The Nature Of A God-Sent Revival
By Duncan Campbell (1898 – 1972)
“Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt Thou draw out Thine anger to all generations? Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?” (Psa. 85:5-6).
These words of the psalmist express the heart cry of many of God’s dear children today. There is without question a growing conviction in many quarters that unless revival comes, that is, a God-sent revival, other forces that are out to defy every known Christian principle will take the field.
Indeed, the observant eye can already see shadows around the world that are ripening and ripening fast for repentance or judgment. With that conviction there seems to be a growing hunger for God to manifest His power, and so intense is the hunger and so deep the longing that the cry of the prophet of old is frequently heard upon the lips of God’s children.
Our Only Hope Is Revival
“Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence, as when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make Thy name known to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence!” (Isa. 64:1-2). You will observe that in that prayer of the prophet two fundamental things are suggested: that unless God comes down, mountains will not flow and sinners will not tremble; but if God comes down, if God manifests His power, if God shows His hand, if God takes the field, mountains will flow…mountains of indifference, mountains of materialism, mountains of humanism, will flow before His presence, and nations, not just individuals, but nations, shall be made to tremble.
We have not seen nations trembling, but we have seen communities; we have seen districts; we have seen parishes in the grips of God in a matter of hours when God comes down!
It is true that we have seen man’s best endeavor in the field of evangelism leaving communities untouched. We have seen crowded churches. We have seen many professions. We have seen hundreds, yes, and thousands responding to what you speak of here as the altar call. But I want to say this, dear people, and I say it without fear of contradiction, that you can have all that without God! Now, that may startle you, but I say again, you can have all that on mere human levels!
Howard Spring was right when he wrote, “The kingdom of God is not going to advance by our churches becoming filled with men, but by men in our churches becoming filled with God.” And there is a difference! Crowded churches, deep interest in church activity is possible on mere human levels leaving the community untouched!
The Difference between Evangelism and Revival
The difference in successful evangelism (and I use the word ‘successful’) and revival is this: In evangelism, the two, the three, the ten, the twenty, and possibly the hundred make confessions of Jesus Christ, and at the end of the year you are thankful if half of them are standing. But the community remains untouched. The public houses are crowded, the dances, dancing ballrooms, packed. The theater and the picture houses are patronized by the hundreds. There is no change in the community!
But in revival, when God the Holy Ghost comes, when the winds of heaven blow, suddenly the community becomes God-conscious! A God-realization takes hold of young, middle-aged and old. So that, as in the case of the Hebrides Revival, seventy-five percent of those saved one night were saved before they came near a meeting!
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom...” (Psa. 111:10). That is where the difference comes in between evangelism and revival, and that is why I say our only hope is not in crusades. Thank God for all that has been accomplished! Thank God for all that is being done through missions! I represent a mission in Scotland. We have also workers in Canada, and we thank God for all that is being accomplished through the efforts of ministers and evangelists and Christian workers, bringing one here and two there to a saving knowledge of Jesus. But our supreme need and the only answer to the problem that confronts the Christian church today is a visitation from God!
Revival at Berneray
Let me illustrate what I mean by an incident that happened, not in Lewis, or Uist, but on the small island of Berneray. I was addressing the Bangor Convention. The Bangor Convention is perhaps one of the largest conventions in Britain. I was sitting in the pulpit beside the chairman of the convention and the other speaker when I was suddenly gripped by the conviction that I had to leave the convention, and leave at once, and go to this island. I turned to the chairman and told him my convictions. “Oh,” he said, “you cannot leave the convention. You are down to give the closing address.” Oh, but I could not give the closing address with this conviction! So, to make a long story short, it was agreed that I should leave the convention. I left the following morning by plane to the city of Glasgow, and from Glasgow by plane to the town of Stornoway, and then by car across the island where a ferry boat met me and took me to this island of Berneray of, say, five hundred inhabitants.
On arriving, I met a young lad. I said nothing to the man who ferried me across. They were strangers to me. I was never on this island. I was never invited to the island, and to my knowledge no one on the island had ever met me. But I was there. And I said to the man that met me, “Would you direct me to the nearest minister?”
“We have no minister on the island. Just now both churches are vacant.”
“Would you then direct me to the nearest elder?”
“Yes, the nearest elder lives in that house on the hill.”
So I said to the lad, “Do you mind going up to the elder and telling him that Mr. Campbell has come to the island? And if he asks, ‘What Campbell?’ tell him the Campbell that was on the Island of Lewis.”
So that young lad went up and after a few minutes came back and said, “Hector McKennon was expecting you to arrive today. And you are to stay with his brother. And he asked me to tell you that he has initiated a meeting at the church at 9:00 tonight and he expects you to address it.”
The Secret of Revival at Berneray
Now, explain that as you will. Here was a man who on the morning of the day that I sat in the church of Bangor Island, decided to spend the day in prayer. He was concerned about the parish, particularly about the state of the young people growing up in a state of indifference to God and to the church. And his wife told me that on three occasions she went to the door of the barn where he was praying and she heard him pray, “God, I do not know where he is, but You know, and You send him.”
About 10:00 that evening he was possessed of the conviction that God heard his cry and that I would be on the island on this particular day. Hence, the initiation that I would preach in the church at 9:00 that evening.
We went to the church. Quite a considerable congregation gathered – about eighty. The service was a very ordinary service. Indeed, at the end, I wondered after all if I was led to the island. But there were men there nearer to God than I was. My dear people, we have got to be honest!
This old man that I already referred to came to me and said, “I hope you are not disappointed that revival has not come to the church tonight. But God is hovering over us, and He will break through any minute!”
Here was a man near to God! “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him...” (Psa. 25:14).
God Has Come!
We are now walking down from the church. The church is on a hillock, the main road is down about three hundred yards below the church. The congregation is moving down and we are walking behind them when suddenly…oh, this is what I am getting at, noting the difference between evangelism and revival…suddenly, the elder stands, takes off his hat, “Stand, Mr. Campbell. God has come! God has come! See what is happening!” And I looked toward the congregation and I saw them falling on their knees among the heather. I heard the cries of the penitent. And that meeting that began at 11:00 that night continued on the hillside until 4:00 in the morning.
The island was suddenly gripped by God! Was it because Campbell went to the island? Banish the thought!
I thank God for the privilege, and how thankful I am that I was near enough to God in that pulpit to hear His voice. I have often thought of that. Oh, I have often thought of it! If I was out of touch with God – if I was in the place where I could not hear the voice of the Savior, the voice of God, would Berneray have missed that mighty visitation that shook that island from center to circumference?
I question if there was one single house on the island that was not visited that night! An awareness of God, a consciousness of God, seemed to hover over the very atmosphere! The very atmosphere seemed to be charged with the power of Almighty God! That is revival!
Note the principle brought into operation. “If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chr. 7:14).
There was at least one man on that island who fulfilled the conditions of that one passage of Scripture, and because he fulfilled the conditions, God, being a covenant-keeping God, must be true to His covenant engagements. And God, to vindicate His own honor, had to listen to the prayers of the parish postman who knelt in a barn for a day.
The principles that govern spiritual quickening…Oh, that God may find a people ready to fulfill and to comply with the governing principles relative to spiritual quickening.
– Reprinted by permission of Christ Life Ministries. Duncan Campbell was a Scottish preacher and a leader in the Hebrides Revival of 1949.
“Lord, Thou hast been favourable unto Thy land: Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of Thy people, Thou hast covered all their sin. Thou hast taken away all Thy wrath: Thou hast turned Thyself from the fierceness of Thine anger. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause Thine anger toward us to cease. Wilt Thou be angry with us for ever? Wilt Thou draw out Thine anger to all generations? Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Shew us Thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us Thy salvation. I will hear what God the Lord will speak: for He will speak peace unto His people, and to His saints; but let them not turn again to folly. Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before Him; and shall set us in the way of His steps” (Psa. 85:1-13).