The Fourth Great Awakening of 1857 Onwards
This Great Awakening (often called the 3rd) was the greatest to date in its extent, effects and lasting impact. It began slowly in Canada, when 21 were saved, and grew steadily until between 25 and forty were converted each day. Slowly reports of small awakenings began to emerge from various states in America. Then, in September 1857 Jeremiah Lanphier, a businessman and convert of Finney’s (a decade before), began a noon day prayer meeting on Wednesdays in a New York church. The small but growing numbers decided to meet daily in early October. Within six months over 10,000 business men were meeting in similar meetings across America; confessing sins, being converted and praying for revival. It was a lay-led movement that harvested a million souls in two years. In 1858, from February to June, around 50,000 people a week were added to the church – in a nation whose population was only 30,000,000.
Across the Atlantic another million were won to Christ by 1865. This was in Britain’s population of 27,000,000. Ulster saw 100,000 converted, Scotland 30,000, Wales 100,000 and England 500,000.
Evangelistic, missionary and philanthropic enterprises blossomed on every hand. Moody and Sankey enjoyed their greatest success. William and Catherine Booth, converted under the ministry of James Caughey, launched the Salvation Army and attracted great crowds to Christ. Walter and Phoebe Palmer, the American evangelists, saw a remarkable work of the Spirit attend their ministry. Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached to capacity crowds each week, filling the largest halls in London. Hudson Taylor began the China Inland Mission. Gawin Kirkham started the Open Air Mission. Lord Shaftsbury championed for the cause of the young, the poor and the oppressed. Barnardo founded his famous orphanages. David Livingstone and Mary Slessor propagated missionary work in Africa. Such was the impact of this fourth great awakening.
The revival also swept around the world. Rapid growth was reported in continental Europe, western Russia, Australia, The South Seas, South Africa and India.
The Fifth Great Awakening 1880 Onwards
It would be vary easy to review this period, 1880 to 1903, as a period of unusual evangelistic effort and success, as most its documentation surrounds the ministry of Dwight L. Moody, together with a host of other ministries that were also born out of the 1857 revival. Orr regards this period also as a ‘resurgence.’ Certainly the fourth great awakening had produced some highly motivated and anointed ministries, but looking at the world situation, something more than evangelistic success was afoot. It was quite distinct in its character and effects.
It initially centred around the ministry of D L Moody, whose ministry may be described as “highly successful crusade evangelism interspersed with periodic revivalism”. Moody began his ministry in Chicago and entered full-time Christian work in 1860, concentrating on his Sunday school and YMCA work. He was God’s chosen vessel to take the sparks of the 1857-60 revival to ignite a fresh passion for God and for souls around the world. Moody traveled, with his singing evangelist companion, Ira Sankey, to England a number of times. Spurgeon spoke of the visit of 1873-1875 as “a gracious visitation” and a “very notable ingathering of converts”, especially at Newcastle and Edinburgh. Andrew Bonar, too, refers, in his diary to “the tide of real revival in Edinburgh” comparing it with his own experience of revival 35 years earlier. Similar results followed Moody and Sankey as they traversed England, Ireland and Scotland, filling the largest halls in the land.
Moody returned to England in 1881-83 and had an astounding affect on a new breed of evangelists in the U.S., Britain and across the world. His mission in Cambridge, in 1882, marked the beginning of a worldwide interdenominational student missionary movement. Though the YMCA in the States and Christian Unions in the U.K. had their inception during the former revival (1857), Moody’s influence transformed these works into powerful missionary movements. The ‘Cambridge Seven’, including C. T. Studd, were products of Moody’s visit and they went to on evangelise China in 1885. By 1912 Studd founded W.E.C., a missionary movement which had great success in parts of Africa. Wilfred Grenfell, the renowned missionary to Labrador was converted at a tent mission led by Moody in 1885.
Similar results occurred in the US. Thousands of young men volunteered for missionary work and the Anglo-American impetus spread around the world, producing the world’s Student Christian Federation, which, in turn, provided a large proportion of the outstanding Christian leaders of the early 20th Century.
Moody founded the Moody Bible Institute in 1883, with an emphasis on missions. The Christian and Missionary Alliance was formed during this time by A. B. Sampson and the Christian Endeavour Movement was born out of a revival in Portland, Maine, in 1880-1881.
Other evangelists, spurred on by Moody, threw themselves into the harvest. Sam Jones, J. Wilber Chapman and Billy Sunday had extraordinary success in North America. Andrew Murray exercised a powerful ministry in South Africa, as did John McNeil in Australia.
Revival hit Japan in the early 1880’s, increasing the adult membership from 4,000 to 30,000 in five years. The China Inland Mission experienced a large influx of new missionaries. New missions were planted in many unevangelised fields and revivals were reported in India, Africa, South Africa, Madagascar, Australia, Central and South America.
We may well describe this resurgence “a missionary revival” which took the flame of the 1859 revival even further around the world, ensuring a strong church base in all nations – just in time for the great 20th Century awakening.
The Sixth Great Awakening
The early years of the 20th century witnessed a number of revivals around the world.
It is impossible to understand these revivals apart from their roots in the Holiness Movement which had developed in the late 19th century. Of course, the issue of ‘holiness’ was not new. John Wesley advocated ‘entire sanctification’ and ‘Christian perfectionism’ in his ‘Plain Account of Christian Perfection.’ The idea that ‘sanctification’ could be instantaneously experienced subsequent to conversion was a Wesleyan norm. Testimonies to ‘experiences of sanctification,’ abounded during the 19th century. For example, James Caughey’s book entitled ‘Methodism in Earnest’ is subtitled ‘…being the history of a great revival in Great Britain; in which 20,000 souls professed faith in Christ, and ten thousand professed sanctification, in about six years, in association with the labours of Rev. James Caughey….’
Phoebe Palmer regularly held meetings for the promotion of holiness and was the first to use the phrase ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ to describe the experience of ‘entire sanctification.’ Charles Finney also embraced the Wesleyan doctrine of sanctification and his Oberlin presidency successor, Asa Mahan, begin to teach the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a baptism of holiness.
The Holiness Movement was nurtured and matured by a variety of ministries so that, by the turn of the century, America (especially) was awash with hundreds of holiness groups. During 1893 and 1900, twenty-three new denominations arose out of this movement. A passion for more power, more holiness, more evangelistic success and a greater outpouring of the Spirit took a hold of the church.
This was the background of the Evangelical and Pentecostal revival movements of the early 20th century.
In 1900 a revival broke out among South African Boer soldiers, who had been captured by the British and transported to various British colonies. At the conclusion of the war, in 1902, they returned to South Africa and the revival returned with them. Gypsy Smith reaped a great harvest there in 1904.
In Japan, during 1900, the church doubled in size as revival swept through many ailing churches.
In 1902, Torrey and Alexander conducted meetings in Melbourne, Australia, resulting in over 8,000 converts. This news spread like wild fire, igniting a passion for prayer and a fresh expectation for God to work in similar ways everywhere.
In 1904, Torrey and Alexandra were in Cardiff, Wales and, in the light of a minimal response to the Gospel, they called for a day of prayer and fasting. Suddenly things changed dramatically and thousands were converted during the next 12 months.
On the day of prayer and fasting (according to Torrey) Evan Roberts received an anointing of the Holy Spirit with great power, in a meeting conducted by Seth Joshua. Here the Welsh Revival began. It was Sept 22nd 1904.
However, the roots of the revival went back further. Young Evan Roberts had been praying for revival and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for 11 years. Through a vision he received, Roberts believed that God was going to win 100,000 souls. In response to a further vision, he returned home in Loughor from Newcastle Emlyn where he had been enrolled in a Bible College.
During his first few meetings the heavens opened. God’s presence seemed to fill the air. Many were prostrated with conviction, others cried for mercy and many were so filled with the Spirit they pleaded with the Lord to stay His hand.
Soon the revival spread to other places in South Wales. Teams of young people assisted preachers like Roberts, Sydney Evans, Seth Joshua, Joseph Jenkins and R. B. Jones. The revival then took hold in North Wales. Within six months 100,000 had come to Christ!
The Welsh Revival was soon the main topic of conversation throughout the Christian world. Wherever the news went it seemed to cause passionate prayer and began to ignite revival fires everywhere. Christians across Great Britain turned to prayer and church membership increased throughout the land.
In Scandinavia a current revival was fanned into a mighty blaze, as a result of the Welsh Revival. Germany was similarly affected as the flame spread across Europe. Austria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, the Balkans and Russia experienced awakenings.
The United States felt the after-shock of the Welsh Revival in almost every place. Prayer, conviction and conversion spontaneously occurred, resulting in unusual church growth.
In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born in Azusa Street, in Los Angeles, after a succession of local revivals through 1905. News of the Welsh Revival encouraged more prayer and suddenly the Holy Spirit descended. Daily meetings were held for the next three years. Visitors flocked there to catch the power of the Spirit and they were not disappointed. No one could have imagined that this was the beginning of the greatest and most effective missionary movement that the world had ever seen. It marked the birth of what was once called ‘the third force in Christendom.’ Some would argue that, 100 years later, it has grown into the largest and most powerful force.
Almost no country in the world was excluded from the effects of this incredible revival. Almost every nation, on each continent, received new power from heaven, a new passion for prayer and for the lost. Hundreds of thousands came to the Lord.
One cannot help notice two things in this ‘potted’ history of revivals.
1. There is no doubt that God has used these powerful revivals as the major means of restoring the fortunes of a declining church and advancing the cause of the gospel in the world. This is how God maintains a vital church and this is how God regularly extends His kingdom, numerically and geographically.
2. There is a marked similarity to the experience of Israel during the period of the Judges in the Old Testament. The same cycle of sin and apathy, decline and defeat, desperate prayer for God’s help and, finally, His powerful intervention, characterizes every revival. Perhaps there is a clue here regarding where today’s church should be concentrating her efforts.
By Tony Cauchi, May 2006