Before the Great Awakening
Not many people realise that in the wake of the American Revolution there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became an epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards: they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.
What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennox, Massachusetts in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning: he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment. The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church “was too far gone ever to be redeemed.” Voltaire averred, and Tom Paine echoed, “Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.”
Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one believer in the whole of the student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place: they discovered only two believers in the student body and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on anti-Christian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey and burned it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.
In case this is thought to be the hysteria of the moment, Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great church historian, wrote: “It seemed as if Christianity were about to be ushered out of the affairs of men.” The churches had their backs to the wall, seeming as if they were about to be wiped out.
How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.
J. Edwin Orr, The Role of Prayer in Spiritual Awakening.
The hand of God is not shortened that it cannot save, but we have reason to fear that our iniquities, our coldness in religion, and the general carnality of our spirits, have raised a wall of separation between God and us: and we may add, the pride and perverse humour of infidelity, degeneracy, and apostasy from the Christian faith, which have of late years broken out amongst us, seem to have provoked the Spirit of Christ to absent himself much from our nation. “Return, O Lord, and visit thy churches and revive thine own work in the midst of us”
Again and Again, if we look at the History, it all started when Christians who are hungry and desperate for HIM started Praying, getting together and Seeking HIM talking to him through HIS word.
Passion for the Lost
Once the Revival hits, the passion and Fire fills the heart, mind and soul to work for the lost, not to preach in the churches but go out to the one who has not heard the WORD. Leave everything and Go and seek HIM more and more and Pray for the lost souls of all humanity.
As quoted by Robert Murray M’Cheyne
“As I was walking in the fields, the thought came over me with almost overwhelming power, that every one of my flock must soon be in heaven or hell. Oh, how I wished that I had a tongue like thunder, that I might make all hear; or that I had a frame like iron, that I might visit everyone and say, ‘Escape for thy life! Ah, a sinner! You little know how I fear that you will lay the blame of your damnation at my door.”
Charles Finney receives the power of the Holy Spirit
Just before evening the thought took possession of my mind, that as soon as I was left alone in the new office, I would try to pray again — that I was not going to abandon the subject of religion and give it up, at any rate; and therefore, although I no longer had any concern about my soul, still I would continue to pray.
By evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fireplace, a good fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just at dark Squire W——, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me goodnight and went home. I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my feelings seemed to rise and flow out; and the utterance of my heart was, “I want to pour my whole soul out to God.” The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office, to pray.
There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light. As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me that it was wholly a mental state. On the contrary, it seemed to me that I saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance.
I must have continued in this state for a good while, but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect anything that I said. But I know, as soon as my mind became calm, I returned to the front office and found that the fire that I had made of large wood was nearly burned out. But as I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without any expectation of it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.
I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love, and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, “I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.” I said, “Lord, I cannot bear any more;” yet I had no fear of death.
How long I continued in this state I do not know. But it was late in the evening when a member of my choir came to see me. He was a member of the church. He found me in this state of loud weeping, and said, “Mr Finney, what ails you?” I could make him no answer for some time. He then said, “Are you in pain?” I gathered myself up as best I could, and replied, “No, but so happy that I cannot live.”
He left the office, and in a few minutes returned with one of the elders of the church, whose shop was nearly across the way from our office. This elder was a very serious man, and in my presence had been very watchful, and I had scarcely ever seen him laugh. He asked me how I felt, and I began to tell him. Instead of saying anything, he fell into a most spasmodic laughter. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart.
Charles Finney, Autobiography, Chapter 2. Conversion to Christ
Finney’s further testimony to the continuing power of the Spirit
“I was powerfully converted on the morning of the 10th of October 1821,” writes Chas. G. Finney. “In the evening of the same day, I received overwhelming baptisms of the Holy Ghost, that went through me, as it seemed to me, body and soul. 1 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 words 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. Oftentimes a word dropped without my remembering it would fasten conviction, and often result in an almost immediate conversion. Sometimes I would find myself, in a great measure, empty of this power. I would go and visit and find that I 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 inquire 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.
“This power is a great marvel. I have many times seen people unable to endure the Word. The most simple and ordinary statements would cut men off their seats like a sword, would take away their strength, and render them almost helpless as dead men. Several times it has been true in my experience that I could not raise my voice, or say anything in prayer or exhortation, except in the mildest manner, without overcoming them. This power seems sometimes to pervade the atmosphere of the one who is highly charged with it. Many times great numbers of persons in a community will be clothed with this power when the very atmosphere of the whole place seems to be charged with the life of God. Strangers coming into it, and passing through the place will be instantly smitten with a conviction of sin and in many instances converted to Christ. When Christians humble themselves and consecrate their all afresh to Christ, and ask for this power, they will often receive such a baptism that they will be instrumental in converting more souls in one day than in all their lifetime before. While Christians remain humble enough to retain this power, the work of conversion will go on, till whole communities and regions of the country are converted to Christ. The same is true of the ministry.”
Charles Finney, Tract, Words of Life – Extra Edition, Nov. 1921
Evan Roberts experience of the Holy Spirit
“For thirteen years I had prayed for the Spirit, and this is the way I was led to pray. William Davies, the deacon, said one night in the society:-
“Remember to be faithful. What if the Spirit descended and you absent? Remember Thomas! What a loss he had!”
“I said then to myself: ‘I will have the Spirit.’ And through all weather, and in spite of all difficulties, I went to the meetings. Many times, on seeing other boys with the boats on the tide, I was tempted to turn back and join them. But, no. Then I said to myself: ‘Remember your resolve to be faithful,’ and on I went. Prayer meeting Monday evening at the Chapel; prayer meeting Tuesday evening at Pisgah (Sunday School branch); Church meeting Wednesday evening; Band of Hope Thursday; class Friday evening to these I went faithfully throughout the years. For ten or eleven years I have prayed for a revival. I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals. It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival.
“One Friday night last spring, when praying by my bedside before retiring, I was taken up to a great expanse – without time and space. It was communion with God. Before this a far-off God, I had. I was frightened that night, but never since. So great was my shivering that I rocked the bed, and my brother, being awakened, took hold of me, thinking I was ill.
“After that experience, I was awakened every night a little after one o’clock. This was most strange, for through the years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into the Divine Fellowship for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you; except that it was Divine. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep on till about nine.
At this time I was again taken up into the same experience as in the earlier hours of the morning until about twelve or one o’clock.
“I got up Sunday. The Rev. Seth Joshua was there. Tuesday evening there was a prayer meeting, and Sydney Evans and others came to see me and asked if I would go to the meeting. At that moment I felt the Spirit coming upon me, and so irresistible did He come that I rushed to the chapel without my topcoat. The influence began. I was ready to pray – to pray for power to the young women who were there from New Quay, lest the people should wait upon them……
“The seven o’clock meeting was devoted to asking and answering questions. The Rev. W. W. Lewis conducted. At the close the Rev. Seth Joshua prayed, and said, during his prayer, ‘Lord, do this, and this, and this, &c., and bend us.’ He did not say, ‘O Lord, bend us.’ It was the Spirit that put the emphasis for me on ‘Bend us.’ ‘That is what you need,’ said the Spirit to me. And as I went out I prayed, ‘O Lord, bend me.’….
“‘It is possible that God is offering me the Spirit, and that I am unprepared to receive Him; that others are ready to receive, but are not offered?’ Now my bosom was quite full-tight.
‘On the way to the nine o’clock meeting the Rev. Seth Joshua remarked, ‘We are going to have a wonderful meeting to-day.’ To this, I replied, ‘I feel myself almost bursting.’…..
“The meeting, having been opened, was handed over to the Spirit. I was conscious that I would have to pray. As one and the other prayed I put the question to the Spirit, ‘Shall I pray now?’ ‘Wait a while,’ said He. When others prayed I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath, and my legs shivered, and after every prayer, I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled me was that verse, ‘God commending His Love.’ I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs Davies, Mona, New Quay, came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips, and on my left Maud Davies. For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘O wonderful Grace!’ What bent me was God commanding His Love, and I not seeing anything in it to comment. After I was bent a wave of peace came over me, and the audience sang, ‘I hear Thy welcome Voice.’ And as they sang I thought of the bending at the Judgement Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day, and I wept.
Henceforth the salvation of souls became the burden of my heart. From that time I was on fire with a desire to go through all Wales, and, if it were possible, I was willing to pay God for allowing me to go.
Evan Roberts, Western Mail, Religious Revival in Wales No. 3. Mr Roberts Tells The Story Of His Conversion
Missions require the releasing of divine dynamics
We have become in missions so wrapped up in technology and methodology that we have forgotten that missions are number one, the releasing of divine dynamics…..Reaching the unreached will, first of all, mean for us not only to lay hold of it in faith but to develop thousands and thousands of prayer cells that will commit themselves wholeheartedly to prayer until the victory will be won. We need spiritual mobilisation.