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My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word. Ps. 119:25
David here asks for his soul’s refreshing and renewing. And he asks it in accordance with God’s Word. Commentator John Gill explains:
“Such who are quickened together with Christ, and who are quickened by his Spirit and grace, when they were dead in trespasses and sins, have often need to be quickened again, and to have the work of grace revived in them…”
This quickening—reviving—is accomplished, he says, via the Word of God. Just as we are originally born again through the Word, so we are refreshed and strengthened again and again by the same means.
But most of us think of “revival” as something greater than the individual’s renewal. Churches sometimes have “revival” meetings, hoping for a visitation of the Spirit. In the book of Acts, we do see these larger visitations. Thousands were converted under the preaching of the apostle.
And we see these things in history. The Great Awakening of the late 1730s and early 40s affected both sides of the Atlantic; here in the New World, George Whitefield preached again and again until he finally gave up the ghost in Massachusetts, the morning after his last sermon in 1770. It is estimated that 80% of the population heard him at one time or another.
Whitefield sometimes preached in the fields, often because the local ministers wanted nothing to do with him. Every class of people came to hear. In my novel, The Shenandoah Road, two characters discuss such a scene:
“Ye should have been there and heard him preach. I still think on it. In some ways, it was ordinary. Straight gospel preaching. Much like Tennent’s. But the crowds …” His brother’s voice cracked with feeling.
John forgot the heat. He’d not heard his taciturn brother so moved.
“Every kind of person attended the open-air meetings. Negro slaves. Indentured servants. Fancy gentlemen would sit in their carriages nearby, and skinny apprentices perched in the trees. Butchers came with bloody aprons and stood next to ladies in fine muslin.”
Sam paused. His eyes brightened with tears. “They would weep. Sometimes only tears, but occasionally sobs would erupt from deep within the crowd.”
“Why?” Da had written him, but not with such detail. “Why would the gospel make them cry?”
“Well, ye see, most of these folks considered themselves Christian already. Philadelphia is full of all sorts: Presbyterian, Quakers, Baptists, and even a few Congregationalists, as ye know. And aye, some didna claim any sort of religion. But most did. And they wept because they realized their hope of heaven was false. Again and again, I would hear someone say, ‘I was raised in a Christian home. I’m a member. I know my Catechism. I give to the poor. But all that means nothing now. My only hope is in Christ.’”
John fixed his gaze on his brother. “So these folks closed with Christ?”
“Oh aye, many did.” His brother’s mouth twitched. “So ye see, the weeping wasn’t just of sorrow. There were tears of joy as well.”
My character says it was ordinary preaching, but that’s because Presbyterians of the day were fiercely orthodox and preached well-constructed gospel sermons, much like the Puritans. But many ministers of the day were hirelings. It got so bad that even the doctrine of regeneration—the “new birth”—was strange to many. Whitefield restored basic gospel doctrine to the masses.
The Reformation itself was an extended “revival” of sorts. The great truth of justification by faith was rediscovered, and salvation by grace was heralded all over Europe.
Do we need personal or corporate revival? Solid doctrine—the Word of God, rightly divided—is the bedrock.
Lynne Tagawa is an educator, writer, and editor who loves coffee and chocolate. Best of all, she is the grandma of five. Author of Sam Houston’s Republic and the Russells 18th century series, she lives in south Texas with her family.
Buy link to The Shenandoah Road: A Novel of the Great Awakening (the Russells, book 1): https://amzn.to/2XVm0kA
Link to her website, where you can sign up to her newsletter: http://www.lynnetagawa.com