Jonathan Edwards, sometimes known as the postmillennialist’s postmillennialist, is best known for his role in the Great Awakening, which began as a revival in several churches along the Connecticut River Valley. Through his preaching, revivalistic fervor spread like wildfire throughout the colonies. Evangelistic zeal and millennial hopes went hand and hand. Edwards’ preaching that the millennium would commence in America fueled reformation zeal within our embryonic nation.
In his work, History of Redemption, Edwards saw all of human history as a progressive march toward victory for the kingdom of God. Edwards believed that revivals in the colonies were but a forerunner of what would commence in centuries to come – the ultimate glorious light of a “Golden Age.” He taught that history moves through a pulsation of seasons of revival and spiritual awakening; that there are times of retreat and advance; that the work of revival is carried out by “remarkable outpourings of the Spirit.”
Says Edwards: “Time after time, when religion seemed to be almost gone, and it was come to the last extremity, then God granted a revival, and sent some angel or prophet, or raised up some eminent person, to be an instrument of their reformation.” Edwards himself was to be the instrument of New England’s reformation in the 1730s and ’40s. He always insisted that there would be times of conflict, remissions and lulls between the sovereign outpourings of the Spirit. A decline in the spiritual and moral character of our nation, according to Edwards, is to be interpreted as a preparation for an even greater outpouring.