The Middle Colony Revival, 1720

American interest in revivals goes as far back as the first quarter of the eighteenth century and continues even to this day. Indeed American Protestant churches whether they be Presbyterian, Baptist or Methodist, have regarded the annual revival meeting as much a part of their regular work as Sunday services and midweek prayer meetings. Revival meetings are not so common as they were a generation ago, but they are still regarded as an effective method of evangelism in many denominations and local churches.

Colonial awakenings, of which there were three, constituted a single movement which swept through the colonies from Maine to Georgia. They came to be known as “The Great Awakening.” None began simultaneously; traceable connections between them are slight. Each can be considered as a separate movement.

Dutch Reformed Evangelism

Four small Dutch Reformed churches in the Raritan Valley of central New Jersey were the center of the first revival in 1720. The revival was instigated under the preaching of Theodore Jacobus Frelinghuysen. Influenced by the Pietism of Holland, Frelinghuysen preached the Spener doctrines of experimental knowledge of religion, individual conversion, and purity of Christian character. The doctrines he preached were apparently new to his rough, complacent, ritualistic-minded parishioners for they proved to be at once astounded and outraged. He organized prayer meetings with laymen helping him. Opposition mobilized, factions developed, and certain Dutch Reformed ministers in New York sought to silence him. Disaffected church members even published a 246-page book against him.

But despite opposition, Frelinghuysen’s evangelism bore glorious fruit in numerous conversions and ...

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