Results tagged “revival” from Reformation21 Blog

The Record of a Revival


In the previous posts in this series, we have been considering the revitalization of the eighteenth-century Baptist community. Recall, that in 1750, there were only 150 of their churches throughout the British Isles. By 1798 there were close to 361 Calvinistic Baptist churches in England and Wales. This number had risen to 532 by 1812; by 1851 it stood at over 1,370. In the words of a later writer, Robert William Dale (1829-1895): the impact of the revival was such that:

Meeting-houses which had been deserted were crowded. Meeting-houses which had been more than large enough for their congregations for two or three generations had to be made larger. New meeting-houses in great numbers were erected. Cottages were rented in villages; farm-house kitchens were lent; old barns were turned into chapels; and young men who had been hard at work all through the week at the smithy, at the carpenter's bench, or behind the counter in drapers' shops, went out in companies from the towns on Sunday mornings to conduct the services.[1]

Details of the revival

From a more personal angle, one can observe the revival that was taking place in the following extracts from the letters of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815).[2] In the year 1810 Fuller noted in a letter to William Carey (1761-1834):

I preached a sermon to the youth last Lord's Day from 1 Thess 2:19. I think we must have had nearly one thousand. They came from all quarters. My heart's desire and prayer for them is that they may be saved.

Fuller was still rejoicing that year when he wrote on December 28 to his fellow Baptist pastor, John Ryland (1753-1825), who would pen the first biography of Fuller: "I hope the Lord is at work among our young people. Our Monday and Friday night meetings are much thronged." A couple of months later he told Ryland: "The Friday evening discourses are now, and have been for nearly a year, much thronged, because they have been mostly addressed to persons under some concern about their salvation." And what was happening in Fuller's church was happening in Baptist causes throughout the length and breadth of England and Wales.

Missionary outreach

A second fruit of the revival was the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792 with Andrew Fuller as the first Secretary. The following year William Carey was sent out as the Society's first missionary. Carey had been converted in the late 1770s and had eventually become a member of the church that John Sutcliff pastored in Olney. Not long after his conversion Carey was gripped by the responsibility that the church had been given by the risen Christ in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. It needs to be recalled that part of the Prayer Call of 1784 had urged prayer for "the spread of the gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe." The formation of this society was a direct result of prayer for revival. Carey would labour in India until his death in 1834. The impact of his missionary labours can be well seen in the following extract from a letter by an Anglican evangelical named Thomas Scott (1747-1821), who had known Carey in his early years. Writing on December 3, 1814, to John Ryland, Scott stated:

I do most heartily rejoice in what your missionaries are doing in India. Theirs is the most regular and best conducted plan against the kingdom of darkness that modern times have shown; and I augur the most extensive success. More genuine Christian wisdom, fortitude, and disinterested assiduity, perseverance, and patience appear, than I elsewhere read of.  May God protect and prosper! May all India be peopled with true Christians!--even though they be all Baptists ... The Lord is doing great things, and answering prayer every where.[3]

Doing good works

Yet a third fruit of the revival was an emphasis on the doing of good works in contrast with the Antinomianism that often went hand in hand with Hyper-Calvinism. Baptists became engaged in a host of philanthropic enterprises: establishing orphanages; providing organized support for the poor and destitute, war widows and immigrants; striving to make such barbarous sports as bear-baiting and bull-baiting illegal. Probably the best example of Baptist social action in the eighteenth century has to be the titanic struggle that they and other Evangelicals waged first against the slave trade and then against slavery itself. It is well known that such Baptists as William Knibb (1803-1845), Thomas Burchell (1799-1846) and James Phillippo (1798-1879) were heavily involved in securing the emancipation of the slaves in the 1830s. But, Calvinistic Baptists also played a role in the earlier ending of the slave trade. In 1788, for example, at a meeting of church representatives of the Western Association, it was agreed to "express our deepest abhorrence of the Slave Trade, and to recommend it earnestly to the ministers and members of all our churches, to unite in promoting, to the utmost of our power, every scheme that is or may be proposed, to procure the Abolition of a traffic so unjust, inhuman, and disgraceful."[4] Four years later, William Carey urged his fellow Baptists to give up using sugar, due to the fact that it had been produced by slave labour in the West Indies and so cleanse their "hands of blood."[5] During the entire time that Carey was in India, from 1793 till his death over forty years later, he regularly pled with God in prayer for the destruction of slavery. Apparently no public issue exercised him more. When the emancipation of the slaves finally took place in 1833, his eyes filled with tears as he gave thanks to God and proposed that for an entire month the Serampore mission should give special thanksgiving to God in all of their meetings.[6]

[1] R.W. Dale, The Old Evangelicalism and the New (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1889), 14.

[2] The following extracts from the letters of Andrew Fuller are all cited by Doyle L. Young, "The Place of Andrew Fuller in the Developing Modern Missions Movement" (PhD thesis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1981), 232.

[3]  John Scott, Letters and Papers of the Rev. Thomas Scott (London: L. B. Seeley and Son, 1824), 254.

[4] Quoted in J.G. Fuller, A Brief History of the Western Association (Bristol, 1843), 55-56.

[5] An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens (1792 ed.; repr. Didcot, Oxfordshire: The Baptist Missionary Society, 1991), 111. For a mention of this boycott of slave-grown sugar, see Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn, Kingdoms in Conflict (New York, NY: William Morrow & Co., Inc./Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1987), 103.

[6] See Ernest A. Payne, Freedom in Jamaica: Some Chapters in the Story of the Baptist Missionary Society (Rev. ed.; London: The Carey Press, 1946), 43.

Continual Prayer for Revival


In the last post on the revitalization of the eighteenth-century Baptists, we considered the way in which prayer was a central cause. The passing years did not diminish John Sutcliff's (1752-1814) and Andrew Fuller's (1754-1815) zeal in praying for revival and stirring up such prayer. For instance, their friend John Ryland, Jr. (1753-1825) wrote in his diary for January 21, 1788:

Brethren Fuller, Sutcliff, Carey, and I kept this day as a private fast, in my study... and each prayed twice1--Carey with singular enlargement and pungency. Our chief design was to implore a revival of godliness in our own souls, in our churches, and in the church at large.2

The influence of Jonathan Edwards

And in 1789, the number of prayer meetings for revival having grown considerably, Sutcliff decided to bring out an edition of Edwards's Humble Attempt to further encourage those meeting for prayer. Measuring only six and one quarter inches long, and three and three-quarter inches wide, and containing 168 pages, this edition was clearly designed to be a handy pocket-size edition. In his "Preface" to this edition, Sutcliff reemphasized that the Prayer Call issued by the Northamptonshire Association five years earlier was not intended for simply Calvinistic Baptists. Rather, they ardently wished it might become general among the real friends of truth and holiness.

The advocates of error are indefatigable in their endeavours to overthrow the distinguishing and interesting doctrines of Christianity; those doctrines which are the grounds of our hope, and sources of our joy. Surely it becomes the followers of Christ, to use every effort, in order to strengthen the things, which remain. ...In the present imperfect state, we may reasonably expect a diversity of sentiments upon religious matters. Each ought to think for himself; and every one has a right, on proper occasions, to shew [sic] his opinion. Yet all should remember, that there are but two parties in the world, each engaged in opposite causes; the cause of God and Satan; of holiness and sin; of heaven and hell. The advancement of the one, and the downfall of the other, must appear exceedingly desirable to every real friend of God and man. If such in some respects entertain different sentiments, and practice distinguishing modes of worship, surely they may unite in the above business. O for thousands upon thousands, divided into small bands in their respective cities, towns, villages, and neighbourhood, all met at the same time, and in pursuit of one end, offering up their united prayers, like so many ascending clouds of incense before the Most High!--May he shower down blessings on all the scattered tribes of Zion! Grace, great grace be with all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity!3

In this text Sutcliff positions the Prayer Call of 1784 on the broad canvas of history, in which God and Satan are waging war for the souls of men women. Prayer, because it is a weapon common to all who are "friends of truth and holiness," is one sphere in which Christians can present a fully united front against Satan. Sutcliff is well aware that evangelicals in his day held differing theological positions and worshiped in different ways. He himself was a convinced Baptist--convinced, for instance, that the Scriptures fully supported congregational polity and believer's baptism--yet, as he rightly emphasizes in the above "Preface," such convictions should not prevent believers, committed to the foundational truths of Christianity, uniting together to pray for revival.

Continuing in prayer

There is little doubt from the record of history that God heard the prayers of Sutcliff, Fuller, and their fellow Baptists. As they prayed, the Calvinistic Baptists in England began to experience the blessing of revival, though, it should be noted, great change was not immediately evident. For instance, in 1785, Sutcliff's close friend Andrew Fuller reported about their meetings for prayer:

It affords us no little satisfaction to hear in what manner the monthly prayer meetings which were proposed in our letter of last year have been carried on, and how God has been evidently present in those meetings, stirring up the hearts of his people to wrestle hard with him for the revival of his blessed cause. Though as to the number of members there is no increase this year, but something of the contrary; yet a spirit of prayer in some measure being poured out more than balances in our account for this defect. We cannot but hope, wherever we see a spirit of earnest prayer generally and perseveringly prevail, that God has some good in reserve, which in his own time he will graciously bestow.4

The stirring up of many to wrestle in prayer for revival was considered by Fuller as more than balancing the failure to increase the membership of the churches. And so it was resolved "without any hesitation, to continue the meetings of prayer on the first Monday evening in every calendar month."5

To be continued...

1. These would probably have been lengthy prayers of twenty minutes or so.

2. Cited Jonathan Edwards Ryland, "Memoir of Dr. Ryland" in Pastoral Memorials: Selected from the Manuscripts of the Late Revd. John Ryland, D.D. of Bristol (London: B.J. Holdsworth, 1826), I, 17.

3. John Sutcliff, "Preface" to Jonathan Edwards, An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer, For the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom on Earth, pursuant to Scripture-Promises and Prophecies concerning the Last Time (1748 ed.; repr. Northampton: T. Dicey and Co., 1789), iv-vi.

4. Fuller, Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival in Complete Works, III, 318.

5. Cited Arthur Fawcett, The Cambuslang Revival (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), 230.

*This is the fifith post in Dr. Haykin's series, "Revitalizing an Eighteenth-Century Christian Community." You can find the previous posts herehere, here and here.

Praying for Revival


Prayer has invariably preceded revival. The revitalization of the Baptists in the eighteenth century was no exception. As Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) Fuller emphasized in his Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival (1785) that we began looking at last month:

"Finally, brethren, let us not forget to intermingle prayer with all we do. Our need of God's Holy Spirit to enable us to do any thing, and every thing, truly good should excite us to this. Without his blessing all means are without efficacy and every effort for revival will be in vain. Constantly and earnestly, therefore, let us approach his throne. Take all occasions especially for closet prayer; here, if anywhere, we shall get fresh strength and maintain a life of communion with God. Our Lord Jesus used frequently to retire into a mountain alone for prayer, he, therefore, that is a follower of Christ, must follow him in this important duty."1

Now, the year before Fuller wrote these words there had actually begun regular meetings for prayer, which met with one specific object, to pray for revival and revitalization.

The Prayer Call of 1784

The origin of these prayer meetings can be traced back to the year 1784 and to the town of Nottingham in the heart of England, where in June of that year, the pastors of the Baptist churches belonging to the Northamptonshire Association were meeting. Earlier that year a treatise on corporate prayer for revival by the New England divine Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)--An Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and visible Union of God's People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ's Kingdom on Earth, Pursuant to Scripture-Promises and Prophecies Concerning the Last Time (henceforth referred to as the Humble Attempt)--had come into the hands of John Sutcliff (1752-1814), the Baptist pastor of Olney, Buckinghamshire, who was also a close friend of Andrew Fuller. Not widely heeded during the lifetime of its author, the Humble Attempt's greatest impact would come after Edwards' death. Deeply impressed and moved by this treatise, Sutcliff proposed to his fellow pastors that a monthly prayer meeting be established to pray for the outpouring of God's Spirit not only upon the Baptist churches of England, but also upon all those churches that loved the Lord Jesus. This proposal ran as follows:

"Upon a motion being made to the ministers and messengers of the associate Baptist churches assembled at Nottingham, respecting meetings for prayer, to bewail the low estate of religion, and earnestly implore a revival of our churches, and of the general cause of our Redeemer, and for that end to wrestle with God for the effusion of his Holy Spirit, which alone can produce the blessed effect, it was unanimously RESOLVED, to recommend to all our churches and congregations, the spending of one hour in this important exercise, on the first Monday in every calendar month.

...The grand object of prayer is to be that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinners may be converted, the saints edified, the interest of religion revived, and the name of God glorified. At the same time, remember, we trust you will not confine your requests to your own societies [i.e. churches]; or to your own immediate connection [i.e. denomination]; let the whole interest of the Redeemer be affectionately remembered, and the spread of the gospel to the most distant parts of the habitable globe be the object of your most fervent requests. We shall rejoice if any other Christian societies of our own or other denominations will unite with us, and do now invite them most cordially to join heart and hand in the attempt.

Who can tell what the consequences of such an united effort in prayer may be! Let us plead with God the many gracious promises of His Word, which relate to the future success of His gospel. He has said, "I will yet for this be enquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them, I will increase them with men like a flock." Ezek. xxxvi.37. Surely we have love enough for Zion to set apart one hour at a time, twelve times in a year, to seek her welfare."2

The focus of this momentous call to prayer was the "revival of our churches, and of the general cause of our Redeemer." How was this to be achieved? By "the effusion of [God's] Holy Spirit, which alone can produce [this] blessed effect." There is, in these words, a distinct recognition that the revival of the denomination lay ultimately in the hands of God the Holy Spirit, and all of their labours without his blessing would come to nought. Yet, those who issued this statement were not Hyper-Calvinists who expected results without the use of means. And thus they encouraged their congregations to gather for prayer once a month for one hour on the first Monday of the month.

The heart of the "Prayer Call" is to be found in the second and third paragraphs above. There the conviction that reversing the downward trend of Calvinistic Baptists could not be accomplished by mere human zeal is mentioned again. It must be effected by an outpouring of God's Holy Spirit: "the grand object of prayer is to be that the Holy Spirit may be poured down on our ministers and churches, that sinners may be converted, the interest of religion revived, and the name of God glorified." Without the Spirit all of the church's best efforts to bring men and women to Christ will fail, all of her noblest attempts to edify God's people and bring glory to God's name fall short of success. The Spirit is the true agent of renewal and revival. Thus, there was a desperate need for prayer.

Then, there is the "inclusive" nature of the praying. As the Calvinistic Baptists of this Association came together for prayer, they were urged not to pray solely for their own churches or even for their own denomination, but to embrace in prayer other Baptist churches throughout the length and breadth of England, and even churches of other denominational bodies. Third, there is a definite missionary focus: the readers of this call to prayer are encouraged to pray that there would be a spread of the gospel "to the most distant parts of the habitable globe." It is important to note that it was out of this group of praying Baptists that William Carey (1761-1834) came, the so-called father of the modern missionary movement. All great missionary ventures are born in the cradle of prayer.

Fourth, there is the Scriptural foundation for the call to pray for revival. Only one text is cited--Ezekiel 36:37--but those who drew up this document were well aware that there are other biblical texts that could be cited. One of Sutcliff's friends, Thomas Blundel, has this to say with regard to this verse from Ezekiel: "It is chiefly in answer to prayer that God has carried on his cause in the world: he could work without such means; but he does not, neither will he. ... He loves that his people should feel interested in his cause, and labour to promote it, though he himself worketh all in all."3

To be continued.

1. Andrew Fuller, Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, ed. Joseph Belcher (Repr. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), III, 324.

2. [John Sutcliff,] "The Prayer Call of 1784" in John Ryland, Jr., The Nature, Evidences, and Advantages, of Humility (Circular Letter of the Northamptonshire Association, 1784), 12. For a detailed discussion of this call to prayer and its historical context, see Michael A.G. Haykin, One heart and one soul: John Sutcliff of Olney, his friends and his times (Darlington, Co. Durham: Evangelical Press, 1994), 153-171.

3. Thomas Blundel, The River of Life Impeded in his Sermons on Various Subjects (London, 1806), 183, 184.

*This is the fourth post in Dr. Haykin's series, "Revitalizing an Eighteenth-Century Christian Community." You can find the previous posts here, here and here

Theological Reformation

Eighteenth-century Baptists did not emerge from their spiritual "winter" until the last two or three decades of the century. Again, there were a variety of reasons for what amounts to a profound revival among their ranks. There was theological reformation, in which the Hyper-Calvinism of the past was largely rejected in favour of a truly evangelical Calvinism. The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, written by Andrew Fuller (1754-1815)1 and published in 1785, was the book that crystallized this movement of theological renewal. Fuller was a farmer by occupation, a big, broad-shouldered man who looked, to some at least, the very image of a village blacksmith. Yet, in the words of the British Baptist historian A. C. Underwood, Fuller was "the soundest and most creatively useful theologian" the Baptists had in the eighteenth century.2 It was during his first pastorate in the village of Soham, Cambridgeshire, from 1775 to 1782 that he wrote the substance of the above-mentioned book. In it he convincingly demonstrated on the basis of the Scriptures that it is the duty of all who hear the gospel to put their faith in Christ and the corresponding duty of pastors to preach the gospel clearly and plainly to all, using "free and solemn addresses, invitations, calls, and warnings ... to bring them to Christ."3


Calling for Repentance

Then calls for repentance played a critical role in the revitalization of many of these Baptist causes. For instance, Andrew Fuller, in his Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival (1785), outlined the spiritual apathy then reigning among far too many Baptists of his day:

"It is to be feared the old puritanical way of devoting ourselves wholly to be the Lord's, resigning up our bodies, souls, gifts, time, property, with all we have and are to serve him, and frequently renewing these covenants before him, is now awfully neglected. This was to make a business of religion, a life's work, and not merely an accidental affair, occurring but now and then, and what must be attended to only when we can spare time from other arrangements. Few seem to aim, pray, and strive after eminent love to God and one other. Many appear to be contented if they can but remember the time when they had such love in exercise, and then, tacking to it the notion of perseverance without the thing, they go on and on, satisfied, it seems, if they do but make shift just to get to heaven at last, without much caring how. If we were in a proper spirit, the question with us would not so much be What must I do for God? as, What can I do for God? A servant that heartily loves his master counts it a privilege to be employed by him, yea, an honour to be entrusted with any of his concerns."4

Many, Fuller noted, were merely content to get to "heaven without concerning themselves overly about how they get there." The practice of giving oneself wholly to God that had been common among the seventeenth-century Puritans had generally ceased to be part of late eighteenth-century Baptist piety. This apathy was well revealed in the question, "What I must do for God?" In other words, they were asking, "What is the minimum I must do to get to heaven?"


Five Ways Forward to Revival

Seeking to change this dire situation, Fuller suggested:

"If it is required "What then is to be done? Wherein in particular can we glorify God more than we have done?", we answer by asking: Is there no room for amendment? Have we been sufficiently earnest and constant in private prayer? Are there none of us that have opportunities to set apart particular times to pray for the effusion of the Holy Spirit? Can we do more than we have done in instructing our families? Are there none of our dependents, workmen, or neighbours that we might speak to, at least so far as to ask them to go and hear the gospel? Can we rectify nothing in our tempers and behaviour in the world so as better to recommend religion? Cannot we watch more? Cannot we save a little more of our substance to give to the poor? In a word, is there no room or possibility left for our being more meek, loving, and resembling the blessed Jesus than we have been?"5 

Here, Fuller listed five ways in which his fellow Baptists could prepare themselves for renewal. At the top of the list is (1) prayer; (2) then the cultivation of Christianity in the home; (3) witnessing to unbelievers; (4) honest examination of what needs to be changed in one's character and purposefully seeking to change it; (5) and finally, the development of a spirit of generosity to those in need.

However, Fuller went on to stress, one's heart attitude was also important. "Think it not sufficient that we lament and mourn over our departures from God. We must return to him with full purpose of heart." As Fuller reflected on this matter of heart-renewal, he urged his readers to "cherish a greater love to the truths of God; pay an invariable regard to the discipline of his house; cultivate love to one another, frequently mingle souls by frequently assembling yourselves together; encourage a meek, humble, and savoury spirit."6


To Be Continued...

1. For the life and ministry of Fuller, see Paul Brewster, Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2010) and Peter J. Morden, The Life and Thought of Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) (Milton Keynes, England: Paternoster, 2015).

2. A History of the English Baptists (London: Carey Kingsgate Press Ltd., 1956), 166.

3. Cited Underwood, History of the English Baptists, 163-164. This quote is taken from the confession of faith that Fuller made when inducted into his second pastorate at Kettering, Northamptonshire, in 1783.

4. Andrew Fuller, Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival in The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, ed. Joseph Belcher (Repr. Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), III, 320.

5. Fuller, Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival in Complete Works, III, 320.

6. Fuller, Causes of Declension in Religion, and Means of Revival in Complete Works, III, 324.

*You can find the first two posts in this series here and here.

It is vital to note that while many Particular Baptists were in the state of declension (as described in part 1 of this series of studies on the renewal of this eighteenth-century Baptist community), from the mid-1730s on there was a tremendous movement of revival going on in Great Britain. It was a movement with such leaders as George Whitefield (1714-1770), the leading evangelist of the eighteenth century, the Wesley brothers, John (1703-1791) and Charles (1707-1788), and Howel Harris (1714-1773) in Wales. Known as the Eighteenth-century Evangelical Revival, or, in America, as the First Great Awakening, the power of this movement is well depicted by Howel Harris in a letter that he wrote at the close of 1743 to George Whitefield. Writing of the ministry of two fellow Welshmen under whose preaching Harris had recently sat, Harris told Whitefield:

"The outpouring of the Blessed Spirit is now so plentiful and common, that I think it was our deliberate observation that not one sent by Him opens his mouth without some remarkable showers. He comes either as a Spirit of wisdom to enlighten the soul, to teach and build up, and set out the works of light and darkness, or else a Spirit of tenderness and love, sweetly melting the souls like the dew, and watering the graces; or as the Spirit of hot burning zeal, setting their hearts in a flame, so that their eyes sparkle with fire, love, and joy; or also such a Spirit of uncommon power that the heavens seem to be rent, and hell to tremble."1

And as George S. Claghorn has succinctly described Whitefield's impact under God on the other side of the Atlantic in America: "Wherever he went [from Georgia to Maine], he drew congregations by the hundreds and thousands. Wholesale conversions followed, lives were transformed, and a lasting impact was made on the character of the American people."2

Many Particular Baptists, however, had deep reservations about the revival. The Wesleys, of course, were Arminians and thus beyond the pale for the Calvinistic Particular Baptists. However, Whitefield was a Calvinist. Yet, the fervency of his evangelism and his urging of the lost to embrace Christ, their only hope of salvation, prompted a number of Baptist critics to complain of what they termed his "Arminian accent."

Most importantly, the Particular Baptists were disturbed by the fact that the earliest leaders in the revival belonged to the Church of England. Their Particular Baptist forebears, after all, had come out of the Church of England at great personal cost and suffering, and they had suffered for their determination to establish true gospel churches. The heritage that came down to the eighteenth-century Particular Baptists was thus intertwined with a great concern for proper New Testament church order. John Gill (1697-1771), the leading Particular Baptist divine for much of that century, well expressed the ecclesiological convictions that prevailed in the Particular Baptist community for much of the era. "The Church of England," he declared in no uncertain terms, "has neither the form nor matter of a true church, nor is the Word of God purely preached in it."3 A resolution passed by St. Mary's Baptist Church, Norwich, in 1754 also reveals this attitude. In the minute book for that year we read that "it is unlawful for any... to attend the meetings of the Methodists, or to join in any worship which is contrary to the doctrines and ordinances of our Lord Jesus."4 Many eighteenth-century Particular Baptists were thus adamant in their refusal to regard the Evangelical Revival as a genuine work of God, for, from their perspective, it simply did not issue in "true gospel churches."

Of course, there were some noteworthy exceptions, but up until the 1770s far too many Particular Baptists seem to have assumed that a revival could only be considered genuine if it preserved and promoted the proper form of the local church. For many Particular Baptists of the first six or seven decades of the eighteenth century, outward form and inward revival went hand in hand. Their chief preoccupation was the preservation of what they considered the proper New Testament form of church. In their minds, when God brought revival it would have to issue in true gospel churches like theirs.

The dilemma facing these Baptists was not an easy one. They rightly felt constrained to emphasize the New Testament idea of the local church as a congregation of visible saints and assert that the concept of a state church is antithetical to the whole tenor of the new covenant. Moreover, these were truths for which their forebears in the previous century had suffered much. To abandon them would have been unthinkable. But what then was to be made of the ministry of men like Whitefield?

One possible solution would have been for the eighteenth-century Particular Baptists to have viewed the ministry of Whitefield and other Anglican Calvinists in the way that their seventeenth-century forebears viewed the labors of the sixteenth-century Reformers. The latter did not reject the ministry of the Reformers because they were not Baptists. Rather, they recognized that the Reformers had been greatly used by God to bring the church out of the Stygian darkness of the Middle Ages. Yet, though the Reformers did well, they failed to apply all that the Scriptures taught. Similarly, it could have been recognized that God was indeed at work among the leaders of the revival, but that there were certain areas--in particular, those dealing with the church and its nature--where they needed greater light.

1. Cited Eifion Evans, Daniel Rowland and the Great Evangelical Awakening in Wales (Edinburgh/Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1985), 243.

2. Jonathan Edwards: Letters and Personal Writings, ed. George S. Claghorn (The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 16; New Haven, CT/London: Yale University Press, 1998), 79.

3. Cited Dafydd Densil James Morgan, "The Development of the Baptist Movement in Wales between 1714 and 1815 with particular reference to the Evangelical Revival" (DPhil thesis, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford, 1986), 39.

4. Cited Charles B. Jewson, "St. Mary's, Norwich," The Baptist Quarterly, 10 (1940-1941): 283.

*This is Dr. Haykin's second post in a series on "Revitalizing an Eighteenth Century Christian Community."

In the seventeenth century one of the most spiritually alive denominations in the British Isles were the Particular or Calvinistic Baptists.1 From the establishment in 1638 of their first congregation in London, they grew to the point, where, by 1660, there were some 150 congregations, and by 1689, there may well have been as many as three hundred across the British archipelago. What is amazing about this growth is that it came during a time of profound political turmoil, the British Civil Wars (1638-1651), and brutal repression (1660-1688). Religious toleration finally dawned in 1689, and the Baptists were now free to plant and build congregations that were duly registered with the state, though it was illegal for them to evangelize outside of their church buildings. The denomination as a whole, though, plateaued in its growth and, in some parts of England, actually went into decline. In 1715 there were around 220 Particular Baptist churches in England and Wales. By 1750 that number had declined to about 150. As Daniel Turner (1710-1798), pastor of Abingdon Baptist Church, wrote in 1769 to his friend, Samuel Stennett (1727-1795), a Particular Baptist pastor in London:

"The Baptist Denomination... in my opinion is upon the Decline. Useful solid ministers are taken away, & few likely to fill up their places. Many churches are destitute. Useful learning is rather discouraged amongst us. A confident assurance goes farther with many, even well meaning people, than good sense, learning and piety."2

Various reasons account for this declension. For example, since it was illegal for Baptists to engage in mass evangelism outside of their meeting- houses, their money and effort began to be poured into the erection of church buildings instead of evangelistic outreach. Moreover, prior to the erection of a meeting-house, services might be held at a variety of geographical locations and thus a congregation could have an impact over a wide area. But once the building went up, members who lived at a distance were expected to make their way to the meeting-house, and thus the impact in the various locations was somewhat diminished. So it was that the monetary value of the property of the Particular Baptists increased, but their church membership began to decrease.

There were economic reasons for the decline as well. The strength of the Particular Baptist cause, like other Dissenting communities (that is, the English Presbyterian and Congregationalist causes), lay to a large degree among the working class and when the latter suffered economically, it is not surprising that this had a residual effect upon Baptist congregations. As one anonymous Dissenter noted in 1731, "The strength of our interest lies amongst the middling and trading people; and therefore where trade and populousness decrease in a place, our meetings must be expected to grow emptier there."3

The rationalism of the eighteenth century also had its withering impact. Rejecting the appeal to the Scriptures and trusting in the omnicompetence of human reason, rationalism led some Baptist ministers to reject the doctrine of the Trinity for a Unitarian understanding of God shorn of all mystery. In the 1730s, two London pastors who were brothers, John and Sayer Rudd (d.1757), came to the conviction that "Trinitarian doctrine" was "entirely consisting of words and phrases of men's own inventing" and therefore totally unscriptural. They were subsequently expelled from the London Baptist Association.4

In reaction to this declension to Unitarianism, some Baptist ministers became Hyper-Calvinists, what British Baptist historian Barrie R. White once described as "hard-core, inward-turned, Calvinists."5 Pastors and believers of this persuasion were rightly convinced that salvation is God's work from start to finish. On the basis of this conviction, however, they erroneously reasoned that since unbelievers are unable to turn to Christ, it was therefore unscriptural to urge them to come to the Saviour. Genuinely desirous of exalting God's sovereignty in salvation, Hyper-Calvinist preachers shied away from calling all and sundry to repentance and faith, lest any of the credit for the salvation of sinners go to them. God, in his own time, would convert the elect and bring them into the churches of the Particular Baptist community. Many of this persuasion were also convinced that their churches were "the only gospel churches" in the land and their spiritual pride became a source of further decline.6

1. The term "Particular Baptist" was the nomenclature regularly used to identify this community. The term "Reformed Baptist," a twentieth-century designation, was almost never used.

2. Cited O.C. Robison, "The Particular Baptists in England, 1760-1820" (PhD thesis, Regent's Park College, Oxford University, 1963), 173-174.

3. Cited G.M. Ditchfield, The Evangelical Revival (London/New York: Routledge, 1998), 54-55.

4. See Sayer Rudd, Impartial Reflections on the Minute Which The Author received, from The Ministers of The Calvinistical Baptist Board, by the hands of Mess. Gill and Brine (London, 1736).

5. Barrington R. White, ed., The English Puritan Tradition ([Nashville TN]: Broadman Press, 1980), 373.

6. [Strickland Gough,] An Enquiry into the Causes of the Decay of Dissenting Interest (London: J. Roberts, 1730), 30-31.

*This is Dr. Haykin's first post in a series on "Revitalizing an Eighteenth Century Christian Community." 

Rekindling the flame

It may be that you often hear of people praying for revival or are encouraged to do so yourself. It may also be that you are frustrated by what this usually means. In my experience, people praying for revival are often sitting with smug confidence in their own healthiness and wholeness, persuaded that they are doing everything right and well, and that there is nothing wrong with them. On the other hand, there are a lot of problems with the big, bad world out there, so would the Lord please kindly get on and do something about other people. Revival, then, is perceived to be something that happens to unconverted people, the means by which they realise that the church is actually a wonderful place where they need to attend in great numbers, confirming the deeply-embedded notion of lackadaisical Christians that we were right all along.

This, of course, is an utter nonsense, substantially divorced from Biblical notions of heart religion and the progress of the gospel in the earth. One of the men well-qualified to provide insights into the nature of revival is the great Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In the article that follows, taken from an 1866 edition of The Sword and The Trowel, he gives a helpfully sane definition of what we are speaking of, identifying the need of it, the place of it, the means of it, and the effects of it. It may be a little longer than usual, but I hope it will prove a rewarding read.

Any saint who has ever cried - and many who should so cry - with grief and longing, "My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word" (Ps 119.25), will find much here to instruct, rebuke, direct and console. Such a confession and prayer seeks nothing essentially unusual in the nature of religion, but pursues something different in degree: a restored and increasing experience and enjoyment of ordinary blessings (if the blessings we receive from God in Christ can ever be described as ordinary). Spurgeon's description of where most of us are as Christians and churches, contrasted with his portrait of vital faith and vigorous life, ought to make us long for those immediate operations of the Spirit of Christ which are the very life-breath of his church. Here, then, is Mr Spurgeon:
The word "revival" is as familiar in our mouths as a household word. We are constantly speaking about and praying for a "revival;" would it not be as well to know what we mean by it? Of the Samaritans our Lord said, "Ye worship ye know not what," let him not have to say to us, "Ye know not what ye ask."  The word "revive" wears its meaning upon its forehead; it is from the Latin, and may be interpreted thus - to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished.

When a person has been dragged out of a pond nearly drowned, the bystanders are afraid that he is dead, and are anxious to ascertain if life still lingers. The proper means are used to restore animation; the body is rubbed, stimulants are administered, and if by God's providence life still tarries in the poor clay, the rescued man opens his eyes, sits up, and speaks, and those around him rejoice that he has revived. A young girl is in a fainting fit, but after a while she returns to consciousness, and we say, "she revives."  The flickering lamp of life in dying men suddenly flames up with unusual brightness at intervals, and those who are watching around the sick bed say of the patient, "he revives."

In these days, when the dead are not miraculously restored, we do not expect to see the revival of a person who is totally dead, and we could not speak of the re-vival of a thing which never lived before. It is clear that the term "revival" can only be applied to a living soul, or to that which once lived. To be revived is a blessing which can only be enjoyed by those who have some degree of life. Those who have no spiritual life are not, and cannot be, in the strictest sense of the term, the subjects of a revival. Many blessings may come to the unconverted in consequence of a revival among Christians, but the revival itself has to do only with those who already possess spiritual life. There must be vitality in some degree before there can be a quickening of vitality, or, in other words, a revival.

A true revival is to be looked for in the church of God. Only in the river of gracious life can the pearl of revival be found. It has been said that a revival must begin with God's people; this is very true, but it is not all the truth, for the revival itself must end as well as begin there. The results of the revival will extend to the outside world, but the revival, strictly speaking, must be within the circle of life, and must therefore essentially be enjoyed by the possessors of vital godliness, and by them only. Is not this quite a different view of revival from that which is common in society; but is it not manifestly the correct one?

It is a sorrowful fact that many who are spiritually alive greatly need reviving. It is sorrowful because it is a proof of the existence of much spiritual evil. A man in sound health with every part of his body in a vigorous condition does not need reviving. He requires daily sustenance, but reviving would be quite out of place. If he has not yet attained maturity growth will be most desirable, but a hale hearty young man wants no reviving, it would be thrown away upon him. Who thinks of reviving the noonday sun, the ocean at its flood, or the year at its prime? The tree planted by the rivers of water loaded with fruit needs not excite our anxiety for its revival, for its fruitfulness and beauty charm every one. Such should be the constant condition of the sons of God. Feeding and lying down in green pastures and led by the still waters they ought not always to be crying, "my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me."  Sustained by gracious promises and enriched out of the fullness which God has treasured up in his dear Son, their souls should prosper and be in health, and their piety ought to need no reviving. They should aspire to a higher blessing, a richer mercy, than a mere revival. They have the nether springs already; they should earnestly cover the upper springs. They should be asking for growth in grace, for increase of strength, for greater success; they should have out-climbed and out-soared the period in which they need to be constantly crying, "Wilt thou not revive us again?" For a church to be constantly needing revival is the indication of much sin, for if it were sound before the Lord it would remain in the condition into which a revival would uplift its members. A church should be a camp of soldiers, not an hospital of invalids. But there is exceedingly much difference between what ought to be and what is, and consequently many of God's people are in so sad a state that the very fittest prayer for them is for revival. Some Christians are, spiritually, but barely alive. When a man has been let down into a vat or into a well full of bad air, yea do not wonder when he is drawn up again that he is half-dead, and urgently requires to be revived. Some Christians - to their shame be it spoken! - descend into such worldly company, not upon such unhallowed principles, and become so carnal, that when they are drawn up by God's grace from their backsliding position they want reviving, and even need that their spiritual breath should as it were be breathed into their nostrils afresh by God's Spirit.

When a man starves himself, continuing for a long time without food, when he is day after day without a morsel of bread between his lips, we do not marvel that the surgeon, finding him in extremities, says, "This man has weakened his system, he is too low, and wants reviving." Of course he does, for he has brought himself by low diet into a state of weakness. Are there not hundreds of Christians - shame that it should be so! - who live day after day without feeding upon Bible truth? Shall it be added without real spiritual communion with God? They do not even attend the week-night services, and they are indifferent hearers on the Lord's day. Is it remarkable that they want reviving? Is not the fact that they do so greatly need it most dishonourable to themselves and distressing to their truly spiritual brethren?

There is a condition of mind which is even more sad than either of the two above mentioned; it is a thorough, gradual, but certain decline of all the spiritual powers. Look at that consumptive man whose lungs are decaying, and in whom the vital energy is ebbing; it is painful to see the faintness which suffuses him after exertion, and the general languor which overspreads his weakened frame. Far more sad to the spiritual eye is the spectacle presented by spiritual consumptives who in some quarters meet us on all hands. The eye of faith is dim and overcast, and seldom flashes with holy joy; the spiritual countenance is hollow and sunken with doubts and fears; the tongue of praise is partially paralyzed, and has little to say for Jesus; the spiritual frame is lethargic, and its movements are far from vigorous; the man is not anxious to be doing anything for Christ; a horrible numbness, a dreadful insensibility has come over him; he is in soul like a sluggard in the dog-days, who finds it hard labour to lie in bed and brush away the flies from his face. If these spiritual consumptives hate sin they do it so weakly that one might fear that they loved it still. If they love Jesus, it is so coldly that it is a point of question whether they love at all. If they sing Jehovah's praises it is very sadly, as if hallelujahs were dirges. If they mourn for sin it is only with half-broken hearts, and their grief is shallow and unpractical. If they hear the Word of God they are never stirred by it; enthusiasm is an unknown luxury. If they come across a precious truth they perceive nothing particular in it, any more than the cock in the fable, in the jewel which he found in the farmyard. They throw themselves back upon the enchanted couch of sloth, and while they are covered with rags they dream of riches and great increase of goods. It is a sad, sad thing when Christians fall into this state; then indeed they need reviving, and they must have it, for "the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint." Every lover of souls should intercede for declining professors that the visitations of God may restore them; that the Sun of righteousness may arise upon them with healing beneath his wings.

When revival comes to a people who are in the state thus briefly described, it simply brings them to the condition in which they ought always to have been; it quickens them, gives them new life, stirs the coals of the expiring fire, and puts heavenly breath into the languid lungs. The sickly soul which before was insensible, weak, and sorrowful, grows earnest, vigorous, and happy in the Lord. This is the immediate fruit of revival, and it becomes all of us who are believers to seek this blessing for backsliders, and for ourselves if we are declining in grace.

If revival is confined to living men we may further notice that it must result from the proclamation and the receiving of living truth. We speak of "vital godliness," and vital godliness must subsist upon vital truth. Vital godliness is not revived in Christians by mere excitement, by crowded meetings, by the stamping of the foot, or the knocking of the pulpit cushion, or the delirious bawlings of ignorant zeal; these are the stock in trade of revivals among dead souls, but to revive living saints other means are needed. Intense excitement may produce a revival of the animal, but how can it operate upon the spiritual, for the spiritual demands other food than that which stews in the fleshpots of mere carnal enthusiasm. The Holy Ghost must come into the living heart through living truth, and so bring nutriment and stimulant to the pining spirit, for so only can it be revived. This, then, leads us to the conclusion that if we are to obtain a revival we must go directly to the Holy Ghost for it, and not resort to the machinery of the professional revival-maker. The true vital spark of heavenly flame comes from the Holy Ghost, and the priests of the Lord must beware of strange fire. There is no spiritual vitality in anything except as the Holy Spirit is all in all in the work; and if our vitality has fallen near to zero, we can only have it renewed by him who first kindled it in us. We must go to the cross and look up to the dying Saviour, and expect that the Holy Spirit will renew our faith and quicken all our graces. We must feed anew by faith upon the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus, and so the Holy Ghost will recruit our strength and give us a revival. When men in India sicken in the plains, they climb the hills and breathe the more bracing air of the upper regions; we need to get nearer to God, and to bathe ourselves in heaven, and revived piety will be the sure result.

When a minister obtains this revival he preaches very differently from his former manner. It is very hard work to preach when the head aches and when the body is languid, but it is a much harder task when the soul is unfeeling and lifeless. It is sad, sad work - painfully, dolorously, horribly sad, but saddest of all if we do not feel it to be sad, if we can go on preaching and remain careless concerning the truths we preach, indifferent as to whether men are saved or lost! May God deliver every minister from abiding in such a state! Can there be a more wretched object than a man who preaches in God's name truths which he does not feel, and which he is conscious have never impressed his own heart? To be a mere sign-post, pointing out the road but never moving in it, is a lot against which every tame heart may plead night and day.

Should this revival be granted to deacons and elders what different men it would make of them! Lifeless, lukewarm church officers are of no more value to a church, than a crew of sailors would be to a vessel if they were all fainting and if in their berths when they were wanted to hoist the sails or lower the boats. Church officers who need reviving must be fearful dead weights upon a Christian community. It is incumbent upon all Christians to be thoroughly awake to the interests of Zion, but upon the leaders most of all. Special supplication should be made for beloved brethren in office that they may be full of the Holy Ghost.

Workers in the Sunday-schools, tract distributors, and other labourers for Christ, what different people they become when grace is vigorous from what they are when their life flickers in the socket! Like sickly vegetation in a cellar, all blanched and unhealthy, are workers who have little grace; like willows by the water-courses, like grass with reeds and rushes in well-watered valleys, are the servants of God who live in his presence. It is no wonder that our Lord said, "Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth," for when the earnest Christian's heart is full of fire it is sickening to talk with lukewarm people. Have not warm-hearted lovers of Jesus felt when they have been discouraged by doubtful sluggish people, who could see a lion in the way, as if they could put on express speed and run over them? Every earnest minister has known times when he has felt cold hearts to be as intolerable as the drones in the hive are to the working bees. Careless professors are as much out of place as snow in harvest among truly living Christians. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes are these sluggards. As well be bound to a dead body as forced into union with lifeless professors; they are a burden, a plague, and an abomination. You turn to one of these cold brethren after a graciously earnest prayer-meeting, and say with holy joy, "What a delightful meeting we have had!" "Yes," he says carelessly and deliberately, as if it were an effort to say so much, "there was a good number of people." How his frostbitten words grate on one's ear! You ask yourself, "Where has the man been? Is he not conscious that the Holy Ghost has been with us?" Does not our Lord speak of these people as being cast out of his mouth, just because he himself is altogether in earnest, and consequently, when he meets with lukewarm people he will not endure them? He says, "I would thou wert cold or hot," either utterly averse to good or in earnest concerning it. It is easy to see his meaning. If you heard an ungodly man blaspheme after an earnest meeting, you would lament it, but you would feel that from such a man it was not a thing to make you vexed, for he has only spoken after his kind, but when you meet with a child of God who is lukewarm, how can you stand that? It is sickening, and makes the inmost spirit feel the horrors of mental nausea.

While a true revival in its essence belongs only to God's people, it always brings with it a blessing for the other sheep who are not yet of the fold. If you drop a stone into a lake the ring widens continually, till the farthest corner of the lake feels the influence. Let the Lord revive a believer and very soon his family, his friends, his neighbours, receive a share of the benefit; for when a Christian is revived, he prays more fervently for sinners. Longing, loving prayer for sinners, is one of the marks of a revival in the renewed heart. Since the blessing is asked for sinners, the blessing comes from him who hears the prayers of his people; and thus the world gains by revival. Soon the revived Christian speaks concerning Jesus and the gospel; he sows good seed, and God's good seed is never lost, for he has said, "It shall not return unto me void." The good seed is sown in the furrows, and in some sinners' hearts God prepares the soil, so that the seed springs up in a glorious harvest. Thus by the zealous conversation of believers another door of mercy opens to men.

When Christians are revived they live more consistently, they make their homes more holy and more happy, and this leads the ungodly to envy them, and to enquire after their secret. Sinners by God's grace long to be like such cheerful happy saints; their mouths water to feast with them upon their hidden manna, and this is another blessing, for it leads men to seek the Saviour. If an ungodly man steps into a congregation where all the saints are revived he does not go to sleep under the sermon. The minister will not let him do that, for the hearer perceives that the preacher feels what he is preaching, and has a right to be heard. This is a clear gain, for now the man listens with deep emotion; and above all, the Holy Spirit's power, which the preacher has received in answer to prayer comes upon the hearer's mind; he is convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, and Christians who are on the watch around him hasten to tell him of the Saviour, and point him to the redeeming blood, so that though the revival, strictly speaking, is with the people of God, yet the result of it no man can limit. Brethren, let us seek a revival during the present month, that the year may close with showers of blessing, and that the new year may open with abundant benediction. Let us pledge ourselves to form a prayer-union, a sacred band of suppliants, and may God do unto us according to our faith.

Father, for thy promised blessing,
Still we plead before thy throne;
For the time of sweet refreshing
Which can come from thee alone.

Blessed earnests thou hast given,
But in these we would not rest,
Blessings still with thee are hidden,
Pour them forth, and make us blest.

Wake thy slumbering children, wake them,
Bid them to thy harvest go;
Blessings, O our Father, make them;
Round their steps let blessing flow.

Let no hamlet be forgotten,
Let thy showers on all descend;
That in one loud blessed anthem,
Myriads may in triumph blend.