Great Awakenings – Part 3: The Revival of 1857-58
Once again, a generation passed away after the Second Great Awakening and once again America slipped into a deep moral decline. The country was severely divided over the issue of slavery. And prosperity reigned, as, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, it was easier to make money than ever before.
During the First and Second Great Awakenings, revival came from Britain and moved to America. But the Revival of 1857-58 would start in America and jump the Atlantic to land in Europe. The world was indeed changing and the influence of our young nation was taking hold across the globe.
The Revival of 1857-58 began in the most unlikely of places with the most unlikely of people.
The location was in downtown New York City and the person was a simple businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier. He would be led by the Holy Spirit to start a lunchtime prayer meeting in the upper room of his Dutch Reformed Church.
- Six people showed up at that first prayer meeting.
- Fourteen showed up the next week.
- Then 23.
- Then it was decided that they should meet everyday over lunch for prayer.
- By March of 1858, every church and every public hall in downtown New York was filled with people praying.
- It was said that the hunger for prayer was so strong that the people preferred services of prayer over preaching.
The great student and professor of revival J. Edwin Orr described the Revival of 1857-58 this way…
“a reporter with horse and buggy” he explained, “(was sent) racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men attending.
Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon, and six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water.
When the revival reached Chicago, a young shoe salesman went to the superintendent of the Plymouth Congregational Church, and asked if he might teach Sunday School. The superintendent said, ‘I am sorry, young fellow. I have sixteen teachers too many, but I will put you on the waiting list.’
The young man insisted, ‘I want to do something just now.’
‘Well, start a class.’ He was told.
‘How do I start a class?’ he asked.
‘Get some boys off the street but don’t bring them here. Take them out into the country and after a month you will have control of them, so bring them in. They will be your class.’
He took them to a beach on Lake Michigan and he taught them Bible verses and Bible games. Then he took them to the Plymouth Congregational Church. The name of that young man was Dwight Lyman Moody, and that was the beginning of a ministry that lasted forty years.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago had 121 members in 1857; but by 1860 it had 1,400 members. That was typical of the churches. More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a population of thirty million.”
After 1858, the revival would jump the Atlantic and would spark other revivals across England and Europe. One of the most noted of these was the famous Welsh Revival.
The love song of the Welsh Revival was an early 19th century hymn called “Here Is Love.” The lyrics in the third verse beautifully describe the Supernatural movement of God during a Spiritual Awakening. “Grace and love, like mighty rivers, Poured incessant from above, And Heav’n’s peace and perfect justice Kissed a guilty world in love.”