The GOSPEL TRUTH
It Happened 200 Years Ago:
The Great Revival
[Words, the definition of which has changed, or which are no longer in use, are given with their meaning at the end of this article. An asterisk (*) beside a word signifies that a definition of that word is given at the end of this article.]
The only period in our history comparable in any way with this present day was out on the western frontier in the period after the Revolution. The frontier at that time was mainly Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Many areas of the frontier had a reputation for great lawlessness, and at that time it had few ministers. Indeed, the spiritual condition of the entire country seems to have suffered as a result of the Revolutionary War, and also as a result of the influence of Deism, Unitarianism, and the anti-Christian aspects of the French Revolution. (Deism is a belief that there is a god, but that he is an impersonal one who has no care or concern for his creation.) Many Americans were concerned about the religious state of the nation. One of those who was concerned was a Presbyterian minister, James McGready (also spelled as Magrady, and as McGrady). McGready was born in Pennsylvania, but moved to North Carolina as a boy with his parents. He returned to Pennsylvania in the 1780's, to study theology. This education was in the famous "Log Cabin College" of Presbyterian minister John McMillan. On his way back to North Carolina, in 1789, James McGready stayed for a while at Hampden-Sidney College, in Virginia, where a student led revival of marked proportions was going on.
Arriving back in North Carolina in 1790, he pastored a church there until 1796. Here he experienced both revival and persecution. The revival began in 1791, and encompassed Orange County and much of Caswell County, with the effects being felt in adjoining areas as well.
McGready taught that all true revival came from God, and must be preceded by prevailing prayer, and that with that prevailing prayer, God would send true revival. McGready sought the most "ungodly, irreligious" place in America, as an area where his teaching on revival could be proven. The spot he chose was a part of Logan County, Kentucky, along Red River. This area was considered by many to be the most wicked place in the entire country. It was known locally as "Rogues Harbor." Other common names for it were "Devil's Den," "Outlaw's Haven," and "Satan's Stronghold." So many desperadoes and ungodly people had settled there, that when an attempt was made by vigilantes to run these outlaws out, the outlaws were so many that they, instead, burned the homes of some of the vigilantes, killed others, and finally forced them and their families to flee the area. James McGready got several hundred people, most of them living in North Carolina, to sign his "Carolina Covenant", promising to pray and intercede with God until such time as He would send true revival to Logan County. These people were asked to pray without ceasing. The covenant was to pray for revival in Logan County until the revival came or they died. James McGready himself, not wishing to miss the impending revival from God, moved to Logan County in the year 1796. He felt also that his work in Orange County was over. The opposition to him had developed to the point that his pulpit was burned and he received a threatening letter written in blood. Tho his churches there did not wish to see him go, they too felt that God was calling him to pastor a small Presbyterian church in southern Logan County, Kentucky. McGready traveled to Logan County by way of East Tennessee, stopping in Knoxville for several months to preach. Arriving in the county, he began pastoring the church that met in the "Red River Meetinghouse," which was located near the river of the same name. Shortly after, he established two more small congregations, Gasper River Church and Muddy River Church, both also in Logan County. James McGready asked his parishioners to pray every Saturday night, each Sunday morning, and all day on the third Saturday of each month. They were also asked to fast on the third Saturday. He asked them to pray specifically for three things: repentance, redemption, and Pentecost! They accepted the following covenant: We feel encouraged to unite our supplications to a prayer hearing God, for the outpouring of His Spirit, that His people may be quickened and comforted, and that our children, and sinners generally, may be converted. Therefore, we bind ourselves to observe the third Saturday of each month, for one year, as a day of fasting and prayer, for the conversion of sinners in Logan County and throughout the world. We also engage to spend one half hour each Saturday evening, beginning at the setting of the sun, and one half hour every Sabbath morning, at the rising of the sun, in pleading with God to revive His work.
Historians, and even people living in the area at the time, do not always give the same date for either the start, or the ending, of the second greatest revival in American history, known then and today as the "Second Great Awakening", or "The Great Revival." It began in Logan County, Kentucky, on Red River, exactly where McGready and those interceding with him for the revival had asked that it occur. James McGready did not have large congregations interceding for revival. His longest established church, Red River Meeting House, was very small, having only some 20 to 25 members in 1797. In the summer of 1798, there was a very general spiritual move among McGready's three congregations. Two Presbyterian ministers, however, who were opposed to the teachings of Mr. McGready, visited the members of his congregations and cast all the doubt that they could upon McGready's teachings that God would bring revival as a result of prayer, and that every real Christian could and should know by the witness of the Holy Spirit that they were saved. One of these men found a church member of McGready's to assist him, and they worked diligently, teaching and speaking against James McGready's ideas with everyone who would listen. These two were successful for a time in stopping the move that God had begun. They turned so many members of the Red River Congregation against McGready that the trustees of the church are said to have padlocked the doors of the meetinghouse so that he could not preach. Arriving at the meetinghouse and finding the doors padlocked, but with a small number of people gathered and wishing to hear him preach anyway, James McGready began to preach. As he spoke, a loud snap was heard. The padlock had broken and fallen from the door. After this, the anti-revival party was in great disarray and no one dared padlock the doors again. James McGready did not mention the padlocked door in his accounts of the revival, but he did mention the opposition, which for a time quenched the revival. Here is his account. He begins by referring to the spiritual condition of his congregations in the year 1798. "In every house, and almost in every company, the whole conversation with people, was about the state of their souls. About this time the Rev. J.B. came here, and found a Mr. R. to join him. In a little time he involved our infant churches in confusion, disputation, &c. Opposed the doctrines preached here; ridiculed the whole work of the revival; formed a considerable party, &c. &c. In a few weeks this seemed to have put a final stop to the whole work, and our infant congregation remained in a state of deadness and darkness from the fall, through the winter, and until the month of July, 1799, at the administration of the sacrament at Red River. This was a very solemn time throughout. On Monday the power of God seemed to fill the congregation; the boldest, daring sinners in the country covered their faces and wept bitterly. After the congregation was dismissed, a large number of people stayed about the doors, unwilling to go away. Some of the ministers proposed to me to collect the people in the meeting-house again, and perform prayer with them; accordingly we went in, and joined in prayer and exhortation. The mighty power of God came amongst us like a shower from the everlasting hills--God's people were quickened and comforted; yea, some of them were filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. Sinners were powerfully alarmed, and some precious souls were brought to feel the pardoning love of Jesus. At Gasper river (at this time under the care of Mr. Rankin, a precious instrument in the hand of God) the sacrament was administered in August. This was one of the days of the Son of Man, indeed, especially on Monday. I preached a plain gospel sermon on Heb. 11:16, the better country. A great solemnity continued during the sermon. After sermon Mr. Rankin gave a solemn exhortation--the congregation was then dismissed; but the people all kept their seats for a considerable space, whilst awful solemnity appeared in the countenances of a large majority. Presently several persons under deep convictions broke forth into a loud outcry--many fell to the ground, lay powerless, groaning, praying and crying for mercy. As I passed through the multitude, a woman, lying in awful distress, called me to her. Said she, 'I lived in your congregation in Carolina; I was a professor*, and often went to the communion; but I was deceived; I have no religion*; I am going to hell.' In another place an old, gray-headed man lay in an agony of distress, addressing his weeping wife and children in such language as this: 'We are all going to hell together; we have lived prayerless, ungodly lives; the work of our souls is yet to begin; we must get religion, or we will all be damned.' But time would fail me to mention every instance of this kind." (Narrative of the Commencement and Progress of the Revival of 1800. By the late Rev. James McGready, In a letter to a friend....dated Logan County, Kentucky, October 23, 1801. http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/McGreaBK.htm)
In its early days the revival was known as the "Red River Revival." Later, it was sometimes called the Cane Ridge Revival. (Sometimes erroneously spelled, "Cain Ridge" or "Caine" Ridge.) Cane Ridge is located in Bourbon County, which is in northern Kentucky. It was the site of the largest camp meeting of the revival.
"The Great Revival" lasted about five to seven years, depending on what year you count as its beginning. It is generally held to have begun in the year of our Lord 1800, but some of the local people placed its beginnings even earlier, some placing its origins as far back as 1797. (Early Times In Middle Tennessee, Carr.) As early as 1797, grown men, members of one or another of James McGready's three little churches, were spending days at a time in the woods, under deep conviction, praying, crying, weeping, and seeking God for an assurance of their personal salvation. In some writings of James McGready's published in 1837, some twenty years after his death, and appropriately titled The Posthumous Works of James McGready, McGready spoke of an "awakening" among his congregations beginning in 1797, during the Spring following his arrival in Logan County. He goes on to say, "But the year 1800 exceeds all that my eyes ever beheld on earth." (The Posthumous Works of James McGready, Vol. I. p.ix).
When the revival began, it began without warning. At a meeting at Red River Meeting House in June of 1800, tho some attendees cried and wept, and others fell to the floor under conviction of their sinfulness, and tho there were conversions, it seemed, as the last day of the meetings closed, that there would be no great move of God at that time. Disappointed, James McGready and two ministers who had been assisting him left the building.
A visiting minister from nearby Sumner County, Tennessee, William McGee, looking sorrowfully around, suddenly felt impressed to shout to the people, "Let the Lord God Omnipotent reign in your hearts!" At this, pandemonium broke forth among the congregation. Some of the lost began to scream, others fell to the floor, sometimes writhing, sometimes perfectly still, having swooned, as fainting was called in that day. In modern religious terminology, they had been "slain in the spirit". (Describing the event years later, McGee said that he felt as if one greater than himself was speaking.) Several members went to McGee and urged him to try to stop what was happening, saying that Presbyterians (this was a Presbyterian congregation) could not allow such goings on. Instead, William McGee went throughout the building, shouting praises to God and encouraging the people to yield themselves wholly to God. Many were changed forever that night. In the words of James McGready, "a mighty effusion of [God's] Spirit" came upon the people, "and the floor was soon covered with the slain; their screams for mercy pierced the heavens."
Heartened by the results of this meeting, another was planned at Magready's Gasper River Church. This was the first planned campmeeting. Volunteers arrived days early to cut away trees and undergrowth around the "meeting house." This was to make room for the people and the wagons that were expected. They did not anticipate what occurred. An enormous crowd, as many as several thousand, arrived at the appointed date. Thirteen wagon loads of people and provisions showed up ready to camp out at this meeting. Whole families had come prepared to camp out for days. Some of these people had traveled over 100 miles, on wilderness roads or trails, to be there. The estimates of the number present ran as high as 8,000 men, women, and children.
Later, writing of the events of that campmeeting, McGready wrote: "At a huge evening meeting lighted by flaming torches . . . a Presbyterian pastor gave a throbbing message . . . The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly. Toward the close of the sermon, the cries of the distressed arose almost as loud as the speaker's voice. After the congregation was dismissed the solemnity increased, till the greater part of the multitude seemed engaged in the most solemn manner. No person seemed to wish to go home -- hunger and sleep seemed to affect nobody -- eternal things were the vast concern . . . Here awakening and converting work was to be found in every part of the multitude; and even some things strangely and wonderfully new to me." (Church History magazine, No. 23, p. 25).
Thus began the tradition known as "campmeeting." The term came into use to describe meetings where people would come in such a manner, in wagons loaded with tents and provisions, and would camp out while the meeting lasted. Such a meeting might be for only days, but sometimes it was for a week or more. Although the term campmeeting was not used until 1802, this was the first true campmeeting, where a continuous outdoor service was combined with camping out.
In addition to campmeetings, two other new and novel practices originated during the Great Revival. One of these was the new type of worship. Since there were virtually no musical instruments on the frontier of the type traditionally used in worship, music for the worship began to be provided by local musicians, trained or not. Anyone who had any type of musical instrument and who desired to participate was welcomed. This meant that the primary musical instruments used in the services were mandolins, fiddles, banjoes, and the like. Along with the new type of worship music, a new type of singing arose. As there were no trained choirs and no organs or pianos on the frontier, so there were no hymnals. New songs were written during the revival. These were a totally new type of song. The melodies were simple ones, with simple easily remembered words and lengthy choruses. From this singing, with its homemade instruments, evolved Gospel Music. Later, from Gospel Music came Black Gospel and Country Music.
Here are portions of two songs that were popular during The Great Revival. Both of these songs are very different from the hymns we sing today. The first song shows the great importance which was placed on a lost person's need to recognize their utter damnation apart from the saving grace of God."Stop, poor sinner, stop and think,
Before you further go:
Will you sport upon the brink
Of everlasting woe?"
This second song expresses another strong conviction of the revivalists, that neither good works nor a seemingly good life would ever save anyone. Salvation was proclaimed as being by God the Father's goodness, thru the suffering and death of Jesus, who was God the Son."Glory to God on high!
Our peace is made with heaven:
The Son of God came down to die,
That we might be forgiven."
Besides the new type of songs and music, another new practice was that of placing a bench or a railing at the front of the congregation. Those who were lost, and who came under conviction of their sinfulness, were encouraged to go forward to what came to be called the "altar," or the "mourner's bench." Here they would pray and seek a knowledge of forgiveness for their sins. When that knowledge or assurance of forgiveness came, then, and only then, was it felt that the one under conviction had joined the ranks of the redeemed.
After the Gasper River meeting, campmeetings were not only held with growing frequency, many were larger and lasted longer. The largest campmeeting, which was at Cane Ridge, in 1801, drew an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people. (Some estimates run much higher. I have here given only the more conservative estimates of the number of people attending.) This, too, in a frontier region with still only a sparse population. (The largest city at the time in Kentucky, was Lexington, and it had a population of less than 1,800.) The number of people attending the meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky was so great that no building could hold them, so all meetings were held outside. They would camp out in the open with their families, staying for days, and not wanting to go home. Not only the Gasper River and Cane Ridge campmeetings, but many of the others, like one at Desha's Creek in Sumner County, Tennessee, drew crowds numbering in the thousands.
The move of God at Desha's Creek actually began when a small group of people from nearby Shiloh Church attended the Gasper River Campmeeting. Upon their return to Shiloh, their fellow church members, and those of neighboring churches, were astounded at what they had to relate. Especially moving was the account given by a ten year old boy who had gone to the Gasper River Meeting. Not long afterward, a communion service was announced to be held at a "Robert Shaw's," near the headwaters of Red River. Hundreds attended and many fell swooning to the ground during the service. As described in Early Times In Middle Tennessee, (p.94, Carr) they "fell like men slain in battle." Greatly moved at what they had heard and seen, the people of Desha's Creek Meetinghouse decided to hold a campmeeting there.
Writing years later, in 1820, John McGee described the meeting at Desha's Creek thus: [M]any thousands of people attended. The mighty power and mercy of God was manifested. The people fell before the word like corn before a storm of wind, and many rose from the dust with a divine glory shining in their countenances, and gave glory to God in such strains as made the hearts of stubborn sinners to tremble. And after the first gust of praise they would break forth in vollies (sic.) of exhortation. (Letter of John McGee to Rev. Thomas L. Douglas, June 23, 1820, printed in the Methodist Magazine, published in London, 1821, no. 4, p.190.)
The Reverend William Hodge, writing of the Desha's Creek meeting, described it thus: Sabbath evening exhibited the most awful scene I ever beheld. About the centre of the camp, they (people) were lying in heaps and scattered all around. The sighs, groans, and prayers seemed to piece the heavens, while the power of God fell upon almost all present. (Extract from a letter of his to Methodist Magazine, no.26, 1803, 269-70.)
On a certain occasion, James McGready was preaching to a large congregation meeting in a woods. A very dark and threatening storm arose and seemed ready to burst upon them. They had no place to go for shelter, and the meeting would have been forced to disperse. Stopping in the midst of his sermon, McGready called upon God to turn aside or stop the storm. The cloud then separated, passing to the right and to the left of the congregation, leaving them and the meeting undisturbed. (Brief biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Ministers of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. By Richard Beard, Nashville, Tenn., Southern Methodist Publishing House, 1867, p.16.)
By 1801, the revival had spread over most of the settled regions of Kentucky and Tennessee, and into Ohio. In only a short time it swept like a wave over the states of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and continued on until the entire nation was impacted.
Peter Cartwright, a famous frontier evangelist, who as a child lived in Logan County in the "Rogues Harbor" area, and who in his youth attended and was saved at a campmeeting during the great revival, said in his own words, here taken from his autobiography, "The power of God was wonderfully displayed; scores of sinners fell under the preaching, like men slain in mighty battle; Christians shouted aloud for joy." (Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, reprint, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984. p. 38)
"I have seen more than a hundred sinners fall like dead men under one powerful sermon, and I have seen and heard more than five hundred Christians all shouting aloud the high praises of God at once; and I will venture to assert that many happy thousands were awakened and converted to God at these camp meetings. Some sinners mocked, some of the old dry professors* opposed, some of the old starched Presbyterian preachers preached against these exercises, but still the work went on and spread almost in every direction, gathering additional force, until our country seemed all coming home to God" (ibid., p. 43).
In the Great Revival, laymen seem to have been used as much as ministers, with men, women, and even children being greatly used of God. Again in his autobiography, Cartwright tells us of one woman that, God filled her soul with such an overwhelming sense of Divine love, that she did not really know whether she was in or out of the body. She rose from her knees, and proclaimed to listening hundreds that she had obtained the blessing . . . She went through the vast crowd with holy shouts of joy, and exhorting all to taste and see that the Lord was gracious, and such a power attended her words that hundreds fell to the ground, and scores of souls were happily born into the kingdom of God that afternoon and during the night. (ibid., p. 94).
The Great Revival was characterized by activities which were sometimes the result of excess, and sometimes God. It is understandable that strange things may happen when God moves upon people in power. Those activities that excited the most attention and which drew the most criticism were actually uncommon in occurance. Most campmeetings were held without any physical manifestations other that weeping, cries for mercy or shouts of joy, and always people collapsing under the power of God, some of them to the point of appearing lifeless, for hours. The stranger "exercises" as they were called, that came to attend The Great Revival, were condemned by many as not being of God, but as merely human excess or even demonic activity. Such activities as "the jerks" were one of these. Peter Cartwright described the jerks as "overwhelming in its effects upon the bodies and minds of the people. No matter whether they were saints or sinners, they would be taken under a warm song or sermon and seized with a convulsive jerking all over, which they could not by any possibility avoid, and the more they resisted, the more they jerked. If they would not strive against it and pray in good earnest, the jerking would usually abate. I have seen more than five hundred persons jerking at one time in my large congregations. Most usually, persons taken with the jerks, to obtain relief, as they said, would rise up and dance. Some would run, but could not get away. Some would resist; on such the jerks were generally very severe.
"To see those proud young gentlemen and young ladies, dressed in their silks, jewelry, and prunella, from top to toe, take the jerks, would often excite my risibilities. The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps, and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their long loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner's whip" (ibid., p. 45).
"I always looked upon the jerks as a judgment sent from God, first, to bring sinners to repentance; and, secondly, to show professors that God would work with or without means, and that he could work over and above means, and do whatsoever seemeth to him good, to the glory of his grace and the salvation of the world. "
"There is no doubt in my mind that with weak-minded, ignorant, and superstitious persons, there was a great deal of sympathetic feeling with many that claimed to be under the influence of this jerking exercise [i.e. mere human emotion]; and yet, with many, it was perfectly involuntary. It was, on all occasions, my practice to recommend fervent prayer as a remedy, and it almost universally proved an effective antidote" (ibid., p. 46).
Another minister questioned over 300 people who had had the jerks. He found nearly all of those he questioned willing to admit that the jerks came on them only after they were impressed of the Holy Spirit to do something, and would not obey.
Peter Cartwright mentioned other strange activities besides the jerks in his autobiography. Of the other strange manifestations, he said: There were many other strange and wild exercises into which the subjects of this revival fell; such, for instance, as what was called the running, jumping, barking exercise. The Methodist preachers generally preached against this extravagant wildness. I did it uniformly (preached against such activity) in my little ministrations, and sometimes gave great offense; but I feared no consequences when I felt my awful responsibilities to God. (ibid., p. 46). It should be remembered that at most campmeetings such behavior did not occur or was almost nonexistent.
Though New England has not yet been mentioned, there was definitely revival in many parts of New England, both before and during The Great Revival. From accounts at the time, it appears that thousands were saved. The great stress which the Congregationalist ministers placed on quiet and order, however, may have hindered the revival. After word of the Great Revival in the West reached the New England states, instead of praying for a greater awakening there, the efforts of most Congregationalist ministers seems to have been directed instead towards seeing that no emotional outbursts occurred, such as were then common in the West. One New England minister, telling of one single college student who came under deep conviction and was saved, proclaimed this as a true sign of revival. In this same report, he stressed that there was no emotionalism involved, and took the story of the young man's salvation as an opportunity for criticizing those who allowed the emotional responses to occur which so often characterized the Great Revival.
While emotionalism is not necessary to revival, it is easy to think that if the Congregational ministers of New England had been more concerned with experiencing a genuine revival and less concerned with preventing any possible emotionalism, that region would have been impacted by The Great Revival in a much stronger way than it was. Most of New England was either Congregational or Unitarian. While the Unitarians disdained all thought of revivals, the Congregationalists simply disdained the emotionalism that might accompany revival, feeling that it was undignified and not of God.
What seemed the most common characteristic of the revival, at least in the West, was not the hyper-emotional activity, but rather the often over-powering sense of the manifest presence of God at so many of the meetings. The presence of God was so strong at many of the campmeetings, that people, including total unbelievers, would often collapse on the ground under the power of God.
One man who went to a campmeeting to mock those who believed, said that when he was two miles away he encountered a feeling like none he had ever felt before. He said that he seemed to feel an awesome presence, and had a growing consciousness of his own sinfulness. He finally arrived at the campmeeting ground, but was so overcome with what he was feeling that he turned and ran off into the woods to try and escape that feeling. In the woods, well away from the camp meeting, he said that he found others who also had fled there to avoid what they were feeling at the site of the meeting. Some, he said, later went back to the meeting site due to a growing desire "to be converted." This was something which he, himself, never did, despite the sense of conviction he was feeling.
Conversion with these people was not a light thing. They considered no one converted unless that person had a consciousness of the presence of the Lord within them. Those seeking to be saved were expected to pray and seek God until they knew they were saved. Some were saved without even praying or asking, others had to "tarry," or wait and seek God for the assurance of their salvation, for days. A song from a 1790 Methodist hymnal well expressed the view of those who partook of The Great Revival, when it implored God to:The gift unspeakable impart;
Command the light of faith to shine;
To shine in my dark, drooping heart,
And fill me with the life divine:
Now bid the new creation be,
O God, let there be faith in me.
This story was told of a man who assumed he was "converted." Arriving at a home in the area, and hearing that a "class meeting" was about to be held, he went inside. In those days, class meeting was a term used for a meeting, usually led by a layman, where converted people would tell what God was doing in their lives, would encourage one another, and would sing and praise God. As they began to do these things, this young man grew more and more uncomfortable. Finally he could take it no longer. There were to many people in the room for him to get to the door, but he was near the chimney. After climbing up the chimney, he mounted his horse and galloped for home. Seeing him coming in at such a gallop, his wife met him with the gun, asking why he was scared, were the Indians coming? No, he replied. Worse than the Indians, God was coming. For the next several days he lived a life, he said, of utter misery. Finally he mounted his horse again, and rode off to find the man who had conducted the class meeting, to ask for prayer that he might be converted.
During the Great Revival, it was noted that many who for years had thought they were Christians, became convicted that they had never been saved, but had only been giving an intellectual assent to what they heard preached in the churches. For an example, read the following account.
Samuel King was born in Iredell county, North Carolina, on the 19th of April, 1775. About the year 1791 Mr. King moved to what was then called the "Cumberland Country," and settled in what is now Sumner county, Tennessee. The old gentleman became an elder, and his family members of Shiloh congregation. This congregation was successively for a number of years under the pastoral care of Rev. William McGee and Rev. William Hodge. At the time of his marriage, he was a regular member of Shiloh congregation; and feeling it his duty, now that he had become the head of a family, to erect the family altar, and hold family prayers, he did so. He had not, however, kept up the practice of family prayer long, before he became convinced that his religious hope was without foundation. Of course from this time forward the wants of his own soul formed a prominent part of his petitions when bowed at the family altar.
On one of these occasions, while engaged in family worship, he obtained such a discovery, and felt so deeply overwhelmed with a sense of his lost condition, that he ceased praying for others, and for all things else than himself, and continued on his knees to pour out his soul to God for mercy and pardon, until God heard his prayer, and sent peace to his mind. His joy, and his views of the atonement of Christ, and of the Divine goodness were such, that his wife, who at that time had not professed religion, said, "she thought he never would get done saying glory to God."
He soon began to feel great anxiety for his unconverted friends and neighbors, and such was his burden of heart on this subject, that at prayer-meetings, and other social meetings, he was strongly urged by his feelings to get up and talk to the people. When he first commenced these exercises, such were the unction and power attending his words, that many were cut to the heart, fell down, and cried for mercy on the spot. http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/minister/KingS.htm
In the following letter, written from Kentucky in the year 1802, note what the writer had to say about his own religious state. This letter is taken from a book titled: "Surprising Accounts Of The Revival Of Religion In The United States Of America, In Different Parts Of The World, And Among Different Denominations Of Christians, With A Number Of Interesting Occurrences Of Divine Providence." Printed and published by William W. Woodward, no. 52, at the book-store lately occupied by Mr. William Young. 1802. Extract 64. Of a letter from a gentleman, in lancaster, to his friend in this city, dated 2d February 1802. (p. 159 & 160)
"I have seen several letters from Kentucky, in which pleasing accounts are given of the revival of religion -- The following extract was written by a gentleman in that state, to his brother; I will make no apology for sending a copy, believing that every thing relative to that great event must be interesting to you.
The writer says, "Passing from domestic intelligence, I hasten to lay before you, the outlines of the most august proceedings of the people of God, that ever was seen in this state.
"The Presbyterians assembled on Friday last, at Concord meeting house, by way of preparation for the Lord's supper. I did not attend until Sabbath day, when I saw the ordinance administered, and many of the people prostrate on the ground, crying for mercy. I passed the day as an impartial spectator, but frequently wrapped in amazement, wonder, and doubt, and anxious for certainty, I retired to a solitary part of the woods, and there prostrated myself before the great God, of heaven and earth, and frequently prayed to be directed in the right way. But alas, I returned with a most obdurate heart, ready to vilify, ripe for reproaching and persecuting the people of the most High God. I styled it enthusiastical levity, I called it a delusion of the devil, in conjunction with hypocrisy, operating on the minds of the illiterate and credulous, by the powers of oratory. Notwithstanding said I, it may turn the wicked, alter the drunkard, and finally reform the prodigal; nevertheless I thought it derogatory to the laws of God. You may easily see by this that I returned much displeased with the proceedings of the day. I did not intend to return the day following, but while I slumbered upon my pillow, that monitor that never sleeps, while we are surrounded with the blackness of darkness, gave me a severe wound. I rolled in my bed, and cried for mercy, but found none. I rose with a view of prostrating myself before Almighty God, but returned without making the attempt. Surrounded by the silent slumbers of my family, I struggled through the dreary hours of the night, then mounted my horse in the morning, in hopes of finding tranquillity in recreation; but the words which I heard the preceding day, "Those that are bidden, and have refused, shall never taste of my supper," obstructed my way, while the tremendous sound of "Go ye cursed," &c. re-echoed through every nerve of my body, while the tears of guilt and contrition poured over my face; I saw myself on the awful precipice, and the mouldering brink crumbling under my feet; my soul took the alarm, and for the first time, shrunk back at the very thoughts of a hell! Construe this as your please, my dear brother, but whether you call it insanity or imbecility, I am again involved in a similar situation; the view of my past guilt has watered my face afresh. I am become a proselyte in some degree, but a stranger to regeneration. I returned and resolved to go to meeting, that day also; accordingly, accompanied by your sister, the partner of my cares, we hastened to the place of festivity. A more tremendous sight never struck the eyes of mortal man. The very clouds, seemed to separate, and give way for the praises of the people of God to ascend the heavens, while thousands of tongues, with sounds of hallelujahs, seemed to roll through infinite space. Hundreds of the people lay prostrate on the ground crying for mercy. O! My brother, had you been there to have seen the convulsed limbs, the apparently lifeless bodies, to all of which the distorted features exactly comporting, you would have been constrained to have cried out as I was obliged to do, that God is among the people. Nor was this confined to the commonality alone, but people of every description lay prostrate on the ground. There you would have seen the learned pastor, the steady patriot; and the obedient son, crying "holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." There you might behold the honourable matron and the virtuous maiden, crying "Jesus thou son of the Most High God, have mercy upon us." Turn your eyes a few paces further, and you might see the prodigal and the professed libertine*, crying "Hosannah to God in the highest, there is no other name given under heaven among men, by which we can be saved, but the name of Jesus."
Where before the revival, Kentucky was noted for considerable lawlessness, after the revival got well under way travelers in that state would comment on the morality and sobriety of the inhabitants. Kentucky, wrote one visitor, was the most moral place he had ever been. The following letter is taken from the book quoted above:
Surprising Accounts Of The Revival Of Religion . . . Extract 57. Of A Letter From The Rev. G. Baxter, Principal Of Washington Academy To The Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, Prince Edward, Dated January 1, 1802. (P. 105-113).
Washington Academy, Jan. 1, 1802.
Rev. and dear Sir,
I now sit down agreeably to promise to give you some account of the revival of religion in the state of Kentucky; you have no doubt heard already of the Greenriver and Cumberland revivals. I will just observe that last summer is the fourth since the revival commenced in those places; and that it has been more remarkable than any of the preceding not only for lively and fervent devotion among Christians, but also for awakenings and conversions among the careless; and it is worthy of notice that very few instances of apostasy have hitherto appeared. As I was not myself in the Cumberland country*, all I can say about it is from the testimony of others; but I was uniformly told by those who had been there, that their religious assemblies were more solemn and the appearance of the work much greater than what had been in Kentucky; any enthusiastic symptoms which might at first have attended the revival, had greatly subsided, whilst the serious concern and engagedness of the people were visibly increased.
In the older settlement of Kentucky the revival made its first appearance among the Presbyterians last spring; the whole of that country about a year before was remarkable for vice and dissipation; and I have been credibly informed that a decided majority of the people were professed infidels. During the last winter, appearances were favourable among the Baptists and great numbers were added to their churches: early in the spring the ministrations of the Presbyterian Clergy began to be better attended than they had been for many years before. Their worshipping assemblies became more solemn, and the people after they were dismissed shewed a strange reluctance at leaving the place: they generally continued some time in the meeting-houses -- in singing or in religious conversation. Perhaps about the last of May or the first of June the awakenings became general in some congregations, and spread through the country in every direction with amazing rapidity. I left that country about the first of November, at which time this revival in connexion with the one in Cumberland had covered the whole state, excepting a small settlement which borders on the waters of Greenriver, in which no Presbyterian ministers are settled; and I believe very few of any denomination. The power with which this revival has spread; and its influence in moralizing the people, are difficult for you to conceive of, and more difficult for me to describe. I had heard many accounts and seen many letters respecting it before I went to that country; but my expectations, though greatly raised, were much below the reality of the work. The congregations, when engaged in worship, presented scenes of solemnity superior to what I had ever seen before; and in private houses it was no uncommon thing to hear parents relate to strangers the wonderful things which God had done in their neighbourhoods, whilst a large circle of young people would be in tears. On my way to Kentucky I was told by settlers on the road, that the character of Kentucky travellers was entirely changed and that they were now as distinguished for sobriety as they had formerly been for dissoluteness: and indeed I found Kentucky the most moral place I had ever been in, a profane expression was hardly heard; a religious awe seemed to pervade the country: and some Deistical characters had confessed that from whatever cause the revival might originate, it certainly made the people better. Its influence was not less visible in promoting a friendly temper; nothing could appear more amiable than that undissembled benevolence which governs the subjects of this work: I have often wished that the mere politician or Deist could observe with impartiality their peaceful and amicable spirit. He would certainly see that nothing could equal the religion of JESUS, for promoting even the temporal happiness of society -- some neighbourhoods visited by the revival had been formerly notorious for private animosities; and many petty law-suits had commenced on that ground. When the parties in these quarrels were impressed with religion, the first thing was to fend for their antagonists; and it was often very affecting to see their meeting. Both had seen their faults, and both contended that they ought to make concessions, till at last they were obliged to request each other to forbear all mention of the past, and to act as friends and brothers for the future. Now sir, let modern philosophists talk of reforming the world by banishing Christianity and introducing their licentious systems. The blessed gospel of our God and Saviour is shewing what it can do.
Some circumstances have concurred to distinguish the Kentucky revival from most others, of which we have had any account, I mean the largeness of the assemblies on sacramental occasions.
The length of time, they continued on the ground in devotional exercises. And the great numbers who have fallen down under religious impressions, -- on each of these particulars I shall make some remarks.
With respect to the largeness of the assemblies, it is generally supposed that at many places there were not fewer than 8, 10, or 12 thousand people -- at a place called Cane Ridge meeting-house, many are of opinion there were at least 20 thousand. There were 140 waggons which came loaded with people, besides other wheel carriages. Some persons had come 200 miles. The largeness of these assemblies was an inconvenience -- they were too numerous to be addressed by one speaker. It therefore became necessary for several ministers to officiate at the same time at different stands: this afforded an opportunity to those who were but slightly impressed with religion to wander to and fro between the different places of worship, which created an appearance of confusion and gave ground to such as were unfriendly to the work to charge it with disorder. Another cause also conduced to the same effect; about this time the people began to fall down in great numbers under serious impressions: this was a new thing among Presbyterians; it excited universal astonishment, and created a curiosity which could not be restrained when people FELL even during the most solemn parts of divine service: those who stood near were so extremely anxious to see how they were affected, that they often crowded about them so as to disturb the worship. But these causes of disorder were soon removed; different sacraments were, and partly by inclination; the assemblies were generally too large to be received by any common neighbourhood; every thing indeed was done which hospitality and brotherly kindness could do, to accommodate the people; public and private houses were opened, and free invitations given to all persons who appointed on the same Sabbath, which divided the people, and the falling down became so familiar as to excite no disturbance.
In October I attended three Sacraments, at each there were supposed to be 4 or 5 thousand people, and every thing was conducted with strict propriety; when persons fell, those who were near took care of them, and every thing continued quiet until the worship was concluded.
The length of time that people continue at the places of worship is another important circumstance of the Kentucky revival: at Cane Ridge they met on Friday and continued until Wednesday evening, night and day without intermission, either in the public or private exercises of devotion; and with such earnestness that heavy showers of rain were not sufficient to disperse them. On other Sacramental occasions they generally continued on the ground until Monday or Tuesday evening; and had not the preachers been exhausted and obliged to retire or had they chosen to prolong the worship, they might have kept the people any length of time they pleased, and all this was, or might have been done, in a country where less than twelve months before the Clergy found it difficult to detain the people during the usual exercises of the Sabbath. The practice of camping on the ground was introduced, partly by necessity wished to retire[sic.]. Farmers gave up their meadows before they were mown to supply the horses; yet notwithstanding all this liberality it would have been impossible in many cases, to have accommodated the whole assemblies with private lodgings: but besides the people were unwilling to suffer any interruption in their devotions; and they formed an attachment to the place where they were continually seeing so many careless sinners receiving their first impressions, and so many Deists constrained to call on the formerly despised name of JESUS; they conceived a sentiment like what Jacob felt at Bethel. "Surely the Lord is in this place," "This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of Heaven."
The number of persons who have fallen down under serious impressions in this revival, is another matter worthy of attention, and on this I shall be more particular, as it seems to be the principal cause why this work should be more suspected of enthusiasm than some other revivals.
At Cane Ridge sacrament it is generally supposed not less than 1000 persons fell prostrate to the ground; among whom were many infidels. At one sacrament which I attended, the number that fell was thought to be more than 300. Persons who fall, are generally such as had manifested symptoms of the deepest impressions for some time previous to that event. It is common to see them shed tears plentifully for about an hour.
Immediately before they become totally powerless they are seized with a general tremor and sometimes, though not often, they utter one or two piercing shrieks in the moment of falling; persons in this situation are affected in different degrees; sometimes when unable to stand or sit they have the use of their hands and can converse with perfect composure. In other cases they are unable to speak, the pulse becomes weak, and they draw a difficult breath about once in a minute: in some instances their extremities become cold, and pulsation, breathing, and all the signs of life forsake them for nearly an hour; persons who have been in this situation have uniformly avowed that they felt no bodily pain, that they had the entire use of their reason and reflection, and when recovered, they could relate every thing that had been said or done near them, or which could possibly fall within their observation. From this it appears that their falling is neither common fainting, nor a nervous affection. Indeed this strange phenomenon appears to have taken every possible turn to baffle the conjectures of those who are not willing to consider it a supernatural work. Persons have sometimes fallen on their way from public worship; and sometimes after they had arrived at home, and in some cases when they were pursuing their common business on their farms, or when retired for secret devotion. It was above observed that persons generally are seriously affected for some time previous to their falling; in many cases however it is otherwise. Numbers of thoughtless sinners have fallen as suddenly as if struck with lightning. Many professed infidels, and other vicious characters, have been arrested in this way, and sometimes at the very moment when they were uttering blasphemies against the work.
At the beginning of the revival in Shelby county the appearances, as related to me by eye-witnesses, were very surprising indeed. The revival had before this spread with irresistible power through the adjacent counties; and many of the pious had attended distant sacraments with great benefit. These were much engaged, and felt unusual freedom in their addresses at the throne of grace, for the outpouring of the divine Spirit at the approaching sacrament in Shelby. The Sacrament came on in September. The people, as usual, met on Friday: but all were languid, and the exercises went on heavily. On Saturday and Sunday morning it was no better, at length the communion service commenced, every thing was still lifeless: whilst the minister of the place was speaking at one of the tables, without any unusual animation suddenly there were several shrieks from different parts of the assembly; instantly persons fell in every direction; the feelings of the pious were suddenly revived, and the work progressed with extraordinary power, till the conclusion of the solemnity: this phenomenon of falling is common to all ages, sexes and characters; and when they fall they are differently exercised. Some pious people have fallen under a sense of ingratitude and hardness of heart, and others under affecting manifestations of the love and goodness of GOD. Many thoughtless persons under legal convictions, who have obtained comfort before they arose. But perhaps the most numerous class consists of those who fall under distressing views of their guilt, who arise with the same fearful apprehensions, and continue in that state for some days, perhaps weeks, before they receive comfort. I have conversed with many who fell under the influence of comfortable feelings, and the account they gave of their exercises while they lay entranced was very surprising. I know not how to give you a better idea of them than by saying that in many cases they appeared to surpass the dying exercises of Dr. Finley: Their minds appeared wholly swallowed up in contemplating the perfections of deity, as illustrated in the plan of salvation, and whilst they lay apparently senseless, and almost lifeless, their minds were more vigorous and their memories more retentive and accurate than they had ever been before. I have heard men of respectability assert that their manifestations of gospel truth were so clear as to require some caution when they began to speak, lest they should use language which might induce their hearers to suppose they had seen those things with their bodily eyes; but at the same time they had seen no image nor sensible representation, nor indeed any thing besides the old truths contained in the Bible.
Among those whose minds were filled with the most delightful communications of divine love, I but seldom observed any thing extatic. Their expressions were just and rational, they conversed with calmness and composure and on their first recovering the use of speech, they appeared like persons recovering from a violent disease which had left them on the borders of the grave. I have sometimes been present when persons who fell under the influence of convictions obtained belief before they arose, in these cases it was impossible not to observe how strongly the change in their minds was depicted in their countenances, instead of a face of horror and despair, they assumed one open, luminous, serene and expressive of all the comfortable feelings of religion. As to those who fall down under legal convictions and continue in that state they are not different from those who receive convictions in other revivals, excepting that their distress is more severe. Indeed extraordinary power is the leading characteristic of this revival, both saints and sinners have more striking discoveries of the realities of another world than I have ever known on any other occasion.
I trust I have said enough on this subject to enable you to judge how far the charge of enthusiasm is applicable to it: Lord Lyttleton in his letter on the conversion of St. Paul observes (I think justly) that enthusiasm is a vain self-righteous spirit, swelled with self-sufficiency and disposed to glory in its religious attainments. If this be a good definition there has been perhaps as little enthusiasm in the Kentucky revival as in any other, never have I seen more genuine marks of that humility which disclaims the merit of its own duties, and looks to the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of acceptance with God. I was indeed highly pleased to find that Christ was all and all in their religion, as well as in the religion of the gospel. Christians in their highest attainments seemed most sensible of their entire dependence on divine grace, and it was truly affecting to hear with what agonizing anxiety awakened sinners enquired for Christ, as the only physician who could give them any help. Those who call these things enthusiasm ought to tell us what they understand by the Spirit of Christianity. In fact, sir, this revival operates as our Saviour promised the Holy Spirit should when sent into the world, it convinces of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement, a strong confirmation to my mind, both that the promise is divine, and that this is a remarkable fulfilment of it. It would be of little avail to object to all this, that probably the professions of many were counterfeited, such an objection would rather establish what it meant to destroy, for where there is no reality there can be no counterfeit, and besides when the general tenor of a work is such as to dispose the more insincere professors to counterfeit what is right, the work itself must be genuine; but as an eye-witness in the case, I may be permitted to declare that the professions of those under religious convictions were generally marked with such a degree of engagedness and feeling as wilful hypocrisy could hardly assume -- the language of the heart when deeply impressed is very distinguishable from the language of affectation. Upon the whole, sir, I think the revival in Kentucky among the most extraordinary that have ever visited the church of Christ, and all things considered, peculiarly adapted to the circumstances of that country. Infidelity was triumphant and religion at the point of expiring. Something of an extraordinary nature seemed necessary to arrest the attention of a giddy people, who were ready to conclude that Christianity was a fable, and futurity a dream. This revival has done it; it has confounded infidelity, awed vice into silence, and brought numbers beyond calculation, under serious impressions. Whilst the Blessed Saviour was calling home his people, and building up his church in this remarkable way, opposition could not be silent. At this I hinted above; but it is proper to observe, that the clamorous opposition which assailed the work at its commencement has been in a great measure borne down before it. A large proportion of those who have fallen, were at first opposers, and their example has taught others to be cautious, if it has not taught them to be wise. I have written on this subject, to a greater length than I first intended, but if this account should give you any satisfaction, and be of any benefit to the common cause, I shall be fully gratified. Yours with the highest esteem, G. BAXTER. (http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/texts/accounts/letter12.html)
Martha was a name which became especially popular with the people involved in the Awakening. They associated it with the Martha, sister of Lazarus, who saw her brother brought from death to life, coming forth from the darkness of the tomb into light. They associated this with the awakening, saying that as she saw it in the natural, so they were seeing it in the spiritual realm, as tens of thousands were being brought forth, by the power of God, from the realm of spiritual darkness and death into the Kingdom of Light!
Not only did people profess to be changed, in most cases the outward evidence of their lives showed that change. One middle aged man had moved to the frontier to avoid his wife's family and kin. She came from a good family, and had married, against the wishes and advice of all her family, an older man who had a reputation for drunkenness. After they moved to the frontier, where her family could not help her, the husband began to drink constantly, often cursing and hitting his poor wife. She was so ashamed of this that she attempted to hide her situation from their few and scattered neighbors.
Visiting a nearby camp meeting, on the expectation that he would find someone there with liquor, her husband, tho he avoided the services, was visited by God while pilfering in someone's wagon. When he arrived home, he was groaning so loudly that his wife thought he must be suffering from a severe hangover, and hurried to him with a jug of whiskey. Pushing it aside, he told her that he would never touch the stuff again. For days he seemed in an agony, and their few neighbors came to aid her, thinking he was drunk or insane, for he wandered the woods groaning and weeping, sometimes crying out loudly like the Gaderene demoniac. After three or four days of this, silence reigned in the woods.
Cautiously approaching the place at which she had last seen her husband, the wife inquired if he was there, and was he still alive? "I have wept, sobbed, cried, and groaned in agony of mind for days," he replied. "I knew I was lost and undone, bound for hell with no way to save myself from that horrible fate. Finally, just a short while ago, I cried out to God, "God, why did you show me that I am bound for hell, and also show me that I cannot prevent that?" Do you know, I heard a voice in my spirit that must have been God. He said, "Saving you is my business, you just have to ask."
Some months later, a man returning to the East carried this word to the wife's brothers and sisters there. "I married against the advice of all of you. I left the church because I was so ashamed of my husband and the awful marriage I had made. I turned away from the God our parents and all of you had told me of. I blamed God for my mistake of judgement. I turned away from Him, but He did not turn away from me. If mother is still alive, tell her that God can hear the prayers prayed in North Carolina and Virginia, and answer them in Tennessee!"
As news of this great revival spread, some people rejoiced, but others sought to use it as a vehicle to promote themselves and their own agenda. At first the power of the revival was such that nothing and no one could stand before it. People who came to mock, to scoff, to merely observe, or to use this move of God as a platform for themselves, found that they could not. The power of God at these meetings was so great that those who stood up to spread their own teachings or to promote themselves, or to scoff and mock, many times found that they were rendered unable to speak, or fell to the ground like Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road.
The Great Revival was also the first large scale revival, since Pentecost, where speaking in other tongues was not uncommon. Sturgeon Creek, one site where a campmeeting was regularly held, was later referred to as "Sturgeon Creek, where all that speaking in tongues went on."
By 1805 "The Great Revival" was dead. Many, including James McGready, blamed its ending on the many preachers and so-called teachers of the bible, who had finally been able to establish followings for themselves and their doctrines among those who had been partaking of the awakening. At first, while different people in the awakening had had different views on some subjects, they had ignored those differences to partake and concentrate on what God was doing. The Great Revival had been of note for many reasons, one of the major ones being the spiritual unity extant among the Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and those from no denomination, who had enjoyed this outpouring of the Spirit of God. That unity was now dead; killed, McGready said, by those who stressed doctrine over what God was doing, and who used the Awakening to promote themselves and their own particular beliefs. Several new denominations were birthed from this, but it is not a matter for rejoicing. As James McGready said in one of his sermons, "Contention is one of the most subtle and effective engines of hell." (The Posthumous Works of James McGready, Vol. II, p.284).
Even most of those men of God who had been leaders in promoting the Awakening, fell into the trap of denominationalism, sectarian teaching, and partisan attitudes. James McGready was one of the few former leaders in the Awakening who did not fall into this trap. He continued to teach and proclaim that all that was needed was that Believers intercede with God in prayer, and that God would renew the Awakening. He did not live for many more years, but proclaimed this to the last.
Speaking early in The Great Revival, in 1798, he had said: "God, the God with whom we deal, desires unity, but it will be His unity, which He will bring. We cannot do His work for Him, for we are not Him. We are not God. We can only do the work He has given us to do, which is to seek His holy face, that He will, in His mercy and in His kindness, according to His revealed will for us and for all mankind, send His Spirit in a mighty outpouring of revival, of spiritual renewal and awakening, on this parched and benighted land. Oh, let us be but more hungry after Him, yet more thirsty for His mercies, and as we continually cry before Him, He, the God of all flesh, will have pity on us, and will send the rain of His Spirit for which we ask. Let us come to Him with large desires, with great demands, for He is a great God who will give us more than even we can cry out for, even more that we can see to seek or understand. And do you say, 'How long shall we cry out for more?' Until the Heavens open and He pour down torrents of His living water upon us. Until the land runs with righteousness like as that land of old, the earthly Promised Land, did run with milk and honey. . . . and do you say, 'What if the time is long until the promise is given?' Then I say to you who hear me, and to all, 'God is not slack, according to His promise,' but . . . tho we slumber in our graves without the fullness of that which we sought, then let our children know that we died in faith, believing, and that tho His power fall not on us perhaps, tho it surely, I promise you, will: then on our children or our grandchildren let it fall. . . . We have much of (spiritual) blessing but I say unto you who hear, 'let us have more!'
"And if, God forbid it, this which we now see should not increase, but should seem to diminish, then be not afrighted, but only pray the harder, and expect greater things. Bring your children here, and here (in this area) let them raise their families. Summon your kinsmen from afar. Tell them what God will do! And if we go to our graves without receiving the fullness of His promise, the promised reward which we seek, know that it shall surely come, even as it did at Pentecost in days of old. That which we have sought may wane, but even as the fertile ground must receive the early and the latter rain, so God will again rain down righteousness on our children, if only we do not reject this blessing as it comes. And if, in future times, people ask you, 'Why tarry you here?' (In the Red River settlements.) Tell them, "We wait for the promise which we have from our Father, the rain which shall surely come from on high . . . for we asked for it here, not elsewhere, so here we abide, awaiting the promise of His coming (in revival). And if the days come, when we slumber in our graves, awaiting that further promise of the Resurrection Day, when the dead in Christ shall rise . . . then let our children and their children say, "They did not die in vain, for their lives were not spent in vain and foolish pursuits . . . . but in pursuit of God . . . "
Once the revival, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, ceased, McGready himself found that he no longer preached with the annointing that he had once had, nor did he or others feel the manifest presence of God as they had. After preaching at a Cumberland Presbyterian campmeeting in 1816 with unusual annointing, James McGready, leaving the preaching platform to minister to those under conviction, lifted his eyes and exclaimed to those around him that he thanked God that after many years he had just felt again the manifest presence of the Lord to the degree that he had felt Him in the year 1800. James McGready died the following year.
McGready continued, till his death, to urge all who would listen to pray for awakening again. He promised them, he said, that the work had been made easier, because where people had received an outpouring of God's Spirit in power, it would make it easier to get another outpouring. He urged people to not move away, not to give up, but to pray continually for another such move.
One man who came to God during the Great Revival, a member of one of the congregations in the Red River area, and who later became a preacher, preached his last sermon on revival. In the words of one who heard him, "He led the congregation in a hymn beginning:
'O Lord, revive thy work In Zion's gloomy hour.'
After singing came the prayer, and O, how fervent! What earnestness! What awfully solemn pleading with Jehovah for a visitation of his Spirit, a revival of his work! The prayer being ended, the text was announced: 'O Lord , revive thy work in the midst of the years; in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.' The leading points in the sermon were-- 1. The necessity of a revival. 2. The means by which a revival could be obtained. 3. An exhortation to the Church, urging the members to an immediate use of those means, and encouraging them to expect a gracious revival on that occasion." http://www.cumberland.org/hfcpc/minister/KingS.htm
Some of McGready's followers in the Red River area, continued, even after his death, to pray for that revival. Some of them said that God assured them that another great outpouring would come, and that this time it would be world wide. They also said that they were assured that it would not come in their time, but farther into the future. It would be followed, they said, by a time worse than anything America had ever experienced. Some of these people had, only a few years before, experienced an Indian war. They said that what would come would make that warfare and those times seem pale by comparison.
James McGready began to say before his death (which was in 1817), that God had assured him, too, that there would be another great outpouring. He said it would come near the end of the age.
It was declared that it would come sometime after the year 2,000, and would be followed swiftly by the worst times that America had ever seen. The horrible times that would follow would come as a judgement on the church of America, for tho many would repent and be converted in that awakening, the church as a whole would not change, and the church of that time would be in great need of repentance. Their sins would be complacency, conformity to the world system, love of money and material things, and a seeking after such things, rather than seeking after God.
The church of that day and age would say many things, but it would only be parroting what most of the world was saying. Their service would not be unto God, but unto men, and therefore would count for nothing. They would talk much of loving their fellow man, but love of God would not be practiced . The two cardinal rules for the church of that day and time would seem to be how they acted toward their fellow men, as exemplified and expected by Caesar, and how much material gain they amassed. In becoming like the world system, Christians of that day would assure themselves that they were pleasing to God, tho they would actually be far from pleasing Him.
When the revival came, most of these Christians would not change, but would only entrench themselves in the above sins, and would take and claim the revival as merely their due from God. Acting as if, and even claiming, that God had sent the revival to benefit them, they would take it as a stamp of approval on their ways, and would become more hardened than ever, refusing even to consider that they might be in sin and need of change. As many had successfully done to The Great Revival and to all other revivals, they would attempt to take this new move of God hostage to their own perverse purposes, and use it for their own glory and to further their own agenda.
The horrible judgement that would come would be merely their just due.
Tho the Great Revival died, it did not die a natural death. It was put to death by Christians who placed other things; self, denominational beliefs, often doctrine, above God. These same people have destroyed other revivals besides America's "Great Revival." It was foretold by those who prayed and interceded for the revival that is yet to come, that it would come in two mighty waves. The first wave, they said, after God had accomplished great things thru it, would be destroyed, as so many other moves of God have been, by the same sort of Christians who destroyed the revivals that preceded it. The second wave, however, which would come a few years later, would sweep all before it, and would not be destroyed. Instead of it being destroyed, as the first wave was, this second wave of the revival will sweep all before it, and will continue till the ushering in of the Kingdom of God.
The little church building where the Great Revival began could seat not more than 80 or 90 people. The congregation of Red River Meetinghouse, when James McGready pastored it, numbered less than 30 people. Tho the original building burned a few years ago, a perfect replica has been built in its place, and is open to the public. It stands surrounded by a cow pasture. The immediate area is probably about as populated today as it was when the revival began. If you should wish to visit it, it is in southern Logan County, Kentucky, on Red River, near the site of Mauldings Fort, a fort which was built by the early pioneers.
Remember, the important thing is not that a great revival began there. What is important is what James McGready told his followers long ago, that God is always ready to send revival. What God requires is prevailing prayer, and then the revival will come!
Terms We May Not Be Familiar With:
*Professor - someone who professed to be a Christian, someone who professed to be saved.
*Religion - to get or to have religion meant to be born again, to be saved, to become a Christian. In the Great Revival, and in the teaching of James McGready and other ministers who favored the revival, anyone who was saved would have a consciousness of it within them. If one did not have this inner witness of the Spirit, then they were told to assume that they were unsaved, or "unconverted," without religion.
*Witness of the Spirit - an assurance from the Holy Spirit to your inward self that something was true, and generally used to mean a witness that you were saved.
*Meetinghouse - term used in referring to a church building. "Church" is used in the bible to mean the Christians in a local area, a local group of Christians meeting together, or the entire body of Christ throughout creation. Those directly involved in the revival commonly used the term "meetinghouse" when speaking of the building where a local church or congregation met.
*Enthusiasm - controlled by emotions.
*Cumberland country - the area drained by the Cumberland River and its tributaries. Red River is a tributary of the Cumberland.
*Libertine - someone who will do whatever "turns them on."
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