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Another Look at Frelinghuysen and His “Awakening”

  • Herman Harmelink (a1)


The extremely favourable assessment by historians of the life and career of Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691-c. 1748) as a forerunner of the Great Awakening is a puzzling one to those familiar with the Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York. Three works are mostly frequently quoted in making this favourable assessment: Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen by Peter H. B. Frelinghuysen (1938); The Great Awakening in the Middle Colonies, by C. H. Maxson (1920); and Eight Memorial Sermons and Historical Notes, by Abraham Messier (1873). Peter Frelinghuysen quotes Maxson and Messier extensively. Maxson quotes Messier extensively.



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1. Hastings, Hugh, Ecclesiastica Records ef the State of New York (Albany: James B. Lyon, State Printer, 1901), 7 vole. Hereafter referred to as ER. Certain scholars have questioned the accuracy of Corwin's translation of the Classis of Amsterdam materials. None of those writing favourably about Frelinghuysen has questioned the accuracy of those materials pertaining to him, and Corwin makes evident his sympathies for Frelinghuysen, so it is unlikely that his translation would err on the side of injustice to Frelinghuysen.

2. Messler, Abraham, Eight Memorial Sermons & Historical Discourses. (New York: A Lloyd, 1873).

3. Ibid., p. 165.

4. Ibid., p. 168.

5. Whitefield, George, George Whitefield's Journals (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1960), pp. 351–2.

6. Messler, op. cit., pp. 167–8; also Sprague, W. B., Annals of the American Pnlpit, Vol. IX (New York: Robert Carter and Brothers, 1869), p. 9.

7. Gullies, John, Memaws of the Life and Character of the late Rev. George Whitefield, A. M. (Philadelphia: Simon Probasco, 1820), p. 47.

8. Messler, op. cit., pp. 167–8.

9. Edwards, Jonathan, A Narrative of Many Surprising Conversions in Northhampton and Vicinity. Written in 1736 (Worcester: Moses W. Grout, 1832), p. 18.

10. Prince, Thomas Jr, Ed., The Christian History (Boston, N. E.: T. Prince, junior, 1745), pp. 292–3.

11. Tracey, Joseph, The Great Awakening (Boston: Tappan & Dennet, 1842), p. iv.

12. Frelinghuysen, Peter H. B., Theodoras Jacobus Frelinghuysen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1938), pp. 42, 52.

13. Sprague, op. cit., p. 8.

14. Frelinghuysen, T. J., Sermons (New York: Board of Education, Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, 1856), p. iv., pp. 910.

15. Ibid., p. 15.

16. KR, p. 2121.

17. Ibid., pp. 2197–2200.

18. Ibid., Vol. VII, 174–6.

19. Ibid., pp. 2351–6.

20. Ibid.

21. Ibid., p. 2365.

22. Ibid., pp. 2362–3.

23. Ibid., pp. 2382–3.

24. Ibid., p. 2384.

25. Ibid., pp. 2384–5.

26. Ibid.

27. Ibid., p. 2388.

28. Ibid., p. 2402.

29. Ibid., p. 2431.

30. Ibid., pp. 2413–4. Although the Classis could bring only spiritual power to bear upon the contestants, because of the geographical separation, both parties had much to gain in winning the Classis' approval: a victorious Frelinghuysen would have succeeded in making the pietist approach the orthodox position and his hand would be strengthened against his opponents; his opponents, if successful, would ensure continued place in the church for both positions.

31. Ibid., p. 2416.

32. Ibid., p. 2418.

33. Ibid., p. 2422.

34. Ibid., pp. 2420, 2424.

35. Ibid., p. 2446.

36. Ibid., p. 2447.

37. Ibid., p. 2455.

38. Ibid., pp. 2459–60.

39. Ibid., p. 2461.

40. Ibid., p. 2463.

41. Ibid., p. 2520.

42. Ibid.

43. Ibid., p. 2536.

44. Ibid., pp. 2558–9.

45. Ibid., p. 2609.

46. Ibid., p. 2655.

47. Ibid., p. 2638.

48. Ibid., p. 2708.

49. Ibid., pp. 2425–6. These petitioners were among the German Reformed immigrants to Pennsylvania whose churches were long supported and governed by the Reformed Church in the Netherlands (1709–1793).

50. Church History, 12 1963, p. 382.

51. Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960), p. 1028.

52. Ibid., p. 1030.

53. An excellent study of the pietist background out of which Frelinghuysen sprang is furnished in the doctoral dissertation (soon to be published) of Dr. James Tanis (Yale) at the University of Utrecht.

54. Edwards, Jonathan, Religious Affections (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), pp. 181–2. Edwards' view shifted somewhat in later life.

55. Frelinghuysen, Sermons, pp. 67–69.

56. Ibid. p. 353.

57. Ibid. p. 354.

58. Harmelink, Herman III, Ecumenism and The Reformed Church (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), pp. 1213.

59. See p. 425 above.

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Church History
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  • EISSN: 1755-2613
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