Glory Fits and Hallelujah Wind-ups! The Salvation Army

The Happy Warrior, Humphrey Wallis’s biography of Elijah Cadman

The Secret History of the Salvation Army (part three)
It is well known that John Wesley and George Whitefield attended an all-night prayer meeting during which the Holy Spirit was poured out in such power that several men fell to the ground. They were overwhelmed by the power of God. They were filled with the Spirit. And then 1739 happened.

It’s not as well known that the early Salvation Army experienced very similar outpourings of the Spirit.

Sanctifying Power
The Salvationists were taken with the theology of the Wesleyans, that a ‘baptism’ of the Holy Spirit after conversion imparts a degree of spiritual holiness. Different views exist on that point. Nevertheless, what is undeniable is that they were indeed receiving power to witness, and that their witness for Christ spread rapidly throughout Great Britain, and before long, the world.

One all-night prayer meeting is described in The Happy Warrior, Humphrey Wallis’s biography of Elijah Cadman:

At one o’clock in the morning the Holy Sprit came upon us, and suddenly thirty fell down and cried out to God for the Blessing of a Clean Heart. Some lay as though they were dead for a time. Oh, may God give us more and more of His Sanctifying Power, the complete armour for the people of The Salvation Army.’[i]

Glory Fits
Obviously during the Victorian period, as in all others, people had distressing seizures which were popularly referred to as ‘fits’. Medical professionals were called upon to diagnose and treat the patients. These were, of course, distressing. When the primarily working class Salvationists began to be overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit in their meetings, they, rather endearingly and humorously, referred to these spiritual experiences as ‘glory fits’.

A gathering characterised by such experiences was also sometimes referred to as a ‘Hallelujah Wind-up’ because the atmosphere became so intense until release came through shouting, loud praying, singing, or by people running or jumping up and down (If you’re not sure about the phrase ‘wind-up’, which is still in use today, it refers to the tension created by winding up a watch or clock until almost at breaking point. Nowadays, it tends to refer to something that is increasingly irritating).

Wallis writes,

This was the hour when the phenomena characterizing the…first years of The Salvation Army – phenomena that has never wholly vanished – reappeared in a more extensive manner.

The course of the regular Meetings bean to be interrupted by Salvationists falling into ‘Glory Fits.’ In one of Elijah’s Meetings at Bradford ‘about a hundred persons were in ‘Glory Fits.’ Soldiers came up to Officers to say, “I don’t believe in this,” and while speaking fell under the strange manifestation of the Divine Presence.’

The ‘Glory Fits’ were ecstasies during which the individuals affected were insensible, usually silent, and remained thus for one, or many hours. All ages and both sexes were included in the cases. The prostrations were commoner in Holiness services and nights of prayer. Medical and other means devised to control or restrict the symptoms were useless. The condition was not contagious or always recurrent. Those beside or near a Salvationist experiencing the ecstasy were not similarly moved or sympathetic, and those who had been once in the state were often immune from a repetition.

People fell suddenly where they stood or sat, many crying out, as with a last breath, ‘Glory to God!’ On returning to consciousness, no coherent account was given of what had taken place. A few described their withdrawal from material sense as ‘bliss’, ‘great happiness’, ‘like Paradise’, ‘walking into Heaven in a rainbow’, ‘joy the body was unable to bear’, and a ‘sense of the love and glory of Christ’.

Said Elijah: ‘I have seen them lying about all over the platform and Hall, but never once in an unseemly posture. Their bodies were, as a rule, quite stiff. We had our own people carry them out of the Meeting – that was the strict regulation – and take every precaution for them. Men carried men and women carried women. They were placed in different ante-rooms adjoining the Halls, and several elderly, trusted Soldiers of the same sex left in charge till they recovered. Frequently doctors attended them. None ever became indisposed, ill, or died. It was often the most peaceful and composed of our people who were affected. There were never, in my experience of the “Glory Fits” any warning signs. A Meeting might be ‘hard’, that is, very difficult to pray in and to get others to pray; a lot of sinners making trouble, perhaps, and then, in an instant, the Power of God would descend on us, sinners be hushed into awe, and be overcome by the sense of His Majesty and His Love, through His Son, to us all, and all the world.

Sometimes we leaders would beseech Him to withhold His gift, that the people might not be alarmed, and that those in ignorance of Him might be prevented from sinning by spreading false reports.

I have led Meetings where the Holy Spirit was manifest in such power that half the soldiers present were in “Glory Fits” and I had to cling, nearly helpless, to the platform rail, lifting my heart and crying inwardly all the time to God to shepherd my people. Conversions always took place in such Meetings.’[ii]

Knowing history can help us evaluate contemporary experience
I recently heard a pastor ridiculing similar experiences of the Holy Spirit because he observed it merely left believers feeling loved and not empowered for fruitful mission. Love is important, of course, but let’s not rubbish outpourings of the Spirit because some (and even some leaders) fail to emphasise the missional purpose of such outpourings. The evidence of the early Methodists and the early Salvationists suggests such outpourings were the dynamic cause of their missional work.

More next time…

For the first post in the Salvation Army Series click here
To see part one of the ‘secret history’ click here

©2017 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] Humphrey Wallis, The Happy Warrior (London: Salvationist Publishing, 1928), p.83

[ii] ibid p.108-109

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The Secret History of the Salvation Army (part two)

Blood and Fire!

Blood and Fire on a centenary British postage stamp
The Blood and Fire flag on a centenary British postage stamp

The Salvation Army were a passionate, experience-focussed, transformative force in the Victorian world.

Ever wondered why the motto was ‘Blood and Fire’? Was that just because those are battle-sounding words and would suggest a military style resolve?

That was partly true. But actually they were carefully chosen for theological reasons.

The blood referred to the centrality of the death of Christ on the cross. This was to be preached always and everywhere. The blood of Jesus was able to cleanse the worst sinner from their sin. Most modern-day Christians would probably guess that connection without knowing the history.

But what’s the fire? And why is it side by side with the blood?

The fire referred to the Holy Spirit appearing ‘as tongues of fire’ upon the early believers on the day of Pentecost. This fire was a current reality, to be received and experienced then and there by Salvationists or anyone who was seeking God in their meetings.

Understandably, among the Victorian church leaders, it was the fire that caused more problems. Mainstream leaders could just about tolerate working class people preaching about the cross and even hell, but the prospect of people attending meetings where they might act (or possibly be encouraged to act) in an undignified way was unacceptable.

What was going on?
There’s no soft approach into the descriptions of these meetings. Harold Begbie, in his two-volume biography of William Booth, interviewed Bramwell (Booth’s son and successor) about this business of ‘the fire’.

From an early date, some Salvation Army meetings were characterised by people having dramatic spiritual experiences. It is worth noting that neither William nor Bramwell tried to shut these meetings down, or restrict the possibility of these things happening. In fact, they became part of the movement across Britain.

The Booths didn’t encourage a free-for-all, but within the highly structured context of their organisation they believed people were truly meeting with God.

Bramwell Booth with his father William
Bramwell Booth with his father William. They were bearded men.

Begbie writes,

[Bramwell] describes how men and women would suddenly fall flat upon the ground, and remain in a swoon or trance for many hours, rising at last so transformed by joy that they could do nothing but shout and sing in an ecstasy of bliss…

He saw bad men and women stricken suddenly with an overmastering despair, flinging up their arms, uttering the most terrible cries, and falling backward, as if dead–supernaturally convinced of their sinful condition.

The floor would sometimes be crowded with men and women smitten down by a sense of overwhelming spiritual reality, and the workers of the Mission would lift their fallen bodies and carry them to other rooms, so that the Meetings might continue without distraction. Doctors were often present at these gatherings.

Conversions took place in great numbers; the evangelists of the Mission derived strength and inspiration for their difficult work; and the opposition of the world only deepened the feeling of the more enthusiastic that God was powerfully working in their midst.[i]

And there’s more. But let’s ease into these startling phenomena one step at a time…

More next time.

For the first instalment of the Salvation Army Story click here

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:343

The Secret History of the Salvation Army (part one)

Salvation Army matches (cover)
Salvation Army matches (cover)

I fell in love with the Salvation Army nearly thirty years ago.

My affection arose from two main causes. First, the whole body of that church movement were consistently committed to evangelism. Everyone was involved. Everyone was on mission. They believed they had found the key to transformation – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because every person needs what Jesus Christ offers they were unrelentingly merciful.

Secondly, their commitment to alleviating the plight of the poor and their commitment to issues of social justice; whether clothing someone or launching a rival match making factory which didn’t poison the workers.

An ad for the phosphorous-free Salvation Army matches
An ad for the phosphorus-free Salvation Army matches

The unashamed combination of those two impulses was utterly inspiring (the match factory produced boxes of matches called ‘Lights in Darkest England’).

Salvation Army matches
Salvation Army matches

But beyond my admiration for the range of their engagements and their tenacity, a number of questions inevitably arose.
How did this Christian movement so effectively reach those that ‘normal’ churches were largely failing to reach?
How did they manage to draw the commitment of a myriad of volunteers and produce sustainable NGOs to meet such a variety of needs?
How were they able to go into cities, towns and even villages and preach with unswerving boldness, a raw, compassionate, come-to-Christ-now message, and see thousands converted?
And, in the face of bitter, violent opposition, what was the secret of their battlefield bravery?

Hallelujah wind-ups and glory fits
As I continued to read extensively, and particularly the early material, I found a few clues.
Have you ever heard of a ‘Hallelujah Wind-Up’? That was the name given to a moment in a meeting so charged with spiritual vitality that the spring almost breaks and catapults workers out into the harvest? No? Neither had I.
Shhh…let’s not speak too loudly of what Salvationists would affectionately refer to as ‘Glory fits.’
Hilarious and intriguing. Hallelujah wind-ups; glory fits. This quintessentially Victorian working-class movement developed wonderfully non-religious sounding names for their experiences in prayer.

In these next few posts, we’ll dust off the old books and visit the early days that were so full of power. And we’ll find a source of power that Bramwell Booth considered to be the very same dynamic  manifest on the day of Pentecost.[i]

Warning!
In reviving these stories, I’m not suggesting we imitate styles or phrases, nor are we looking for a formula. Terms and Conditions apply. However, if you are a Christian, you may experience a thirst for a new season of refreshing and empowering. May it carry us to the place of persistent prayer.

‘Summon your power, God; show us your strength, our God, as you have done before.’ Psalm 68:28

More next time…
For the first part of the Salvation Army story click here

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:343

Demonstrations of the Spirit’s Power – Charles Finney

Antwerp, Jefferson County, NY in the 1800s

The result of Charles Finney’s encounters with the Holy Spirit are well documented: when he preached multitudes came to Christ.

The Apostle Paul talked about preaching with the ‘demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Cor 2:4). While we may be convinced that such demonstrations may differ from culture to culture, the following can certainly be understood as an example of a 19th Century American revivalism.

These events took place three years after Finney received his ‘baptism of the Spirit’ in 1824 in a packed school hall in Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York, and are recounted by him.

An ‘ungodly people’
‘While I was [preaching] I observed the people looked as if they were angry.  Many of the men were in their shirt sleeves and they looked at each other and at me, as if they were ready to pitch into me and chastise me for something on the spot…their anger arose higher and higher.

As soon as I had finished the narrative I turned upon them and said, that I understood that they had never had a religious meeting in that place; and that therefore I had a right to take it for granted, and was compelled to take it for granted, that they were an ungodly people.  I pressed that home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart full to bursting.’

‘The congregation began to fall from their seats’
‘I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once and awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; and a some thing flashed over the congregation – a kind of shimmering – as if there was some agitation in the atmosphere itself.

The congregation began to fall from their seats; and they fell in every direction, and cried for mercy.  If I had had a sword in each hand I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell.  Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them.  Every one prayed for himself who was able to speak at all.  I, of course was obliged to stop preaching, for they no longer paid any attention.

I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream to make him hear, and pointing to him said, ‘Can’t you pray?’…

‘You are not in Hell yet!’
I then spake as loud as I could, and tried to make them attend to me.  I said to them, “You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ.”  For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them; but scarcely any of them paid any attention.

My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself.  A little way from where I stood was an open fire-place. I recollect very well that my joy was so great, that I could not help laughing in a most spasmodic manner.

I knelt down and stuck my head into that fire-place and hung my pocket handkerchief over my head, lest they should see me laugh; for I was aware that they would not understand that it was irrepressible, holy joy that made me laugh. It was with much difficulty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God.’

One by one Finney spoke to individuals, leading them to Christ. Years later he had the joy of receiving funding for his ministry from some of those converted in that very meeting.

More next time…

For the first part of the Finney story click here

From The Memoirs of Charles Finney—The Complete Restored Text Edited by G.M. Rosell and R.A.G. Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989) p.101-102

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Baptism in the Spirit part 2

The young Charles Finney


19th Century Evangelist Charles Finney was one of the more controversial figures on the religious landscape in America.

Converted after fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry, he had an astonishing experience of God’s love and power.

He certainly wasn’t the first to speak of a ‘baptism in the Spirit’ (see Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8) nor would he be the last, but his description of the experience is helpful for those seeking God for a similar dynamic in their spiritual lives.

You can read his introduction to the experience here.

‘A mighty baptism in the Holy Ghost’
His journal records the occasion:

‘But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting 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, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, 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.

And yet it did not seem like water, but rather as the breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings; and it seemed to me, as these waves passed over me, that they literally moved my hair like a passing breeze.

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. It seemed to me that I should burst.

‘So happy that I cannot live!’
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 – for I was the leader of the choir – came into the office 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 turned and 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.

The Laughing Elder
This elder was a very serious man; and in my presence had been very watchful, and I had scarcely ever seen him laugh. When he came in I was very much in the state in which I was when the young man went out to call him. He asked me how I felt, and I began to tell him.

Instead of saying anything, he fell into a most spasmodic laugh. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart. It seemed to be a spasm that was irresistible.’[i]

Further prayers were said and the fact one of the elders of the church couldn’t resist laughing when he saw Finney in a relatively helpless state made Finney doubt whether or not he had been presumptuous. Nevertheless he slept.

More power
‘…When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that this sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism that I had received the night before, returned upon me in the same manner.

I arose upon my knees in the bed and wept aloud with joy, and remained for some time too much overwhelmed with the baptism of the Spirit to do anything but pour out my soul to God.

It seemed as if this morning’s baptism was accompanied with a gentle reproof, as if the Spirit seemed to say to me, ‘Will you doubt? Will you doubt?’ I cried, ‘No! I will not doubt; I cannot doubt!’’ [ii]

That such experiences of God’s power are recorded throughout church history should challenge us to seek God for authentic encounters with His majesty that we might have an impact on our generation as Finney and others did on theirs.

Next time we’ll look at how Finney began to seek to minister to others…click here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22-24

[ii] ibid p.25

Baptism in the Spirit part 1

Agostino Cerasi’s ‘Gamba Player’ (The Gamba was an earlier version of the Bass Viol Charles Finney would have played)

Spiritual Tranquillity
When the precocious legal apprentice Charles Finney was converted to Christianity in 1821 it was the fulfilment of a fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry. He was, therefore, surprised by the depth of emotion he experienced in its aftermath.

The initial feeling was one of a deep and steady peace. ‘The repose of my mind was unspeakably great…The thought of God was sweet to my mind, and the most profound spiritual tranquillity had taken full possession of me.’[i]

After returning from the woods, where he had finally surrendered his life to Christ, he went to the law office which was empty and began playing his Bass Viol. ‘But as soon as I began to play and sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid…I wondered at this and tried to suppress my tears, but could not.

I wondered what ailed me that I felt such a disposition to weep. After trying in vain to suppress my tears, I put up my instrument and stopped singing.’[ii]

Soon Finney’s boss arrived and they spent the afternoon moving books into another office.

‘After dinner we were engaged in removing our books and furniture to another office. We were very busy in this, and had but little conversation all the afternoon. There was a great sweetness and tenderness in my thoughts and feelings. Everything appeared to be going right, and nothing seemed to ruffle or disturb me in the least.

A desire to pray
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…

Just at evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fireplace, a good large fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just as it was dark Esq. Wright, 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 inward feelings seemed to rise and pour themselves out; and the impression on my mind 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.

Meeting Jesus, face to face
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 then, nor did it for sometime afterward, that it was wholly a mental state.

On the contrary it seemed to me that I met Him face to face, and 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 scarcely anything that I said.

But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had just made of large wood was nearly burned out.

The Holy Spirit descended upon me
But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting 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, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.’[iii]

Next time we’ll examine Finney’s detailed description of God’s power ‘pouring’ into him. You can read it here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22

[ii] ibid, p.22

[iii] ibid p.23

Introducing Charles Finney

Charles Grandison Finney

“It would be impossible to estimate the influence exerted on revival movements all over the world during the past hundred years by Charles Finney’s lectures on prayer in his Revivals of Religion.” Arthur Wallis (in 1956) [i]

Generally speaking, Charles Finney (1792-1875) is not very highly respected by Reformed writers and preachers. He rarely gets a mention. But he remains one of Christianity’s most effective representatives.

A passionate and powerful Evangelist, Finney was often compared to Whitefield and Wesley by his friends. Yet he is sometimes portrayed as little more than a charlatan by those who were offended by his theology. Even as good a man as DM Lloyd-Jones spoke disparagingly of Finney’s ‘so-called’ converts!

Yet the distance of history may permit a measure of objectivity.

Finney the anti-Calvinist – not the anti-Christ!
It’s true that Finney didn’t respond well to his Calvinist critics and attacked their theology relentlessly. And it’s true he taught that if the church obeyed the Scriptural commands, prayed fervently and were filled with the Spirit, then she would see ‘revival’, significant awakenings amongst both believers and non-believers. He said, ‘I believe we can labor to promote revival with as reasonable a prospect for success as we could find in any other line of work.’ [ii]

Almost single-handedly, he shifted the emphasis of fruitful evangelism, effective mass evangelism, from God’s sovereignty to man’s responsibility.

You might not like that.

You might not like his anti-Calvinist statements. He certainly misrepresents the reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation. But he was a mighty Evangelist, saw many conversions, and we could learn from his example.

A great Evangelist but a not-so-great theologian
So my contention will be that Finney was an inspired, Spirit-filled Evangelist who was preaching the gospel during a season of ‘revival’ or ‘awakening’ similar to that of Whitefield, but that he was not a great theological thinker, nor a great teacher of theology.

He certainly ranks amongst the great Evangelists in the English speaking world, and his influence has continued into the 21st century.

So without getting too distracted by the theological controversies – except where I perceive them to be vitally important to the story, or to our current situation – I will see what we can learn from this fascinating character.

The Baptism of the Spirit, Prayer and Revival
We’ll see examples of prayer turning situations around, examples of mighty baptisms in the Spirit happening to both individuals and whole churches. We’ll enjoy accounts of the power of God invading meetings, and turning hard-hearted sceptics to Christ. We’ll note eye-witness testimony of how the presence of God broke through defences that seemed impenetrable.

This won’t merely be a story of a good, fervent man getting results – actually, Finney’s story is one of God breaking in and displaying His glory.

I think you’ll like that!
For the next post in this series click here


[i] Arthur Wallis, In the Day of Thy Power, (London: CLC, 1956), p. xiii

[ii] Charles Finney, Lectures on Revival, (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1988 edition), p.26

Portrait by Waldo and Jewett, 1834

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Persevering in Evangelism


Hudson Taylor in 1893


By all means, save some!

From time to time, as church leaders, our hopes for a sudden gain in church growth are raised by news of a fresh and creative initiative. Whether this is a specific evangelistic strategy or whether it’s in connection with church management our response is often similar: We do the research, hear the testimonies, read the materials, pray and prepare to launch into new territory which we hope will yield better results.

None of this is wrong, of course. In fact, we ought to be on our toes for spotting effective means of communicating the gospel message. We must keep imagining and learning and trying all that we can, that ‘by all means we might save some.’ (1 Cor 9:22)

But in all of this we need to remember that this is a life’s work. We are not just jumping from project to project – we are living all of life in the context of God’s mission to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ; all of life and for the duration of our life.

And this is where Hudson Taylor’s example of perseverance can encourage us. By the time of these events he had been serving in China nearly 40 years.

Christians worship a pig!
In the early 1890s leaflets were distributed throughout Hunan Province that misrepresented the CIM and other missionary organisations working in China:

‘Missionaries are the frontline troops of western nations in their designs on China; they use magic powers to corrupt the Chinese; they extract unborn children from their mothers’ wombs and scoop out the eyes of the dead to make silver;

Jesus debauched the women of Judea and was put to death for violating the king’s harem;

Christians worship a pig and refuse to honour heaven, earth, the sun, moon, stars, ancestors and the sages.’[i]

As a result of the publication of these leaflets, and the growing resentment of colonial rule, several missionaries lost their lives, and most were living in real danger.

Taylor wrote, ‘We are continually encouraging our converts to brave persecution and to suffer loss for Christ’s sake, and they are apt to think that it is easy for us to speak in this way, seeing that, as far as they can tell, we are well-off and exposed to no danger or loss.

When, therefore, we are in danger they will mark our conduct very closely, and judge for themselves how far we really believe…Years of teaching would not impress them as our conduct at such times may do.’[ii]

Slow Progress and our response to it
Like Taylor’s men and women, we also battle misunderstanding as to our purpose or motive. And, just like Taylor’s troops, we also wrestle with slow progress.

We are heartened by bursts of growth and by news of growth in other situations but we must hold steady and persevere in order to build the church in a spiritually bewildered culture.

Writing back in March 1892, Hudson Taylor, after 38 years of hard work, said, ‘The supreme want of all missions in the present day is the manifested presence of the Holy Ghost.

Hundreds of thousands of tracts and portions of Scripture have been put into circulation; thousands of gospel addresses have been given; tens of thousands of miles have been traversed in missionary journeys but how small has been the issue in the way of definite conversions!

We…have much need to humble ourselves before God…’

Seeking the power of the Holy Spirit
‘Few of us, perhaps, are satisfied with the results of our work, and some may think that if we had more, or more costly machinery we should do better. But oh, I feel it is divine power we want…!

Should we not do well, rather, to suspend our present operations and give ourselves to humiliation and prayer for nothing less that to be filled with the Spirit, and made channels through which He shall work with resistless power?

Souls are perishing now for lack of this power!’[iii]

Sure enough, the following month, instead of the normal business meeting of the directors of the Chinese operation, the minutes recorded: ‘Instead of meeting for conference, the China Council united with the members of the mission in Shanghai in seeking for themselves, the whole mission in China and the Home Councils, the filling of the Holy Spirit.’[iv]

Soon after, news was spread of the power of God working in a new way amongst them.

Let’s learn from history – in order to persevere in the mission we are on, we need encounters with God, to be both humbled and empowered by the Spirit of God.

We never graduate from this…this is our life’s work.

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here 

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] A Man In Christ, p.324, Roger Steer, Singapore, OMF Books, 1990

[ii] ibid, p.325

[iii] ibid p.328

[iv] ibid p.329

Message of the Month John Piper

Working for your Joy!

John Piper

The search for genuine joy in the battle of life is a search that concerns every person.

The soul’s thirst for satisfaction drives men and women, Christian and non-Christian, to try a myriad of promises – and often leaves them feeling empty, short-changed, duped.

In this compelling message, John Piper argues that the chief aim of the Christian leader is to make joy the ultimate aim of each person – by pointing them to the only ultimately satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ.

Joy in Christ is the goal of the Christian life – Joy, Piper asserts, is not just the icing on the cake, it is the cake!!

John Piper - working for the joy of all peoples

The link below is to a video, but if you don’t have access to fast internet (as most people don’t yet), then there is a link on the page to an mp3 version of the message.

The context of this message was a 300 leaders conference in London, hosted by Newfrontiers Pastor Tope Koleoso. I hope you enjoy it.

The Message (click the link): Working for your Joy

© Church History / Lex Loizides

The Power of Prayer in the Conversion of Souls

James Hudson Taylor in 1865

A Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 and died when the Welsh Revival of 1904 was one year old.

His story is one of prayer, or perseverance, of faith and of suffering. His story is one of radical obedience to Christ’s Commission to take the gospel to the world.

Hudson Taylor was a Yorkshireman, born in Barnsley. He was the son of evangelical Methodists and his family enjoyed the privilege of having hosted John Wesley, the great Methodist Evangelist, in 1786.

The story of his great grandparents looking after Wesley and then hearing him preach to a great congregation had been told and retold many times.

HT’s father was fascinated with China. He was a highly respected Chemist who also treated patients in a consulting room behind the store. But the passion he instilled into his children was centred on China. He had actually prayed, ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’

His prayer was answered spectacularly.

A teenager’s apathy and a mother’s love
As a ‘teenager’ HT began to question the faith of his family. He wasn’t so sure that the daily Bible readings which his father led, were so necessary. He began to be sceptical.

But his mother began to pray, fervently and passionately.

One day in June 1849, the bored 17yr old began looking around for something to read. He casually looked through his father’s bookshelves when a tract caught his eye.

He knew what it was, and decided that he’d read the story part (which he assumed would be at the beginning of the tract) and skim read over the ‘moral of the story’ and probably a mini sermon at the end.

What he didn’t know was that his mother had also found herself at a loose end while she was in another town, and began praying fervently for his conversion. She began to get a conviction in prayer that she should pray on until she knew she had the answer from God.

In Praise of Tracts!
‘Let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my dear mother for my conversion!’ Hudson wrote in his book ‘Retrospect’

‘In the afternoon I looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a little basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a Gospel tract which looked interesting, saying to myself, ‘There will be a story at the beginning , and a sermon or moral at the close: I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.’

I sat down to read the little book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed that I there were any salvation it was not for me…’

Little did I know at the same time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away.

The Power of Prayer
She [had] an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy…She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.

Hour after hour did that dear mother plead for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished – the conversion of her only son.

I, in the meantime, while reading the tract, was struck with the sentence ‘the finished work of Christ.’

Why does the author use this expression? Why not say ‘the atoning work of Christ’?

Immediately the words, ‘It is finished!’ suggested themselves to my mind [these were words spoken by Jesus when he was on the cross – John 19:30]. What was finished?

And I at once replied: ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid…Christ died for our sins!’

Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’

The finished work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and accepting this Saviour and His salvation, to praise Him forever more!

Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read this little book at my leisure.

When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I had such glad news to give.

I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms around my neck, as she pressed me to her bosom and said, ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me!’

My mother assured me that it was not from any human source that she had learned the tidings…

You will agree with me that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in the power of prayer.’[i]

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, the first steps towards the mission in China, click here

Personal Tracts

Tracts can still be incredibly powerful – and you don’t have to purchase an old fashioned one with dull graphics. You can easily write your own. Click here for more details.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] From To China with Love, Hudson Taylor, Bethany House, p.10-13

The Nineteenth Century Missionary Movement

Plaque outside the house in Kettering, England where Carey formed the Baptist Missionary Society

A culture-changing progression is observable:

In the 16th Century – the Reformation in Europe, with the rediscovery of the authority of the Bible as the basis for faith and practice. ‘You are justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law!’

In the 17th Century – the attempt by the Puritans to apply this rediscovery to all of life, and to restore the European church and society. ‘Do all to the glory of God!’

In the 18th Century – the evangelistic proclamation of this rediscovery to those outside the normal influence of the church. ‘You must be born again!’

In the 19th Century – the explosion of the message to nations beyond Europe, with thousands leaving Europe to take the gospel to those who have never heard it. ‘Go into all the world!’

In other words there was a rediscovery of the Bible as the authoritative guide for a relationship to God and each other, a thorough attempt to apply it pastorally, and then a Spirit empowered evangelistic proclamation of the gospel, first in Europe and America and then to the ends of the earth.

This progression gives us a general but helpful guide to place movements and leaders in their historical context. Of course, if you read previous posts, you’ll know that all of these various emphases have been happening all through church history, and with mighty demonstrations of the Spirit’s power, but it is not altogether inaccurate when considering Christianity in the 19th Century to speak of ‘the missionary movement’ or even ‘the missionary century’ as some do.

Nor is it altogether inaccurate to refer to one particular pioneer as ‘the father of modern missions’ as we turn our consideration to one of the most inspiring figures in church history, William Carey.

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle on How to Get Right with God

(Part Two of ‘Truths that Changed a Nation’)
JC Ryle, the Bishop of Liverpool in 19th century England was eager to see a revival of authentic Christianity in his own generation.

In the previous century England had witnessed such remarkable outpourings of the Holy Spirit and huge numbers of conversions. Ryle was hungry for a further move of God.

So he began looking back in order to gain insight about how to proceed. In the last post we saw the first three essential truths that the great Methodist leaders, Whitefield, Wesley and others, proclaimed. These were the authority of the Bible, the sinfulness of mankind and the necessity of Christ’s death on the cross for our salvation.

In this post we’ll look at the other essentials that Ryle believed led to such radical cultural transformation in 18th century England.

1. Justification by Faith
The 18th century Evangelists ‘told men that faith was the one thing needful…that the moment we do believe, we live and [can obtain] all Christ’s benefits.’

The Evangelists rejected the idea that merely being a member of a church meant you were somehow right with God.

Ryle says, ‘Everything – if you will believe, and the moment you believe; nothing – if you do not believe, was the very marrow of their preaching.’ (p.27)

2. ‘You Must be Born Again’
It’s not uncommon to meet people who believe that the emphasis on being ‘born again’ was somehow a 1970’s American religious phenomena.

But actually, as Ryle demonstrates, the preachers of the 1700’s emphasised this constantly. Of course, both the term ‘born again’ and the necessity to preach the new birth goes right back to Jesus Himself (see John chapter 3).

Ryle emphasises ‘heart conversion and a new creation by the Holy Spirit.’

‘They proclaimed everywhere to the crowds whom they addressed, ‘Ye must be born again.’

And this new birth which they so constantly asserted ‘was something that could be seen, discerned and known by its effects.’ (p.28)

3. A Changed Life
Ryle says that the 18th century leaders of the Great Awakening taught ‘the inseparable connection between true faith and personal holiness.’ (p.28)

They were not inclined to consider anyone a true convert unless there was a definite change in lifestyle. Merely saying you were saved but not changing your lifestyle choices would cause the leaders to question the reality of your faith. If there was no evidence of the ‘fruit of repentance’ then they did not consider that a person had received true saving grace.

4. God is both a God of Wrath and Love

This is without doubt a clear feature of Christian preaching throughout church history.

‘They knew nothing’, asserts Ryle, of ‘a heaven where holy and unholy…all find admission.’ They didn’t preach that everyone goes to heaven in the end.

‘Both about Heaven and Hell they used the utmost plainness of speech.

‘They never shrunk from declaring, in plainest terms, the certainty of God’s judgement and of wrath to come, if men persisted in impenitence and unbelief.

‘Yet, they never ceased to magnify the riches of God’s kindness and compassion, and to entreat all sinners to repent and turn to God before it was too late.’ (p.28)

Conclusion
These were the teachings of the great Evangelists: The trustworthiness of the Bible, the sinfulness of the human race, Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross, that we are justified not by works but by faith in Christ, and that a heart work – being born again – is absolutely necessary for salvation. This ‘heart change’ is a real change that affects every area of life. And that finally, God is a just Judge and a loving Father who is calling all people to come to Him for forgiveness.

Let us give good Bishop Ryle the last word:

‘These were the doctrines by which they turned England upside down, made ploughmen and colliers weep till their dirty faces were seamed with tears, arrested the attention of peers and philosophers, stormed the strongholds of Satan, plucked thousands like brands from the burning, and altered the character of the age…

‘The fact is undeniable: God blessed these truths…and what God has blessed it ill becomes man to despise.’ (p.28-29)

All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 2

JC Ryle...with beard

Last time we took a brief look at Ryle’s analysis of the problem. Today we’re going to enjoy his description of how God turned things around.

What makes Ryle’s commentary so appealing is the fact that we can apply the same lessons to ourselves and trust God for major breakthrough in our various cities and nations.

1. Everyone was aware of a major change
Says Ryle: ‘That a great change for the better has come over England in the last hundred years is a fact which I suppose no well informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther…’ (p.21)

2. Where the change didn’t come from
Not the Government: ‘The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit of the change.’
Not the Church of England: ‘Nor…from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable communion were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of dignity…’
Not the ‘Free’ churches: ‘Nor…from the Dissenters. Content with their hard-won triumphs, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars.’ (p.22)

3. The change came through Evangelists
‘The men who wrought deliverance for us…were a few individuals…whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country.

‘They were not wealthy or highly connected. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work.

‘They did His work in the old apostolic way, by becoming the evangelists of their day.’(p.22)

4. The demeanour of these Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught.

‘They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate…even weeping, but always bold, unflinching and not fearing the face of man.

‘And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach…

‘The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another.’ (p.23)

We’ll continue with Ryle’s observations next time…

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

To read the first post in this series go here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Piercing Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening p.1

JC Ryle on the 18th Century Awakening

JC Ryle

I am reluctant to pull away from the 18th century! Much more can be said and I need to get on to William Carey and the explosion of missionary activity in the 19th century.

So perhaps you will forgive me for rounding up a few thoughts and insights from British Pastor and popular 19th century author, JC Ryle. These insights can speak to us today and stir us to pray and work for the good of those around us.

All quotes are from Ryle’s excellent book, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century, originally published as ‘The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, or England a Hundred Years Ago’ (references are to the Banner of Truth edition of 1978).

1. The Christian Faith was not influential
‘Christianity seemed to lie as on dead…There was darkness in high places and darkness in low places…a gross, thick, religious and moral darkness – a darkness that might be felt.’ (p.14)

2. The Church was ineffective
Describing both the Anglican Churches and the Free Churches he writes, ‘They existed, but they could hardly be said to have lived. They did nothing; they were sound asleep.’

‘Cold morality, or barren orthodoxy, formed the staple teaching both in church and chapel. Sermons everywhere were little better than miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of anything likely to awaken, convert or save souls.’ (p.14)

3. Church Leaders were distracted
Speaking of the Anglican clergy, Ryle doesn’t hold back: ‘The vast majority of them were sunk in worldliness, and neither knew nor cared anything about their profession…They hunted, they shot, they farmed, they swore, they drank, they gambled. They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’

‘And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakable and indescribably bad, that it is comforting to reflect they were generally preached to empty benches.’ (p.17)

4. The People were sceptical of true Christian faith

‘The land was deluged with infidelity and scepticism. The prince of this world made good use of his opportunity.’ (p.15)

‘It may suffice it to say that duelling, adultery, fornication, gambling, swearing, Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness were hardly regarded as vices at all. They were the fashionable practices of people in the highest ranks of society, and no one was thought the worse of for indulging them.’ (p.18)

Told you he didn’t hold back! Next time we’ll hear Ryle on how things got turned around.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Dancing in Church!

Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.
Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.

The Origins of Dancing in Church!
It may be unrealistic to try and specify a moment when dancing in church meetings became popular.

But the specific reason for such exuberant joy is obvious to all who know the power of the gospel.

This was highlighted with characteristic insight by CH Spurgeon who noted that Isaiah 35:6 states that the mute man doesn’t merely talk but ‘shouts’ and the lame man doesn’t merely walk but ‘leaps’, when the power of the gospel works in his life!

In the most obvious sense, then, the origins of dancing in church are just the normal human responses of those who are freed by the power of the love of God in Jesus Christ. This gospel truth is made real to them by the Holy Spirit. This may well be why so many charismatics quote the verse ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!’ (2 Cor 3:17)

‘This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!’
The early Methodists began to dance. And then they danced a lot. These guys were seriously joyful at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Century, and they continued to dance!

This, let it be known, was considered dangerous and divisive, but from this distance of time, the descriptions are merely humourous:

‘At the spring sacrament at Turtle Creek in 1804, Brother Thompson had been constrained just at the close of the meeting to go to dancing, and for an hour or more to dance in a regular manner round the stand, all the while repeating in a low tone of voice: “This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!”

‘But it was not till the ensuing fall or beginning of the winter that [they] began to encourage one another to praise God in the dance, and unite in that exercise, justly believing that it was their privilege to rejoice before the Lord, and go forth in the dances of them that make merry.’

The Methodists used popular tunes, from the ‘drinking-saloons and playhouses’ and added new Christian lyrics.

Shaking Hands during Worship
Winthrop S. Hudson, in his article, ‘Shouting Methodists’ relates how it was common to shake hands during the close of a service, whilst still singing:

‘Shaking Hands while singing was a means, though simple in itself, to further the work. The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion and go through the congregation and shake hands with the people while singing.

‘And several, when relating their experience at the time of their admission into the church fellowship, declared that this was the first means of their conviction.

‘The act seemed so friendly, the ministers appeared so loving, that the party with whom the minister shook hands would often be melted in tears.’

Other ‘Physical Manifestations’
At the risk of casting doubt over the credibility of the main body of these American Methodists, yet unable to resist an hilarious final paragraph, I quote Hudson once more concerning some physical phenomena that was reported amongst some of them.

An eye witness reported that sometimes, before being impelled to dance, a person’s head would ‘fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt.’ This phenomena was given a name: ‘the jerks’!

‘Sometimes…the whole body would be affected. The more a person labored to suppress the jerks, the more he staggered and the more rapidly the twitches increased.’

Although this was observable, it was not considered proper to merely imitate this behaviour in order to appear more spiritual! So that’s sorted that out!

In the mean time, don’t be afraid to truly rejoice in the magnificent salvation that you  have received in Christ!

(Quotes from ‘Shouting Methodists’ by Winthrop S. Hudson, Encounter Magazine 1968)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Hilarious Hymns That Need to be Read Again (if not sung)!

We’ve been looking at the fact that the Methodist movement, in its heyday, was truly a people movement. And their songs reflected that!

Every new movement of churches seems to produce a new resource of great songs. This has been true since the charismatic movement in the 1960’s and 70’s.

We might argue that we are enjoying an era of great creativity in the Christian Church in the West at the moment.

Testimony Songs
But nothing really compares with these gems from the Methodist archives!!

In Stith Mead’s Methodist songbook, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1807, the initial impression of a convert is reported:

‘The Methodists were preaching like thunder all about.
At length I went amongst them, to hear them groan and shout.
I thought they were distracted, such fools I’d never seen.
They’d stamp and clap and tremble, and wail and cry and scream.’

It is impossible to imagine such a song being sung in churches today! The closest I can think of is Paul Oakley’s ‘I love your love!’, although that is much more recognisable as a worship song than the above!

The People Were Jumping!
A later Methodist songbook, The Hesperian Harp of 1848, has a dialogue song between a Methodist and a ‘Formalist’.

In this segment we hear the Formalist’s impression of the Christian meeting he attended:

Such groaning and shouting, it sets me to doubting.
I fear such religion is only a dream.

The preachers were stamping, the people were jumping,
And screaming so loud that I nothing could hear….

The men they were bawling, the women were squalling,
I know not for my part how any could pray….

Amid such a clatter who knows what’s the matter?
Or who can attend unto what is declared?

To see them behaving, like drunkards, all raving,
And lying and rolling prostrate on the ground.
I really felt awful, and sometimes felt fearful
That I’d be the next that would come tumbling down.

He Tumbled!

Ultimately, of course, he did tumble. His heart was glowing, Christ’s love was flowing, and ‘peace, pardon, and comfort’ he found.
(from ‘Shouting Methodists’ by Winthrop S. Hudson, Encounter Magazine 1968)

Well, if describing their normal church services in song became part of the history of this amazing revivalist movement, then dancing and shouting was also a strong feature.

But more of that next time…

Click here for a great album by Paul Oakley (UK) or here for itunes USA

Click here for a new song co-written by Lex and Paul Oakley

© 2010 Lex Loizides

More than a Hymn-Writer: Charles Wesley the Evangelist

Charles Wesley, Hymn-writer and Evangelist

Charles Wesley is mainly remembered for his excellent poetic gift. This gift, thoroughly saturated in Scripture, produced some of the church’s best-loved hymns.

If you are in an English speaking church context it is quite likely that you recognize these well known opening lines from Charles Wesley hymns:

  • Hark! The herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
  • Love divine, all loves excelling,
    Joy of heaven to earth come down;
    Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    All thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
    Pure unbounded love Thou art;
    Visit us with Thy salvation;
    Enter every trembling heart.
  • And can it be that I should gain
    An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
  • O for a thousand tongues to sing
    My great Redeemer’s praise,
    The glories of my God and King,
    The triumphs of His grace!

Actually, it’s difficult not to just go ahead and include whole hymns for the pure pleasure of enjoying them.

A Passionate Evangelistic Preacher

But my point is that Charles Wesley was not only a hymn-writer but also a passionate evangelistic preacher.

Like George Whitefield, his preaching mentor, Wesley also enjoyed great infillings of the Holy Spirit as he preached (see also, Acts 4:7-10).

Some excerpts from his journal of 1741 will give us a flavour of the kind of passion he employed in his efforts to bring men and women to Christ.

‘April 13th. While I was in great love…the Spirit of power came down, the fountain was set open, my mouth and heart enlarged, and I spoke such words as I cannot repeat. Many sunk under the love of Christ crucified…’

‘April 22nd. I sharply reproved three or four inflexible Pharisees; then prayed the Lord to give me words of consolation, and immediately I was filled with power, which broke out as a mighty torrent.

‘All our hearts caught fire in a moment, and such tears and strong cryings followed, as quite drowned my voice…’

‘Sun May 3rd. At Kingswood [Bristol] as soon as I had named my text, ‘It is finished!’ the love of Christ crucified so constrained me that I burst into tears, and felt strong sympathy with him in his sufferings. In like manner, the whole congregation looked upon him whom they had pierced, and mourned.’

His preaching was effective and many were converted. One particular Kingswood resident wasn’t happy though. Charles wrote:

‘May 5th. A wild collier [coal miner] brought me four of his children…crying, ‘You have got the mother, take the bairns [the kids] too!’

(All quotes from Arnold Dallimore, Charles Wesley, A Heart Set Free, Crossway Books, p.107)

An Inspiring combination of the Poet and the Evangelist

Charles Wesley was an Evangelist, and an effective one at that. We’ll return to his heroic story later, but for now, let’s not forget that many of his hymns were written in the very context of urging his generation to come to Christ.

His hymn ‘Lovers of Pleasure’ provides us with an excellent example of the combination of his poetic and evangelistic gift. Enjoy!

‘Lovers of pleasure more than God,
For you He suffered pain;
Swearers, for you He spilt his blood;
And shall He bleed in vain?

Misers, for you his life He paid,
Your basest crime He bore:
Drunkards, your sins on Him were laid,
That you might sin no more.

The God of love, to earth He came,
That you might come to heaven;
Believe, believe in Jesus’ Name,
And all your sin’s forgiven.

Believe in Him that died for thee,
And, sure as He hath died,
Thy debt is paid, Thy soul is free,
And thou art justified.’

Charles Wesley

For more on the hymns of Charles Wesley and other Methodists see, ‘A Collection of hymns for use by the people called Methodists’)

More next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching

(Methodism and the Mob, Part 3)

Bala, in Wales. Not exactly a holiday destination for Howell Harris

The Evangelist preaches, is resisted, rejected and then covered in sewerage and beaten ruthlessly.

Hugh Hughes, in his biography of Harris describes one scene in Bala, Wales, in 1741. Howell Harris, the great pioneer of outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening, received a beating at the hands of violent men and women.

Suffering for Christ
Hughes writes, ‘The women were as fiendish as the men, for they besmeared him with mire, while their companions belaboured him with their fists and clubs, inflicting such wounds that his path could be marked in the street by the crimson stains of his blood.’

‘The enemy continued to persecute him…striking him with sticks and with staves, until overcome with exhaustion, he fell to the ground…They still abused him, though prostrate…’ (Hugh J Hughes Life of Howell Harris, p.142-3, quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press)

Empowered by the Spirit
Describing his resilience at another similar time of violent reaction, Harris wrote, ‘Had bullets been shot at me, I felt I should not move. Mob raged. Voice lifted up, and though by the power going with the words my head almost went to pieces, such was my zeal that I cried, ‘I’ll preach Christ till to pieces I fall!’ (ibid p.142)

Peter wrote, ‘But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:13-14)

Certainly Harris was conscious of the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him at such times. John Wesley also reports a similar experience of peace in the midst of sometimes violent storms.

While it may be difficult for us to imagine that the pleasure and power of God might rest upon us at a time of persecution, nevertheless those who have suffered prove the promise of Scripture to be true.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Changing Cultures – Methodism and the Mob

Road Map of England from 1736

(Methodism and the Mob Part Two)

Early Irritations and Scares
As the popularity of the movement grew, the Methodist preachers found that they were involved in a battle that, although spiritual, often found a physical expression.

Not only did they face resistance from the clergy, but actual violence from gangs who were often paid to disrupt the meetings.

Here are two accounts from John Wesley’s experience. By the way, this is about as far as you could possibly get from the ‘private jet, 5 Star only’ attitude of a few modern travelling religious celebrities.

The only frequent traveler reward that Wesley enjoyed was an extremely sore bottom! (He travelled hundreds of miles each year on horseback) But more of his personal sacrifice later.

Disturbances in the meeting rooms
This from Wesley’s Journal: ‘Tues 26th Jan, 1742

‘I explained at Chelsea, the faith which worketh by love. I was very weak when I went into the room;

‘but the more ‘the beasts of the people’ increased in madness and rage, the more was I strengthened, both in body and soul; so that I believe few in the house, which was exceedingly full, lost one sentence of what I spoke.

‘Indeed they could not see me, nor one another at a few yards’ distance, by reason of the exceeding thick smoke, which was occasioned by the wild fire, and things of that kind, continually thrown in to the room.

‘But they who could praise God in the midst of the fires, were not to be affrighted by a little smoke.’
(JW Journal, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.354)

A tortured bull is driven into the people and disturbs Wesley’s preaching
March 19, 1742: ‘I rode once more to Pensford at the earnest request of serious people. The place where they desired me to preach was a little green spot near the town.

‘But I had no sooner begun than a great company of rabble, hired (as we afterwards found) for that purpose, came furiously upon us, bringing a bull, which they had been baiting, and now strove to drive in among the people.

‘But the beast was wiser than his drivers and continually ran either on one side of us or the other, while we quietly sang praise to God and prayed for about an hour.

‘The poor wretches, finding themselves disappointed, at length seized upon the bull, now weak and tired after having been so long torn and beaten both by dogs and men; and, by main strength, partly dragged, and partly thrust, him in among the people.

‘When they had forced their way to the little table on which I stood, they strove several times to throw it down by thrusting the helpless beast against it, who, of himself, stirred no more than a log of wood.

‘I once or twice put aside his head with my hand that the blood might not drop upon my clothes; intending to go on as soon as the hurry should be over. But the table falling down, some of our friends caught me in their arms, and carried me right away on their shoulders; while the rabble wreaked their vengeance on the table, which they tore bit from bit.

‘We went a little way off, where I finished my discourse without any noise or interruption.’
(JW Journals, Baker edition, p.363)

This was actually just the beginning of the opposition to the gospel taking hold in England. Persecution has not been uncommon in the history of the Church.

There is, perhaps, comfort in the stories of yesterday to encourage us as we seek to graciously bring the good news of Jesus Christ into the places where God has sent us.

For the next installment click here

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Supernaturally Healed Whilst Preaching

You may not agree with all of John Wesley’s theology. Indeed, some of his statements are baffling.

But one thing you can’t deny is that he was a seriously hard worker. His commitment to preaching and teaching and leading was phenomenal.
And sometimes he got sick.

Weakness and Fever
Here’s an incident from May 1741 which is encouraging. Wesley claims (and I have no reason to doubt the claim) that he was supernaturally healed mid-sermon!!

Friday 8th May, 1741
‘I found myself much out of order. However, I made shift to preach in the evening: but on Saturday my bodily strength quite failed, so that for several hours I could scarce lift my head.

‘Sunday 10th. I was obliged to lie down most part of the day, being easy only in that posture.

‘Yet in the evening my weakness was suspended while I was calling sinners to repentance.

‘But at our love-feast which followed, beside the pain in my back and head, and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray, I was seized with such a cough that I could hardly speak.

Believing and Receiving
‘At the same time came strongly into my mind, ‘These signs shall follow them that believe.’ I called on Jesus aloud, to ‘increase my faith’ and to ‘confirm the word of his grace.’

‘While I was speaking, my pain vanished away; the fever left me; my bodily strength returned; and for many weeks I felt neither weakness nor pain. ‘Unto thee, O Lord, do I give thanks.’
(John Wesley Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.310)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield on the Word and the Spirit

George Whitefield preaching in 1749

During the whole period of the first Great Awakening in America and Europe the power of the Holy Spirit was an obvious feature.

A season of mighty power
The power of God was evidently touching those non-Christians who were attending the massive meetings. The power of God was also touching those who were repenting. And faithful believers were coming into a new experience of God’s love and guidance as a result of being filled with the Spirit.

Inevitably, and especially where those being influenced were new converts, this occasionally led to a lack of common sense and the usual application of wisdom.

George Whitefield, the great Evangelist of the movement was eager to provide counsel that would help those newly baptised into what appear to be essentially charismatic experiences.

Wise counsel from a man full of the Spirit
In a sermon based on Genesis 5:24 (‘And Enoch walked with God’) Whitefield, in seeking to explain how the child of God receives guidance, wrote the following:

‘In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts.

‘As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14), and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent.

‘It is no doubt in this sense that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God.

Led by the Spirit and guided by the Word
‘Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive.

By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm on the one hand, and…downright infidelity on the other.’
(George Whitefield, Walking with God, quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.248. The whole sermon is available here)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

God’s Abiding Presence

Jonathan Edwards

The American colonial town of Northampton (now MA), had experienced numerous seasons of spiritual excitement.

A Cycle of Harvests

Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards grandfather, had led the Northampton church from 1672 and had referred to a cycle of harvests which had brought many of its inhabitants to faith in Christ.

When Jonathan Edwards began his pastoral ministry there (beginning in 1727) he was also able to record amazing outpourings of the Holy Spirit.

George Whitefield’s visit to the town in 1740 seemed to fan into flame the longings and passions of a people hungry for the presence of God.

As Whitefield left Northampton for New York the work was continuing with great power.

‘Great attention in the town’
Edwards wrote, ‘there appeared an awakening and deep concern among some young persons who were in a Christless state…in about a month or six weeks, there was a great attention in the town, both as to the revival of professors [those already converted, or ‘professing’ faith] and the awakening of others.’ (Quoted in Jonathan Edwards, Iain Murray, Banner of Truth, p.164)

But this was no short lived excitement lasting only briefly after the Evangelists’ visit. In May 1741, Edwards preached in someone’s home and wrote that ‘one or two [believers] were so greatly affected with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things’ that the impact was noticeable, ‘having a very visible effect upon their bodies.’

Indeed, he noted that after the regular church services that some of the folk attending were ‘so overcome that they could not go home, but were obliged to stay all night where they were.’ (ibid, p.165)

Iain Murray in his treatment of this period suggests that Edwards is referring to a morning or afternoon service and not an evening service, which can only mean that they were having these encounters with God for many hours!

Absolute Sovereignty
‘Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God.’ declared Edwards and he seemed surprisingly (refreshingly?) open to God’s Spirit moving in power upon the people as an undeniable feature of the revival.

If we look around the world today, at the great ‘harvests’ of South America, China and Africa it is practically impossible not to notice the similarity of phenomena, and the resultant increase of new followers of Christ.

The Holy Spirit is still powerfully active around the world and many thankful Christian leaders can echo Edwards’ words of 1741,

‘There was an appearance of a glorious progress of the work of God upon the hearts of sinners, in conviction and conversion, this summer and autumn, and great numbers, I think we have reason to hope, were brought savingly home to Christ.’ (ibid, p.165)

For more resources on Jonathan Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield visits Jonathan Edwards (part 3)

George Whitefield twenties
George Whitefield, probably in his twenties

Part Three (see Part One and Part Two)

In the autumn of 1740, English Evangelist George Whitefield finally met the man he had so respected, Jonathan Edwards. Both these men were Reformed, (or, ‘Calvinistic’) in their theology and practice, preaching the gospel fervently and trusting God to move the people to respond.

Whitefield had already blazed a trail of powerful evangelistic work in England, Scotland and Wales and had seen multiple thousands gathered to hear the message of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, his brother Charles and a small army of newly converted leaders had taken up the movement in Britain and were not only continuing to proclaim the message to the unconverted but were gathering the new converts into small groups (classes) and mid-week congregations (or ‘societies’ as they called them).

Whitefield’s fame was now legendary, and his visits to colonial America had already been wildly successful. He had been born again only 5 years previously and was just 25 years old. Jonathan Edwards had been eager to meet him and to have him preach in the church he pastored in Northampton, New England.

Jonathan Edwards on George Whitefield’s Visit
In a letter to Thomas Prince, Edwards described the impact of Whitefield’s visit:

‘He preached here four sermons in the meeting-house (besides a private lecture at my house) – one on Friday, another on Saturday, and two upon the Sabbath.

‘The congregation was extraordinarily melted by every sermon; almost the whole assembly being in tears for a great part of sermon time.

‘Mr. Whitefield’s sermons were suitable to the circumstances of the town, containing just reproofs of our backslidings, and, in a most moving and affecting manner, making use of our great profession and great mercies as arguments with us to return to God, from whom we had departed.

‘Immediately after this, the minds of the people in general appeared more engaged in religion, showing a greater forwardness to make religion the subject of their conversation, and to meet frequently together for religious purposes, and to embrace all opportunities to hear the Word preached.

‘The revival at first appeared chiefly among professors and those that had entertained the hope that they were in a state of grace, to whom Mr. Whitefield chiefly addressed himself.

‘But in a very short time there appeared an awakening and deep concern among some young persons that looked upon themselves as in a Christless state; and there were some hopeful appearances of conversion; and some professors were greatly revived.

‘In about a month or six weeks, there was a great alteration in the town, both as to the revivals of professors and awakenings of others.’ (Letters and Personal Writings (WJE Online Vol. 16) at the Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University)

It’s great to see how God raised up an itinerating Evangelist to help a Pastor who was seeking to impact his town with the gospel. Their friendship and mutual respect continued for the rest of their lives.

To read George Whitefield’s remarkable comments on Jonathan and Sarah Edwards’ family life go here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards (part 2)

Part Two (see Part One)

Whitefield preaches in Edwards’ home
George Whitefield continues his account of meeting the Edwards family in Northampton in 1740:

‘In the Evening, I gave a Word of Exhortation to several that came to Mr. Edward’s House. My Body was somewhat weak; my Appetite almost gone; But my Lord gave me Meat, which the World knows nothing of.

‘Lord, evermore give me this Bread! Amen and Amen.

Saturday, October 18
‘At Mr Edwards’s Request, I spoke to his little Children, who were much affected.

Preached at Hadfield 5 Miles from Northampton, but found myself not much strengthened.

Conversed profitably on the Way about the Things of God with dear Mr. Edwards and preached about 4 in the Afternoon to his Congregation.’ (George Whitefield Journals, unedited version, Quinta Press – but see here for Banner of Truth edition)


Sarah Edwards – ‘Workers throw down their tools and go to hear him!’

Sarah Edwards, in a letter to her brother, recorded the general feeling that Whitefield’s visit produced on the town:

‘It is wonderful to see what a spell he casts over an audience by proclaiming the simplest truths of the Bible. I have seen upwards of a thousand people hang on his words with breathless silence, broken only by an occasional half-suppressed sob.

He impresses the ignorant, and not less the educated and refined. It is reported that while the miners of England listened to him, the tears made white furrows down their smutty cheeks.

So here, our mechanics shut up their shops, and the day-labourers throw down their tools, to go and hear him preach, and few return unaffected…

He speaks from a heart all aglow with love, and pours out a torrent of eloquence which is almost irresistible.

Many, very many persons in Northampton date the beginning of new thoughts, new desires, new purposes, and a new life, from the day on which they heard him preach of Christ and this salvation.’
(from Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.162)

Go to Part 3 of this story

For more resources on Jonathan Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University

© 2009 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards (part 1)

When he was just 25 years old, the English Evangelist George Whitefield visited the American town of Northampton, the town made famous by a revival in the 1730’s.

An article in the Princeton Theological Review (Vol 2, No.4, 1904), makes reference to the impact of  the Great Awakening in both Great Britain and America, noting that ‘The chief personal bond between the two branches of this evangelistic movement was George Whitefield’.

New Friends

One of the great joys of this visit, and of real interest to us, is the meeting and subsequent friendship of Whitefield and Edwards, the Evangelist and the Theologian.

Whitefield describes their meeting in his journal:

‘Friday, October 17, 1740
When I had taken a little Refreshment, we crossed the Ferry to Northampton, where no less than 300 Souls…were savingly brought Home to the dear Lord Jesus about 5 or 6 Years ago.

‘Their Pastor’s Name is Edwards, Successor and Grandson to the great Stoddard, whose Memory will be always precious to my Soul, and whose Books…I would recommend to all.

‘Mr. Edwards is a solid, excellent Christian, but at present weak in Body.

‘I think, I may say I have not seen his Fellow in all New-England. When I came into his Pulpit, I found my Heart drawn out to talk of scarce any Thing besides the Consolations and Privileges of Saints, and the plentiful Effusion of the Spirit upon the Hearts of Believers.

‘And, when I came to remind them of their former Experiences, and how zealous and lively they were at that Time, both Minister and People wept much; and the Holy Ghost enabled me to speak with a great deal of Power.’
(George Whitefield Journals, unedited version, Quinta Press – but see here for Banner of Truth edition)

And so, these two giants in their fields met and became firm friends.

For Part 2 of this story see here

For more resources on Jonathan Edwards visit the excellent Jonathan Edwards Centre at Yale University

© 2009 Lex Loizides