The Awareness Of Gods Presence In Revival
Lessons From The Welsh Revivals (Part 2)
By Aeron Morgan
Revival is a work of grace. Wherever and whenever it occurs, invariably the prime mover of this distinctively divine activity is revealed to be God the Holy Spirit. In his account of the 1904 Revival in Wales, David Matthews begins with these words: "Divine movements have their birthplace in the heart of Deity."
While that may seem to be an obvious and thus unnecessary expression, regrettably there are many who have the idea today that we can originate revival, hence the many foolish and outrageous imitations and the sad lack of true spiritual discernment by leaders who have embraced what is patently false as being true, leading many trusting souls to inevitable disillusionment and, in some cases, utter spiritual disaster!
When examining the accounts of revival in both biblical and church history, such seasons of spiritual refreshing from the presence of the Lord are seen to emerge in the providence of God, and so often at such a critical time when the spiritual condition of Gods people is in evident decline, the Word of the Lord is scarce, and the lamp of God burns low in the land (1 Sam. 3:1-3).
What a description of the present condition of the churches across our nations.
Driven to Our Knees
However this does not mean we just wait impassively to see IF God will visit us. Rather, our concern for the spiritual state of churches, generally speaking, and that of our respective nations, must drive us to our knees to "seek the face of the Lord" for His merciful favors and sovereign intervention (Psa. 4:6; 27:8; 80:3, 7, 19; 105:4). This should be the constant disposition of Gods people, in general and of His ministers (servants) in particular.
It is the prompting of the pious heart so as to know His nearness, adore His person, discern His will, and always to obey His voice. And this is not just the act of the individual believer but it must be a corporate act too. Regrettably, in many churches today the prayer arena is deserted ground. We need to recover the prayer meeting! How challenging are these words of C. H. Spurgeon, "How can we expect a blessing if we are too idle to ask for it? How can we look for a Pentecost if we never meet with one another, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches till the prayer meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians."
We will only get to the prayer closet, of course, when we have a true sense of the prevailing need, and a preparedness to enter upon times of desperate intercession. David Matthews, writing about revival, says that whenever God predisposes the inauguration of a period of blessing intended for the uplift of humanity, His church in particular, multitudes of His chosen ones "...become mysteriously burdened with the birth pangs of a new era. Intercessions are stained with the crimson of a splendid agony. Undoubtedly at such a time, Gods people pass through their Gethsemane."
Pleading for a Visitation From God
When Isaiah pleaded with God in such anguish of heart, "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and come down" (Isa. 64:1), he was very much aware that we cannot have a visitation of God on our own terms! God never lowers His standards to accommodate us. It is GOD who rends the heavens; it is WE who rend our hearts, overcome with true repentance for our sins and backslidings, throwing ourselves upon His mercy and grace to forgive, cleanse and restore us, and to vindicate His holy name! This is what we may find too difficult to do. Oh, what an urgent need we have for a people who know how to cry to God, like Isaiah that He will "rend (tear open) the heavens and come down."
I recall the late Donald Gee once saying, "We have lost the art of waiting on God!" Sadly, we must now add that we have also lost the art of supplication. I feel sure that if we had a greater appreciation for the nature, privilege, and ministry of prayer we would engage all the more in it.
We need the urgency and fervor of Isaiah. His prayer grips and moves me, as at first he asked God to "LOOK DOWN from heaven" (63:15). How humbling that God is unfailingly mindful of our hopeless misery! Something more, however, was needed. Hence the anguished cry: "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens and COME DOWN" (64:1). Isaiah evidently knew that nothing was more urgent or affecting than the presence of God, for he knew that "mountains flow down at (His) presence" (64:1), as Israel had known in its turbulent history (see 63:7-15).
That God "looks down" is rightly assumed, thus seeing all things in their truest light; but that He will "come down" is fervently pleaded, to mercifully address what He sees is needed.
Revival has been defined in many ways, but maybe in the simplest of expressions it is God "rending the heavens and coming down." Rev. John Bonar of Larbert, Falkirk, Scotland (1696-1752), writing on the source of Revival observed: "A revival of religion (is) an unusual manifestation of the power of the grace of God in convincing and converting careless sinners, and in quickening and increasing the faith and piety of believers...It is the life-giving, light-imparting, quickening, regenerating and sanctifying energy of the Holy Spirit, converting the hardened sinner, and reclaiming the backsliding or dormant Christian."
Gods Awesome Presence
Such a confrontation with Infinite Holiness is no trifle; it is no amusing or light thing. It is always most discomforting when one is subjected to, and searched by, the inescapable rays of Him whose eyes are "as a flame of fire" (Rev. 1:14; 19:12). That is no fun time! When God came down at Sinai in the sight of His people it was truly terrifying (Ex. 19). When God manifested His presence in the early church it was accompanied by "great power," "great grace," and "great fear" (Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:11). And in the great revivals of church history it was just like that. R. B. Jones, the renowned Welsh preacher of last century, as an eyewitness and one used of God in the 1904 Revival in Wales, recalled something of the glory of it:
"A sense of the Lords presence was everywhere. It pervaded, nay, it created the spiritual atmosphere. It mattered not where one went the consciousness of the reality and nearness of God followed. Felt, of course, in the revival gatherings, it was by no means confined to them; it was also felt in the homes, on the streets, in the mines and factories, in the schools, yea, and even in the theatres and drinking saloons. The strange result was that wherever people gathered became a place of awe, and places of amusement and carousal (revelry) were practically emptied... The pit bottoms and galleries became places of praise and prayer, where the miners gathered to worship ere they dispersed to their several stalls. Even the children of the day schools came under the spell of God."
We dare not underestimate or fail to acknowledge this remarkable feature of the 1904 Revival and other wonderful spiritual awakenings in Wales, when the Lord "came down." Many have been the times when the church needed a divine visitation to rouse her from spiritual apathy, backsliding, and worldliness; from her materialism and carnality; from her lack of God-fearingness and Christ-centeredness; and to restore her to the place where Gods presence and power were again evident in her midst, in order that His purposes for and through her might be realized. In his new book, David Jeremiah comments on the growing irrelevance of the Christian church in the eyes of our society. He says "that while society may be biased, the church needs to ask itself whether, by its impassivity and lack of zeal, it has lost the right to be heard." That is one of the reasons why I say we are in need of a divine awakening.
I am filled with gratitude that the history of the church encourages me through its wonderful evidences of God graciously coming again and again in renewing grace to an apostatizing, declining church. It is comforting to note past divine visitations taking place against the background of a spiritless, dormant and unconcerned church. This was the case in Wales prior to the revivals, as David Allen notes in his book: "Though Chapel still played an important part in the lives of the vast majority of people in Wales, things were not quite what they used to be. The spiritual lamp had burnt low; and many of the chapels had become preaching locations at best and thinly disguised social clubs at worst."
How glad I am that God is so faithful that He should respond to the heart cry of concerned people who prayed about such prevailing situations and "came down"! This gives me hope amid the deteriorating moral and spiritual culture in which we live, as well as the evident intensifying of spiritual conflict taking place around us. Only God can change the situation locally or nationally.
R. B. Jones recalled the meetings during the 1904 Revival, where he himself was ministering in Amlwch, on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. He had been preaching from Isaiah 6, and wrote of the evident transforming power of God manifest in those gatherings as the Holy Spirit bore witness to the truth being faithfully proclaimed:
"Conviction of sin, and of its terrible desert, was so crushing that a feeling almost of despair grew over all hearts. So grievous a thing was sin; so richly and inevitably did it deserve the severest judgment of God, that hearts questioned, Could God forgive? Could God cleanse? Then came the word about the altar, the tongs, and the live coal touching the confessedly vile lips, and the gracious and complete removal of their vileness. After all, there was hope. God was forgiving, and He had cleansing for the worst."
The following is a description of a meeting during an earlier visitation experienced in the Principality of Wales the 1859 Revival under the humble ministries of Humphrey Jones and David Morgan, whom God blessed so mightily, when an estimated 110,000 souls were added to the churches during that remarkable outpouring. This is the account of a prayer meeting:
"It was in its terrors that the Eternal became a reality to them first. They seemed plunged into depths of godly sorrow...For some weeks it was the voice of weeping and the sound of mourning that was heard in the meetings. The house was often so full of the Divine Presence that ungodly men trembled terror-stricken; and at the close, sometimes they fled as from some impending peril."
I wonder if we are prepared for such a revelation of the Holy One, and a like spiritual shaking. Would we really want to see such a manifestation of Gods presence? Further questions are prompted to my heart: Can we truly be satisfied with anything less than such a manifestation of the presence of divine holiness? Can we possibly be content with the superficiality, carnality, and materialism in our churches that never seem to be boldly challenged and corrected? What might be the impact of God "rending the heavens" and "coming down" among us? Isaiah gives us some idea of the impact of the divine presence. Observe what he says in chapter 64:1-3: "Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the water to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence! When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at Thy presence."(To be continued)