While in Scripture people are not converted because they see visions telling them they have been saved, and in previous works of genuine revival concluding one was converted because of visions of such a kind was plainly warned against as soul-damning error, under Evan Roberts such work was set forth as evidence that the spirit world was accomplishing its ends and many were being truly born again. The error of Evan Roberts’s acceptance of “conversion” by vision was proleptically identified with powerful and pinpoint accuracy by the great theologian of the American First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards:
Persons having religious affections of many kinds, accompanying one another, is not sufficient to determine whether they have any gracious affections or no. . . . It is evident that there are counterfeits of all kinds of gracious affections; as of love to God, and love to the brethren, as just now observed; so of godly sorrow for sin, as in Pharaoh, Saul, Ahab, and the children of Israel in the wilderness; [Exod 9:27; 1 Sam 24:16-17 and 1 Sam 26:21; 1 Kings 21:27; Num 14:39-40] and of the fear of God, as in the Samaritans, who feared the Lord, and served their own gods at the same time, (2 Kings 17:32-33) and those enemies of God we read of, Ps 66:3, who through the greatness of God’s power, submit themselves to him, or, as it is in the Hebrew, lie unto him, i.e. yield a counterfeit reverence and submission: so of gracious gratitude, as in the children of Israel, who sang God’s praise at the Red Sea, (Ps 106:12) and Naaman, the Syrian, after his miraculous cure of his leprosy (2 Kings 5:15, etc.). So of spiritual joy, as in the stony-ground hearers, (Matt 13:20) and particularly many of John the Baptist’s hearers, (John 5:35). So of zeal, as in Jehu, (2 Kings 10:6) and in Paul before his conversion, (Gal 1:14; Phil 3:6) and the unbelieving Jews, (Acts 22:3; Rom 10:2). So graceless persons may have earnest religious desires, which may be like Balaam’s desires, which he expresses under an extraordinary view of the happy state of God’s people, as distinguished from all the rest of the world, (Num 23:9-10). They may also have a strong hope of eternal life, as the Pharisees had.
And as men, while in a state of nature, are capable of a resemblance of all kinds of religious affection, so nothing hinders but that they may have many of them together. And what appears in fact, abundantly evinces that it is thus very often. Commonly, when false affections are raised high, many of them attend each other. The multitude that attended Christ into Jerusalem, after that great miracle of raising Lazarus, seem to be moved with many religious affections at once, and all in a high degree. They seem to be filled with admiration; and there was a show of high affection of love; also a great degree of reverence, in their laying their garments on the ground for Christ to tread upon. They express great gratitude to him, for the great and good works he had wrought, praising him with loud voices for his salvation; and earnest desires of the coming of God’s kingdom, which they supposed Jesus was now about to set up; and they showed great hopes and raised expectations of it, expecting it would immediately appear. Hence they were filled with joy, by which they were so animated in their acclamations, as to make the whole city ring again with the noise of them; and they appeared great in their zeal and forwardness to attend Jesus, and assist him without further delay, now in the time of the great feast of the passover, to set up his kingdom.
It is easy from the nature of the affections, to give an account why, when one affection is raised very high, that it should excite others; especially if the affection which is raised high, be that of counterfeit love, as it was in the multitude who cried Hosanna. This will naturally draw many other affections after it. For, as was observed before, love is the chief of the affections, and as it were, the fountain of them. Let us suppose a person, who has been for some time in great exercise and terror through fear of hell; his heart weakened with distress and dreadful apprehensions, upon the brink of despair; and who is all at once delivered, by being firmly made to believe, through some delusion of Satan, that God has pardoned him, and accepts him as the object of his dear love, and promises him eternal life. Suppose also, that this is done through some vision, or strong imagination suddenly excited in him, of a person with a beautiful countenance smiling on him—with arms open, and with blood dropping down—which the person conceives to be Christ, without any other enlightening of the understanding to give a view of the spiritual, divine excellency of Christ and his fulness, and of the way of salvation revealed in the gospel. Or, suppose some voice or words coming as if they were spoken to him, such as these, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee;” or, “Fear not, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” which he takes to be immediately spoken by God to him, though there was no preceding acceptance of Christ, or closing of the heart with him: I say, if we should suppose such a case, what various passions would naturally crowd at once, or one after another, into such a person’s mind! It is easy to be accounted for, from the mere principles of nature, that a person’s heart, on such an occasion, should be raised up to the skies with transports of joy, and be filled with fervent affection to that imaginary God or Redeemer, who, he supposes, has thus rescued him from the jaws of such dreadful destruction, and received him with such endearment, as a peculiar favourite. Is it any wonder that now he should be filled with admiration and gratitude, his mouth should be opened, and be full of talk about what he has experienced? That, for a while, he should think and speak of scarce any thing else, should seem to magnify that God who has done so much for him, call upon others to rejoice with him, appear with a cheerful countenance, and talk with a loud voice? That however, before his deliverance, he was full of quarrellings against the justice of God, now it should be easy for him to submit to God, own his unworthiness, cry out against himself, appear to be very humble before God, and be at his feet as tame as a lamb; now confessing his unworthiness, and crying out, Why me? Why me? Thus Saul, who, when Samuel told him that God had appointed him to be king, makes answer, “Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of
and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin? Wherefore
then speakest thou so to me?” [1 Sam 9:21]. Much in the language of David, the
true saint, 2 Sam 7:18, “Who am I, and what is my father’s house, that thou hast
brought me hitherto?” Is it to be wondered at, that now he should delight to be
with them who acknowledge and applaud his happy circumstances, and that he
should love all such as esteem and admire him and what he has experienced? That
he should have violent zeal against all who make nothing of such things, be
disposed openly to separate, and as it were to proclaim war with all who are
not of his party? That he should now glory in his sufferings, and be very much
for condemning and censuring all who seem to doubt, or make any difficulty of
these things? And, while the warmth of his affections last, that he should be
mighty forward to take pains, and to deny himself, and to promote the interest
of a party favouring such things? Or that he should seem earnestly desirous to
increase the number of them, as the Pharisees compassed sea and land to make
one proselyte? [Matthew 23:15]. I might mention many other things, which will
naturally arise in such circumstances. He must have but slightly considered
human nature, who thinks that such things as these cannot arise in this manner,
without any supernatural interposition of divine power. Israel
Truly, the gospel of the First Great Awakening and that of Evan Roberts were in radical discontinuity.
 Pgs. 250-251, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, Jonathan Edwards. Italics in original.