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A Revival is the apparent restoration of a living creature from a dead state to a living state. In a New Testament story, Lazarus was revived by divine intervention. In religious terms, Revival is the substitution of religious fervor in life and worship, for an intellectualized, pragmatic approach to everyday conduct (often stigmatized by revivalists as 'pride').
Many Christian revivals drew inspiration from the missionary work of early monks, from the Protestant Reformation (and Catholic Reformation) and from the uncompromising stance of the Covenanters in 17th century Scotland and Ulster, that came to Virginia and Pennsylvania with Presbyterians and other Non-conformists. Its character formed part of the mental framework that led to the American War of Independence and the Civil War.
The 18th century Age of Enlightenment had a chilling effect on spiritual movements, but this was countered by the Methodist revival of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield in Britain and the Great Awakening in America prior to the Revolution. A new fervor spread within the Anglican Church at the end of the century, when the Evangelical party of John Newton, William Wilberforce and his Clapham sect were inspired to combat social ills at home and slavery abroad, and founded Bible and missionary societies.
Early in the 19th century, the Scottish geologist Thomas Chalmers had an important influence on the evangelical revival movement. Chalmers began life as a moderate in the Church of Scotland and an opponent of evangelicalism. During the winter of 1803–04, he presented a series of lectures that outlined a reconciliation of the apparent incompatibility between the Genesis account of creation and the findings of the developing science of geology. However by 1810 he had become an evangelical and would eventually lead the Disruption of 1843 that resulted in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.
Rev. Charles Finney, 1792-1875 was a key leader of the evangelical revival movement in America. From 1821 onwards he conducted revival meetings across many north-eastern states and won many converts. For him, a revival was not a miracle but a change of mindset that was ultimately a matter for the individual's free will. His revival meetings created anxiety in a penitant's mind that they could only save their souls by unrestricted submission to the will of God, as illustrated by his quotations from the Bible. Finney also conducted revival meetings in England, first in 1849 and later to England and Scotland in 1858-59.
The established churches too, were influenced by the evangelical revival. In 1833, a goup of Anglican clergymen led by John Henry Newman and John Keble began the Oxford Movement. However its objective was to renew the Church of England by reviving certain Roman Catholic doctrines and rituals, thus distancing themselves as far as possible from evangelical enthusiasm. In Germany on he other hand, a new wave of evangelicalism, the Erweckung, spread across the land, which cross fertilized with British movements, while a parallel development occurred in France and Holland, the Reveil.
Revival movements continue down to the present day. Rev. Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian church was established in 1951. He is a revivalist and preaches evangelistically across Ireland. More recently, in 1977 the Alpha Course movement was started by the Anglican clergyman Charles Marnham . It is a 10 week practical introduction to the Christian faith, designed primarily for non-churchgoers and those who have recently become Christians. The latest manifestation of revivalism, the Toronto Blessing, started at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church on January 20, 1994. It is characterized by the phenomenon of "holy laughter,"and members of the congregation are sometimes moved to to cry, leap, dance, roar and even bark as the result of what the church calls "a move of the Holy Spirit"
Background to the 1857-1860 Revival in America, Ireland and Great Britain.
Dean William Buckland published Reliquae Diluvianae in 1823, describing accumulations of bones found in caves, which were interpreted as relics of the Noachian Deluge. This started a great debate that set scientists of a religious disposition at loggerheads with pragmatic scientists who were concerned only with evidence that was visible to their own eyes. In the former category Buckland was followed by Hugh Miller (Foot-Prints of the Creator (1849) and "Testimony of the Rocks" (1857)) and Edward Hitchcock The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences which attempted to unify and reconcile geology and religion. A rising tide of scientific opinion sided with the pragmatists, culminating with the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species". Unfortunately Hugh Miller was already dead. Unable to reconcile his religious beliefs with the mounting flood of geological evidence that contradicted the creation stories in the Judeo-Christian Bible, he committed suicide in 1856.
The uninformed multitude naturally aligned themselves with the creationists, and their bewildering dilemma reached crisis point in 1857. On 21st September that year Jeremiah Lanphier began a series of prayer meetings in New York, seeking divine guidance. By the beginning of 1858 his congregation was crowded and prayer became the order of the day. In March, a noon prayer meeting commenced in a large theatre. It was packed out, the great majority being businessmen. The newspapers began to sit up and take notice and to report on the happenings. It became front-page news that over 6,000 were attending various prayer meetings in New York, and 6,000 in Pittsburgh. Daily prayer meetings were held in Washington DC at 5 different times to accommodate the crowds. Other cities followed the pattern. Soon, a common mid-day sign on business premises read, "We will re-open at the close of the prayer meeting". By May, 50,000 of New York's 800,000 people were new converts. Finney wrote of this revival, "This winter of 1857-58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed. It swept across the land with such power that at the time it was estimated that not less than 50,000 conversions occurred weekly."
Coincidentally, the very month that Jeremiah Lanphier began his prayer meeting in New York, 4 young Irishmen began a weekly prayer meeting in a village near Ballymena. This meeting is generally regarded as the origin of the 1859 revival that swept through most of the towns and villages in the north of Ireland and in due course brought 100,000 converts into the churches. So great was the interest in the American movement that in 1858 the Presbyterian General Assembly meeting in Londonderry appointed two of their ministers, Dr. William Gibson and Rev. William McClure to visit North America. Upon their return the two deputies had many public opportunities to bear testimony to what they had witnessed of the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit across the Atlantic, and to fan the flames in their homeland yet further. Thus in Ulster the revival was frequently characterized by manifestations of mass hysteria and individual catalepsy. Such was the strength of emotion generated by the preachers' oratory that many made spontaneous confessions seeking to be relieved of their burdens of sin. Others suffered complete nervous breakdown.
The movement spread to Wales, Scotland and England , with estimates that a million people were converted in the United Kingdom. Missionaries carried the movement abroad and the consequences of the revival are still being felt right down to the present day. They contribute significantly to various recognizable national characteristics.
Following the Protestant Reformation, from about 1700 to 1850, many non-conformist churches produced lively popular hymns that expressed one's personal relationship with God, like Cecil Frances Alexander's "All things bright and beautiful" that contains the lines:
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
Later hymns were written in a movement called "revivalist" (1850 - 1920). Songs such as "Washed in the blood of the Lamb" came from Moody and Sankey's Hymn Book. "The Land where you Never Grow Old" dates from 1914 and "Gospel songs" have been recorded by the Carter Family, Johnny Cash and Blue Murder. The churches which promoted these songs were generally followers of literal interpretations of the bible, temperance-inclined and often Baptist. In the UK, "Onward Christian Soldiers" is perhaps the best known revivalist hymn.
- For a fuller discussion of Christian revival, see History of Christianity#20th Century and Beyond.
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