The Legacy and Lessons of the Revival

People often ask whether revivals do any good, and whether the fruit is lasting. Without question, we can answer these two points in the affirmative. Did conversions last? The following accounts give support to the view, expressed by Edwin Orr, that “the quality of the conversions was excellent and abiding”.[xix] Hitcham, Suffolk Dear Sir,—In reply to the question at the commencement of the ‘Revival’, No. 160, “How do the converts stand?” I have pleasure in forwarding extracts from a letter received a few days since from the parish of Hitcham, Suffolk, in which I worked for three years as curate. During the winter of 1860-61, a great awakening took place there, in answer to much prayer for an outpouring of the Spirit, and many (among whom were some notoriously bad characters) came out and boldly testified of Christ and his precious salvation. A year having now elapsed since my removal to another sphere of labour (owing to the death of my rector), being anxious to ascertain a correct and unbiased account of the dear converts’ progress, I employed a judicious Christian friend, well known to all the people, to visit each of them in person, and both by private conversation and by the report of others, closely to investigate their real progress; after which my friend writes thus: “I think I have at last seen most, if not all, that you mentioned, and spoken to them about the one thing, and I trust they, as well as myself, have been strengthened and refreshed. I have spent much of my time with them; there was so much to say that I felt I could not leave them, and they were all so thankful to have someone call and speak to them; but I have not felt my time wasted, for it has been a time of great refreshing to my own soul. I cannot express the joy I have felt in seeing them; excepting the few who have gone back: they are all so full of Jesus, and seem to have grown in grace, so that one cannot help being struck with it; and I believe that the enemies of the work have been put to silence by the walk of the dear Christians, for no one has said a word to me against the work this time, because they have seen such different results from those they expected.…I need not say how pleased I am to be able to send you so good an account of all. I have felt the weakness of my faith, for I did not expect to find the Christians so strong in faith, and so consistent as they are.” A letter received this morning gives equally cheering accounts of the dear converts, and we can but be filled with thankfulness at so bright a testimony of the stability of the work.[xx] Later, we read of converts from the Revival still going strong around 8 years later in a report from Manchester: “The work of the Lord is still prospering in Manchester, and those converted [some] years ago in the glorious awakening are still rejoicing in Jesus. I accompanied our brethren E. Usher and H. Moorhouse to a meeting where our brother Moorhouse spoke to us words of living power…In the afternoon we had a blessed meeting in a spacious building ‘The Tabernacle’, opened for non-sectarian services. There I saw happy workers distributing tracts etc., who were snatched as ‘brands from the burning’.”[xxi] Some of the other reports in Chapters 2-6 also testify as to the lasting change in the new believers. Nevertheless, it has to be conceded that there were large numbers of converts of the poorest classes who would have found some difficulty in joining the mainstream churches (e.g. because they only had rags to wear). William Carter founded his own “Church of Theatre Converts” in London, and John Ashworth started his “Chapel for the Destitute” in 1858 at Rochdale, but there was little other provision for these people at the time. Sadly, it seems likely that a proportion of them would have returned to their old lives. In later years, however, perhaps some of these may have found a home in William Booth’s Salvation Army (created 1865).

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