“A final general observation arising out of this period (The Second Great Awakening) has to do with the manner in which the unusual sense of the presence of God was recognized in the churches which experienced these revivals. It was not because men saw weeping multitudes, unrestrained noise and high excitement that they believed a revival had begun. On the contrary, such things — which are sometimes supposed to be of the essence of revival — were almost entirely absent in the Northeast during the greater part of the Second Great Awakening. . . . The presence of God and the measure of his working was not judged by such things but rather by the deep impression made on people by ‘the power of divine truth.’ Far from aiming at stirring excitement, the preachers sought to avoid it. ‘It was their object, indeed, to make deep impressions on the hearts of sinners,” observed Porter, “but to do this only be means of truth. Accordingly, the whole tendency of things was to produce exercises of the calm, solemn, pungent kind rather than passionate and clamorous excitement.'”
– Ian Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 137-138
There are many good pastors today, I have observed, who, while certainly aiming to “make deep impressions on the hearts of sinners” “by means of truth,” also find it necessary to “motivate” or “encourage” their people to have a “zeal” or “passion” for the truth.1
And then they wish their people would have a visible “excitement” for God, just like one might have at a sporting event.
Perhaps instead we should take note of the past, lest we fall into the grave errors that folllowed the era of the Second Great Awakening.
- See, for instance, Bob Kauflin’s understanding of what a worship leader should be doing. [↩]