SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Image Map
Discussion Forum : Revivals And Church History : australian revivle in the early days

Print Thread (PDF)


Joined: 2011/8/6
Posts: 103

 australian revivle in the early days

John Watsford
Several names stand out among the Methodist revivalists. John Watsford (1820-1907) is a distinguished example. Born in Parramatta on 5 December 1820, `Father Watsford’ as he was affection­ately known, was the first Australian-born Methodist minister.62 His autobiography Glorious Gospel Triumphs as seen in My Life and Work63 is an old man’s reminiscence of over half a century of ministry, but for all that, it was acknowledged by his contempo­raries as a faithful record, just as he was recognised as ‘a burning evangelist and a great soul winner in many districts’ and his name was considered ‘a household word’ in all seven colonies.64 The editor of the Southern Cross noted that Watsford was ‘so good and so able a man’ that he deserved to be heard on any subject he chose to address. ‘Few men in Australia,’ he went on to say, ‘have worked with more energy and success in



the service of Christ’s Kingdom or have a larger experience in philanthropic enterprises.’65

Wherever he went, the indefatigable Watsford preached and taught the Wesleyan gospel of faith in Christ both for salvation and for sanctification. In Adelaide, in 1862, he ministered in the Pirie Street Methodist church —

We had it crowded Sunday after Sunday, and the Lord heard prayer, and in a very remarkable manner poured out His Spir­it. We had soon to carry on our meetings night after night for weeks together, and every night sinners were converted. Our midday prayer-meeting was continued for six months: sometimes as many as one hundred and fifty and two hundred were present, and each meeting was a time of great power. The local preachers, leaders, and Sabbath-school teachers were all baptised in the Holy Spirit and heartily entered into the work. It was delightful to see our local preachers going out in different directions on a Sunday morning, all full of love for souls, and longing to bring them to Jesus.66

In September 1877, Watsford’s visit to South Australia resulted in ‘crowded churches, delighted audiences and frequent acknowledgments of profits received.’ If these were indications of popularity then ‘our old friend was deservedly popular,’ said a report in the Spectator.67

In 1879, in the Victorian Brunswick Street circuit, there was a time of awakening. There were ‘showers of blessings’ and ‘signs and wonders.’ Many were reported to have sought and found sanctification. Many others were converted. The local ministers were assisted by Watsford as services continued nightly for three weeks. At the Sunday School anniversary, there was ‘an abundant outpouring of the Spirit’ and many turned to the Lord. At a neighbouring congregation, forty young people expressed their desire to serve



God. Some of the gatherings were ‘bright’ with the blessing of the Lord, the ‘holiest influences’ were evident and there was a growing consciousness of the presence of God.68

There are frequent references in Watsford’s writings to the need to be baptised or filled with the Spirit or to `Pentecostal power’ or `Pentecostal baptism’. In 1860, `praying men’ in Bourke St, Sydney, had been crying out to God for an outpouring of the Spirit. Watsford preached there on successive nights. The church was crowded and `the mighty power of God came upon people.’ Many fell to the floor in agony with loud cries for mercy. These phenomena were so unusual, `the police came rushing in to see what they could do’! There were hundreds of penitents, many returning next morning, still in a state of spiritual distress.

In 1891, as a supernumerary minister of 71 years of age, Watsford became more convinced than ever that there was a great need of a revival of holiness in the Church, and was deeply persuaded that ... his ‘special work was to spread Scriptural holiness throughout the land.’ In two months, Watsford travelled 2,400 miles by rail and visited thirteen circuits. As he travelled, ‘at every place ... the word was in demonstration of the Spirit and in power.’ Everywhere, he preached on being filled with the Spirit —

The Churches need the Pentecostal baptism: then we shall have Pentecost, holy living, simplicity, power, success and, perhaps, persecution. May our day of Pentecost soon fully come on all Australasia!

Two years later, the retiring President Rev F.Neale noted how ‘Father Watsford’ had successfully presided over a holiness Convention and pointed out that if the Church was to experience a ‘widespread revival,’ it would be necessary to give themselves to ‘earnest, importunate, prayer.’69 That same year, Watsford held a fortnight’s mission in Melville Street, where there was ‘a



blessed spirit of quiet fervour’ and ‘souls were athirst for such a baptism of the Holy Ghost as would fully prepare them to be co-workers with God.’

Many came forward to seek the blessing of holiness, and not a few then and there found that Christ was able to save to the uttermost ... The communion rail and sometimes two vestries were filled with weeping seekers and rejoicing workers. Many remarkable cases of conversion occurred.70

In Bermond, NSW, they had ‘a Pentecostal season’ and the whole congregation experienced a ‘breaking down.’ At Portland, Victoria, ‘sinners were converted and believers baptised with the Holy Spirit.’ On the Baptist Missionary Society Centenary, he reflected, ‘We need the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit on all our Churches. Then we shall have all the missionaries we require — missionaries full of the Holy Ghost, and fully equipped for their work.’ Recalling a Holiness Convention at Prahran, he yearned, ‘A full baptism of the Spirit, such as they received at Pentecost, would make us all of one heart and soul. May the good Lord speedily give us that Pentecostal baptism!’

In Hobart, Tasmania, it was thought that the people might be slow to respond, ‘but with the power of the Holy Spirit on them there was no difficulty at all.’ In 1895, in Footscray, Victoria, ‘some fifty or sixty of God’s people were in downright earnest seeking to be filled with the Spirit. It was a glorious time of emptying and filling.’ Three years later, at the Central Mission in Sydney, such large numbers responded to his invitation to seek the fullness of the Spirit that there was standing room only in the committee room set aside for the purpose.’

William Taylor
William George Taylor (1845-1934), founder of the Mission, was delighted.71 Taylor had himself seen revival through his ministry and believed strongly in the Wesleyan two-stage initiation. In 1876, at the age of 31, he had been appointed to the Methodist Church at Toowoomba, Queensland. Here, in this community of 4,700 people, he found a ‘contented’ congregation of about 80 members,


 2011/8/24 7:34Profile

Joined: 2011/8/6
Posts: 103

 Re: australian revivle in the early days


who were, in his opinion, ‘too contented by far.’ He managed to persuade them to shift to the local School of Arts hall for one Sunday and some 300 people turned up in the morning with about 500 at night. For the next 18 months they continued in that hall. By ‘a gracious and wonderful visitation of the Holy Spirit a blessed revival swept the town’ and a new church building was erected. It was Toowoomba’s ‘first baptism of fire.’72

Recalling the events, Taylor later wrote —

The work began, where all genuine revivals should begin, within the church itself. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the infant Church, and then followed the gathering in... Would that, at this writing, I could reach the ear of every minister and every church member in Australia... It would be an earnest cry for the Church itself to awake and put on its strength...

In each case it has been the same — a gracious spiritual revival, manifestly, in every case, the work of the Spirit of God, preparing the way for permanent material advancement such as could never have been but for this wonderful leading of the Holy Ghost. When will our beloved Methodism, when will the church of God generally, awake to this paramount fact?73

Taylor spared no energy in his pursuit of spiritual revival. In Taree, NSW, in the three years from 1879-82, he preached 463 sermons, conducted 350 class meetings, baptised 130 children and travelled nearly 15,000 miles, mostly on horseback or by rowing boat. In one series of special services, he preached to full churches, sometimes with people standing outside. At times, he could hardly be heard because of ‘suppressed sobs and cries of “Glory!”’ There were 180 professions of faith. This was all, he said, ‘absolutely ... the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.’74

In 1884, he was appointed to the languishing York Street church in Sydney. Here he used innovative means and an emphasis on prayer to revive the flagging fortunes of the church. Ultimately, it became the Central Methodist Mission.



He himself experienced occasional evidences of the prophetic power of ‘divine impulse’75 and was clearly convinced of the need for churches to emulate the methods of the apostles.

Loyalty to the flag unfurled at Pentecost has ever been demonstrated as God’s ordained plan for the creation of Churches that shall move and bless and save the people. Apostolic methods will still produce Apostolic results ... I tremble as I think of the bare possibility of this work ever being shifted from its old moorings. Disaster would be bound to follow.76

Taylor’s passion for revival was well expressed in a sermon he preached to the New South Wales Methodist Conference in 1912, on the one hundredth anniversary of the first class meeting in Aus­tralia. He urged his hearers to retain the class system because of its beneficial effects on the Church. Methodism’s only safety lay in its spirituality, he continued. And he pleaded with them —

Back to Wesley! Back to the upper room! Rekindle the waning fires of the Church’s inner life! Give the Holy Ghost an opportunity, even yet, to make us the great soul-saving force of the twentieth century!77

He urged the Conference itself to resolve to discover the power necessary to drive the Church’s ‘vast machinery.’ It would pay them ‘a thousandfold’ to stop everything for a year and fall to their knees to ask God to ‘alter the atmosphere of the Church.’ He challenged the ministers. ‘Put fire in the pulpit, and you will soon get fire in the pew.’ He asked every member to ‘fall into line.’

Let the Church go to its knees and master the art of ‘tarry­ing’ there, and then, ere this year closes, there shall come to our great Church the one thing, the only thing, that can permanently settle this question — a Pentecost, which, burst­ing upon us with all its original power, shall give God the Holy Ghost His chance, and shall hand back to us our old influence. And then we shall no longer lament that our exchequers are half empty, our congregations are small, our fellowship a dead letter; but ... we shall enter upon the golden age of our Church, and there shall be added to our numbers daily such as are being saved.



Methodists as a whole did not take seriously Taylor’s call to ‘tarry’, but there were others who did. In the very year Taylor gave this address, ‘tarry meetings’ were being conducted regular­ly in the first Pentecostal church in Melbourne, Victoria, as they waited on God for an outpouring of the Spirit.78

One of the formative influences in Taylor’s life was the English Methodist William Arthur’s Tongue of Fire (1856) which went into eighteen printings in the first three years and in which Arthur urges his readers to pursue a baptism in the Holy Spirit.79 The chapter headings say it all — The Promise of a Baptism of Fire, The Waiting for the Fulfilment, The Fulfilment of the Promise, Effects Which Immediately Followed the Baptism of Fire — Spiritual Effects, Miraculous Effects, Ministerial Effects, Effects Upon the World, Permanent Benefits Resulting to the Church. The book concludes with an impassioned prayer —

And now, adorable Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son, descend upon all the Churches, renew the Pentecost in this our age, and baptise Thy people generally — O, baptise them yet again with tongues of fire! Crown this nineteenth century with a revival of ‘pure and undefiled religion’ greater than that of the last century, greater than that of the first, greater than any ‘demonstration of the Spirit’ ever yet vouchsafed to men!

While Arthur dismissed the Irvingite expression of `unknown tongues’, which he felt were fraudulent,80 he nevertheless spoke positively about the possibility of the biblical gift of tongues appearing again. He advocated the exercise of



spiritual gifts but urged his readers primarily to be filled with the Holy Spirit so they could lead lives of holiness and grace.81

Arthur’s exhortations influenced many believers in Aus­tralia as well as England and America, where his writings were also popular. In 1929, a ‘Pentecostal’ member of the Salvation Army told how he had been converted through reading Tongue of Fire.82

The Spectator, the weekly organ of Victorian and Tasmanian Methodism, carried frequent articles urging its readers to revival, holiness and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.83 In 1879, J.F.Horsley asked outright, ‘Have ye received the Holy Ghost?’ He began —

This question, which Paul put to the company of disciples which he found at Ephesus, allow me, Christian believer, to put to you. Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed? Carefully ponder over the question. Have you received the Holy Ghost since you were converted? Has your Pentecost come?84



When the Spirit came, He would do so powerfully and the result would be more successful evangelism. ‘To your tents, O Israel!’ he wrote, ‘Get before God...and let us not rest until our Pentecost has come.’

Clearly, for Methodists, revival meant holiness and soul-winning. And this was the result of an infusion of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers. An editorial in the Spectator refers to being ‘richly baptised with the Holy Ghost.’85 In 1877, one I.J.Lansing urged people to ask God to baptise them ‘with the Holy Ghost and fire.’86 In June of the same year, the Spectator stated, ‘Beyond all doubt, revivals are the methods of the Spirit’s operations for saving men and building up Christ’s kingdom.’87 In June and July, there were reports of revival in Port Adelaide, South Australia, where the people became ‘visibly affected’ by the remarks of Rev J.Haslam, and cries of mercy were heard throughout the congregation, and in Eaglehawk, Victoria, where W.H.Fitchett reported the conversion of 100 people in five weeks and where the revival was marked by ‘affecting scenes and incidents.’ A ‘mighty wave of power seemed to sweep suddenly over the whole congregation, and in an instant penitents were in all parts of the building crying aloud for mercy ...’ It was ‘the happiest and most remarkable meeting’ ever held at Eaglehawk.88

At the 1893 Victorian Wesleyan Conference, one man cried, ‘What we not the organisation only, but above all, the gift of the Holy Ghost — the Pentecostal fire to consume our differences ... what we want now is the Baptism of Fire ...’89

Alexander Edgar (1850-1914), the founder of the Methodist Mission in Melbourne also saw the need for Christian revival.90 As the last President of the Victorian Wesleyan Conference before Methodist Union took place, Edgar

 2011/8/24 7:37Profile

Joined: 2011/8/6
Posts: 103


imformation from

03 Chant Ch 3: Spirit of Wesleyanism Barry Chant Tabor College

 2011/8/24 7:38Profile

Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy