‘Show us Your strength, O God!’
There are several features of genuine revival that crop up again and again. If you’ve read a few accounts you will recognise them.
One is that they tend to spread! News comes across from somewhere else. ‘Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.’ Proverbs 25:25 (ESV)
When news of a powerful move of God is heard a longing is created in the hearts of those who hear and they cry to God. In fact, the news itself seems almost to be a promise of imminent blessing.
In one sense, that is the purpose of this blog – that we see what God has done in the past and cry to Him to move in similar power in our own day.
‘Summon your power, O God; show us your strength, O God, as you have done before.’ Psalm 68:28 (ESV)
Isaac Watts, English hymn writer (‘When I survey the Wondrous Cross’ and many others), Independent Church Leader, Christian Statesman, serving God in the later years of his life, eagerly heard news of a sudden outbreak of conversions in New England.
News had come from a friend in Boston (America) and Watts, and many others, wanted to hear more.
33 year old Jonathan Edwards, Pastor and theologian, a judicious observer and willing participant in the religious revival, set about writing an orderly account of what had taken place two years before. Isaac Watts and John Guyse wrote an introduction for their British readers.
In it we hear the familiar sound of those who discover a true Awakening:
‘Never did we hear or read, since the first ages of Christianity, any event of this kind so surprising as the present Narrative hath set before us.’ (Preface, A Narrative of Surprising Conversions, in Jonathan Edwards on Revival, Banner of Truth, p.1)
They were not exaggerating. An appeal to the Book of Acts, particularly the Second Chapter is a standard appeal of those writing about revival.
‘There is a spot of Ground…’
‘There is a spot of ground, as we are here informed, wherein there are twelve or fourteen towns and villages, chiefly situate (sic) in New Hampshire…wherein it pleased God, two years ago, to display his free and sovereign mercy in the conversion of a great multitude of souls in a short space of time…’ (ibid. p.2)
Watts goes on to say, ‘We see how easy it is for him with one turn of his hand, with one word of his mouth, to awaken whole countries…and kindle divine life in their souls.’ (ibid. p.3)
Edwards’ account, snippets of which we shall enjoy together – and be deeply inspired by – describes the unfolding, increasing, almost all-encompassing power of the gospel in a town, then in surrounding towns, and soon in a whole region.
Isaac Watts on the state of England, just two years before the Awakening
But Watts was writing in ‘Old England’ and longing that God would do something there. Even as he writes his introduction, he longs for a similar awakening in Great Britain:
‘There has been a great and just complaint for many years among the ministers and churches of Old England…that the work of conversion goes on very slowly, that the Spirit of God in his saving influences is much withdrawn from the ministrations of his word, and there are few that receive the report of the gospel with any eminent success upon their hearts.’
In fact, he says, ‘our coldness in religion…and apostasy from the Christian faith…seem to have provoked the Spirit of Christ to absent himself from our nation.’ (ibid. p.2, 3)
Oh my dear Mr. Watts! Little did he know, writing as he was, in 1737, that in two short years the mightiest and most powerful outbreak of Christianity ever to touch the British Isles was to take place.
George Whitefield had already been converted (in 1735) and the Wesley brothers were soon to come to Christ the following year (1738). And 1739 was to be the beginning a whole new era for England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – as well as bursting forth in America afresh.
What about us?
How far away are we from an unfathomable breakthrough? In our appropriate desire to patiently and wisely build great churches for God’s glory, have we forgotten that He can suddenly move? That He can suddenly act with great power, and accomplish more than we can imagine?
Don’t give up my friend, but seek God as you read these accounts of grace. You may be just two short years away from your nation’s greatest hour!
Note: I am using the terms ‘revival’ and ‘awakening’ interchangeably to mean a season in which God brings surprising numbers of non-believers to faith in Christ, and pours out His Spirit in such a manner that the non-Christian community is significantly affected, and churches increase significantly in size. I do not mean revival in the US sense of ‘a special series of fervent meetings aimed at either inspiring believers or presenting the gospel to non-believers’.
You can buy ‘Edwards on Revival’ here
You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here
© 2009 Lex Loizides