EARLY CHURCH REVIVALS
TERTULLIAN writing about 200 A.D., vindicating the Christian religion, said: “Though we are strangers of no long standing, yet we have filled all places of your dominions, cities, islands, corporations, councils, armies, tribes, the senate, the palace, the courts of judicature. If the Christians had a mind to revenge themselves, their numbers are abundant, for they have a party, not in this or that province only, but in all quarters of the world.”
In 110 Ignatius spoke of bishops being settled in the ends of the world. Before 180 Christianity had spread rapidly in Asia Minor and Egypt; we also read of churches in North Africa, Gaul, Germany, Thrace, and Thessaly. But the great increase in the number of Christians came in the years 260-303. Of this period Eusebius writes, “Who could describe those vast collections of men that flocked to the religion of Christ, and the illustrious concourse in the houses of worship? On whose account, not content with the ancient buildings, they erected spacious churches in all the cities.’’
Harnack estimated that in 303 the Christian population in Asia Minor was nearly one-half of the whole, and that scattered throughout the Empire they were a considerable minority. But the greatest proof of the growth and strength of Christianity was that the Emperor Constantine embraced the faith, and gave peace, wealth and power to the Church.
THE EARLY BRITISH CHURCH
Gildas the wise, a Welsh monk, writing about 500 A.D. said, “The Church is spread over the nation. It had spread, moreover, into Ireland and Scotland. It was also a learned Church; it had its own version of the Bible and its own ritual.
St. Patrick (395-493) became the Apostle of Ireland. He said, “I was re-formed by the Lord, and He hath fitted me for being at this day what was once far enough from me, that I should concern myself for the salvation of others, when I used not to think even of my own.’’ For about thirty years St. Patrick preached the Gospel throughout Ireland, and established churches, monasteries, and schools from which missionaries were sent forth for four centuries after his death. A few lines from his famous “Breastplate” hymn—which he composed at Tara on the eve of his historic interview with King Leogaire—reveal the spirit of the man and the Gospel he preached.
“Christ as a light, illumine and guide me!
Christ as a shield, o’ershadow and cover me!
Christ be under me, Christ be over me!
Christ be beside me on the left hand and right!
Christ be before me, behind me, about me!
Christ this day be within and without me!”
“Salvation dwells with the Lord, with Christ the omnipotent Word,
From generation to generation—grant us, O Lord, Thy grace and salvation.”
From Ireland Columba went to lona and established a church and monastery. During the following years he and his associates founded churches, monasteries, and schools from the Orkneys and Hebrides south to the Humber.
The mission of Augustin and his successors in the sees of Canterbury and York so limited the field of the Irish and Scotch missionaries at home, that they “swarmed like bees into the dark places of heathen Europe.” Ireland was called “the Isle of Saints,” the “University of the West.” Copies of the Bible marked with commentaries in Irish to the Teutonic, Scandinavian, and Italian peoples are still extant.
Some of the leading Missionaries to Europe were: Columbanus, St. Gall, Kilian, Virgilius, Fridolin, and Willibrord. Thirteen monasteries were founded by the Irish in Scotland, twelve in England, seven in France, twelve in Brittany, seven in Lorraine, ten in Alsatia, sixteen in Bavaria, fifteen in Rhetia, Helvetia, and Allemania; also many in Thuringia and on the left bank of the Lower Rhine; and six in Italy. Of saints of Irish origin who are recognised as the patrons or founders of churches, there were a hundred and fifty in Germany, forty five in Gaul, thirty in Belgium, thirteen in Italy, and eight in Norway and Iceland.
This purely British Church maintained its independence until 1172, when the Synod of Cashel bound it to the Romanised Church in England.
WALDENSES REVIVAL 1184
The story of the faithfulness, endurance, and heroism of the Waldenses down the centuries is unique in Church History. Where they live “there is not a rock that is not a monument, not a meadow that has not seen an execution, not a village that does not register its martyrs.” In the twelfth century they experienced a revival which resulted in great evangelistic activity.This movement was led by Peter Waldo. All were missionaries, and preached in the houses, streets, and market places. Rev. Clarke says of them, “ The sect spread with extraordinary rapidity, and extended from Arragon to Ponierania and Bohemia, though most numerous in the south of Frances Alsace, and in the mountain districts of Savoy, Switzerland and Northern Italy.”
In 1315 it was reckoned that there were 80,000 true Christians in Bohemia alone. This remarkable spiritual revival was partly the result of the labours of three reformers, Conrad of Waidhausen, Milic of Moravia, and Matthias of Janow; it prepared the way for the movement that was led by John Huss.
In 1467 some Bohemians, Waldenses, and Moravians united in what was known as the Unitas Fratrum Church. When the Reformation dawned they had four hundred churches, and were circulating their own Bohemian Bible. This persecuted remnant of the followers of Huss continued until 1715 when Christian David led a company of them into Saxon Silesia where they settled on the estate of Count Zinzendorf.
In the 14th century Wickliffe reopened the Bible, and began to expose the errors of the Roman Church. Many were converted through his preaching and writings. He also founded an association of preachers called Lollards, and sent them to preach up and down the country.
Wickcliffe was a man of prayer, and the reforms he advocated were the result of his own spiritual enlightenment through reading the Bible. He declared, “The sacred Scriptures are the property of the people, and one which no one should be allowed to wrest from them. Christ and His apostles converted the world by making known the Scriptures, and I pray with all my heart that through doing the things contained in this book, we may all together come to the everlasting life.”
John Huss embraced the doctrines of Wickliffe, and after exerting a mighty influence for the Gospel inBohemia, he was martyred in 1415.
After listening to a sermon from an Augustinian friar, Savonarola at the age of twenty-three decided to adopt the monastic life. He became famous as a preacher in the Lent of 1489, and shortly afterwards he was elected Prior of St. Mark’s Convent, Florence.
Villari says, “Wonderful was the effect of Savonarola’s preaching on the corrupt and pagan society of Florence. His natural, spontaneous heart stirring eloquence, with its exalted imagery and outbursts of righteous indignation, was entirely unprecedented in that era of pedantry and the simulation of the classic oratory.
The Prior’s preaching confounded his foes, for it completely changed the aspect of the city. The women cast off their jewels and dressed simply; young profligates were transformed into sober, religious men, the churches were filled with people at prayer, and the Bible was diligently read.
The fame of this marvellous preacher was now extending throughout the world by means of his printed sermons. Even the Sultan of Turkey commanded them to be translated into Turkish for his own study. Of course, the individual aim of Savonarola was simply to be the regenerator of religion.” As one of the first Protestants, and as a herald of the Reformation, Savonarola soon got into trouble with the Pope, and as a result he was executed in 1498.
Under the Roman Church millions of souls lived in continual fear of the wrath to come. No doubt their cry came up before God and He came down to deliver them.
Through bitter experience Martin Luther knew the spiritual agonies of the people, and the failure of any good works to give assurance of salvation. Then he began to read the Bible, and slowly the truth of Justification by Faith dawned upon his soul.
It is wonderful to follow the growth of Luther’s work. The Reformation burned in his heart. He was possessed with divine strength and wisdom, as he met each difficult situation.
Luther prayed hours every day. Once a spy followed him to a hotel. The next day he told his employer that Luther had prayed nearly all night, and that he could never conquer one who prayed like that.
One day Luther was told that Melancthon was dying. He hurried to see him, and aroused him from his stupor. Melancthon looked at him and said, ”O Luther, is this you? Why don’t you let me depart in peace?” “We can't spare you yet, Philip,” replied Luther; and turning round, he went upon his knees, and wrestled with God for his recovery. From that time Melancthon recovered. Luther said, “God gave me back my brother Melancthon in direct answer to prayer.”
Luther knew what it was to travail in prayer, to wrestle with the powers of darkness that engulfed the whole world. Listen to him in an agony of prayer in the morning of the day when he had to make his defence before the Diet of Worms. “O Almighty and Everlasting God! How terrible is this world! How weak is the flesh, and how powerful is Satan! O God! O God! O God! Do Thou help me against all the wisdom of the world! For this is not my work, but Thine. The cause is Thine, and it is a righteous and eternal cause. O Lord! Help me! Faithful and unchangeable God! Thou hast chosen me for this work. I know it well! Act, then, O God, stand at my side, for the sake of Thy well-beloved Jesus Christ. Amen.”
God answered this prayer immediately, and filled Luther with such strength and wisdom that he won that day the greatest victory in the history of the Reformation.
The Reformation soon spread over Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, and the British Isles. But behind this mighty movement we must remember there were the agonising prayers of millions of hearts; much preaching of the Gospel doctrines; and through the invention of printing, a wide distribution of the Scriptures.
Through reading the Bible John Calvin became a wholehearted follower of the Reformed faith, and before long he was a leader of the Protestants in Paris. In 1536 he published “The Institutes of the Christian Religion,” which was the first complete outline and vindication of Protestantism.
The citizens of Geneva asked Calvin to come and help them in 1541, and for over twenty years he laboured to make Geneva a city of God. Attendance at public worship became compulsory. Wearing gay clothes, and dancing, were punishable offences; marriage was regularised; unchastity was punished with death. The taverns and haunts of sin vanished. A good education became available to all. The churches were crowded, and Geneva became a fountain-head of Protestant inspiration to all Europe.
John Knox the Scottish Reformer was a mighty man of prayer. Here is an example of how he prayed, “O Lord, give me Scotland, or I die !” After a time of stillness, again the cry, “O Lord, give me Scotland, or I die !” Once more deep silence. Then again the cry with more intense pathos, “O Lord, give me Scotland, or I die.” God gave him Scotland.
If ever the man and the hour struck together it was when John Knox landed in Scotland in 1559, and commenced his history-changing tour preaching “root and branch reform.” His trumpet-like call sounded over mountain and moor, and within a few weeks the chief centres of Scotland were won for the Protestant faith.
This revival began in 1625, and continued for some years. Closely following was the revival at Kirk of Shotts in June, 1630. Here a large number of godly persons gathered for several days of prayer, and conference. At least one whole night was spent in prayer, and when John Livingstone preached, about five hundred persons were converted.
ULSTER REVIVAL 1625
This remarkable revival was promoted by a band of faithful ministers. They went forth in companies to evangelise the land, and God used them mightily. There was much prayer and faithful preaching in this revival.
A contemporary description of one of these ministers can be taken as typical of them all. “He was a man of notable constitution, both of body and mind; of a majestic, awful, yet affable and amiable countenance and carriage, thoroughly learned, of strong parts, deep invention, solid judgement, and a most public spirit for God. His gift of preaching was such, that seldom could any observe withdrawing of assistance in public, which in others is frequent. He spent many days and nights in prayer, alone and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God.”
Here is a short description of those happy days, “Preaching and praying were so pleasant, and hearers so eager and greedy, that no day was long enough, nor any room large enough, to answer their strong desires and large expectations.”
In 1666 this movement began in the Lutheran Church under the ministry of Spener. He was moved to oppose the dead orthodoxy that was prevalent in many of the churches, and to work for a revival of true religion. The pietists sought to promote Bible study, the development of a lay ministry and practical Christian living. They believed that a blameless life should be an indispensable qualification for the ministry, and that preaching should be simple and direct. Riggenbach says, “In less than half a century pietism spread its influence through all the spheres of life, and through all classes of society.”
Spener and Franke also had an active part in the founding of the Danish-Halle Mission, and in the training of such ‘men as Count Zinzendorf, and the missionaries Ziegenblag and Schwartz.
This revival began in 1727. Previous to this the settlers at Herrnhut could not live together in peace. Finally Count Zinzendorf gave tall his time to work for a settlement of their differences.
On the 12th of May, 1727, they all, with great joy, gave themselves afresh to God, and promised to bury their disputes for ever.
The following account of the revival is taken from the “History of the Moravians” by A. Bost. “From that time there was a wonderful effusion of the Spirit on this happy church, until August the 13th when the measure of Divine grace seemed absolutely overflowing.
Every day brought some new blessing. The Count applied himself to the visiting of the brethren. This was the beginning of those little associations which were afterwards called “bands.” These consisted of two or three persons, who met together privately, to converse on their spiritual state, to exhort, and reprove, and pray for each other.’’
On the 22nd of July some brethren “agreed to repair at stated times to a hill near Herrnhut, in order to pour out their souls to God in prayer and singing. On the same day the Count set out for Silesia. Before his departure several of the brethren engaged to devote themselves to the advancement of the revival.” At this time they had a great blessing through the reading of the First Epistle of St. John.
“On the Lord’s day, the 10th of August, the minister Rothe was seized, in the midst of the assembly, with an unusual impulse. He threw himself upon his knees before God, and the whole assembly prostrated themselves with him under the same emotions. An uninterrupted course of singing and prayer, weeping and supplication, continued till midnight. All hearts were united in love.”
The brethren held a Communion service on Friday, 13th. It was full of deep spiritual power and emotion. The whole assembly united in prayer to God, and then sung, ‘My soul before Thee prostrate lies,’ amidst tears and sobs, so that it could hardly be distinguished whether they were weeping or singing. The scene was so moving that the pastor could hardly tell what he saw or heard.
“A few days after the 13th of August, a remarkable revival took place among the children at Herrnhut and Bertholdsdorf. On the 18th of August, all the children at the boarding school were seized with an extraordinary impulse of the Spirit, and passed the whole night in prayer. From this time, a constant work of God was going on in the minds of the children, in both places. No words can express the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit upon these children.”
On the 25th of August the brethren began the ministry of continual prayer which continued for over a hundred years. “They considered that, as in the ancient Temple the fire on the altar never ceased to burn, so in the Church, which is now the Temple of God, the prayers of the saints ought always to ascend to the Lord.”
In January, 1728, the brethren held their first missionary meeting. “This meeting was celebrated by meditations on different portions of Holy Scripture, and fervent prayers; in the midst of which the church experienced a remarkable enjoyment of the presence of the Spirit.”
The Moravian Missions began in 1731. Work was commenced in the West Indies and Greenland. In the years that followed missionaries were sent to Labrador, North America, South America, South Africa, Asia, Australia, and many islands of the sea. The Moravians Missions have been a mighty force in the evangelisation of the heathen, but we must remember that it all began in the revival in 1727.
JONATHAN EDWARDS’ REVIVAL
Edwards reveals the secret of this revival. He said: “The spirit of those that have been in distress for the souls of others, so far as I can discern, seems not to be different from that of the apostle who travailed for souls.” On the evening of the day preceding the outbreak of the revival, some Christians met, and spent the whole night in prayer.
There was scarcely a person in the town, (Northampton), old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world. The work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more; souls did as it were come by flocks to Jesus Christ. This work of God soon made a glorious alteration in the town; so that in the spring and summer following, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God; it was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.
“There were remarkable tokens of God’s presence in almost every house. It was a time of joy in families on account of salvation being brought unto them; parents rejoicing over their children as new born, and husbands over their wives, and wives over their husbands. The goings of God were seen in His sanctuary, God’s day was a delight, and His tabernacles were amiable.”
THE GREAT AWAKENING
This revival in America began in 1735. Jonathan Edwards’ revival was the beginning of this awakening which continued for about twenty-five years, and was powerful in many American states.
From Northampton the revival spread to South Hadley, Suffield, Sunderland, Green River, West Springfield, Long Meadow, Enfield, and Northfield. From these towns as a centre it spread throughout New England and the Middle States.
The leaders in this revival were Edwards, the Tennents, Davenport, and Whitfield. The preaching of Whitfield stirred the whole country, but it should be remembered that he was preaching to people whose hearts were prepared, and who were longing for the Gospel message.
Of this period William Conant writes, “The preaching of the Gospel was attended with the most wonderful power, in every part of New England, and revivals gave new life and multiplied numbers to the churches, in a larger number of towns than our space enables us to enumerate, throughout New England, and in the Middle States.
“ It cannot be doubted that at least 50,000 souls were added to the churches of New England, out of a population of about 250,000. A fact sufficient to revolutionise, as indeed it did, the religious and moral character, and to determine the destinies, of the country.
“Not less than 150 new Congregational churches were established in twenty years. The increase of Baptist churches in the last half of the century, was still more wonderful, rising from 9 to upwards of 400 in number, with a total of thirty thousand members.” There was a similar growth in the Presbyterian and other churches.
“The new converts were ‘fervent in spirit.’ They thirsted for the salvation of souls. Unexampled efforts. were immediately employed for the spread of the Gospel. Some went from house to house in their respective neighbourhoods ‘warning every man and teaching every man,’ and exhorting all to turn to the Lord. Pious ministers were stirred to unusual exertion, and old Christians renewed their youth. ‘The Lord gave the word; great was the company of them that published it.’
They had deep convictions of the evil of sin, and of the peril of a rebellious state. The love of God in Christ overpowered their souls. Their views of the solemn realities of another world were vivid and heart-affecting. Their earnest appeals made the stout hearted tremble, awed many a reprobate into silence, and wrung tears from daring and hardened offenders. Tens of thousands bowed before the majesty of truth. Some of the most powerful preachers emigrated to other States; and wherever they went, the floods of blessing poured over the land.”
After some years of difficult and almost fruitless work among the North American Indians, David Brainerd saw a powerful revival commence in July, 1745. It was in answer to agonizing prayer.
Brainerd wrote, “July 26th. In the evening, God was pleased to help me in prayer, beyond what I have experienced for some time. My soul was especially drawn out for the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom; and for the conversion of my poor people; and I relied on God for the accomplishment of that great work.
“My soul, my very soul longed for the ingathering of the poor heathen; and I cried to God for them most willingly and heartily, and yet because I could not but cry. I longed that the remaining part of my life might be filled up with more fervency and activity in things of God.
“August 2nd. In the evening I retired, and my soul was drawn out in prayer to God, especially for my poor people, to whom I had sent word that they might gather together, that I might preach to them the next day. I was much enlarged in praying for their saving conversion, and scarcely ever found my desires for anything of this nature so sensibly and clearly disinterested, and free from selfish views.
“It seemed to me, I had no care, or hardly any desire to be the instrument of so glorious a work, as I wished and prayed for among the Indians; if the blessed work might be accomplished to the honour of God, and the enlargement of the dear Redeemer’s kingdom, this was all my desire and care; and for this mercy I hoped, but with trembling. My rising hopes, respecting the conversion of the Indians, have been so often dashed, that my spirit is as it were broken, and courage wasted, and I hardly dare hope.
“August 3rd. Having visited the Indians in these parts in June last, and tarried with them some considerable time preaching almost daily, I now found them serious, and a number of them under deep concern for an interest in Christ. I preached to them this. day, ‘ Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.’
“The Lord, I am persuaded, enabled me, in a manner somewhat uncommon, to set before them the Lord Jesus Christ as kind and compassionate Saviour, inviting distressed and perishing sinners to accept everlasting mercy, and a surprising concern soon became apparent among them. There were about 20 adult persons together, and not above two that I could see with dry eyes.
“August 6th. In the morning I discoursed to the Indians at the house where we lodged. Many of them were tenderly affected, so that a few words about their souls would cause the tears to flow freely, and produce many sobs and groans.
“In the afternoon I again discoursed to them. They seemed eager to hear; but there appeared nothing very remarkable, till near the close of my discourse; and then divine truths were attended with a surprising influence, and produced a great concern among them. All seemed in an agony to obtain an interest in Christ. It was surprising to see how their hearts seemed to be pierced with the tender and melting invitations of the Gospel, when there was not a word of terror spoken to them.
“August 8th. In the afternoon I preached to about sixty-five persons, and was favoured with uncommon freedom. There was much visible concern among them; but when I spoke to one and another more particularly, the power of God seemed to descend upon the assembly ‘like a rushing mighty wind,’ and with an astonishing energy bore down all before it.
“I stood amazed at the influence which seized the audience: old men and women, and some children, as well as persons of middle age.
“I never saw a day like it in all respects: it was a day wherein I am persuaded the Lord did much to destroy the kingdom of darkness among this people.”
This revival among the Indians continued for some years, and produced lasting results.
THE PURITAN REVIVALThe name Puritan designated those in the Anglican Church who “sought a simpler faith and form of service.” This movement grew out of the widespread reading of the Bible.
These men were the salt of English society in their day. They stood for liberty and toleration, and were the champions of the rights of the people.
Owen, Bunyan, Baxter, Milton, Leighton, Flavel, and others, gave to the world some of the best evangelical literature. How many have been blessed through the “Pilgrim’s Progress”?
Richard Baxter was a true revivalist. It is said that his study walls were stained with praying breath. Through him God did a great work in Kidderminster. He tells us of converts holding a Saturday evening prayer meeting for blessing on the following day of such congregations that they had to build five new galleries in his church; that on Sundays there was no disorder in the streets, but that you would hear a hundred families singing psalms in ‘their ‘homes.
The Puritan movement eventually branched into different church organisations. Many emigrated to America. How much do we owe to this seventeenth century revival?
THE QUAKER REVIVAL
In the middle of the seventeenth century there were thousands of men and women who were adrift from the Church of England. They were seeking for the truth, and were like sheep without a shepherd. In addition to Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, we read of Sabbatarians, Seekers, Traskites, Millenaries, Familists, Etheringtonians, Fifth Monarchy men, Muggletonians and many others.
George Fox was born in 1624. He was brought up in a Puritan home, and could say, “ When I came to eleven years of age, I knew pureness and righteousness. The Lord taught me to be faithful inwardly to God, and outwardly to man.” But in spite of his good life Fox was not at peace; he went through years of spiritual darkness and conflict until one day he seemed to hear a voice say to him, ‘‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.” He said, “My heart did leap for joy. My desires after the Lord grew stronger. Though I read the Scriptures that spoke of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit.” In this way God prepared Fox to be His messenger to seeking souls all over the land.
He obeyed God’s call and he said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation and their way to God; even that Divine Spirit which would lead them into all truth. With and by this divine power and Spirit of God, and the light of Jesus, I was to bring people off from all their own ways, to Christ, the new and living Way, and to know the Spirit of Truth in the inward parts, and to be led thereby.”
William Penn wrote of Fox, “He had an extraordinary gift in opening the Scriptures. But above all he excelled in prayer. The most living, reverent frame I ever beheld, was his in prayer.” His personality radiated the holiness, and majesty, and love of God. Sinners were afraid and often trembled in his presence.
Fox said that the Lord told him, “If but one man or woman were raised up by His power to stand and live in the same spirit the apostles and prophets were in, he or she should shake all the country for ten miles around.” This is how the Quakers lived. “When the people came to see Friends’ honesty and truthfulness, and their lives and conversations did preach and reach to the witness of God in all people, all the enquiry was; where was a draper or shop-keeper or any other tradesman that was a Quaker; in so much that Friends had double the trade beyond any of their neighbours, and if there was any trading they had it. Then the cry was, ‘If we let these people alone they will take the trading of the nation out of our hands’.”
The founding of the State of Pennsylvania is a glorious chapter in Church history. Listen to William Penn making the Treaty with the Indians. ‘The Great Spirit who made you and me and all men, knows that I and my children wish to live in peace and friendship with the Indians. The children of Onus and the Indians should be brothers to each other; all paths should be free and open; the doors of the white men should be open to the Indians, and the doors of the Indians to the white men, and they should make each welcome as friends. This league and chain of friendship should grow stronger and stronger, and be kept bright and clean, without rust or spot, while the waters run down the creeks and rivers, and while the sun and moon and stars endure.’
‘There were between fifty, and sixty thousand Quakers in England at the end of the, first forty years of the Quaker revival. They were more numerous than the Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists combined. In proportion to the population they were even more numerous in America, where they had founded two colonies, and where they included more than half the inhabitants in several other important districts.’ These statistics are taken from, “A Short History of Quakerism,” by E. B. Emmott.
REVIVALS IN WALES
Previous to the Evangelical Revival the moral and religious conditions in Wales were even worse than in England. The first Welsh revivalist was Griffith Jones, and his preaching up and down the country produced lasting results. He was followed by Howell Harris, who was a powerful preacher. Writing in his diary he says, “I continued to go on exhorting the poor people, and they flocked to hear me every Sunday evening. I soon became the public talk of the country. The Word was attended with such power that many on the spot cried out to God for the pardon of their sins.’’
Harris was helped, at times, in his evangelistic labours, by Whitfield. Daniel Rowlands was another Welsh revivalist, and he lived at the same time. It is estimated that no less than seven revivals took place during his ministry. He was a man of prayer. William Williams, of Pantycelyn, was another of the Welsh revivalists of this period, but it was through his hymns that his greatest work was done. These men were the leaders of the Evangelical Revival in Wales, and the churches they founded were called the Calvinistic Methodist Church.
Wales has been blessed with many local revivals. The story that follows is very interesting. “In a remote corner of Montgomeryshire the religious friends of the place had heard so much about revivals elsewhere, that they felt a deep longing for the same in their own locality, and they resolved to hold meetings for prayer.” One night they heard some beautiful singing that seemed to come from the sky. “The next night at the opening of the service the Holy Ghost descended mightily upon them. This proved to be the dawn of a great revival in the neighbourhood.”
THE METHODIST PENTECOST
The Methodist Revival was born in the power of the Holy Spirit. Wesley records: “Jan. 1, 1739. Mr Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hutchins, and my brother Charles, were present at our love-feast in Fetter Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About Three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, “We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.”
Of this love-feast Whitfield said, “It was a Pentecostal season indeed.” And he adds, concerning those meetings, that, “sometimes whole nights were spent in prayer. Often we have been filled as with new wine, and often I have seen them overwhelmed with the Divine Presence, and cry out, ‘Will God, indeed, dwell with men upon earth? How dreadful is this place! This is no other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven !’ ”
Of this period Rev. Ryle said, “These times were the darkest age that England has passed through in the last three hundred years. Anything more deplorable than the condition of the country, as to religion, morality, and high principle, it is very difficult to conceive.”
On February 17th, 1739, Whitfield preached his first field sermon at Rose Green. Then he preached at Kingswood near Bristol. Thousands of people heard him, and were deeply moved by his preaching.
When Whitfield left for America, Wesley carried on the work. He preached in the open air, for the first time, at Kingswood. Of this place he says, “In the middle of February, Kingswood was a wilderness, and when the month of June arrived, it was already blossoming like the rose.’’
This was the beginning of Wesley’s amazing ministry which resulted in a revival of religion all over the British Isles. In this ministry he travelled 250,000 miles, and preached 40,000 sermons, often to 20,000 persons at once.
The Rev. W. H. Fitchett says of Wesley, “He quickened the conscience, not merely of his own followers, but of the Church which had cast him out, and of the whole nation to which he belonged.” Of Wesley himself he said, “There was something of the unconscious loftiness of Alpine peaks about him; a remoteness—as though caught from some purer air.” From whence did he draw the strength and inspiration for his work? Here is the secret: “I resolve to devote an hour morning and evening to private prayer, no pretence or excuse whatsoever.”
Whitfield crossed the Atlantic thirteen times and travelled extensively in the British Isles. Wherever he went thousands gathered to hear him preach. He lived constantly with a clear realisation of the reality of eternity: of heaven and hell, and that the eternal destiny of souls was in the balance. Only eternity will reveal fully the tremendous influence he exerted for God.
Whitfield once said, “It is not for me to tell how often I use secret prayer; if I did not use it, nay, if in one sense, I did not pray without ceasing, it would be difficult for me to keep up that frame of soul, which, by the Divine blessing, I daily enjoy.”
We have not room to mention the work of the men God raised up to extend the Methodist revival. But those who have the opportunity should read the lives of John Nelson, Thomas Walsh, Francis Asbury, William Bramwell, Hugh Bourne, and William Clowes. These men were not content with steady progress in their work. “But they looked for, and obtained, times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.”
CAMBUSLANG REVIVAL, 1742
This work began under the ministry of the Rev. W. McCulloch. The news of revivals in England and America caused him to seek to promote a revival among his own people. Soon he had interested the church members in this work, and the congregations so increased in number that they had to hold the preaching services in the open air.
The interest increased until the minister was preaching every day, and spending much time in giving instructions to anxious sinners. The congregations on the hill side increased to nine or ten thousand, and ministers from far and near came to help in the work. Whitfield helped in this revival.
For many years afterwards, humble men and women who were converted at Cambuslang, lived among their neighbours with an unspotted Christian name, and then passed on peacefully to be with their Lord.
MISSIONS THE RESULT OF REVIVALS
About 1790 in England, Hannah More, Bishop Partens, Drs. Bogue, Andrew Fuller, Burder, and Rowland Hill, along with many others, were engaged in promoting a strong evangelical movement. At the same time Robert and James Haldane were engaged in revival work in Scotland.
As a direct result of the blessing experienced at that time, the Religious Tract Society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, the local London Missionary, and Church Missionary societies were formed. Also the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, which was the first society formed for the evangelisation of the heathen.
It was in 1791 that William Carey preached his famous missionary sermon, and said, “Expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God.” Who can say what the heathen world owes to Carey, and to the revival that produced this missionary movement?
AMERICAN REVIVALS AND MISSIONS
The year 1790 ushered in a new era of revivals for the United States. Religion had sadly declined during the previous years. Unitarianism had gained much ground, and infidel philosophy was poisoning the minds of millions of people.
At this time there were no American Missionary societies, no Bible societies, no Tract societies, no Education societies. At home—religious indifference; abroad—the darkness of death over the heathen world.
In 1790 there were extensive revivals in Pennsylvania and Virginia. “At this time,” says Dr. Griffin, “began the unbroken series of American revivals.” In New England, during four or five years, about one hundred and fifty churches were blessed with Revivals.
This revival period continued for many years, and powerful revivals prevailed in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolionas, and Georgia.
Harlan Page writes of a revival in New York, “The Lord appears now to be coming down on all parts of this great city, to arouse His children and to awaken sinners. Thousands of Christians here are praying as they never prayed before. Conversions are occurring in all parts of the city. Churches are daily crowded to overflowing, and a most fixed and solemn attention is given to the dispensation of the truth.”
Christians at that time believed that, “The Church is the Bride of Christ, and the mother of his children.” And that, “No soul is ever converted except as some believer has painfully travailed in birth for that soul.”
During this period of American revivals, the Christians began to feel their obligation to send the Gospel to the heathen. All the first foreign missionaries were the fruit of the revivals : Hall, Newell, Mills, Judson, Nott, Rice, Bingham, King, Thurston, and others. The American Board of Foreign Missions, the American Bible Society, the United Foreign Missionary Society, and other missionary movements, were formed at this time as a direct result of the revivals.
During these years many colleges were blessed with revivals. Dr. Tyler wrote of Yale College having thirteen special revivals in a period of twenty-five years.
THE LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY
Inspired by the example of William Carey going to India, Dr. Bogue, an Independent minister, through the “Evangelical Magazine” appealed to all Christians to support “at least twenty or thirty missionaries among the heathen.” As a result a company of Nonconformist ministers founded the London Missionary Society in September, 1795.
The first missionary party, consisting of over thirty persons, sailed down the Thames in the ship “Duff” on the 10th August, 1796, singing, “Jesus at Thy command we launch into the deep.” This society sent forth many great missionary pioneers and founders.
Robert Morrison worked for twenty seven years in China. He translated the Scriptures, and compiled a dictionary and grammar. John Williams gave himself to work in the South Seas. He discovered Raratonga, and from Raiatea as a centre he carried the Gospel to many islands until he was martyred in 1839. Through William Ellis much of Madagascar was brought to Christ.
Robert and Mary Moffat spread the Gospel from Kuruman over much of South Africa. David Livingstone died on his knees after thirty years in Central Africa. He was buried in Westminster Abbey, and on the stone in the nave are the words, “His life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelise the native races.” Thus was introduced the great missionary period in the history of the Protestant churches.
EARLY AMERICAN METHODIST REVIVALS
The following article is taken from the “New History of Methodism,” Vol. II., p. 106. “The early years of American Methodism witnessed an almost continuous revival. Scarcely a society was formed which did not grow out of a revival. The denomination grew because its preachers were endowed with holy energy and an unction from on high. The revival in Virginia was only one of many remarkable manifestations of divine grace in the very earliest years of our history.
“American Methodism grew after this manner, in no period of the early history were revivals more general than during the years from 1784 to 1808. At one time all Maryland was ablaze with revivals. Similar signs and wonders were seen in Virginia. In New England revival followed revival, some of them or great power. In 1800 one of the most remarkable spiritual movements of American history began in Kentucky, and spread through Tennessee and Ohio with the amazing swiftness of a prairie fire.”
Charles Grandison Finney testified, “I was powerfully converted on the morning of the 10th of October, 1821. In the evening of the same day, and on the morning of the following day, I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. I immediately found myself endued with such power from on high that a few words dropped here and there to individuals, were the means of their immediate conversion. My word seemed to fasten like barbed arrows in the souls of men. They cut like a sword. They broke the heart like a hammer. Multitudes can attest to this.
“Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go out and visit, and find that I had made no saving impression. I would exhort and pray with the same result. I would then set apart a day for private fasting and prayer, fearing that this power had departed from me, and would enquire anxiously after the reason of this apparent emptiness. After humbling myself, and crying out for help, the power would return upon me with all its freshness. This has been the experience of my life.”
For ten years: from 1824-1834, Finney laboured continually in powerful revivals. In 1834 he came to a great crisis in his life: his health was broken through his labours in preaching and praying; also at that time the subject of slavery was calling so much attention that revivals of religion were beginning to decline. In the month of July, 1834, as he was on a voyage, the burden became unbearable. The spirit of prayer was upon him, and he spent one whole day in prayer, until he prevailed with God. “After a day of unspeakable wrestling and agony in my soul, just at night, the subject cleared up to my mind. The Spirit led me to believe that all would come out right, and that God had yet a work for me to do; that I might be at rest; that the Lord would go forward with His work, and give me strength to take any part in it that He desired.”
In the Autumn of that year he delivered his famous “Lectures on Revivals of Religion.” The reading of these lectures has resulted in hundreds of revivals in America and other countries.
Finney became Professor of Theology in Oberlin College in 1835. Later he became President of the College. Twenty thousand students came under his influence during the years he was at Oberlin. While still in connection with the College he conducted some of the most powerful revivals of his ministry. He also visited England twice, and had revivals in many places.
Finney died in July, 1875, after a mighty ministry, in which Rivers of Living Water literally flowed to multitudes of souls. His revival ministry has been a tremendous blessing and challenge to the Christian Church. He emphasised that any company of Christians can have a revival if they will fulfil the necessary conditions; agonising prayer, and a balanced presentation of the truths of the Gospel.
Finney insisted that, “Young converts should be trained to labour for Christ, just as carefully as young recruits in an army are trained for war. The plan is to train a body of devoted Christians, who know how to pray, and how to converse with people about their souls, and how to attend anxious meetings, and deal with enquirers, and how to SAVE SOULS. When the day comes that the whole Church will realise that they are here on earth as a body of missionaries, and shall live and labour accordingly, then will the day of man’s redemption draw nigh.”
The secret of Finney’s power was the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and a life of prayer. He wrote, “In regard to my own experience, I will say that unless I had the spirit of prayer I could do nothing. If even for a day or an hour I lost the spirit of grace and supplication, I found myself unable to preach with power and efficiency, or to win souls by personal conversation. In this respect my experience was what it has always been.”
“I have said, more than once, that the spirit of prayer that prevailed in those revivals was a very marked feature of them. It was common for young converts to be greatly exercised in prayer; and in some instances so much so, that they were constrained to pray whole nights, and until their bodily strength was quite exhausted, for the conversion of souls around them. There was a great pressure of the Holy Spirit upon, the minds of Christians; and they seemed to bear about with them the burden of immortal souls.”
Those who have studied the statistics involved, state that only thirty per cent of the converts of the best evangelists stand, but they further state that eighty-five per cent of those converted in Finney’s revivals proved by their subsequent lives that they were soundly converted. The reason for this was that Finney was honest and thorough in his treatment of sinners and young converts.
REVIVAL IN ROCHESTER IN 1830.
After receiving many pressing calls to preach, Finney felt that as Rochester was the most needy— there were three Presbyterian Churches in a very low and divided state—it was the Lord’s will that he should go there.
Soon after he began to preach the ministers came together, and a great improvement in the spiritual state of the churches was manifested. Finney said, “The three churches, and indeed Christians of every denomination, seemed to make common cause, and went to work with a will, to pull sinners out of the fire.
“The spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so, that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to restrain their feelings under preaching. Mr. Abel Clary continued in Rochester as long as I did. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he would writhe and groan in agony. He never appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer.”
Soon there were some very marked conversions, one of the first being the wife of a prominent lawyer. The meetings became thronged with lawyers, physicians, and merchants. Many of the lawyers, became very anxious, and freely attended the enquiry meetings. It was in this revival that Finney began to use the “anxious seat.”
The revival took a tremendous hold of the High School. Nearly every teacher and student was converted. As a result, forty of those students became ministers, and a large number became foreign missionaries. The majority of the leading men and women in the city were converted. Some years later Dr. Beecher talking to Finney of this revival in Rochester, said; “That was the greatest revival of religion that the world has ever seen in so short a time. One hundred thousand were reported as having connected themselves with the churches as the result of that great revival.” The mighty working of the Spirit of God, as in this revival, continued throughout Finney’s long ministry.
REVIVAL IN KILSYTH AND ABERDEEN
In the early months of the year 1839 there was a quiet moving of the Spirit of God among the people in Kilsyth, Scotland. On July 23rd, of that year, William C. Burns preached to a great crowd of persons, and as he retold the story of the revival at Kirk of Shotts, the Spirit of God came mightily upon the people. They broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans. Some were screaming out in agony; others—among these, strong men—fell to the ground as if they had been dead.” Burns continued preaching powerfully for some days, and the awakening spread. All day long, in the vestry, the sessionhouse, and the manse the
anxious were being prayed with and instructed.
In August Burns returned to Dundee, and at the close of a prayer meeting told the story of the revival in Kilsyth. As he spoke the power of God descended on the people, and all were bathed in tears. From that evening, meetings were held every day for weeks. The whole town was moved, and dozens of prayer meetings sprang into existence. Burns spent many a day and many a night on his face before God. It was from long seasons of prayer, meditations, and humbling before God that he went forth to preach.
AMERICAN REVIVAL 1857-58
Finney writing of this revival said, “This winter of 1857-58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed throughout all the Northern States. It swept over the land with such power, that for a time it was estimated that not less than fifty thousand conversions occurred in a single week. This revival was carried on to large extent through lay influence, so much so, as almost to throw the ministers into the shade.
There had been a daily prayer meeting observed in Boston for several years; and in the Autumn previous to the great outburst, the daily prayer meeting had been established in Fulton Street, New York. Indeed, prayer meetings were established throughout the length and breadth of the Northern States. A divine influence seemed to pervade the whole land. It was estimated, that during this revival not less than 500,000 souls were converted in this country.
There was such a general confidence in the prevalence of prayer, that the people very extensively seemed to prefer meetings for prayer to meetings for preaching. The answers to prayer were constant, and so striking as to arrest the attention of the people generally throughout the land. It was evident that in answer to prayer the windows of heaven were opened and the Spirit of God poured out like a flood. The “New York Tribune” at that time published several extras, filled with the accounts of the progress of the revival in different parts of the United States.
The following account of the revival was published in a journal at that time, “Such a time as the present was never known since the days of the Apostles, for revivals. Revivals now cover our land, sweeping all before them, exciting the earnest cry from thousands, ‘What shall we do to be saved?’ Ministers seem baptised with the Holy Ghost, and preach with new power and earnestness. Meetings are held for prayer, and for exhortation, with the deepest interest, and the most astonishing results. The large cities and towns generally from Maine to California are sharing in this great and glorious work. It really seems as if the Millennium was upon us in its glory.”