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Posts Tagged ‘Pentecostal Outpourings’

Sweeney’s Booknotes: Pentecostal Outpourings

Robert Davis Smart, Michael A. G. Haykin, and Ian Hugh Clary, eds. Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2016.

pentecostal outpouringThis is a fine collection of essays by an exceptionally learned group of conservative Calvinist churchmen, working in several different countries, who are concerned to use the past to promote revival today.

The essays treat revivals in the British Isles, British North America, and the U.S.—primarily in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mostly among the Reformed (Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists more than others).

The authors seem to presume that their readers will either share or gladly tolerate an overt and rather strong Reformed interpretation of history. In the introductory words of my friend Robert Smart, the main editor of the volume, “the Reformed perspective on these extraordinary outpourings of God’s Spirit is helpful. Whereas revival has often been associated with a humanly engineered series of meetings to convert the unsaved and with a fanatical experience that has little to do with the gospel and biblical theology,” this volume “demonstrates that revival is a sovereign gift from God,” a gift that “cannot be merited” by anything we do (p. ix). Those who share this point of view will find this volume inspirational. Those who don’t will nevertheless find it full of information on the history of revival and edifying counsel on the practice of Christianity.

This snapshot of the book’s table of contents offers a glimpse of its historiographical riches:

Foreword: Steven J. Lawson

Introduction: Robert Davis Smart

Part 1: Revival in the British Isles

  1. “The Power of Heaven in the Word of Life”: Welsh Calvinistic Methodism and Revival, Eifion Evans
  1. “Melting the Ice of a Long Winter”: Revival and Irish Dissent, Ian Hugh Clary
  1. “The Lord Is Doing Great Things, and Answering Prayer Everywhere”: The Revival of the Calvinistic Baptists in the Long Eighteenth Century, Michael A. G. Haykin
  1. Revival: A Scottish Presbyterian Perspective, Iain D. Campbell

Part 2: Revival in America

  1. Edwards’s Revival Instinct and Apologetic in American Presbyterianism: Planted, Grown, and Faded, Robert Davis Smart
  1. “The Glorious Work of God”: Revival among Congregationalists in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Peter Beck
  1. Baptist Revivals in America in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Tom J. Nettles
  1. Revival and the Dutch Reformed Church in Eighteenth-Century America, Joel R. Beene

A Concluding Word—A Call to Seek God for Revival Today, Robert Davis Smart

There is something here for everyone. Even experts on revivals will gain new information on the history of gospel work in parts of the Anglo-Welsh-Scottish-Celtic-American Protestant world that remain foreign to them.

But the primary audience of the book is thoughtful Calvinists for whom its subject matter is now distant, unfamiliar, even distasteful and embarrassing. The authors of its essays want to promote a greater eagerness for revival among such people. In the words, again, of Smart:

We not only confess [our] absolute dependence upon the Lord for continual outpourings of the Spirit, but we also ask you to join us in seeking God for revival today. Whether writing from the perspective of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed, Scottish or American Presbyterians, or Irish or American Reformed Particular Baptists, all the contributors of this volume would say ‘Amen!’ to English Baptist Andrew Fuller’s sermon delivered to the Northamptonshire Association of Baptists at Nottingham, England: “O brethren, let us pray much for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon our ministers and churches, and not upon those only of our own connection and denomination, but upon ‘all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours’ (1 Cor. 1:2)” (pp. 256-57).

Though not a Calvinist, I say “Amen,” too.