Mapping the Great Awakening

Theodorus Jacabus Frelinghuysen

By Madeline Thomalia

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Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen was a powerful preacher during the Great Awakening.  Originally from Germany, Frelinghuysen, who was born in 1691, came to America in September 1719.  He took after his father, who was a Reformed pastor in Germany and became a part of the Dutch Reformed Church. In New Jersey, Theodorus, the son, preached in the Raritan Valley, which was mostly settled by Dutch Reformed farmers; however, the farmers had little interest in pursuing their spiritual growth.

The Dutch Reformed farmers in the Raritan Valley looked forward to their new dominie, pastor in Dutch, but soon realized Frelinghuysen was not like their ordinary pastors during his inaugural sermon on January 31, 1720.  Frelinghuysen took this opportunity to preach his rigorous Pietist preaching, which was a mix of biblical doctrine and an individual’s morality to live a good Christian life, to the nonreligious people hoping they would be willing to convert to Christianity.  He preached from 2 Corinthians 5:20: “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”  Frelinghuysen made it clear to the crowd that he was going to take upon Christ’s role to guide them on the right path towards Christianity. Also he preached that only God would save the ones who experienced conversion, encouraged sinners to join his church, and told many of his members that they were hell-bound. He upset many of the parishioners in the Raritan Valley.

Frelinghuysen’s congregation became annoyed with him and went to local Reverend Freeman’s house on March 12, 1723.  They asked for Freeman’s support in their charge against Frelinghuysen for preaching false teachings.  Freeman refused, and they decided to take matters into their own hands. Two men from New York, Dominie Henricus Boel and his brother Tobias, who was an attorney, published the Klagte in 1725, a complaint against Frelinghuysen.  Frelinghuysen accused his congregations of not being converted because he did not see God’s soul in them. Because of his accusation, the brothers portrayed Frelinghuysen as a troublemaker who caused disagreement. These complaints eventually led to the excommunication of four important ringleaders by Frelinghuysen. When the Classis of Amsterdam, which was the board of the Dutch Reformed Church, found out about the excommunication, they were not pleased with Frelinghuysen. The Classis of Amsterdam sent a summons to Frelinghuysen to reinstate the four leaders that he excommunicated. This was eventually resolved by a series of letters back and forth from Amsterdam to America. The conflict between Frelinghuysen and the Classis of Amsterdam finally ended in 1738, when an agreement was signed to end the years of bitterness.

Despite all the complaints against Frelinghuysen, he still continued preaching and making a difference in the Raritan Valley of New Jersey.  He wrote a series of sermons in 1733 that were published in Amsterdam in 1736.  Through his sermons, he aimed to convert as many people as possible by preaching that God would judge the unconverted.  His sermons helped pave the way for future revivalists in the Middle Colonies.  Although it may seem that many people were unhappy with Frelinghuysen, he managed to convert hundreds of people and commit them to full membership in his church before his death in 1747 in New Jersey.

Sources For Research

The research for our project mostly came from four books. The first book is the Forerunner of the Great Awakening by Joel R Beeke. Most of the research about his background and life came from this book. The second book is Boel’s Complaint Against Frelinghuisen edited by Joseph Anthony Loux, Jr. The research about the complaints between Frelinghuysen and the Classis of Amsterdam came from this book. The third book is The Dutch Reformed Church in the American Colonies by Gerald F. De Jong. From this book, we obtained the establishment of the Dutch Reformed churches in New York and New Jersey. The last book that we used was the Historical Directory of the Reformed Church in America. From this book, we obtained the research from where Frelinghuysen served as a pastor.

Take Away

From our project about Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen, a reader can learn a couple things. One thing that a reader can take away is that the Great Awakening caused a lot of conflicts. The conflicts were not only between the church and nonreligious people, but also in-between the people involved in the Dutch Reformed Church. These problems were also spread far distances not just in the Raritan Valley. From this people can conclude that problems in the Raritan Valley were still heard in Amsterdam. In the end, the Great Awakening and Frelinghuysen caused a lot of problems that were heard all around the world.

Further Reading List

F., De Jong Gerald. The Dutch Reformed Church in the American Colonies. Eerdmans. 2008.

Frelinghuysen, Theodorus Jacobus, and Joel R. Beeke. Forerunner of the Great Awakening:
Sermons by Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen (1691-1747)
. Eerdmans, 2000.

Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: The Roots of Evangelical Christianity in Colonial

            America. Yale University Press, 2009.

Loux, Joseph Anthony. Boel’s Complaint Against Frelinghuisen. Hamilton Printing Company,

VandenBerge, Peter N. Historical Directory of the Reformed Church in America, 1628-1978.
Eerdmans, 1978.


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