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Jonathan Edwards: On Revival Paperback – October 1, 1984
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On Revival is a collection of three works: "A Narrative of Surprising Conversions," "The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God," and "An Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton 1740-1742." The first and last are letters; the middle is a treatise or long sermon (if by long you accept 75 pages!).
Edwards systematically details the amazing movement of the Spirit of God in Boston and on the east coast, focusing particularly on the years 1732 and following (in "Narrative") and 1740-1742 (in the piece by the same name). In one sense, then, these are historical accounts, with Edwards serving as narrator, highlighting the movement of God among people he pastored and walked with daily.
More importantly, though, this is Edwards work on what revival meant to him, practically and especially theologically. He spends great time in "Marks" detailing not just what marks a revival, but what does not disqualify a revival from being true. In other words, he deals with diversities of how the Spirit of God moves; over-zealousness toward the lost; fear of hell; and errors in doctrine; and insists that all are not on their own enough to say, "Such-and-such is not really experiencing a revival."
These works are immensely helpful in, first, illuminating what revival looked like 300 years ago; and second, detailing the various workings of the Holy Spirit throughout history apart from the works recorded in Scripture during apostolic times. You get a sense of Edwards' being a continuist rather than a cessationist, at least to some degree; as well as his view on fear of hell being a useful device in moving a man or woman toward heaven.
The only drawback with this work is that, by the time you're finished, you're going to get some repetitive sections. 160 pages on revival, in three different works, can be at time a bit mono-themed. The repetition is good and profitable, and serves to reinforce Edwards points. However, there are definitely times when you'll need to focus to not drift over a paragraph or two that are substantially the same as you've already read.
Edwards discusses at length specific changes that occured in lives, the behavior associated with God's work, how to discern God's work v. man's initiatives and the apparent coming and going of God's power for revivals. The times may have changed but the hearts and nature of people are the same and God has not changed, so this is a helpful book for Christians seeking revival today.