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Revival Work

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/01/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. 

                              Revival Work                                   by                   Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

  A Sermon, delivered by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Piece Hall, Halifax,                 on Wednesday evening, April 7th, 1858.

                    "O Lord, revive Your work" (KJV)

Our hearts have, during the last few weeks, been full of joy and gratitude at the good news which has come across the sea from the land of the West.  We hear that one of the most extraordinary religious awakenings has taken place in the United States.  As many as fifty thousand persons are reported to have been added to the churches there in one month.  There never has been known, since about a hundred years ago, in the days of Jonathan Edwards, such a thorough shaking throughout the length and breadth of the land, in religious matters.  Now, what is there standing in the way of Great Britain, that we should not see the same?  Why may not every Christian in England pray for the same?  Why shouldn't he work for the same, and why shouldn't we have it at last? 

There is one curse in America that we do not have, we call no men slaves; but, if even there, the great work of God's Spirit has been carried on, we have at least one more probability why we should have the like.  Only let us strive in prayer, let us labor diligently, and the day shall yet come when we shall see a great revival, when the name of our God shall be glorified, and His Churches shall be greatly increased.                 

It is on that subject I shall address you tonight, from the well known words in the prayer of Habakkuk, "O Lord, revive Thy work" (KJV).

It is very clear that there are three truths taught in our text:

1. Salvation is God's work. 2. God's work of grace sometimes need reviving. 3. No one can revive God's work but God Himself.

            I. The Great Salvation which God has sent into                   the world is entirely His own work.

Whether it be in the mass or in the individual, there is no true religion except it comes from above.  A thousand mistakes have been made about this matter; and there is but one way of proving this truth, which is so explicit as to deny every error.  Some say that religion is, in part at least, the work of ministers.  Certain men, gifted with peculiar powers, conferred on them by ordination, are set apart to the office of the regular ministry; and when they read certain prayers, or when they preach, it is supposed that there is in them a special measure of power by which the Church and the world are blessed. 

Yes, my brethren, God does make use of His ministers to establish His own work; but no so-called "minister" ever yet had power to intermingle with God's work.  We may be the instruments, just as Milton's pen was the instrument for writing "Paradise Lost," but the pen might as well claim the authorship of that wondrous poem as any of us claim the slightest iota of glory in the work of salvation.  God, from first to last, must have, and shall have, all the glory--neither minister, nor evangelist shall share in it.  There will be a curse and a blight on that man's labor who does not always stand behind his Master, and declare that without Him he can do nothing.

There is another phase of error which also is opposed to this truth.  I believe that many of my brethren, of whom I am now about to speak, do not see the tendency of certain doctrines they preach; but there are some preachers who teach doctrines, which, when refined, come to this, "That man is to help God in the work of salvation."  I do not care who the man is who says that, he is in error.  Man, when he is moved by the Holy Spirit, and empowered by Him, may help as an instrument in his own salvation after he has been revived; but the first work of conversion is altogether irrespective of man, as to its channel.  God the Holy Spirit stimulates the sinner who is "dead in transgressions and sins."  He asks of the sinner neither "will" nor "power," but, finding him without anything, He gives him everything.  "Salvation comes from the Lord" alone.  Jonah learned that truth in the belly of the fish, and if some preachers I know were sent to a place like that, they might learn it too.  A little more trouble with the soul, a little more deep experience, would make them come out with this grand old truth, that is sometimes called Calvinism, but which, after all, is only Christianity in its bold, naked form: "Salvation comes from the Lord."

We call that man an agnostic who says that the world was not created by God; but he is worse than an agnostic who takes away the glory of salvation from God.  If I wished to choose one out of two sins, the sin of denying God's glory in creation, or in salvation, I would prefer to deny, against my senses, that God created the world, rather than deny that God saves souls.  If I must commit a sin, let me commit the lesser one; for it surely is the greatest guilt to try to steal the brightest jewel in the crown of God, and that is the jewel of the glory of man's salvation. 

No, my hearers, you may criticize this doctrine if you will; but there it stands, and you must confess its truth, or else, denying it, you will be forced to find it true in this life, or in the next.  Salvation is God's work, from the very first holy desire that is breathed into the sinner, till the last dying wish with which he enters into Heaven.  God shows the sinner his need; he neither could nor would know his need unless God showed it to him.  It is the Holy Spirit who gives the sinner an insight into the all-sufficiency of Christ; he would never understand that unless he were taught of the Spirit.  It is, then, the Spirit who touches the will, influences the conscience, guides the sinner out of himself to Christ Jesus, who saves him; and after that, it is still all of God.  He who was the Alpha must be the Omega.  He must work all our works in us, or we shall never see God's face with acceptance.  Of this I am persuaded, if I should even get my feet on the golden threshold of Paradise, and my finger on its pearly latch, unless I had all-sufficient grace to take the last step, I should die and perish on the, very doorway of Heaven.  Every Christian should say,

                        "Grace led my roving feet                       To tread the Heavenly road;                     And new supplies each hour I meet                         While pressing on to God."

                    "Grace taught my soul to pray,                       And made my eyes overflow;                   Twas grace that kept me to this day,                         And will not let me go."

But without grace from God, there is no salvation; for "Salvation comes from the Lord" alone.  This doctrine, I hope, we are all ready to receive.

            II. The Work of Salvation Often Needs Reviving.

If you know anything of the work of God's grace in your own heart, you will frequently have to pray, "O Lord, revive Your work."  Today you are full of faith, tomorrow you may be full of doubts.  One day you can sing like an angel, the next day your throat is dry, and not a note rises from your soul.  One day you stand on a mountain's summit, and another day the dens of the leopards are your dreary habitation.  You are at times full of zeal, and then nothing is too hard for you; you feel that you could give your body to be burned, if it were necessary, to magnify His name.  But, finally, perhaps there comes a long season of backsliding, and your soul grows cold and dead; joy flies away, lukewarmness comes and cools your love, all your happiness departs, and your fervor becomes quenched in a frost of cold insensibility. 

You often need to be revived; no, more than that, you know that the text may be read, as it is in the Hebrew, "O Lord, preserve Your work," for there are times when, not only does the work want reviving, but it seems as if it were almost gone out, and it must be rekindled and preserved.  Blessed be God, if any of you need reviving, you have the promise that you shall have it, if you seek it with diligence.  "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."  He carefully takes the wick, and blows it with His own sweet breath; and when one spark appears, He gently blows it until there is another, and at last the flame becomes bright, and strong, and mighty.  So may it be with each of us in our own hearts, in the hidden man of the soul!

I am sure that it is so, too, with the Church at large.  We need to pray earnestly, "0 Lord, revive Your work."  There comes, every now and then, a mighty stir in our churches.  God sends a George Whitefield, or a John Wesley, and a great wave seems to arise upon the surface of the Church, and it rolls over the sands of man's indifference.  Gradually it falls back, and perhaps there follow fifty more years of sloth, and dull routine.  Again God appears in a marvelous manner, and once more He shows His power and might; but then once again the revival dies out, and the light of Israel seems once more to be quenched, and the glory to have departed.  It strikes me that, at this period, we are somewhere between the two great waves.  I pray the Lord God that we may very soon, by His infinite mercy, see another great wave of blessing arise mightier than any that have ever gone before. 

Look at our churches; you will see almost everywhere--I would not speak too harshly--you will see nearly everywhere a coldness which cannot be too much lamented.  There is a little awakening just now; some of our ministers are finding out that they have tongues, and they are beginning to speak to "the common people," speaking, too, in good old-fashioned language.  They have begun to find out, also, that if they would be the instrument of the salvation of souls, they must preach as if they meant it; they must not leave their hearts in their studies, bringing their old dry manuscripts with them, and stand droning in the pulpit for an hour.  There is a little awakening, but there is still a need of far more of the arousing spirit than they have yet received.  I am sure, if you look around you, if any thoughtful man considers the signs of the times, he will admit that the doctrine of the text is a doctrine of fact, and that the Church often needs reviving, and that she always needs preserving.

          III. No One Can Revive God's Work but God Himself.

I shall presently come to an earnest exhortation; but just a word first on this doctrine that is included in my text: "O Lord, revive Your work."    I have not the slightest atom of faith in any professional revivalism; I have never seen any real good come of it.  This I have seen, while the revivalist has been holding special services, the people have been stirred and warmed, and many have professed to be converted; but, then in far too many cases, a blow and a blight have been left on those churches for years afterwards, and an injury has been done them from which they seemed never to recover.  A man-originated revival is a sort of spiritual intoxication, producing a kind of arousing of men and women, yet really leaving them flatter and duller than they were before.

But though this kind of revivalism does no good, I know that there are true and genuine revivals, and in each of these there is this prominent mark, that they are most visibly and eminently of God.  In the great revival in New England, you remember it was at first produced under a sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards.  There was an ordination, I think, and he attended it; but the expected minister did not arrive, and Jonathan Edwards was asked to preach.  He had one sermon in his pocket, for he always wrote his sermons, and read them; and he was by no means a mighty speaker, in the common acceptance of the term.  So he took out his manuscript, held it up close to his eye, and stood still, almost without motion, except now and then the lifting of his hand; thus he read his sermon through from beginning to end. 

The Lord seemed to move among that assembly of people.  A mysterious influence entered into all hearts.  Men returned to their homes, and they told of the great things they had heard and experienced within.  Ministers went home, and they began to preach differently from what they had done before.  Church members went home, and they began to pray more earnestly; and, on a sudden, from the spark that seemed to be kindled by the accident of Jonathan Edwards being called upon to preach, there came, as it were, one mighty sheet of fire, which spread throughout the land, as the consuming element sweeps over the prairie.  So, in the present revival, the same fact must be noticed.  There are no great revivalists in America now, who are making any wonderful stir.  God just sent them somewhere else, and said, "Now, gentlemen, I am about to revive My own work."  He began it Himself, and He is carrying it on.  He has aroused New York, and all New England with a mighty blessing, the end of which no one can tell.  The Lord Himself has done it; and however we may talk about revivals, the Lord must do the work Himself, and Himself alone.  We must pray, "O Lord, revive Your work."  We must pray the revival down; it is ours to use all right means, methods, and instrumentalities, but it must be also ours to recollect that all the strength, and all the might, and all the success, must come from on high, even from God the Holy Spirit.

Are there any of you here who were converted by a man?  If you were, you have grave cause to suspect your conversion.  If one man can convert you, another may unconvert you.  That which man can do, man can undo.  Have any of you had your churches revived by a man?  Then probably they may fall back again; but if the revival be a genuine work of God, a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, then not death, nor hell, can ever destroy God's own work; stand it must, and prevail it shall.  "O Lord, revive Your work."  "Will You not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?"

Thus I have set before you the three truths in my text; and now, with all my might, I desire to speak to you on the subject of a revival, and to endeavor to stir up your minds, by way of remembrance, that you may be led to seek after a genuine revival of Christianity from the Lord.  I beseech you, men, brethren, and fathers, strive with God, both by day and by night, for a revival of Christianity in our midst.  My first argument is this: you may well be urged to pray earnestly when you consider some of the effects of a true revival.

When revivals come into a church, they make a great stir, and effect many changes.  There is the minister.  He used to preach at an average rate of three miles an hour; he certainly never went beyond that.  He was diligent, too, all the week through, in trying to pick out long words of many syllables, and thrusting them into his discourses, because, as there are hard seeds in fruit, he thought so there ought to be hard words in sermons!  It was very seldom that he ever stirred himself in his pulpit; had he taken but a pinch of snuff, the people would have noticed it.  It would have been a new thing with him, for he was so regular a discourser that he had gone on in the same old rut for full twenty years. 

But there came a revival, he did not at first know what to make of it; but, somehow or other, he brushed himself up, brought his energy into play, and, it is currently declared, the next Sunday he actually told an anecdote!  He finds a tear unwittingly come into his eye; and, he does not exactly know how it is, but the people actually seem to understand his words.  Another Sunday, and the man grows more earnest still; and the good old woman in the balcony, who had never been disturbed in her seat before, asked, "What has come over our minister?"  It was said by some that he was "growing quite young again," but the fact was, the dear man was growing quite good again, and God was pouring out His good Spirit into his heart.  He put all his old sermons under his bed, and set to work to find a few good, homely thoughts, that he might earnestly speak to the people. 

His congregation were so struck that they could not make it out at all; he was once so dull and drowsy, and now so changed!  But Monday night comes, and with it the prayer-meeting.  Never were seen so many present before.  The church was half full; how wonderful!  And the Monday after, better still, quite full!  But the best of it was yet to come, they had to turn into the chapel at length, for lack of room in the main church building!  And, what was almost regarded as a miracle, the good old senior deacon, who used to begin in such a boring manner and drift into idle talk for twenty minutes, actually prayed a half-a-dozen times over, "O Lord, save souls, for Jesus Christ's sake!  "And more than that, all the praying brethren, when they prayed, pleaded earnestly that God would bless their pastor, and prosper him in his work!  Well, next, the blessing reached the Sunday-school; the teachers began to seek more children to attend; and the children became more thoughtful, yes, some of the dear boys and girls were converted to God.  And then followed the good effects of the revival all around.  The members of the church began to attend more regularly, and they not only came to the services both morning and evening on the Sunday, but they actually came on time!

Thus the empty seats in the chapel soon became filled, for the members, brought strangers with them.  And, better still, the church was full too.  The minister called an enquirers' meeting [an evangelistic meeting for the unsaved], and, oh! such a number came; and the good man was ready to say, "Who has brought me these?"  But the most gratifying thing of all was, that those whom the Lord added to the church stood firm; they did not run away from her services.  It was God's revival, and God's revivals are not spurious.

"The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved," and these whom He added were still steadfast months later, and many of them, in the future, became ministers of the gospel, and some of them were sent into foreign lands, to preach among the heathen the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Oh, how I should like to see such revivals as these in your good Yorkshire chapels!  Some of our churches down London way, in Essex chapels especially, have never done anything, I do believe, for the last fifty years, that their great, great grandfathers did not do.  If you went into a village, and proposed to preach in the open-air, you would be met by numerous objections.  "It is not Calvinistic, for the Wesleyans do that."  Well, well, if others do a good thing, why should we not follow their example, and do as they do?  If a special Wednesday prayer-meeting is proposed, the portly deacon asks, "What is the use of it?"  Another old preacher says, "The people are too busy, also the market comes on a Wednesday, and it would prove such a great interference with business."  Then a third chimes in, "No, we had rather not, there are too many meetings already."  They are very good men, but not quite up to the times, or else they would have seen that, now and then, extraordinary means must be used to produce extraordinary effects.

Some of our respectable churches would be frightened out of all manner of propriety, if God the Holy Spirit should once begin a work of this nature in their midst.  There are good old deacons and church-members everywhere to be found who, if more than one candidate a month presented himself for church-fellowship, would exclaim, "Surely, they can't be good ones" and they would begin to try to pump the poor souls dry, by plying them with deep theological questions about "the Bible" and "a deep experience" and difficult doctrines; and if the candidates made any little blunder, they would at once say, "See, you are not up to the mark, and ought not to be received; you had better wait a few months until you gain more knowledge of the deep things of God."  The effects of a true revival among all our churches would be positively astounding; it would do ministers good, members good, deacons good, and, above all, it would do sinners good, by bringing them to Jesus Christ our Lord.

Christian men and women, I beg you, pray that God would pour out His Spirit upon us.  The devil is wide-awake, hell is active, unbelief is rampant, Roman Catholicism is making mighty strides, every system of error is on the alert.  Rise up, rise up, you guardsmen of the truth!  Rise up, rise up, you mothers in Israel!  Rise up, rise up, for God and for His cause!  Cry to God that, as the enemy is becoming mighty, that He, God, would prove Himself almighty.  Remember how your time is flying; you can only do little for Christ, should you even be spared to live to eighty years of age.  What are eighty years?  How little to spend for Him who gave His life for us!  Oh! when we think how little we can do, it should stir us up to do all we can, and to ask that God, if He will not lengthen our years, may double their effect, by making us doubly laborious, and doubly useful.

Remember, too, that while time is flying, men are dying, souls are being lost, sinners are being hurried away to the bottomless gulf.  Does not this thought move your hearts?  Would you not seek to save sinful men and women, if you could hear the shrieks and groans of those who have perished in their sins, and are now past hope?  And some of these, whom you might seek to save, are your own sons and daughters, your own flesh and blood.  You have every cause for a revival, for there are among you wives who have drunken husbands, and there are husbands here who have drunken wives; there are parents here who have ungodly children, sons and daughters who make their hearts to ache.  If you will not plead for the conversion of other sinners, at least pray for a revival that your own offspring may be saved by grace.  If this argument does not touch you, what other one can I use?  "He that does not care for his own relatives has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 

Oh, how sweet it is to parents when they see their children brought to Christ!  I met with a remarkable instance of a happy woman, not many months ago.  A widowed mother had two sons, who were nearly full-grown men.  They had been excellent children in their boyhood, but they began to be headstrong, as too many young people are prone to be, and they would not submit to their mother's control; they would spend their Sunday as they pleased, and sometimes in places where they should not have been seen.  Their mother determined that she would never give up praying for them, and one night she thought she would shut herself up in the house, and pray for her sons' conversion. 

The very night she had set apart for prayer on their behalf, the older son said to her, "I am going to hear the minister that preaches down Southwark way; I am told he is an odd man, and I want to hear him preach."  The mother herself did not think much of that minister, but she was so glad that her boy was going anywhere within the sound of the Word, that she said, "Go, my son."  He added, "My brother is going with me." Their mother stayed at home, and earnestly prayed for her sons.  Those two young men came to church, and that odd minister was blessed to see the conversion of both of them.  When the mother opened the door, on their return home, the first one fell upon her neck, weeping as if his heart would break.  "Mother," he said, "I have found the Savior; I am a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ."  She looked at him a minute, and then said, "I know it, my son; tonight I have had power in prayer, and I know that I have prevailed.  I knew it would be so."  "But," said the younger brother, "Oh, mother! I too, have been cut to the heart, and I also have given my heart to Jesus." 

Happy was that mother, and I was happy, too, when she came to me, and said, "You have been the means of the conversion of my two sons; I have never been baptized before, I see it now to be the Lord's command, I will be baptized with my children."  It was my joy to lead the whole three down into the water, and to baptize them into "The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  Why should it not be so in your case?  If God should send a revival of Christianity in the midst of your church, you may hope that your children will be included in the blessing.

Now, if other arguments have failed, let me give you one more reason why you should seek a revival.  There, on the cross, hangs your Savior bleeding to death, He looks at you.  I think I hear Him say to you tonight, "Love sinners; I love you; do you not love Me?  Do you not love sinners for My sake?"  I think I see Him with His blessed hands nailed to the cruel cross, and as He hangs there, He looks on you, my brother, over there, and He says to you, "Sinner, I am bearing all this for you; what will you do for Me?"  What will you do for Jesus Christ, who died to save you?  Brothers, sisters, what will you do?  Ask your hearts the question, and answer it as you mean to carry it out, "What can I, what shall I, do for Christ Jesus my Lord?" one of you says, "I will give my money for Christ." Amen!  Another says, "I will use my pen for Christ." Amen! Another cries, "I will give my all to Christ; all I am, and all I have, shall be hereafter and forever Yours, my Savior." Amen and Amen!  Practice your resolves; go and live in the world, but no longer as of the world, "for you were bought at a price.  Therefore honor God with your body."  God grant that so great a revival may spring up in our land!  "O Lord, revive Your work."

Now I shall conclude by trying to show you how you can, as Christians, each of you, in the hands of the Holy Spirit, promote a revival.  It is hard to tell, dear friends, what is the best thing that a man can do towards the salvation of souls when his heart is right; for, sometimes, the very strangest act becomes the most useful.  I will tell you a strange but true story.  That holy man, George Whitefield, was once staying at Rhode Island, at the house of a sea captain who was a rich and honorable man.  The family was very much attached to the preacher, and they did everything to make him comfortable.  Whitefield was accustomed always to speak to the persons where he stopped, and to warn them to "flee from the wrath to come."  But this captain was a man so respectable that he did not like to introduce the subject; the devil said to him, "George, don't say anything to the captain, he will get right in time, he will be sure to come around; see what a nice sort of a man he is; it would not be respectful of you, either, to be imposing your religion on him; and, besides, he hears you preach, and that is sufficient."  So George let day go after day, and did not say anything to the captain, his wife, or his family. 

At length, the last night came, and George Whitefield went to bed with an aching heart, for his conscience said to him, "Whitefield, you have not done all you could for the salvation of this family, and therefore you are guilty."  The flesh said, "No, no, Whitefield, you do a great deal other good work; God will excuse you letting this one family alone."  Again the Holy Spirit said, "Not so, not so, Whitefield, you must say something."  Well, poor fellow, what to do he could not tell, for he felt he could not summon courage to speak to the captain on the last day.  He said, "If I had done it before, I could have done it well, but not now." At last, this thought struck him; he had a diamond ring on his finger; (I never knew the use of those things till I heard this story!) He went to the window-pane, and wrote these words, "One thing you lack."  Whitefield went his way; this was all that he did, and his heart still ached, for he felt sure he had not done all he ought to have done.  He was no sooner gone from the house than the captain, who, loved and venerated him, went upstairs, and said, "I will look at the bed where this holy man slept." The writing on the window-pane at once caught his eye; he stood and looked, and looked, and wept, and wept again.  He then went to the head of the stairs, and said, "Wife, come up here."  She came, and he, pointing to the window-pane, said, "There, you and I thought we had made this good man comfortable, and we fancied that he had forgotten our souls; but, you see, he was troubled about us; he did not like to speak to us, yet he could not go away without leaving a message, for his heart was sad about us." "Oh!" she said, "I wondered why he did not seem concerned about us, but I see it now;" and she began to weep with her husband.  He said to her, "Let us call the children up," so they called them

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