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Revival is in the air. Thoughtful ministers and Christians everywhere are talking about a revival, expecting a revival, and, best of all, praying for a revival. There seems to be little doubt that a revival of some kind is coming, but the important question is, What kind of a revival will it be? Will it be a true revival, sent of God because His people have met the conditions that make it possible for God to work with power, or will it be a spurious revival gotten up by the arts and devices of man? A business man who is in touch with religious movements in all parts of the country said to me recently, “There is little doubt that a revival of some kind is coming, and the revival that is coming will be either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse that has ever visited the church of Christ.” There are thousands of ministers and other Christian workers in the land longing for a true revival of God’s work, but with no experimental or even theoretical knowledge of how to go to work to promote such a revival. It is our earnest prayer and confident expectation that this book will prove helpful to all such. CrossReachPublications
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How to Promote & Conduct a Successful Revival
With Suggestive Outlines
R. A. TORREY
Author of “How to Bring Men to Christ,” “What the Bible Teaches,” etc., etc.
Fleming H. Revell Company
London ~ Edinburgh
Copyright, 1901, By Fleming H. Revell Company
Hope. Inspiration. Trust.
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Introduction to Fourth Edition
The Holy Spirit in a Revivalby R. A. Torrey
I. The Holy Spirit’s Part in a Revival
II. How to Secure the Holy Spirit’s Work With Power
The Place of Prayer in a Revivalby R. A. Torrey
How Can We Get Our People to Praying?
The Preaching Needed in Revivalsby Rev. Louis Albert Banks, D.D.
The Minister as an Evangelist by Rev. William Patterson
Organizing for Revival Workby Rev. Len G. Broughton
How Shall We Organize?
The Revival Starts
Closing Up the Meeting
The Sunday-School Teacher as a Soul-Winner by Marion Lawrance
Decision-Day in the Sunday School by Rev. H. W. Pope
Following Up Results
The Conversion of Children by Rev. E. P. Hammond and R. A. Torrey
I. The Importance of the Conversion of Children
II. Who is Responsible for the Conversion of the Children?
III. How to Convert the Children
I.—The Importance of Open-Air Work by William Evans
II.—The Value of Open-Air Work
1. It Will Enable You to Reach People You Could Not Otherwise Reach
2. It Will Enable You to Reach Men
3. It Will Give You Freedom of Speech Not Always Possible in the Pulpit of Your Church
4. It Will Give You Good Development of the Lungs
III.—The Nature of the Open-Air Meeting
1. The Speaker
2. The Nature of the Meeting
IV.—And, Finally, Results of Open-Air Work
Use of Tracts & Other Literature to Promote a Revival by Rev. H. W. Pope
People Who Should Use Tracts
How Rev. Edward Judson Uses Tracts
How to Use Leaflets
Useful in Opening Conversation
Useful to Close Conversation
Useful to Counteract Infidelity
Useful in Promoting a Revival
Results of Tract Work
Personal Work by R. A. Torrey
I. Its Advantages
II. How to Succeed
Drawing the Net by R. A. Torrey
The After-Meeting by A. C. Dixon
How to Make the Work Permanent by Rev. E. P. Goodwin, D.D.
How to Make a Success of the Christian Lifeby R. A. Torrey
Music in a Revival by D. B. Towner
Advertising the Meetings by A. F. Gaylord
How to Win Souls for Christ by C. H. Spurgeon
The Great Revivalby the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon
The Work of the Spirit by Rev. Joshua Stansfield
Honoring the Holy Spirit by Rev. W. S. Harrington, D.D.
The Revival With a Plan by Rev. Isaac Crook, D.D.
Seven Vital Paragraphs by Charles W. Baldwin
Praying-Bands by B. H. Hart
Getting Under Way by W. P. Macvey
An Important Factor in Revivals by Rev. Louis Albert Banks, D.D.
Exalt Personal Effort by Rev. George B. Wight, D.D.
An Unlooked-for Revival by Rev. Robert Watt, D.D.
O for a Baptism of Prayer! by Mrs. M. N. Van Benschoten
Regeneration—D. L. M.
The Gospel—I—D. L. M.
The Gospel—II—D. L. M.
Christ as a Deliverer—D. L. M.
Compassion of Christ—D. L. M.
Christ’s Mission to the World—D. L. M.
Retribution—D. L. M.
Love—D. L. M.
Confessing Christ—D. L. M.
Seeking the Lord—D. L. M.
Grace—I—D. L. M.
Grace—II—D. L. M.
What Will You Do With Jesus?—D. L. M.
On Trusting in the Mercy of God—C. G. F.
The Savior Lifted Up, and the Look of Faith—C. G. F.
The Excuses of Sinners Condemn God—C. G. F.
The Spirit Not Striving Always—C. G. F.
God’s Love Commended to Us—C. G. F.
Salvation of the Lord—C. H. S.
Salvation to the Uttermost—C. H. S.
The Royal Prerogative—C. H. S.
Salvation By Knowing the Truth—C. H. S.
The Plain Man’s Pathway to Peace—C. H. S.
The Great Arbitration Case—C. H. S.
Only Trust Him! Only Trust Him!—C. H. S.
Jesus Only—C. H. S.
Faith: What is it? How Can it Be Obtained?—C. H. S.
All Things are Ready. Come—C. H. S.
Every Man’s Need of a Hiding-Place—R. A. T.
Refuges of Lies—R. A. T.
A Solemn Question—R. A. T.
What it Costs Not to Be a Christian—R. A. T.
How Shall We Escape?—R. A. T.
“To-day”—R. A. T.
David’s Sin—R. A. T.
What Shall We Do With Jesus?—R. A. T.
What are You Waiting for?—R. A. T.
The Price of Power—R. A. T.
The Drama of Life in Three Acts—R. A. T.
Infidelity; Its Causes, Consequences and Cure—R. A. T.
Eternal Life, or the Wrath of God—Which?—R. A. T.
The Water of Life—C. I.
A Sevenfold View of the Love of God—C. I.
Ten Steps in the Prodigal’s Life—C. I.
Jesus, the Friend—H. M.
Rules for Evangelists—M. R.
He Still Waits—F. S.
A Great Conditional Promise—F. S.
Christ Our Example—F. S.
Christ Our Mighty One—F. S.
Christ Our Friend—F. S.
Saving the Lost—R. A. T.
God-Given Conviction—R. A. T.
Saved—R. A. T.
How to Become Sons of God
“God Calling, Yet”—C. N. H.
“Convicted, But Not Regenerated”—C. N. H.
“Salvation:” A Lawyer’s View—C. N. H.
“Christ or the Robber?”
“God’s Justice and His Mercy”—C. N. H.
Topics and Texts for Sermons and Bible Readings
About CrossReach Publications
Bestselling Titles from CrossReach
The first edition of this book was published the year before we began our evangelistic tour around the world. For two years or more hundreds of us had been praying together for a world-wide revival and we had reached the point where we were absolutely sure that the revival was coming, and this book was prepared as a preparation for that revival and as a help to it. I had not decided at that time to go around the world. The decision was made shortly afterwards. In looking over the book since my return home, I have been surprised to see how closely we have followed the lines of action suggested in this book, and have been rejoiced to see how God has set His seal upon the principles enunciated in the book. At the time that the book was given to the public, the editor was known more as a Bible teacher and as a pastor than as an evangelist. His evangelistic activity had been largely confined to those churches of which he himself was pastor. Since the publication of the book, God has seen fit to lead him out into the evangelistic field and he has had the privilege of applying on a very wide scale the principles which he enunciates in the book and he has found that these principles work successfully, even beyond his own anticipation. I am more firmly convinced than ever of the truth of the statement found on the eighteenth page of the book:
“When any church can be brought to the place where they will recognize their need of the Holy Spirit, and take their eyes off from all men, and surrender absolutely to the Holy Spirit’s control, and give themselves to much prayer for His outpouring, and present themselves as His agents, having stored the Word of God in their heads and hearts, and then look to the Holy Spirit to give it power as it falls from their lips, a mighty revival in the power of the Holy Ghost is inevitable.”
R. A. Torrey.
Revival is in the air. Thoughtful ministers and Christians everywhere are talking about a revival, expecting a revival, and, best of all, praying for a revival. There seems to be little doubt that a revival of some kind is coming, but the important question is, What kind of a revival will it be? Will it be a true revival, sent of God because His people have met the conditions that make it possible for God to work with power, or will it be a spurious revival gotten up by the arts and devices of man? A business man who is in touch with religious movements in all parts of the country said to me recently, “There is little doubt that a revival of some kind is coming, and the revival that is coming will be either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse that has ever visited the church of Christ.”
There are many who are trying to promote a revival by pushing to the front doctrines that have never produced a revival in all the history of the church of Christ. These doctrines are called new, but they are in reality as old as the early heresies that crept into the church. They have never had power in the past to produce conviction of sin, conversion or regeneration, so presumably they will not have that power to-day.
Others are advocating a forward movement along lines utterly untried, and that seem to have little promise in them. Some of the methods described in this book will doubtless appear novel to many, but they are methods that have been tried and proved effective. There is absolutely no mere theorizing in the book. Men whom God has used in winning souls to Christ and building up believers, have been asked to write out of their own experience. No one who has been asked to write has declined. Such a book as this seems to be an absolute necessity of the hour. There are thousands of ministers and other Christian workers in the land longing for a true revival of God’s work, but with no experimental or even theoretical knowledge of how to go to work to promote such a revival. It is our earnest prayer and confident expectation that this book will prove helpful to all such.
Two passages of Scripture might well form the watchwords of every true revival, watchwords that should never for a moment be forgotten. The first is a portion of Zech. 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts”; the second is, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63). In the conduct of any real revival, the Holy Ghost must occupy the place of supreme and absolute control. Revival is new life, and only the Holy Ghost can impart life.
Let us look definitely at the Holy Spirit’s part in a revival, or, in other words, at what the Holy Spirit must do if there is to be a true revival.
1. In the first place, the Holy Spirit must inspire us to and guide us in prayer. In regard to the great revival that is to come some day to Israel, God says, “I will pour out upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem revival the spirit of grace and of supplication.” So also, if there is to be a true in any church or community or nation, God must pour out upon them the spirit of grace and of supplication. The work must begin with Him. We are living in a day when there are many indications that God is doing His part to do this very thing for us. Prayer is the vital breath of a true revival. Prayerless revivals are a sham. But we know not how to pray as we ought, and if there is to be acceptable and effective prayer, the Holy Spirit must help our infirmity and teach us how to pray (Rom. 8:26, 27). We need to cry to God that He will not only pour out upon us a spirit of grace and of supplication, but that He will also by His Holy Spirit teach us how to pray. Doubtless He is already doing this in a measure, but we need a larger measure.
2. The Holy Spirit must have the superintendency and direction of all the revival activities. It was so in the apostolic church, which was a revival church. The Holy Spirit chose the officers (Acts 20:28), He directed where His chosen servants were to preach and work (Acts 13:1–2), He oftentimes directed in a most minute way, and in ways that those directed did not altogether understand (Acts 16:6–8). All the plans for the revival, and all the details of the plans should be submitted to the Holy Spirit for His guidance; He should be the recognized chairman of every committee.
3. The Holy Spirit must give power to the preaching and to the testimony. When Jesus gave to the disciples the great commission to go out and evangelize the world, He said, “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Paul in writing to the church at Corinth said, “I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Again, in writing to the church in Thessalonica, “Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.” Whoever does the preaching in the revival, whether it be the pastor or the evangelist, the whole dependence for results from the preaching must be upon the Holy Spirit. Whoever testifies, we must look to the Holy Spirit to give power to the testimony. Many a preacher of very small gifts has been mightily used of God because he and the people looked to the Holy Spirit, and many a man of naturally large gifts has accomplished nothing of real and permanent value because the dependence was upon him and not upon the Holy Ghost.
4. The Holy Spirit must convict men of sin. Jesus said in promising the Holy Spirit to the disciples, “and He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of sin.” A revival without conviction of sin, deep, pungent, overwhelming, is not a true revival. It is true that a great many may be converted and born again without the deep and overwhelming conviction of sin that others have. They may come in as quietly as Lydia, whose heart the Lord opened, but when there is a deep and true work of grace, there will be a deep and overwhelming conviction of sin on the part of many. It was so on the day of Pentecost; as Peter preached in the power of the Holy Ghost a loud cry went up from men who were pricked in their heart, “Men and brethren, what must we do to be saved?” There has been similar conviction of sin at every genuine and lasting revival since. This is beginning to be so in the church to-day. From all directions come reports of deep conviction of sin. Now it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict men of sin, and we must depend upon Him to do it. We must ask Him to do it. We must expect Him to do it. Nothing is more futile than to try to convict men of sin by any unaided powers of reasoning that we may possess. The natural heart is so blind, and especially so blind as to its own condition, that the supernatural grace of the Spirit is necessary to open the eyes of the soul to its real condition. But the Holy Spirit, where dependence is placed upon Him, is constantly administering His power to convict even the most careless of sin.
5. The Holy Spirit must regenerate. Revival is new life, and new life to the unsaved comes through regeneration, and it is the Holy Spirit’s work to regenerate. Men are saved not through works of righteousness which they themselves have done, but according to God’s mercy, who saves us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” If there is to be a mighty revival in any church, ministers and people must look to the Holy Spirit to regenerate men. He can do it; He is doing it every day where dependence is placed upon Him. He is touching the hearts of men and women, seemingly almost beyond the reach of the grace of God, and quickening and transforming them by His almighty power. Let us ask Him and expect Him to do it in our own community. What He did in Saul of Tarsus in Damascus, He can do in many another Saul of Tarsus in Chicago, or in any city or village of the land.
6. The Holy Spirit must sanctify, consecrate and fill. A revival means not only life for those dead in trespasses and sins, but, furthermore, new life, life more abundant, for those who already have some life. It means complete surrender to God, a setting apart for God, a filling with God, for Christians; and all this is the Holy Spirit’s work. He is the sanctifier and the filler (1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 5:18). Many are trying to cleanse and fill themselves. No! no! Look to the Spirit to do it for you and for others.
We have seen how much depends in a revival on the Holy Spirit’s work, how, in fact, everything depends upon Him. Some one might think, then, that all we have to do is to sit down and wait for the Holy Spirit to work, but this is not so. The Holy Spirit is always willing and anxious to do His work if the proper conditions are supplied. It is true that the Holy Spirit, like the wind, bloweth where He willeth, but He always willeth to blow where He can consistently, that is, where certain conditions are supplied. What are these conditions, or, in other words, what must we do to secure the Holy Spirit’s work with power?
1. First of all, we must recognize our need of Him. The Holy Spirit only works with power when men deeply realize their need of Him. In many a so-called revival men feel that they are themselves quite sufficient for the work in hand. They think that if they can only have the right plans, and the right machinery, and the right advertising, and the right sort of singing and preaching, the desired results will follow. For some years in our country, we have been trying these machine-made revivals, and the result is a sorry and sickening failure. We must feel our utter helplessness and dependence upon the Holy Ghost. Do we feel that to-day? Much that is said and written about the coming revival would seem to indicate that we do not.
2. In the next place, we must take our eyes off from men. If we get our eyes on any man, or any company of men, the Holy Ghost cannot work. God tells us that He has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty, and the base things of the world, and things which are despised, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are. Then God tells us why He has chosen the foolish things; in order that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Cor. 1:27–29). God will not give His glory to another, and if we get our eyes fixed on any man, God will withhold His power and blessing. “Men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie, in the balances they will go up, they are together lighter than vanity.” Power belongs unto God and to Him alone, and if our dependence is upon men of low degree or men of high degree, the almighty power of God will not be manifested.
If we wish the Holy Spirit to do His glorious work, we must keep our eyes fixed upon Him, and Him alone.
3. We must surrender absolutely to the Holy Spirit’s control. We have already said that He must control everything, but we on our part must gladly recognize His right to control, and submit whole-heartedly to it. God gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey Him (Acts 5:32). If we would see a mighty work of God’s grace, the deepest longing of our hearts should be that in all our meetings everything about them should be surrendered absolutely to the control of the Holy Spirit. Then shall we see great things.
4. We must pray. If there is anything absolutely clear in the Word of God, in Christian history and in individual experience, it is that the Holy Spirit is given in His fullness in answer to definite prayer (Luke 11:13). The Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost after a ten days’ prayer meeting; and if He is to come in mighty power in these days, there must be much private and much united prayer.
5. We must furnish some one for the Spirit to work through, and something for the Spirit to use.
(1). The Holy Spirit works through men. When Cornelius was to be converted, and there was to be a revival in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit did not go directly to Cornelius; He sent Peter, and Peter presented himself as an agent for the Holy Spirit’s power. So must we do. The Holy Spirit convicts men, but He convicts them through us. In speaking to His disciples Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send Him unto you, and when He is come [that is, come unto you] He will convict the world in respect of sin.” So it is evident that the Holy Spirit who convicts the world does it through the believer. He comes to the believer and convicts the world through him. Will we now present ourselves to the Holy Spirit as the agent through whom He may do His glorious work any way He chooses? It may be in invitation work, in tract distribution, in personal work, in singing, in preaching, in any way He will. There is a great revival coming. The Holy Spirit wants agents for this work. How many of us are willing to be His agents, absolutely at His disposal?
(2). The Holy Spirit not only works through men, but He works through a certain instrumentality, that is, the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). If the Holy Spirit is to work mightily, we must get the Word of God into our heads and into our hearts and upon our lips. On the day of Pentecost, the Word of God which Peter had been storing in his heart for years, got onto his lips, and a mighty revival followed. In Acts 6:4 Peter and the rest of the disciples decided to give themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. What the result was we read in verse seven, “The Word of God increased and the number of disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great number of priests were obedient to the faith.”
When any church can be brought to the place where they will recognize their need of the Holy Spirit, and take their eyes off from all men, and surrender absolutely to the Holy Spirit’s control, and give themselves to much prayer for His outpouring, and present themselves as His agents, having stored the Word of God in their heads and hearts, and then look to the Holy Spirit to give it power as it falls from their lips, a mighty revival in the power of the Holy Ghost is inevitable.
The first great revival of Christian history had its origin on the human side in a ten-days’ prayer-meeting. We read of that handful of disciples, “These all with one accord continued steadfastly in prayer.” (Acts 1:14, R. V.) The result of that prayer-meeting we read of in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (v. 4). Further on in the chapter we read that “there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls” (v. 41, R. V.). This revival proved genuine and permanent. The converts “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers” (v. 42, R. V.). “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (v. 47, R. V.).
Every true revival from that day to this has had its earthly origin in prayer. The great revival under Jonathan Edwards in the eighteenth century began with his famous call to prayer. The marvelous work of grace among the Indians under Brainerd had its origin in the days and nights that Brainerd spent before God in prayer for an enduement of power from on high for this work.
A most remarkable and widespread display of God’s reviving power was that which broke out at Rochester, New York, in 1830, under the labors of Charles G. Finney. It not only spread throughout the State, but ultimately to Great Britain as well. Mr. Finney himself attributed the power of this work to the spirit of prayer that prevailed. He describes it in his autobiography in the following words:
“When I was on my way to Rochester, as we passed through a village, some thirty miles east of Rochester, a brother minister whom I knew, seeing me on the canal-boat, jumped aboard to have a little conversation with me, intending to ride but a little way and return. He, however, became interested in conversation, and upon finding where I was going, he made up his mind to keep on and go with me to Rochester. We had been there but a few days when this minister became so convicted that he could not help weeping aloud at one time as we passed along the street. The Lord gave him a powerful spirit of prayer, and his heart was broken. As he and I prayed together, I was struck with his faith in regard to what the Lord was going to do there. I recollect he would say, ‘Lord, I do not know how it is; but I seem to know that Thou art going to do a great work in this city.’ The spirit of prayer was poured out powerfully, so much so that some persons stayed away from the public services to pray, being unable to restrain their feelings under preaching.
“And here I must introduce the name of a man, whom I shall have occasion to mention frequently, Mr. Abel Clary. He was the son of a very excellent man, and an elder of the church where I was converted. He was converted in the same revival in which I was. He had been licensed to preach; but his spirit of prayer was such, he was so burdened with the souls of men, that he was not able to preach much, his whole time and strength being given to prayer. The burden of his soul would frequently be so great that he was unable to stand, and he would writhe and groan in agony. I was well acquainted with him, and knew something of the wonderful spirit of prayer that was upon him. He was a very silent man, as almost all are who have that powerful spirit of prayer.
“The first I knew of his being in Rochester, a gentleman who lived about a mile west of the city called on me one day and asked me if I knew a Mr. Abel Clary, a minister. I told him that I knew him well. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘he is at my house, and has been there for some time, and I don’t know what to think of him.’ I said, ‘I have not seen him at any of our meetings.’ ‘No,’ he replied, ‘he cannot go to meeting, he says. He prays nearly all the time, day and night, and in such agony of mind that I do not know what to make of it. Sometimes he cannot even stand on his knees, but will lie prostrate on the floor, and groan and pray in a manner that quite astonishes me.’ I said to the brother, ‘I understand it: please keep still. It will all come out right; he will surely prevail.’
“I knew at the time a considerable number of men who were exercised in the same way. A Deacon P——, of Camden, Oneida County; a Deacon T——, of Rodman, Jefferson County; a Deacon B——, of Adams, in the same county; this Mr. Clary and many others among the men, and a large number of women partook of the same spirit, and spent a great part of their time in prayer. Father Nash, as we called him, who in several of my fields of labor came to me and aided me, was another of those men that had such a powerful spirit of prevailing prayer. This Mr. Clary continued in Rochester as long as I did, and did not leave it until after I had left. He never, that I could learn, appeared in public, but gave himself wholly to prayer.
“I think it was the second Sabbath that I was at Auburn at this time, I observed in the congregation the solemn face of Mr. Clary. He looked as if he was borne down with an agony of prayer. Being well acquainted with him, and knowing the great gift of God that was upon him, the spirit of prayer, I was very glad to see him there. He sat in the pew with his brother, the doctor, who was also a professor of religion, but who had nothing by experience, I should think, of his brother Abel’s great power with God.
“At intermission, as soon as I came down from the pulpit, Mr. Clary, with his brother, met me at the pulpit stairs, and the doctor invited me to go home with him and spend the intermission and get some refreshments. I did so.
“After arriving at his house we were soon summoned to the dinner-table. We gathered about the table, and Dr. Clary turned to his brother and said, ‘Brother Abel, will you ask the blessing?’ Brother Abel bowed his head and began, audibly, to ask a blessing. He had uttered but a sentence or two when he broke instantly down, moved suddenly back from the table, and fled to his chamber. The doctor supposed he had been taken suddenly ill, and rose up and followed him. In a few moments he came down and said, ‘Mr. Finney, brother Abel wants to see you.’ Said I, ‘What ails him?’ Said he, ‘I do not know, but he says; you know. He appears in great distress, but I think it is the state of his mind.’ I understood it in a moment, and went to his room. He lay groaning upon the bed, the Spirit making intercession for him, and in him, with groanings that could not be uttered. I had barely entered the room, when he made out to say, ‘Pray, brother Finney.’ I knelt down and helped him in prayer, by leading his soul out for the conversion of sinners. I continued to pray until his distress passed away, and then I returned to the dinner table.
“I understood that this was the voice of God. I saw the spirit of prayer was upon him, and I felt his influence upon myself, and took it for granted that the work would move on powerfully. It did so. The pastor told me afterward that he found that in the six weeks that I was there five hundred souls had been converted.”
Mr. Finney in his lectures on revivals tells of other remarkable awakenings in answer to the prayers of God’s people. He says in one place, “A clergyman in W——n told me of a revival among his people, which commenced with a zealous and devoted woman in the church. She became anxious about sinners, and went to praying for them; she prayed, and her distress increased; and she finally came to her minister, and talked with him, and asked him to appoint an anxious meeting, for she felt that one was needed. The minister put her off, for he felt nothing of it. The next week she came again, and besought him to appoint an anxious meeting; she knew there would be somebody come, for she felt as if God was going to pour out His Spirit. He put her off again. And finally she said to him, ‘If you do not appoint an anxious meeting I shall die, for there is certainly going to be a revival.’ The next Sabbath he appointed a meeting, and said that if there were any who wished to converse with him about the salvation of their souls, he would meet them on such an evening. He did not know of one, but when he went to the place, to his astonishment he found a large number of anxious inquirers.”
In still another place he says, “The first ray of light that broke in upon the midnight which rested on the churches in Oneida County, in the fall of 1825, was from a woman in feeble health, who, I believe, had never been in a powerful revival. Her soul was exercised about sinners. She was in agony for the land. She did not know what ailed her, but she kept praying more and more, till it seemed as if her agony would destroy her body. At length she became full of joy and exclaimed, ‘God has come! God has come! There is no mistake about it, the work is begun, and is going over all the region!’ And sure enough, the work began, and her family were almost all converted, and the work spread all over that part of the country.”
The great revival of 1857 in the United States began in prayer and was carried on by prayer more than by anything else. Dr. Cuyler in an article in a religious newspaper some years ago said, “Most revivals have humble beginnings, and the fire starts in a few warm hearts. Never despise the day of small things. During all my own long ministry, nearly every work of grace had a similar beginning. One commenced in a meeting gathered at a few hours’ notice in a private house. Another commenced in a group gathered for Bible study by Mr. Moody in our mission chapel. Still another—the most powerful of all—was kindled on a bitter January evening at a meeting of young Christians under my roof. Dr. Spencer, in his ‘Pastor’s Sketches’ (the most suggestive book of its kind I have ever read), tells us that a remarkable revival in his church sprang from the fervent prayers of a godly old man who was confined to his room by lameness. That profound Christian, Dr. Thomas H. Skinner, of the Union Theological Seminary, once gave me an account of a remarkable coming together of three earnest men in his study when he was the pastor of the Arch Street Church in Philadelphia. They literally wrestled in prayer. They made a clean breast in confession of sin, and humbled themselves before God. One and another church officer came in and joined them. The heaven-kindled flame soon spread through the whole congregation in one of the most powerful revivals ever known in that city.”
In the early part of the sixteenth century there was a great religious awakening in Ulster, Ireland. The lands of the rebel chiefs, which had been forfeited to the British crown, were settled up by a class of colonists who for the most part were governed by a spirit of wild adventure. Real piety was rare. Seven ministers, five from Scotland and two from England, settled in that country, the earliest arrivals being in 1613. Of one of these ministers named Blair it is recorded by a contemporary, “He spent many days and nights in prayer, alone and with others, and was vouchsafed great intimacy with God.” Mr. James Glendenning, a man of very meager natural gifts, was a man similarly minded as regards prayer. The work began tinder this man Glendenning. The historian of the time says, “He was a man who never would have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land. Yet this was the Lord’s choice to begin with him the admirable work of God which I mention on purpose that all may see how the glory is only the Lord’s in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was ‘not by might, nor by power, nor by man’s wisdom, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.’ ” In his preaching at Old-stone multitudes of hearers felt in great anxiety and terror of conscience. They looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned, and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” They were stricken into a swoon by the power of His Word. A dozen in one day were carried out of doors as dead. These were not women, but some of the boldest spirits of the neighborhood; “some who had formerly feared not with their swords to put a whole market town into a fray.” Concerning one of them, the historian writes, “I have heard one of them, then a mighty strong man, now a mighty Christian, say that his end in coming into church was to consult with his companions how to work some mischief.”
This work spread throughout the whole country. By the year 1626 a monthly concert of prayer was held in Antrim. The work spread beyond the bounds of Down and Antrim to the churches of the neighboring counties. So great became the religious interest that Christians would come thirty or forty miles to the communions, and continue from the time they came until they returned without wearying or making use of sleep. Many of them neither ate nor drank, and yet some of them professed that they “went away most fresh and vigorous, their souls so filled with the sense of God.”
This revival changed the whole character of northern Ireland.
Another great awakening in Ireland in 1859 had a somewhat similar origin. By many who did not know, it was thought that this marvelous work came without warning and preparation, but Rev. William Gibson, the moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1860, in his very interesting and valuable history of the work, tells how there had been preparation for two years. There had been constant discussion in the General Assembly of the low estate of religion, and of the need of a revival. There had been special sessions for prayer. Finally four young men, who became leaders in the origin of the great work, began to meet together in an old school-house in the neighborhood of Kells. About the spring of 1858 a work of power began to manifest itself. It spread from town to town, and from county to county. The congregations became too large for the buildings, and the meetings were held in the open air, oftentimes attended by many thousands of people. Many hundreds of persons were frequently convicted of sin in a single meeting. In some places the criminal courts and jails were closed for lack of occupation. There were manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power of a most remarkable character, clearly proving that the Holy Spirit is as ready to work to-day as in apostolic days, when ministers and Christians really believe in Him and begin to prepare the way by prayer.
Mr. Moody’s wonderful work in England and Scotland and Ireland that afterwards spread to America had its origin on the manward side in prayer. Mr. Moody made little impression until men and women began to cry to God. Indeed, his going to England at all was in answer to the importunate cries to God of a bed-ridden saint. While the spirit of prayer continued the revival abode in strength, but in the course of time less and less was made of prayer, and the work fell off very perceptibly in power. Doubtless one of the great secrets of the unsatisfactoriness and superficiality and unreality of many of our modern so-called revivals, is that more dependence is put upon man’s machinery than upon God’s power, sought and obtained by earnest, persistent, believing prayer. We live in a day characterized by the multiplication of man’s machinery and the diminution of God’s power. The great cry of our day is work, work, work, new organizations, new methods, new machinery; the great need of our day is prayer. It was a master stroke of the devil when he got the church so generally to lay aside this mighty weapon of prayer. The devil is perfectly willing that the church should multiply its organizations, and deftly contrive machinery for the conquest of the world for Christ if it will only give up praying. He laughs as he looks at the church to-day and says to himself:
“You can have your Sunday Schools and your Young People’s Societies, your Young Men’s Christian Associations and your Women’s Christian Temperance Unions, your Institutional Churches and your Industrial Schools, and your Boys’ Brigades, your grand choirs and your fine organs, your brilliant preachers and your revival efforts too, if you don’t bring the power of Almighty God into them by earnest, persistent, believing, mighty prayer.”
Prayer could work as marvelous results to-day as it ever could, if the church would only betake itself to it.
There seems to be increasing signs that the church is awaking to this fact. Here and there God is laying upon individual ministers and churches a burden of prayer that they have never known before. Less dependence is being put upon machinery and more dependence upon God. Ministers are crying to God day and night for power. Churches and portions of churches are meeting together in the early morning hours and the late night hours crying to God for the latter rain. There is every indication of the coming of a mighty and widespread revival. There is every reason why, if a revival should come in any country at this time, it should be more widespread in its extent than any revival of history. There is the closest and swiftest communication by travel, by letter, and by cable between all parts of the world. A true fire of God kindled in America would soon spread to the uttermost parts of the earth. The only thing needed to bring this fire is prayer.
It is not necessary that the whole church get to praying to begin with. Great revivals always begin first in the hearts of a few men and women whom God arouses by His Spirit to believe in Him as a living God, as a God who answers prayer, and upon whose heart He lays a burden from which no rest can be found except in importunate crying unto God.
First of all, we as ministers should begin praying ourselves. Those who read this book who are not ministers should also begin praying themselves. It is recorded of a young minister that there came to him such a burden for the salvation of the lost that he offered this prayer to God, “O God send us a revival or let me die.” This seems extravagant, but is it any more extravagant than Moses’ prayer in the mount? “Yet now if Thou wilt, forgive their sin; if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.” Is it any more extravagant that Paul’s expression of love for his unsaved brethren? “I could wish that I myself were Anathema from Christ for my brethren’s sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Extravagant or not, God answered this young minister with a mighty outpouring of His Holy Spirit. When we as ministers have something of a similar burden of prayer for the perishing, revivals will soon appear.
Having been brought by God’s Spirit into such a place of earnest prayer ourselves, we should seek out the more spiritual members of our flock, and gather them around us for prayer, then, in due time, the whole church can be gathered for prayer. There should be prayer meetings at the church, but not only at the church; there should be prayer meetings in the homes. Cottage meetings should be instituted, where neighbors gather together to pray for a revival. In country districts neighborhood meetings should be held in the school houses, or wherever the farmers and their families can be gotten together. The godly ones, who are sick and shut in, and the very aged ones, who may not be able to get out, should be especially enlisted in this ministry of prayer. Others at a distance can also be enlisted by correspondence. Not a little of the marvelous results of Mr. Newell’s great Bible classes in Chicago, Detroit and St. Louis is due to the fact that he secured from all his friends the names of the godliest people they knew, far and wide, and began writing to them and thus enlisting them in a work of prayer in behalf of these classes.
Let each one get to praying, and get as many others as possible to praying for his own community, and then for the world at large.
First, Revival preaching to be effective must be positive. The doubter never has revivals. The man who finds it necessary to be all the while hedging and explaining and apologizing for the Gospel message which he brings, will never arouse revivals under his preaching. A revival is a revolution in many important respects, and revolutions are never brought about by timid, fearful or deprecatory addresses. They are awakened by men who are cocksure of their ground, and who speak with authority. So the men who arouse revivals by their preaching are men who believe the Bible, and who hold its great message to not only be true but infinitely important. And they preach it with the positive force of a man who is certain that he stands on solid rock. The message is true. The man who believes it shall be saved; the man who does not believe it will be damned. Eternal destiny hangs upon it. Christ is able to save the sinner. No one else can save him. The sinner can be saved now. These great facts must be central and positive in the preacher’s mind and heart, and he must utter them with positive emphasis.
Second, revival preaching must be direct. It must be addressed to the people right then and there before the preacher. He is not giving out a message to be diffused around through the community. He is a messenger from heaven with a free pardon in his hand for a man condemned to die, and that man sits right there in the pew before him. He must get the man to see the pardon, to feel his need of it and to accept it before he leaves the house. He must get on to some basis by which he can make that man feel as well as understand the message.
Third, revival preaching must be sympathetic. If it is not it may arouse men and yet fail to win them. It must get at men from their human side. The preacher must find a man’s heart and warm it to himself, as well as to the Christ whom he preaches. There are many people who can be won largely through personal reasons. They are just as certainly won as though they were won in another way. But they come to know Christ through the preacher who proclaims Him. The sympathy and tenderness and love of the preacher’s heart, which show forth in his sympathetic words and manner, attract them like a magnet, and they are drawn away from their sins and drawn toward Christ.
Fourth, revival preaching must be directed toward the heart and not the head. In spite of all that is said about agnosticism and infidelity there are very few who, down at the heart, are really unbelievers in the divine power of Jesus Christ to forgive sins and save the soul. Where there is one such, there are a hundred who are believers, so far as a wicked man is ever a believer, but whose heart-lusts and sinful passions hold them away from Christ and righteousness. The conviction of the head will never win them to Christ. The heart must be aroused; they must feel the baseness of their ingratitude; they must see the heinousness of their sins; they must appreciate the certainty of punishment and feel that, hanging over their guilty heads, even now, is the weight of condemnation of guilt. Get hold of the heart and the head yields easily. Men continue in sin because their hearts are evil. Make the heart feel its guilt, let the heart see Christ as the “one altogether lovely,” and as the helm turns the course of the ship in the hands of the pilot, who has just been taken on from the pilot-boat, so the life will change just as suddenly from the changed heart to which you have made your appeal.
Fifth, revival preaching must be simple and clear. There is no time to let a man study about it for a week and reason out what you have told him. You are like a lawyer before a jury, on the last day of the trial, when he knows that the jury is to go out to make its decision immediately on the close of his speech. All his desires to make a great impression on the jury, that may help him in some future case, are thrust aside. What he must do is to make the jury understand the case now, and look at it from his standpoint. He will not use a word, if he knows it, that is not comprehended at a glance by the jury. What he says must be absolutely clear and simple and stand out distinct in their minds if he is to win his verdict. Revival preaching is like that. No man who wants immediate effect in the conversion of sinners ought ever to say anything in a sermon that a boy ten years old, brought up in a Christian family, would not easily comprehend. There is perhaps as great a weakness at this point as at any other among preachers who try to have revivals. They want to preach too big sermons. I had a man come to me once who was very serious and deeply anxious to have results in the conversion of sinners under his ministry. During the conversation he made this remark: “I cannot get the consent of my mind to so lower the literary and philosophical standard which I have set for myself, to do the kind of preaching which seems to win men to decision for Christ.” That was a real confession. He had hit the root of the matter. He always reminded me of that moral, rich young man who came to Christ, and who was such a good young fellow that Christ loved him, and yet he went sadly away with a frown on his brow from the very door of the kingdom. This man of whom I have spoken has never got the consent of his mind to do the right kind of preaching, and as a result has never had a revival. And he never will have until he surrenders to Christ to do the kind of preaching that will accomplish the result he desires.
Sixth, revival preaching must be illustrative. It must be in pictures. It must seize hold of the imagination. The Master used pictures. His sermons are full of stories and parables. He made men see His message as well as hear it. His message lived again in the imagination. We can bring men to action in the same way. No man has ever been a great revivalist who scorned a generous use of illustrations. It is a common thing for the great evangelists, and the pastors who have great success in winning men to Christ, to be criticised by the so-called eloquent and profound preachers who never have any revivals of their own, as being only story-tellers, and not being “strong” preachers. This is all nonsense. A sermon is strong only when it is powerful to produce the effect for which a sermon is made. If the great end of a sermon is to arouse a man to hate his sins, and see in Christ a divine Savior, and so awaken him as to cause him to immediately accept Christ and find forgiveness, then that sermon is a strong sermon which brings about that result; and the man who attempts to do it in any other way, and fails, has preached a weak sermon, no matter how scholarly nor how splendid its rhetoric, nor how profound its thought, nor how dignified its delivery. Sermons are strong that pull down the works of the devil and capture sinners for Jesus Christ.
Seventh, revival preaching must be intense. It must be more than earnest; it must be charged with suppressed moral electricity. A man must be excited in his emotions, and yet hold them in restraint. He must so feel his message that he could cry aloud on the street-corner, and yet must hold himself in leash, as a hunter holds back his dog, that quivers with excitement and yet keeps silent until the proper moment. So the man who is seeking to win souls by his message must hold his emotions in leash, but they must be there, and if they are not there the sermon will fail of its highest effectiveness. If there is any lack of this feeling it can only be brought about by putting himself in the place of the man to whom he is preaching until he feels like Paul—that he is in prison with him, bound with him in like chains—and thus his message will become real.
Eighth, to preach effectively in revivals the preacher must absorb a great deal of the Bible. The sermon must be saturated with the Bible. God has promised to bless his own Word, and the people to whom we preach must feel that we are loyal to the Word of God. Illustrations drawn from the Bible are peculiarly effective in times of revival.
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