The Rise of Evangelicalism (the Age of Edwards, Whitefield, and the Wesleys)
by Glen H. Jones
This is Volume One in a projected five-volume commentary on evangelicalism in the English-speaking world. Evangelicalism began in seventeenth century England and eventually spread to North America. Its beginnings lay in a revolt against the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast to the Catholic Church, evangelicalism stressed justification by faith rather that trust in human works. Christ alone was sufficient for salvation; the mediation of the church was not necessary. The final authority of faith and practice was the Bible, and every believer could read the Scriptures for himself. Finally, priests were unnecessary, for every believer was a priest before God.
These Dissenters, as the Evangelicals were called, wanted to reform the established church. When John and Charles Wesley were denied church pulpits, they began preaching in the streets, fields, and homes. They did much to kindle a spiritual awakening in the British Isles.
George Whitefield preached extensively in the Colonies. His preaching, along with that of Jonathan Edwards and others, brought about the American revival of 1734-1738. England, Scotland, and Wales experienced similar revivals in 1736-37.
There were, of course, great spiritual leaders connected with these movements. But for the most part, these revivals were triggered by strong biblical preaching on sin, salvation, and holiness. This fervent preaching produced several generations of Christians who took their calling seriously.