Forerunner of the Great Awakening – Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691-1747), published by Eerdmans, paperback, 383 pages, available from the Free Presbyterian Bookroom.
Born in Germany and educated in Holland, Frelinghuysen spent most of his ministry in America preaching to Dutch emigrants in New Jersey. In spite of considerable opposition, his preaching was greatly blessed. His ministry preceded the series of revivals known as the Great Awakening, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards being the best-known of the ministers involved.
Whitefield’s description of Frelinghuysen is quoted in the biographical introduction: “He is a worthy old soldier of Jesus Christ and was the beginner of the great work which I trust the Lord is carrying on in these parts.” Much of his ministry was dogged by controversy, but the writer of an introductory note to an earlier edition of this work comments that if Frelinghuysen did not always exercise the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove, “yet the evidence is plain that the opposition arose mainly from the searching and pungent character of his evangelical preaching and his efforts to enforce the purity of God’s house”.
The sermons were first published in Dutch in four volumes. Frelinghuysen speaks faithfully to the unconverted and points them to Christ. Anxious to state Scripture doctrine carefully, he declares: “The preaching of the gospel opens the kingdom of heaven, not by declaring that Christ died for all men and that everyone has but to imagine that Christ is his Saviour. Arminians maintain that in direct opposition to the Word of God . . . . But the gospel we preach declares that God has sent forth His Son as a propitiation for sin through faith in His blood; that upon His invitation and call the sinner may be turned to Him, receive Him as Mediator, surrender himself to Him, go to the Father through Him, and be admitted into His kingdom.”
“Preaching”, he believed, “must be structured to the differing conditions of our hearers. In the church there are godless and unconverted persons; civil [that is moral, but unconverted], false and pretending Christians. . . . There are also converted persons in the church, and little children and those more advanced. Each one . . . must be spoken to and handled according to his state and frame.” He was, accordingly, noted for the discriminating nature of his sermons.
In a sermon, The Christian’s Encouragement in Spiritual Conflict, he exhorted the Lord’s people to the following five duties: look for conflict rather than ease, fight the good fight, know who your enemies are, stay active in God’s service so that you are not unexpectedly overcome, and guard against pride. Then he went on to give the encouragement: “Trust not in your own strength, however, but remain at the side of your Captain, Jesus. Hide in Him; go forward in His strength. He prays for you. Rest upon Him so that through Him you will overcome. The Lord, who is faithful, will strengthen you and preserve you from evil, so that the gates of hell (their cunning, power or violence) will not overcome you.” One has difficulty with Frelinghuysen’s sympathy for the idea that the new heavens and new earth (in 2 Peter 2) will include the present world. Otherwise the sermons are solid and biblical. Scripture quotations are consistently given in the Authorised Version.