During his final years in Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards received an invitation from Scotland to participate in a Concert of Prayer as a “means” of rejuvenating the revivals.
As Chris Chun deftly explains, Edwards had already come to think of prayer as an appropriate conduit for advancing the awakenings and in response he published in 1748, sermons on Zechariah 8:20-22 entitled An Humble Attempt.
In the 1740s and 1750s, Edwards’s work encouraged many both in America and Scotland, “by united and extraordinary prayer, seek to God that he would come and manifest himself, and grant the tokens and fruits of his gracious presence.”
For, he argued,
The greatest effusion of the Spirit that ever yet has been, even that which was in the primitive times of the Christian church, which began in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, was in answer to extraordinary prayer.
This optimistic treatise, while not evident in Edwards’s lifetime, helped to launch the modern missions movement. In 1784, William Carey and Andrew Fuller received An Humble Attempt and read it with eyes primed for the task of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. In this sense, Jonathan Edwards served as a “grandfather” of modern missions.
Edwards’s An Humble Attempt is the subject of my entry in the newly released The Jonathan Edwards Encyclopedia. Edited by Harry S. Stout, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Adriaan C. Neele, this volume contains over 400 entries from over 200 hundred scholars including Midwestern Seminary’s Christian George, Michael McMullen, and Owen Strachan.
Harry S. Stout, General Editor
Kenneth P. Minkema and Adriaan C. Neele, Associate Editors
See also Owen Strachan on “The Ongoing Jonathan Edwards Renaissance” about other new Edwards publications out or to appear soon.