The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To the Editor of The British Standard
14 February 1859
[Published in The British Standard (London), 18 February 1859, p. 53.]
John Angell James wrote to Finney in a letter dated January 24, 1859:
I am glad you have consented to write a few letters in Dr. Campbells British Standard on Revivals. I have been doing this for several weeks. Had I known of your being expected I should have abstained from the labour. There are yet two or three more letters of mine to appear. Now what I want you to do, is to wait till mine have all come out and then to write your self, correcting in a friendly way my errors, if any, as doubtless there will be, and to supply deficiencies. I have suggested to Dr. Campbell the propriety of sending you the papers which contain my letters, that you might be prepared to write as soon as I have done.
In a letter to Finney, dated 29 January 1859, Campbell wrote:
My dear Friend,
I am glad again to hear from you. I thought you had had more Standards sent as my wish was, that you should have the whole; but I shall immediately inquire about it. Mr James will occupy two weeks more; - then, the coast will be clear for your worthy self. - But if it will be a convenience - &, perhaps, it will - you can take two or three weeks more as Mr. Watt, for the last twenty years Theological Professor of Spring-Hill College, Birmingham, wishes to follow after Mr. James with two or three papers on the state of the Colleges. I promised him space yesterday, & should not like to disappoint him.
Six articles on Revivals by James appeared in the Standard from 7 January 1859 to 11 February 1859.
In the same issue of the paper as the last of these articles, Campbell inserted the following account, copied, with some alterations, from The Patriot:
UNITED REVIVAL SERVICES AT SCARBOROUGH.--These services, which were commenced four weeks ago, still continue, and have been attended with the most manifest tokens of the Divine blessing. The places of worship in the town are well filled every day at noon, and crowded at night, by Christians of all denominations, who meet to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All sectional distinctions have been lost sight of; Episcopalians, Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, Free Church Methodists, Society of Friends, and Plymouth Brethren, unite with each other in public prayer, and not in silence only, but audibly. At some of these services, letters have been read from individuals requesting special prayer on behalf of relatives; some for the conversion of husbands, children, &c. The prayers have been short, pointed, fervent; and, in general, they have been offered quite spontaneously. Two or three prayers follow each other in succession between each hymn. There has been no attempt to create an artificial excitement among the people. No public addresses have been delivered, save a few brief remarks thrown out occasionally by the ministers who preside. Fervent prayer and praise alone have been the means of producing this hallowed state of things. All the ordinary week-day services of the different congregations have been suspended. It is impossible to say when these united services will terminate, as the interest seems daily deepening, and many are attending who were never at a meeting for prayer before. A fortnight ago, a meeting of ministers and laymen of all the churches was held to deliberate upon what steps should be taken to reach those classes of the community who are living without God, and unreached by any of the existing agencies. It was unanimously resolved that their dwellings should be visited; for this purpose the town was divided into districts, and two laymen appointed to each. In their visitations they were to urge upon the people the importance of salvation, to read the Scriptures, to unite in prayer with them when practicable, and to induce them to come to the public prayer-meetings. They are furnished with suitable handbills, which are left at each house. Nor have these services been unproductive of good results already. One of these is the spirit of brotherly love created in the minds of Christians, the disappearance of prejudice, and the recognition of each other on terms of religious equality. Ministers have been brought together, and last Lord's-day the Baptists, Independents, and Wesleyans preached in each others pulpits. But, what is still more pleasing, many persons have been deeply awakened to a sense of sin; at the close of each service many have remained as anxious inquirers; not a few have already professed to have obtained peace to their souls by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; some backsliders in religion have been restored. The spirit of awakening has spread into several of the neighbouring villages; similar meetings as those in the town are being daily held, and with the same happy results. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes,"--marvellous in the eyes of the inhabitants of the towns, who have heard of such things at a distance, but never expected to witness them in their very midst. There can be no doubt there has already come down the "shower" of blessing; but the people of God continue to ask for yet greater things. What has been done is received by them as an assurance of God's willingness to bless abundantly, even to "pour waters upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground." May the blessing thus vouchsafed in answer to united prayer descend upon the towns and villages throughout the land! Let the same course be adopted by God's people of every name and in every place, and see if God be not true to His blessed promise!
The article was evidently written by Robert Balgarnie (1826-1899), the Independent minister in Scarborough. Later in the year, at the autumnal meeting of the Congregational Union held in Aberdare, in Wales, in September 1859, he gave an address on "The Revival of Religion in the Churches" in which he sketched the history of this revival in Scarborough, repeating much of what he had said in the article. In that address he drew attention to the start of the revival:
At our Assembly in London, last year, we heard of the work of the Lord in America. We listened to that soul-stirring address of the venerable man whose very name we love to pronounce, John Angell James. Who amongst us present on that occasion did not say of the Revival in America, "It is the Lord's doing; it is wonderful in our eyes?"
Did not many of us return from that Assembly with our spirits refreshed, and with resolutions formed to give ourselves more unreservedly to prayer and to work? What then? ...
Like the work of grace in a sinner's heart, it is sometimes difficult to say when the work of revival commences in a church. It may have begun when we knew it not, and when there were no external signs to indicate its presence. I have the impression, however, that its beginning with us was shortly after the Union meetings in London, to which reference has been made. Like many of my brethren, I returned home to endeavour to communicate that impulse to the minds of my flock, which had been communicated to my own; a series of special prayer meetings was commenced; ... Unknown to each other, several of the ministers of the town had secretly longed for a union of their flocks for special prayer. My Baptist brother had taken the depressed state of his church so much to heart, that he had resolved to devote several months to special prayer and work, on the condition that, if the spiritual aspect of his church were not improved, he should retire from it to another sphere of labour.
The Baptist minister was Benjamin Evans (1803-1871) of the Ebenezer Chapel. He was one of the leading evangelical Baptists in the country, a prominent reformer, and editor of a number of important Baptist publications, and was a keen advocate of the American revivals. (See Christine Paine, "Benjamin Evans of Scarborough 1803-18871" The Baptist Quarterly Vol. 21, No. 4 [October 1965], pp. 174-180.) In the 1820s and 30s he had been involved with the revival movement that had been instigated particularly by Baptists at that time under the influence of the revivals in America; and he was one of those pastors who had tried to obtain Finney's services when Finney was over in England in 1850. His son, B. H. Evans, recalled:
During the so-called "Revival" in religion, that some years ago passed like a galvanic shock through the Protestant world, and more especially throughout the United Kingdom and America, he made great and most successful efforts. ...
For some months the remarkable manifestations of Divine mercy in the United States had excited interest, and it was felt that an address on this subject, would tend to prepare the people at Scarborough for a similar visitation, if God so willed. At the request of his ministerial brethren of all denominations, Dr. Evans undertook the task, and the largest chapel in the town was placed at his disposal.
This lecture, under the title of "American Revivals," was delivered in many places, and afterwards printed.
A tract written by Balgarnie entitled "Devouring Fire", was also published and widely distributed.
The version of Balgarnie's article in the British Standard was also published in other papers (e.g. The Scarborough Mercury [Scarborough], 19 February 1859, p. 4), and a cut down version appeared in The Beacon (London), 16 February 1859, p. 128, which Henry Groves quoted in an appendix to his book The Work of God in Philadelphia, with the following comment:
The accompanying extract from The Beacon is appended, as it describes the work of God in Scarborough as being marked by the two leading features which have distinguished it in Philadelphia. All Christians, without sectarian distinctions, are brought together, and the love and communion of God's people towards each other so enlarge their sympathies towards the world lying in the Wicked One, that they unite together to find plans for gathering souls to Christ.
Finney's letter reads:
REVIVAL OF RELIGION.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE BRITISH STANDARD.
SIR,--I am greatly interested in the account given in the BRITISH STANDARD of the 11th inst. of the united religious meetings at Scarborough. This looks like doing something. This movement is the same in character with much that has been done in America. To the meetings for prayer have been added, more or less frequently, preaching services. Now, if the English Christians of any name will, without further delay, add to all that has been said and written about revivals, united, persevering prayer, and consistent action, they will soon see that prayer and the Gospel can move England not less effectually than they have instrumentally moved America. I have not the least doubt that all the speculations about the different forms of government, different states of society, different temperaments and habits of thought, and modes of action, as accounting for the fact that England is not and cannot be blessed with revivals of like character and power with these that have so blessed America, are the result of unbelief. All states of society, all forms of government, all inveterate habits and prejudices, from the iron Roman, the polite and philosophic Greek, to the most debased Sandwich Islanders, have been overcome and subdued alike by the Gospel, and always in the form of revivals of religion, and substantially by the use of the same instrumentality which are now used at Scarborough, and have been so long, so widely, and so successfully used in the United States. The Rev. J. A. James is giving us, through your columns, some good and stirring articles on revivals, and on the means of promoting them. He seems, however, often to suggest, by way of caution, that we may not expect that a similar form of effort, with like results, is to be attempted and expected in this country. Such cautions the good man will find go far to neutralise all his efforts to productive action. Unbelief is contagious. A sentence of caution against expecting like efforts to produce like results will often prevent the effort being made, or, if made, put forth with that expectation that produces results such as are witnessed when faith is strong. Now, if our brother James will at once move for an effort in Birmingham like that in Scarborough, and will neither say nor do anything to discourage expectation; if, on the contrary, he will believe himself, and say and do all he can to persuade all Christians of all denominations to unite and labour with perseverance and expectation for a general revival of religion, I have no more doubt of the full success of such efforts than I have of the faithfulness of God. Instead of stumbling at the sovereignty of God as rendering such prayer and efforts unavailing, I cling to this sovereignty for the certainty of success. His sovereignty, be it remembered, underlies, and quickens, and originates, and sustains, and succeeds the whole movement. Will not English Christians follow without delay the movement at Scarborough? Brethren, of all denominations, on my knees I could beg of you make no more delay lest the Holy Spirit be grieved away. You will be glad to know that God is reviving his work in this town. The chapels are too small to accommodate the masses. This is a serious obstacle here to a general revival of religion. The work is taking on an interesting type among those who can attend the services. I see no difference in the power of the Gospel and the influence of prayer on this and the other side of the Atlantic. Unbelief had often suggested in various localities in America, "Oh! you cannot expect in this city what you have seen elsewhere," and wisely sustained this statement with reasons about as substantial as those suggested by brother James's correspondent from Boston, as accounting for the fact that in England you do not have such revivals as those in America. I repudiate all such philosophy. I have no reason for confidence in it. It contradicts my whole experience for nearly forty years. On the contrary, I am obliged to believe and maintain that unbelief and a consequent neglect of energetic and persevering effort sufficiently account for the failure in this country. Will not our brother James carry out at once his own principles, and will not those who agree substantially with him, without another week's delay, lay all upon the altar, and commit themselves to the faithfulness of God in an effort to secure a general revival of religion? I have already spent more time here than I intended, in consequence of the fast-growing interest in religion. I expect to leave here after one more Sabbath, to spend some time in London. God bless you and yours, Sir,
St. Ives, Feb. 14, 1859. C. G. FINNEY.
This letter was copied into The Scarborough Mercury, Feb 26 1859, p. 4.
Finney's letter brought the following communication, which was published by John Campbell with editorial comments in The British Standard (London), 25 February 1859, p. 62:
TO THE EDITOR OF THE BRITISH STANDARD.
SIR,--The BRITISH STANDARD of the 18th instant was sent to my father by a friend, who knew that he would be gratified by the perusal of Mr. Finney's admirable letter. It was handed from one to another throughout the family with approving smiles and grateful words, as a precious treasure which is but too seldom to be found in the religious journals of this country, and we all felt that it breathed that spirit of faith which by God's help, we must try to cultivate before we can expect such an outpouring of the Spirit as our brethren in Christ have been favoured with on the other side of the Atlantic. But, Sir, if our spirits were revived and cheered by Mr, Finney's letter, they were in a corresponding degree depressed, and our hearts were sickened by the substance, spirit, and tone of the Free Kirk minister's most painful effusion, which we could not help thinking, was most unhappily placed in juxtaposition with the honest, loving, and faithful epistle of the great American evangelist. It may be said that it is the duty of a journalist to give the reader an opportunity of knowing what may be said on both sides of a question, and truly there are two sides to this as to all other questions; but surely the editor of a religious paper, at such a time as the present, when an effort is being made to revive the work of God throughout the land, may well be excused should he make the goodly determination to confine himself to one side, and to throw all his energies into it, leaving the work of opposition to the editors of worldly journals, who, in a general way, are but too ready to take it up. Your Free Church correspondent says:--"There are two grand requisites in every Church of Christ,--pure doctrine and pure Scriptural discipline." There is a third,--spiritual vitality,--without which the purest systems of doctrine and discipline will do very little for the souls of poor perishing sinners. I may also say that it is a bad cause that needs to be supported by injurious insinuations, and other violations of Christian charity. Who the unhappy individual may be of whom he speaks as having brought reproach upon the work of God at Aberdeen I know not, but I do know that the great revival in that city is, under God, in the hands of good, and able, and faithful men; and when I tell your Scotch readers that the noble-minded, the devoted Laird of Arndilly, who is an Episcopalian, two Free Church ministers, one minister of the Established Church, and a professor of one of the colleges, are lovingly working together day by day with indefatigable zeal, and that God is owning their labours by the conversion of hundreds of, they will, I think, agree with me that something must be sadly wanting or sadly wrong when such indications of a day of merciful visitation are not hailed with delight and joyous thankfulness, and made the subject of fervent prayer. They who name the honoured names of Rutherford and Livingstone ought to manifest a little of their spirit. I am bound to say they are altogether out of place in that very distressing production to which I have felt it my duty thus painfully to refer.--I am. sir, yours faithfully,
A STUDENT, AND SON OF A CLERGYMAN
OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
*** "A Student" will do well to let twenty more years pass over his head, and to read at least 500 volumes of ecclesiastical history, both British and American before he take on himself the office of delivering lectures on Editorial propriety. For his encouragement,--and to aid him in the necessary attempt to abate his self-sufficiency,--we shall set before him a letter which appeared only last Wednesday in the columns of the Freeman, the journal of the Baptist Body.
"TO THE EDITORS OF THE FREEMAN.
"Dear Sirs,--The celebrated Jonathan Edwards lived in a town comprising about 200 families, and which had been rather remarkable for its religious tone. In the year 1734, it was supposed that more than 300 souls were brought to Christ in half-a-year, and the number of communicants was increased to 620. In the year 1750, the people were offended with Mr. Edwards, because he objected to the approach of people to the Lord's table without any test whatsoever. He appealed to them on the subject by means of the Press; they refused to read his appeal. He proposed to preach on the subject; they objected to his doing so. By a vote of 200 to 20, they insisted on his removal.
"Some years ago, the system of revivalism was worked extensively in our denomination by brethren whose names we all hold in honour. When the work had been carried on two or three years, so loud and general were the complaints of lamentable reaction, that a special meeting, composed of some of the wisest and most earnest of our denomination, was called to consider the matter. That meeting, after weighing the evidence placed before it, unanimously decided that the system in question is not fitted for the meridian of England.
"America is just now held up to us as a model. By all means let us borrow everything good we can from the United States, but not forget that they are said to contain two or three million slaves, and three million spiritualists--the latter being persons who believe that spirits are very busy in heaving up the legs of tables, and who generally agree in denouncing the 'Atonement.'
"Hoping no one of your readers will be offended by this statement of facts, and leaving every one to judge what weight is due to them.
"I am, Messrs. Editors, yours faithfully,
"February 21, 1859. "OBSERVER.
These things we commend to the attention of "A Student," from which he will see the opinions of men older, some of them, than his father. In hot islands the cooling sea-breeze is the very life of the people! An eminent man in the United States wrote us, a few years back, that "all the churches in the region had been ruined by revival!" --ED.
Further reports on the Scarborough revival continued to appear in the papers for several weeks. Benjamin Evans recollected:
For fifteen weeks daily meetings were held at noon and in the evening for prayer and praise. The interest continued unabated to the close. All evangelical congregations united. Every place of worship, especially in the evenings, was filled. No excited addresses were delivered. The exercises were strictly devotional. Request for prayer came from all classes, and for every condition of relatives. Enquirers, with deep convictions, multiplied daily, and to some brethren the strain on mind and body was severe. The hours of the day were devoted to intercourse with them, either at their own houses or in the vestry. About sixty that year were added to the church at Ebenezer.
In his history of revivals, Rev. H. Tarrant wrote about the Scarborough revival:
During the autumn of 1860, again and again have congregations of two thousand persons assembled on the sands in solemn worship, many of whom not long since were in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity.
The revival was still effective in 1864 when there was renewed activity, and reports continued to appear in The Revival from April 1864 through to August 1865.
According to Tarrant, who was writing in 1870:
The excitement has now passed away, but the gracious fruit remains, not only in a multitude of converted souls, but in the stronger faith and warmer love and holier zeal of the children of God.
The British Standard (London), 11 February 1859, p. 46. The original article appeared in The Patriot (London), 10 February 1859 p. 84. Extracts of that version were also published in The Nonconformist (London), 16 February 1859, p. 124.
In The Patriot, this word is religion. The section which follows reads:
... to read the Scriptures, to unite in prayer with them when practicable; and to induce them to attend the public prayer-meetings, they are furnished with a handbill stating the place and time of the meetings, and making an earnest appeal to the thoughtless, which is left at each house.
This word is misprinted ous.
The Congregational Year Book for 1900 (London), p. 161.
The Aberdare Addresses. Papers read at the Autumnal Meeting held in Aberdare, Sept, 1859, by Rev. George Legge, LL.D., Rev. R. Balgarnie, Rev. Robert Halley, D.D., and Rev. George Smith. Published by Vote of the Assembly for the Congregational Union of England and Wales [London: Jackson & Walford, 1860], pp. 34-36.
The address by James was widely reported in the papers and was subsequently published as a pamphlet: On the Revival of Religion. Address of the Rev. J. A. James to the Congregational Union (London: John Snow, 1858).
See the letter of Charles Hill Roe to Finney [April 1850], and Benjamin Evans to Finney, 26 July 1850, in Finney Papers.
B. H. Evans "In Memoriam: The Rev. B. Evans of Scarborough" in The Baptist Magazine Vol. 74 (January 1872), p. 34.
B. Evans, D.D., The American Revivals. A Lecture (London: J. Heaton, 1859).
See The Patriot (London), 13 January 1859, p. 20.
Henry Groves (editor), The Work of God in Philadelphia AD 1858 (London: James Nisbet, 1859), pp. 94-95.
The letter written to William James, was published in The British Standard, 7 January 1859, p. 5.
This article appeared in The Freeman (London), 23 February 1859, p. 85 and was evidently from Finney's correspondent W. Robinson. See above.
In another place Campbell wrote:
The late Dr. Belcher, of the United States, some years since, writing a friend in London from the Far West, said, "The whole of the churches in this region have been ruined by revivals." ("Reginald Radcliffe, Esq." The British Standard (London), 27 April 1860, p. 132. Joseph Belcher (1794-1859) was a Baptist minister who had been involved in the revivals in Britain in the 1830's and had edited The Revivalist. He emigrated to America in 1844 where he was a prominent minister, and a prolific author. (See the obituary of Dr. Belcher in The Freeman [London], 3 August 1859. p. 457.)
See, for example, The Scarborough Mercury, 26 February 1859, p. 4; 12 March 1859, p. 4; Supplement, 19 March 1859, p. 2; 2 April 1859, p.4; The Patriot (London), 10 March 1859, pp. 148-49; The Watchman (London), 6 April 1859, p. 109.
Benjamin Evans A Brief History of the First Baptist Church, Scarboro' (London & Scarboro': 1871), p. 18.
H. Tarrant, Times of Refreshing. From the Earliest Period to the Present Day (London: Book Society, 1870), pp. 104-5.
see James Edwin Orr, The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain (London: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1949), p .171.