THOUGHTS ON REVIVAL AND GREAT AWAKENINGS
The following are quotations on the meaning of Revival from Iain H Murray, Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858
There are eras, said (Samuel) Davies, when only a large communication or outpouring of the Spirit can produce a public general reformation. Thus, preaching on “The Happy Effect of the Pouring Out of the Spirit” from Isaiah 32:13-19, he argued that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the great and only remedy for a ruined country the only effectual preventative of national calamities and desolation and the only sure cause of a lasting and well-established peace. (p 21)
In speaking of the meaning of revival it is also essential to note that what Davies and his brethren believed about revival was not something separate from, or additional to, their main beliefs; it was rather a necessary consequence. Such is a man’s state in sin that he cannot be saved without the immediate results from it, the gifts of God. Therefore, wherever conversions are multiplied, the cause is to be found not in men, nor in favorable conditions, but in the abundance of influences of the Spirit of God that alone make the testimony of the Church effective. No other explanation of revival is in harmony with the truths that are the essence of the Christian scheme the utter depravity of man, the sovereignly-free grace of Jehovah, the divinity of Christ, the atonement in his blood, regeneration, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit.
This school of preachers held that the Holy Spirit has appointed means to be used for the advancement of the gospel, pre-eminently the teaching of the Word of God accompanied by earnest prayer. Yet no human endeavors can ensure or guarantee results. There is a sovereignty in all God’s actions. He has never promised to bless in proportion to the activity of his people. Revivals are not brought about by the fulfillment of conditions any more than the conversion of a single individual is secured by any series of human actions. The special seasons of mercy are determined in heaven. Thus for a modern biographer of Davies to say that Blair “began a revival of religion in 1740” is to assert the opposite of what they believed. For the same reason it would have been obnoxious to these preachers to hear themselves described as revivalists . . .(p 22)
. . . It can be further noted that what happens in revivals is not to be seen as something miraculously different from the regular experience of the church. The difference lies in degree, not in kind. In an outpouring of the Spirit spiritual influence is more widespread, convictions are deeper, and feelings more intense, but all this is only a heightening of normal Christianity. True revivals are extraordinary, yet what is experienced at such times is not different in essence from the spiritual experience that belongs to Christians at other times. It is the larger earnest of the same Spirit who abides with all who believe.
Thus Davies and his brethren repudiated the idea that revivals restore miraculous gifts to the churches. They regarded revivals as more wonderful than that: The Spirit magnifies Christ, and the more abundantly his influence is possessed by the believers the more they will live for his praise. When we meet with lives such as those of Davies, Whitefield (he had such a sense of the incomparable excellence of the person of Christ), Aaron Burr, Sr (a perpetual holocaust [a sacrifice consumed by fire] of adoration and praise, and many others in the revival period, we are tempted to suppose that theirs was a different Christianity. It was not so but rather, as Thomas Murphy wrote, it was the baptism of the Holy Ghost which caused the infant Church [in America] to become animated by the most fervent piety. The same writer said of these preachers: they believed in refreshings from on high, felt some of them in their own souls, and were ready for still more . . . these bright and cultured souls were stirred to their very depths, and blessings untold were involved therein. They awoke to a life not new in kind, but new in degree, and in all truth and soberness a new prospect opened before our Church and country.
If revival is a larger giving to the church of grace already possessed a heightening of the normal then it follows that the evidences by which revivals are to be judged are the same as those which form the permanent evidences of real Christianity. Foremost in the New Testament list is the evidence of love to God and men. At all times to all true believers Christ is precious. Preaching on those words, Davies said:
Because he loves him he longs for the full enjoyment of him . . . Because Christ is precious to him, his interests are so too, and he longs to see his kingdom flourish, and all men fired with his love. Because he loves him, he loves his ordinances; loves to hear, because it is the word of Jesus; loves to pray, because it is maintaining intercourse with Jesus; loves to sit at his table, because it is a memorial of Jesus; and loves his people because they love Jesus.
For revivals to be judged to be true we are to look for no greater proof than the increase of this same grace. Love is not uniform in its strength but it knows many degrees. Although it is an active principle in all Christians, love can also blaze and burn. Men filled with the Spirit are filled with love (Eph. 3:16-19) and the sacred fire of love (to use Davies’ words) will affect all that they do. They cannot be to others than fervent in spirit as well as dissatisfied with their own coldness. (p 23-24)