A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Revival FiresA Flashpoints 1

Third Great Awakening

Mid-nineteenth Century Revivals:

Prayer Revivals

Following the Great Awakening of the eighteenth century, and the Second Great Awakening at the beginning of the nineteenth century with its resurgence in the 1830s, a Third Great Awakening impacted America and England in the middle of the nineteenth century.  It spread through may thousands of revival prayer groups.

Flashpoints:
1857 – October: Hamilton, Canada (Phoebe Palmer)
1857 – October: New York, North America (Jeremiah Lanphier)
1859 – March: Ulster, Ireland (James McQuilkin)
1859 – May: Natal, South Africa (Zulus)
1871 – October: New York, North America (Dwight L Moody)

1857 – October: Hamilton, Canada (Phoebe Palmer)

Phoebe Palmer

Phoebe Palmer

Revival broke out at evangelistic meetings during October 1857 in Hamilton, Canada, led by the talented Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874), assisted by her physician husband Walter. They had been leading camp meetings in Ontario and Quebec from June with crowds of 5,000. Stopping over in Hamilton for a train connection back to New York, they spoke at a Methodist Church. Many were converted, so they stayed for several weeks. Attendances reached 6,000, and 600 professed conversion, including many civic leaders. Newspapers reported it widely.

The Third Great Awakening (1857 59) had begun. Prayer meetings began to proliferate across North America and in Great Britain. Prayer and repentance accelerated with the stock market crash of October 1957 and the threatening clouds of the civil war over slavery (1861 65). The Palmers travelled widely, fanning the flames of revival and seeing thousands converted.

Phoebe, a firebrand preacher, impacted North America and England with her speaking and writing. She wrote influential books, and edited of The Guide to Holiness, the most significant magazine on holiness at that time. Her teaching on the baptism of the Holy Ghost and endowment of power spread far and wide.
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1857 – October: New York, North America (Jeremiah Lanphier)

Jeremiah Lanphier

Jeremiah Lanphier

Jeremiah Lanphier (1809-1894), a city missioner, began a weekly noon prayer meeting upstairs in the Old Dutch North Church, a Dutch Reformed Church in Fulton Street, New York on September 23, 1857. He began alone, then six men joined him for that first noon prayer meeting. In October it became a daily prayer meeting attended by many businessmen. Anticipation of revival grew, especially with the financial collapse that October after a year of depression. Lanphier continued to lead that Fulton Street prayer meeting till 1894.

At the beginning of 1858 the Fulton Street prayer meeting had grown so much they were holding three simultaneous prayer meetings in the building and other prayer groups were starting in the city. By March newspapers carried front page reports of over 6,000 attending daily prayer meetings in New York, 6,000 attending them in Pittsburgh, and daily prayer meetings were held in Washington at five different times to accommodate the crowds.

Other cities followed the pattern. Soon a common mid day sign on business premises read: Will re open at the close of the prayer meeting.

By May, 50,000 of New York’s 800,000 people were new converts. A newspaper reported that New England was profoundly changed by the revival and in several towns no unconverted adults could be found!

Similar stories could be told of the 1858 American Revival. Ships as they drew near the American ports came within a definite zone of heavenly influence. Ship after ship arrived with the same tale of sudden conviction and conversion. In one ship a captain and the entire crew of thirty men found Christ out at sea and entered the harbour rejoicing. Revival broke out on the battleship “North Carolina” through four Christian men who had been meeting in the bowels of the ship for prayer. One evening they were filled with the Spirit and bunt into song. Ungodly shipmates who came down to mock were gripped by the power of God, and the laugh of the scornful was soon changed into the cry of the penitent. Many were smitten down, and a gracious work broke out that continued night after night, till they had to send ashore for ministers to help, and the battleship became a Bethel. This overwhelming sense of God, bringing deep conviction of sin, is perhaps the outstanding feature of true revival.

In 1858 a leading Methodist paper reported these features of the revival: few sermons were needed, lay people witnessed, seekers flocked to the altar, nearly all seekers were blessed, experiences remained clear, converts had holy boldness, religion became a social topic, family altars were strengthened, testimony given nightly was abundant, and conversations were marked with seriousness.

Edwin Orr’s research (1974) indicated that 1858 59 saw a million Americans become converted in a population of thirty million and at least a million Christians were renewed, with lasting results in church attendances and moral reform in society.
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1859 – March: Ulster, Ireland (James McQuilkin)

Kells Schoolhouse

Kells Schoolhouse

Revival swept Great Britain also, including the Ulster revival of 1859. During September 1857, the same month the Fulton Street meetings began, James McQuilkin commenced a weekly prayer meeting in a village schoolhouse near Kells with three other young Irishmen. This is generally seen as the start of the Ulster revival. The first conversions in answer to their prayer came in December 1857. Through 1858 innumerable prayer meetings started, and revival was a common theme of preachers.

On 14 March 1859 James McQuilkin and his praying friends organized a great prayer meeting at the Ahoghill Presbyterian Church. Such a large crowd gathered that the building was cleared in case the galleries collapsed. Outside in the chilling rain as a layman preached with great power hundreds knelt in repentance. This was the first of many movements of mass conviction of sin.

No town in Ulster was more deeply stirred during the 1859 Revival than Coleraine. It was there that a boy was so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, accompanied him, and before they had gone far led him to Christ. Returning at once to the school, this latest convert testified to the master, “Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.” The effect of these artless words was very great. Boy after boy rose and silently left the room. On investigation the master found these boys ranged alongside the wall a the playground, everyone apart and on his knees! Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry. It was heard by those within and pierced their hearts. They cast themselves upon their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in the girls’ schoolroom above. In a few moments the whole school was upon its knees, and its wail of distress was heard in the street outside. Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in, and all, as they crossed the threshold, came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God.

The revival of 1859 brought 100,000 converts into the churches of Ireland. God’s Spirit moved powerfully in small and large gatherings bringing great conviction of sin, deep repentance, and lasting moral change. Prostrations were common people lying prostrate in conviction and repentance, unable to rise for some time. By 1860 crime was reduced, judges in Ulster several times had no cases to try. At one time in County Antrim no crime was reported to the police and no prisoners were held in police custody.

This revival made a greater impact on Ireland than anything known since Patrick brought Christianity there. By the end of 1860 the effects of the Ulster revival were listed as thronged services, unprecedented numbers of communicants, abundant prayer meetings, increased family prayers, unmatched scripture reading, prosperous Sunday Schools, converts remaining steadfast, increased giving, vice abated, and crime reduced.

Revival fire ignites fire. Throughout 1859 the same deep conviction and lasting conversions revived thousands of people in Wales, Scotland and England.

Revival in Wales found expression in glorious praise including harmonies unique to the Welsh which involved preacher and people in turn. There too, 100,000 converts (one tenth of the total population) were added to the church and crime was greatly reduced. Scotland and England were similarly visited with revival. Again, prayer increased enormously and preaching caught fire with many anointed evangelists seeing thousands converted.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a Baptist minister known as the prince of preachers, saw 1859 as the high water mark although he had already been preaching in his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for five years with great blessing and huge crowds.
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1859 – May: Natal, South Africa (Zulus)

Zulu village

Zulu village

The wave of revival in 1857-1859 included countries around the globe. Missionaries and travellers told of thousands being converted, and others began crying out to God to send revival to their nations.

It happened in South Africa. Revival began among the Zulu tribes before it spilled over into the Dutch Reformed Church. Tribal people gathered in large numbers on the frontier mission stations and then took revival fire, African style, into their villages.

On Sunday night, 22 May, the Spirit of God fell on a service of the Zulus in Natal so powerfully that they prayed all night. News spread rapidly. This revival among the Zulus of Natal on the east coast ignited missions and tribal churches. It produced deep conviction of sin, immediate repentance and conversions, extraordinary praying and vigorous evangelism.

In April 1860 at a combined missions conference of over 370 leaders of Dutch Reformed, Methodist and Presbyterian missions meeting at Worcester, South Africa, discussed revival. Andrew Murray Sr., moved to tears, had to stop speaking. His son, Andrew Murray Jr., now well known through his books, led in prayer so powerfully that many saw that as the beginning of revival in those churches.

By June revival had so impacted the Methodist Church in Montague village, near Worcester, that they held prayer meetings every night and three mornings a week, sometimes as early as 3 am. The Dutch Reformed people joined together with the Methodists with great conviction of sin to seek God in repentance, worship and intercession. Reports reached Worcester, and ignited similar prayer meetings there.

As an African servant girl sang and prayed one Sunday night at Worcester, the Holy Spirit fell on the group and a roaring sound like approaching thunder surrounded the hall which began to shake. Instantly everyone burst out praying! Their pastor, Andrew Murray Jr., had been speaking in the main sanctuary. When told of this he ran to their meeting calling for order! No one noticed. They kept crying loudly to God for forgiveness.

All week the prayer meetings continued, beginning in silence, but “as soon as several prayers had arisen the place was shaken as before and the whole company of people engaged in simultaneous petition to the throne of grace.” On the Saturday, Andrew Murray Jr. led the prayer meeting. After preaching he prayed and invited others to pray. Again the sound of thunder approached and everyone prayed aloud, loudly. At first Andrew Murray tried to quieten the people, but a stranger reminded him that God was at work, and he learned to accept this noisy revival praying. People were converted. The revival spread.

Fifty men from that congregation went into full time ministry, and the revival launched Andrew Murray Jr. into a worldwide ministry of speaking and writing.
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1871 – October: New York, North America (Dwight L Moody)

D L Moody

D L Moody

D. L. Moody (1837-1899), converted in 1855, later led powerful evangelistic campaigns in America and England. Two women in his church prayed constantly that he would be filled with the Spirit, and his yearning for God continued to increase. While visiting New York in 1871 to raise funds for churches and orphanages destroyed in the Chicago fire of October that year, in which his home, church sanctuary and the YMCA buildings were destroyed, he had a deep encounter with God. He wrote,

I was crying all the time God would fill me with his Spirit. Well, one day in the city of New York oh, what a day! I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask him to stay his hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths; and yet hundreds were converted. I would not be placed back where I was before that blessed experience for all the world it would be as the small dust of the balance.

On a visit to Britain he heard Henry Varley say, “The world has yet to see what God will do with a man fully consecrated to him.” He resolved to be that man.

Moody worked vigorously to establish the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in America and England as a means of converting and discipling youth. A Baptist minister in London, the Rev. R. Boyd, went to a meeting where Moody had just spoken and observed, “When I got to the rooms of the Young Men’s Christian Association, Victoria Hall, London, I found the meeting on fire. The young men were speaking with tongues, prophesying. What on earth did it mean? Only that Moody had addressed them that afternoon.”

God’s Spirit powerfully impacted people through Moody’s ministry, especially in conversion and in deep commitment to God. Among thousands converted through Moody’s ministry were the famous Cambridge Seven, who were students at Cambridge University and also national sportsmen, including international cricketer C. T. Studd. They all eventually served the Lord in foreign missions.
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Comments on: "Mid-nineteenth Century Revivals: Prayer Revivals" (2)

  1. […] 3. Mid-nineteenth Century Revivals: Prayer Revivals 1857 – October: Hamilton, Canada (Phoebe Palmer) 1857 – October: New York, North America (Jeremiah Lanphier) 1859 – March: Ulster, Ireland (James McQuilkin) 1859 – May: Natal, South Africa (Zulus) 1871 – October: New York, North America (Dwight L Moody) […]

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  2. […] August: Cane Ridge, North America (Barton Stone) 1821 – October: Adams, America (Charles Finney) 1857 – October: Hamilton, Canada (Phoebe Palmer) 1857 – October: New York, North America (Jeremiah Lanphier) 1859 – March: Ulster, Ireland […]

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