Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Reflection on "Revival in History"

Just as I did, readers will have noted from my recent republication of Paul E. G. Cook's essay on Revivals in History published originally in the July 1965 edition of the Banner of Truth journal, the record of significant events or phases in the history of the Christian Church - each, by all appearance, at the hand of man and God.

We are now nearly fifty years on in the life of the church and it is fair to say that God has not acted at a level equating to those high points Paul E. G. Cook described. Instead, what can be seen is the church beset with "naturalistic" influences somewhat like those which eventually prompted God to intervene in the past. That is not to say that God is not active in bringing people into Christ nor is He inactive in judging the church.

The blight of Higher Criticism is not an unspent force. It continues to weaken Evangelicalism. All that "naturalistic" thinking manifest in Higher Criticism is observed today under the guise of hermeneutics whereby many so-called Evangelicals are reinterpreting God's Word in the light of either scientific or cultural 'observation'.

The effect is to put the thoughts of man above the Word of God by reinterpreting the Word of God to satisfy natural instinct - the very sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden.

The attack came on the interpretation of the history recorded in Genesis and, later, events in the life of Moses. Such a departure has manifold consequences for the rest of Scripture. This is well demonstrated in this blog which resulted in a later article published in a recent edition of The Sydney Morning Herald concerning homosexuality.

The author was once, until about eight years ago, on the faculty of Moore Theological College lecturing in Philosophy and Ethics. If readers take the time to look at the later comments on that blogspot they will note the thinking driving the author. He indicates the need to bring "our Christian beliefs into line with reality". Pardon me? God's Word and activity are not reality? This is the sorry habitation of Evangelicalism by people who are supposed to be people of the Word but who, instead, show they subordinate the Word to their natural instinct for what is right and there they are undermining faith.

The author is not alone. His trust in the thoughts of man above the Word of God is repeated by many within the church.

Thanks be to Paul E. G. Cook for his birds-eye view of the history of the church and the influences taking it from high to low. Greater thanks be to God that He will not abandon His Church and, after judgment, will bring refreshment and revival to the glory of His Name.

Sam Drucker

Friday, June 22, 2012

News Flash! (Friday 22 June 2012)

Statistics derived from the most recent Census and released from the Australian Bureau of Statistics today indicate that, after Roman Catholicism, the next popular declaration of belief is "No Religion" in Australia.

That category, I presume, would be made up of Atheists and Agnostics.

It is a sign of declension rather than growth that Anglican/Church of England/Episcopalian has lost its place as second to the Roman Catholics.

Something is wrong and we know part of it.

Sam Drucker

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


This is the final instalment of Paul E. G. Cook's second essay on Revival in History published in the July 1962 edition of the Banner of Truth journal. Note that reference to the last hundred years covers the mid Nineteenth to mid Twentieth Century. My apology for the length - I preferred not to break up Cook's segments.


Our historical survey of revivals has been carried out mainly to show that the true life and growth of the Christian Church is simply a history of revivals and their effects. Apart from these divine visitations the Church has floundered in the impotence of human energies. The Church has languished under the influence of naturalistic religion as expressed in teaching denying the essential grace of the Gospel and originating in the minds of men. In this condition the Church has suffered the chastisement of God's wrath from which it has been delivered only when God in His grace and sovereignty has been pleased to visit His people with power from heaven. Pentecost saved God's people out of moralism; the Reformation delivered the Church from superstition; the Great Awakening released it from the grip of rationalism and Deism; and the early nineteenth century revivals brought the Church out of the deadening influence of Arianism. This is undoubtedly a simplification of the history of revivals, and a focussing of attention on the main epochs of Church history, but it does serve to illustrate the biblical principles of revival.

The Church has passed through years of strenuous activity and serious decline since the revivals of 1859. There has been a great expansion of missionary and evangelistic work, but also an alarming deficiency of true godliness. The numerical growth and spread of the churches has been accompanied by a failing spirituality. The situation in England has been clearer than elsewhere, for here the spiritual impoverishment of the churches has been matched by a continuous numerical decline over the last sixty years; whereas, in some countries, like the U.S.A., the spiritual bankruptcy of the Church has been veiled by a phenomenal increase in membership.

There have been relatively few revivals in the last hundred years. God has worked in Uganda (1893), Wales (1904), India (1905), Korea (1906), Manchuria (1908), Ruanda (1927 onwards) and in other parts of the world. Except for the Korean revival, solid biblical doctrine has been conspicuous by its absence, and in consequence excess and damage has resulted. The effects of the revivals have been less than expected. The Welsh revival of 1904 has only to be compared with the 1859 revival and its deficiencies are at once evident. It is true that the work of God is beyond criticism, but 'man' is involved in revivals, and Satan too is not inactive.

The influence of Finney and the development of nineteenth century holiness teaching has so confused the sovereign work of God with the energies and organization of man that many of those involved in these 'modern' revivals have been unable to evaluate them. The documents upon which we depend for a report and interpretation of these revivals are coloured by a doctrinal outlook contradicting the biblical doctrine of revival, however paradoxical that may seem. It is extremely difficult at times to assess the genuineness of what have been sometimes called 'revivals'. Doctrinal thinking failing to give full glory to God and pre-eminence to the work of the Spirit in the Church has not only led to false interpretation of revivals, but also to a shortening of their duration.

Most of the books and pamphlets published in this century on the subject of revival reflect the influence of Charles G. Finney and his book. 'Lectures on Revivals of Religion'. They say little that is new, but go on repeating what Finney taught. Finney was himself converted in a great revival which swept the west of America in 1815 and lasted for several years. The very doctrines of grace preached in the revival were the ones Finney most strongly resisted after his conversion! He was
placed under his pastor, the Rev. George W. Gale for teaching and guidance. He took little notice of him, but instead relentlessly criticized his views, preferring to be guided more by his own rational thought than the doctrines of revelation found in God's Word. He rejected the sovereignty of God in revival, as he also did the biblical doctrine of man's moral inability in sin. In our first article we made reference to his Pelagian system of thought. Finney did not believe that revivals were supernatural; he taught that they were natural expressions of man's innate religiousness. Christians may have a revival whenever they want it, and in his 'Revivals of Religion' he lists the measures by which one may be promoted and obtained. A full analysis of his teaching is found in 'Perfectionism' by B. B. Warfield.¹

According to Finney, he had proved his own methods with telling effect in the 'Finney revivals' of 1824-34, but he later admitted the failure of his work to produce abiding results²; and Warfield quotes a letter from one of Finney's co-workers, James Boyle, written to Finney in 1834 in which he says: "Let us look over the fields where you and others and myself have laboured as revival ministers, and what is now their moral state ? What was their state within three months after we left them? I have visited and revisited many of these fields, and groaned in spirit to see the sad, frigid, carnal, contentious state into which the churches had fallen - and fallen very soon after our departure from among them".³

Finney's influence can be detected repeatedly in the interpretation of revivals since 1859, and in the revivals themselves. Jonathan Goforth is an example of this influence. He was stimulated to a close study of the work of the Holy Spirit by reports reaching him in China of the 1904 Welsh revival. In 1907 he visited Korea and had direct contact with revival. God used these circumstances in the wonderful blessing which followed his tour of the Scottish Presbytery in Manchuria in February 1908. But Goforth had been reading Finney and by the time he returned to China in 1908 to begin tours of Shensi he was already adopting some of Finney's methods. The work in Manchuria bore unmistakable evidences of genuine revival; the tours in China though humanly successful do not appear to be so much a work of God as of men. Many other examples of Finney's influence could be cited if space permitted.

The most obvious refutation of Finney's whole position is that his teaching does not work in practice. When sincere believers have tried to promote revivals using Finney's instructions they have failed in frustration and spiritual exhaustion. The last hundred years have been lacking in true revivals of religion; and Finney's book, far from helping to promote them, has had the effect of hindering the work of the Spirit. The Church used to believe that revivals were 'essential' for the progress of the Gospel. Now they are looked upon as a luxury. Their absence has not given rise to the desperate cries of a repenting Church; but rather, to the feverish intensification of human effort. Finney taught the Church to rely upon technique and human methods, and not upon the sovereign visitations of the Spirit. Confidence is placed in great evangelistic campaigns using the technique of Finney's 'mercy seat' by which many 'decisions for Christ' are recorded. Another powerful influence upon revivals and their interpretation since 1859 has been the Higher Life movement. The year 1859 is remembered for the publication of Darwin's 'Origin of Species' and God's reply to that book in the Ulster Revival. It also marks the publication of a book called 'The Higher Christian Life' written by an American, W. E. Boardman. If Finney's writings on revivals have influenced most subsequent works on that subject, then Boardman's book has certainly influenced most of what has been written since then on sanctification. Boardman is not so well known as those he influenced, such as Mrs. Hannah Whitall Smith, whose book 'The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life', first published in 1875, has had a fantastic circulation. The main inspiration behind her husband. Robert Pearsall Smith, was Boardman, and their popular ministry in England during 1874 and 1875 provided the somewhat dubious foundation upon which the Keswick Convention came into existence. The Convention has continued through the years for the declared intention of propagating this message of the 'Higher Christian Life'. It has been subject to some change and variation through the years, but its basic emphases remain the same.

The design of Boardman's work is to show 'that full trust expresses the sole condition full salvation'.⁴ It is not the work of Christ which fully secures a believer's salvation, but his faith. A complete trust secures a 'full' salvation. What this amounts to is entire sanctification by perfect faith, and as such it is a form of perfectionism. Faith is not dependent upon grace. It is proportionate to the willingness of the believer to surrender 'all'. Faith is dependent upon the will of the believer, and so this perfectionism is a Pelagian perfectionism. Boardman makes a vain attempt to show that Luther, Baxter, Edwards, d'Aubigne, M'Cheyne and other great saints in the Reformed tradition testified to two distinct experiences: one in which they were justified by faith and the other in which they accepted their sanctification by faith. "The way of freedom from sin is the very same as the way of freedom from condemnation"⁵, observes Boardman. And this way is a step of faith.

In the preface to the 1866 edition of W. E. Boardman's 'The Higher Christian Life' an attempt is made to explain the 1859 revivals of America, Ulster, Scotland, England and Sweden as a practical demonstration of his doctrine. Few revivals since that time have escaped a similar attempt. Finney's doctrine of man's ability to obey God at will finds a kindred spirit in Boardman's teaching of sanctification as a step of willing faith. It is not to be wondered at that the doctrines of revival and sanctification have been confused: that is to say, Finney's and Boardman's doctrines. A well-known speaker at a Keswick Convention some time ago declared that the Convention had been established to promote holiness of life: and 'that' was revival. He went on to say that this holiness is received by a step of faith. "If I would receive this gift of a holy life, I must give up my struggle to live it, and take my inability and lay it where I laid my sin - at the feet of Jesus Christ." Like Boardman, he is saying we either have this gift of a holy life - the higher Christian life - or we are without it, and then we know only the lower Christian life. But since this gift is also said to be revival and may be received by a step of faith there appears to be no reason to pray for revival"; all we need to do is to take the step of faith! The speaker a few sentences earlier had expressed the view that the need of the hour was "a mighty outpouring from on high", reviving the Church and bringing glory to Christ. Here is a strange contradiction: one moment he is saying revival is an outpouring of the Spirit and, presumably, a sovereign work of God, and the next moment he is saying it is something received by taking a step of faith. We have the Scriptures, Finney and Boardman compressed within the compass of two paragraphs! It is hardly surprising that since 1859 there has been confusion in the Church on the subject of revival.

The Great Awakening was also associated with perfectionist doctrines of holiness, and in particular the teaching of Wesley and Fletcher. These doctrines were not at first advanced as an explanation of the revival; they were 'added' to it. Wesley and Fletcher would have agreed as readily as Whitefield that the Awakening was due to a sovereign work of the Spirit of God, though later their perfectionist ideas influenced their understanding of the revival. The modem tendency, however, is to 'explain' revivals in terms of holiness teaching, detracting from the supernatural.

The teaching of Finney and Boardman and its subsequent influence has encouraged Christians to look to themselves for revival. Christians have been given to believe that if only they were holy enough revival would surely result. They have failed to appreciate that great holiness is more usually the 'result' and not the cause of revival. The key factor, according to the Scripture, in the absence of revival is the wrath of God. Our attention needs to be directed to God and not man. It may be said reverently that the real problem when revival is absent is God, and His anger toward His people. We must direct our pleadings to Him, for not until He looks with favour upon His people will revival come. By maintaining that revival is a sovereign and supernatural work of God the use of means is not thereby despised. Finney taught that man's use of means can lead to revival, whereas the Bible teaches that it is God's use of means which results in revival. Means are therefore not irrelevant.

In this historical survey of revival in history the glorious visitations of God have been reviewed. They reaffirm the essential supernaturalism of the Christian faith in contrast to the naturalism of all false religion. The phenomena of true revival are beyond psychological explanation. because they are the activity of God in contrast to that which is of human origin. God's grace has triumphed where man's works have failed. "Certainly it becomes us, who profess the religion of Christ, to take notice of such astonishing exercises of His power and mercy, and give Him the glory which is due."⁶

I hope readers appreciate the bird's eye view of the activity of God, man and Satan in the life of the Church. I hope to make some comments in a few days.

Sam Drucker


1. Perfectionism, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co. (Obtainable from the Craig Press Agency, 20, Heather Drive, Acklam, Middlesborough, Yorks.)

2. Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851, p. 619.

3. Quoted in Perfectionism, p. 26.

4. The Higher Christian Life, W. E. Boardman, 1866 edition, p. XLVI.

5. ibid. p. 70.

6. From the preface by the first editors. Dr. Isaac Watts and Dr. John Guyse, to Edward's Narrative, when first published in England.

Sunday, June 17, 2012



The publication in 1770 of J. Priestley's 'Appeal to the Serious and Candid Professors of Christianity', in which this Presbyterian minister sought to defend Socinian doctrines, marks a time in the eighteenth century when Arianism began to exert an increasing influence upon Church life in England, Scotland, Ireland and the Continent. Socinian doctrine, by which the Trinity is denied and the supernatural minimized, had made inroads into the life of Dissenting denominations before the Great Awakening. In England the Presbyterians and General Baptists felt little of the impact of the Awakening on account of these naturalistic doctrines by which they were engulfed. This insidious teaching which had caused so much ferment in the life of the early Church lay incubating in these Dissenting Chapels through the revivals of the eighteenth century. The seeds of apostacy are often found in days of spiritual harvest. Their evil fruit appears in the second or third generation following the outpouring of divine life. As the revivals of the eighteenth century began to wane, so the influence of Arianism increased. The Churches which had been sustained by the power of God, began to come under the influence of man.

False doctrine always leads to false living, and the impact of Arianism and other unbiblical emphases by which the supernatural was played down and grace was denied led to increasing worldliness within the Churches. The condition in Scotland and Ireland at the end of the eighteenth centuries was serious. It was a period described by Dr. Cunningham as "one of the most deplorable of the Church's history." The ministers in Scotland were mainly ignorant of theology, slack in their duties, and careless of men's souls. "When they preached, their sermons generally turned on honesty, good neighbourhood, and kindness. To deliver a Gospel sermon or preach to the hearts and consciences of dying sinners, was as completely beyond their power as to speak in the language of angels" wrote Dr. Hamilton of Strathblane.¹ In Ireland "at that period Arianism, or some other form of infidelity prevailed, and a dead chill rested on the Presbyterian Churches of the north of Ireland, similar to that which prevailed in Scotland."²

The condition of the Scottish Church under Moderatism, as it was called, was similar to that which prevailed in Ireland, and also in the Continent, where the force of the Great Awakening seemed spent, and instead Socinianism reigned in the theological seminaries and churches. When the life of the Church is in decline, man-originated doctrines which are in control. The ebb of the Church is an inevitable result of apostacy from the faith of the Gospel in which grace is supreme. Once more, as humanistic thinking dominated church life, God in His wrath withdrew His power. The familiar pattern of the biblical doctrine of revival is repeated: grace, advance; apostacy, wrath and decline.

This time God visited His people without delay. He worked in the hearts of two brothers, James and Robert Haldane, and through these Scotsmen revivals of religion delivered the Church from its deadness in Scotland, Ireland and the Continent. The story of this work of God deserves to be better known because its influence was so widespread. James Haldane, helped on occasions by Rowland Hill and Charles Simeon, began in 1797 a series of preaching tours which God greatly used to the awakening of large numbers of people. In some of the towns he visited in Scotland the people had not heard a sermon for eight or nine years. The people had been encouraged to trust their works for salvation, and true believers were few in number. Many places of worship were established as a result of James Haldane's four preaching tours over Scotland from 1797-1800. His brother, Robert, provided means for the training of godly ministers, and so the work was consolidated. James visited Ireland in 1801 and much blessing followed his ministry. In 1802 a tour of Derbyshire became "a season of revival and awakening".

One of Robert Haldane's students, a Mr. Farquharson, was sent in 1801 to the Gaelic-Speaking area of Breadalbane. "In the spring of 1801 there was some awakening, and early in 1802 so extraordinary a revival took place, that in a very short time there were about one hundred persons, previously ignorant of the Gospel, who seemed truly converted. These conversions occasioned a great sensation, and much opposition. It produced in these Highland glens a kind of religious persecution."³

Revivals of religion were also taking place in America; under Lorenzo Dow in Kentucky from 1800 onwards, and in the Presbytery of St. Lawrence in 1815, continuing for several years. It was in these St. Lawrence revivals that Charles G. Finney was converted.

The visit of Robert Haldane to Geneva in 1816 in the providence of God ushered in a period of revivals on the Continent lasting for thirty five years at least. He contacted a group of students studying for the ministry in the theological seminary where Socinian doctrines prevailed. These students attended his rooms regularly for his expositions on Paul's Epistle to the Romans. Many of the students were converted as a result of these discourses among whom were Frédéric Monod, Merle d'Aubigne, Gaussen, Malan, Pyt, and others later wonderfully used by God to spread the revival fires in Switzerland, France and Germany. In a speech delivered in Edinburgh in 1845, Merle d'Aubigne, referring to words of Robert Haldane which had been used to his conversion, declared: "It was the sword of the Spirit; and from that time I saw that my heart was corrupted, and knew from the Word of God that I can be saved by grace alone; so that if Geneva gave something to Scotland at the time of the Reformation,- if she communicated light to John Knox, Geneva has received something from Scotland in return, in the blessed exertions of Robert Haldane."⁴

We have only been able to mention a few of the numerous revivals which took place in the first forty years or so of the nineteenth century delivering the Churches on the Continent, and in Scotland, Ireland and America from the chilling doctrines of Socinianism. Some powerful manifestations of God occurred in these revivals, such as the visitations at Kilsyth and Dundee in 1839 under the ministries of W. C. Burns and the saintly Robert Murray M'Cheyne. The 1859 Ulster revival followed a time when the error of Arianism had been eliminated from the Church by the reforming efforts of Dr. Henry Cooke and others, whose testimony to the truth from 1825 onwards had the effect of bringing increasing numbers of ministers back to the biblical doctrines of the Westminster Confession. The ministers became sounder in their doctrine before the revival, but the Church life still remained formal and cold. Not until the Spirit of God breathed upon the Churches did they vibrate with true spiritual life, and become a power in the life of the community at large. England and Scotland were also blessed in 1859, and in Wales outstanding movements took place at Ysbyty Ystwyth under David Morgan, and in Cardiganshire under the preaching of Humphrey Jones

Final instalment in a few days then a blog of brief comment a few days after that.

Sam Drucker


1. Quoted on pp. 131-132 Lives of Robert and James Haldane, 1852.

2. Lives of Robert and James Haldane, by Alexander Haldane, 1852, p. 305.

3. ibid. p. 316.

4. ibid. p. 431.

Friday, June 15, 2012



A treatment of the great epochs of the history of the Christian Church could give the impression that revivals have been limited to these periods. As we move from the Reformation to the Great Awakening we pass through years in which the Spirit of God was mightily at work. The Puritan era as a whole is in effect the result of the Reformation revival. It represents a period of doctrinal application in which the New Testament doctrines of the Reformation were implemented in the life of the Church. The Puritan era (1558-1662) was not without its own more localized revivals. There was the work of God through John Rogers of Dedham in the early seventeenth century, and that amazing regeneration of Kidderminster under Richard Baxter during the years 1647-1660. Scotland had some remarkable visitations in the 1620s and 1630s; at Stewarton under David Dickson, from 1625 onwards; at Kirk o' Shotts under John Livingstone in 1630; and also under the godly ministries of Welsh, Bruce, Blair, Rutherford and others. These were turbulent days, but God was at work subduing sinners under His mighty hand. In Ireland too, especially in 1625, God visited His people and gave 'grace and glory'.

By 1660 the spiritual power of the Puritan revolution seemed spent. Profound changes came over the Church. It was an age of scientific investigation and intellectual enquiry, one in which the fascination of human philosophies began to woo the Church from her true love. The bride of Christ defiled her holy garments. The authority of the Word of God was not denied so much as ignored. Intellectual enquiry in terms of man's reason embarrassed the Church. Failing to realize that the most unreasonable request of human reason is to demand a reason for everything, and rejecting the authority of the Holy Spirit, the Church sought to justify its existence in human terms. But the attempt to prove the supernatural by the natural made the Church seem doubly foolish in the eyes of men. Its authority and prestige was certainly not enhanced.

Apologetics are no substitute for a proclamation of the infallible Word. Bishop Butler failed to stem the tide, and the Boyle lectures fared no better. The age of reason had engulfed the Church in a dark night. Men sought to apprehend God by inference instead of aspiring to commune with Him face to face. He became the necessary conclusion of a series of 'proofs'. This failed to impress the unbelieving mind, and gave no comfort to the devout. It was true that the evidences adduced for Christianity were weighty, but none of them were so powerful as the "demonstration of the Spirit" by which sinners had been convicted and convinced in days of revival. Even the unbeliever expects a supernatural authentication of a divine message. In the age of reason God withheld it. A moral theology of lofty dimensions was developed, but law proved no substitute for grace. Frequent appeals to what were called 'natural laws' as evidence of the Creator's wisdom only served to encourage man in the notion that the world could manage very well without Him. Deism was the apologetic of spiritual death, and had no power to impart resurrection life. The evident reasonableness of Christianity failed to persuade the darkened minds of a fallen humanity.

Such was the apostacy of the Church before the Great Awakening: revelation had been rejected in favour of reason; the supernatural had given way to the natural. The familiar biblical principles were only too well illustrated. The unbelief of the Church had placed her under the shadow of God's wrath once more. Calvinism was in eclipse. A theology of absolute dependence upon God is unpalatable in a day of absolute dependence upon man. Rationalism reigned and the Church bowed admiringly before the prestige of the Cambridge Platonists, the Latitudinarians, John Lock and others. The Deists did not deny that this was God's world; they believed in God, as an irrelevancy. The new generation of scientists unlike their predecessors had departed from the faith. A book published in 1696 by John Toland bore a title which accurately defined the state of the Church not only in England but also on the Continent and in the New World: 'Christianity Not Mysterious'.

The effect of rationalism and Deism proved disastrous. The Churches were poorly attended and the common people lost all interest. They had neither the taste nor education for the intricacies of human philosophy. So they became ignorant and immoral; and in England the gulf between the poor and rich widened with alarming prospects of civil war. The upper-class were casually indifferent to the needs of the working classes. The clergy were friends of the pleasure seeking rich and had little inclination to spend time or effort on the poor. Such was the condition of England between 1700 and 1739. Violence and lawlessness was rampant and few ventured out after dark unless they were armed. They were a few godly Evangelical preachers such as Doctors Watts, Guyse, and Doddridge, but these men were themselves affected in some measure by the philosophical and Deistic climate of their day. God's favour was withdrawn, the people were given up to their sins, and many thought, as the Deists taught, that God had left the world to continue in its own ways.

When everything appeared hopeless God acted. He delights to demonstrate His power when man is at the end of his resources, "that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." God worked in a most wonderful way on the Continent, in the British Isles and in the New World. One is staggered by the breadth and variety of the manifestations of His power. The whole world which God so greatly loves began to feel the tremor of His quickenings.

In Germany the movement of the Spirit became evident in the Moravian fellowship, especially at Herrnhut from 1727 onwards. The mighty outpouring of the Spirit in Northampton in 1734 under the ministry of Jonathan Edwards ushered in an era of revivals in which North America rejoiced for twenty-five years. The work of David Brainerd from 1745 onwards with the Red Indians, over whom he had wept tears of love, "was an amazing season of 'power' among them, and seemed as if God had 'bowed the heavens and come down'. So astonishingly prevalent was the operation upon old as well as young that it seemed as if none would be left in a secure and natural state, but that God was now about to convert 'all the world'. I was ready to think 'then', that I should never again despair of the conversion of any man or woman living, be they who or 'what' they would".¹ Such was Brainerd's testimony to 'the day of God's power'.

France and Holland also experienced times of refreshing in the mid-eighteenth century. John Gillies² records extracts from letters of a Dutch pastor, G. Kuypers, who tells of the Work of God in Holland from 1750-54. Writing about the beginning of the work in Niewkerk he observed: "The houses were filled with prayers and supplications. I was sent for from all comers, and my own house was continually full of such as come anxiously enquiring for counsel and direction in their miserable state. When in the evenings, or in the silent night, we were walking along the streets, everywhere was heard the voice of prayer of these mourning doves; or of psalms and praise, in the houses where formerly nothing was heard but profaneness, carnal mirth, and wicked noise. But not to lengthen out the account needlessly, it is enough to tell you that the number of those who were desirous of salvation increased daily; amongst which were some of all kinds and ages. Some boys and girls; a great many youths; men and women in the flower of their age; and also persons far advanced in years."

The dark night of Deism and nationalism in England was broken by the dawn of the Evangelical Awakening in 1739. The manner in which God raised up His servants, George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers is well known. Instruments of divine power must first themselves be touched with the burning coal from off the holy altar. God's work through these men in turning multitudes from ungodliness and unrighteousness was such that the history of England would have been vastly different if He had left the land to continue in its own unbelieving ways. Historians readily admit that the Evangelical Awakening saved our land almost certainly from bloodshed and civil war. The extent of the Awakening and the number of divinely anointed men used to further the Gospel is not always fully appreciated due to the concentration of interest in Whitefield and Wesley. William Grimshaw of Haworth in a letter written to the Rev. John Gillies in 1754 gives a most interesting and concise survey of the movement of the Spirit in the North of England. The letter was published by Gillies in his 'Historical Collections'³ on revivals of religion and is printed at the end of this article on account of its value.

Powerful movements of the Spirit took place in Scotland and some of the most memorable were those in Nigg parish under John Balfour from 1730-39, in Cambuslang 1742, and in Kilsyth 1740. Wales was especially favoured, and the names of men like Howell Harris, Griffith Jones, Daniel Rowland, Thomas Charles and others come to mind. The quickenings of spiritual life began in 1735, and a feature of the work of God in Wales was the large number of local revivals with which God blessed His people

More in two or three days.

Sam Drucker


1. Works of Jonathan Edwards, 1834. Vol.2, p.404.
2. Historical Collections, 1845, pp.497-501.
3. ibid. pp.506-508.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012



Those who depend upon the application of set patterns of experience to verify revivals might easily, and sometimes do exclude the Reformation. It illustrates, despite this, all the biblical principles of revival. The condition preceding the Reformation, as with Pentecost, was one of apostacy. It was a religion of naturalism in which little of the grace of God was seen. In the day of Pentecost the naturalism found expression in moralism, but in the pre-Reformation period chief expression lay in superstition. The common people were bound by a ritualism purely magical in its administration. Everything was made to depend upon man so that few only knew anything of that saving life which springs from the power of God. Human hands were strangling the Church. Its organization was a form in which the power was denied. Political expediency had long dominated the policies of the Church; and its dogma, based upon the naturalistic philosophy of Aristotle, prevented social and economic progress. The stagnant and ineffective life of the Church drew no response from the human heart. Worldliness, self-seeking and immorality flourished with the clergy. Popular superstition, by which this corrupt and apostate Church held an ignorant people within its power, shut out the gospel of God's grace from their minds. The practices of the Church, such as the selling of indulgences, appealed to men of corrupt minds and a people trusting in superstitions. The twisted logic of the schoolmen justified in human terms this religion of man against which God's wrath was revealed.

The darkness of the pre-Reformation period resulted from the withdrawal of God's grace and the inevitable decline of man's nature. There were some evidences of God favour despite the general expression of His wrath. The history of the Waldensians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries serves to remind us that in His wrath God was remembering mercy. The persecution by the papacy of the Waldensians did not stop the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone spreading from Italy to Germany and Alsace; and so powerful was this movement that by 1315 it has been estimated that there were over 80,000 true believers in . Bohemia and Passau alone. The influence of the movement extended into every European country during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Waldensian history is undoubtedly an account of a work of God in revival preparing for a much greater revival. The Waldensian believers, as one would expect, were noted for the godliness of their family life and for discipline and prayerfulness.

Some thirty Waldensians came to England in the reign of Henry II, and whether Wycliffe and the Lollards derived anything from their influence we may never know, but it is possible. We can be certain that the true source of the light in which Wycliffe and the Lollards rejoiced was the Holy Spirit. His power had meant life for the Waldensians, and that life Wycliffe and his successors shared. We would have some hesitation in describing the movement which stemmed immediately from Wycliffe as revival. But the more popular Lollard movements influencing the common people in the fifteenth century can hardly be excluded from a history of revivals. The spontaneity and simultaneous occurrence of these divine visitations bear witness to a supernatural work of God.

These movements of the Spirit upon the Continent, not forgetting the fiery testimony of Savonara in Florence at the close of the fifteenth century, and evidences of the hand of God upon companies of believers in England were preparatory manifestations of the power of God prior to the Reformation proper.

Most history books try to account for the Reformation in terms of the intellectual and social pressures arising from the Renaissance. These movements, though influential, are quite inadequate to account for the 'spiritual' awakening of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Merle d'Aubigne was surely right to begin his treatment of the Reformation in England with a chapter entitled 'The Revival of the Church'. D'Aubigne believed that history is the arena of God's activity and the outworking of His purposes. The political and social changes of the Reformation far from invalidating the view that this was essentially a work of God in grace serve to show the powerful moral effect which true religion always exercises upon society at large. Men's minds were liberated from the superstition of Rome and human complacency by the Spirit of God. Friedrich Klemm in 'A History of Western Technology' ascribes the great technological, scientific and commercial developments which followed the Reformation to the impact of Reformed doctrine. Salvation in the realm of the Spirit led to salvation in the realm of ethics and common grace. False religion had held nations in chains. Naturalism had deprived man of his true destiny in the image of God. A famine of the Word of the Lord had left even the wise ignorant. One of the great glories of true revivals is that they always lead to the renewal of intellectual, moral and social life.

The events of the Reformation are too well known to repeat here. This revival in which the Word of God was central brought unspeakable blessings to the sons of men

More in a few days.

Sam Drucker

Sunday, June 10, 2012


In the July 1965 edition of the Banner of Truth journal, Paul E. G. Cook wrote the second part (I wish I could find the first part) of an article on Revival in History. I found it really absorbing. It is one man's view of the activity of the church and God at times since the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ but it seems to make a lot of sense to me so I pass it on for the benefit of other readers. It is a long article so I have to break it up into about five instalments.

"REVIVAL IN HISTORY II - An Historical Survey of Revivals - by Paul E. G. Cook.

The Christian Church has frequently suffered from what might be called the theology of experience. Some aspect of spiritual experience is used to assess the spirituality of others, and often as 'a key' for the interpretation of the Bible. In this way, the Word of God becomes subservient to subjective experience and this may, or may not, be true experience. The study of revivals has suffered much from this approach in which human experience instead of the objective truth of the Bible is used as the norm of interpretation. Principles of revival have been formulated from a study of certain 'revivals' in history, and then used as a criterion for judging whether any existing set of circumstances constitutes 'a revival'. The assumption underlying this whole method is that the 'revivals' from which the principles have been drawn were in fact genuine revivals. It is also in danger of suggesting that all revivals must be accompanied by set patterns of experience, whereas the Scriptures would lead us to believe in a variety of experiences all of which may not necessarily be present in any one revival of true religion.

If there is a true doctrine of revival it should be found in the Word of God. Having formulated the doctrine from a study of the Word, the history of the Christian Church may then be examined in the light of it to determine whether or not any given circumstances and events commonly denoted 'revival' come within its biblical definition. In our last article we looked at the biblical evidence and concluded that all true religion comes within the category of revival and the effects of revival. Man in his fallen and unregenerate state is prone to degenerate religiously. True religion flows from God; it is the creation of fellowship between man and his Maker as the result of a gracious and sovereign intervention of God. This spiritual life is given and sustained by Him. Its spirituality belongs to the plane of the supernatural in contrast to the natural of man's life. Whenever God intervenes in man's life creating true religion the intervention may rightly be described as revival. Although the word 'revival' is usually applied to the intervention of God on a large scale in the lives of many individuals, the personal experience of God's renewing power in the life of an individual is of the same spiritual nature. The word correctly describes the spiritual history of Israel. When God turned aside from His wrath against their disobedience, and visited them with spiritual renewal in His grace, they experienced revival and rejoiced in their God.

Revival is the story of the Church with respect to its spirituality; apostacy
[sic] is the story of the Church with respect to its sin. Only as grace has triumphed over sin has the Church moved forward; and this triumph is God's work in revival. The flow of the Church is revival; its ebb is apostacy. Revival is supernaturalism; apostacy is naturalism. When the Church is in revival it experiences His grace; the day of apostacy is overshadowed by His wrath. It is a mistake to imagine God as ever inactive or impartial in His attitude toward His people. He acts both in grace and in wrath; giving supernatural life in His mercy, or withdrawing it in His displeasure. These are the biblical principles which govern the doctrine of revival.

These are the conclusions we came to in our last article. It follows that the background to any revival is always some form of apostate condition and sin in which the Church is found trusting natural rather than supernatural life and authority. When God arises and acts in revival He lifts the Church out of that state, and places it within the realm of the supernatural. In revival the Church is under the direction of the Spirit, who guides its life and supplies its energies. The Church may be fully regenerate in the sense that its members are spiritual people, but if its life has been reduced to the impotent level of human organization and direction with its energies consisting of no more than the physical and mental strength of its members, there is need for revival.

The interplay of the supernatural and natural elements in the life of the Church is a magnification of what is also present in the individual Christian. Nature and grace are irreconcilable in the context of salvation. Salvation is of grace alone from beginning to end, and man's energies are only permissible in its work when they are the result of the Spirit's activity. The full outworking of the biblical principles of revival are not observed with equal clarity or universality at all times in the history of the Church. A survey of this history does, however, focus our attention upon epochs in which the principles are most clearly illustrated.


The work of God at Pentecost possessed an unrepeatable uniqueness. Nevertheless the principles of revival are demonstrated. In drawing attention to them we do not wish to detract from the unparalleled significance of Pentecost.

Pentecost was mainly - some would say, entirely - confined to a visitation of God upon the Jewish people. The universal implications of the Gospel followed from Pentecost (Acts 1.8). It is not always appreciated that at the time of Pentecost the people of God were actually the Jewish nation. The old dispensation still prevailed in the purpose of God. In this sense, it could be argued that the Gospels belong to the Old Testament. In the period immediately before Pentecost a religion of naturalism held sway over the people of God. Man's works were at enmity with God's grace. Israel was in an apostate condition, and the teaching of the Pharisees instilled a form of legalism, similar in many respects to Roman Catholicism, in which the grace of God had no part. It had become a naturalistic religion because man had usurped the place of God as the author of 'Salvation'. Judaistic moralism focused the centre of attention upon man and his abilities. Justification had become the self-justification of the sinner. The teaching was a misinterpretation of the Scriptures and represented a denial of salvation by grace through faith as it appears in the Old Testament.

The immediate effect of Pentecost was to lift man out of this self-dependence and place him into a dependence upon God. On the day of Pentecost God intervened and grace triumphed with power over an impotent and naturalistic religion. The early Church, born in revival, experienced a period of growth and expansion under the control and sovereignty of the Spirit. The book of the Acts narrates the acts of the Holy Spirit in continuous revival threatened only by the man-centred doctrine of the Judaizers whose legal and moralistic approach to the gospel was a challenge to the supernatural grace which was its very essence. Paul rightly sensed that the divine favour would have given way to the divine wrath had the doctrines of the Judaizers prevailed in the Church

More in two or three days.

Sam Drucker

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Means of God

If I were to ask well read Christians, "Who would have been the greatest Christian philosopher in the history of America?" I imagine I would get a small range of candidates. If I were to ask "Who would be the single most influential instrument of God for the salvation of souls in America?" the candidates would, I expect, be a few more. However, the person who would fulfill the qualification for both questions would undoubtedly be Jonathon Edwards.

Jonathon Edwards, instrumental as he was, in the Eighteenth Century Christian 'Awakening' in America maintained an influence for several generations after his time. Yet, the means by which God brought Jonathon Edwards to salvation is somewhat different to the experience of other instruments used of God in both America and England around the same time such as George Whitefield and John Wesley. For Whitefield and the Wesley brothers, conversion came through an overwhelming expression of grace in their heart for their sins being forgiven in Jesus Christ. Such, it must be said, was something in the order of the experience of the majority of those who were received into the Kingdom of God in the Eighteenth Century 'Awakening' - not entirely, though, some were converted on their way to a place where the Word of God was to be preached and other means, of which I am not aware, may well have been used.

The circumstance of Jonathon Edwards is described by himself in the following manner:

"The first instance that I remember of that sort of inward, secret delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was, on reading those words, 1 Tim. 1.17, 'Now, unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.' As I read these words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused through it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of Scripture seemed to me as those words did. I thought with myself how excellent a Being that was, and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be rapt up to him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in him for ever. ... From that time I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. After this, my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered. There seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast or appearance of divine glory, in almost every thing. God's excellency. His wisdom. His purity, and His love seemed to appear in every thing."

In speaking of Edwards' conversion experience, Archibald Alexander, founder and First Professor of Princeton Theological College, said some 100 years later:

"The difference between this and many other cases of incipient piety, is very striking. And yet these views and exercises do not come up to the standard which some set up in regard to Christian experience, because they are so abstract, and have such casual reference to Christ, through whom alone God is revealed to man as an object of saving faith. And if there be a fault in the writings of this great and good man on the subject of experimental religion, it is, that they seem to represent renewed persons as at the first, occupied with the contemplation of the attributes of God with delight, without ever thinking of a Mediator. But few men ever attained, as we think, higher degrees of holiness, or had made more accurate observations on the exercises of others."

The example of Jonathon Edwards' conversion stands as a criticism of those who 'out of hand' reject any notion of God using something of Natural Theology to introduce people to the truth of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Note that I am not saying that a person need not come to the point of recognizing the need of Jesus Christ as Saviour. What I am saying is that the means by which the heart is opened or 'warmed' to the glory and reality of God, thus being receptive to the full expression of the gospel, is not and has not been of one means alone. Natural Theology of the Eighteenth Century was accompanied by a Deistic view of God which lacked the true and Personal Nature of God. Revelation must present a Personal God revealed in all the glorious fullness of Jesus Christ - Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Saviour.

To reject Natural Theology 'out of hand', as many graduates of Moore Theological College, Sydney, are want to do, is to quench the Spirit of God in the means of bringing people to the feet of our Lord.

Sam Drucker

Sunday, June 3, 2012

London Plagued (Final instalment of 6)

The official figure for the deaths by plague in August, 1665 was 20,000; men knew that in reality the numbers were higher. The new month with its cooler weather brought new hopes, but they were soon turned to black dismay. The mortality figures were still rising; 8,252 dead the first week, then a slight drop to 7,690, only to mount in the week, September 12th to 19th, to the dreadful total of 8,297! One London doctor declared that in one night he believed four thousand plague victims perished. The disease had now reached a violence which numbed and appalled the paralysed city. Out of the 130 parishes in and about London only four were not attacked by the plague and in these four there were few people who had not earlier joined in the flight to the country. Death had at first swept the narrow alleys now it dominated the open streets. 'The spectre of imminent death stared each man nakedly in the face. Never before throughout the visitation had the Plague been so fierce. Hardly a person attacked now escaped with life .... The doctors were amazed.' 'Fears there are amongst us,' wrote Vincent, 'that within a while there will not be enough alive to bury the dead; and that the city of London will now be quite depopulated.'

From such fears God was to deliver London. Gradually through October the numbers fell, and though 1,414 persons died in the first week of November the situation was at last coming under control. By January 1666, though the Court was still absent and the well-to-do western of London - from Covent Garden to Westminster - still empty of people, conditions were fast returning to normal. Yet normal is hardly the right word. The City to which the more prosperous classes who had opportunity to escape returned, amidst the snow and frost of winter, was not just the city which they had known six months before. Though no plague pits were marked, and few gravestones raised to commemorate the loss of relatives and friends, it needed no such memorials to remind them that some 110,000 persons in the small city had gone for ever - almost one out of every three of those who had remained. Such an event was not soon effaced from men's memories. In 1721, when there was fear of the plague returning to England, there were many who knew, from memory or from the lips of parents, what that would mean; even in 1854, when C. H. Spurgeon commenced preaching in London, he could refer to the days when grass grew in the city's streets and assume that his hearers understood the event to which he referred.

Today the Great Plague of 1665 is just another episode in 17th Century history which can be explained on naturalistic grounds: it was the chance combination of historical circumstances - insanitary conditions, rat infestation and medical ignorance - these factors and nothing more, it is said, are necessary to explain what occurred. Similarly, with regard to the Fire of 1666 which destroyed ninety per cent of the City and left it like the crater of a volcano, we are told to look no further than the bakers' ovens and merchants' furnaces, burning amidst crowded timber-framed houses, and close to such combustible goods as tallow, hemp, oil and hay, for the ultimate explanation of the cause. Our generation no longer believes in "acts of God" nor in sermons with titles like one of John Owen's, 'The Goodness and Severity of God in His Dealing With Sinful Churches and Nations', or 'The Only Way To Deliver A Sinful Nation From Utter Ruin By Impending Judgments'. Yet the modem attitude is not new; it is the old blindness of the natural man to the moral providence of a righteous God - the blindness over which Isaiah mourned when he cried. 'Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see' (Isa. 26.11), and to which the men of Judah bore testimony against themselves when they said regarding threatening calamities, 'It is not he; neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine' (Jer. 5,12).

Such has been the spreading unbelief of the 20th Century that the whole concept of God dealing with countries at the present time in the manner which we find related in the historical accounts of Scripture is strangely foreign to us. Men do not even consider the possibility that the principles of Divine government enunciated in texts like, 'He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them' (Job 12.23), and 'The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God' (Psa. 9.17), are still in force. Faith in these warnings seems almost to have disappeared from the professing Church and the popular theology today is in line with the religion of Charles II who, we read, 'had large notions of God's mercy, and could never believe that He would damn one of His creatures for taking a little irregular pleasure by the way .... somehow, he trusted, he would climb up to Heaven's gate.'¹

The New Testament bids us, 'Remember Lot's wife'; it tells us that the guilt of Christ-rejecting people exceeds the guilt of Sodom; it shows us God smiting Herod with disease (Acts 12.23) and inflicting death at Corinth (1 Cor. 11.30, 31); it speaks of a wrath revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; and it pronounces wrath to the uttermost upon a degenerate ecclesiasticism (1 Thess. 2.16). The story of 1665, read in the light of such Scriptures, speaks loudly to us. We may conclude with the words of John Owen :

'I told you I would do no more than speak a word or two for the present occasion: and I shall speak that which I do believe; and if you do so too, it may be your mercy. But it is a hard thing to believe London is ruined and England fallen, when we have peace and enjoy all things; but if we speak it in pride, it will be harder how to avoid it.

First, Is there not a confluence of all sorts of sins among us whereof mankind can contract guilt, especially of those sins upon the commission of which God pronounces a nation ruined - atheism and profaneness, blood and murder, adultery and uncleanness, and pride? When these sins are predominant in a nation that makes profession of the knowledge of God, God himself saith, and we may say, that nation is ruined. Those things have prevailed among us.

Then let us mourn over those sins as we ought to do. Have we done so in this congregation? Hath it been done in any congregation in England as it ought? Hath it been done in private, in our retirement, to mourn over that confluence of sins that hath prevailed and spread itself over the nation till it hath reached to the very neck? We have not done it to this very day. There is not the least attempt for any reformation. Do we think in such a day as this is a little prayer is enough to save a dying nation? There is nothing seriously done to work that reformation without which London will be undone and England will fall, and there will be no deliverance ....

It is time for us to consider the causes of this displeasure of God, testified so openly against us, to be humbled for them, and return unto the Lord. It is high time so to do. Oh, blessed is he that contributes any thing hereunto in this particular! The Lord raise up some, and pour his Spirit upon them, to be useful unto this end; that we may help to save ourselves, the city, and the nation wherein we live, and the residue of the churches in this land!

So ends a helpful view into the Plague of London of the 17th Century. The article appeared in the March 1965 edition of the Banner of Truth Journal, written, I suspect, by the then Editor, Iain Murray.

May it be the subject of sober reflection and prayer to God for the need of this present day.

Sam Drucker


1. King Charles II, Arthur Bryant, p.287

2. John Owen's Works, (Goold edit.), Vol 8, p.622

Friday, June 1, 2012

London Plagued ( 5 of 6)

Henchman, the Bishop of London, tells us that the clergy who did remain in the City were the 'sober' sort, in other words they were men who were closest to the Puritans and it is not surprising to find examples of them working together during these terrible months. Richard Edwards, rector of St. Anne, Aldersgate, who also had a living at Chislehurst, contracted the plague (from which he recovered) and left the work in the parish of St. Anne to the popular Puritan preacher William Dyer, ejected from Cholsbury, Buckinghamshire, in 1662. A memorial of Dyer's temporary and fervent ministry in Aldersgate exists in the form of two sermons he preached during the plague and afterwards published for the benefit of the parishioners - 'Christ's Voice to London' and 'The Great Day of God's Wrath'. The pages of these old sermons carry us back across three hundred years and we may imagine what they meant to those who first heard them :

'O London, London! God speaks to thee by his Judgments; and because thou wouldest not hear the Voice of His Word, He hath made thee to feel the stroke of His rod. O London! how are thy streets thinned, thy widows increased, and thy Burying places filled, thy inhabitants fled, thy trade decayed! .... O what a sad and doleful place hath this City been for several weeks past! The greatest trade which hath been here amongst us was to bury the dead, and tend the sick.'

But such words were not the theme of Dyer's sermons; he and his brethren stood to their posts because they had a message of love, comfort and joy which they knew was more powerful than ever in the devouring plague. Dyer gloried in declaring 'the pity, the mercy and willingnes of God to do your souls good.' 'O sinners!' he pleaded, 'go to Christ, His Promises are open to you, his Arms are open to embrace you, His Spirit is ready to assist you, and His people are ready to receive you, and His Angels are ready to attend you, and Heaven itself is ready to receive you .... O therefore, let this prevail with you to go to Christ for Light, for Life, for Grace, for Strength, and for Comfort and Peace, that of His fulness you may receive grace for grace, John 1.16.'

Strange though it may seem to the natural man, even in the midst of the Great Plague the Christians of London were sweetly persuaded of the love of Christ. It was His love constraining them that made men like Vincent and Dyer gladly leave the countryside to live in the stricken parishes; it was His love which they preached and it was the consciousness of this same love which enabled believers to be unshaken at the dreadful form of death to which they were as equally exposed as their fellow citizens. A letter which John Allin, already mentioned. wrote to his friend Philip Fryth at Rye on September 7th gives us an example of the comfort the Puritans had in this knowledge of God's love: 'The increasing sickenes hath now drawne very nigh mee; and God knoweth whither I may write ony more or no: it is at the next doore on both hands of mee, and under the same roof .... but I have no place of retireing, neither in the city nor country; none in heaven nor earth to go unto but God onely; the Lord lodge mee in the bosom of his love, and then I shall be safe whatever betides.' But to non-Christians these were days of terror. The Diary of the worldly Londoner, Samuel Pepys, is full of fears and alarms in these weeks when the plague was at its height. Driving one day from Bloomsbury down Holborn into the City, Pepys tells us he noticed the coach getting slower and slower until it finally stopped and the coachman staggered to inform them that he felt very sick and almost blind. Pepys fled to another coach, 'with a sad heart for the poor man, and for myself also' - lest he also should be struck down. There were many in London like Pepys who were too frightened to offer any help to the sick and the dying. In marked contrast we read of Vincent that one day he came upon a man who had been suddenly seized with the plague and, having become helplessly dizzy, he had struck his head and lay bleeding and dying under a tree in Morefields: 'I went and spoke to him,' says Vincent, 'he could make me no answer, but rattled in the throat, and as I was informed, within half an hour died in the place.'

A man might thus die suddenly on the street, so also might a minister in the pulpit or a Christian in his home. Many Christian families were in fact visited by the plague,¹ but though they suffered the same disease, death was not to them, says Vincent, 'a storm that dashed them upon the rocks of terror'. In death they were, yet not in danger - 'the winds are hushed and still, the waves are smooth and silent, the storm is over'. The dying Puritan did not know the words but he knew well the faith of the hymn-writer :

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

'It was generally observed amongst us,' Vincent records, 'that God's people who died by the plague amongst the rest, died with such peace and comfort, as Christians do not ordinarily arrive unto except when they are called forth to suffer martyrdom for the testimony of Jesus Christ. Some who have been full of doubts and fears and complaints. whilst they have lived, and been well, have been filled with assurance, and comfort, and praise and joyful expectation of glory, when they have lain on their death-beds with this disease. And not only more grown Christians, who have been more ripe for glory, have had these comforts, but also some younger Christians, whose acquaintance with the Lord hath been of no long standing.'

Vincent documents his statement with cases of some of those who at this time had taken refuge in his own household. One Monday, late in September, he had been out as usual comforting the bereaved and the dying: "I had been abroad to see a friend in the city, whose husband was newly dead of the plague, and she herself visited with it; I came back to see another, whose wife was dead of the plague, and he himself under apprehensions that he should die within a few hours." Arriving home after this sad day, he found his maid dying and also one of the young people in a fainting fit and calling out for help. 'What was an interest in Christ worth then!' he exclaims, 'what a privilege to have a title to the kingdom of heaven!' The following Thursday the young woman died, followed the next Lord's Day by a youth in the household, and three days later a second youth also passed away. These two youths, says Vincent, 'were less troubled themselves than others were for them' for the Grace of God beautified their last hours. The latter, a boy of about seventeen years, had such quiet and serenity of spirit that, Vincent records, 'I confess I marvelled to see it ... he went away with great peace and sweetness in his looks, to his father's house: and I could not blame the mother's grief for the loss of such an only son.

Spelling as originally rendered. Final instalment in a couple of days.

Sam Drucker


1. In Thomas Brooks' 'The Privie Key of Heaven', which was first published when the plague was at its height, he says in his Epistle Dedicatory to several 'afflicted' Christian women: 'many and great have been the breaches that The Lord hath made upon your persons, upon your near and dear relations, and upon your sweetest comforts and contentments'. None bore a heavier grief than parents whose children suffered. Few infants born at this time survived. Vincent says that he saw no sight more heartbreaking than that of 'a woman with a little coffin under her arm, carrying it to the new church-yard.' It was no superficial message that could give consolation amidst such tragic scenes.