IS IN DANGER!" declared the late Leonard Ravenhill, yet
"America is Too Young to Die." "This is the
most critical time in American history," he warned. A
growing chorus of pastors and para-church leaders now agree.
The message echoing from coast to coast is "Revival or
Perish!" What must we do? How might America's soul be
The First Great
In the mid 1700's,
a dark cloud could be seen rising over the American horizon.
Conditions were explosive. Trouble brewed in the cities. Slaves
were transported in droves. Prostitution proliferated. Drinking,
gambling, and brawling were common pastimes. Colonial churches
and their pastors were losing power to affect an increasingly
worldly society. Church membership was in decline, and the
Christian faith's impact on society was decreasing radically.
It had been 134 years since the men of the Virginia Company
landed at Jamestown when Jonathan Edwards, as a visiting preacher,
stepped into the pulpit at Enfield, Connecticut on July 8,
1741. The colonies would never again be the same.
Reading his scripted sermon, Edwards declared, "The wrath
of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present.
They increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till
an outlet is given, and the longer the stream is stopped,
the more rapid and mighty its course, when once it is let
loose." One eyewitness observed, "Before the sermon
was done - there was a great groaning and crying out through
the whole house." Edwards warned, "Let everyone
that is out of Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to
come." Awake they did?
The most noted sermon in American history caused a tidal wave
throughout the colonies known as the First Great Awakening.
Tens of thousands fell on their faces in repentance. Christians
were revived. Pagans were converted. The hearts of the people
were being prepared for the conflict just ahead that would
determine destiny...the Revolutionary War.
victory lead to a religious vacuum. In 1795, Washington warned
the people of their proclivity to wander in pride under the
blessings of prosperity. He called upon the "kind author
of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us; to preserve
us from the arrogancy of prosperity, and from...delusive pursuits...."
Celebrating in 1820 the bicentennial of the Pilgrims landing,
the great orator, Daniel Webster, warned, "If we abide
by the principles taught in the
Bible, our country will go
on prospering..., but if we and our posterity neglect its
instructions and authority, no man can tell how sudden a
catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound
As with ancient Israel, the nation refused to heed early
warnings. The Industrial Revolution shifted into full gear,
catapulting America to unimaginable heights. But the people
forgot the God "who hath made and preserved us a nation."
There was a wilderness to conquer. Money to be made. Empires
to be built. The nation was losing her men to mammon. How
would God get America's attention? He "retained"
Charles Finney for the task.
"When he opened his mouth he was aiming a gun. When
he spoke, bombardment began. The effects of his speaking
were almost unparalleled in modern history. Half a million
people were converted through his ministry.... He spearheaded
a revival which literally altered the course of history."
Such was the impact of lawyer-turned-preacher, Charles Finney.
According to Harvard professor, Perry Miller, "Charles
Grandison Finney led America out of the eighteenth century."
Humorous...shocking isn't it, that God would "retain"
a lawyer to spiritually resuscitate a nation, yet that is
the historical record. So astounding to saint and sinner
alike were the results of Finney's pleading God's ultimate
cause among a nationwide jury of American citizens that
it bears a closer look for its implications in our time.
a Second Great Awakening
Charles Finney was the galvanizing
force of the Second Great Awakening. His meetings covered
cities, small and great, in most of the industrializing
states in pre-Civil War America. "No more impressive
revival has occurred in American history...."
What happened in Rochester, New York, was the fullest expression
of what took place elsewhere, righting that which was wrong
among We the People.
to be affected. The entire character of the city was modified
because so many of the converts were leaders of the community,
who "would remake society and politics...."
of Boston had many a dispute with Finney over methods and
message, yet concluded that the Rochester revival was the
greatest work of God, and the greatest revival of religion,
that the world had ever seen in such a short time. "One
hundred thousand," he said, "were connected with
churches as a result of that great revival...unparalleled
in the history of the church...."