A Little Revival History

(Or is Revival just history now?)

Over the last several years I may have mentioned once or twice that I love to read the histories of Revivals. OK, maybe I’ve mentioned it more times than even I can remember. But it’s not a hobby or a passing fad with me. And it’s not just something interesting to read about that happened years ago but has little or no current relevance. It is our most pressing need. The Constitution, or the Executive Branch’s view of it, the indebtedness of our nation, the division of America right down the middle philosophically, the increasing violence, the incivility of our leaders, etc., etc., these are simply symptoms.

In the early centuries of our existence, when there were natural disasters, outbreaks of violence, economic downturns, political tensions, there was an immediate understanding of the root problem and a swift call for the only solution. National problems were recognized as providential, created by or allowed by the Sovereign Lord to bring us to repentance. And the response was a call for fasting, prayer and repentance. This call may have come from the leaders of the various Christian denominations, but it was just as likely to come from some level of government, magistrates, courts, governors, Congress, or, yes even the White House. Our national leaders called for Solemn Assemblies, renewal of our Covenant commitments and national repentance of national sins.

In January, Terri and I took a vacation, only the second one we can remember taking. We were gone for 19 days. We were in the car for 10. Together. Alone. Just the two of us. In the same car.Over 4000 miles. And yes, we are still married! (Hanging by a thread. Kidding.) Our objective was to see two new granddaughters. Sophia was born in Germany and is now 7 months old. Julianna was born on our 38th anniversary, New Year’s Eve. Hers is the only grandkid’s birthday I’ll be able to remember.

Our trip took us to Fort Campbell, Kentucky and to Rhode Island. We didn’t have any sightseeing time, but we went through a lot of country that was of special interest to me. Revival country.(We also drove through Newtown/Sandy Hook, Connecticut. It was on our route and we didn’t stop to look around, but it was a fresh reminder of the desperate condition we are in as a nation.)

Many towns we passed jogged my memory of histories of Revivals I have read. In fact, I deliberately took some of those books with me. We were in rich Revival country. At various times in American history, Spiritual Awakenings swept New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island,  just to name a few. In fact, our country was founded in Revival times and in the early centuries of our existence, experienced wave after wave of mighty effusions of the Spirit, most beginning in the Northeast. All of the original colleges (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, Dartmouth, etc.) were established to train preachers of the Gospel and experienced multiple Revivals. Jonathan Edwards (Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God) became President of Yale, but died within a few weeks from a then experimental measles vaccine. His grandson, Timothy Dwight was President in a later era and was leader in several Revivals. We took a wrong turn and drove through downtown New Haven, Connecticut right past Yale. Beautiful, old buildings. I wanted to stop and try to find the portrait of Edwards hanging in one of the buildings on campus, but Grandma had other ideas and had her face set like flint towards Middletown, Rhode Island, home of the newest grandchild.

I don’t think anyone would accuse any of these Ivy League schools of being hotbeds of Revival and Evangelism today. In a suburb of New Haven, I saw in a quaint, typically New Englandneighborhood, a street named Sodom Lane. Brown University in Providence is the first Baptist college on American soil, the great Francis Wayland being President during multiple Revivals on campus and in town. Today, Brown University’s claim to fame is the highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases on any American college campus.

So is Revival a thing of the past? Yes, and I believe it is a thing of the future. In a history of the Boston Revival of 1842, the editor said then, “God has been accustomed to build up His kingdom in the world mostly by the instrumentality of revivals of religion.” When times have been at their worst in America, God has intervened with His best, an outpouring, a fresh and mighty baptism of the Spirit, bringing deep conviction and repentance in the Church, and sweeping multitudes of skeptics and atheists into the kingdom. I think we are ripe for the harvest now.

Pray for Revival,

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