The Flame of Revival

Acts

The Flame of Revival

April 28th, 1968 @ 7:30 PM

Acts 2:1-4

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media

  
Play Audio

Show References:
ON OFF

THE FLAME OF REVIVAL

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 2:1-4

4-28-68     7:30 p.m.

 

 

Now the title of the message is The Flame of Revival. And our background reading, not a text to be expounded, but just our background reading is the second chapter of the Book of Acts.  So while you turn to it, Acts chapter 2, I shall read a verse in chapter 1 naming the apostles, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren" [Acts 1:14].  Now we are going to read out loud together, and share your Bible with your neighbor, we are going to read out loud together the first four verses of the second chapter of the Book of Acts.  Remembering the title of the message, The Flame of Revival, now together, the first four verses of chapter 2 in Acts:

 

And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.

And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

[Acts 2:1-4]

 

The most distinguishing of all of the phenomena that accompanied the Christian faith is this: the phenomenon of revival.  No other faith, no other religion, no other delineation of God in history, in the past, in the future, has what is known as "a revival."  But it is a distinct characteristic of Christianity and has always been from the days of Pentecost until now.  And the flame of revival has literally changed and colored the course of this world.

In 1740, under the spirit filled preaching of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, there came into the life of America, those early colonies, there came the Great Awakening, the moving, flaming, sweeping spirit of revival.  And that great visitation from heaven prepared our country for its darkest ordeal. For there came the Indian Wars, and there came the Revolutionary War, and out of those dark days of conflicting loyalties and political differences and finally bloodshed and revolution; out of those difficult days, there emerged a Christian nation, because of the preparation for those dark hours found in the great revival under Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield.  

At the same time that America was going through its throes of revolution, the French nation also was plunged into a bloodbath of anarchy.  But when America came out of their revolution, united in the faith, a great Christian nation, France came out of her revolution mostly in anarchy and in atheism.  In the same great sweeping tide of history, God blessed in England – at this same revolutionary time in the 1700’s – in the marvelous revival under John and Charles Wesley. 

Another time, dark and agonizing, in the life of the American nation, preceded by a tremendous revival, preparing our people for the agony of the years that lay immediately ahead: in 1857 there was a man employed by the Fulton Street Church in New York City to invite people to the house of the Lord and to hand out tracts on the street.  All the other churches had left that part of the city, and only the old Fulton Street congregation was left.  And this man, J.C. Lamphier, inviting people to God and handing out tracts, became so discouraged in the cold indifferent reception he received from the people that he went to the church to pray for the comfort and encouragement of his soul. And as he knelt there in prayer asking God’s help from heaven, it occurred to him that maybe somebody else might like to pray with him. 

So he invited publicly others saying that at high noon on the twenty-third day of September in 1857, at high noon, he would be there in the Fulton Street Church praying, and if there were others who would like to join him, come.  For the first half hour, he prayed alone, then somebody came and knelt by his side, and a second somebody and a third and a fifth and finally six of them praying.  He announced it for the next week that at high noon he would be there on that day praying and invited others to join him.  Twenty-one came.

He announced it for the next week, at high noon, that day, and forty came.  And then he announced it every day at high noon; they would be praying, and the church was packed.  And the overflow swept through the city of New York, and all the churches were filled.  And the overflow swept through the entire nation from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River. 

Charles E. Finney was holding a meeting in Boston in 1858, and a man – a drummer, a salesman, a merchandiser – had made a journey from St. Louis to Boston and said in that Finney revival, in that Finney meeting, that he had observed a prayer meeting in America two thousand miles long.  It was one of the greatest outpourings of the Spirit of God that Christendom has ever known; the flame of revival.  And it prepared our nation for the tragic, dark days of the conflict between the states.  In those days of bloodshed and war and agony, brother fighting against brother, the United States Senate unanimously passed an appeal to the president, Abraham Lincoln, that he call the nation to confession, and humility, and repentance, and prayer, and set a day for it.

And this is the record; Abraham Lincoln wrote the proclamation and closed it with these words:

 

Now therefore, in compliance with the request of the United States Senate, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the thirtieth day of April 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. 

 

And at that same time on the other side of the lines of war and battle, this article appeared in the Richmond Christian Advocate, and I quote: "Not for years has such a revival prevailed in the Confederate states.  Its progress in the army is a spectacle of moral sublimity over which men and angels can rejoice."  Such camp meetings were never before seen in America.  The bivouac of the soldiers never witnessed such days of glory and splendor.  And out of the dark days of this conflict between brothers, came a mighty revival and most of the evangelization of the South and of the pioneer West: the flame of revival.

There are three things that are ever concomitants of the true visitation from heaven, and the first is prayer.  There has never been an outpouring of the Spirit of God that has not witnessed prayer, and prayer, and prayer, and prayer on the part of God’s people.  To a great extent, the destiny of the nation and of the world lies in the hands of God’s people.  For in prayer, God’s people have resource to the greatest sovereign power that moves in this universe.

In fact, in fact, in truth, the praying for revival and the preparation for revival is revival itself.  You’re in it.  That’s what it is.  One time Spurgeon came to church and said, "There will be great blessings today for everywhere I see heavenly dew."  The people were praying, his deacons were praying, the congregation was praying; that in itself is revival!

After I was done preaching this morning – The Hope of America is Revival, a great turning to God – one of the devout ministers of the UEB church, now amalgamated with the Methodist denomination; one of those devout ministers from Pennsylvania warmly shook my hand and said, "Somewhere in the earth there is always revival."  And he added, "You’re in revival now.  It’s in this church, it’s among your people".  Bless God, I believe it.  I believe it.  I sense it.  I feel it everywhere, the moving of the Spirit of God; our people are praying.

In 1950, there began in the Hebrides Islands off of Scotland a wondrous outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord.  People from all of the earth went to those lone rocky barren islands just to see God at work.  It began in little groups of consecrated men and women on those Hebrides who gathered in barns and in cottages, praying all night long, night after night. 

Recently, in an obscure village in New England, there was a little band of men who, living in dearth and in drought and in coldness and indifference, banded themselves together to pray for the vilest sinner in their town.  And he was gloriously converted.  Then they prayed again for another one, and he was gloriously saved.  And in one year’s time, in answer to prayer, they had won and prayed into the kingdom more than two hundred souls.  This is revival, when God’s people pray, and they were all in one accord in one place praying; that in itself is revival! 

There is another concomitant, there is another addendum, there is another attendant to real revival, and that is the power and presence of God. There is no revival unless God is in it.  We can have our finest programs, our most ingenious approaches, and we can think through in human wisdom our most capable endeavor and appeal and plan, but if God is not in it, it is like a corpse without breath.  It’s like a body without life.  God must breathe upon it. "Once have I heard God say, Yea, twice have I heard it," said the psalmist, "that power belongeth unto God" [Psalm 62:11].  But when the Lord comes down, when the Spirit works, when the people are moved, one word breathed into the ear of a sinning man, of a lost soul, of an indifferent Christian, of a backslider, one word breathed by the Spirit of God is worth ten thousand thousand sermons.  It’s the presence and the power of God that make revival. 

I copied this from John Wesley’s journal:

 

Monday, January 1, 1739- Mr. Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitefield – George Whitefield – Hutchins and my brother Charles were present at our love feast at Fetters Lane with about sixty of our brethren. At about three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of the Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee, our dear Lord.’

 

Robert Murray M’Cheyne, who burned himself out when he was twenty-nine years of age, the pastor of the church of Dundee, Scotland, went away on a journey and came back and found his church in the midst of great revival.  There was a twenty-two year old young preacher by the name of William C. Burns, and the young fellow had so led the congregation to pray, and to pray, and to pray, all night long in prayer that when Robert Murray M’Cheyne returned, he found the church in a veritable flame of revival, so much so that he was called by his presbytery to give an explanation and to defend what was happening in the church of Dundee.  And I have copied this from his defense:

 

Ever since my return I have frequently seen the preaching of the Word attended with so much power and eternal things brought so near that the feelings of the people could not be restrained.  I have observed at such times an awesome and breathless stillness pervading the assembly, each hearer bent forward in the posture of rapt attention.  Serious men covered their faces to pray that the arrows of the King of Zion might be sent home with power to the hearts of sinners.

 

Dr. Jowett, himself one of the great preachers of all time, wrote this about Moody – Dwight L. Moody – and I copied it down.  Dr. Jowett said:

 

Moody’s excellency was in an earthen vessel, and many doctors of divinity have wondered at the strange association.  There were thousands of speakers more eloquent than Moody, but the treasure was not in them in overwhelming glory.  Moody may have been uneducated, untutored and unskilled in public speaking, but when he spoke, the power of an unseen world seemed to fall upon the audience.

 

O Lord, what is eloquence or academic learning or scholastic achievement if our message is barren and sterile and unheard?  Lord, for a Moody, untaught, untrained and untutored, but when he spoke, there seemed to be a celestial presence that attended the message that he brought.  That’s what we need, the presence and the power of God, the flame of revival.

I have read of the revival in 1905 and 1906 under Evan Roberts in Wales.  And one of the characteristics of that meeting was, and I have seen pictures in those books that I’ve read of the meeting, I’ve seen pictures of those colliers, those coal diggers, those miners, as they would march down the streets of those towns in Wales, four, five, ten abreast, marching through the streets, singing the songs of Zion.  I’ve never seen that.  O Lord, could such a thing ever come to pass?  And could our eyes look upon it?  Think of men, marching through the streets of the city, singing a gospel song; think of it!

In 1959 there broke out in Ulster in Ireland, a marvelous revival, and they did the same thing; marching five abreast, ten abreast, throngs marching through the streets of the towns and the cities, singing the songs of the Lord.   And I copied down one of the songs that they sang in that revival that broke out a few years ago in Ulster; listen to its words:

 

Where e’er we meet, you always say,

What’s the news? what’s the news?

Pray what’s the order of the day?

What’s the news? what’s the news?

O! I have got good news to tell!

My Saviour has done all things well,

And triumphed over death and hell,

That’s the news! that’s the news!

 

The Lamb was slain on Calvary!

That’s the news! that’s the news!

To set a world of sinners free,

That’s the news! that’s the news!

‘Twas there His precious blood was shed,

‘Twas there He bowed His sacred head,

But now He’s risen from the dead,

That’s the news! that’s the news!

 

His work’s reviving all around,

That’s the news! that’s the news!

And many have salvation found

That’s the news! that’s the news!

And since their souls have caught the flame,

They shout hosannas to His name,

And all around they spread His fame

That’s the news! that’s the news!

 

Just think of people marching through the streets of the city singing that song; Lord, the flame of revival. 

I don’t know what God will do; it’s in His precious hands.  But O Lord, make it marvelous, make it wonderful.  Make it precious, make it soulsaving, make it dear and sweet, make it of God, not something we worked up, but something God has sent down.

We sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, a one somebody you to give himself to the Lord, would you come and stand by me?  As you are seated in the balcony round, on this lower floor, make that decision now, make it now.  And in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming.  No greater decision will you ever make in your life than the decision to give your heart to God.  Do it, do it, open your soul and say, "Lord Jesus, tonight my destiny, my every day in this life, the life that is to come, O Lord, I surrender and yield into Thy saving hands.  And here I come, and here I am."

Or a family to share with us in this most blessed and precious of all ministries, mediating the truth of the Lord, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, come, come, come.  On the first note of the first stanza, come.  When we stand up, you stand up with us, coming.  And God bless you in the way, while we stand and while we sing.