And as there has been no room for any plausible objection against this work, in regard of the means; so neither in regard of the manner in which it has been carried on. It is true, persons’ concern for their souls has been exceeding great, the convictions of their sin and misery have risen to a high degree, and produced many tears, cries, and groans: but then they have not been attended with those disorders, either bodily or mental, that have sometimes prevailed among persons under religious impressions. --There has here been no appearance of those convulsions, bodily agonies, frightful screaming, swooning, and the like, that have been so much complained of in some places; although there have been some who, with the jailer, have been made to tremble under a sense of their sin and misery, --numbers who have been made to cry out from a distressing view of their perishing state, --and some that have been, for a time, in a great measure, deprived of their bodily strength, yet without any such convulsive appearances.
David Brainerds Journal, General Remarks On Part First, Comment 5
I have known men out in the fields, others at their weaving looms, so overcome by this sense of God that they were found prostrate on the ground..... Physical manifestations and prostrations have been a further feature. I find it somewhat difficult to explain this aspect, indeed I cannot; but this I will say, that the person who would associate this with satanic influence is coming perilously near committing the unpardonable sin. Lady Huntingdon on one occasion wrote to George Whitefield respecting cases of crying out and falling down in meetings, and advised him not to remove them from the meetings, as had been done. When this was done it seemed to bring a dampener on the meeting. She said, 'You are making a great mistake. Don't be wiser than God. Let them cry out; it will do a great deal more good than your preaching. p29-30
I have seen this happen over and over again during the recent movement in the Western Isles. Suddenly an awareness of God would take hold of a community, and, under the pressure of this divine presence, men and women would fall prostrate on the ground, while their cry of distress was made the means in God's hand, to awaken the indifferent who had set unmoved for years under the preaching of the gospel.
Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, 1949-1953, p29-30, 33
Perhaps the most common sign in times of revival has been the prostration of convicted souls. It was common in the Wesley-Whitefleld Revivals. Lady Huntingdon wrote to Whitefleld regarding the cases of crying out and falling down at the meetings, and advised him not to remove them, as had been done, for it seemed to bring a damper on the meeting. She wrote: "You are making a mistake. Don't be wiser than God. Let them cry out; it will do a great deal more good than your preaching." Wesley in his journals dated July 7th, 1739, recorded a conversation with Whitefield on this subject, whose objections were evidently founded on misrepresentations of fact. "But the next day he [Whitefield] had an opportunity of informing himself better: for no sooner had he begun . . . to invite all sinners to believe in Christ, than four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without either sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall all suffer God to carry on His own work in the way that pleaseth Him."
In the 1860 Revival in Tinevelly, South India, the main instrument God used was a native evangelist called Aroolappen,* a disciple of A. N. Groves. The movement began in the Brethren assemblies in which he had laboured, later spreading to other communities. Aroolappen wrote of the beginning of the movement as follows: "From the 4th May to the 7th the Holy Spirit was poured out openly and wonderfully. Some prophesied and rebuked the people: some beat themselves on their breasts severely, and trembled and fell down through the shaking of their bodies and souls. . . . They saw some signs in the air. They were much pleased to praise God. Some ignorant [uninstructed] people gave out some songs and hymns that we never heard before. - . All the heathen marvelled, and came and saw and heard us with fearful minds."
This man of God wrote again later, "In the month of June some of our people praised the Lord by unknown tongues, with their interpretations. In the month of July the Spirit was poured out upon our congregation at Oleikollam, and above 25 persons were baptized. They are steadfast in prayers. . . . Some missionaries admit the truth of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Lord meets everywhere one after another, though some tried to quench the Spirit."
Henry Groves, son of A. N. Groves, writing in the Indian Watchman for July, 1860, gives a fuller account of this movement, and of how two poor native women received visions which led to days of deep conviction of sin, after which they found peace. The husband of one of them bitterly attacked his wife while she was under conviction, and accused her of being demon-possessed. Soon after he himself fell into a trance while out in the fields in which someone appeared to him and told him to read Revelation 1 and to tell others "I am coming quickly". He returned to the house weeping and under deep conviction, soon afterwards finding peace. These converts went forth to tell their neighbouring heathen what God had done for their souls.
Henry Groves continues his account: "The day following when Aroolappen was engaged in prayer, he says, the spirit of prophecy was given to some there, and a little boy said that in a certain village, which he named, about a mile distant, the Spirit of God had been poured out. Within a quarter of an hour, some men and women came from that village, beating their breasts in great fear and alarm of conscience. They fell down and rolled on the ground. This continued a short time; they all asked to have prayer made for them, after which they said with great joy, 'The Lord Jesus has forgiven our sins', and clapping their hands together, in the fulness of their hearts' gladness, they embraced and kissed one another. For nearly three days this ecstatic joy appears to have lasted. They ate nothing, except a little food taken in the evening, and passing sleepless nights, they continued the whole time in reading of the word, in prayer and in singing praises to the Lord. Of some it is said, 'they lifted up their eyes to heaven and saw blood and fire and pillars of smoke, and, speaking aloud, they told what they had seen.'"
Several missionaries, at first sceptical or even opposed to the movement, were won over when they saw the fruit of it, and were compelled to acknowledge that the work was of God, though some remained dubious of the revival phenomena. One declared, "I do not know that there has been one single case, where one, whom my dear native brethren and myself have considered really influenced, has fallen back." Another wrote, "What God is now doing in the midst of us was altogether beyond the expectations of missionaries and other Christians: who can say what manifestations the Spirit of God will or will not make of His power?"
It is strange, yet all too often true, that when the Spirit of God is working in supernatural power in revival, unbelievers will often be more quickly convinced that this work is wrought of God, than some believers. No doubt there always have been and always will be the prejudiced and sceptical among the people of God, who in unbelief would limit the Holy One of Israel; who cannot bear to think of the Almighty working outside the range of their own finite understanding, or beyond the bounds of their own limited experience. They would have revival, but only if it comes along the quiet orderly lines of their own preconceived ideas. Where it is otherwise they will attribute the work to the flesh, or where this does not provide adequate explanation, to the Devil. Of course there is always the possibility of satanic intrusion, or of the admixture of the flesh in such times of blessing, but this calls for a spirit of discernment, not a spirit of prejudice; the ability to "prove the spirits, whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1), not the wholesale, out-of-hand condemnation of them, which must often result in quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). There is a general tendency to err on the side of prejudice, suspicion and unbelief; and this attitude is nowhere countenanced in the New Testament. Where there is doubt, let there be a patient waiting upon God until the true character of the work is manifest, for the tree will be known by its fruit. Let all take heed. If we indulge in hasty criticism we may be speaking against the Holy Spirit; if we oppose we may "be found even to be fighting against God".
Arthur Wallace, In the Day of Thy Power, p75-78, Quoted Brian Edwards, Revival, p53