[b]1. Eighteenth Century
1727 - Wednesday, 13 August - Herrnhut, Germany (Nicholas von Zinzendorf)
1735 - January - New England, America (Jonathan Edwards)
1739 - Thursday 1 January - London (George Whitefield, John Wesley)
1745 - Thursday 8 August - Crossweeksung, New Jersey (David Brainerd)
1781 - Tuesday 25 December - Cornwall, England [/b]
Wednesday 13 August - Herrnhut, Germany (Zinzendorf)
No one present could tell exactly what happened to the Moravians on Wednesday morning, 13 August 1727 at the specially called Communion service. The glory of the Lord came upon them so powerfully that they hardly knew if they had been on earth or in heaven. Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, the young leader of that community, gave this account many years later:
'We needed to come to the Communion with a sense of the loving nearness of the Saviour. This was the great comfort which has made this day a generation ago to be a festival, because on this day twentyseven years ago the Congregation of Herrnhut, assembled for communion (at the Berthelsdorf church) were all dissatisfied with themselves. They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this Communion to be in view of the noble countenance of the Saviour. ...
'This firm confidence changed them in a single moment into a happy people which they are to this day, and into their happiness they have since led many thousands of others through the memory and help which the heavenly grace once given to themselves, so many thousand times confirmed to them since then' (Greenfield 1927:15).
Zinzendorf described it as 'a sense of the nearness of Christ' given to everyone present, and also to others of their community who were working elsewhere at the time. The congregation was young. Zinzendorf, the human leader, at 27, was about the average
age of the group.
Their missionary zeal began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Count Zinzendorf observed: 'The Saviour permitted to come upon us a Spirit of whom we had hitherto not had any experience or knowledge. ... Hitherto we had been the leaders and helpers. Now the Holy Spirit himself took full control of everything and everybody' (Greenfield 1927:21).
Prayer precedes Pentecost. The disgruntled community at Herrnhut early in 1727 was deeply divided and critical of one another. Heated controversies threatened to disrupt the community. The majority were from the ancient Moravian Church of the Brethren. Other believers attracted to Herrnhut included Lutherans, Reformed, and Anabaptists. They argued about predestination, holiness, and baptism.
At Herrnhut, Zinzendorf visited all the adult members of the deeply divided community. He drew up a covenant calling upon them 'to seek out and emphasise the points in which they agreed' rather than stressing their differences. On 12 May 1727 they all signed an agreement to dedicate their lives, as he dedicated his, to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
On 22 July many of the community covenanted together on their own accord to meet often to pour out their hearts in prayer and hymns.
On 5 August the Count spent the whole night in prayer with about twelve or fourteen others following a large meeting for prayer at midnight where great emotion prevailed.
On Sunday, 10 August, Pastor Rothe, while leading the service at Herrnhut, was overwhelmed by the power of the Lord about noon. He sank down into the dust before God. So did the whole congregation. They continued till midnight in prayer and singing, weeping and praying.
On Wednesday, 13 August, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all. Their prayers were answered in ways far beyond anyone's expectations. Many of them decided to set aside certain times for continued earnest prayer.
On 26 August, twentyfour men and twentyfour women covenanted together to continue praying in intervals of one hour each, day and night, each hour allocated by lots to different people.
On 27 August, this new regulation began. Others joined the intercessors and the number involved increased to seventyseven. They all carefully observed the hour which had been appointed for them. The intercessors had a weekly meeting where prayer needs were given to them.
The children, also touched powerfully by God, began a similar plan among themselves. Those who heard their infant supplications were deeply moved. The children's prayers and supplications had a powerful effect on the whole community.
That astonishing prayer meeting beginning in 1727 lasted one hundred years. It was unique. Known as the Hourly Intercession, it involved relays of men and women in prayer without ceasing made to God. That prayer also led to action, especially evangelism. More than 100 missionaries left that village community in the next twentyfive years, all constantly supported in prayer.
One result of their baptism in the Holy Spirit was a joyful assurance of their pardon and salvation. This made a strong impact on people in many countries, including the Wesleys.
January - New England, America (Jonathan Edwards)
Jonathan Edwards, the preacher and scholar who later became a President of Princeton University, was a prominent leader in a revival movement which came to be called the Great Awakening as it spread through the communities of New England and the pioneering settlements in America. Converts to Christianity reached 50,000 out of a total of 250,000 colonists. Early in 1735 an unusually powerful move of God's Spirit brought revival to Northampton, which then spread through New England.
Edwards wrote that 'a great and earnest concern about the great things of religion and the eternal world, became universal in all parts of the town, and among persons of all degrees and all ages; the noise among the dry bones waxed louder nd louder; all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things, was soon thrown by.
'The minds of people were wonderfully taken off from the world; it was treated among us as a thing of very little consequence. They seemed to follow their worldly business more as a part of their duty, than from any disposition they had to it.
'It was then a dreadful thing amongst us to lie out of Christ, in danger every part of dropping into hell; and what persons' minds were intent upon was, to escape for their lives, and to fly from the wrath to come. All would eagerly lay hold of opportunities for their souls, and were wont very often to meet together in private houses for religious purposes; and such meetings, when appointed, were wont greatly to be thronged.
'And the work of conversion was carried on in a most astonishing manner, and increased more and more. Souls did, as it were, come by flocks to Jesus Christ. From day to day, for many months together, might be seen evident instances of sinners brought out of darkness into marvellous light.
'Our public assemblies were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God's service, every one earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth. The assembly in general were, from time to time, in tears while the word was preached; some weeping with sorrow and distress, others with joy and love, others with pity and concern for the souls of their neighbours.
'Those amongst us that had formerly been converted, were greatly enlivened and renewed with fresh and extraordinary incomes of the Spirit of God; though some much more than others, according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Many that had before laboured under difficulties about their own state, had now their doubts removed by more satisfying experience, and more clear discoveries of God's love' (Stacy 1842,1989:12-13).
Edwards described these characteristics of the revival:
'(a) An extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, so as sometimes to overwhelm soul and body, a sense of the piercing, all seeing eye of God so as to sometimes take away bodily strength; and an extraordinary view of the infinite terribleness of the wrath of God, together with a sense of the ineffable misery of sinners exposed to this wrath, and
'(b) Especially longing after these two things; to be more perfect in humility and adoration. The flesh and the heart seem often to cry out, lying low before God and adoring him with greater love and humility. ... The person felt a great delight in singing praises to God and Jesus Christ, and longing that this present life may be as it were one continued song of praise to God. ... Together with living by faith to a great degree, there was a constant and extraordinary distrust of our own strength and wisdom; a great dependence on God for his help ... and being restrained from the most horrid sins' (Pratney 1994:92-93).
In 1735, when the New England revival was strongest, George Whitefield in England and Howell Harris in Wales were converted. Both were 21 and both ignited revival fires, seeing thousands converted and communities changed. By 1736 Harris began forming his converts into societies and by 1739 there were nearly thirty such societies. Whitefield travelled extensively, visiting Georgia in 1738 (the first of seven journeys to America), then ministering powerfully with Howell Harris in Wales 1739 and with Jonathan Edwards in New England in 1740, all in his early twenties.
Also at the end of 1735, John Wesley sailed to Georgia, an American colony. He returned at the end of 1737, frustrated in his work in Georgia. Both John and Charles were converted in May 1738, Charles first, and John three days later on Wednesday 24 May. He wrote his famous testimony in his Journal:
'In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and
an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death' (Idle 1986:46).
Monday 1 January - London (George Whitefield, John Wesley)
1739 saw astonishing expansion of revival in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield (now returned from America) and four others from their former Holy Club at Oxford in their students days, along with 60 others, met in London for prayer and a love feast. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on them all. Many fell down, overwhelmed. The meeting went all night and they realised they had been empowered in a fresh visitation from God.
'Mr Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield, Hitchins, and my brother Charles were present at our lovefeast in Fetter Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his majesty, we broke out with one voice, "We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord"' (Idle 1986:55).
This Pentecost on New Year's Day launched the revival known now as the Great Awakening.
Revival fire spread rapidly. In February 1739 Whitefield started preaching to the Kingswood coal miners in the open fields near Bristol because many churches were now closed to him, accusing him and other evangelicals of 'enthusiasm'. In February about 200 attended. By March 20,000 attended. Whitefield invited Wesley to take over then and so in April Wesley reluctantly began his famous open air preaching, which continued for 50 years.
He described that first weekend in his Journal:
'Sunday, 31 March - In the evening I reached Bristol, and met Mr Whitefield. I could scarce reconcile myself at first to this strange way of preaching in the fields, of which he set me an example on Sunday; having been all my life (till very lately) so tenacious of every point relating to decency and order, that I should have thought the saving of souls almost a sin if it had not been done in a church.
'Sunday, 1 April - In the evening, I begun expounding our Lord's Sermon on the Mount (one pretty remarkable precedent of field-preaching) to a little society in Nicholas Street.
'Monday, 2 April - At four in the afternoon I submitted to be more vile, and proclaimed in the highways the glad tidings of salvation, speaking from a little eminence in a ground adjoining to the city, to almost three thousand people. The scripture on which I spoke was "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor"' (Idle 1986:56-57).
He returned to London in June reporting on the amazing move of God's Spirit with many conversions and many people falling prostrate under God's power a phenomenon which he never encouraged! Features of this revival were enthusiastic singing, powerful preaching, and the gathering of converts into small societies called weekly Class Meetings.
By June, tensions had developed over manifestations acompanying this revival. Wesley wrote, 'Saturday, 16 June - We met at Fetter Lane, to humble ourselves before God, and own that he had justly withdrawn his Spirit from us for our manifold unfaithfulness: by our divisions; by our leaning again to our own works, and trusting in them, instead of Christ; and above all, by blaspheming his work among us, imputing it either to nature, to the force of imagination, or even to the delusion of the devil. In that hour we found God with us as at the first' (Idle 1986:60).
Revival caught fire in Scotland also. After returning again from America in 1741, Whitefield visited Glasgow. Two ministers in villages nearby invited him to return in 1742 because revival had already begun in their area. Conversions and prayer groups multiplied. Whitefield preached there at Cambuslang about four miles from Glasgow. The opening meetings on a Sunday saw the great crowds on the hill side gripped with conviction, repentance and weeping more than he had seen elsewhere. The next weekend 20,000 gathered on the Saturday and up to 50,000 on the Sunday for the quarterly communion. The visit was charged with Pentecostal power which even amazed Whitefield.
Thursday 8 August - Crossweeksung, New Jersey (David Brainerd)
Jonathan Edwards published the journal of David Brainerd, a missionary to the North American Indians from 1743 to his death at 29 in 1747. Brainerd tells of revival breaking out among Indians at Crossweeksung in August 1745 when the power of God seemed to come like a rushing mighty wind. The Indians were overwhelmed by God. The revival had greatest impact when Brainerd emphasised the compassion of the Saviour, the provisions of the gospel, and the free offer of divine grace. Idolatry was abandoned, marriages repaired, drunkenness practically disappeared, honesty and repayments of debts prevailed. Money once wasted on excessive drinking was used for family and communal needs. Their communities were filled with love.
Part of his Journal for Thursday 8 August reads:
'The power of God seemed to descend on the assembly "like a rushing mighty wind" and with an astonishing energy bore all down before it. I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent... Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarce was able to withstand the shock of astonishing operation' (Edwards 1959: 142143).
Sunday 25 December - Cornwall, England
Forty years after the Great awakening began the fires of revival has died out in many places. Concerned leaders called the church to pray.
'And then the Lord of the universe stepped in and took over. On Christmas day 1781, at St. Just Church in Cornwall, at 3.00 am, intercessors met to sing and pray. The heavens opened at last and they knew it. They prayed through until 9.00 am and regathered on Christmas evening. Throughout January and February, the movement continued. By March 1782 they were praying until midnight. No significant preachers were involved just people praying and the Holy Spirit responding.
'Two years later in 1784, when 83year old John Wesley visited that area, he wrote, "This country is all on fire and the flame is spreading from village to village."
'And spread it did. The chapel which George Whitefield had built decades previously in Tottenham Court Road had to be enlarged to seat 5,000 people the largest in the world at that time. Baptist churches in North Hampton, Leicester, and the Midlands, set aside regular nights devoted to the drumbeat of prayer for revival. Methodists and Anglicans joined in. ...
'Converts were being won ... at the prayer meetings! Some were held at 5.00 am, some at midnight. Some preChristians were drawn by dreams and visions. Some came to scoff but were thrown to the ground under the power of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes there was noise and confusion; sometimes stillness and solemnity. But always there was that ceaseless outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Whole denominations doubled, tripled and quadrupled in the next few years. It swept out from England to Wales, Scotland, United States, Canada and some Third World countries' (Robinson 1992:89).
This movement developed into the Second Awakening in England and America.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon