The Revival We Need – Oswald J. Smith

 

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"MR. SMITH’S book, 'The Revival We Need,' for its size is the most powerful plea for revival I have ever read. He has truly been led by the Spirit of God in preparing it. To his emphasis for the need of a Holy Spirit revival I can give the heartiest amen. What I saw of revival in Korea and in China is in fullest accord with the revival called for in this book.

It is most timely that Mr. Smith has called attention to man effort and man method in modern revival. If we all had faith to wait upon God in intense believing prayer there would be genuine Holy Ghost revival, and the living God would get all the glory. In Manchuria and China, when we did nothing else than give the address and let the people pray, and kept out of sight as far as possible, we saw the mightiest manifestations of Divine power." Jonathan Goforth

We have included the foreword and 3 of the 11 chapters.

 

Foreword by Jonathan Goforth

MR. SMITH’S book, “The Revival We Need,” for its size is the most powerful plea for revival I have ever read. He has truly been led by the Spirit of God in preparing it. To his emphasis for the need of a Holy Spirit revival I can give the heartiest amen. What I saw of revival in Korea and in China is in fullest accord with the revival called for in this book.

It is most timely that Mr. Smith has called attention to man effort and man method in modern revival. If we all had faith to wait upon God in intense believing prayer there would be genuine Holy Ghost revival, and the living God would get all the glory. In Manchuria and China, when we did nothing else than give the address and let the people pray, and kept out of sight as far as possible, we saw the mightiest manifestations of Divine power.

Had I the wealth of a millionaire I would put “The Revival We Need” in every Christian home on this continent and confidently look for a revival which would sweep round the world.

Toronto, Canada

JONATHAN GOFORTH.

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Chapter I. The Outpouring of the Spirit

IT was in 1904. All Wales was aflame. The nation had drifted far from God. The spiritual conditions were low indeed. Church attendance was poor. And sin abounded on every side.

Suddenly, like an unexpected tornado, the Spirit of God swept over the land. The Churches were crowded so that multitudes were unable to get in. Meetings lasted from ten in the morning until twelve at night. Three definite services were held each day. Evan Roberts was the human instrument, but there was very little preaching. Singing, testimony, and prayer, were the chief features. There were no hymn books; they had learnt the hymns in childhood. No choir, for everybody sang. No collection; and no advertising.

Nothing had ever come over Wales with such far-reaching results. Infidels were converted, drunkards, thieves, and gamblers saved; and thousands reclaimed to respectability. Confessions of awful sins were heard on every side. Old debts were paid. The theatre had to leave for want of patronage. Mules in the coal mines refused to work, being unused to kindness. In five weeks 20,000 joined the Churches.

In the year 1835 Titus Coan landed on the shore belt of Hawaii. On his first tour multitudes flocked to hear him. They thronged him so that he had scarcely time to eat. Once he preached three times before he had a chance to take breakfast. He felt that God was strangely at work. In 1837 the slumbering fires broke out. Nearly the whole population became an audience. He was ministering to 15,000 people. Unable to reach them, they came to him, and settled down to a two years’ camp meeting. There was not an hour day or night when an audience of from 2,000 to 6,000 would not rally to the signal of the bell.
There was trembling, weeping, sobbing, and loud crying for mercy, sometimes too loud for the preacher to be heard; and in hundreds of cases his hearers fell in a swoon. Some would cry out, “The two edged sword is cutting me to pieces.” The wicked scoffer who came to make sport dropped like a dog, and cried, “God has struck me!” Once while preaching in the open field to 2,000 people, a man cried out, “What must I do to be saved?” and prayed the publican’s prayer, and the entire congregation took up the cry for mercy. For half an hour Mr. Coan could get no chance to speak, but had to stand still and see God work.

Quarrels were made up, drunkards reclaimed, adulterers converted, and murderers revealed and pardoned. Thieves returned stolen property. And sins of a lifetime were renounced. In one year 5,244 joined the Church. There were 1,705 baptised on one Sunday. And 2,400 sat down at the Lord’s table, once sinners of the blackest type, now saints of God. And when Mr. Coan left he had himself received and baptised 11,960 persons.

In the little town of Adams across the line, in the year 1821, a young lawyer made his way to a secluded spot in the woods to pray. God met him there and he was wondrously converted, and soon after filled with the Holy Spirit. That man was Charles. G. Finney. The people heard about it, became deeply interested, and as though by common consent, gathered into the meeting house in the evening. Mr. Finney was present. The Spirit of God came on them in mighty, convicting power, and a Revival started. It then spread to the surrounding country until finally nearly the whole of the Eastern States was held in the grip of a Mighty Awakening. Whenever Mr. Finney preached the Spirit was poured out. Frequently God went before him so that when he arrived at the place he found the people already crying out for mercy.

Sometimes the conviction of sin was so great and caused such fearful wails of anguish that he had to stop preaching until it subsided. Ministers and Church members were converted. Sinners were reclaimed by thousands. And for years the mighty work of grace went on. Men had never witnessed the like in their lives before.

I have recalled to your minds three historical incidents of the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of others might be cited. But these are sufficient to show what I mean. And this is what we need today more than anything else. When I remember that such an Outpouring has come to China, India, Korea, Africa, England, Wales, the States, the Islands of the Seas, and many other places, but that Canada, our Dominion, our own beloved country, has never in its history experienced a national Revival, my heart cries out to God for such a Manifestation of Himself.

Do we need it? Listen! How many of our churches are more than half empty Sunday after Sunday? What a multitude there are who never enter God’s house? How many mid-week prayer meetings are alive and prosperous? Where is the hunger for spiritual things? Oh, the shame of it!

And Missions--the lands beyond the seas, heathen darkness--what are we doing? Does the fact that multitudes are perishing ever cause us an anxious thought? Have we grown selfish?

What about the tremendous wealth that God has given us? Take the United States as an example, the richest nation in the world today, and the major portion of her wealth in the hands of professing Christians. And yet the United States spent more on gum in one year than she spent on Missions

How many Christians are giving God even the tenth of what He gives them?

Then take our colleges and seminaries, both at home and on the mission field where higher criticism is taught. We are told that Jesus never performed any miracles, never rose from the dead, and was not born of a virgin, did not die as our Substitute, and is not coming again. Oh, what blasphemy!

How many professing Christians are living the Christ-life before men? Oh, how like the world we are becoming! How little opposition do we find! Where are the persecutions that were heaped on the Early Church? How easy it is now to be a Christian!

And what of the Ministry? Does the minister grip, convert, and save by his message? How many souls are won through the preaching of the Word? Oh, my friends, we are loaded down with countless Church activities, while the real work of the Church, that of evangelizing the world and winning the lost, is almost entirely neglected.

Where is the conviction of sin we used to know? Is it a thing of the past? Let us look at one of Finney’s meetings. Oh, that we could repeat it today! He tells us that one time when he was conducting meetings in Antwerp, an old man invited him to preach in a small school house near by. When he arrived the place was packed so that he could barely find standing room near the door. He spoke for a long time. At last he began to press home upon them the fact that they were an ungodly community; for they held no services in their district. All at once they were stricken with conviction. The Spirit of God came like a thunderbolt upon them. One by one they fell on their knees, or prostrate on the floor, crying for mercy. In two minutes they were all down, and Mr. Finney had to stop preaching for he was unable to make himself heard. At last he got the attention of the old man who was sitting in the middle of the room and gazing around him in utter amazement, and shouted to him at the top of his voice to pray. Then taking them one by one he pointed them to Jesus. The old man took charge of the meeting while he went to another. All night it continued, so deep was the conviction of sin. The results were permanent, and one of the young converts became a most successful minister of the gospel.

Ah, yes, men have forgotten God. Sin flourishes on every side. And the pulpit fails to grip. And I know of nothing less than the Outpouring of His Spirit that can meet the situation. Such a Revival has transformed scores and hundreds of communities, it can transform ours.

Now, how may we secure such an Outpouring of the Spirit? You answer, by prayer. True, but there is something before prayer. We will have to deal first of all with the question of sin; for unless our lives are right in the sight of God, unless sin has been put away, we may pray until doomsday, and the Revival will never come. “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you so that He will not hear.” (Isa. 59: 2.)

Probably our best guide just here is the prophecy of Joel. Let us look at it. It is a call to repentance. God is anxious to bless His people, but sin has withheld the blessing. And so in His love and compassion He brings a fearful judgment upon them. We have it described in chapters 1 and 2. It has almost reached the gates of the city. But see - how great is His love! Notice verses 12-14 of chapter 2, where He says, “Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Who knoweth if He will turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind Him?”

Now my friend, I don’t know what your sin is. You know and God knows. But I want you to think about it, for you may as well stop praying and rise from your knees until you have dealt with it, and put it away. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Let God search your heart and reveal the hindrance. Sin must be confessed and put away.
It may be you will have to forsake some cherished idol. It may be you will have to make restitution. Perhaps you are withholding from God, robbing Him of His own. But this is your affair, not mine. It lies between you and God.

Now notice verses 15-17. The prophet has called for a prayer meeting. Sin has been confessed and forsaken. Now they may pray. And they are to entreat God for His own name’s sake, lest the nations say, “Where is their God?” They are dead in earnest now and their prayer is going to prevail. Listen! “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, ‘Spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, “Where is their God?”‘“

Ah! my brethren, are you praying? Do you plead with God for this city? Are you beseeching Him night and day for an Outpouring of His Spirit? For now is the hour to pray. We are told of a time in the work of Finney when the Revival had died out. He then made a covenant with the young people to pray at sunrise, noon and sunset in their closets for one week. The Spirit was poured out, and before the week ended the meetings were thronged.

And of course it must be believing prayer, prayer that expects. If God stirs up hearts to pray for a Revival it is a sure sign that He wants to send one and He is always true to His Word. “There shall be showers of blessing.” His promises never fail. Have we faith? Do we expect an Awakening?

Now notice the speedy answer in verse 18. “Then!” After they had forsaken sin and cried unto God in prayer. “Then will the Lord be jealous for His land, and pity His people.” The answer is not long in coming once the conditions have been met. We have it fully described in verses 28-29: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the hand-maids in these days will I pour out my Spirit.”

Oh, my brethren, the trouble is not with God. It lies right here with ourselves. He is willing, more than willing. But we are not ready. And He is waiting for us. Are we going to keep Him waiting long?

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Chapter II. The Responsibility for Revival

AS far back as I can remember my heart has burned within me whenever I have heard or read accounts of the mighty work of God in the great Revivals of past years. The heroic missionaries of the cross in foreign lands, and the lonely men of God in the home field around whom these gracious Visitations have centered, have always been a source of untold inspiration to my life. David Brainerd, Adoniram Judson, Chas. G. Finney, Robt. Murray McCheyne - these and many others have been my bosom companions and friends.

I have watched them, listened to them, lived with them, until I have almost felt the spirit of the atmosphere in which they moved. Their trials and hardships, their prayers and tears; their joys and sorrows, their glorious triumphs and victorious achievements have thrilled my very soul until I have fallen down upon my face and exclaimed with the prophet of old: “Oh, that Thou wouldst rend the heavens, and that Thou wouldst come down!”

The great Awakening of the 18th century under John Wesley, the stirring Irish Manifestation of 1859, the glorious American Visitation in the 19th century under Chas. G. Finney, and in our own day the mighty Welsh Revival of 1904-05

Manifestations such as these have been my meat and drink for years past. I have heard again the uncontrollable sob and groan of the convicted, the exceeding bitter cry of the penitent, and the unspeakable expressions of joy of the delivered. And I have sighed within myself for another such Manifestation of God’s presence and power.

From my boyhood it has been my delight to read more or less of God’s work along these lines, but lately I have been led to lay all else aside and to literally devour everything I could lay hands on regarding Revival work. And as I studied the lives of those whom God has signally used all down the centuries, especially the labors of the Puritans, the early Methodists and others of later years, and saw how wonderfully they were owned of Him--how they worked for, expected and got what they sought  - I was compelled to admit that I saw nothing like it today either in my own ministry or in the ministry of others. The average church does not aim at, let alone get, results. Men preach and never even dream of anything happening. Oh, how far away we have drifted! How powerless we have become!

It is reported that there were 7,000 churches that did not win a single soul for Jesus Christ in an entire year. That means that 7,000 ministers preached the Gospel for a whole year without reaching even one lost soul. Supposing that they preached, putting it at a low average, on 40 Sundays, not including extra meetings, that would mean that these 7,000 ministers preached 560,000 sermons in a single year. Think of the work, the labor, the money expended in salaries, etc., to make this possible. And yet 560,000 sermons preached by 7,000 ministers in 7,000 churches to tens of thousands of hearers during a period of twelve months, failed to bring a single soul to Christ.

Now, my brethren, there is something radically wrong somewhere. There is either something the matter with these 7,000 ministers or else with their 560,000 sermons, or with both.

In reading over the Twelve Rules of the Early Methodist church I was struck with the fact that they aimed at and looked upon soul-winning as their supreme task. Let me quote from one of them: “You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. It is not your business to preach so many times; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance, and with all your power to build them up in that holiness, without which they cannot see the Lord.” - From “The Twelve Rules.” - John Wesley.

The practical application of this rule is demonstrated in the life of Wm. Bramwell one of their most remarkable men. “He was not, as the words are commonly understood, a great preacher. But if that man is the best physician who performs the most cures, that is the best preacher who is the instrument of bringing the greatest number of souls to God; and in this view Mr. Bramwell will be entitled to rank amongst the greatest and best Christian ministers.”--Memoir of Wm. Bramwell.

John Oxtoby was so used of God that he was able to say: “I am witnessing daily the conversion of sinners, I seldom go out but God gives me some Fruit.”

It was said of John Smith, one of their most wonderfully anointed men and the spiritual father of thousands, that “he ceased to estimate all preaching, and indeed all ministerial labor except as it produced saving effects. ‘I am determined by the grace of God to aim at souls,’ he exclaimed. ‘A minister of the Gospel is sent to turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God!’ Of that species of preaching which only produced intellectual pleasure, he had a holy abhorrence. Nothing can be more characteristic of the man than his remark to a friend, on sermons in which power of intellect or imagination is almost exclusively predominant: ‘They achieve nothing, Sir.’” - Life of John Smith.

“I cannot tell how they get their time over who can drag on and see no Fruit. Were that so in my case I should be ready to conclude that I was out of my place.”--Thos. Taylor.

“If your hearts be not set on the end of your labors, and you do not long to see the conversion and edification of your hearers, and do not study and preach in hope, you are not likely to see much fruit of it. It is an ill sign of a false, self-seeking heart, that can be content to be still doing, and see no fruit of their labor.” - Richard Baxter.

Then I compared the results of my ministry with the promises of God. In Jet. 23:29, I read: “Is not My Word like a Fire, saith the Lord; and like a Hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” And in Eph. 6:17 “The Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” But the more I pondered over it, the more I was convinced that in my ministry the Word of God was not a Fire, a Hammer, and a Sword. It did not burn, break and pierce. There was no execution. Heb. 4:12, declares that “the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” I had never seen it so. John Wesley saw it. John Smith was a constant observer of it. David Brainerd witnessed its sharpness; but I did not. “So shall My Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11.) And I knew that this wonderful promise had not been fulfilled in my preaching. I had no evidence such as Paul, Wm. Bramwell and Chas. G. Finney that it did not return void many and many a time. And I had a right to the evidence. Was it any wonder that I began to challenge my preaching?

And not only my preaching, but my prayer life as well. This also had to be challenged and tested by the Outcome. And I was forced to admit that the confident assertion of Jer. 33:3, “Call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not,” was not realized in my experience. The “great and mighty things” were almost daily witnessed by Evan Roberts, Jonathan Goforth and others, but not by me. My prayers were not definitely and daily answered. Hence, John 14:13-14, “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do,” and “If ye shall ask anything in My name, I will do it,” was not real in my case. To me these promises were not vital since I asked for many things that I did not receive, and this was not according to the promise. Thus I came to realize that there was something radically wrong with my prayer-life. And in reading the autobiography of Chas. G. Finney, I found that he, too, had experienced the same failure. “I was particularly struck,” he relates, “with the fact that the prayers that I had listened to, from week to week, were not, that I could see, answered. Indeed, I understood from their utterances in prayer, and from other remarks in their meetings, that those who offered them did not regard them as answered.

“They exhorted each other to wake up and be engaged, and to pray earnestly for a Revival of religion, asserting that if they did their duty, prayed for the outpouring of the Spirit, and were in earnest, that the Spirit of God would be poured out, that they would have a Revival of religion, and that the impenitent would be converted. But in their prayers and conference meetings they would continually confess, substantially, that they were making no progress in securing a Revival of religion.

“This inconsistency, the fact that they prayed so much and were not answered, was a sad stumbling block to me. I knew not what to make of it. It was a question in my mind whether I was to understand that these persons were not truly Christians. and therefore did not prevail with God; or did I misunderstand the promises and teachings of the Bible on this subject, or was Ito conclude that the Bible was not true? Here was something inexplicable to me, and it seemed, at one time, that it would almost drive me into scepticism. It seemed to me that the teachings of the Bible did not at all accord with the facts which were before my eyes.

“On one occasion, when I was in the prayer meeting. I was asked if I did not desire that they should pray for me. I told them no, because I did not see that God answered their prayers. I said, ‘I suppose I need to be prayed for, for I am conscious that I am a sinner; but I do not see that it will do any good for you to pray for me; for you are continually asking, but you do not receive. You have been praying for a Revival of religion ever since I have been in Adams, and yet you have it not.’”

When John Wesley concluded his message he cried to God to “confirm His Word,” to “set to His Seal,” and to “bear witness to His Word.” And God did. Sinners were stricken immediately, and began to cry for mercy under fearful conviction of sin, and soon after, in a moment they were set at liberty, and filled with unspeakable joy in the knowledge of a present Salvation. In his wonderful journal he sets down what his eyes witnessed, and his ears heard in the following words:

“We understood that many were offended at the cries of those on whom the power of God came; among whom was a physician, who was much afraid there might be fraud or imposture in the case. Today one whom he had known many years was the first who broke out in strong cries and tears. He could hardly believe his own eyes and ears. He went and stood close to her, and observed every symptom, till great drops of sweat ran down her face, and all her bones shook. He then knew not what to think, being clearly convinced it was not fraud, nor yet any natural disorder. But when both her soul and body were healed in a moment, he acknowledged the finger of God.”

Such was also the experience of the Early Church. “Now when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37.) Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the name of the Lord, which gave testimony unto the Word of His grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” (Acts 14:3.) They prayed “that signs and wonders” might “be done.” (Acts 4:30.) And Paul declared that the Gospel is “the power of God unto Salvation.” (Rom.1:16.) Yet all this was utterly foreign to my work.

In the Irish Revival of 1859, “signs and wonders” were seen on every side. Among the Early Methodists they were of daily occurrence. But with me the Gospel was not “the power of God unto Salvation.” God did not “confirm His Word,” “set to His seal,” or “bear witness to His Word,” when I preached. And I knew I had the right to expect it for Jesus Himself had given the promise. “The works that I do,” He declared, “shall ye do also and greater works than these shall ye do.” (John 14:12.)

Then one day I read the Acts of the Apostles to find out if God’s servants in the Early Church got results wherever they went. And I found as I read that they aimed at, worked for, expected, and never failed to get Fruit. Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 responded to that first appeal. There was a definite Outcome. With Paul it was the same. Follow him from place to place, and wherever he goes churches spring up. See how repeatedly the results are noted throughout the book. “They were added unto them about 3,000 souls.” (2:41.) “Many of them which heard the Word believed, and turned unto the Lord.” (11:2.) “Much people was added unto the Lord.” (11: 24.) “A great multitude believed.” (11: 1.) “Some believed, of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few.” (17:4.) “Many believed.” (17:34.) “Some believed.”(28:24.) And Paul was able to declare “what things God had wrought by His Ministry.” (21: 19.)

Oh, how far short I fell! How fearfully I had failed! failed in the very thing for which God had called me into the Ministry. How seldom I could write after having preached that “a great number believed and turned unto the Lord,” or even that “some believed.” Nor was it possible for me to declare with Paul “what things God had wrought by my Ministry.”

God clearly and emphatically states that it is His will that every servant of His should bear Fruit. “I have chosen you and ordained you,” he affirms, “that ye should go and bring forth Fruit.” (John 15:16.) Too long was I content to sow and evangelize, using the excuse that I left the results with God, thinking I had then done my duty. When people are saved and greatly blessed they will say so, and if they don’t there is reason to doubt the reality of an Outcome. George Whitefield sometimes received hundreds of letters after he had preached telling of blessing and conversions.

“Go into the public assembly with a design to strike, and persuade some souls there, into repentance and salvation. Go to open blind eyes, to unstop deaf ears, to make the lame walk, to make the foolish wise, to raise those that are dead in trespasses and sins to a Heavenly and Divine life, and to bring guilty rebels to return to the love and obedience of their Maker, by Christ Jesus the great Reconciler, that they may be pardoned and saved. Go to diffuse the saviour of Christ and His gospel through a whole assembly and to allure souls to partake of His grace and glory.” - Dr. Watts.

There are men who feel they have special talents for the edification of believers, and so they give themselves entirely to building up Christians in the Faith. This was where I was side-tracked. I felt that I had special gifts for teaching and speaking to young Christians on the Deeper Life, and so I prepared a number of addresses with the idea of devoting my time to this work, until God mercifully opened my eyes and showed me how far I was astray. There is nothing that will deepen Christian experience, edify believers and build them up in the Faith so rapidly and thoroughly as seeing souls saved. Deep Holy Spirit meetings where the power of God is working mightily in the conviction and Salvation of sinners will do more for Christians than the teaching of years without it. Such was the experience of David Brainerd. In writing of the Indians among whom he labored he says, “Many of these people have gained more doctrinal knowledge of Divine truths since I have first visited them in June last, than could have been instilled into their minds by the most diligent use of proper and instructive means for whole years together, without such a Divine influence.”

An incident is related of Wm. Bramwell: “Several local preachers,” it states, “had said that their talents were not to awaken and arouse careless and impenitent sinners, but to build up believers in the Faith. Mr. Bramwell endeavoured to prove that such reasoning was frequently used as an apology, for the loss of the life and powers of God. That although some preachers might have a peculiar talent for comforting and edifying believers, yet that Christ’s true servants, those whom He sent into His vineyard, could do all sorts of work. They could plough, dig, plant, sow, water, etc., and he earnestly entreated the preachers not to be satisfied without seeing the fruit of their labors, in the awakening and conversion of sinners.”

 “The building up of believers in their most Holy Faith was a principal object of Mr. Smith’s ministry; but he never considered this species of labor successful, except as its results were indicated in the conversions of sinners.” - Life of John Smith.
“He most certainly and perfectly edifies believers who is most ardently and scripturally laborious for the conversion of sinners.” - Life of John Smith.

Work among believers of itself will not suffice. It matters not how spiritual a church may profess to be, if souls are not saved something is radically wrong, and the professed spirituality is simply a false experience, a delusion of the devil. People who are satisfied to meet together simply to have a good time among themselves, are far away from God. Real spirituality always has an Outcome. There will be a yearning and a love for souls. We have gone to places that have a name of being very deep and spiritual, and have often found that it was all in the head, the heart was unmoved; and there was, not infrequently, hidden sin somewhere. “Having a form of Godliness but denying the power thereof.” Oh, the pathos of it all! Let us then challenge our spirituality and ask what it produces; for nothing less than a genuine Revival in the Body of Christ resulting in a true Awakening among the unsaved will ever satisfy the heart of God.

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Chapter III. Soul-travail

WE read in Isa. 66:8, that “as soon as Zion travailed she brought forth her children;” and this is the most fundamental element in the work of God. Can children be born without pain? Can there be birth without travail? Yet how many expect in the spiritual realm that which is not possible in the natural! Oh, my brethren, nothing, absolutely nothing short of soul-travail will bring forth spiritual children! Finney tells us that he had no words to utter, he could only groan and weep when pleading with God for a lost soul. That was true travail.

Can we travail for a drowning child; but not for a perishing soul? It is not hard to weep when we realize that our little one is sinking below the surface for the last time. Anguish is spontaneous then. Not hard to agonize when we see the casket containing all that we love on earth being borne out of the home. Ah, no; tears are natural at such a time! But oh, to realize and know that souls, precious, never dying souls are perishing all around us, going out into the blackness of darkness and despair, eternally lost, and yet to feel no anguish, shed no tears, know no travail! How cold our hearts are! How little we know of the compassion of Jesus!

And yet God can give us this, and the fault is ours if we do not have it.

Jacob, you remember, travailed until he prevailed. But oh, who is doing it today? Who is really travailing in prayer? How many, even of our most spiritual Christian leaders are content to spend half an hour a day on their knees, and then pride themselves on the time they have given to God! We expect extraordinary results, and extraordinary results are quite possible; signs and wonders will follow, but only through extraordinary efforts in the spiritual realm. Hence, nothing short of continuous, agonizing pleading for souls, hours upon hours, days and nights of prayer will ever avail. Therefore, “gird yourselves, and lament ye priests; howl, ye ministers of the altar: come, lie all night in sackcloth, ye ministers of my God. Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land unto the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.” (Joel 1: 13-14.) Oh yes! Joel knew the secret. Let us then lay aside everything else, and “cry unto the Lord.”

“We read in the biographies of our forefathers, who were most successful in winning souls, that they prayed for hours in private. The question therefore arises, can we get the same results without following their example? If we can, then let us prove to the world that we have found a better way; but if not, then in God’s name let us begin to follow those who through faith and patience obtained the promise. Our forefathers wept and prayed and agonized before the Lord for sinners to be saved, and would not rest until they were slain by the Sword of the Word of God. That was the secret of their mighty success; when things were slack and would not move they wrestled in prayer till God poured out His Spirit upon the people and sinners were converted.” (For Those Who Seek.)

All men of God have become men mighty in prayer. The sun never rose on China, we are told, without finding Hudson Taylor on his knees. No wonder the China Inland Mission has been so wonderfully owned of God!

Conversion is the operation of the Holy Spirit, and prayer is the power that secures that operation. Souls are not saved by man but by God, and since He works in answer to prayer we have no choice but to follow the Divine plan. Prayer moves the Arm that moves the world.

Prevailing prayer is not easy. Only those who have wrestled with the powers of darkness know how hard it is. Paul says that “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12.) And when the Holy Spirit prays it is “with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Rom. 8: 26.)

Oh, how few find time for prayer! There is time for everything else, time to sleep and time to eat, time to read the newspaper and the novel, time to visit friends, time for everything else under the sun, but--no time for prayer, the most important of all things, the one great essential.

Think of Susannah Wesley who, in spite of the fact that she had nineteen children, found time to shut herself in her room for a full hour each day, alone with God. My friends, it is not so much a case of finding time as it is of making time. And we can make time if we will.

So important did the Apostles consider it that they would not even wait on tables, but said: “We will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.” (Acts 6:4.) Yet how many ministers are burdened with the financial side of the work, and how many officials expect them to bear it! No wonder their spiritual work is of such little account!

“And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12.) Such is the record concerning the Son of God; and if it was necessary for Him how much more so for us! Oh, think of it!--”all night in prayer.” How many times could that be written of us? Hence, His strength! Hence, our weakness!

How fervently do the prophets of old urge a life of prayer! Hear Isaiah as he exclaims: “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.” (Isa. 62:6-7.)

“Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, spare Thy people, O Lord, and give not Thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them; wherefore should they say among the people, ‘Where is their God?’ (Joel 2:17.)

And not only did they urge prayer, but they themselves prayed. Daniel says, “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes; and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession.” (Dan. 9:3-4.) And Ezra also wielded the same mighty weapon in every time of difficulty. “I fell upon my knees,” he says, “and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God.” (Ezra 9:5.) Then follows his most remarkable prayer. The same method was followed by Nehemiah. “And it came to pass when I heard their words,” he relates, “that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days and fasted, and prayed before the God of Heaven.” ( Neh.1:4.) Such was also the practice of the Early Church. When Peter was in prison it is stated that “prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him,” and “many were gathered together praying.”

And now in closing may we turn to the record of God’s dealings with His honored servants, and hear what they have to say about the secret of results. And oh, may He put upon us the burden of prayer and supplication that rested upon these mighty spiritual giants and filled them with such travail!

“John Livingstone spent the whole night prior to June 21, 1630, in prayer and conference, being designated to preach next day. After he had been speaking for an hour and a half a few drops of rain disconcerted the people, but Livingstone asking them if they had any shelter from the storm of God’s wrath went on another hour. There were about 500 converted on the spot.”--Livingstone of Shotts.

“I once knew a minister who had a Revival fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it, till I saw one of his members get up in a prayer meeting and make a confession. ‘Brethren,’ said he, ‘I have been long in the habit of praying every Saturday night till after midnight, for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon us. And now, brethren,’ and he began to weep, ‘I confess that I have neglected it for two or three weeks.’ The secret was out. That minister had a praying church.”-- Chas. G. Finney.

“Prevailing, or effectual prayer is that prayer which attains the blessing that it seeks. It is that prayer which effectually moves God. The very idea of effectual prayer is that it effects its object.”- Chas. G. Finney.

“In a certain town there had been no Revival for many years; the Church was nearly extinct, the youth were all unconverted and desolation reigned unbroken. There lived in a retired part of the town an aged man, a blacksmith by trade, and of so stammering a tongue that it was painful to hear him speak. On one Friday, as he was at work in his shop alone, his mind became greatly exercised about the state of the Church and of the impenitent. His agony became so great that he was induced to lay by his work, lock the shop door, and spend the afternoon in prayer.

“He prevailed, and on the Sabbath called on the minister and desired him to appoint a ‘conference meeting.’ After some hesitation, the minister consented, observing however, that he feared few would attend. He appointed it the same evening at a large private house. When evening came more assembled than could be accommodated in the house. All were silent for a time, until one sinner broke out in tears, and said if anyone could pray, would they pray for him. Another followed, and another, and still another, until it was found that persons from every quarter of the town were under deep conviction. And what was remarkable was that they all dated their conviction at the hour the old man was praying in his shop. A powerful Revival followed. Thus this old stammering man prevailed, and as a prince had power with God.”- Chas. G. Finney.

“‘I have pleaded with God this day for hours, in the wood, for souls: He will give them. I know His sign. I shall have souls tonight. Yours, I trust, will be one.’ Night came, and with it such a power as I had never felt. Cries for mercy rang all over the chapel. Before the sermon was done, I, with many others, fell upon my knees to implore salvation.”- One of Thos. Collins’ Converts.

“I went to my lonely retreat among the rocks. I wept much as I besought the Lord to give me souls.”--Thos. Collins.

“I spent Friday in secret fasting, meditation, and prayer for help on the Lord’s Day. About the middle of the sermon a man cried out; at the cry my soul ran over. I fell to prayer, nor could we preach any more for cries and tears all over the chapel.

We continued in intercessions, and salvation came.” - Thos. Collins.

“He gave himself unto prayer. Woods and lonely wayside places became closets. In such exercises time flew unheeded. He stopped amid the solitary crags to pray, and Heaven so met him there that hours elapsed unconsciously. Strong in the might of such baptisms, he became bold to declare the cross, and willing to bear it.”- Life of Thos. Collins.

“It loaded me down with great agony. As I returned to my room I felt almost as if I should stagger under the burden that was on my mind; and I struggled, and groaned, and agonized, but could not frame to present the case before God in words, but only in groans and tears. The Spirit struggled within me with groanings that could not be uttered.”- Chas. G. Finney.

“I proposed that we should observe a closet concert of prayer for the revival of God’s work; that we should pray at sunrise, at noon, and at sunset, in our closets, and continue this for one week, when we should come together again and see what further was to be done. No other means were used for the revival of God’s work. But the spirit of prayer was immediately poured out wonderfully upon the young converts. Before the week was out I learned that some of them, when they would attempt to observe this season of prayer, would lose all their strength and be unable to rise to their feet or even stand upon their knees in their closets; and that some would be prostrate on the floor, and pray with unutterable groanings for the Outpouring of the Spirit of God. The Spirit was poured out and before the week ended all the meetings were thronged; and there was as much interest in religion, I think, as there has been at any time during the Revival.”--Chas. G. Finney.

“I have often seen him come down stairs in the morning after spending several hours in prayer, with his eyes swollen with weeping. He would soon introduce the subject of his anxiety by saying, ‘I am a broken hearted man; yes, indeed, I am an unhappy man; not for myself, but on account of others. God has given me such a sight of the value of precious souls that I cannot live if souls are not saved. Oh, give me souls, or else I die!’ “--Life of John Smith.

 “God enabled me to so agonize in prayer that I was quite wet with perspiration, though in the shade and the cool wind. My soul was drawn out very much from the world, for multitudes of souls.”--David Brainerd.

“Near the middle of the afternoon God enabled me to wrestle ardently in intercession for my friends. But just at night the Lord visited me marvelously in prayer. I think my soul never was in such an agony before. I felt no restraint; for the treasures of Divine grace were opened to me. I wrestled for my friends, for the ingathering of souls, for multitudes of poor souls, and for many that I thought were the children of God, personally in many different places. I was in such an agony from sun, half an hour high, till near dark, that I was all over wet with sweat. - David Brainerd.

“I withdrew from prayer, hoping for strength from above. In prayer I was exceedingly enlarged and my soul was as much drawn out as I ever remember it to have been in my life. I was in such anguish, and pleaded with so much earnestness and importunity, that when I rose from my knees I felt extremely weak and overcome I could scarcely walk straight; my joints were loosed; the sweat ran down my face and body; and nature seemed as if it would dissolve.”- David Brainerd.

“Prayer must carry on our work, as well as preaching. He does not preach heartily to his people who does not pray for them. If we do not prevail with God to give them repentance and faith, we are not likely to prevail with them to repent and believe. Paul gives us frequently his example of praying night and day for his hearers.” - Richard Baxter.

“Several members of Jonathan Edwards’ church had spent the whole night in prayer before he preached his memorable sermon, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.’ The Holy Ghost was so mightily poured out, and God so manifest in holiness and majesty during the preaching of that sermon, that the elders threw their arms around the pillars of the church and cried, ‘Lord, save us, we are slipping down to hell!’”

“Almost every night there has been a shaking among the people; and I have seen nearly twenty set at liberty. I believe I should have seen many more, but I cannot yet find one pleading man. There are many good people; but I have found no wrestlers with God. At two or three small places, we had cries for mercy; and several were left in a state of deep distress.”--Wm. Bramwell.

“Where the result which he desired did not attend his own ministry, he would spend days and nights almost constantly on his knees, weeping and pleading before God; and especially deploring his own inadequacy to the great work of saving souls. He was at times when he perceived no movement in the church, literally in agonies; travailing in birth for precious souls, till he saw Christ magnified in their salvation.”--Life of John Smith.

“If you spend several hours in prayer daily, you will see great things.”--John Nelson. “He made it a rule to rise out of bed about twelve o’clock, and sit up till two, for prayer and converse with God; then he slept till four; at which time he always rose.”--Life of John Nelson.

“Be instant and constant in prayer. Study, books, eloquence, fine sermons, are all nothing without prayer. Prayer brings the spirit, the life, the power.”--Memoir of David Stoner.

“I find it necessary to begin at five in the morning and to pray at all opportunities till ten, or eleven at night.”--Wm. Bramwell.

But must we go back to these mighty men of old? Are there not some today who will ask God to burden them? May we not even in this generation have a Revival in answer to faithful, believing, travailing, prevailing prayer? Oh, then, “Lord, teach us not how to pray, but to pray.”

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Contents

Foreword by Jonathan Goforth
The Outpouring of the Spirit
The Responsibility for Revival
Soul-travail

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The Enduement of Power
Conviction
Obstacles
Faith
Heart Yearnings for Revival
Manifestations of God’s power
Spiritual Experiences of Priceless Value
Hunger for Revival

 

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