Sarah Edwards – The Mother of the Great Awakening

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Sarah Edwards is often overlooked when the First Great Awakening of the 1700s is mentioned, but her legacy and contribution to her husband’s ministry are enormous.  Over fourteen hundred descendants of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards have been traced in 1900 by A.E. Winship. Of these, fourteen became college presidents, roughly one hundred became professors, another one hundred ministers, and about the same number became lawyers or judges. Nearly sixty became doctors, and others were authors or editors.

Sarah Pierpont was born in 1710. Her father, James Pierpont, was one of the founders of Yale University. Sarah was known for her love of God at an early age. When she was 13, Jonathan attended Yale at age 16. He would often wait outside Pierpont’s church to catch a glimpse of her. He had this to say about her.

They say there is a young lady in New Haven who is loved of that Great 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 anything, except to meditate on Him…You could not persuade her to do any thing wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness, and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this Great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure…She loves to be alone… and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.”

Sarah Pierrepont married Jonathan Edwards on July 28, 1727 at the age of 17. Jonathan was serious and scholarly. Sarah was beautiful and enjoyed conversation. As far as their personalities, they couldn’t be further apart, but what attracted them to each other is their love for God.

Jonathan and Sarah had 11 children, 3 sons and 8 daughters. She prayed consistently for her children and was known for her parenting skills. She treated her children with gentleness and firmness. Although Jonathan contributed with child-rearing, making sure he spent at least one hour with the children every day when he wasn’t traveling, most of the parenting was done by Sarah. All of their sons became pastors, and their daughters married pastors.

Jonathan was also known as being absent-minded, spending as much as 13 hours a day in study, so Sarah was responsible for maintaining the household and keeping things going.One remarkable thing for that time period was Jonathan’s attitude toward Sarah. He valued her intelligence and not only relied on her to manage his personal affairs, but she also helped him with the ministry.

In 1734-1735, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Northampton and the surrounding ares erupted. Jonathan was at the center of that outpouring, but Sarah experienced it too. Jonathan asked his wife to write a testimony about her experience, and she wrote a long one. One phrased she used to describe it was being “swallowed up in God”.

When George Whitefield, Great Awakening preacher, visited Jonathan and Sarah Edwards in 1730, he said, “A sweeter couple I have not yet seen” and wrote about the peaceful home Sarah had created and how she freely talked about the things of God. He called her a perfect helpmeet for her husband and determined to get married himself.

In 1750, Sarah was by Jonathan’s side when he struggled with the congregation at Northampton Church. He would not allow the members of his church to take communion unless they had a salvation experience. This angered many of them because the town council had to be communicants of the Congregational Church to hold on to their government positions. The last pastor, Solomon Stoddard who was Jonathan Edwards’ grandfather, had allowed anyone to take communion regardless of their salvation.

Many in the church came against Jonathan when he asked for a raise in his stipend due to rising costs. The church said they would only consent after investigating the Edwards’ material affairs. Some were outraged that their extravagant minister had two wigs and two teapots! Jonathan denied possessing even one wig although he did admit they had several teapots. The congregation used this excuse to fire him.

Edwards was still in high demand and in 1751, became pastor of the church in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and a missionary to the Housatonic Indians. In 1757, Jonathan became President of the College of New Jersey, now known as Princeton. 

Jonathan died on March 22, 1758 when he contracted smallpox. He was out of town, so Sarah couldn’t be with him. He did leave a deathbed message for her. Over a year later, Sarah became ill during an epidemic and died at the age of 49.

Sarah was a woman who loved God, her husband, and her children. In many ways, she was a woman who was ahead of her time. She left a legacy that is still alive today.

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Bibles in Colonial America

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Bibles were in America from the earliest days of the English colonization. There were four common translations of the Bible in the early 1600s: The Great Bible, The Bishop’s Bible, The Geneva Bible, and the King James Bible. Bibles were allowed to be printed only at official printers approved by the king, so Bibles weren’t printed in America. The first Bible printed in America was Saur’s German Bible in 1743.

In his book written in 1810, The History of Printing in America, Isaiah Thomas claims Gamaliel Rogers and Daniel Fowler printed about 2,000 copies of the New Testament in Boston, Massachusetts as early as 1750. Apparently they falsely added to the first page that the Bible was printed in London to avoid being fined by the English Crown, but there is no proof that happened.

The first English language Bible printed in America that can be verified was in 1771. Robert Aitken, who became the first official printer of the Journals of Congress for the United States Congress in 1776, was disturbed by the lack of Bibles in America so he printed the first English language New Testament. On January 21, 1781, Aitken petitioned the Unites States Congress to authorize, and if possible even fund, the printing of a complete Bible in the English language of the King James Version. On September 10, 1782, Aitken received authorization to commence his American printing of the Bible in English. In 1782, Robert Aitken produced the first English language Bible printed in America. It was known as the “Bible of the American Revolution.

Nobody knows for sure which Bibles were brought to America. A Bible might have been brought to the Roanoke colony in 1585. More likely, it was in 1605 when Jamestown was colonized. The Great Bible translated in 1539 was the first official English translation, and many churches used that version, so it might have been brought to Roanoke or Jamestown. The Great Bible used the outlawed Tyndale Bible as its guide. Another Bible that might have been in early Jamestown was the Bishop’s Bible first printed in 1568 to correct problems in The Great Bible translation. It was the authorized version of the Bible in England until 1611 when the King James Bible was authorized. There may have been King James Bibles later, but in 1605 when the ships sailed for Jamestown, it didn’t exist. By 1620, it might have been shipped to Jamestown for use by the pastor.

When the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in 1620, there were two Bible translations aboard the ships. John Alden, a prominent member of the Plymouth Colony who was a ship’s carpenter on the Mayflower, brought a copy of the King James Bible. Alden was not originally a member of the Pilgrims which is why he probably brought that version. The Pilgrims used the Geneva Bible first printed in 1560, the most popular English Bible until the mid-seventeenth century. William Bradford quoted from the Geneva Bible. The Bible was given its name because of its associations with the Calvinists in Geneva. The Geneva Bible had study notes in it written by many Protestant reformers including John Calvin. King James considered the translation seditious.

The Boy God Rescued

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

One of the most fascinating stories to come out of the mission field in Africa was about a boy named Samuel Morris. Morris was born in 1873 as Prince Kaboo in Liberia, the son of a tribal king and next in line for the throne.

When Kaboo was fourteen years old, he was captured by a neighboring tribe called the Grebos when his Kru tribe was attacked. His father, the chief, was commanded to bring a tribute to the Grebos every month if he wanted to see Kaboo alive. Kaboo’s father complied, but the tribute was never enough. The Grebos began to beat Kaboo every day and were planning to kill him.

One night, during a beating, there was a flash of light, and Kaboo’s ropes fell off him. A voice told him to run. He ran and, for days, survived in the forest by eating mangos and snails. Eventually he found his way to a coffee plantation of a former slave who had become a Christian.

There, a young boy invited Kaboo to church where Miss Knolls, a missionary and graduate of Taylor University, spoke on how the Apostle Paul saw a light from Heaven and heard a voice speak to him. Kaboo immediately knew that it was God who rescued him, and he accepted Christ as Savior. He was baptized under the name of Samuel Morris to honor the man who sent the missionary to Africa.

Morris became zealous to learn more about the Holy Spirit, and Lizzie MacNeil encouraged him to go to America to be discipled by her mentor, Stephen Merritt. With no means of transportation, Morris set out on foot to Robertsport harbor. He slept on the beach until he was able find passage on a ship to America in exchange for work.

The journey was difficult because Morris was assigned the most dangerous jobs and often beaten, but by the time he arrived in New York, the captain and most of the crew had accepted Christ as their Savior because of his witness.

Once Morris arrived in America, Stephen Merritt warmly received him and the president of Taylor University requesting to enroll Morris at the school. Due to Taylor’s financial debt, Reade personally started a fund for Morris called the “faith fund”.In December 1891, Morris arrived on Taylor’s campus. When asked by Reade which room he wanted, Morris said, “If there is a room nobody wants, give that to me.”

Morris’ faith had such a profound impact on the school and community that he was often invited to speak at local churches. At night, he could be heard in his room praying, which he called “talking to my Father.”

President Reade once said, “Samuel Morris was a divinely sent messenger of God to Taylor University. He thought he was coming over here to prepare himself for his mission to his people, but his coming was to prepare Taylor University for her mission to the whole world. All who met him were impressed with his sublime, yet simple faith in God.”

Morris wanted to return to Africa as a missionary and often would encourage fellow students to consider doing the same. But he contracted a severe cold and said God told him that his work on Earth was done. Samuel Morris died on May 12, 1893 at about 20 years of age. His death inspired his fellow students to serve as missionaries to Africa on his behalf, fulfilling his dream of one day returning to minister to his own people. Hundreds of spectators lined the streets of Fort Wayne as Samuel Morris’ body was carried to Berry Street Methodist Church.

Lindley Baldwin, author of Samuel Morris, writes, “The burial ceremony in Lindenwood cemetery, his last earthly resting place, was attended by a multitude such had never before accompanied there.” Although blacks were buried on one side of the cemetery and whites on the other, they buried Morris in the middle uniting people in death as he did in life.

John Harper – Hero of the Titanic

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Almost everyone has heard of the sinking of the Titanic, but few know the name of the man who would become known as the hero of the Titanic, John Harper. His last words before he drown in the ocean that fateful night were, “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

The sinking of the Titanic was not the first incident where Harper risked death by drowning. When he was two and a half, he fell into a well and almost drown, but his mother saved him in time. At age twenty-six, he was swept downstream by a reverse current and almost drown. At thirty-two, he was stuck on a ship in the Mediterranean that sprang a leak. But the Titanic would be the last danger of drowning he would face.

Harper was born to Christian parents in Scotland in 1872. He was saved at thirteen and began preaching to his village by the age of seventeen. In early adulthood, he worked at a mill to support himself while he continued to preach. At one point, E.A. Carter of the London Baptist Pioneer Mission heard Parker and took him to London to mentor him. In 1896, Harper started his own church with 25 members. Within thirteen years, it had grown to 500 members. It is now called the Harper Memorial Baptist Church in his honor. During this time, Harper married, but his wife died of complications after giving birth to their daughter Annie known as Nana.

In 1912, John Harper was invited to speak at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and boarded the Titanic with his daughter Nina and his niece Jessie W. Leitch who was brought along to care for Nana while he was ministering. He put six-year-old Nana to bed that evening not knowing the danger that lie ahead.

At 11:40 pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Harper went to see what happened and found out the ship was in trouble. He wrapped Nina in a blanket and directed her and Jessie to lifeboat #11. Although he could have joined them in the lifeboat since he was Nina’s only living parent, there was no indication he even considered it. He kissed Nina goodbye, and according to documentation, flares went off revealing the tears on his face. A well known photograph of the second class promenade, in which a young girl is seen holding her father’s hand, is believed by many to show young Nina Harper and her father.

What happened next is well documented by a few of the survivors. As the ship lurched, he ran through the deck shouting, “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” The ship broke apart, and Harper along with many others jumped into the ocean. At this point, he had a lifevest on. In the frigid water, he swam frantically to people dying of hypothermia and led them to Christ. At one point, he swam to a young man and asked him if he would accept Jesus as his Savior. The young man said, “No”. Harper gave the man his life vest telling him that he needed it more.

Later Harper swam back to the young man and led him to Christ. The man then saw Harper succumb to the waters.  The reason we know this story is because the young man was one of the few survivor snatched from the icy waters that night.

Harper’s orphan daughter was raised by her uncle and aunt and lived until 1985. She married a preacher and had two children. She didn’t remember much about that night, and her family discouraged anyone talking about the Titanic with her, but Jessie Leitch says they were about a mile away when they saw the ship sink.

Although the story is not told by Hollywood, John Harper was a true hero who gave his life so that others might be saved both that night and for eternity.

The Modern Missionary Movement Started in Colonial Times

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

America is well known for the modern missionary movement. The missionary movement is credited with starting in the mid 1800s during the Second Great Awakening, but it really began with a 100 year prayer movement in colonial times. The people who started this movement were called the Moravians.

In 1727, a group of Moravians in Saxony started a round the clock prayer meeting that lasted 110 years. By 1737, Moravians had settled in Savannah, Georgia to share the Gospel. At this time, they met John Wesley, from the first Great Awakening and had a profound impact on his ministry.

In 1741, the Moravians moved to an estate owned by John Whitfield, another preacher from the Great Awakening, and started ministering to the Delaware Indians in the region. They established the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania and moved throughout the colonies sharing the Gospel wherever they went.

Schoenbrunn Village

By 1772, the Delaware were being pushed into Ohio, and the Moravians followed them. They set up two villages there, one in Schoenbrunn and one in Gnadenhutten. They risked great dangers, not only from the other tribes, but from the British forces once the Revolutionary War began. The British accused the Moravians of informing the colonialist about troop movements, a charge that was mostly true.

The Moravians finally abandoned their villages to move on to avoid clashes with the British. That fall, a group of converted Delaware returned to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops. They were massacred by American soldiers who mistakenly thought they were raiders.

There aren’t that many Moravian in the United States today although there are clusters of congregations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia. There are also some areas in Canada with large Moravian populations. Moravians in America moved on to evangelize other parts of the world. The largest groups of Moravians now live in East Africa and the Caribbean. They left their mark on America though through their missionary endeavors and paved the way for other missionaries.

How Camp Meetings Ushered in the Second Great Awakening

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The year was 1800. Within the last 30 years, the United States had become a nation, adopted a Constitution.  Within the last year, it had elected its second president, John Adams. An unusual church service in Red River, Kentucky near the border of Tennessee ushered in a move of God called the Second Great Awakening that would sweep the nation for years to come.

A series of meetings was organized in June by Presbyterian minister James
McGready, and many Presbyterian and Methodists ministers took part. Because
many other congregations located along Muddy River and Gasper River planned to
attend, it was decided the meeting would be held outside near the Red River
Meeting House. This was the first “camp meeting” reportedly held in the United
States.

The services were well attending and were like many revival meetings of the time. On the last day of services, as William Hodge was preaching, a woman stood and started shouting praises to God. Soon others joined her. The service ended, but nobody was willing to leave. Mr. Hodge, according to an account by Methodist minister, John McGee, “felt such a power come on him that he quit his seat and sat down in the floor of the pulpit.” At that point McGee began to tremble, and the congregation started weeping. Revival broke out as people started shouting, and the floor was covered with those who had been slain in the Spirit (an occurrence where people are overwhelmed by God and can no longer stand).

A letter from McGready described the service.

“In June, the sacrament was administered at Red River. This was the greatest time we had ever seen before. On Monday multitudes were struck down under awful conviction; the cries of the distressed filled the whole house. There you might see profane swearers, and sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ There frolicers, and dancers crying for mercy. There you might see little children of ten, eleven and twelve years of age, praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress. During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, ten persons we believe, were savingly brought home to Christ.”

After the Red River Camp Meeting, other meetings were held where people would travel long distances and camp at the site. Camp Meetings spread throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Southern Ohio in what became known as the Revival of 1800. McGready travelled well into October where even bad weather didn’t keep people away.

Rankin House

John Rankin also started camp meetings into Tennessee and North Carolina with many of the same results. Later he settled in Ripley, Ohio where he conducted an underground railroad station from his house. He claimed over 1,000 escaped slaves that made their way to freedom went through his home.

In 1801, Methodist preacher Barton Stone attended one of the camp meetings near Red River. He decided to organize his own camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. 20,000 people attended, and again, revival broke out. Over the next year, more than 10,000 people visited Cane Ridge services where unusual moves of God were reported.

One feature of these camp meeting revivals was the presence and conversion of blacks, many of whom were slaves. Women, children, and blacks were also allowed to participate as exhorters, lay people who preached impromptu sermons encouraging others.

First US Woman Evangelist Phoebe Palmer

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Phoebe Warroll Palmer was one of the first prominent woman evangelist in the church in the United States before women were recognized or licensed as preachers. She was born in New York City on December 18, 1807. Her parents were devout Methodists that held family worship services twice a week.

Phoebe married Dr. Walter Palmer, a homeopathic physician and devout Methodist, when she was nineteen years old. They had four children, but three died in early childhood. Phoebe was distraught and thought God was punishing her. She sought God’s guidance, and with the help of her sister, Sarah Lankford, came to a new understanding of sanctification and holiness.

Phoebe’s sister encouraged her to take a more active role in the church. In 1835, Phoebe and her sister began having church meetings for women in her home. Attendance grew to several hundred, and soon Dr. Palmer built extra space in the crowded home.

In 1839, Phoebe opened the meetings up to men as well as women. Her popularity grew, and soon, pastors, bishops, and people from other denominations attended. Phoebe and her husband began having protracted meetings (revivals) made popular by Charles Finney, and preached at camp meetings and Holiness revivals. In 1850, they toured across the United States and Canada preaching.

In 1850, Phoebe established a mission to help people in New York City because she felt sanctification required works of service for others. She spoke out against slavery and alcohol and promoted more freedom for women in the church and in society.

Phoebe also wrote many books and became the editor to Guide To Holiness in 1862 when her husband bought the publication.

She developed the concept of “altar theology,” which explained the idea of the “second blessing,” or immediate sanctification. As a basis for this concept, she drew on the Apostle Paul, who had advanced the idea of placing ourselves as “living sacrifices” on the altar of God to represent complete consecration. This “altar theology” simplified sanctification into a three-step process that included consecration, faith, and testimony. This concept, as well as her central theme of holiness of heart and life, gained popularity although some criticized it as simplistic.

After the Civil War, Phoebe served as a leader of the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness. In 1867, she and her husband established the National Association for the Promotion of Holiness, which encompassed much of her evangelical work. She also continued holding her Tuesday meetings right up until she died in New York City on November 2, 1874.

Phoebe Palmer showed what a life devoted to God can do even when the culture and some leaders in the church came against her because of her stand on sanctification and because she was a woman.