Evangelical Heroes Speak
Critics complain that it is inappropriate to spend time soaking in the presence of God. "We must be about the Father's business, saving the lost." This idea would have been completely foreign to Dwight L.
"I do believe in my heart that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry.”
Moody, who said: "Some people seem to think they are losing time if they wait on God for His power, and so away they go and work without unction; they are working without any anointing, and they are working without any power... The Holy Spirit IN US is one thing, and the Holy Spirit ON US is another; and if these (first-century) Christians had gone out and went right to preaching then and there (at the time of Christ's ascension), without the power, do you think that scene would have taken place on the day of Pentecost? Don't you think that Peter would have stood up there and beat against the air, while these Jews would have gnashed their teeth and mocked him? But they tarried in Jerusalem; they waited ten days...There is no use in running before you are sent; there is no use in attempting to do God's work without God's power...a man working without the Holy Ghost upon him, is losing his time after all. So we are not going to lose anything if we tarry till we get this power" (Secret Power, pp. 44-45).
Answering the Critics
Critics have objected to the laughter saying that weeping, not laughter is appropriate for revival, since it is appropriate to weep over one's sins in coming to a place of repentance. Charles H. Spurgeon said otherwise. In his Autobiography (pp. 124-125), he writes, "I do believe in my heart that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry, and that, sometimes, to laugh is the better thing of the two. For I may weep, and be murmuring, repining and thinking all sorts of bitter thoughts against God, while at another time I may laugh the laugh of sarcasm against sin and so evince a holy earnestness in the defense of the truth."
“Don't be afraid of a little excitement and a little 'sensationalism.”
Three years ago, Rodney Howard-Browne was severely criticized for his comment that he would rather have some form of life in his meetings than no life at all. Yet, how do Howard-Browne's comments differ from those in Moody's sermon entitled, "Revivals," in which he said, "I am not as afraid of excitement as some people. The moment there comes a breath of interest some people cry, 'Sensationalism, sensationalism!' But, I tell you what, I would rather have sensation than stagnation any time… Don't be afraid of a little excitement and a little 'sensationalism.' It seems to me that almost anything is preferable to deadness… “Where there is life there will always be a commotion." (Moody's Latest Sermons, pp. 111-112).
Critics claim that John Arnott exposes people to deception by quoting Luke 11:11 to calm their fears. But Moody said, "I believe that if we ask God for a real work, He won't give us a counterfeit.”If we ask God for bread, He isn't going to give us a stone." (ibid, p. 114).
Leader in Charge: Holy Spirit
Rodney Howard-Browne has also been criticized for claiming to yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit during his meetings. This wasn't a problem for Evan Roberts during the Welsh revival. G. Campbell Morgan, in his sermon, "Lessons of the Welsh Revival" (December 25, 1904), said he attended a meeting in Wales in which there was "no human leader, no one indicating the next thing to do, no one checking the spontaneous movement...Evan Roberts is no orator, no leader. What is he?...He is the mouthpiece of the fact that there is no human guidance as to man or organization. The burden of what he says to the people is this: It is not man, do not wait for me, depend on God, obey the Spirit. But whenever moved to do so, he speaks under the guidance of the Spirit. His work is not that of appealing to men so much as that of creating an atmosphere by calling men to follow the guidance of the Spirit in whatever the Spirit shall say to them."
“A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected."
Charles Spurgeon said, "I have constantly made it my prayer that I might be guided by the Spirit even in the smallest and least important parts of the services."
Like a Hurricane
Some people say today's awakening cannot be a genuine work of God, and they point to certain problems and indications that it is tainted by the flesh. Yet every awakening of history has been a mixture of the good and the bad. Spurgeon wrote of the awakening of 1857-58: "In the United States of America there is certainly a great awakening...There may be something of spurious excitement mixed up with it, but that good, lasting good, has been accomplished, no rational man can deny."
Jonathan Edwards, in The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, wrote that critics who "wait to see a work of God without difficulties and stumbling blocks...will be like fools waiting at the river side to have the water all run by. A work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected."
In a sermon entitled "The Great Revival" (March 28, 1858, Spurgeon said that revival is like a hurricane, bringing chaos wherever it goes: "(Revival) frequently occurs in the absence of all great evangelists; it cannot be traced to any particular means. There have been no special agencies used in order to bring it about no machinery supplied, no societies established; and yet it has come, just like a heavenly hurricane, sweeping everything before it...And there are sobs and groans heard in the prayer meetings...And then the converts who are thus brought into the church if the revival continues, are very earnest ones. You never saw such a people. The outsiders call them fanatics. It is a blessed fanaticism. Others say they are nothing but enthusiasts. It is a heavenly enthusiasm...It is not orderly, you say...You may try to stop us, but we will run over you if you do not get out of the way."
What about Manifestations?
One of the greatest bones of contention in past revivals has been controversial manifestations, such as people falling under the power of God, shaking and trembling, experiencing speechlessness, drunkenness in the Spirit, or holy laughter.
“The presence of these manifestations neither proves nor disproves that God is at work.”
In a 1959 sermon on revival, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "Under the influence of this mighty power, people may literally fall to the ground under conviction of sin, or even faint, and remain in a state of unconsciousness ... there are people who seem to go into trances. They may be seated or they may be standing, and they are looking into the distance, obviously seeing some- thing, and yet they are completely unconscious, and unaware of their surroundings. They do not seem to be able to hear anything, nor to see anything that may be happening round about them." (Revival, pp. 134-136).
Jonathan Edwards repeatedly pointed out that the presence of these manifestations neither proves nor disproves that God is at work. Critics argue that Edwards was against the manifestations, but according to Edwards, the true sign as to whether a work is of God would be in the fruit of the Spirit in people's lives and character. Edwards' writings also demonstrate that the manifestations were a component of the Great Awakening. He made clear references in "The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God" to "tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength." He wrote, "Some who are the subjects of it have been in a kind of ecstasy...as though they were wrapped up in heaven, and there saw glorious sights. I have been acquainted with some such instances, and I see no need of bringing in the help of the devil into the account that we give of these things."
The Great Awakening
George Whitefield also played an important part in the Great Awakening. At first, Whitefield did not believe that the manifestations should be encouraged. On June 25, 1739, he wrote a letter to John Wesley saying, "I cannot think it right in you to give so much encouragement to those convulsions which people have been thrown into under your ministry. Was I to do so, how many would cry out every night! I think it is tempting God to require such signs. That there is something of God in it, I doubt not. But the devil, I believe, does interpose."
John Wesley had a talk with George Whitefield about these matters, and Whitefield changed his mind. On July 7, 1739, Wesley wrote of him in his Journal, "I had an opportunity to talk with him of those outward signs which had so often accompanied the inward work of God. I found his objections were chiefly grounded on gross misrepresentations of matter of fact. But the next day he had an opportunity of informing himself better. For no sooner had he begun (in the application of his sermon) to invite all sinners to believe in Christ than four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without either sense of motion; a second trembled exceedingly; the third had strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans; the fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God with strong cries and tears. From this time, I trust, we shall all suffer God to carry on His own work in the way that pleases Him."
“It was not unusual to have a large proportion of the congregation prostrate on the floor, and in some instances they lost the use of their limbs.”
From that time onward, manifestations were one of the components of Whitefield's ministry. On August 3, 1740, he wrote in his journal, "Before I had prayed long, Br. B. dropped down, as though shot with a gun. Afterwards he got up, and sat attentively to hear the sermon. The influence spread." The following day, Whitefield wrote, "I asked, 'what caused him to fall down yesterday?' He answered, 'The power of God's Word.'"
Whitefield wrote that during the same year in New York, on Sunday, November 2, "...the Spirit of the Lord gave me freedom, and at length came down like a mighty rushing wind, and carried all before it. Immediately, the whole congregation was alarmed. Crying, weeping, and wailing were to be heard in every corner; men's hearts failing them for fear, and many were to be seen falling into the arms of their friends."
Similar things happened two days later in Staten Island, and then the following week in Philadelphia. Whitefield also said that the next week after that, "God's presence so filled my soul that I could hardly stand under it. I prayed and exhorted and prayed again, and soon every person in the room seemed to be under great impressions, sighing and weeping. At last, I was quite overpowered." Whitefield couldn't move, and a friend had to help him go to bed that night!
There is an interesting quotation in The Biography of Barton W. Stone (1847) with respect to the manifestations of the Great Awakening and its aftermath:
"Mr. Benedict, in his Abridgment of the History of the Baptists, on page 345 speaking of the great revival that began among them, on James River, in 1785, says, "During the progress of this revival, scenes were exhibited somewhat extraordinary. It was not unusual to have a large proportion of the congregation prostrate on the floor, and in some instances they lost the use of their limbs...Screams, groans, shouts, hosannas, notes of grief and joy, all at the same time, were not infrequently heard throughout their vast assemblies...Among the old fashioned.
“What a blessed thing is it for a man to look forward, and see an endless eternity of happiness before him.”
Calvinistic Baptists of the Old Dominion these strange bodily agitations obtained; and many of the preachers 'fanned them as fire from heaven,' and the excitement and confusion that pervaded their vast assemblies well nigh fills Mr. J.L. Waller's measure of a 'New Light Stir' in Kentucky."
According to Barton Stone (pp. 360- 361), not only did George Whitefield encourage such things, but Charles Hodge wrote about them in his History of the Presbyterian Church, pages 85 and 86. Stone also wrote that "the manner in which Whitefield describes the scenes at Nottingham and Fagg's Manor, and others of a similar character, shows he did not disapprove of these agitations. He says he never saw a more glorious sight, than when the people were fainting all around him, and crying out in such a manner as to drown his own voice."
The New Wine of the Spirit
In his Journals and sermons, George Whitefield alluded frequently to the new wine of the Spirit. Concerning meetings in New Hampshire in March of 1745 he wrote, "Every time the Lord was with us, but he seemed to keep the good wine till the last, for on Saturday, many of God's people were filled exceedingly." He is specifically referring to God-given joy, and he preached about it at considerable length in his sermon, "The Kingdom of God":
"I have often thought that if the apostle Paul were to come and preach now, he would be reckoned one of the greatest enthusiasts on earth. He talked of the Holy Ghost, of feeling the Holy Ghost; and so we must all feel it, all experience it, all receive it, or we can never see a holy God with comfort...There are a great many, I believe, who think religion is a poor melancholy thing, and they are afraid to be Christians. But, my dear friends, there is no true joy till you can joy in God and Christ...We are told that 'Zaccheus received Christ joyfully,' that 'the eunuch went on his way rejoicing,' and that 'the jailer rejoiced in God with his entire house.'
O, my friends, what joy have they that know their sins are forgiven them! What a blessed thing is it for a man to look forward, and see an endless eternity of happiness before him, knowing that everything shall work together for his good! It is joy unspeakable and full of glory."