1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!
1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!

1748 JONATHAN PARSONS. 12pp Unpublished Great Awakening Manuscript on Dependence on the Holy Spirit!

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A very important 1748 complete manuscript sermon by significant Great Awakening divine and friend of both Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, Jonathan Parsons [1705-1776].

Born in West Springfield, Massachusetts, young Jonathan Parsons was headed into the trades, perhaps furniture making, when he met Jonathan Edwards. Sensing his deep personal piety and his sharp mind, Edwards persuaded him to pursue the ministry. Parsons entered Yale, where Edwards was his Tutor, and graduated in 1729. He seems to have declined spiritually upon entering the ministry. He took the ministry at Lyme, Connecticut and married into one of the leading families of the community. He is said to have been quite the dandy, wearing ruffles, silver and gold lace, etc., which seemed unbecoming to many of his constituents.

Then, the Great Awakening. Caught in the gracious and violent throes of the movement, he wondered whether he had ever been a recipient of grace at all. He experienced significant mental and spiritual torment until, in his words, a “new light” burst upon his soul. This was of course the titular description of the revivalist, “New Lights.” He was transformed, born again, perhaps for the first time, or again. He himself appears never to have been certain which. 

By the late 1730’s, he was in full with the revival movement, preaching the torments of hell, the vanity of works, and the free gift of God leading to a new creation. Like Edwards, it was not forgiveness he preached, but resurrection to new life by grace.

Parsons' embrace of the Awakening was sealed by his encounter and relationship with George Whitefield who was touring the colonies in 1740. Parsons was present when Whitefield preached at Middletown, an event that drew thousands from the surrounding countryside. Their friendship seems to have begun then. Whitefield later visited Lyme twice, preaching from Parsons' pulpit at a time when many churches were closing their doors to the "New Lights."

Parsons was also one of the most indefatigable of the revivalists at the pastoral level. As he recalls in his diary, “sometimes as many as thirty people came to his study for counsel one day.” This was usually to discuss assurance, conversion, and this new experience of grace. 

The revival was not all good news. In Lyme, as elsewhere, it shattered congregational unity. Opposition to Parsons' views—and concern about his evangelistic work beyond his own church—led eventually to his ouster from Lyme in 1745, a move which would preface Jonathan Edwards’ ouster for similar reasons just a few years later.

By this point, Parsons was acknowledged one of the most prominent and eloquent leaders of the Awakening. He was invited to preach throughout eastern Connecticut and in Massachusetts. His sermons were published and widely circulated. In 1744, at the invitation of Boston minister Thomas Prince, he wrote an authoritative account of the revival at Lyme. . . the same church which booted him a year later. 

Without a Congregation, Whitefield presented Parsons to the charge of a new Presbyterian congregation in Newburyport, Massachusetts, birthed from within the Revival. In the thirty years Parsons served the church, it would grow from nineteen members to become one of the largest congregations in New England.

Whitefield and Parsons became life-long friends. In fact, it was while visiting Parsons during his last tour of New England in 1770, that Whitefield took ill and died in Parsons' house. Whitefield was  interred in a crypt constructed under the pulpit. His funeral, at which Parsons preached, was attended by thousands. The tomb, which would soon carry Parsons own remains as well, has long been nearly a shrine for New England evangelicals . . . which has some slight irony in light of the current offering.

Parsons became an early and outspoken supporter of American resistance to England. When New England revolutionaries resolved to resist the tea tax, Parsons organized the young women of his congregation to brew local herbs in place of imported tea. The Boston Massacre victims were mourned by the tolling bell of the "Old South," Parsons' church.

On that day, Parsons preached a notable sermon on the sacrifices of the dead and the duties of the living. "As the clouds darkened and the skies thundered, the voice of Parsons grew louder and clearer, like bugle notes summoning the good men and true to battle."

When the news came of Lexington and Concord, Parsons stood in his pulpit to preach to the people of liberty and their rights. "As he closed his final appeal, his people hung breathless upon his words, and each seemed more anxious than the other to catch his every utterance. “Men of America, citizens of this great country hanging upon the precipice of war, loyalty to England lies behind you, broken by the acts of the mother country--a cruel mother, deaf to the voice of liberty and right; duty to freedom, duty to your country, duty to God, is before you; your patriotism is brought to the test; I call upon those ready to volunteer for the defence of the provinces against British tyranny to step into the 'broad aisle.'" Those who responded were the first volunteers to join the Continental Army and participate in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Parsons died on July 19, 1776, a few days after the Declaration of Independence. He was buried next to his mentor, George Whitefield, in the crypt under the pulpit from which he had preached for more than three decades.

The present sermons, preached at Newburyport, April 6, 1748 [and then again in June of 1748 at Andover, again at Newburyport in 1750, and then with an unspecified location in 1764], is a wonderful example of the challenges in the aftermath of the Great Awakening. Without a doubt, the Great Awakening had changed the face of New England forever, largely for good. But there were challenges. More than ever, the Great Awakening experience across the entirety of the region shone bright around a few luminary names, known to all. Jonathan Edwards, The Tennents, Jonathan Parsons, George Whitefield. And that posed a danger both to the success of important community churches all around New England, being abandoned to travel to the “important” pulpits of those mentioned, and to the welfare of those ministers, who were being asked to do more than possible.

It led to jealousy from other ministers, scrutiny over every facet of doctrine, the desire of churches to hire important divines, etc. It is not an accident that the same year, 1748, Edwards’ own church began to be uncomfortable with his ministry there. He was being widely acknowledged as the greatest theologian of the time. And he was moving away from the half-way Covenant, solidifying his view that regeneration must be a supernatural and observable experience . . . and many in his church did not like the pressure. They could handle it during the revival. That was a season. But now the revival was being codified into theology and practice. They voted to remove him in 1750.

Perhaps my favorite line of the sermon, “Ministers can but speak to your Ear, they have not power to fix the Gospel in your heart, or to render it efficacious upon men’s souls.”

Some of the text as follows:

"I Cor. 3.6. I have planted, & Apollos watered. But God gave ye Increase.

Strife and contention among Christians concerning ye abilities & excellency of ye teachers is not a new fault, but one of ancient date; a party spirit has more or less ever prevailed in ye Christian Chh: even in ye Aps Days, some were guilty of having mens persons in admiration in an undue Manner, and of being puffed up for one against another: vainly boasting of yr own Teachers & dispising others. This is an Error ye Aps is Considering and reproving in this Ch. And in sevl other places in his Ep to ye Corinthians. St. Paul it seems at first spread ye Gospel at Corinth & gathered a Ch there, tho others improved upon his labors and forwarded ye fruits of his Ministry; here we find him thus shewing ym yt ye first Conversion to ye Gospel was by him. 4 Ch. Of this Ep 15. For tho ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many Fathers; for in X I have begotten you thro ye Gospel. And so in our txt, I have planted. He first planted ye seed of ye Gospel among ym. But others officiating in his absence there presently ***** a Spirit of Division among ye Corins. Ty were dividing in parties, some preferring one Minister & some another, and following ym as ye leader. Thus we find ye Ap lamenting this to ym upon ye sorrowful news of it, & reproving them by ye name of our Lord Jesus Christ, yt ye speak ye same thing & yt there be no Divisions among you; but yt ye be perfectly joined together in ye same mind & in ye same judgment, for it hath been delivered unto me of you my Brethren, by yrs wch are of the house of Chloe, that there are Contentions among you: Now this I say yt every one of you saith, I am of Paul, & I of Apollos, & I of Cephas, and I of Christ: Thus yy were divided into parties, and ran into Contentions, some preferring one Minister & some another.

And thus ye Ap reproves tm in ye nxt v, is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? And ye same error he is handling in our Cont. and **** ye Divisions & Contentions upon this head to be an argument of yr Carnality. Thus in ye 3d, for ye are yet Carnal: for whereas there is among you envying and strife & Divisions, are ye not Carnal and walk as men? For while one saith I am of Paul, and another I am of Apollos, are ye not Carnal? Thus yr preferring one minister to another, striving & contending, & dificing into parties upon this point was so far from being an argument of yr superiority & goodness in ye Opinion of ye Apo yt he declares it an argument of yr Carnality: And in ye next ** among which is one. Ft he endeavours to Convince ym of yr follow & vanity of this ****** Spirit by shewing ym yt all ministers were but Instruments in God’s hands to effect yr Conversion & Salvation, yt ye saving efficacy of ye Gospel depended not upon them as yy were ready to imagine, but upon ye Blessing of God, and yt yfore yy were not thus to be preferred one to another & contended about as tho some had greater power & were able of yselves to make ye Gospel more efficacious upon ym than others: who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but Ministers by whom ye believed, even as ye Lord gave to every man. I have planted and Apollos watered, but God gave ye Increase. So then neither is he yt planteth any thing, neither he that watereth, but God yt giveth ye Increase.

The words of our Tt and ye fol v. shewing ye Ministers are but Instruments in ye hand of God, to effect ye salvation of men, & yet ye saving efficacy of ministers depends upon ye Blessings of God, are an allusion to a constant truth in ye works of nature, or divine Providence: the Apos here illustrates ye necessary agency or Blessing of God in order to render ye preaching of Christ’s ministers effectual to men’s Salvation, from ye necessity of his Blessing upon ye Earth in order to render ye Labours of ye husbandman in planting & watering his seed effectual for its growth & Increase: As tho he had sd as ye husbandman has not power in himself to increase to his seed cast into ye Earth, as he can but plant & water it and its Springing forth, its Increase & fruitfulness depends after all upon ye Blessing of God, so we who are Christ’s Ministers can but preach and enforce his Gospel upon you, [but] we have not power in ours to make it effectual for your Salvation. This depends on God’s Blessings; we can but, as it were, plant & water. God giveth ye Increase.

So yt these two Observations may be made form ye words as truths expressed or implied in ym, viz.

1. That notwithstanding all *** Care & pains of men in casting their seed into ye Earth, striving to make it fruitful, yet its increase & fruitfulness depends on ye Blessing of God:

So likewise

2. Notwithstanding all ye Care & pains of Christ’s Ministers in preaching & Enforcing ye Gospel upon persons, yet its Saving Efficacy upon ym depends on ye Blessing of God.

3. And without further regarding ye relation of ye words . . . I purpose to Discourse upon these two Observations for your personal Entertainment.

4. Notwithstanding all ye Care of pains of men in Casting ye Seed into ye Earth, & striving to make it fruitful, yet its Increase and Fruitfulness depends upon ye Blessing of God.

This is a truth ***** in our Tx, I have planted and Apollos watered (S St. Paul) but God gave ye Increase: This indeed relates Especially to ye Increase or success of ye Gospel, that this depends upon ye Blessing of God. Bu then as it is here argued from, or illustrated by, ye necessity of God’s Blesing in order to the Increase or fruitfulness of ye Seed wch is sown or planted in ye Earth, so it supposes or implies yt to be a real truth. And yet it is so may be sufficiently evident not only from ye dependence we Constantly see ye Earth’s fruitful has upon ye Providence of God, but also from ye holy Scriptures where God’s agency & ye necessity of his Blessing in this, is spoken of: I will endeavour here to evidence it by Considering,

1. Sevl ways in wch God may prevent ye Earth’s fruitfulness and cut off ye hopes of ye husbandman, notwithstanding all his Care & pains;

2. By shewing passgs & examples yt ye Earth’s increase depends on ye Blessing of God.

iii. God may sevl ways prevent ye Earth’s fruitfulness & of ye hopes of ye husbandman, notwithstanding all his Care and pains; this he may do;

1. By so ordering ye Spring seasons as to prevent ye seeds sown or planted in ye Earth, springing into life, or so for to retard its Growth as to prevent its coming to any maturity or perfection; we read it as a lamentation under God’s judgemt ye ye seed was rotten under ye clods & ye corn withered, Joel 1.16, 17, is not ye meat cut off before our Eyes? Yea, joy of gladness from ye house of our God? Ye seed is rotten under ye Clods, ye gardens are layed desolate; & barns are broken down for ye corn is withered. And how easie is it for God to effect this? Ye seasons of the year are wholly at his Command: he has made ye Summer & winter & governs ye heat & ye cold: he can easily will hot into cold, as to restrain ye vegitative virtue or power in ye seed when cast into ye Earth, & bring barrenness upon the prolific Spring; cause ye seed to rot under ye Clods, with wch it was covered, or to wither & pine away when Sprung up & prevent its increase; Or, again.

God can so withhold ye rain in its season & cause ye sun so to continue its heat upon ye face of ye Earth as to parch ye fields into barren heaths & cut of ye Increase of ye Earth with scorching drought. Thus we find him threatening his disobedient people, Deu 28.23, 24 And thy heaven which is over thy head shall be brass & ye Earth that is under thee shall be Iron. Ye Lord shall make ye rain of they land powder and dust, viz. and how often do we read of God threatening famine to a people for ye sins & frequently of his visiting ym with his judgemt and how easie is it for God to bring it on this way, & thereby to frustrate all the labour & care & to cut off ye hopes of men, by preventing ye Increase of ye Earth: God has ye showers from ye clouds, and shines from ye Sun at his Command. It is he yt causes ye vapours to ascend from Ends of ye Earth. He is ye Father of ye Rain & begets the dops of ye Dew. Ye small rain and ye great rain of his Strength fall upon ye Earth at his Command, and are withheld at his pleasure: It is he who gives ye former & ye latter rain in ye season & is therefore able to withhold ym. He opens and is therefore able to shut ye bottles of heaven.


God is able to prevent ye Increase of ye even by blasting* & mill-dews or by sending ravenous beasts to devour ye fruits of ye Earth; Tho’ it is difficult to search out the natural cause of Mill-dews and some other blastings wch are often very destructive to ye Increase of fruitfulness of ye Year, yt yr yt are these in fact is too evident to be doubted of; and Scripture expressly speaks of these as judgments sent upon a people, thus Amos 4.9 I have smitten you wth Blasting & mill-dew. And in Haggai 2.17 I smote you wth Blasting, wth mill-dew & with hail in all the Labours of your hands, yet ye turned not to me saith ye Lord. And this way God could easily prevent ye fruitfulness of ye Earth; so likewise could easily prevent ye fruitfulness of ym to devour it. And this also we find threatened among the fields & ye vineyards, viz, Thus Deu 28.38 etc.

. . . .

Ministers can but speak to ye Ear, yy have not power to fix ye Gospel in ye heart, or to render it efficacious upon men’s souls. This success or increase of ye Gospel is out of yr reach; it is ye work of God, it depends upon his Blessing, upon ye gracious and benign influence of His Spirit, wch, like ye showers & skies of Heaven, quicken ye word planted and cause it to spring forth & Increase, to bring forth fruit unto life Eternal. Agreeably we read that when Christ Commissioned and sent forth his Aps who were ye prime Ministers of his Gospel, to preach his word to all nations, he gave ym this promise also, & lo I am with you always even unto ye End of ye world. By wch we may understand his being wth us by his Spirit not only to encourage & strengthen ym in ye work, but also to give success to yr labours; and without this Ministers plant in vain; all yr Care & pains will be to no saving purpose upon yr hearers without ye efficacious Blessing of God; yy can but plant & water. God only can give ye Increase.

. . .

Let what we have heard Cause us to Consider & realize our Dependence upon God both for our Temporal and Spiritual welfare; we are too prone to ascribe success in both to ourselves, so far as to detract from ye honour wch is due unto God, when our Fields are fruitful & our storehouses are filled wth ye fruits of ye Earth, we are too apt to say, at least in our heads, our own hand hath gotten us these ****, & so forget ye God yt Blessed our labours and gave ye Increase to us. So when we Imagine we are Increased in Spiritual Riches, we are too prone to Glory in ourselves & not in ye Lord as we ought; or to ascribe our Spiritual welfare so far to man as to detract from ye honour we should give unto God in this. We are too apt to Consider ourselves as more than Instruments & too ready to set ourselves in ye place of God. But let us here see our dependence upon Him, both for temporal & Spiritual prosperity & let it teach us humility and meekness before him and excite our thankfulness to hi for every blessing.

Let wt we have heard particularly caution us against making too much dependence upon ye Ministers of Christ & expecting too much from ym; these are mistakes here some are apt to run into; to mention one or two: One is when persons have such an admiration for & dependence upon a particular Minister of Christ, as not only to prefer him before others, but also to set him in opposition to others, tho’ for wch appears yy also are faithful Ministers of Christ; This is an Error ye Corinthians ran into when one S. I am of Paul another I am of Apollos &c. This is placing an undue Confidence in a Minister of Christ & is making more than Ministers of some, or less than Ministers of others. Ye other mistake we should hear be Cautious against is having such a dependence upon any minister as tho’ yy were able to convey ye Saving efficacy of ye Gospel to us; this is making too much of Christ’s ministers & expect yt from ym yy are not able to give; yy can but as it were plant & water ye word. God must give ye Increase. We are therefore to look & seek to God for this. . .

. . .

Let our Dependence upon God quicken us also in our prayers to him for Spiritual Blessings. Our souls are of more value than our bodies & should be our greater Concern. Our Eternal well-being is of Infinitely greater Importance to us than our present: Our increase in Spiritual riches than in ye fruits of ye Earth; and for this also we depend upon God. Paul may plant & Apollos water, ministers may preach and enforce ye Gospel upon us, but yy are but Instruments. God only can give increase & make ye Gospel effectual to our salvation. Let us realize this & let it quicken us in seeking to God for his blessing here. Let us Consider every Sabbath as a Spring or Summer Seasons where ye Gospel is to be planted or watered in us, and have our hearts turned to God in prayer for his Blessing upon it. Then may we hope that God will bless us as with ye Showers and Shines of Heaven; as with y eDew of Heaven & ye Dew yt descended upon ye Mountain of Zion, where ye Lord Commandeth Blessing, even life forever more.

. . .

Finally, let us often compare ourselves with our Fields and endeavour to have these quickening Motives to us in the Business of religion.

Do we behold these languishing at any time under severe drought, or other frowns of divine Providence? Let us reflect upon ourselves; Aren’t we in a languishing state as to ye Fruits of religion? Aren’t we at a Stand, or decaying as to ye divine life?

And when this is ye case, it becomes us to enquire into ye Cause of it; & particularly whether we haven’t been backward in seeking the Blessings of Divine Grace – And whether our barrenness in Religion mayn’t have provoked God to visit us with outward judgemt Whether these may’nt be justly considered as his awakening Calls to us to greater Diligence & Activity in his Service & in working out our own Salvation.

Again, when our fields are in a prosperous and flourishing condition, let us reflect – Do our souls & our lives resemble these? Christians are called God’s Husbandry in a v or two fol Tt. They are more his special care than the Fields of the Earth. He takes Care to plant & water his Gospel in ym by his Ministers. But is this seed Springing forth and flourishing in us? Or are we a barren Soil under His blessing? And let us not content ourselves with some mere appearances of fruitfulness, but see to it yt ye see of ye Gospel has really taken root in our hearts and that we are likely to bring forth Fruit unto ternal life.

And to pursue this Metaphor a little farther, if God shall favor us with his blessing, thro’ ye Summer, & we shall live to see our fields in a flourishing state & promising a rich Increase, let this often torn our thoughts to ourselves to see if we are thus flourishing in grace and holiness – this is a Treasure of infinitely greater value to us than ye riches of this world.

And, when we see our Fields ripening for the Harvest, let us Enquire whether we are ripening or preparing for Death, wch will cut us down presently like ye grass or corn of ye field –

When we see the  Tares Separated from the Good Grain, & gathered together, to be burnt, or cast away to be trodden under Foot, let it lead our thoughts to the Day of judgemt & put us upon enquiring into our Fitness for the Coming of the Son of God, when he will thus separate ye wicked fro ye Godly, & cast the former into unquenchable fire, but receive the latter to his heavenly Kingdom.

Thus let us labour to make ye various scenes of ye fruitful Year quickening motives to us in Religion; that yy may serve to our being enriched wth better things than earthly treasures.

Let it be our greatest Concern that we now sow to ourselves in Righteousness that so we may reap in mercy – that we are now flourishing & fruitful in ye ways of God. That we now have our Fruit unto holiness that ye End may be everlasting Life. May God of his mercy grant this through our Lord."

12 pages in legible manuscript, complete. Handwriting verified through Harvard, who keeps most of the known examples of his writing. Authenticity guaranteed.