John Wesley, who in May 1738 had his history-changing experience of having his "heart strangely warmed," was much impressed by Edwards' Faithful Narrative, which he read in October of that same year and which provided one of the models for the revivals he hoped to promote. A few years later, when his own Methodist movement was soaring, he published his own abridgement of Edwards' work, making it standard reading in Methodist circles."
The new fanatic followers even threatened the normal functioning of Northampton. By 1935 the awakening movement of Edwards began to subside but the break in 'awakening' was however short. George Whitefield another Anglican English priest visiting America helped revive the waning movement. Whitefield would compare favorably with today's televangelical priests, was a master of publicity. [Marsden, 2003] describes Whitefield as "being the first to apply modern commercial technique to religious ends." Whitefield and Edwards were the leaders of the Great Awakening. In 1740 Whitefield came to help Edwards and stayed at his home for several days. Marsden writes, "Whitefield's visit changed Edward's life, as it changed New England and the American colonies generally. As Edwards watched Whitefield preach... he was witnessing the dawn of a new age-- the age of the people."
Whitefield's tour was truly an international phenomenon. It was also the first inter-colonial cultural event, the beginning of a common American cultural identity. Moreover... It was founded not so much on what was imposed from above as by the popular response generated from below."
Soon after meeting with George Whitefield, Edwards preached one of his most famous sermons, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." In this sermon Edwards oratory combined with the wrath of God should he become angry with us was vividly described.
Edwards's sermon said, "There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. -He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down? [Edwards' Sinners in the hand of an angry God, 2005]"
In Edwards philosophy men will not be spared because he has been baptized as Christian, those who are sinners will be punished and condemned to hell for eternity as "justice calls aloud for infinite punishment for their sins." Edwards warns, "They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back. [Edwards' Sinners in the hand of an angry God, 2005]"
Edwards's mastery of words, his oratory and the image he builds of hell created hysteria among the listeners. The drew a fearful vision of hell and promised that true believers only will be spared and the sinners even those in the congregation cannot expect to be exempt because they have accepted the faith or have been baptized.
The sinners in the hands of an angry God, he reminded, "are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God. [Edwards' Sinners in the hand of an angry God, 2005]"
During the sermon Edwards had to stop several times to help the hysteria generated by his speech to calm down, while many people are believed to have committed suicide of the hopelessness of their redemption.
His strict philosophy and its effect of religious hysteria annoyed many religious balance minded people of the area. In an unpopular move, Edward restricted Lord's Supper to those able to give "heartfelt" testimony to faith in Jesus and to baptize only their children. It was agreed as early as in 1657 that baptism entitled a person the privileges of church membership. Even Edwards's grandfather was relatively liberal and he believed that baptism was sufficient to consider someone a Christian and be a part of the Church. Edward declared his dislike to this practice. Another incident where some young men were accused of reading 'improper books' and by some account teasing women and Edward loss his cool. It is said that the name of accused and witnesses were mixed up which caused an uproar. This incident further soured Edwards's relationship with his congregation. Edward's views became unpopular and his congregation basically abandoned him. In 1748, four years after the last person was admitted to the church when one person offered himself for entry to the church, he refused to take Edwards's test of conviction and reported it to the church hierarchy. The superior officer perhaps waiting for an opportunity stopped Edwards from preaching his views from the pulpit. The ecclesiastical council terminated the pastoral relation and the decision was approved by the church with a massive vote of 200 to 23, even the town meeting wanted Edwards out of Northampton church [Jonathan Edwards theologian, 2005].
Edwards and other evangelical preachers followed their beliefs to save the Indian from eternal hell and worked tirelessly among the Indians. Edwards seems to be an unsuccessful in his attempt to convert Indians until he was thrown out of Northampton. In June 1951 he received an offer from Stockbridge to take over an Indian mission. He accepted that offer and lived and worked in Stockbridge until 1958. Stockbridge stay gave Edwards an opportunity to write and he produced major work during his stay at Stockbridge. He wrote his essays, 'Humble Relations', 'Reply to Williams'; he also composed his treatises, which established his reputation as a philosopher theologian. Stockbridge stay gave him an opportunity to produce some of his other well-known work such as Original Sin, the Dissertation Concerning the Nature of True Virtue, the Dissertation Concerning the End for which God created the World, and the great work on the Will, published as, an Inquiry into the Modern Prevailing Motions Respecting that Freedom of the Will which is supposed to be Essential to Moral Agency [Jonathan Edwards theologian, 2005].
In Jonathan Edwards teaching man does not go to heaven without any effort on his part. Edwards demands total observance for a place in heaven from his followers. In his sermon, 'The manner in which the salvation of soul is to be sought' he insists, "Men do not obtain heaven of themselves; they do not go thither accidentally, or without any intention or endeavors of their own. God, in his word, hath directed men to seek their salvation, as they would hope to obtain it. There is a race that is set before them, which they must run, and in that race come…