Yesterday it was a delight to see my old friends, Ian and Megan Jukes, and their three lovely kids. We went to visit a church founded by George Whitefield where he preached and is buried under the pulpit. I took loads of photos so have turned them into a slide show for you. If you want to see his burial place, it is at The Old South Church, Newburyport, Massachusetts.The Resurgence also posted a sermon by George Whitefield just recently.
I have to say that this experience was one of the most memorable of any of the historical tourist things I have ever done. We were shown around the church by Norm, one of the elders there. To just stand outside the church and realize that we were standing on the very street where revival had been so strong all those years ago thrilled me. We have pictures of ourselves standing at Whitefield’s preaching desk, and handling his Bible.
I have to say that I felt the presence of God in that church building today, and at one point I was praying silently, “Do it again!” It was a special moment to join Ian afterwards in praying that God would once again raise up preachers like George Whitefield.
I find myself very powerfully affected whenever I visit these sites connected with historic revival. Three such visits stand out in my mind. Today’s visit, a trip to Wesley Cottage, and some time I spent on our honeymoon speaking with a lady who personally remembered the Lewis Revival. On each occasion I felt a stirring in my spirit, and the same sense of the presence of God was tangible to me. Once again I have been undone. Once again I find myself longing to experience for myself the joy of being present during such a sovereign touch of God’s Spirit.
As I woke early this morning, I decided to remind myself of the events of the Lewis revival. Imagine my surprise to find that there are a number of recordings by Duncan Campbell (the preacher used by God on Lewis) available for free online. I listened this morning to a talk given in 1950 by Campbell about revival. It is powerful, engaging, and captured my heart again. The sense of God’s Spirit on this talk was tangible to me, almost as though the Spirit himself is somehow contained in the words.
Campbell begins his retelling of the events with which he had been so intimately involved by saying:
“One evening, an old woman 84 years of age and blind, had a vision. Now don’t ask me to explain this vision because I cannot, but strange things happen when God begins to move. This dear old lady in the vision saw the church of her fathers crowded with young people, and she saw a strange minister in the pulpit. She was so impressed by this revelation, because a revelation it was, she sent for the minister and told her story. The parish minister was a God-fearing man, a man who longed to see God working. Oh, he had tried ever so many things to get the youth of the parish interested, but not one single teenager attended the church. That was the situation. Well, what did the old lady have to say to him? I’ll tell you what she said: “I am sure, Mr. McKay, that you are longing to see God working. What about calling your office bearers together and suggesting to them that you spend two nights a week waiting upon God? You have tried missions, you have tried special evangelists, Mr. Mckay, have you tried God?” Oh, I tell you this is a wonderful old woman. So he meekly obeyed and said, “Yes, I’ll call the session together and I will suggest that we meet on Tuesday night and Friday night, and we’ll spend the whole night in prayer.” I tell you, dear people, here were men who meant business. The dear old lady said, “Well, if you do that, my sister and I will get on our knees at ten o’clock on Tuesday and ten o’clock on Friday and pray until 4 a.m. . . .” And in the prayers, according to the minister, they would say again and again, “God, you are a covenant-keeping God and you must be true to your engagements . . .” One night a very remarkable thing happened. They were kneeliing amongst straw, the straw of a barn house. Suddenly one young man rose and read part of Psalm 24: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord” (vv.3-5a). And then that young man closed his Bible. And looking down at the minister and the elders, he spoke these crude words (but perhaps not so crude in our Gaelic language): “It seems to me to be so much humbug to be praying as we are praying, to be waiting as we are waiting, if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.” And then he lifted his two hands and prayed, “God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?” That dear man got no further, he fell on his knees and then on his face on the straw. In a matter of minutes three of the elders fell into a trance . . . when that happened in the barn . . . a power was let loosed . . . that shook the whole of Lewis. God stepped down. The Holy Spirit began to move among the people . . . God seemed to be everywhere . . . “
I defy you to listen to that talk and not be moved deeply. The description of revival is amazing, and I can feel the presence of the Spirit as I listen. As I write this, with Campbell’s voice resounding in my head, I am not ashamed to say that tears are welling in my eyes. Oh, won’t you join me in crying to God, “Do it again! Do what you did on Lewis. Do what you did through George Whitefield. Revive us again!”
Photos from George Whitefield’s final resting place.