“In fact, it was the religion of Calvin of which Sandy felt deprived, or rather a specified recognition of it. She desired this birthright; something definite to reject. It pervaded the place in proportion as it was unacknowledged. In some ways the most real and rooted people whom Sandy knew ... made no evasions about their belief that God had planned for practically everybody before they were born a nasty surprise when they died. Later, when Sandy read John Calvin, she found that although popular conceptions of Calvinism were sometimes mistaken, in this particular there was no mistake, indeed it was but a mild understanding of the case, he having made it God’s pleasure to implant in certain people an erroneous sense of joy and salvation, so that their surprise at the end might be the nastier.”
-- Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)
Reverend Phillips's parish outgrew its first meeting house inside of a generation. His parishioners built themselves a second one in 1734. That same year, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) began preaching a series of sermons at the Congregational church in Stockbridge, about 140 miles to Andover’s west, that were welcomed like manna by his Calvin-weary parishoners. In a radical reworking of Calvin’s original teachings, what Edwards preached was that predestination and the rules of election applied to everyone, not just a special few. This was a hallelujah-invoking message, but it did beg a question: how did people determine that they were among the elect and destined to be saved by God's grace? According to Edwards, conversion was the sole marker of election and the only guaranteed admission ticket to heaven.
Merely by doing the math, Harry S. Stout, Yale's Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Christianity, makes a solid case for how influential sermons, by anyone on any subject, were in the colonial period of New England’s past. “The average weekly churchgoers ... (and there were far more churchgoers than church members) listened to something like seven thousand sermons in a lifetime, totaling somewhere around fifteen thousand hours of concentrated listening," he wrote in The New England Soul Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England. "These striking statistics," he added, "become even more significant when it is recalled that until the last decade of the colonial era there were at the local level few, if any, … public speakers offering alternative messages. For all intents and purposes, the sermon was the only regular voice of authority.”  But Edwards's hope-filled sermons were exponentially more influential than those of workaday ministers. That's because Edwards's message came with a dire responsibility. It was incumbent upon the converted to convert others, including the Mohicans living in the vicinity. With varying results, Edwards himself had been trying to make converts of them as well as his own white settler constituents. The new teachings meant everyone needed to be a missionary now.
In the summer of 1741, Edwards delivered his most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” He preached it first in Stockbridge’s neighboring town, Northampton (his home base), then in Enfield, Connecticut, after which it was printed in Boston. “But the foolish Children of Men do miserably delude themselves in their own Schemes," he intoned, "and in their Confidence in their own Strength and Wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow" -- Children of Men being those who were “born of the corrupt human race; and not as born of God" -- that is, born again. Still, the movement was localized. Although his name is far less known to Americans, it was Britain's George Whitefield (1714-1770) who brought the good news to a wider audience after he started touring the colonies in 1735. In fact, it was Whitefield who, in the words of Colin Brummit Goodykoontz, a historian who studied missionaries in the American interior, “transformed a series of local, sporadic revivals into an intercolonial, nonsectarian religious disturbance which shook colonial society to its foundations.” 
Claude Fuess, P.A.'s headmaster from 1933 to 1948, claimed in his town history that Reverend Phillips “did not like the evangelicalism of the English pulpit orator, George Whitefield” and the influence of the so-called Great Awakening on Andover was "negligible.”  On the evidence I have seen, Reverend Phillips did seem to be more engaged with the immediate circumstances of his parish than he was about conversions, at least initially. For example, in 1739, in a footnote published along with his sermon People Earnestly Urged to be Happy, he mentioned with pride the new meeting house a full five years after it had been completed: “… we have not had, till of late, an House spacious enough to accomodate [sic] so many of the People of the Town, as do, many times, attend the Lecture,” he wrote.  Nonetheless, the Great Awakening  was afoot, and by the time it had to be renamed the First Great Awakening, because the country was in the throes of the Second, America's first foreign missionaries were being trained at the Andover Theological Seminary, and would continue to be trained there through the turn of the twentieth.
Today the prevailing image of missionaries from that period is of narrow, paternalistic, ethnocentric agents of imperialism. It is not at all unfair, but to leave it dismissively at that prevents any understanding of what in their zeal they wrought. It also prevents us from understanding "missionaries" of all types who are operating in the world today. Evangelical Christians, for example, emphasize being born again, just as Edwards did. They feel they have a responsibility to share their faith with others, again just like Edwards and his charges. As I create new posts and publish them here in anticipation of a printed book being made up of them someday, my most important challenge is to strive to answer a two-part question that leaves aside purely personal feelings. One, what can I, as a distant onlooker, learn from missionaries’ lives and their long-ago missionary work and from the lives of those who supported them at home? And two, how can what I learn and write about them make our present world and its divisions seem just a little less gaping and a little more likely to close?
1. Harry S. Stout, The New England Soul Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 4. “I have estimated the number of sermons preached in 17th- and 18th-century New England by computing the total number of years preached by all the Congregational ministers and multiplying by 100 (an average of two sermons a week).” (Stout, 317)
2. Colin Brummitt Goodykoontz, Home Missions on the American Frontier, With Particular Reference to the American Home Missionary Society. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd., 1939, 68.
3. Claude Fuess, Andover: Symbol of New England: The Evolution of a Town (Andover: The Andover Historical Society, 1959), 156.
4. Reverend Samuel Phillips, People Earnestly Urged to be Happy, Or A Minister’s Address to his People, by Way of Intreaty, that they receive not the grace of God in vain (Boston: S. Kneeland & T. Green, 1739).
5. Joseph Tracy coined the term when he published The Great Awakening: A History of the Revival of Religion in the Time of Whitefield and Edwards (Worcester, 1840). Thomas S. Kidd, in The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007) argues that there was no Second Great Awakening and that the First Great Awakening simply continued on. That is, it was all one long one. He thinks of the debates of that era as points on a continuum, too, with anti-revivalists, who dismissed the whole thing, on one end, moderate evangelicals in the middle, and radical evangelicals at the opposite end.
On October 4 and 5, 1903, the two-hundredth anniversary of Jonathan Edwards's birth was celebrated at the Andover Theological Seminary with a two-day event to which the public of Andover was invited, as were nine Edwards descendants.  Besides a series of sermons , the event featured an exhibition of artifacts in the chapel. They included notes of sermons preached by Edwards to the Mohicans and a manuscript of an account of Mrs. Jonathan Edwards's religious experiences of January 19, 1742, narrated by her to her husband, recorded (but significantly edited) by him, and published in Boston as Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England.  There was also on display a fragment of Mrs. Edwards's wedding dress, perhaps the very one pictured above.
1. "Memory of Jonathan Edwards Honored by Noted Theologians at Andover Seminary -- Bicententary [sic] of His Birth Fittingly Celebrated," Andover Townsman, October 9, 1903.
2. Exercises commemorating the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Jonathan Edwards: held at Andover Theological Seminary, October 4 and 5, 1903/ printed under the direction of the faculty (Andover: Andover Press, 1904).
3. Jonathan Edwards, Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (Boston: Printed and sold by S. Kneeland and T. Green in Queen-Street, 1742).