Though they had many differences, Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield were both convinced of this: God was completely Sovereign and revival was in his plan. These two men were the catalysts for the First Great Awakening. They were some of history's best missionaries. They preached salvation through faith and repentance to and for every man and woman. And they were Calvinists.
It cannot be ignored that it was these men's theologies that compelled them to bring the Gospel to the unsaved. They were both dedicated Calvinists and wrote extensively on the topic. What makes them great Calvinists is that they understood about Calvinism what Hyper-Calvinists and non-Calvinists do not: God predestined the ends and the means.
What do I mean by this? I mean that Hyper-Calvinists and most non-Calvinists believe that Calvinism says that God has planned that all people who are predestined to salvation will attain it, no matter what. This is true. But this is only a partial understanding of God's plan of salvation- and very, very small understanding of it at that!
Here's a question: How did you who are reading this get saved? How did you decide to follow Jesus? Well, I'll tell you how it was for me. I had heard the Gospel many times and it never did anything to me or for me, but one day the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to my need for a Savior. So God predestined me to accept the Gospel, but he also predestined that I hear the Gospel! This is the key here, people! Get this. In order for those he has predestined to accept the Gospel, God has planned that they hear it. God has predestined the Gospel to be received, not merely that people would receive it. The Gospel has been planned to be taken to people all over, and Jesus declares that it is our duty to take it to all of them (Matt. 28:19). I mean, which one of us was saved without hearing the Gospel?
Two of the greatest theologians, Edwards and Whitefield, both understood this and it compelled them to change the world. They literally changed the world. If they had not obeyed the call of God to bring the Gospel to all peoples and awaken their hearts, it is very likely that there would have been no First or Second Great Awakenings. In fact, it is likely that Christianity in the West would have simmered out soon afterward. But they did obey the call, and they did change the world. I often wonder what would happen if we understood the Gospel like they did. Would we change the world? Definitely.
I've been saying since the beginning of this school year that I wanted to be the next Jonathan Edwards. I want to revive this spiritually dead world by bringing the Gospel to everyone everywhere so that the Lord will call all men unto himself. I want to be the tool by which God saves those whom he has chosen. I want to go with utter confidence that, although I am myself useless and unable to save or convince or convert anyone, all of the elect, all who have ears to hear, and whosoever will will be saved. This is why Jonathan Edwards will always be remembered by people everywhere, because he believed in God's saving ability and his own responsibility.
I cannot stress enough the massive importance of truly understanding election and the doctrines of grace. To understand them is to understand missions and salvation. To understand them is to understand revival. To understand them is to understand the glory of God's mercy and love towards man, towards you and me.