Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Second Great Awakening: The Watershed Revival

By Robert H. Lescelius

The Great Awakening was followed by the Revolutionary War and the founding of the new nation. The young nation found itself in troubled waters economically, internally, politically and internationally. Yet it was also an expanding nation, as the frontier moved west into Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky. The United States was coming of age.

Religiously and philosophically it was a watershed period, for classic Christian and Enlightenment worldviews clashed in mortal combat. A time of general spiritual and moral declension came, to the dismay of many in the church. Then God visited again in mercy. The Second Great Awakening erupted as a deluge of blessing from heaven on the parched earth.

We will look at this season of revival blessings in its historical and worldwide setting, its overall movement in the United States and its immediate and long-term results. Mark Noll calls it “the most influential revival of Christianity in the history of the United States.” [1]

Its Context

1) The Historical Context. The Second Great Awakening, as it is generally denoted by historians, has been variously dated from 1795 to 1810 into the 1840s. It has also been called the 1800 Revival. Many historians see two distinct phases to the overall movement, prompting some to identify two separate awakenings. Earle Cairns writes of the Second Awakening (1776–1810) and the Trans-Atlantic Revival (1813–46). [2] The late J. Edwin Orr designated them as the Second Evangelical Awakening (1792–1822) and the Third Evangelical Awakening (1830–42). [3] Both historians dated them as global movements.

2) The Religious Context. Spiritually, conditions hadwaned in the United States after the Revolutionary War. War itself has a denigrating effect on a people. The great migration of people to the West also had a negative effect on the morality of the populace. Masses of people pulling up roots to go to a wilderness to carve out an existence, the lack of social structure, the scarcity of ministers and churches, the democratizing spirit of independence, later issuing into the Jacksonian era and the “rise of the common man,” all gave way for man’s innate depravity to express itself. For instance, Logan County, Kentucky, was called “Rogues’ Harbor,” because it was a refuge for lawbreakers from the East to come to escape the punishment of the law. Things got so bad that law-abiding citizens took up arms and banded together to eliminate the “bad guys,” but the “bad guys” won.

The effects of Enlightenment skepticism and infidelity exported out of France had devastating effects, making inroads into the churches and educational institutions. Deism was the “in” religious philosophy among the intellectuals, with its transcendent but not immanent God, who wound up the universe after creating it to leave it to continue by natural law. The writings of Ethan Alan and Thomas Paine and the influence of men like Thomas Jefferson did much to undermine the Christian faith.

Orthodoxy battled with Enlightenment thinking in the church, the prime example being the separation of the Unitarians from the Congregationalists in New England. Another source of opposition to established orthodoxy came from the Universalists.

3) The Global Context. The Second Great Awakening in the United States in both its phases was a part of a movement of the Spirit of God that encompassed the world. It is impossible to say with certainty where and when it began. In England the tide began to turn in 1780, and the first flood came in the 1790s. Forty years earlier, John Erskine of Edinburgh, Scotland, had published a memorial to enlist praying people in Scotland to pray for an outpouring of the Spirit upon all the churches. On this memorial Jonathan Edwards based his work, “A Humble Attempt for Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People for Extraordinary Prayer for Revival of Religion and Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom According to Biblical Promise and Prophecy of the Last Time.” In 1784, Erskine sent a reprint of his memorial along with Edwards’s treatise to John Ryland and Andrew Fuller, the Northampton Baptists. They shared this challenge with John Sutcliffe of Olney, who made it his burden, and as a result, the Association of Baptist Churches of Northampton and Leicester counties resolved to declare the first Monday evening of every month for “prayer for general revival and spread of religion.” Andrew Fuller published a sermon: “A Few Persuasions to a General Prayer for the Revival of Religion.” He journeyed near and far to promote the project. In 1786, the Baptist Association of the Midlands adopted the concert of prayer, and soon other free churches followed as the Congregationalists, Methodists and Moravians united in prayer for revival.

Soon revival fires broke out throughout Britain. The Baptists flourished in the 1790s, one outstanding event being the founding of the Particular Baptist Foreign Missionary Society in 1792 and the sending of William Carey to India. This marked the birth of modern missions.

There was revival also among the Congregational churches and the Methodists in England, outpouring in Wales (1780–1810), Scotland (Robert and James Haldane and John McDonald being instruments) and Ireland.

The year 1796 saw revival in Scandinavia: God’s great instrument in Norway being Hans Nielsen Hauge; in Sweden, Henrik Schartan and Jakob Otto Hoof; and in Finland, Paavo Routsalainen.

The continent was touched with revival after the Battle of Waterloo (1815). Robert Haldane was instrumental in movements in Switzerland, France and the Netherlands (LeReveil). The Gospel also spread into Estonia and Latvia.

The second phase of the movement (Third Evangelical Awakening) was experienced in Britain (1830s), William Burns and Robert Murray McCheyne being well known participants in Scotland.

Revival swept Sweden again in 1830, a Scottish Wesleyan by the name of George Scott being greatly used. Norway had a renewed awakening in 1833, while the awakening under Routsalainen in Finland spread all over the country in the 1830s.

The second phase saw the new phenomenon of revival of the mission movements birthed in the first phase. There was revival in the Polynesian Islands of the Pacific, South Africa, Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, Egypt, South India, and the Karen people of Burma. The Gospel advanced to China and the coasts of Japan.

These were the same Spirit-outpourings experienced by the church in the United States in the Second Great Awakening.

Its Course

1) The First Phase. Local revivals were experienced in the 1780s out of which future revival leaders were raised up. New Hampshire saw revivals in 1782. In Virginia, a movement started in Hampton-Sydney College and spread through several counties from 1787 to 1789. In the First and Second Baptist Churches of Boston in 1791, weekly prayer meetings were conducted for revival. In 1794, Isaac Backus and Stephen Gano sent out letters across the country inviting pastors and churches to engage in a Concert of Prayer for Revival. They suggested the first Tuesday in January, 1795, and once a quarter thereafter for public prayer for general awakening. There was immediate, general and earnest response.

Rather than try to detect a cause-and-effect relation between the general burden of prayer and the ensuing spread of revival, perhaps it would be better to say that both were an evidence of a sovereign gracious God, who works on a platform of prayer, pouring out His Spirit. As Matthew Henry stated, “When God purposes great mercies for His people He first sets them a-praying.”

Not only were churches blessed with “precious harvests,” the colleges were also visited. An outstanding example was in Yale, which was a hotbed of infidelity and French-inspired rationalism. Students called themselves by the names Rousseau and Voltaire and other intellectuals. Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards, became president in 1795 and hit the problem head on. He allowed free discussion of a number of subjects presented by the students. He chose, “Is the Bible the Word of God?” Dwight proceeded to destroy the infidel arguments and reasonings. This was followed by a series of chapel sermons, the most impressive being, “The Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy.” In 1802, two students came under Spirit conviction and were converted. Shortly after the number increased to fifty, and eventually the conversion of eighty out of the 160 students. There were succeeding movements of revival at Yale in 1808, 1813 and 1815.

Yale was not alone. In Sprague’s Lectures on Revival, there are letters from Francis Wayland of Brown, William Neill of Dickinson College, Phillip Milledoler of Rutgers College, Henry Davis of Hamilton College, Nathan Lord of Dartmouth, Hemen Humphrey of Amherst, Ashbell Hill of Princeton, Moses Wadell of Franklin College and Edward Griffin of Dickinson College, all writing concerning revival itself or of revival in their schools.

All of these revival movements were without excesses or the measures experienced and employed in the movements in the West. The prevailing view of the participants in these revivals was that revival was God’s means of advancing His church. They believed prayer and the sound and faithful preaching of the Gospel were instruments used of the Spirit in His sovereign operations. This view of revival was to be challenged in the West and eventually replaced in evangelical Christianity in America.

An outstanding evangelist used in the revival reapings in the East was Asahel Nettleton (1783–1844). His method was to stay with a church until revival came. Nettleton was a skilled soulwinner and discipler of converts. He led the Old School view of evangelism and revival against the New Measures that arose under Charles G. Finney. It is estimated (though counting converts was not the common practice of Old School evangelism) that there were from twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand converts under his ministry.

The general characteristics of the movement in the East were that it was Calvinistic, with doctrinal emphasis, largely church-centered, and led by and relied upon an educated clergy. It was a quiet movement affecting the churches of the Eastern States from north to south.

We noted the deplorable moral conditions in the West, meaning Kentucky and the other territories people flocked to from over the mountains. God moved in power to change that lawless country to what one visitor (speaking of Kentucky) called “the most moral place on earth.”

How did it come about? One chief human instrument was a Presbyterian preacher named James McGready (1758–1857). It was noted that McGready was so ugly he called attention to himself. But in grace the “beauty of the Lord” rested upon him. He studied for the ministry in Pennsylvania, coming to full assurance of saving grace after he began his training, and labored first in North Carolina (where his preaching was very unpopular), afterward settling in Logan County, Kentucky, in 1796 to pastor three small churches. He found the situation there one of “universal deadness and stupidity” spiritually. This moved him to call for prayer. McGready writes:
We feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer-hearing God for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children and sinners generally may be converted. [4]
In 1799 he could write that
a remarkable spirit of prayer and supplication was given to Christians, and a sensible, heartfelt burden of the dreadful state of sinners out of Christ: so that it might be said with propriety, that Zion travailed in birth to bring forth her spiritual children. [5]
In his preaching McGready thundered against sin and declared the judgment of God, holding forth the necessity of an experimental heart relationship with Christ in regeneration. By 1798, many were “struck with an awful sense of their lost estate.”

In June 1800, the first manifestation of revival power was evident in a gathering of his three churches at Red River. They were meeting for days of preparation for the Lord’s Supper. Believing that the Lord was working, another such gathering was called in July 1800, at Gasper River, which was attended by as many as eight thousand people, some from as far away as one hundred miles. This was the first true camp meeting (though they were not called such until 1802) with people camping out to partake of continuous outdoor services. Again the power of God moved upon the people in a great awakening and converting work.

An even greater outpouring was experienced in August 1801 at Cane Ridge, led by Barton W. Stone (1772–1844). The number attending has been estimated from ten thousand to twenty-five thousand. The meeting saw many falling down in great distress of soul, shrieking, groaning, agonizing, fainting, jerking and showing kindred expressions of extreme emotional stress. Some who found relief expressed it in shouting, rolling, running, dancing, barking and such emotional releases.

The camp meeting became the effective tool of reaching the scattered frontier people. It was a sight to see with the masses gathered, a mixed multitude with innumerable motives for being there, different gatherings at the same time hearing soul-stirring preaching from Presbyterian, Baptist and Methodist preachers cooperating in the harvest of souls. The power of God fell and sinners were converted and went back to their home areas to swell the ranks of the local churches, found new ones, and change the moral climate of the rugged wilderness.

The emotional excesses proved to be a cause of controversy that brought discord to the frontier revival. Such excesses were discouraged in the movements in the East, and the mature pastors among the Presbyterians and Baptists sought to control and minimize their expression in the West. Though they were comparatively rare, these excesses have been highlighted by later secular historians to discredit the Second Awakening as mere emotionalism. Because of the rapid growth of the movement and the lack of adequately trained ministers, licensed preachers and farmer-preachers were used to spread the work. Many of these untrained men encouraged the emotionalism and the excesses, feeling they were essential marks of the true moving of God. Arminianism, brought in by the Methodists, also contributed to the division, evidenced, for instance, by the separation of the Cumberland Presbyterians from the Calvinistic Presbyterian ranks. The Methodists incorporated the camp meeting into their evangelistic armory and had no problem with the emotionalism. The Baptists generally controlled it, but the Presbyterians were devastated by division over the issue.

2) The Second Phase. There were revival movements reported in the 1810s and 20s, but by mid-1830 a general awakening was evident in the land. Presbyterians and Congregationalists were receiving reports of revivals from East, West, North and South. Thirty presbyteries west of the Hudson were receiving “torrents of blessing.” The General Association of Connecticut and Massachusetts reported overcrowded churches, Vermont and New Hampshire told of “great numbers turning to the Lord” and “extensive revivals of religion.” Methodists and Baptists united in “extensive revivals of religion.” New York City reported souls added regularly to all the churches: Baptist, Dutch Reformed, Methodist, Presbyterian and some Episcopalian. Maine saw awakening, and revivals occurred in Virginia.

To these reports we could add Philadelphia, more college awakenings, movements (without excesses) in Kentucky and Tennessee, revival in Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia. Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri saw sporadic revivals.

The wave continued into 1831 and 1832 with a glut of revival news in evangelical periodicals. In 1834 it seemed to be lessening, but within a few weeks the blessed news renewed from all quarters.

Baptist editors analyzed the 1830 awakening and found these factors: early morning and evening prayer meetings, protracted meetings, immediate repentance and faith proclaimed, private conversation with seekers, Sunday school instruction, increased effort to evangelize the community and the zeal of young converts to witness. Baptists saw a 250 percent increase.

The revival in Upstate New York is important in a discussion of the Second Awakening. Revivals were reported in Albany, Troy, Utica, Rochester and a score of other towns. In Albany, revival swept the First, Second, Third and Fourth Presbyterian Churches. One of the Albany pastors was William B. Sprague, who later wrote his Lectures on Revival. Rochester saw the greatest movement in 1830.

The evangelist of the Rochester revival was Charles G. Finney (1792–1875). The news of his success made Finney’s reputation and eventually led to his recognition as the leader of evangelical revivalism. Finney later wrote in his Memoirs: “The very fame of the work at Rochester ... was an efficient instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God in promoting the greatest revival of religion ... that this country had ever witnessed.” The truth of the matter is that the 1830 awakening was already effective throughout the States at the time of the local revival at Rochester, but subsequent historians have repeated the notion of its Rochester origin.

Shortly after his conversion in 1821, Finney entered the Presbyterian ministry and was soon licensed to preach. He conducted evangelistic efforts in Upstate New York and experienced what he later called the Western revivals. In these campaigns Finney was introduced to and employed what became known as the New Measures (1825 on). These evangelistic methods were first used among the Methodists, but it is with Finney that they were raised to a major issue among the Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Congregationalists and Baptists, and eventually won the day in evangelical circles as acceptable methodology. Charles G. Finney is acknowledged today as the Father of Modern Evangelism as a result of this.

The New Measures were opposed by the Old School Calvinists of the East, led by Asahel Nettleton. Efforts were made at reconciliation at a meeting in New Lebanon, New York, in July 1827. The meeting proved unproductive, for the issue eventually divided the evangelical forces. Presbyterians and Congregationalists eventually divided over it, and the Presbyterians themselves split into New School (embracing the New Measures and the theology behind it) and the Old School parties.

The New Measures included a number of issues, such as women praying in public, praying for sinners by name from the pulpit, using coarse language from the pulpit, etc. The chief abiding issue was the practice of inviting sinners to the front of the building to a place set aside, called the “anxious seat” or “mourners bench.” There they were prayed for and exhorted to immediate repentance, faith and confession of Christ and declared to be converts. What appeared to be a procedural matter of methodology at first proved to be the expression of deeper theological issues. The New Measures were in reality the manifestation of a new view of revival (revivalism) based on a new theological emphasis (Pelagian-Arminianism rather than Calvinism). The theology of evangelism had shifted from a God-centered emphasis to a man-centered one. It has remained so predominantly ever since in American evangelicalism.

Finney saw the issue as theological. He subsequently conducted a crusade against Calvinism, branding it as an enemy of revivals. Sadly, historians (even evangelical) have echoed his caricature of the churches before his day as being dead with a “do-nothing” passive approach to evangelizing sinners. But the contrary is true. Even Jefferson County, were Finney came as a new young lawyer, had seen successive revivals for years. Finney’s pastor, George Gale, under whose ministry he was converted (though his autobiography makes it almost seem that it was a result of his own will and effort), had seen sixty-five people converted in the two years before Finney’s conversion.

Finney introduced a new kind of “revival” with a new definition. Instead of revivals being a sovereign work of God upon whom the church is entirely dependent, he saw them as man-produced. After Finney became a pastor in New York City, he lectured on revival. Those lectures were printed in his now famous Lectures on Revivals of Religion, in which we find this statement:
Revivals were formerly regarded as miracles.... For a long time it was supposed by the church that a revival was a miracle, an interposition of Divine power, with which they had nothing to do, and which they had no more agency in producing than they had in producing thunder, or a storm of hall, or an earthquake. It is only within a few years that ministers generally have supposed that revivals were to be promoted, by the use of means designed and adapted specially to that object. [6]
This new view of revival went along with Finney’s new methodology of evangelism and reflected his basic theology, which he later fully formulated and revealed. Basically, Finney was a Pelagian. Though he states that he came to his views through his own independent study, and to a large degree this may be true, it is also certain he imbibed the New Divinity, or New Haven Theology, of the day. Followers of Jonathan Edwards deviated from his position to produce a “Calvinism” acceptable to human reason. Timothy Dwight went part of the way, the journey being completed by his pupil, Nathaniel Taylor (“Taylorism”). The doctrine of the imputation of Adamic sin was denied and replaced with a view that each man becomes a sinner by his own free choice. They emphasized the free moral agency of man to the point they undermined the doctrine of total depravity. Consequently the sinner could also participate in his own regeneration as well. The denial of imputation also led to the embracing of the Governmental Theory of the Atonement, which denies Christ actually suffered as a penal substitution for the believing sinner. [7]

Taylorism can be seen in Finney’s theology. Finney believed in the infallibility of human reason: “there can be no error in the a priori intuitions of reason.” Concerning sin, he believed that moral qualities could be attached only to deliberate acts. Hence there can be no imputed sin or a sinful nature. Pure will and external temptations are the only factors in sinfulness. Man’s will is neutral, responsibility implies ability.

This affected his view of regeneration. A man can create for himself a new heart. In fact, regeneration is merely a change of will, intention. He confused Regeneration with conversion. “Drawing” he interpreted to be persuasion, illumination, motivation. Finney, being formerly a lawyer, saw evangelism as a lawyer convincing a jury. The Holy Spirit’s work is no different than the preacher’s. He persuades and motivates only.

Finney also denied the imputation of righteousness in justification, seeing it only as amnesty for the sinner.

Sanctification to Finney was not the renewal of the inner man. Since regeneration to him was an entire change from entire sinfulness to entire holiness, being fully obedient for the time being, continuance of that obedience could be possible; hence he developed his later view of perfectionism after becoming president of Oberlin College. [8]

Why did the New Measures eventually rule the day, then and since? Primarily, they expressed the spirit of the age, the independent, pragmatic American mentality. Finney was above all a pragmatist. He rejected anything that did not produce results according to his liking. His measures were right because they worked.

The churches embraced the new revivalism because it was apparently successful. What they failed to see was that there was a general awakening of genuine revival throughout the land. The Old School preachers were seeing results as well, without the excesses and noise.

There was also a failure to recognize the damage done by the New Measures. Churches were split, denominations divided and much harm done to the cause of Christ. The converts of Finneyism did not remain as did the genuine fruit of revival. A. B. Dod wrote in 1835:
It is now generally understood that the numerous converts of the New Measures have been in most cases like the morning clouds and the early dew. In some places, not a fifth or even a tenth of them remain.
Finney himself was troubled over the quality of his converts through most of his ministry. It was a chief reason he came to embrace his views of perfectionism. His converts did not endure, he said, because they had not gone further to see the truth of attaining spiritual perfection. Instead of seeing his view of conversion as faulty, he shored it up with a faulty (some say Gnostic) view of sanctification. [9]

In summation, the second (Western) phase of the awakening in the United States had more Arminiam roots (though not entirely), involved Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, relied more on farmer-preachers, licensed preachers and circuit riders (among the Methodists), and was not church-centered, but church generating.

Its Consequences

1) The Fruit. The Second Great Awakening was a time of bountiful harvest of souls. We have made note of the various reports of conversion and additions to the churches. Denominationally, the Second Awakening marked the ascendancy of the Methodists and the Baptists over the Congregationalists and Presbyterians. Methodists grew under the circuit rider system led by Francis Asbury (1745–1816). When Asbury came to the United States in 1771 there were four Methodist preachers and three hundred people. When he died in 1816 there were two thousand preachers and over two hundred thousand Methodists, and several more in Canada (which, by the way, saw revival blessings also). By 1842 they had increased to around one million. In 1812 there were two hundred thousand Baptists in the United States, half being in the South. By 1850 their numbers exceeded one million. Revival in the church brings fruit in evangelism.

2) Missions. We noted that the first phase of the Second Awakening (Second Evangelical Awakening) saw the birth of modern missions. The American churches also were moved to missionary outreach. Samuel J. Mills was the American Carey. Out of the famous Haystack Prayer Meeting at Williams College, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions came into being (1810), and on February 19, 1812, Adoniram Judson sailed for India. Judson became a Baptist by conviction enroute and returned to eventually go to Burma under the Baptists. All the major denominations organized missionary organizations.

We noted also that the second phase (Third Evangelical Awakening) witnessed revival on the mission fields. This was equally true of American missionaries. Titus Coan and his associates, American Congregational missionaries to Hawaii, experienced a remarkable movement of revival. In the beginning of the 1830s there were 577 church members throughout the Hawaiian Islands. All around the world there were saints praying for general awakening. The missionaries in Hawaii met each year for discussion and united prayer. In 1835 they appealed to the churches in the United States to pray for revival in Hawaii. The result was a movement, beginning in Hilo in 1837 through a blind Hawaiian preacher, Puaaiki, and spreading throughout the island chain. The revival continued for five years with great reaping. At one church, 7,557 members were received, 1,705 in one day. Titus Coan is reported to have had thirteen thousand converts up until 1870.

3) Social Action. The outpouring of the Spirit upon the church had its overflow in the society. The Awakening spawned a number of social reforms and movements. The network of voluntary societies for the cleaning up of society was called the “Benevolent Empire.” Among the organizations that came out of the Second Awakening were the American Bible Society (1816), the American Sunday School Union (1817), the American Tract Society (1826), the American Temperance Society (1826) and the American Home Missionary Society (1826). Out of it also came the anti-slavery movement. Charles Finney was instrumental in much of this move to social action.

Its Considerations

In conclusion, let us draw some general lessons from our consideration of the Second Great Awakening.

1) Prayer. It is quite evident that prayer was an essential element in this revival movement, as it is in all revivals. There is no revival without prayer. It would profit us to carefully go over the title of Edwards’s thesis on revival praying:

“A Humble Attempt”—Every relationship to God must begin with humility, for God gives grace only to the humble (James 4:6; 2 Chron. 7:14).

“For Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God’s People”—An essential condition for revival, as well as an evidence, is unity (Ps. 133; Acts 1:14; 2:1; 4:24ff; 5:12).

“For Extraordinary Prayer”—It was Leonard Ravenhill who said, “A church will never have a revival on one prayer meeting a week.” May God pour out a “spirit of grace and supplication” upon us! We need first a revival of prayer.

“For Revival of Religion and Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom”—We must pray for revival in our churches if we hope to see any effective witness in our present day and culture.

“According to Biblical Promise and Prophecy of the Last Time”—Our eschatological view may differ with Edwards as to his use of prophecy, but we cannot deny, whatever our position may be, that we are in the “last days,” the Messianic days of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16–17). May we pray in hope and expectancy!

2) A Warning. May we beware of allowing the spirit of the age to influence and infiltrate our thinking in the church. American evangelicalism since the Second Awakening has developed an American psyche. If God sent a revival to America today, would we know what to do? Or would we dissipate it because we do not know God or His ways?

3) The Need of Reformation. The Second Awakening, especially in the New Measures controversy, illustrates vividly the importance of theology. Theology determines methodology, whether it be in worship or service. The Second Awakening was a watershed between a predominantly Calvinistic Protestantism in America and a subsequently Arminian evangelicalism. [10] It was a watershed between a God-centered view of revival and evangelism and a man-centered one. Finney and his company believed that revivals could be promoted indefinitely until the world was converted and society was Christianized. A study of the history of revival proves this view to be wrong.

The need of our day is a true history of revival that this generation may again hunger and thirst for the mighty acts of our God. It also needs a return to the historic doctrines of the Reformation, the doctrine of sovereign, saving grace. The same principles apply in the saving of one sinner or a thousand sinners in a spiritual awakening. God must do the saving and the reviving. The late Peter Connolly taught me as a student long ago: “God is sovereign in revival, but it never comes to passive waiting.” May we commit ourselves to reformation according to the Word of God and prayer to the God of revival!

About the Author

Dr. Robert H. Lescelius is academic dean of Georgia College and Theological Seminary in College Park, Georgia. He has contributed to Reformation & Revival Journal on several occasions, and is the author of Spirit Directed Life and Lordship Salvation: Some Crucial Questions and Answers.

  1. Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1992), 166.
  2. Earle Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendor: Revivals and Their Leaders from the Great Awakening to the Present (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale, 1986).
  3. J. Edwin Orr, The Eager Feet (Chicago: Moody, 1975).
  4. Cited by lain Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750–1858 (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), 130.
  5. Ibid., 130.
  6. Ibid., 247. Murray’s book is an excellent work, documenting the historical development and theological issues involved in the shift from the old view of revival to the new revivalism.
  7. For a study of New Haven Theology, the following articles are suggested: Earl A. Pope, “The Rise of New Haven Theology,” Journal of Presbyterian History 44 (1966), 22–44; John D. Hannah, “The Doctrine of Sin in Postrevolutionary America,” Bibliotheca Sacra 134 (July-Sept., 1977), 328–56; David F. Wells, “The Collision of Views of the Atonement, Part 3,” Bibliotheca Sacra 144 (Jan.-March, 1987), 363–76; Sydney E. Ahlstrom, “The Scottish Philosophy and American Theology,” Church History 24 (1955), 257–69.
  8. See the following articles for a discussion of the theology of Charles G. Finney: James E. Johnson, “Charles G. Finney and a Theology of Revival,” Church History 38 (1969), 338–58; Leonard I. Sweet, “The View of Man in New Measures Revivalism,” Church History 45 (1976), 206–21; Jay E. Smith, “The Theology of Charles G. Finney: A System of Self-Reformation,” Trinity Journal 13NS (1992), 61–93. The latter is an excellent article.
  9. See John Opie, “Finney’s Failure of Nerve: The Ultimate Demise of Evangelical Theology,” Journal of Presbyterian History 51 (1973), 155–73; and James E. Johnson, “Charles G. Finney and Oberlin Perfectionism, Parts 1 and 2, ” Journal of Presbyterian History 46 (1968), 42–57, 128–38. Sweet writes: “In a sense, perfectionism represented both the success and failure of new measures evangelism. Skillful at virtually coercing conversions, new measures revivalism failed to retain converts once the revival fervor diminished” (“The View of Man”), 219.
  10. Melvin L. Vulgamore, “Charles G. Finney: Catalyst in the Dissolution of American Calvinism,” Reformed Journal 17 (June 1964), 33–42.

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