Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 04:3 (Summer 1995)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750–1858, Iain H. Murray. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust (1994). 455 pages, cloth, $27.95.

Revival and Revivalism is an outstanding, thoroughly researched work by the editorial director of the Banner of Truth Trust, Rev. Iain H. Murray. It not only resolves many nagging questions about revival and revivalism in general, but also argues persuasively that most revivals in America were largely Spirit-wrought, Calvinistic, and sound in doctrine prior to the introduction in the 1820s and 1830s of “new measures” (such as the anxious seat and protracted meetings) designed to promote revivalism and “conversions.” Charles Finney is viewed as the major catalyst who led America’s major denominations from God-centered revivals to a “revivalism” grounded on human methodology and instrumentality.

Thus, Murray firmly rejects the merging of “revival” with “revivalism” as is commonly done in secondary literature today. He argues that the New Testament idea of revival as inseparable from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was prevalent in most American denominations throughout the eighteenth and first part of the nineteenth centuries. Prior to 1830 revival was nearly always defined as “a sovereign and large giving of the Spirit of God, resulting in the addition of many to the kingdom of God” (p. 374). Revivals could not be predicted or produced, but were dependent upon the “out-letting” of the Holy Spirit.

Revivalism, on the other hand, is different both in its origin and its tendencies. Its ethos is man-centered and its methods too close to the manipulative to require a supernatural explanation. Through Finney and others a new theology of conversion developed in America which downplayed the depravity

of man and embraced Arminian teaching without reservation. Ultimately, by focusing on man, the spirit of “revivalism” did more to detract from real revival than to promote it.

Due to the multiplicity of material on the Great Awakening, Murray begins his study of revivals in America at approximately 1750. His first chapter deals largely with Samuel Davies (1723–61), the often-neglected founder of the “Southern Presbyterian Church,” called by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones the greatest preacher of America. Davies’ ministry was used for the conversion of thousands, including numerous black slaves and plantation owners. Murray concludes from Davies’ life and ministry that revivals are not different in kind from the church’s normal work, but are different in degree. Spiritual influence is more widespread, feelings are ...

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