Saturday, 18 May 2013

An Early Evangelical that Didn't Make the Cut

While compiling the introductions and excerpts for Early Evangelicalism: A Reader I had to make some painful cuts to stay within my allotted word count. One of the early evangelicals that I did not include is Theodore Frelinghuysen (On Frelinghuysen, I recommend reading Joel Beeke's Forerunner of the Great Awakening: Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghusen). Since I put the work into this introduction and excerpt, I didn't want it to go to waste, so I'm posting it online with a few others that didn't make the cut to follow.

Theodore Frelinghuysen
The Dutch minister Theodore Frelinghuysen (1691-1747) set the tone for the later revivals that became known as the Great Awakening. His father, Johan Henrich, served as a German Reformed pastor at Hagen, Westphalia. In his late teens, Frelinghuysen studied philosophy and theology at the gymnasium at Hamm for two years before enrolling at the University of Lingen. Exposed to the two leading Dutch theologians at that time—Joahannes Cocceius and Gisbertus Voetius—Frelinghuysen responded to the latter’s teaching which promoted piety along with intellectual knowledge. In 1717, he was ordained and served for less than two years as a pastor at Loegumer Voorwerk in East Friesland. A devastating flood, however, ruined his chance at any long-term prospect of staying in that region. As he searched for his next pastorate, the Reformed Church at Amsterdam prompted him to minister at Raritan. Believing that he was being called to serve within the Dutch provinces, Frelinghuysen accepted the position. But to his surprise, he had agreed to travel to the Raritan Valley in New Jersey. 

Soon after his arrival to America in 1720, Frelinghuysen caught the local community off guard when he began preaching on the need for conversion with an emotional fervor that most parishioners had not seen before. He made it clear in his sermons that a person could not be a true believer by outward confession only. Rather, one needed to confess their sins to God and turn to Christ for eternal salvation. In many ways, he preceded later evangelicals like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield by demanding orthopraxy, or right conduct, as the chief sign that a person had experienced conversion. Frelinghuysen made it clear in his sermons that a simple profession of faith and baptism would not keep someone from the gates of hell. In fact, he barred members of his congregation from partaking of communion unless they showed evidence that they had been converted. His brazen attitude and uncompromising doctrines did not resonate well with many of the local Dutch clergy, and even some of his parishioners. But he was appreciated by up-and-coming evangelicals like George Whitefield, and especially Gilbert Tennent, both of whom credit Frelinghuysen as kindling the fire that erupted later into the Great Awakening in America.

A Clear Demonstration of a Righteous and Ungodly Man (1731)
            Well hearers! Are the righteous with so much difficulty and scarcely saved, then we must not think that salvation is easily to be obtained; if we will not contradict God’s Word then verily salvation must be quite another matter as the most of people do imagine who notwithstanding hope to be saved, for they think that it is very well with them, and that they shall be saved, if they do but shun outward gross sins, and live modest and orderly, if they do but observe those external duties of religion, and be diligent in their calling: O poor souls! Should that be godliness and the narrow way to life? O no, to refrain from outward sins, to seek virtue, to live modest and orderly, why that has been the life of the heathen, as Christ saith, “Do not even the Publicans so,” Matthew 5:47. Although God in his Word saith it so expressly “that there is something else required to salvation, and that the way to heaven is very narrow”: and notwithstanding people persuade themselves of salvation and think to obtain it so easily. They don’t examine whether they are righteous, and trouble not themselves whether they are in a state of grace, and whether they have an interest in Christ, but they content themselves merely with a vain imagination, and rest on a civil conversation, supporting themselves because they are baptized, made a confession of their faith, and so go to the Lord’s Supper, observe going to church, reading of God’s Word, and with that they are well satisfied, and are in the mean time moiling and toiling like moles in the earth, and that only to obtain a great estate, and doubt not in the least but that they shall be saved, that’s held for certain: But know “O vain Man!” that you will not get there so, those things must also be done, but they are not sufficient for salvation God’s Spirit saith by the mouth of Peter. “That the righteous are but scarcely saved”; and do you think to come there so easily? O no! You deceive your selves miserably, and are quite at a loss, the God of this world has blinded your minds, and keeps you captive in his snares, 2 Corinthians 4:4, 2 Timothy 2:62. And whilst he promises you heaven, be assured that hell will be your portion, hear what the mouth of truth saith, Matthew 7:21-23. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that Day Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name have done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them I never knew you: Depart from me, ye that work iniquity”…
            But pray consider in what a miserable condition thou art, O! that you might once see your unhappiness, as long as thou art not a righteous one, you certainly yet lie under God’s wrath under the curse of the Law, God is unto you an incensed judge; and if you continue so, you will certainly be lost, for if “the righteous are but scarcely, saved” then you will not be saved, O sinner! Can you hear or think of this without astonishment? Do but consider when you shall lie on your death bed, with pale death in your face, and when your conscience shall be awakened, and tell you “that you are not righteous,” O then you will open your broken eyes and perplexed mouth, and cry out, “O how have I cheated my self! Now alas! I must experience that the way to heaven is narrow! O how shall I get on the same? O now it seems it is too late for me the door seems to be shut, now it’s past hope, O woe unto me! That I have thus despised the way of salvation, O now I shall be obliged to experience what I would not believe heretofore, and therefore O frightful eternity?” Therefore be admonished before you thus experience it.
            Do you ask, What shall I do? I answer:
            Seek to obtain a right sense and a convincing knowledge of sin and your damnable state before God, and with all your mortal inability, that you cannot help your selves, and that being so, you must be lost, except the Lord through his free grace prevents it, and pray to the Lord that he would impress that state upon your hearts, that you might become concerned and distressed about it, and that you thus might as one lost be driven out of your selves to the Lord Jesus, and to flee to him for refuge, and as an ungodly, and as one worthy to be damned, with a free-willing condemnation of your selves, give your selves over to him to be justified and sanctified, freed from sin, and glorified through him. O you should not rest before you had attained to this, in order thereto you must earnestly seek the Lord with prayers and supplications; and with Paul you must count “all things but loss and dung that you might win Christ,” Philippians 3:8. And to that end you must forsake all vanities and worldly company: For “Evil communications corrupt good manners,” 1 Corinthians 15:33. Therefore you must be diligent to use all means, as the reading of God’s Word, and to hear it preached, but besides you must have an impression of your inability, so that you must under the use of the means look up to the Lord for his Spirit, and so go forward and rest not, until you are found in Christ, and set often before you your miserable condition, and withal, how soon death may seize you, and how you must then appear in judgment and if you are not converted in this life, that then you will be lost; and withal, that the Lord is willing to help poor sinners, who do but in uprightness come unto him. O I pray you in God’s stead, that you would take this to heart, that it may not witness against you in the Day of Judgment. Now I wish, that the Lord through his Spirit might impress it upon your hearts, that you thereby may be converted.
Theodore Frelinghuysen, A Clear Demonstration of a Righteous and Ungodly Man, In Their Frame, Way and End (New York: Printed for the publisher by John Peter Zenger, 1731), 19-21, 26-28.

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