This little-known 'Great Awakening' lasted about 30 years and its immediate effects were extraordinarily widespread. It also gave a remarkable impetus to world missions.
This awakening began as a prayer-movement in 1784, when John Erskine of Edinburgh re-published Jonathan Edward's earnest plea for revival prayer. It was entitled, 'An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom". Denomination after denomination devoted a monthly Monday evening to prayer, first in Britain, then in the US.
The barriers were great. There was moral decline following the war of independence in America. The French Revolution, infidelity and rationalism in Europe and dwindling congregations everywhere.
The beginning of the revival can be traced to the industrial towns of Yorkshire in late 1791, spreading through all areas and denominations. The Methodists alone grew from around 72,000 at Wesleys death in 1791 to almost a quarter of a million within a generation. At the same time, the churches in Wales became packed again and thousands gathered in the open air. The Haldanes (Robert and James) and Thomas Chalmers, with a few others, saw phenomenal awakenings in Scotland. Ireland too, saw local awakenings, especially among the Methodists. A remarkable result of these UK revivals was the founding the British and Foreign Bible Society, The Religious Tract Society, The Baptist Missionary Society, The London Missionary Society, The Church Missionary Society and a host of other evangelistic agencies.
It also achieved considerable social reform; evangelical Anglicans successfully fought for the abolition of the slave trade, prisons were reformed, Sunday Schools began and a number of benevolent institutions were commenced. In the rest of the world similar movements arose.
Around 1800 Scandinavia was impacted and in Switzerland a visit of Robert Haldane sparked off revivals among the Reformed churches. Germany experienced revival and achieved lasting social reforms and missionary fervour. In the US the Concert of Prayer was very widespread from 1794 and by 1798 the awakening had broken out everywhere. Every state and every evangelical denomination was affected. Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards, took over Yale College in 1795 and saw over half the students converted in just one year. Other colleges enjoyed similar movements of the Spirit.
Orr reports that there were no emotional extravagances in the east coast revivals. This was far from the case in other areas. Francis Asbury was sent from England, with and other Methodist circuit-riding preachers, to preach in the Frontiers. James McGready and Barton Stone witnessed an astounding revival at Kentucky in 1800, with much trembling, shaking, tears, shouting and fainting. In 1801 Barton Stone was invited to minister at the Cambridge meeting house in Bourbon County. A second visit attracted 20,000 people to a 6-day camp-meeting, which witnessed astounding revival scenes, with hundreds falling at once, with shrieks and shouts and many conversions. The Frontier camp meetings were often sabotaged by drunks and mockers, many of whom repented and turned to God. All denominations were blessed by this revival. An utterly lawless community was transformed into a God-fearing one. The American Bible Society, American Tract Society, American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission and innumerable other societies were founded at this time.
This revival lasted around 30 years until around the early 1820's, but was soon followed by the 1830's revival, which lasted about 12 years.
This is probably one of the most comprehensive and insightful studies of the great western revival, sometimes called the Kentucky Revival, which occurred between the years 1797 and 1805. The story is presented in the context of the general social and economic conditions of life in those days and describes how this revival affected the moral tone of the region, the denominations of the West and the general religious life of the American nation.
Much attention is given to the extraordinary physical manifestations and unusual emotional features which characterised this revival. Sometimes these were experienced by individuals, either men, women or children and at other times whole families, or entire congregations were affected at once. Ministers, laypersons and scoffers alike were moved by the strange power. These divine visitations occurred in meeting houses, fields, roadsides, schools, homes and bedrooms. These manifestations are considered on physiological and psychological grounds. Since it was in this revival that camp-meetings originated, the character of the early meetings merits attention.
Breadalbane in Perthshire had seen a powerful revival in 1803 under the ministry of a student sent there by Mr James Haldane, who was himself used to fan the fires of revival around the neighbouring towns and villages. Then in 1816 revival fires broke out once more.
Finley was the son of an itinerating Methodist pioneer converted at the Cane Ridge Camp Meeting in 1801. The famous meetings began in 1800 and were used of God to bring multitudes to the Lord Jesus. The meetings often witnessed scenes of astounding manifestations. Shaking, jerking, shouting and catatonic (death-like) states were common. Laughter, barking like dogs and convulsions often preceded great conviction and conversion.
Despite his extraordinary height, the loss of one eye and continual ill-health he excelled as a preacher of the gospel. ‘His remarkable memory, copious vocabulary, keen sense of drama, infectious humour and vivid imagination, all combined to make him a preacher of rare eloquence with deep evangelistic concern….. a forceful and persuasive orator.’
It is no surprise that he was influenced by such great preachers as his contemporary Robert Roberts, and George Whitefield.
Benjamin Abbott was born on Long Island, New York, in 1732. Afer extreme conviction he was converted and was compelled to begin preaching the gospel in his fortieth year..
Wonderful conversions of the most hardened characters took place wherever he preached. Often revival signs of deep conviction, tears, swooning and other bodily agitations accompanied his ministry He has been referred to as "one of the wonders of America, no man's copy, an uncommon zealot for the blessed work of sanctification, who preached it on all occasions and in all congregations."
A short history of the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit of God in the Western States of America known as the 'Revival in Ohio and Kentucky,' with a brief account of the beginnings of ‘Shakerism.’
Christmas Evans is an example of a preacher who, having experienced extraordinary power and revival in his ministry, went right off course in doctrine and, inevitably in practice.
Robert Oliver brings out many lessons in this biography but the dramatic and sudden recovery of Evans from the crippling error of Sandemanianism is unforgettable. How great is the power of God!
The Kentucky Revival began in 1800 when camp meetings were held in Logan County. Later that year a camp meeting was scheduled in Cane Ridge and this venue subsequently became the centre of the revival.
There were often scenes of astounding manifestations. Shaking, jerking, shouting and catatonic (death-like) states were common. Laughter, barking like dogs and convulsions often preceded great conviction and conversion.
William Carey (1761-1834) was far from being a revivalist, but the story of his life has been an inspiration and example to thousands of others who have sought to spread the gospel across the world.
In 1793 he sailed for India. By 1813 more than 500 had been baptized and by his death in 1834 he lived to see 24 gospel churches planted in India and 40 fellow workers engaged in Indian missions.
This extremely rare pamphlet, comprised of thirteen letters written in late 1798 and the first six months of 1799, describes the effects of a glorious revival of religion in the states of New England and Nova Scotia.
The only original of this work (known to the Revival Library) can be found at the Evangelical Library in London, England.