eagerness to provide for us by giving the most spectacular gift of all, his own Son!

Note that these promises all come to God’s children, his “chosen ones.”15 Not all prayers are equally acceptable. Speaking to hardened, sinful Israelites, God warns, “When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen.”16 For our prayers to be acceptable, we must receive forgiveness for our sins and be cleansed by the blood of Christ.17 Then we may have confidence that God loves and receives us even as he receives Christ his only Son.18

For What Do You Pray?

Is God’s promise to answer prayer like a blank check? No, even an earthly father knows how to give good gifts to his children. Not everything that a child asks for is good. A wise father takes into account the whole situation. How much more so with God our heavenly Father! We can be thankful that God in his wisdom does not always give us everything for which we foolishly pray. God must renew our hearts and minds so that we begin to pray for his goals rather than for our own selfish goals.19

The story that Jesus tells in Luke 18:1-8 points to the same truth. The widow in the story asks for a fair resolution of her case. Likewise, your prayer and mine should be for God to establish his righteous will.20 God answers such prayer: “his ears are attentive to their prayers.”21

But now we must understand God’s justice, his righteousness. God cares not only for just decisions in human courtrooms, but for what is right in every sphere of life. Every mean remark from a child, every social snub, is a violation of God’s righteousness. Every instance of right living and self-control expresses his righteousness. We are to pray for nothing less than the coming of God’s kingdom, the coming of his rule in all aspects of life. We pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”22 “Come, Lord Jesus!”23 Come and set things straight, wipe out evil, and make a new earth.24

God is so perfectly righteous that he cannot ignore sin. He showed his zeal against sin by the terrible punishment that he inflicted on sin when Christ bore our sin.25 We have only to look at the meaning of the cross to understand that God is utterly serious about righteousness, and utterly serious about punishing sin.

But the suffering of Christ issues in victory, in the glorious achievement of right when he is vindicated in his resurrection. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.”26

God now works out true righteousness in history as people submit to what he accomplished in Christ. He abolishes sin in the souls of abortionists and liars and disrespectful children alike as people submit to Christ’s rightful authority: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”27 Thus, we are to pray for all people everywhere to submit to Christ’s universal rule, to acknowledge him as Savior and Lord. We are to pray even for those who sin against us.28 This is His command.

God’s plan is to exalt Christ. We can pray no greater prayer. So we pray for revival. We persevere in true prayer when we understand this goal and yield ourselves to Christ in our praying. “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.”29 We pray for Christ to come and bring his reign to completion.30 We plead for righteousness to come in our own lives, and for others to be saved and come to Christ. When we are praying for these goals, the goals of God’s own kingdom, we can have confidence. God himself tells us to persevere. He hears. He will accomplish his purpose in us and around us.

We do not know the details. We do not know how long we will have to wait for God to answer a particular prayer, like the prayer for persecuted Chinese Christians. We do not know just how he will answer. But we know that God is all wise and full of mercy and love. He has shown it through giving Christ. We can have perfect confidence in him. Keep on praying!


1 Luke 18:1 NIV.

2 Such a seizure apparently took place in the case of the Shunammite widow in 2 Kings 8:1-6.

3 Luke 18:6.

4 Deuteronomy 27:19.

5 Luke 18:2.

6 Luke 18:2 NIV.

7 Luke 18:3 NIV.

8 Job 2:9 NIV.

9 Luke 18:4 NIV.

10 Luke 18:5 NIV.

11 Luke 18:7-8a NIV.

12 Psalm 119:137-144.

13 Matthew 7:11 NIV.

14 Romans 8:32 NIV.

15 1 Peter 1:1; Ephesians 1:4.

16 Isaiah 1:13 NIV.

17 Hebrews 4:14-16; 10:19-22.

18 Ephesians 1:6; John 17:26.

19 James 4:3.

20 Luke 18:7 NIV.

21 1 Peter 3:12 NIV.

22 Matthew 6:10 NIV.

23 Revelation 22:20 NIV.

24 Revelation 21:1-4.

25 1 Peter 2:24.

26 Philippians 2:9 NIV.

27 Philippians 2:10-11 NIV.

28 Luke 6:28.

29 Matthew 6:10 KJV.

30 Luke 18:8; 1 Corinthians 16:22.

This article was taken from Decision magazine, October 1998; ©1998 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association; used by permission, all rights reserved.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Biblical Perspective on Abortion

Good evening (Omaha, NE time). Jonathan Hall Barlow shows how the Bible is very pro-life. Have a great weekend. Bryan

A Biblical Perspective on Abortion
by Jonathan Hall Barlow


Abortion is perhaps the most highly debated social issue of our time. With more than 27 million abortions that have occurred in the period from 1973 to 1991, almost everyone has an opinion on the issue. The abortion issue has been used as a symbol of independence in the feminist movement, and has been clouded by many other issues such as rape and incest. However, in order to obtain a Biblical view of abortion, one must rake away the muck which obscures the main questions about abortion, and concentrate on the issue's essence.

The primary point of conflict in the entire abortion debate is the question of when life begins. If indeed life begins in the womb, then no one could disagree that the fetus (latin for `little one') is a human being, and is subject to the rights (God's laws concerning humanity) which befit a human being. First, the Bible establishes that God recognizes a person even before he or she is born. "Before I was born the Lord called me" (Isaiah 49:1). Exodus 21:22-23 describes a situation in which a man hits a pregnant woman and causes her to give birth prematurely. If there is "no serious injury," the man is required to pay a fine, but if there is "serious injury," either to the mother or the child, then the man is guilty of murder and subject to the penalty of death. This command, in itself, legitimizes the humanity of the unborn child, and places the child on a level equal that of the adult male who caused the miscarriage. Scriptural support abounds for the humanity of the unborn child. "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Ps 139: 13-16). The Bible, in fact, uses the same Greek word to describe the unborn John the Baptist (Luke 1:41,44), the newborn baby Jesus (Luke 2:12,16), and the young children who were brought to Jesus for his blessing (Luke 18:15).

Perhaps the most stark Biblical revelation of the humanity of the unborn comes in Jeremiah 20, during Jeremiah's cry of woe in which he laments that he wishes he had never been born, "Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying 'A child is born to you - a son!' . . . For he did not kill me in the womb with my mother as my grave" (Jeremiah 20:15-17).

In the aforementioned verses, and in countless other verses, the Bible does indeed establish that an unborn child is just as much a human in God's eyes as we ourselves are. This indicates that the command "Thou Shall not Murder" (Exodus 20:13) certainly applies to the unborn as well as the already born. Thus, when we read Genesis 9:6, the full realization of what it means to murder comes in to focus, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." Murder is an abomination in the sight of God because it is the unauthorized killing of a being made in His own image, and a blurring of the creator/creature distinction (cf. Romans 1).

Though the question of when life begins is important to many, the question more representative of today's view is "what quality of life mandates preservation?" Has the fetus gained a quality of life worthy of preservation? This is a dangerous question, indeed. For who among us, the already-born, can decide such a question? Do we apply this question to every human being? Does a fetus, or even an infant with down syndrome have a quality of life equal to that of a perfectly normal one? These questions lead only to some sort of genetic elitism, and shouldn't even be asked in good conscience. Perhaps the biggest irony encountered when examining those who wish to make abortion a social justice issue is that much of social justice is aimed at giving help and justice to those who are unable to speak and do for themselves-- the meek. Yet, from the same mouth that says we must protect the homeless, the penniless, animals and the environment comes words which speak of killing an unborn human! This contradiction must not be overlooked, lest we fail to see the cruelty, the degrading of humanity, and the violation of God's righteous decrees supported by those who hide behind the auspices of choice-advocacy.

Mother Teresa, perhaps one of the world's most renown champions of the underprivileged said in a recent address in Washington, "If we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill each other? ... Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want." Also, the logical result of the desire for "abortion-on-demand" is infanticide and euthanasia -- killing a newborn if it possesses physical or mental anomalies, and killing those for whom the living find it inconvenient to care. When human life is cheapened to the point that even the womb, a symbol of tranquility and peace, becomes a place of death; even the already-born will begin to respect each others' lives a little less.

Biblical Christianity does not just offer judgement of the issue, and then retract. Certainly there are some tough situations in which women find themselves, and the Christian community offers many outlets for aiding these women who often can't afford a child, or who don't have a very good situation in which to raise a child such as Bethany Christian Services . Adoption of these babies is perhaps the most obvious. Another alternative is for a family to provide room and board for a mother while she has her baby. The Christian view would be that a woman should never have to make the choice between her baby and herself. In fact, there is even a waiting list for people who wish to adopt children afflicted with Down's Syndrome.

Yes, the Word of God gives us a clear and understandable statement of God's consideration of the unborn child to be a human being subject to the protections of his righteous law.


Jonathan Barlow is an undergraduate at Mississippi State University majoring in Philosophy and Political Science. He intends to pursue seminary training after college.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

More on the Unborn

Greetings. Gregory Koukl makes the valid point that is the unborn baby is a human person, then what could possibly justify abortion?

"If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Does an Unborn Baby Feel Any Pain?

Good morning. I will continue the theme of protecting the unborn. Below is today's Prison Fellowship daily commentary by president Mark Earley...

An Uncomfortable Truth
The Pain of the Unborn

January 24, 2007

Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.

Warning: The following commentary includes graphic descriptions that may not be suitable for children or sensitive readers.

Undoubtedly many of the great evils of our times have been committed because the cries of the victims were not heard—not heard by those who sat by, comfortably ignorant of the horrors around them. In early nineteenth-century England, few citizens had any real understanding that the lump of sugar they dropped in their afternoon tea was made at the high price of human bondage. The screams of men and women branded or whipped on West Indies sugar plantations were not heard in the fashionable parlors of England. Not until, that is, the great Christian statesman William Wilberforce launched his crusade against the slave trade.

Today, some two hundred years later, there are victims whose agony our ears will never hear. These are the unborn victims of abortion.

While the unborn do not have a voice to scream, science tells us that by twenty weeks a child in the womb is capable of feeling pain. Dr. Sunny Anand, director of the Pain Neurobiology Laboratory at Arkansas Children's Hospital Research Institute, testified before Congress and said: "The pain perceived by a fetus is possibly more intense than that perceived by term newborns or older children . . . the highest density of pain receptors per square inch of skin in human development occurs in utero from twenty to thirty weeks gestation." Sobering testimony.

To make matters worse, the biological mechanisms that inhibit the experience of pain do not begin to develop until weeks thirty to thirty-two.

Yet ironically, an unborn child has less legal protection from feeling pain than commercial livestock. In a slaughterhouse, a method of slaughter is deemed legally humane only if, as the hundred-year-old law states, "all animals are rendered insensible to pain . . . " By contrast, D&E abortions, performed as late as twenty-four weeks, involve the dismemberment of the unborn child by a pair of sharp metal forceps. Instillation methods of abortion replace up to one cup of amniotic fluid with concentrated salt solution, which the unborn child inhales as the salt burns his or her skin. The child lives in this condition up to an hour.

These things are uncomfortable to hear and to speak about. That is precisely the point. We should not be comfortable in a society where such things exist and where we have the power to influence change. The Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act is scheduled to be re-introduced into this Congress. This legislation would require that women seeking abortions are fully informed of the pain that their unborn baby feels when he or she is aborted twenty weeks or more after fertilization. If that knowledge does not deter the mother in what has come to be reduced to a mere "choice," she must be offered the opportunity to give the unborn child drugs to ease his or her pain.

Pro-abortion advocates dreadfully fear this legislation. It brings to light the difficult questions they do not want to confront, like why livestock have more rights than an unborn child. Questions like these, like the cries of victims, are hard to forget once they have shaken us from the comfort of our parlor chairs.

Copyright (c) 2007 Prison Fellowship


Friday, January 19, 2007

Baby Samuel and Abortions

Hi. I want to continue to focus on the Sanctity of Life which is this Sunday. Check out this story and the picture. Have a great day. Bryan

Dr. Joseph Bruner, Director of Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, was performing surgery on a 21-week-old baby, Samuel Armas, to alleviate the effects of spina bifida, while the child was still in his mother’s womb.

When Dr. Bruner had made the incision for this extraordinary operation, baby Samuel reached his tiny hand out of the uterus and clutched Dr. Bruner’s middle finger as if to thank the surgeon for his healing care.

Photographer Michael Clancy captured the moment in one of the most remarkable and heart-warming pictures we will ever see.

Baby Samuel Has Been Born

Baby Samuel was born on Thursday, December 2, 1999, at 6:25 p.m.
His parents have written the following:

Dear friends and family,
Samuel arrived on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 6:25 p.m. at Northside Hospital weighing 5 lbs 11 oz and 20 1/2" long. He was born at 36 weeks but came into the world screaming his head off! He did not have to spend any time in a neonatal unit, and came home with us on Monday Dec. 6. After viewing an ultrasound of his brain, Samuel's neurosurgeon was very optimistic as he does not have any hydrocephalus and the brain malformation has resolved. He is moving his legs very well from the hips and some from the knees. He was frank breech (folded in half) in the womb and the orthopedist feels that he has a good chance for walking. He will begin physical therapy next week in order to work out some of the stiffness in his legs that was a result of his being folded in half in the womb. He is also nursing very well.

Thank you all for your prayers and support. We are happier than we ever dreamed possible.

All our love,
Julie, Alex and Samuel Armas

For your information, the Madison Abortion Clinic advertises, on their website, abortions beyond 23 weeks; many weeks later than the operation Dr. Bruner performed on Baby Samuel!
Still pro-choice?
Think about it!
The following comments are from Frank Joseph, MD:
"It should be seen by the WHOLE WORLD.

It happened when Dr. Joseph P. Bruner, Director of Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center was performing a cutting edge procedure on a 21-week-old fetus. Bruner and Samuel's parents hope the surgery will alleviate the effects of spina bifida, a disabling birth defect in one or two of every 1,000 babies born.

During the procedure, surgeons remove the uterus from the mother, drain the amniotic fluid, perform surgery on the tiny fetus, then put the uterus back inside the mother. The procedure takes about an hour.

The defenders of a woman's right to have an abortion, if she so chooses, would have you believe that Samuel is nothing but a non-sentient blob of tissue. Never, again will the abortion clinics, be able to tell these lies to women who are about to have their unborn babies killed. It was almost as if Samuel was shaking the finger of the hand of the man, who was trying to save his life -- to thank him for his compassion and effort."


Alliance For Life Ministries
PO Box 5468 - Madison, WI 53705 - (608) 833-7363

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When Does Life Begin?

Good afternoon. Sunday, January 21, 2007, is the "Sanctity of Life" Sunday. So for the next few posts, I will remind us how the unborn are to be protected. I will start out with an article written by Jon Dougherty in the

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Life begins at conception: Jon Dougherty explains when the ball starts bouncing

News/Current Events Front Page Editorial
Published: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

At this point in the "debate" over abortion, it is patently obvious that any justification given by pro-abortion advocates to continue our society's practice of butchering its young is neither valid nor sensible.

Worse, our nation has all but lost any claims we could have ever made on "compassion" because we have allowed lies, innuendo and insanity to circumscribe the parameters of this so-called debate. Such tactics have cheapened life so much that now we're to the point where millions of us are no longer capable of seeing the truth for the blood on our hands.

Perhaps the most egregious and common hypocrisy is the justification that abortion is okay because life doesn't "begin" until a human being is actually born -- yet no self-respecting abortion advocate who spews this robotically-rehearsed and overused phrase can explain the miracle of life that scientists, doctors and parents have known for eons: Life begins at conception, not birth. Birth is simply one stage of ongoing human development.

"Ho, ho," you laugh. "That Dougherty is clueless. 'Life' isn't 'life' until it's viable life; which means, when you're born, fully developed." To suppose this is true would be akin to the claim that death isn't death until we say it's death.

Life is as real and as tangible as death; consequently, we humans are "viable" the moment we are created in the womb. Barring death by natural causes, everyone has the potential to eventually become a senior citizen someday -- as long as they aren't butchered before birth. In fact, some have said we begin to die the moment we are conceived because our lives always reach that inevitable conclusion.

The "not viable life" excuse doesn't hold up because, if all life is not "viable" life, then what is the purpose of having an abortion? If these human beings weren't viable and would not -- if left unmolested -- mature into "born" children and adults, then the abortion would be unnecessary to begin with.

Also -- and this is key -- we humans are never "fully-developed." We're not born "complete"; we grow, change, mature and age constantly, which means we're always "developing," and we develop though the first nine months of our lives attached to a "host" -- our mothers.

So, the fact that the first nine months of our developmental life is in utero is of no consequence to our overall lifespan; it is just the first stage. There are many developmental stages -- early, middle and late.

But life has to begin somewhere. We don't go from "nothing" to adulthood.

Denying the fact that life begins the moment a female egg is fertilized is sheer lunacy -- or, worse, intentionally misleading. It is simply a matter of choice that millions of Americans have decided to believe that life only begins when they say it does -- at the moment of birth, or in the second trimester of pregnancy, or some other arbitrary guideline.

It begins when it begins -- at the moment a human being is biologically "under construction."

Passing laws or writing constitutional mandates from the bench of the Supreme Court cannot change this fact. Indeed, it has not changed this fact; only our perception of the fact has changed, largely for reasons of personal convenience.

It is patently arrogant that we, as adults, get to decide for the most vulnerable of our society -- our unborn children, who cannot speak for themselves -- who lives and who dies. Or, if you prefer, who gets to experience further "development" and who doesn't.

If we intentionally end any stage of a human life in development, we are committing an act of murder, as it has been defined by our society from its humble beginnings.

Any attempt to convince ourselves otherwise is little more than a mental joust with reality and an injustice to our unborn that we can never excuse away, try as we may.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Corrie ten Boom and Prayer

Are we devoted to prayer (Colossians 4.2) or is prayer brought out during emergencies only?

Corrie ten Boom asked if our prayer life is our steering wheel or a spare tire.

If revival is going to come, then it must be the steering wheel of our lives and churches.

Have a great day


Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Prayer

If had the opportunity to google anything today, you have noticed the "Google" name where the multi-raced children are jump-roping (the one above is from another year. It really caught my attention. I thought on unity and love between different peoples.

That is what the church is about: people from different races, backgrounds, likes and dislikes coming together for worship of Jesus, fellowship and prayer.

May local churches be filled with different people who are unified through the Holy Spirit and are bond by their common purpose the to prayerfully fulfill the Great Commission

Have a good day


Friday, January 12, 2007

Week of Prayer at Harvey Oaks Baptist Church

Good afternoon. It is cold and wintry here in Omaha. At Harvey Oaks Baptist Church, we are in our week of prayer. There are prayer times each evening, and then one tomorrow morning. Charles Spurgeon reminds us why it is crucial that we pray...

"If we were stronger in faith, mightier in prayer, more fervent in heart, more holy in life, who can tell how much we might effect for our age" (Steve Miller. C.H. Spurgeon on Spiritual Leadership, p. 33).

Who knows what the current condition of the church would be like if we followed the words above. But, it is not too late to try to find out.

Keep praying for revival.

Stay warm


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Revival (Part VI)

'The dungeon flamed with light'

Evangelical revivals of the 18th century

Jonathan Edwards (6)

by Michael Haykin

Harold P. Simonson, who wrote a book on Jonathan Edwards as a theologian of the heart, says that Edwards’ A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections (1746) was the culmination of ‘some twenty-five years of thought about the nature of religious experience’. Edwards’ book cannot be understood, however, apart from the immediate historical context that led him to publish it.

The book seeks to answer both the misguided zeal of James Davenport and the cold intellectualism of Charles Chauncy — aberrant positions that we looked at last month. But it is noteworthy that the longest section of the book is an answer to Davenport’s position.

Edwards regarded the misguided zeal of those like Davenport as a much more serious hindrance to the advance of the gospel in times of revival than the cold intellectualism of Chauncy.

Affections are necessary

The first section of the book argues (against Chauncy) that biblical Christianity ‘consists in holy affections’. True faith is never found in a state of indifference to the things of God and Christ.

Such a state is what the Scriptures call lukewarmness, which to God is revolting. At its heart, the Christian life is a passionate engagement of the entire person in seeking the glorification of Jesus Christ. Edwards writes:

‘The Spirit of God, in those that have sound and solid religion, is a spirit of powerful holy affection; and therefore, God is said to have given them the spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

‘And such, when they receive the Spirit of God, in his sanctifying and saving influences, are said to be baptised with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; by reason of the power and fervor of those exercises the Spirit of God excites in their hearts, whereby their hearts, when grace is in exercise, may be said to burn within them; as is said of the disciples (Luke 24:32).’

Satanic counterfeits

By the time Edwards wrote The Religious Affections, however, he was very conscious that in addition to the work of the Holy Spirit in the Great Awakening, Satan had also been powerfully active in producing a counterfeit religion. The latter was a religion that made much of experience, ‘discoveries of Christ’ and the supposed work of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing that some of his readers would be shocked at such assertions, Edwards rightly reasoned that the devil would never trouble himself to counterfeit valueless things: ‘there are many more counterfeits of silver and gold, than of iron and copper; there are many false diamonds and rubies, but who goes about to counterfeit common stones?’

Satan, ever the master of cunning and lies, employs his subtlety in making imitations of the most excellent things. Thus, it is vital to know the marks of genuine Christianity as it is laid out in the Scriptures. Edwards enumerates twelve such marks. Of the twelve, four are particularly noteworthy.

A love for God

Firstly, genuine love for God is based ultimately upon who God is in himself, not on what he does for us. If we love God chiefly because of what he does for us, then, instead of God being the purpose of our existence, he becomes a means to an end, namely our happiness and self-fulfilment.

But genuine Christians love God because he is altogether loveable and lovely. Edwards does not entirely rule out elements of self-love in our love for God. But he rightly argues that our love for God for who he is in himself must be primary.

Moreover, this love for God for who he is in himself is, above all, a love for God’s holiness. In the midst of his discussion of this third sign of genuine spirituality, Edwards makes a truly important contribution to the history of Reformed thought.

He states that the Holy Spirit imparts to sinners at their conversion a new way of perceiving spiritual reality. This sense is more than simply an awareness of and belief in God. It is nothing less than ‘a taste’ for God’s beauty and glory.

In the words of the American historian John E. Smith, ‘A love of God which does not include the taste and relish of the divine beauty is not the love which reveals the saints’. From Edwards’ perspective, the Christian, for example, does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious; he has a sense of the glory of God in his heart (2 Corinthians 4:6).

A tender heart

Secondly, Christians have a tender heart, especially towards God. They are sensitive to all that displeases him. They are ‘like a burnt child that dreads the fire’.

They are very conscious of how sin separates them from the God they love, and so they strive not to readmit it to their lives. They press on to be as godlike in behaviour and conduct as they can.

Such tenderness of conscience, Edwards affirms, is the only proper attitude for one trying to respond to the heart-work of the Spirit. Referring to verses like Psalm 2:11 and Psalm 147:11, Edwards maintains that while the believer no longer fears hell, he is increasingly fearful of causing God pain by indulging in sin.

There is a ‘diminishing of the fear of hell, with an increase of the fear of sin’. Such a believer ‘has the firmest comfort, but the softest heart’.

A God-centred passion

Thirdly, Edwards is convinced that genuine Christian spirituality is marked by a longing for more of God. Edwards relates this sign closely to one he describes earlier in the treatise, namely, evangelical humility.

The more grace believers receive, he says, ‘the more they see their imperfection and emptiness, and distance from what ought to be’. Marked by a consciousness of how far they have yet to go in the Christian life, true believers long after God for more of him.

For proof, Edwards turns to Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-15 and declares, ‘the greatest eminence and perfection, that the saints arrive at in this world, has no tendency to satiety, or to abate their desires after more; but on the contrary, makes "em more eager to press forwards" and know more of God’.

Moreover, Edwards emphasises that the more persons have of holy affections, the more they have of that spiritual taste for God’s beauty and glory that we noted above. He writes:

‘Spiritual good is of a satisfying nature; and for that very reason, the soul that tastes, and knows its nature, will thirst after it, and a fullness of it, that it may be satisfied.

‘And the more he experiences, and the more he knows this excellent, unparalleled, exquisite, and satisfying sweetness, the more earnestly will he hunger and thirst for more, till he comes to perfection.’

In a remarkable turn of phrase, Edwards contends that the true believer experiences ‘a holy breathing and panting after the Spirit of God, to increase holiness’.

The acid test of true spirituality

Fourthly, however, Edwards devotes most space to his final sign — indicating that it loomed largest in his mind. True spirituality bears visible fruit in Christian practice and living in the world.

This practice has three major characteristics. First, it is shaped by what Edwards calls ‘Christian rules’, that is, ‘the laws of Christ, laws that he and his apostles did abundantly insist on, as of the greatest importance and necessity’.

Second, the living of the Christian life is the believer’s main business in this world. As Edwards notes on the basis of Titus 2:14, Christ’s people ‘not only do good works, but are zealous of good works’.

Third, genuine Christian spirituality has in it the crucial quality of perseverance. The real believer makes Christianity his main business not only on Sundays, or at certain extraordinary seasons, but that ‘business which he perseveres in through all changes, and under all trials, as long as he lives’.

In other words, while works do not save us, we cannot be saved without them. ‘Obedience, good works, good fruits, are to be taken … as a sure evidence to our own consciences of a true principle of grace’.

Concluding thought

Little wonder that Iain Murray has described Edwards’ A Treatise Concerning the Religious Affections as ‘one of the most important books possessed by the Christian church on the nature of true religion’.

In it we find Edwards’ most exhaustive and penetrating expositions of the nature of true Christian spirituality — a spirituality in which both heat and light are vital.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Revival (Part V)

'The dungeon flamed with light'

Evangelical revivals of the 18th century

Jonathan Edwards (5)

by Michael Haykin

The New Testament was written in the context of the greatest spiritual revival that the world has ever seen - and it plainly indicates that there are problems even in times of revival. The revivals of the eighteenth century were no exception.

In New England, Jonathan Edwards soon realised that there were destructive forces at work in the revival, threatening to play havoc with it and bring it to a halt. The preaching and behaviour of James Davenport (1716-1757) typified these forces.

He was a minister from Southold, Long Island, and came from a distinguished Puritan lineage. Davenport became acquainted with the great evangelist George Whitefield in 1740 in New York, and soon sought to imitate the success of the Englishman.


Itinerating throughout New England, however, Davenport adopted increasingly fanatical attitudes and patterns of behaviour. When he came to a town he would seek to interrogate the local minister as to his spiritual state.

Those who refused to answer his questions, or whose answers did not satisfy him, he declared to be unconverted and unfit to be spiritual leaders.

Davenport was convinced that he had the ability to distinguish who was among the elect of God and who was not — a supposed gift he relied upon when he called into question the spiritual state of these various New England ministers.

Davenport would then proceed to encourage the members of their congregations to forsake them and conduct their own meetings. Invariably, he would publicly upbraid those members of the clergy he deemed to be unconverted.

For example, in 1741 at New Haven, Connecticut, he branded the pastor Joseph Noyes ‘an unconverted hypocrite and the devil incarnate’.

The following summer of 1742 Davenport was in the Boston region, where he spent two months accusing the majority of the Boston ministers of ‘leading their people blindfold to hell’.

He urged their congregations to ‘pull them down, turn them out, and put others in their places’. Not surprisingly, wherever Davenport went he left divided congregations in his wake.

Old Brick

Davenport’s evident fanaticism — ‘enthusiasm’ in eighteenth-century jargon — provided the anti-revival forces (known as the ‘Old Lights’) with a highly visible target for their attacks. To them he came to epitomise the anarchy and destruction of church harmony that the revival sometimes brought in its wake.

The captain of these forces was Charles Chauncy (1705-1787), the junior pastor of Boston’s prestigious First Church. ‘Short in stature and assertive in temperament’, as George Marsden has recently described him, Chauncy came to be known as ‘Old Brick’, which was also the nickname of the church he pastored.

Marsden suggests that this may have been due to the fact that ‘he resembled a brick both in appearance and in his solid temperament’!

In July of 1742 Davenport had appeared in Boston and specifically sought out Chauncy to pronounce judgement on the latter’s spirituality.

The encounter took place in the doorway of Chauncy’s study and decisively turned the latter against the revival. Chauncy bluntly told Davenport that he was suffering from ‘a heated imagination’.

Attacking the revival

The Boston minister quickly fired off a sermon, published as Enthusiasm described and cautioned against. In this work, Chauncy accused Davenport and his ilk of being ‘enthusiasts’, who show their true colours by their blatant disregard of the ‘dictates of reason’.

In particular, Chauncy stressed that the arousal of one’s ‘passions and affections’ needs to be carefully monitored. The ‘passions’, when properly acted upon by the Spirit, ‘tend mightily to awaken the reasonable powers’.

But if one’s passions are set ablaze and one’s reason and understanding are not enlightened, it is all to no avail. Reason and judgement — the ‘more noble part’ of the human being — must be pre-eminent in all religious experience. Otherwise it is but a sham and ‘enthusiasm’. Real religion, he concluded, is ‘a sober, calm, reasonable thing’.

Chauncy’s main attack on the revival was his Seasonable thoughts on the state of religion in New England (1743). It continued to press home what Chauncy saw as the main work of the Spirit, the enlightenment of the mind.

‘An enlightened mind, and not raised affections’, he stated, ‘ought always to be the guide of those who call themselves men; and this, in the affairs of religion, as well as other things: And it will be so, where God really works on their hearts by his Spirit’.

Undergirding Chauncy’s views was his conviction that the affections were essentially base animal passions that needed to be held in check by reason.

A balanced view

As the religious situation in New England began to polarize between those who took Chauncy’s position and those who defended the revival (excesses and all), a Presbyterian named John Moorehead, who was sympathetic to the revival, prayed: ‘God direct us what to do, particularly with pious zealots and cold, diabolical opposers!’

The answer to Moorhead’s prayer came by way of a series of books from the pen of Edwards on the nature of true spirituality. In them, Edwards found himself in the unenviable position of having to answer both sides in the debate about the nature of the work of the Holy Spirit and what is a genuine revival.

But from this theological crucible came forth one of the richest books on Christian spirituality in the history of the church — A treatise concerning the religious affections (1746).

A heart aflame

Edwards’ Religious affections seeks to answer both the positions of Davenport and Chauncy. To the ‘pious zealots’ like Davenport he stressed that biblical Christianity must involve the mind and reason. When God converts a person, light is shed upon the mind.

On the other hand, there is much more to conversion than mental enlightenment. In response to Chauncy and those of his persuasion, Edwards maintained that genuine spirituality flows from a heart aflame with the love of God. There is no genuine Christianity without a warm heart.

It is absolutely vital to note that the longest section of the book is an answer to Davenport’s position. Edwards regarded the misguided zeal of a Davenport as a much more serious hindrance to the advance of the gospel in times of revival than the intellectualism of a Chauncy.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Revival (Part IV)

'The dungeon flamed with light'

Evangelical revivals of the 18th Century

Michael A. G. Haykin

Jonathan Edwards (4)

The impact of the revival that came to Northampton in the winter and spring of 1734-1735, which we looked at in November’s ET, was nothing less than profound. Jonathan Edwards put it thus.

‘This work of God, as it was carried on and the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town: so that … the town seemed to be full of the presence of God: it never was so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.

‘There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought unto them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands.

‘The goings of God were then seen in his sanctuary, God’s day was a delight, and his tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful: the congregation was alive in God’s service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth.

‘The assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbours.’

Nor was the revival limited to the town of Northampton. It spread swiftly to thirty-two other towns throughout the Connecticut River Valley. It went north to Northfield and as far south as Guilford, Lyme, and even Groton, Connecticut.

A Word-centred revival

One of the central characteristics of this revival was a deep appreciation of the Word of God. In Edwards’ words: ‘While God was so remarkably present amongst us by his Spirit, there was no book so delightful as the Bible; especially the Book of Psalms, the Prophecy of Isaiah, and the New Testament’.

Edwards also cites the example of a seventy-year-old woman, who had spent most of her days under the ministry of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard.

‘Reading in the New Testament concerning Christ’s sufferings for sinners, she seemed to be astonished at what she read, as what was real and very wonderful, but quite new to her.

‘At first, before she had time to turn her thoughts, she wondered within herself, that she had never heard of it before; but then immediately recollected herself, and thought she had often heard of it, and read it, but never till now saw it as real.’

Edwards’ account of this revival, the Faithful narrative of the surprising work of God, was first published in London in 1737.

Among those who read it at that time, and were deeply impressed, was Howel Harris (1714-1773), the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist evangelist, who came to possess a copy of the book in February 1738.

After reading it, he was led to pray: ‘O go on with thy work there [i.e. in New England] and here’. Harris’ prayer received an answer in 1740-1742, when God again visited New England with revival, but this time on a much more extensive scale.

The Great Awakening

This revival has come to be known as the Great Awakening (1740-1742), and it made a profound impact not only on New England, but also on the other American colonies to the south.

Estimates of those converted in New England alone, where the population was around 250,000 at the time, range from 25,000 to 50,000. These figures, it should be noted, do not include conversions among those who were already church members.

In the middle of the revival, William Cooper (1694-1743), one of Edwards’ most stalwart friends and the Congregationalist minister of Brattle Street Church, Boston, gave his perspective on what God was doing in his day. It reads as follows.

Uncommon zeal

‘The dispensation of grace we are now under, is certainly such as neither we nor our fathers have seen; and in some circumstances so wonderful, that I believe there has not been the like since the extraordinary pouring out of the Spirit immediately after our Lord’s ascension.

‘The apostolical times seem to have returned upon us: such a display has there been of the power and grace of the divine Spirit in the assemblies of his people, and such testimonies has he given to the word of the gospel…

‘A number of preachers have appeared among us, to whom God has given such a large measure of his Spirit, that we are ready sometimes to apply to them the character given of Barnabas, that "he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost, and of faith" (Acts 11:24).

‘They preach the gospel of the grace of God from place to place, with uncommon zeal and assiduity. The doctrines they insist on are the doctrines of the reformation, under the influence whereof the power of godliness so flourished in the last century.

‘The points on which their preaching mainly turns are those important ones of man’s guilt, corruption, and impotence; supernatural regeneration by the Spirit of God and free justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ; and the marks of the new birth.

‘The manner of their preaching is not with the "enticing words of man’s wisdom" (1 Corinthians 2:4); howbeit, they "speak wisdom among them that are perfect" (1 Corinthians 2:6).

‘An ardent love to Christ and souls warms their breasts and animates their labours. God has made those his ministers active spirits, a flame of fire in his service; and his word in their mouths has been, "as a fire, and as a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces" (Jeremiah 23:29).’

Sweep of church history

Here Cooper places the revival in New England within the broad sweep of church history. He is utterly convinced that no other revival, in either his lifetime or that of his Puritan forebears, was comparable to what God was doing in the early 1740s. In some respects only at the time of Pentecost could one find something genuinely comparable!

However, the preaching through which God had brought about this revival contained nothing new.

Essentially, it was the same doctrine of salvation that was trumpeted forth at the time of the Reformation and in the Puritan era — one that highlighted humanity’s total depravity, the Spirit’s glorious sovereignty in regenerating sinners, and their justification by faith alone in Christ.

And the preaching style fitted the doctrine — it was plain and ardent.

Seeking new birth

Cooper goes on to specify what he considers so extraordinary about the revival. First, there is the incredible way that it swept through ‘some of the most populous towns, the chief places of concourse and business’.

Then there were the numbers that professed conversion — ‘stupid sinners have been awakened by hundreds’. During the winter of 1740-1741 in Boston alone, Cooper states, ‘some thousands [were] under such religious impressions as they never felt before’.

People of all ages, from the very elderly to the very young, were saved — the elderly ‘snatched as brands out of the burning, made monuments of divine mercy’ and ‘sprightly youth … made to bow like willows to the Redeemer’s sceptre’.

Moreover, God drew to himself some of the grossest sinners in New England — drunkards, fornicators and adulterers, people addicted to profanity and ‘carnal worldlings … made to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’.

On the other hand, many of those who deemed themselves upright and moral became convinced that ‘morality is not to be relied on for life; and [were] so excited to seek after the new birth, and a vital union to Jesus Christ by faith’.

Critics of the revival

The revival, however, was not without its critics. Many who had been deeply impacted by the worldview of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment sought to write the revival off as sheer ‘enthusiasm’ (i.e. fanaticism).

Edwards profoundly disagreed with this interpretation, though he was not slow to critique theological and practical aberrations when they appeared during and in the wake of the revival.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Jonathan Edwards on Revival (Part III)

Happy New Year! Here is part 3 of Jonathan Edward's perspective on revival. What happens before and during revival? Well, see below...
'The dungeon flamed with light'
Evangelical revivals of the 18th century
Jonathan Edwards (3)
by Michael A. G. Haykin

After two relatively brief stints pastoring in New York and Bolton, Connecticut, Jonathan Edwards served as a tutor at his alma mater in New Haven from 1724 to 1726. It was, however, a situation in which he was not entirely happy.

He finally found his niche in August 1726, when he was invited to become assistant to his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, in Northampton, Massachusetts. When Stoddard died in February 1729, Edwards became the sole pastor of the church.

Sarah Edwards

Within a year of arriving at Northampton, Edwards had married. He had known his bride, Sarah Pierpont (1710-1758), since his days at Yale. What had impressed him when they first met in 1723 was her piety and spiritual maturity.

Though she was but thirteen at the time, he wrote of his future wife: ‘They say there is a young lady in [New Haven] who is beloved of that almighty Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight; and that she hardly cares for any thing, except to meditate on him’.

By God’s grace Edwards had found a soul-mate — her affective piety and commitment to meditation upon God and spiritual things were in perfect harmony with his spirituality of the Word. They were married on 28 July 1727.

Northampton in the 1730s

The Northampton church had enjoyed a number of small revivals during Solomon Stoddard’s long pastorate, the last one in 1718. After that time, though, Edwards judged there had been little spiritual advance. In his words, taken from his account of the revival, the A faithful

Just after my grandfather’s death, it seemed to be a time of extraordinary dullness in religion. Licentiousness for some years prevailed among the youth of the town; they were many of them very much addicted to night-walking, and frequenting the tavern, and lewd practices, wherein some, by their example, exceedingly corrupted others.

It was their manner very frequently to get together, in conventions of both sexes for mirth and jollity, which they called frolics; and they would often spend the greater part of the night in them, without regard to any order in the families they belonged to: and indeed family government did too much fail in the town.

It was become very customary with many of our young people to be indecent in their carriage at meetings, which doubtless would not have prevailed in such a degree, had it not been that my grandfather, through his great age (though he retained his powers, surprisingly to the last), was not so able to observe them.

There had also long prevailed in the town a spirit of contention between two parties, into which they had for many years been divided; by which they maintained a jealousy one of the other, and were prepared to oppose one another in all public affairs.’

No inward religion

As Edwards notes, the adults in the town were split into two factions, the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ — those who were wealthy and had property, and those who were jealous of them and who sought to diminish their power and influence.

Most of these adults were taken up, not with the things of God and his kingdom, but with other cares and pursuits, especially the pursuit of material wealth. Outwardly they were orthodox, but they had no inward religion.

Their orthodoxy was dry and lifeless. Not surprisingly their children were, in Edwards’ own words, ‘very much addicted to night-walking, and frequenting the tavern, and lewd practices’. As American historian Richard Lovelace has noted, if these teens had had drugs, they would have used them.

Justification by faith alone

In the early 1730s, however, there was a growing sensitivity to sin and a willingness to listen to religious counsel.

A series of sermons on justification by faith alone — the doctrine that had been so central to the Reformation — were particularly used of God to awaken the lost and the spiritually indifferent. The series was preached by Edwards in November and December 1734.

Edwards especially stressed that God, in justifying sinners, does so on the basis of his mercy alone. Those whom God saves are not saved because God sees anything in them that would merit his favour and blessing.

To quote Edwards, when God justifies a person he ‘has no regard to anything in the person justified, as godliness, or any goodness’. In fact, Edwards went on to say, ‘before this act [of justification], God beholds him as an ungodly creature’.

Justification entails God choosing to reckon Christ’s perfect righteousness to the sinner and in this way the sinner can be declared righteous.

Revival in Northampton

Edwards identified the exposition of this central feature of the New Testament as the major catalyst that the Holy Spirit used to begin an extraordinary time of revival in Northampton. He wrote:

There were some things said publicly … concerning justification by faith alone … It proved a word spoken in season here; and was most evidently attended with a very remarkable blessing of heaven to the souls of the people in this town…

And then it was, in the latter part of December [1734], that the Spirit of God began extraordinarily to set in, and wonderfully to work amongst us; and there were very suddenly, one after another, five or six persons, who were to all appearances savingly converted, and some of them wrought upon in a very remarkable manner.’

Edwards here makes a direct link between the preaching of biblical truth and the onset of revival. It was after the preaching of justification by faith alone — which Edwards also denotes as ‘the way of the gospel … the true and only way’ — that the Spirit began to work so ‘wonderfully’ and ‘suddenly’.

Not reason alone

It is important to emphasise what American church historian John Hannah has pointed out:

‘Though Edwards presented argument after argument to sustain his points [in his sermons], he did not believe that rational explanations or carefully crafted sermons possessed the power in themselves to convince anyone.

‘He felt that that was the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. He wrote, "The light of reason convinces the world that it is so: the Word of God puts it past doubt". Reason can demonstrate that something is true, but only the Spirit of God can create an affectionate desire or delight in it.’

The great concern

Soon, an intense concern gripped the town to be right with God and to walk with him. Edwards narrates in his account of this revival:

‘Although people did not ordinarily neglect their worldly business, yet religion was with all sorts the great concern, and the world was a thing only by the bye. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and every one appeared pressing into it...

‘It then was a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, in danger every day of dropping into hell; and what persons’ minds were intent upon, was to escape for their lives, and to fly from wrath to come.

‘All would eagerly lay hold of opportunities for their souls, and were wont very often to meet together in private houses, for religious purposes: and such meetings when appointed were greatly thronged.’

Conversions overestimated

Out of a town of about twelve hundred people, Edwards initially reckoned that some three hundred were saved in about six months.

At the revival’s height, in March and April of 1735, there were about thirty people a week professing conversion. Many of them could be seen on a Monday morning waiting outside Edwards’ home, seeking to talk to their pastor about the state of their souls.

Edwards would later judge that there were not as many converts as he had thought during the actual time of the revival. Nevertheless, he never doubted that what took place during 1734 and 1735 was a great, God-wrought awakening in the town.

In the next instalment we shall look at the impact of this revival and the coming of the Great Awakening in 1740-1742.