The 1857 Revival stirs Faith for World Prayer

               The 1857 Revival stirs Faith for World Prayer                                                        
                                   Written by John Angell James                                              

John Angell James Prayer is that which makes man nothing and God everything. This is what to me gives reality, significance, and importance to the present American revival.  It is remarkable that no modern language can more fitly describe the existing state of things in America than that of the prophet Zechariah, ?Thus says the Lord of Hosts, It shall yet come to pass that there shall come people, inhabitants of many cities, and another, saying, Let us go speedily and pray before the Lord, to seek the Lord of Hosts.? - Zechariah 8:20-21.

I look upon this event (The 1857 Revival) as one of the most conspicuous, the most convincing, and the most glorious instances of the power of prayer that has been given to the world since the day of Pentecost.  It is on this feature of the revival that I love to dwell.  I survey with mute wonder, and joy, and gratitude, this copious shower of Divine influence passing over the United States?not only over hamlets, villages, and towns, but over great commercial cities, second only to London, and gathering to the church of Christ, not only the young and excitable, but thousands of merchants, lawyers and physicians. And what has done it?  Not logic, not rhetoric, not the eloquence of the pulpit, the mightiness of the press, but the power of prayer.  God has rent the heavens and come down; the mountains have flowed down at His presence, at the call of prayer. Hear it British Christians! Hear it ministers of religion! Hear it all nations upon the earth!  In all this behold the triumph and the trophy of earnest and believing prayer?

 The mighty work on the other side of the Atlantic is the triumph and trophy of prayer.  It is a new proof and display of the mighty force of this great motive power in God?s moral government of our world.  ?Prayer,? as Robert Hall says, ?is a spring, which the Almighty never fails to touch when He has a rich blessing to communicate to His Church.?  God is lifting up a voice on this subject, which grows louder and louder continually, as if He meant that it should be heard at last.  Notwithstanding the general spirit of propagation and organization by which this age is distinguished, the evidence demonstrates that all hope for the conversion of the World must perish, if there be not some fresh outpourings of the Spirit, and some fresh power of prayer to obtain them?

Christians seem to be more ready for everything than for prayer, and can do everything better than pray?A time will come when the place of meeting for prayer shall have more attractions than the eloquence of any mortal, or any angel?s tongue.  And why should not the present be the date of that period?  Let us all, brethren, this day, in this place, make a covenant with God and each other, to give ourselves to prayer. Let us call to mind how Abraham, and Moses, and Elias, and Daniel, and Paul?above all how the blessed Jesus, - labored in prayer, and resolve in God?s strength to pray in like manner. 

Oh, what an influence upon the world?s eternal destinies would the hearts and the closets of God?s people have, if they were stirred up thus to pray!  What wonders of grace would be wrought in our churches, what additions would be made to the ministry, what an impulse would be given to missions, and what brightness would then be thrown on the dark places of the earth, and the Church?s future prospects! The Church, left to Herself doesn?t have a proper view of the immensity of Her Lord?s resources; She seems afraid of indulging in excess in Her petitions, when in fact, She has comparatively asked nothing?

A new era is struggling to emerge; Christ is moving to reorganize the world.  Is it a vision of my imagination?  Or is it the Savior Himself walking on the waters of the Atlantic and moving with His face towards Britain?  Is it an illusion, or a reality which leads me to think, I hear his voice saying to the country, ?Behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with Me?? Oh, brethren shall we fear Him, neglect Him, repel Him?  Shall we, like the mercenary Gadarenes, entreat Him to leave our coasts; or shall we not rather implore His presence, and say, ?Come, Lord Jesus come quickly and land upon our shores?

Our responsibility is tremendous, and should make us fear and tremble, and in agony of spirit exclaim, ?Lord, who is sufficient for these things?? On us does it in some measure depend whether the heavens shall open, and the blessing in its fullness come down; whether the life-giving power shall ooze and trickle in drops, or flow in streams.  How is it we can be so easy in such circumstances, and with such interests dependent upon us?  How is it we can sleep so soundly upon our beds, or sit so comfortably around our table and our fire?  Are we really watching for souls, or trifling with them?  Are we so stiffened into formality, so drilled into routine, so enchained by custom, that when anything new or startling comes across our orbit, or enters into our sphere of observation, we will not notice it, or ask what it means?  Shall we who are stationed on the walls of Jerusalem, be unprepared with an answer to the question, ?Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night?? 

Shall we who are expected to form public opinion, to influence public sentiment, to direct and control public movement, stand by in this case with cold and careless gaze, or sneering contempt, or actual opposition?  Even supposing we take no new steps, shall we not quicken those we already take in our own course?  If we adopt no new measures, shall we not be stirred up to carry forward our old ones with more vigor?  Let us, oh! Let us recollect, that we are the servants of Him who makes His ministers a flame of fire.  Dearly beloved brethren, let this be such a meeting as we have never held; let a new baptism of fire come upon us all today.  Let this be a time of humiliation for the past, of consecration for the present, and of determination for the future.  Let us enter today into covenant with each other and with God, to be more diligent and devoted servants of Christ, and then depend upon it, we shall be more successful?Let me appeal to you to inquire what use we shall make of the extraordinary events (The 1857 Revival) which have called for this paper, and in what way we shall turn it to our own account in watching for souls, reviving the spirit of piety in our churches, and bringing back this revolted world to the dominion of Christ. 

Reference: Rev. J. A. James address ?On the Revival of Religion? to the Congregational Union, Reprinted from The Christian Witness - Edited and abridged by David Smithers 


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