A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

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Was there any fanaticism during the ‘First Awakening’ revival?

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There is a lot to learn especially when it comes to Church history and revivals and revivalisms.

Unusual outward manifestations attended the revivals of
[The Great Awakening of the 18th century]. At times there were audible sighs and sobs throughout assemblies under the preached Word. Sometimes convicted sinners cried out, ‘What must I do to be saved?’, as scripture was brought home to their consciences. In a few instances men fell prostrate on the floor, even becoming physically rigid for a time. What was the attitude of the pastors to these unusual happenings?

All but a few ‘fanatics’ (as revival pastors called them) were completely unimpressed with these things. In speaking to the individuals who experienced them, they cared nothing for outward effects. They asked only what inward work had been done in their souls, and what truth of God’s Word produced that inward experience. They were convinced that revival blessing was an inward and usual work of the Spirit by the Word of Scripture.

Congregations were urged to refrain from any public outburst or demonstration whatsoever so that none would be distracted from the truth. But pastors did not absolutely forbid these outward manifestations, for they found that truth had so mightily gripped the minds of some that they were overwhelmed. Again, it was an intelligent grasp of the inscripturated Word as a cause that led them to allow this phenomena. Let Joseph Tracy again be quoted:

“There have been not a very few among us within seven or eight months past, that have cried out with great agonies and distress, or with high joys on spiritual accounts, and that in time of religious exercises. But these two things we would observe relating to what we have seen of this nature, viz:

First, that we are persuaded that very few, if any, among us, have cried out in such a manner while they could avoid it without doing too much violence to their nature, or turning their thoughts to divine things; though we have not thought it ordinarily proper to leave off speaking, or to have the persons so affected removed out of the house.

And secondly, that we by no means account persons crying out in time of worship, falling down, or the degree of their joys or sorrows, that might occasion these effects on their bodies, to be any sign of their conversion, when separately considered; and have carefully warned our people against such a way of thinking; though at the same time we cannot but think that most who have manifested their sense of things, were under the operations of the Holy Ghost at the same time, which occasioned these outcries; and that their inward experiences were substantially the same as theirs who have been savingly converted to God, as we hope, and have given no such tokens of their distress or joys.”

Yet when their outward effects became too great they hindered the work of revival. Jonathan Edwards says to this point:

“But when the people were raised to this height, Satan took the advantage, and his interposition in many instances soon became very apparent; and a great deal of caution and pains were found necessary to keep the people, many of them from running wild.”

Outward excitement was not to be identified as the Spirit’s work, nor was it a friend to revival.

Excerpt from Signs of the Apostles HT Old Truth.

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