In American history, there’s two periods of intense religious fervor: the Great Awakening, started by George Whitefield, and the Second Great Awakening. The second great awakening actually was started by a new pastor, who challenged his North Carolina church to repent, and was convinced to move elsewhere when they smeared fresh blood on his pulpit.
He moved elsewhere, and started a Revival. What was odd that, at the same time, a Presbyterian minister was doing the same thing. Barton Stone – like Charles Finney who would come later – began to rebel at the Creeds he was forced to agree with, and began to preach that disagreement. He wrote “The last will and testament” for that church, signifying that they would not agree with anything except the Bible.
And so, the Second Great Awakening was started, as Alexander Campbell joined hands with Stone. Campbell was teaching Baptismal Regeneration, a heresy. Oddly enough, that was not the reason they separated, but rather, disagreements over the polity of the church.
Why did Barton Stone – who apparently a college was named after – not have a problem with Baptismal regeneration? Didn’t it bother him that his partner in revival was teaching salvation by works, and was a heretic?
Not at all. Because Barton Stone was himself a Arian. He taught that Christ was God only in the sense He was “filled by the Father”.
Yup, that’s Arianism.
And the description of Stone’s revivals sounds more like a Rodney Howard-Browne affair than does a revival run by Whitefield. Reports have people falling on the ground and laying there for prolonged periods, twisting their bodies and banging they forehead and hells on the ground repeatedly, spasmodic jerking and twitching that lasted for prolonged periods, barking like dogs, howling, running…
And I can’t fuss at anyone about it, because this was back in the 1830’s, and I’m pretty sure that most of the participants have long since gone into their final reward. Hopefully, most of them recovered and repented, and got saved – or they’re spending their eternity with Barton Stone, which is an uncomfortable consolation to know that, well, you’re not the only one in torment.
Real repentence, real revivals, cause people to live for the Lord. You become aware that you’re a sinner, separated from God by the weight of your sins. Even one sin is enough to damn you forever, without Christ’s atonement.
Real Revivals create churches, leaders. A small church revival created Gypsy Smith, who had a somewhat bizarre salvation testimony, but his life showed the fruits of it. And he spend the rest of his life as an evangelist, tireless in his efforts to win souls. Real Revivals create changes in people’s lives – you enter into public ministry. If your church holds an emotional event with preaching and people coming forward, and two months later, it looks like no event ever happened, you wasted your time. It wasn’t a revival. I suppose in a certain way, revival is the right word – it means something is in a coma or dead, which describes most churches today.
Real revivals create that person who attends church faithfully for years, and suddenly she’s aware she could feed the poor. And so she steps out, and soon a food pantry is made that takes care of the poor for generations. These are not optional ministries – a cursory reading of the New Testament will show that James has harsh words for those who did not take care of the poor. If your church doesn’t have a food pantry, you all best get ready to take the light bulbs out of the fixture, because the Lord will not tolerate that out of one of His churches for very long.
Revivals create that quiet, desperate man in the back row, wishing he could do something for the Lord. So he starts a Bible study in his home, hoping at least two people will show up. And five years later, at his church commissioning, he’s weeping before God that his one little prayer for two people at a Bible study yielded a pulpit for him.
Revivals do not make people fall. Bark. Howl. Run. Twist and go into grand mal seizures. jerk, shake and twitch for hours. If Barton Stone was truly dedicated to his “Bible alone” message, he’d have called out from the pulpit for people to get off the ground. He’d have wept in horror over what was going on, and shut down the revival. He’d have abandoned his Arian stance and accepted the Trinity. He’d have separated from the Campbells, and preached loudly against their salvation by works heresy.
So, the second great awakening revival was corrupt even before it really got started. Where did it lead us? To the Holiness Fire movement, to the birthplace of Pentecostalism.
Revival starts in the pew you’re sitting in. When a revival starts from rebellion, and not from a desire to reach people for the Lord, it’s doomed right away.