Today, in my "Faiths of the Founding Fathers" class, I had the privilege of reading an excerpt from Nathan Cole's Diary while putting up on the projector screen images that I had taken of the diary last summer while doing research in New England. I love the way that the diary begins. At the top of the first page, Cole writes, "I was born Feb 15th 1711 and born again octo 1741--"
"The Spiritual Travels of Nathan Cole" has been published in a WMQ article by Michael J. Crawford and in Richard L. Bushman's edited volume on The Great Awakening, but it was fun to write my own transcription and then use an excerpt from it for my forthcoming book, Early Evangelicalism: A Reader (now in the production stage). Below is my introduction to the Cole excerpt.
During George Whitefield’s fifteen-month tour of
the American colonies, thousands gathered to see him. Arriving at Delaware on
October 30, 1739, he preached in and around Philadelphia and New York before
making his way southward until he reached Savannah on January 9, 1740. While in
Georgia, he oversaw the foundation of an orphanage, which he named Bethesda, before
sailing to Newport, Rhode Island in September 1740. Soon after disembarking, he
preached to unprecedented crowds in Boston and then moved inland, reaching
Northampton where he delivered four sermons in October 17-20 at Jonathan
Edwards’s Congregational church. Throughout Whitefield’s time in New England,
colonists packed into towns where he was scheduled to speak, hoping to hear the
man who could reportedly bring an audience to tears simply by pronouncing the
word Mesopotamia. A farmer named Nathan Cole (1711-1783) recorded in his
journal how he and his wife raced to hear Whitefield preach at Middletown, Connecticut
on October 23, 1740 to an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people. Convicted of sin by
the Grand Itinerant’s message, Cole wrote in his journal of a lengthy spiritual
struggle that culminated in his assurance of salvation. Cole’s journal offers a
rare glimpse of a common American who was deeply touched by the leading
evangelist of the Great Awakening.