Family Revival

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
~ Malachi 4:5-6

And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
~ John 1:34

O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee:
~ 1 Chronicles 29:18

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:
~ Psalm 10:17

The Importance of Revival Among Heads of Families, by Jonathan Edwards. 1739.

And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Luke 1:17.

1. An effect of Elias’ preaching. Who (are) meant by fathers. What is meant by turning their hearts.

2. The end of this effect.


After a dead time in religion, ’tis very requisite that religion should revive in heads of families and those that have the care of children, in order to a people’s being fitted for so great a privilege as to have God remarkably dwelling among them.

That which the text speaks of a people’s being prepared for is to (have) God dwelling among them in the remarkable tokens of his presence. ‘Tis not their being God’s visible people, (but their being) prepared for the Lord, for receiving the blessings of a special union with him as his people and being acknowledged as such.

I. What is implied in God’s dwelling amongst a people?

First. It implies his being amongst (them) by the blessed influences of his Spirit accompanying his ordinances.

Second. The bestowing those privileges that are wont to accompany these (influences) or to be consequent upon them: (the) comforts of God’s Spirit; blessings in society; (the) flourishing of those moral, social virtues that make a people happy; their honor, beauty and delight in a church, state or a worshipping society; temporal blessings. Psalms 144:12-15, “That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as corner stones.… That our garners may be full… that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets: That our oxen may be strong to labor.… Happy is that people, that is in such a case: yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:13 “Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.” Amos 9:14 “And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” All (these things are) manners of tokens of God’s favor. Jeremiah 33:9, “And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.”

Third. The continuance of those things. These blessings are aptly represented in Ezekiel 37:22 ff., “And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all.…”

II. Reasons.

First. Because they are so great a part of a people. In order to a people’s being prepared {for God to dwell among them}, they should generally be lively. (They) should be united. If heads of families are either God’s enemies or are cold and dull in religion and, consequently, in very corrupt frames, then God will find great offense amongst a people— greater offense in public assemblies, at the Lord’s table, and in particular houses— so that he will find no place prepared for him to dwell in.

Second. Because they are commonly those that have main influence in the state and affairs of a people. Because of their superiority to the children and young people in knowledge and experience; because the external possessions of a people are mainly in their hands; because they are mostly of the age of the greatest activity, (the) powers of their minds most sprightly, most improved in business; because of the station they stand in and the relation they bear to others, the sins of such as have greatest public influences are most regarded of God in his public dealings.

A people won’t be a reformed people without (them); others are like to be as they are. If religion flourishes among others and not among them, it will pull others back. They should be a steadying to others, (not the) disturber one of another (and a) temptation to them that are younger.

(They) should lead others. There will not be that harmony and beauty (…). One thing (…). There will be an unnaturally.


I. To those that are heads of families, and have the care of the education of children that are yet in a natural condition.

II. To heads of families in general.

First. To exhort them earnestly to seek a revival of religion in their own souls at this time. We have, from time to time, had God coming amongst us. But he has not continued. ‘Tis because we have not been prepared. Don’t he pull back.

How it was with the middle-aged people and heads of families in the wilderness (Numbers 14:29-31). It has in several instances been so, that when God has been about bringing to pass great things for his church, he has poured out his Spirit on the younger generation, only to fit them for the glorious things that should be brought to pass when they should come upon the stage.

Consider the great benefits of a constant dwelling of God with us. And consider how unsuitable ’tis to expect this, unless love to your own souls and to the souls of your children should move you.

Those that ben’t lively in religion, they will neglect the souls of their children. Now God is especially calling you to be much in instructing your children and taking care of the good of their souls. Many of them are concerned. You hear their cries. Now is an extraordinary opportunity for children.

If you neglect, you will be cruel to your children’s souls, as the words of the text seem to imply.

If you are much in instructing and counseling children, it will have little effect unless example accompanies instructions.

Second. Directions, first with respect to yourselves, and second with respect to your children:

1. Seek that your hearts may be now broken that you have lived so long and lived no better. Don’t lay the blame to God.

2. Avoid those sins that persons of your age are especially exposed (to), worse than those youthful vanities: pride, covetousness, extortion, envy, backbiting, hard dealing, straithandedness to the poor. God is chiefly provoked with the town by sins of elderly people.

3. Be careful how you manage public affairs.

Third. With respect to children.

1. Be very assiduous in instructing the principal means of grace. Psalms 78:5, “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children.”

2. Mix instructions with counsels.

3. Never let ’em rest till you can see ’em awakened. Never think you set out their misery too much.

4. Strict government.

5. Earnest prayer. You should travail for them.