This is a very useful and popular introduction to Revival. It has seven brief chapters and includes references to various Biblical and historic revivals and their leaders.
Though it is mainly a brief compilation of other major works on revival it is written specifically to present an overview of revival and to inspire prayer and expectation of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in local churches.
We have included 3 of the 10 chapters.
On rare and memorable occasions, in Old Testament times, the fire fell from heaven.
One of these significant events occurred in the life of David. King David had sinned in numbering the people, and judgment was being poured out upon Israel. David earnestly confessed his sin and prayed. God heard his prayer. Judgment was stayed. Then, in obedience to God's command, David built an altar and offered sacrifices. And God "answered him from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering" (I Chronicles 21:26).
Again the fire fell from heaven when Solomon dedicated the Temple. The falling fire signified the divine acceptance of the confession and prayer of his servant Solomon:
"Now when Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the house."
At this marvellous manifestation of God's power the assembled multitude of the children of Israel bowed themselves in worship: "And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever" (II Chronicles 7:3).
Later, Israel departed from the Lord in following Baal and worshipping idols. The prophet Elijah called the prophets of Baal and the children of Israel to Mount Carmel in a contest to let it be known which was the true God. Elijah said: "The God that answereth by fire, let him be God." The prophets of Baal built an altar and laid a bullock for sacrifice upon it. All day long they called upon their god, but there was no response.
At the time of the evening sacrifice Elijah repaired the altar of the LORD, and laid the bullock for the sacrifice upon it. At the command of the prophet they filled twelve barrels with water and poured them upon the sacrifice, until the water filled the trench about the altar. Elijah then quietly called upon God to manifest His power in order to bring the people back to Him: "Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God." (I Kings 18:38, 39.)
In New Testament times the sound of a rushing mighty wind," and "cloven tongues like as of fire" marked the descent of the Holy Ghost on the "birthday" of the Christian Church. This occurred after 120 faithful disciples had spent ten days, between Christ's ascension and the day of Pentecost, "with one accord in prayer and supplication."
Then the "cloven tongues" appeared, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. They became flaming witnesses for Christ. Former cowards were transformed into men of boldness and courage. In one day 3000 souls were born again; and on another day, a little later, 5000 souls were saved.
Throughout the centuries since that memorable day of Pentecost God has sent the "fire from heaven" again and again to revive his children, and to lead multitudes of precious souls into the light of the gospel. These heaven-sent visitations of the Spirit have been like enkindling flames--warming, reviving, convicting, converting, empowering, men and women.
This little book is a record of some of these thrilling, never-to-be-forgotten times of revival. May the recounting of these times of blessing encourage us to believe that once again God is waiting to visit his Church with a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in mighty quickening power! May He make us willing to fulfil the conditions of prayer, confession, and dedication, in order that the fire may fall again upon ourselves and upon our land!
Again and again throughout the centuries of the Christian era, the fire of God has fallen from heaven with untold blessing. In Scotland, in the year 1630, a young minister named John Livingston was invited to preach to a great assembly of people in the open air. Realizing the importance of the meeting, groups of earnest Christians formed themselves into little companies and spent the night in earnest supplication for God's blessing upon the gathering. The young minister himself, John Livingston, was a member of one of the companies of all-night intercessors.
The next day as the hour of the meeting drew near, the young man felt himself utterly unworthy to preach to such a great gathering of people. He felt himself so insufficient for the task that he was preparing to steal away into the fields. However, his friends gathered about him and constrained him to remain. As the young man spoke, the Spirit of God came upon him in great power. His text was Ezekiel 36:25, 26: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you."
For two hours and a half the young man spoke with burning lips to the great audience. The heavenly "fire" fell upon the multitude and the scene was like another Pentecost. Rev. John Shearer in his book "Old Time Revivals" tells the story of what happened:
"The Spirit filled the speaker with a fullness that must be outpoured. The people seemed rooted to the ground in a great stillness. Five hundred men and women, some from the high ranks of society, some poor wastrels and beggars; were converted where they stood, and lived from that day as those who had indeed received a new heart and a new spirit. The memory of that day has never died, and the very telling of the story has proved a fount of revival."
In the early days of the American colonies, the fire of God again fell from heaven in a great spiritual awakening, under the leadership of Jonathan Edwards. During the early part of Jonathan Edwards' ministry in New England we are told that "there was a marked decline in the religious life of the community. Among the young people the bands of morality had sadly relaxed. Frolics continued far into the night, and became the handmaid of vice.
With such conditions about him Jonathan Edwards gave himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word for eight years. Then suddenly the fire fell. Mr. Shearer gives a graphic picture of the scenes that were witnessed as the Spirit of God came down upon the people of the whole community. Suddenly, "conversions began to take place throughout the town. One of the first was that of a frivolous young woman, a leader in the 'frolics.' She became in very truth 'a new creature' so humble, pure, and gracious, so utterly transformed, that she was an object of wonder and amazement. The news of this conversion 'acted like a flash of lightning upon the hearts of the young people'; and as it flew from lip to lip the convicting Spirit seemed to pierce every heart that heard it. Indeed, throughout this revival, probably the most potent awakening agency was the simple news of another's conversion. A hunger for the same blessing was at once aroused in the hearer's heart.
"In the early months of 1735 the people pressed into the church daily, and for a time Northampton was literally filled with the presence of God. In almost every house parents were rejoicing over their children, and in the sanctuary the tears of penitence, of newfound joy, and deep compassion flowed freely. The whole congregation became like a heavenly choir, and praise was a sweet and holy sacrifice.
"The Bible was a new book. Texts that had been read a thousand times appeared with such fresh and novel interest that even old saints were tempted to think they had never seen them before, and regarded them with a strange wonder. Young converts read their Bibles with such eager intensity that their eyes became dimmed and they could not distinguish the letters. The tavern was emptied, and in the streets men paused to speak to one another of the beauty and matchless love of Christ.
"Ministers from other parts came to witness these wonders of Divine Grace. When they recounted them to their people, the Spirit used their testimony, often in a remarkable way. The fire spread thus from town to town and from county to county. It spread not only throughout New England; it passed also to other lands."
About the time of the awakening in New England there was a remarkable revival among the American Indians, under the leadership of David Brainerd, the apostle to the Indians. It was one of the notable spiritual awakenings in the history of the Christian Church. When Brainerd first began his work among the Indians, he had little success. His health became impaired. He retired from the work for a time. He was offered a pastorate among "wealthy and kindly people," and his heart went out in love toward the daughter of Jonathan Edwards. But day-by-day he heard in his soul the pitiful cries of the poor lost Indians who were so degraded and steeped in sin.
He made the great decision. He deliberately gave up a life of ease and comfort, and went back into the wilderness to proclaim the gospel to "his poor Indians." With dauntless heroism he went from place to place preaching to various Indian tribes. His tours among the tribes covered "more than three thousand miles, through forests, over dangerous mountains, in fierce rains, and freezing cold."
As time went on Brainerd realized more and more, that it was only through the mighty power of God, and the fire falling from heaven, that the hardened hearts of the stolid Indians could be changed. He decided to give himself unreservedly to intercessory prayer. It is said that "whole nights were spent in agonizing prayer in the dark woods, his clothes drenched with the sweat of his travail." As the result of such intense fervent intercession it is little wonder that the windows of heaven were opened and the fire fell. Mr. Shearer tells the thrilling story:
"Suddenly, the Spirit was outpoured upon the whole region of the Susquehanna. His first audience there had consisted of four women and a few children. Now there came streaming in upon him from all sides a host of men and women, who pressed upon him, and grasping the bridle of his horse, besought him with intense earnestness to tell them the way of salvation. In a great, glad wonder he looked upon them, and the text that leaped to his lips was, 'Herein is love.'
"Men fell at his feet in anguish of soul. These were men who could bear the most acute torture without flinching. But God's arrow had now pierced them; their pain could not be concealed and they cried out in their distress, 'have mercy upon me.' What impressed Brainerd most deeply was that though these people came to him in a multitude, each one was mourning apart. The prophecy of Zechariah was fulfilled before his eyes. The woods were filled with the sound of a great mourning, and beneath the Cross every man fell as if he and the Saviour God alone were there. Gradually as the missionary spoke, there came to them, one by one, the peace and comfort of the Gospel.
"As the days passed he had full proof that a heaven-sent revival had come. A passion for righteousness possessed the converts. The wretched victims of the 'fire-water' were delivered, and the Indian camps were cleansed at once from their physical and moral filthiness. The love of Christ expelled every unlovely thing. As one poor woman expressed it, 'Me to be Him for all,' became the motto of their lives. They became themselves ardent missionaries of the Cross. The light spread through all that dark region, and a strong Indian Church was established." In another land across the sea the fire fell from heaven in answer to earnest intercessory prayer. In the early part of the eighteenth century the spiritual life of the people of Great Britain was at a low ebb. Moral and spiritual declension was much the same as in America and Great Britain at the present time.
But John Wesley and George Whitefield and others of like mind, were not content to let conditions remain in a state of stagnation. They were men of vision, men of faith, men of prayer. They began to cry to God for an outpouring of His Spirit. Whole nights were spent in intercessory prayer. At length the fire of God fell upon them in the early morning hours of one of these all-night prayer meetings. Wesley in his Journal tells what happened: "About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground."
Filled with the Spirit of God, Wesley and Whitefield and others went everywhere preaching the gospel. Like a gale from heaven they went up and down the British Isles preaching to vast multitudes sometimes numbering 20,000 and more. Their zeal for souls was so great that they came over to America and helped greatly in evangelising our new land. The Rt. Hon. Lloyd George, British Prime Minister during the first world war, declared that the revival under Wesley changed the history of the British Isles.
Here in America, before the middle of the last century, there was a man of God who believed that prevailing prayer would open the windows of heaven and bring down the heavenly fire in the form of a mighty revivals He was Charles G. Finney, a Spirit-filled lawyer. He and "Father Nash," and Abel Cleary and others, prevailed in prayer.
For many years Charles G. Finney and his associates went up and down the land conducting revival meetings. Great multitudes were saved, and Christians were quickened in their faith. Prayer was the keynote and cornerstone of Finney's work. In speaking of the spirit of prayer that came upon the people in connection with his meetings, Finney said: "The spirit of prayer that prevailed in those revivals was a very marked feature of them. It was common for young converts to be greatly exercised in prayer.
"Not only were prayer meetings greatly multiplied and fully attended, not only was there great solemnity in those meetings, but there was a mighty spirit of secret prayer. Christians prayed a great deal--many of them would spend hours in private prayer. It was also the case that two or more would take the promise: 'If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven,' and make some particular person a subject of prayer; and it was wonderful to what an extent they prevailed. Answers to prayer were so manifestly multiplied on every side, that no one could escape the conviction that God was daily and hourly answering prayer.
Finney further said: "If anything occurred to threaten to hurt the work, if there was an appearance of any root of bitterness springing up, or any tendency to fanaticism or disorder, Christians would take the alarm, and give themselves to prayer that God would direct and control all things, and it was surprising to see to what extent, and by what means, God would remove obstacles out of the way in answer to prayer.
"Prayer is an essential link in the chain of causes that lead to a revival just as much as truth is. Some have zealously used truth to convert men, and laid very little stress upon prayer. They have preached, and talked, and distributed tracts with great zeal and then wondered why they had so little success. And the reason was that they had forgotten to use the other branch of the means, EFFECTUAL PRAYER. They overlooked the fact that truth by itself will never produce the effect, without the Spirit of God, and that, the Spirit is given in answer to earnest prayer."
On one occasion Finney went to Rochester, New York, to hold a series of revival meetings. Abel Cleary went to Rochester also, but not to attend the meetings. He rented a room, and while Finney preached Abel Cleary prayed. He interceded with God in an agony for souls. The Spirit of God was poured out mightily upon that city. Practically every lawyer in Rochester was converted. And the revival fires swept east and west and north and south throughout the land.
Rev. John Shearer in his book on revival says: "Sometimes the blessing spread like a fire with marvellous rapidity, and in every direction. The northern portion of Pennsylvania was then known as 'the lumber region.' Here a vast number of scattered households dwelt in almost heathen darkness. A great awakening took place in Philadelphia, under Finney's ministry, and some of the lumbermen, coming down to the city with their wood, heard the message and carried a spark of the fire back to the great forests. There it caught, and spread in an astonishing manner. In a region where there was not a single minister settled, 5000 people were converted in a short time."
The climax of the great awakening was reached in 1857. Ministers called upon their people to pray earnestly for revival to meet the onslaught of evil that was sweeping over the land. Prayer meetings to intercede for an outpouring of God's Spirit and for the salvation of souls sprang up everywhere.
Mr. Shearer tells how the fire fell from heaven and of the glorious results that followed:
"In answer to the Church's united cry, ascending from all parts of the land, the Spirit of God, in a very quiet way, and suddenly, throughout the whole extent of the United States, renewed the Church's life, and awakened in the community around it a great thirst for God. When the Church awoke to the full consciousness of the miracle, it found that from east to west, and from north to south, the whole land was alive with daily prayer meetings. And it was in these daily united prayer meetings that the great majority of these conversions, of all ages and classes, took place. "The divine fire appeared in the most unlikely quarters. A large number of the aged were gathered in. White-haired penitents knelt with little children at the Throne of Grace. Whole families of Jews were brought to their Messiah. Deaf mutes were reached by the glad tidings, and though their tongues were still, their faces so shone that they became effective messengers of the gospel. The most hardened infidels were melted, some being led to Christ by the hand of a little child.
"Nor was the blessing confined to the land. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and a multitude of seamen saw a great light. It was as if a vast cloud of blessing hovered over the land and sea. And ships, as they drew near the American ports, came within the zone of heavenly influence. Ship after ship arrived with the same tale of sudden conviction and conversion. It was wonderful beyond words! In one ship a captain and the entire crew of thirty men found Christ out at sea and entered the harbour rejoicing.
"The North Carolina--a battleship of the United States Navy--lay in the harbour of New York. Her complement was about a thousand men. Amongst these were four Christians who discovered their spiritual kinship and agreed to meet for prayer. They were permitted to use a very retired part of the ship, on a deck far below the water line. Here, then, they gathered one evening. They were only four men, but they were a united band. They represented three denominations, one being an Episcopalian, another a Presbyterian, while two were Baptists.
"As they knelt in the dim light of a tiny lamp, the Spirit of God suddenly filled their hearts with such joy of salvation that they burst into song. The strange sweet strain rose to the decks above, and there created great astonishment. Their ungodly shipmates came running down. They came to mock, but the mighty power of God had been liberated by rejoicing faith. It gripped them, and in one moment their derisive laugh was changed into the cry of penitent sinners! Great fellows, giants in stature, and many of them giants in sin, were literally smitten down, and knelt humbly beside the four, like little children.
"A most gracious work straightway began in the depths of the great ship. Night after night the prayer meeting was held, and conversions took place daily. Soon they had to send ashore for help, and ministers joyfully came out to assist. A large number were added to the various churches, and the battleship became a veritable House of God! The North Carolina was a receiving ship, from which men were constantly drafted to other ships.
"The converts of the revival were scattered throughout the navy. A revival convert is a burning brand. The holy fire spread rapidly from ship to ship. Wherever the converts went they started a prayer meeting and became a soul-winning band. Thus ship after ship left the harbour of New York for foreign seas, each carrying its band of rejoicing converts, and the fire of God was borne to the ends of the earth."
Dr. Frank G. Beardsley in his History of American Revivals speaks of the numerical results of the revival of 1857: "For a period of six to eight weeks, when the revival was at its height, it was estimated that fifty thousand persons were converted weekly throughout the country, and as the revival lasted for more than a year, it becomes evident that the sum total of conversions reached a figure that was enormous. Conservative judges have placed the number of converts, in this great spiritual awakening, at five hundred thousand."
There were four young men in Ireland whose hearts were burdened for the salvation of souls. They believed in the power of prayer, and met together for united earnest intercession for revival. The story of George Muller, and his great orphanage at Bristol, England, supported entirely in answer to believing prayer, quickened the faith of the young men. They began to believe that God could and would do mighty things in answer to their prayers.
Others also, who longed for revival, joined this prayer band, and they began to see definite conversions in answer to their intercession. Then came the news of the great revival in the United States, and the faith of the members of the prayer group was still further strengthened.
They heard that in New York City large numbers of businessmen met daily for prayer. Like Jacob of old, the young men cried out: "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." They believed the Word of God in Matthew 18:19 and 20: "Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Prayer meetings in Ireland began to multiply, and people were being saved daily. Then the fire fell from heaven! John Shearer in his book "Old Time Revivals" tells what happened: "A great revival is like a forest fire. At first there is only a thin line of flame. But soon its progress is so swift and widely diffused that the eye can no longer keep pace with it. The flame bursts forth at once in many places, and now we see but one great conflagration. So it was with this marvellous work of grace. You might observe its course in Connor and a little beyond in 1858. But in 1859 the heavenly fire was leaping up and spreading in all directions through Antrim, Downs, Derry, Tyrone, and the other counties of Ulster, and to this, day '59' is remembered as the pre-eminent year of grace.
"As it advanced, it burned with a fierce intensity. In Connor the conversions were of a comparatively quiet type. But in Ahoghill, Ballymena, and elsewhere, there was a great smiting down. Sin was felt as a crushing and intolerable burden, and men and women often fell to the earth and continued for days in a state of utter prostration. Others were suddenly pierced as by a sharp sword, and their agonized cry for help was heard in the streets and in the fields. Here, for example, is a 'farmer returning from market in Ballymena. His mind is wholly intent upon the day's bargain. He pauses, takes out some money, and begins to count it. Suddenly an awful Presence envelops him. In a moment his only thought is that he is a sinner standing on the brink of hell. His silver is scattered, and he falls upon the dust of the highway, crying out for mercy.
"There was a wonderful work amongst the children. The blessing had come to Coleraine, and one day the school master observed a boy so troubled that he was quite unfit for lessons. He kindly sent him home in the company of an older boy who had already found peace. As the two lads went on their way they saw an empty house, and went into it for prayer.
"While they knelt the painful burden lifted from the boy's heart. He sprang to his feet in a transport of joy. Returning to the school, he ran up to the master and, with a beaming face, cried out, 'Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.' The effect of these artless words was very great. Boy after boy rose and silently left the room. In a little while the master followed and discovered his boys ranged alongside the wall of the playground, every one apart and on his knees!
"Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry. It was heard by those within and pierced their hearts. They cast themselves upon their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in the girls' schoolroom above. In a few moments the whole school was upon its knees, and its wail of distress was heard in the street.
"Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in, and, as they crossed the threshold, came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God. The ministers of the town and men of prayer were sent for, and the whole day was spent in directing these mourners to the Lord Jesus. That school proved to be for many the house of God and the very gate of heaven.
"It pleased God to use in a very remarkable manner the simple testimony of the four young men of Connor. Through them the revival reached Belfast. Of a sudden, ministers who had toiled in vain for years found themselves surrounded by sin-sick souls clamouring for the life-giving Word. But for the co-operation of Sabbath School teachers and other friends they would speedily have been exhausted with the work. Vast and memorable gatherings were held. Districts notorious as the scenes of party strife, witnessed the triumph of the gospel of peace. Bitter opponents knelt together at the Saviour's feet. Belfast became like a city of God."
The awakening that followed was indeed extraordinary. It was the greatest spiritual quickening that the land had witnessed for generations. Visitors from many lands flocked to Ireland to witness the great awakening. Churches were filled to overflowing. The hearts of the ministers sang for joy as they saw sinners in an agony of soul under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit; then bursting forth into ecstatic joy as they found pardon and peace; and going forth with the light of heaven on their faces to tell others the glad tidings.
A stirring history of the revival was written by Professor William Gibson, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It is a book of some 500 pages. It is filled with authentic stories of large numbers of people who were converted during the revival. In speaking of how the awakening started in a quiet corner of Ireland, and spread rapidly here and there, Professor Gibson says: "In startling and impressive grandeur it burst forth in a comparatively sequestered region; and scarcely had the new-born flame, drawn down by a few earnest watchers there, begun to burn, when it spread in all directions over an entire province. All classes and all ages caught the heavenly fire.
The fact that there were "some temporary excesses and extravagancies" in connection with the revival did not trouble Professor Gibson. He asked, who at such a time would criticise or ''grudge to these new--gathered souls the overflowing fullness of their joy?"
As is so often the case in revivals the converts of one place carried the fire to other communities. Rev. A. J. Canning of Coleraine, Ireland, tells how the awakening came to that town: "Upon the evening of the 7th of June, 1859, an open-air meeting was held in one of the market-places of the town, called 'Fair-Hill.' The announced object of the meeting was to receive and hear one or two of the, 'converts,' as they began to be called, from a district some eight or ten miles south of Coleraine. The evening was one of the most lovely that ever shone. The richly wooded banks of the river Bann, which bounds one side of the square in which the meeting was held, were fully in prospect, and there was not a cloud in the sky.
"Shortly after seven o'clock, dense masses of people, from town and country, began to pour into the square by all its approaches, and in a short time an enormous multitude crowded around the platform from which speakers were to address the meeting. After singing and prayer, the converts, a young man and a man more advanced in years, and both of the humbler class, proceeded to address the meeting. Their addresses were short, and consisted almost entirely of a detail of their own awakening, and earnest appeals to the consciences of sinners. After the lapse of nearly an hour, it became manifest that more than one-half of the congregated multitude could not hear the voices of the speakers on the platform. Then it was suggested that the people should separate into distinct congregations or groups, and that a minister should preach to each group. This was immediately done, and some three or four separate audiences were soon listening with most marked attention to as many preachers, for all the ministers of all the evangelical churches in the town were present.
"I was engaged in addressing a large group of people, composed of all ages and of all ranks of the community, from a portion of Scripture, when I became struck with the deep and peculiar attention which every mind and heart was lending to what I said. As to manner, my address was very calm; as to matter, it consisted of plain gospel truth, as it concerns man's lost condition on the one hand, and the free grace of God, as displayed in salvation, on the other. I know that the addresses of my brethren were of a like character. I never saw before, in any audience, the same searching, earnest, riveted look fixed upon my face, as strained up to me from al most every eye in that hushed and apparently awe-struck multitude. I remember, even whilst I was speaking, asking myself, 'How is this? Why is this?' As yet, however, the people stood motionless, and perfectly silent.
"About the time the last speaker was closing his address, a very peculiar cry arose from out a dense group at one side of the square, and in less than ten- minutes a similar cry was repeated in six or eight different groups, until, in a very short time, the whole multitude was divided into awe-struck assemblages around persons prostrate on the ground, or supported in the arms of relatives or friends.
"I hurried to the center of one of these groups, and having first exhorted the persons standing around to retire, and leave me to deal with the prostrate one, I stooped over him, and found him to be a young man of some eighteen or twenty years, but personally unknown to me. He lay on the ground, his head supported on the knees of an elder of one of our churches. His eyes were closed; his hands were firmly clasped, and occasionally very forcibly pressed upon the chest. He was uttering incessantly a peculiar deep moan, sometimes terminating in a prolonged wailing cry.
"I felt his pulse, and could discern nothing very peculiar about it. I said, softly and quietly in his ear, 'Why do you cry so?' when he opened his eyes for an instant, and I could perceive that they had, stronger than I ever saw it before, that inward look, which indicates that the mind is wholly occupied with its own images and impressions. 'Oh!' he exclaimed, high and loud, in reply to my question, 'my sins! my sins! Lord Jesus, have mercy upon my poor soul! 0 Jesus! come! 0 Lord Jesus, come!'
"I endeavoured to calm him for a moment, asking him to listen to me whilst I set before him some of the promises of God to perishing sinners. At first I thought that I was carrying his attention with me in what I was saying, but I soon discovered that his whole soul was filled with one idea--his guilt and his danger-- for, in the middle of my repetition of some promise, he would burst forth with the bitter cry, '0 God, my sins! my sins!' At length I said in his ear, 'Shall I pray?' He replied in a loud voice, 'Oh, yes!' I engaged in prayer, and yet I doubt whether his mind followed me beyond the first sentence or two.
"As I arose from prayer, six or eight persons, all at the same instant, pressed around me, crying, 'Oh, come and see (naming such a one--and--and) '--until I felt for a moment bewildered, and the prayer went out from my own heart, 'God guide me!' I passed from case to case for two or three hours, as did my brethren in the ministry, until, when the night was far spent, and the stricken ones began to be removed to the shelter of roofs, I turned my face homewards through one street, when I soon discovered that the work which had begun in the market-square was now advancing with marvellous rapidity in the homes of the people. As I approached door after door, persons were watching for me and other ministers, to bring us to deal with some poor agonized stricken one; and when the morning dawned, and until the sun arose, I was wandering from street to street, and from house to house, on the most marvellous and solemn errand upon which I have ever been sent."
An eye-witness of the revival in Ballymena says: "It was in the opening summer that the revival came, when the light lingers so long at, nightfall, and the bright mornings break so soon. We can remember how many lighted windows there were though the night was far-gone, and how prayer meetings were prolonged till the day had returned again. Every evening the churches were crowded, and family worship became almost universal. In the country, large meetings were held in the open air. Part of the dinner-hour was generally devoted to singing and prayer, and the sound from numerous groups of worshipers could be heard far at a distance as it was borne on the summer breeze. Thousands of tracts were circulated and read with avidity, and long neglected Bibles came into general use.
"When the great outpouring came, worldly men were silent with an indefinite fear, and Christians found themselves borne onward in the current, with scarce time for any feeling but the overpowering conviction that a great revival had come at last. Careless men were bowed in unaffected earnestness, and sobbed like children. Drunkards and boasting blasphemers were awed into solemnity. Sabbath-school teachers and scholars became seekers of Christ together; and languid believers were stirred up to unusual exertion. Ministers who had often toiled in heartfelt sorrow suddenly found them selves beset by inquirers, and wholly unequal to the demands, which were made. Every day many were hopefully converted, passing through an ordeal of conviction more or less severe, to realize their great deliverance, and to throw themselves with every energy into the work of warning others, or of leading them to the Lord. All this came suddenly."
The revival was not a mere emotional upheaval. The work of God's Spirit was deep and lasting. Rev. John Stuart tells of the revival in a place not far from Coleraine: "Never was there such a summer as the last; never such an autumn; never such a winter, so far as it has gone. Hundreds have been savingly converted to the Lord; some 'stricken' down when the Spirit came upon them like a 'rushing mighty wind'; others convinced and converted whilst He spake to their consciences by the 'still small voice.' The first effect of the revival was, that 'fear came upon every soul.' Then our church was filled to suffocation, and we were obliged to take to the open fields to declare the message of mercy to a hungering and thirsting population. The hitherto unoccupied pews were ardently sought after. The aisles were filled with anxious hearers, and now preaching became a luxury. I had pastor's work to do. I had living men and living women before me. They came to the sanctuary on the sole errand of obtaining the 'bread of life.' Every Sabbath was a day of 'sweet refreshing.' On every week-day evening 'they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard,' and 'there were added to the church daily such as should be saved.' Of all the stricken ones--two hundred in number--I do not know of one backslider."
Throughout the revival the Spirit of God came upon sinners in great convicting power, and upon Christians in giving them an intense passion for souls. There were also unusual physical manifestations. Rev.- Andrew Long tells of some of them in a rural district in Donegal not far from the city of Derry. "The Divine influence came down upon the people at each service throughout that interesting day. There were many physical manifestations. Upwards of one hundred persons lay prostrate in the pews, and agonized in prayer. Many of the cases were quite unusual. One young woman continued to sing a sweet, mournful air, apparently her own, to words that occurred to her at the moment, all about Jesus, and all as beautiful as if arranged by the finest poet. She seemed unconscious of those around her and sat in her pew all the time with her eyes steadfastly gazing upwards. Never did I, or any of that awe-stricken audience, listen to sounds so unlike those of earth. It was like an angel's song. Her voice seemed to be attuned by some celestial power; and its clear, sweet, symphonious tones, led us all to feel that that place was like the very gate of heaven.
The revival that came to the town of Dundrod in Ireland was very extraordinary. A stirring narrative of the awakening was written by Rev. William Magill, who was an eyewitness of the scenes, and played a prominent part in the revival in his district. He gave this account of how the fire fell from heaven, and the remarkable events that followed:
"I had been in Belfast the day previous, and had leaned over the prostrate bodies of men and women labouring under strong conviction of sin. I had heard, for the first time in my life, the sighs and groans of breaking hearts, and witnessed with a feeling of wonder and awe the mental agony and the terrible struggle of souls wrestling with 'the principalities and powers of darkness,' and 'contending earnestly' for life and liberty; and when the battle was won, I heard with almost equal wonder the shout of victory, like the pealing of a trumpet on the field from which the enemy had fled. I came home filled with strange thoughts, cherishing high hopes, and breathing earnest prayers that the Lord would come over the mountains and visit my people.
"I expected something, and I was not disappointed. When dressing on the following morning, I observed a man approaching the manse, and the thought at once arose in my mind, 'This man is perhaps coming for me -- the work is begun.' It was even so. I was soon on my way to his house. He told me as we went, that one of his daughters, after returning home from the prayer-meeting, had fallen ill, strangely ill--that she was up all night, and had raised the whole family to engage in prayer with her and for her--that she had never ceased praying and reading all night, and when he left her she was worse than ever, and he feared she was 'going wrong in her mind.' He had done all he could to pacify her, and said to her, that if she wanted to be converted, to take the matter coolly, and not create uproar about the house to alarm the neighbours.
"Before reaching the house, I heard her voice in loud and earnest and continuous prayer. When I opened the door and looked in, I saw her mother and two sisters, all on their knees and in tears. In the centre of the group, the picture of woe, was the 'stricken one,' with eyes upturned to heaven, and face covered and seamed with tears. Her arms were now extended to their utmost length, as if to grasp some distant and coveted object, and then brought together with violence as she clasped her hands, as if in mortal agony, whilst from her lips there burst forth words of fire, as living streams from a burning mountain: '0 Christ, help me! Lord Jesus, save my guilty soul! OO Jesus, come; come soon, and give relief to my guilty soul! 0 thou quickening Spirit, come! Oh, create in me a new heart, and give me a heart of flesh!'
"Then as her eyes rested on me, as I stood riveted to the spot, witnessing in silence this exciting and wonderful scene--for I never had heard such prayers before--she exclaimed, without rising from her kneeling posture, 'Oh, here is my minister! I knew I would have no peace till he came. Oh, come, come pray for my guilty soul!'
"I knelt beside her and prayed, her voice accompanying mine all the time, while her expressions at intervals were so rich, varied, and scriptural, that I had often to pause, and then to follow instead of lead, as text after text from Old and New Testament, prophet and psalmist, Christ and apostle, were changed into beautiful and impassioned prayer. Such asking, seeking, striving to enter the 'kingdom,' I never heard before. It was, indeed, Mercy knocking her loudest knocks at the door of the heavenly mansion, so that the Lord himself, startled by the peals which rouse up all the inmates, comes quickly, and with a smile opens the door, and takes her by the hand and brings her in.
"Now the struggle is over. She rises up, and begins the song of triumph! What a change-- a perfect transformation! The cloud has passed away, and God, like the sun in his glory, is lifting upon her the light of His countenance. Her eye, as she sings, is lighted up with strange and unearthly fire. Her voice is no longer tremulous and plaintive, but now rings like a trumpet; while her whole face is covered with a smile, such as we might suppose an angel to wear.
"'Let us sing,' said she again, 'the 51st psalm. Oh! I bless God for that Psalm, and for all the Psalms I learned in the Sunday school and Bible-class.'
"'When the Psalm was sung, 'Now, said our first convert, 'father, mother, sisters, down on your knees, and we will pray for you. O Lord, save my father, and mother, and sister,' etc. At her request I read to the family the second chapter of Acts and sang the 60th Paraphrase.
"During the singing another sister, who was standing with a child in her arms, fell to the ground, and went through the same process, being, if possible, more violent, rolling on the floor in agony, tearing her hair, wringing her hands, and in heart-rending tones exclaiming, 'Oh, is there no pardon for me? I am too great a sinner to be forgiven. 0 God! for Christ's sake, save me, save me!' Her sister, now filled with joy, stands over her like a ministering spirit, and cheers her with gospel promises and earnest prayer. 'Now,' said she, 'I shall have a sister in the Lord. Who would have thought of it--two souls converted this morning in this house?'
"The Lord had begun his work. The strange news spread from lip to lip, and house to house, over the country. Like the 'fiery cross,' it roused the people, and old and young, men and women, husbands and wives, little girls and mothers with infants in their arms, ran to witness the strange doings, and to hear the wild, wondrous, but heavenly words that flowed from the lips of these plain country girls, changed in a few hours, by the Spirit of the Lord, into 'new creatures.' What is this? Is this conversion? Is this the work of the Spirit of the Lord? Has God come down to earth? Are the 'last days come or have these girls gone mad?' are asked on every hand. The reply is--'These are the last days, and God is beginning to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh.'
"That evening a prayer-meeting was held at this house in the open air, in the street before the door. It was a still, fine summer evening, and under the clear, open sky hundreds of all ranks and ages met to unite in prayer, looking up to heaven for a blessing. Farmers and farm-servants, men, women, and little children, Roman Catholics and Protestants of various names, knelt together on the hard ground, reviving the recollection of primitive times, and forgetting or overlooking for the time every mark of distinction, in the common awe which all felt, and in the earnest prayer which all offered up to God.
"A psalm is sung, a word of exhortation given, and prayer offered up, and the benediction pronounced, but the multitude stand still. Another psalm is sung, and now the converts rush in among their friends and neighbours, shouting, pleading, and with heaving hearts, and sparkling eyes, and beaming countenances, and in strange sweet tones, telling of their newborn joys. The multitude heaves to and fro like a ship in a storm; and like drunken men in the streets the men stagger and fall with a shout or a deep sigh. Tears are shed, and groans, as if from dying men, are heard. Prayer and praise, tears and smiles, mingle together. Husbands and wives are locked in each other's arms, weeping and praying together; while those who came to scoff stand still, and in 'fear and trembling' contemplate this strange thing that is going on before their eyes. 'The dead' are rising from their graves, as if at the sound of the archangel's trumpet, for the Lord is quickening those who were dead in trespasses and sins. As the people separated, they formed into groups, and marched to their respective homes, some singing, some praying, some mourning, and some rejoicing.
"On the first Saturday evening when we met in the church for prayer, the scene was indescribable; the groups from all the districts to which the revival had spread--and it spread with amazing rapidity--came literally 'walking, and leaping, and praising God;' and as they rushed into each other's arms, straining and pressing each other to their breasts in the front of the pulpit and up the aisles, the people 'were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto them.'
"On the following Sabbath the work went on. Arrangements were made to keep down excitement, and confine the converts to their own seats, and the public services were not disturbed. In the evening, for the first time, a neighbouring minister came to my aid, and a layman from Belfast also joined in our services. I gave a short address, stating what the Lord had done among us, when one of the converts, our first one, rose, and with beaming countenance and eyes, which told of the joys within the heart, said a few things to the people. Almost immediately throughout the church, parties rose and went out, labouring under deep conviction, and immediately the graveyard is filled with groups singing and praying around the prostrate bodies of men and women. Some are as in a trance, others crying for mercy. Some are still falling into the arms of friends, and sinking as into a swoon. Some stagger to a distance, and drop on their knees to pray over the graves of the dead; and a few rush to the gates, and fly in terror from the scene.
"The converts are going from group to group, and raise a shout of triumph as one after another, like the jailer of Philippi, is seen trembling and heard crying out, 'What must I do to be saved?' Up to this evening the work had gone on chiefly among the females. Soon, however, the men were impressed. I shall never forget the look and shout of joy with which one of these females proclaimed the triumph of the Lord, when strong men were writhing in agony, or stretched out still and calm, but with clasped hands and heaving heart, on the graves around. I think I see that lady now--her bonnet hanging behind her head and her Bible in her upraised hand-- and I still hear her shout, 'The men are coming now--the men are coming now!' For ten days and more the whole country was in a state of intense excitement.
"I met one of the young women when going to visit a man and his wife. She had visited some houses, read, exhorted and prayed. 'The Lord,' said she to all the people in these houses, 'has sent me to bring you to Him. He is waiting for you. Arise, and follow me.' And strange, but true, they immediately rose and followed her. A widow woman, her sons and grandchildren, a mother with one child in her arms, and another at her feet, trembling and in tears, girls and boys who had risen from their looms, and men who had dropped their spades and left their work in the open fields, all followed her across the country, while she marched at their head like a general. 'Here,' said she, when I met her, pointing to her train of followers, 'is my day's work; is it not a good one? They wanted me to stay at home, but I would not, for I knew that the Lord had work for me to do. He has given me these.'
"As I stood before this young Deborah, I also fell into the rear, and became one of her followers. It is right to state, that in a few days she calmed down, and became what she still continues to be--a warm hearted, zealous, and consistent follower of Jesus. The excitement is gone, but not the Spirit, which gave it, birth. She did her work. She roused the countryside for the Lord, and then retired into private life, and in the quiet of the family circle she and her sisters are adorning the doctrine of the gospel by a becoming walk and conversation. Indeed it is pleasing to have to record the same testimony in favour of all the other converts in Dundrod without a single exception. Though numbering upwards of 200, no evil thing can be said of one of them."
Chapter 1. When The Fire Fell From Heaven
Chapter 2. When The Fire Fell In Ireland
Chapter 3. Thrilling Days At Dundrod
Chapter 4. The Revival Fire Spreads
Chapter 5. When The Fire Fell In Wales
Chapter 6. A Personal Visit To The 'Fire-Zone'
Chapter 7. A Modern Pentecost
Chapter 8. Can The Heavenly Fire Fall Again?