Where the Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail

Where The Gates of Hell Will Not Prevail
Robert Wurtz II
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)
Although many millions of people have come to true conversion over the last century, the churches mission in advancing towards “book of Acts evangelistic practices” has been a complete write-off. We lost much ground that had been gained from the Reformation up to 1900. The stage was set for the losses in the 19th century and came to fruition in the 20th. The high-speed evangelistic crusade—sinners prayer—invitational system methods were taken under tents to influence hundreds of thousands; then onto the radio to reach millions; then onto the television to influence hundreds of millions. Today if a person asks “what must I do to be saved” they are very likely to get for an answer “Just say the sinner’s prayer.” In fact, people are now being told that if they will “say this prayer” they will be saved from hell no matter how they live afterwards, as though the prayer were an eternal sacrament. These individuals say the prayer—but as is often the case, they have no intention of repenting of their sins much less submitting to water baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit. 

Is there any wonder the churches are loaded with people that have no appetite for God? Is there any wonder that these same individuals need to be entertained with a mixture of Christianity and worldliness? In the absence of genuine Regeneration there can be nothing more than carnality. If we truly want to change the church; if we truly want to change America. If we truly want to change the world, we have got to get back to changing our evangelistic methods back to what Peter and Paul did in the book of Acts. There is no other way. To think differently is to fool ourselves and continue in this downward spiral.

A Proper Reference Point

The word “reference” is derived from the Middle English word referren, which is derived from the Middle French référer, which is derived from the Latin word referre. It means “to carry back” and is formed from the prefix re- and ferre, “to bear”. A large number of words derive from this root, including refer, referee, referent, referendum, etc. and they all retain the basic meaning of the original Latin as “a point, place or source of origin” in terms of which something of comparable nature can be defined. Our reference point for evangelism is not the Old Testament, nor is it the Gospels; it is the post-Pentecost portion of the Book of Acts. The objective in evangelism is to bring a person fully into the New Covenant. Paul explained in the book of Romans and in the epistles what that entails, but for our purposes we don’t need to know all the details, we only need to understand what the Apostles did in order to see individuals brought under the New Covenant. Some have used the language “full initiation” into the New Covenant to describe fulfilling all of the requisites to complete the process.
The Gospels are written too early to give us a picture of how the process works because they only contain the elements of repentance, faith, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit in germ—they do not describe how they were carried out. Also, John’s baptism of repentance was limited in scope and was not effectual once Christ appeared. We see this in Acts 19 where the people had received John’s baptism, but needed to be re-baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Although there was the change of covenant from Old to New, John the Baptist’s baptism model still serves well as a pattern in terms of repentance and confession of sins. Also, the Holy Spirit was “with” the Disciples during the narrative of the Gospels, but was “in” the Disciples after Pentecost. Unlike the unbelieving Jews that Jesus came to that “received Him not,” the Disciples did receive Christ  giving them the authority to later become the sons of God by receiving the Holy Spirit.
The epistles and the book of Revelation are written too late give insight as to the “how” of full initiation into the New Covenant. The epistles are typically written to the saints, meaning that it was assumed that the intended audience was already in the New Covenant. This is an important thing to consider when reading the epistles–they are not evangelistic writings. Even the book of Romans were written to people that were called to be saints with a faith spoken of throughout the whole world. It was written to explain the Gospel—not teach evangelism. One may proof-text a Roman’s road from the book, but this is not the pattern for evangelism that Peter, John and Paul used. Moreover, although it is not an evangelistic writing, the book of Hebrews describes a process that the readers were assumed to have gone through as a “foundational” reality:

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1, 2 NKJV)

You will notice all four elements we have been describing: 1. Repentance from dead works. 2. Faith towards God. 3. The doctrine of baptisms. 4. The laying on of hands. Added to this list are two more important subjects that are also mentioned as having been preached in the book of Acts during evangelistic endeavors: 5. The resurrection of the dead. 6. Eternal judgment. We have an example of this  with Paul at Athens in Acts 17:29-32: Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” (NKJV emphasis added)

Notice that Paul teaches in this narrative exactly why people are to repent: God is going to raise from the dead every human being that has ever lived all the way to Adam to stand before Him in judgment. The fact that Jesus came back from the grave is proof positive that we someday will likewise be raised. He will judge the world by the one that lived and died in this world. He will judge by the one that was tested in all points like as we, yet without sin. He will judge by the one that is touched by the feeling of our weaknesses. If anyone in the universe has a right reference point from which to judge the world it is Jesus Christ. He is both God and man and knows the limitation of men. Paul preached this as a warning to the hearers—alerting them that He is no longer overlooking their ignorance, but He is commanding all men everywhere to repent. The message was apparently rejected at Athens because we have no record of Paul establishing a church there. This was Paul’s approach to evangelism. It is a million miles from Bill Bright’s, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.” Nay verily, “God judges the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready.” (Psalm 7:11, 12) Although it is true that God loved the world enough to send Christ to die for sins, to use this reality as a means of converting rebellious sinners is not only unbiblical, it is an exercise in futility that will invite the swine to trod God’s love underfoot and turn again and tear the messenger to pieces. They may not do it literally with their hands, but they will surely do it in their hearts or with their mouths. Knowing these things it seems completely unreasonable to suggest that any aspiring evangelist should ever be coached by a “crackerjack car salesman” (as Bill Bright used to help counsel his staff) or asked to read books on making a sales pitch or How To Win Friends and Influence People. The first word of the Gospel is repent and that message, especially when proclaimed to heads of state, has been time tested to loosen ones head from their body. Can you imagine John the Baptist being an advisor to Harry Truman, Richard Nixon or any of our Presidents? 

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Mark 5:13 NKJV)

Objections to the Book of Acts

True sola scriptura does not afford us the luxury of dismissing the book of Acts, as so many often do, as simply a narrative genre not meant to teach doctrine. Is that not a strange concept to begin with? Almost the entire Old Testament is narrative history. The means by which God has chosen to teach His people is salvation history. The Bible is not a compendium of all knowledge: it is a God’s eye view of events meant to tell a story the German’s theologians termed heilsgeschichte.  Events are recorded for our learning and instruction. The book of Acts is no different. The didactic nature of the epistles must not disqualify the narrative of Acts given the fact that the epistles often utilize narrative from the Old Testament to build theological conclusions and teach doctrine. 

John the Baptist in Lukan Theology

Luke was not only a historian, he was a formidable theologian with a biblical understanding of New Covenant soteriology. Luke’s Gospel as well as the book of Acts were purposefully written with theology embedded in their patterned literary structure. His treatment and detail concerning John the Baptist comes front and center as continuity is maintained from the introduction of John the Baptist (through his birth narrative) in Luke 1:13-17 to Paul’s insistence in Acts 26:20 that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. Luke’s writings are not only bookended with general references to John the Baptist’s ministry and message, but direct references to him can be found in Acts 1:5, 22; 10:37: 11:16; 13:24,25; 18:25.  Moreover, the material on John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel is far more extensive and placed more prominently than in any of the other Gospels (Luke 1:5-25, 57-80; 3:1-20; 7:18-35). This indicates that John the Baptist’s message of repentance should be carefully understood and made front and center in our thinking as we travel through the book of Acts in search of evangelist patterns.

Peter’s Post Pentecost Directions to Sinners

Peter’s directions to sinners in Acts 2:38 contains John the Baptist’s word of repentance as the first word of the Gospel, “Repent!” as well as the first reference to Christian baptism, and the promise of the Holy Spirit–all of which are programmatic to evangelism: 

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)

I have chosen to cover directions to sinners early in this chapter because there are many ways a person can be brought into a state in which they are anxious for their soul and wish to know, “What must I do to be saved?” Peter gives in Acts 2:38 the basic theology behind initiation into the New Covenant and the Kingdom of God. It cannot be improved upon. The terms employed call to remembrance in these Jews minds a battery of concepts and historical events stored up in 2000 years of history. Most recently they were given a fresh look at repentance and baptism through John the Baptists ministry. What did they see? In both Matthew and Mark’s account of the events we have these details:
Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:5 NKJV see also Matthew 3:6). 

Notice a frequently overlooked aspect of repentance and water baptism; confession of sins (plural). They were confessing their sins to God publicly while in the water. It is not known whether or not others standing by could hear these confessions (perhaps John could). An old rule of thumb is that repentance should always extend as far as the knowledge and extent of the sin. If it is between you and God: confess it to God alone. If others are privy to it confess it before them. If the whole of society knows about it—confess the sins before the whole of society. Our word “confess” means to acknowledge or admit to it. This is where a great many people stumble and cannot go forward in the New Covenant. We know from 1 John 1:9 and other Old Testament narratives (such as the matter of David and Bathsheeba) that God is ready to forgive when we confess and forsake our sins. If that certain sin in your life is God—serve it: but if not confess it and forsake it forever. How do we know king David repented? Because he never committed the sin again. If we will repent and be baptized in water then by implication we are moving in faith: we are receiving the word.

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:41 NKJV)

Trembling at the Word of God

Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. (2 Cor. 5:11)

Apart from simply obeying the heavenly commandment received on the road to Demascus, Paul gives an additional impetus for persuading men to repent: Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. In the 21st century such a statement sounds almost barbaric. Two hundred years of rationalism and humanism has made such notions obsolete. Yet the concept is not new to Paul. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and correction. Paul preached in the fear of the Lord and sought to instill the fear of the Lord in the hearers of his messages. He understood the importance of having an utterly reverent and obedient attitude towards God. He is not to be trifled with. In fact, it is a similar concept to Stephen’s prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. In Acts chapter 7 He states:

Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will you build me? says the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Has not my hand made all these things? You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you. (Acts 7:49-51)

I want to carefully make an important connection here in order to show a subtle emphasis in Lukan theology and Paul’s theology. Stephen’s statement is in reference to Isaiah 66:1,2a where God speaks, “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?” For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD. You will notice from the text in Acts 7:49-51 that Stephen quotes all of the verse except the very last part. Acts 6:12 tells us that it was the elders and the scribes that he was speaking to. This is important because the scribes were expected to know thousands of verses of Old Testament scripture from memory. They were the copyists of the Torah scrolls, so they would have known the rest of the verse that Stephen leaves out. When his mouth stopped speaking they heard the rest of the verse in their minds… but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. Stephen then adds his own inspired commentary… You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you. 

The story behind Isaiah 66 begins with an awesome display of God’s majesty in Isaiah 6. This well known event came about as God’s answer to Uzziah’s, Isaiah’s king and friend’s untimely death. It was Uzziah that went brazenly into the Temple to make an offering and was withstood by the priests. Leprosy appeared on his head and he died that way. The lesson was that Uzziah, though he was a king, was to operate within the boundaries of God’s holy Word. Kings were not to function as priests—only Jesus Christ the King/Priest could do that. Uzziah did not “tremble at God’s word” and died for his error. The same God that we find in Isaiah 6 wants to live in man in Isaiah 66. That is a staggering thing to consider. But in order for that to happen the person must be broken, contrite and must tremble at God’s word. In other words, God’s word has to reign absolutely supreme. It cannot be treated like drivers often treat traffic laws. Uzziah learned this the hard way. Our first step back to regaining our Christian identity and heritage is to forsake the spirit of Uzziah and receive the word of Isaiah. 

How to Prove Something

How To Prove Something
Robert Wurtz II

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

In this entry I wish to examine the Divine imperative to prove all things and hold fast to what is proven to be good. By implication, we are to reject and discard that which is not good. Our text uses the Greek word dokima¿zete (dechomai) and it means to test as one would metals. Mounce gives the renderings: “to test, assay metals; to prove, try, examine, scrutinize; to put to the proof, tempt; to approve after trial, judge worthy, choose; to decide upon after examination, judge of, distinguish, discern: approve; discern; test.” The verb is in the present active imperative, meaning that it must be done and done continually. Secondly, we have the Greek word pa¿nta (panta), meaning “all” or “every.” The word “things” is added by the translators. We are to “test all.” If we test all and find that which is good, we are to hold fast to it.

The process of proving

The process of proving something in the kingdom of God is one of guarded suspicion. Things are not added and then if they are found to be “not good” they are removed later. They must be proven to be good before they can be “held fast.” We live in a fallen world that is under the sovereignty of God, but also under the general control of the Prince of the Power of the Air (Satan). Things of this world are not to be blindly trusted. Prophesies are not to be blindly trusted. Methods are not to be blindly trusted. 

Prove thyself before proving the thing

We have an important instruction given to us by Paul in Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Notice the phrase, “that you may…” This suggests that our ability to prove is conditioned upon the previous requirement, be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. If we allow the world to conform us to its manner and mode of thinking, we are dead in the water to prove anything to be “good, acceptable, and perfect.” So our first step is to prove our own way of life and ask if our mind is in agreement with God’s mind. Is it more in agreement with the world’s collective mind? Notice also that this is something that we must do, “Be not conformed…” It will not happen by chance, it must be deliberate. Until this is done, it is meaningless to read on.

Important questions in Paul’s theology

There are two basic questions that Paul typically moves in when judging things:

1. Does it glorify God?

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

2. Does it edify the born again. 

How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.  (1 Cor. 14:26) 

Does it glorify God?

This is a general question: “does the ________ glorify God or does it glorify___________. In order to answer this question in the affirmative God has to be in view as the overwhelming recipient of glory. Many things have the potential of dividing the worship of God by placing the emphasis on the _________. Does the thing draw attention to God as the almighty sovereign God of all creation or does it bring God down from His lofty place. Is Christ exalted or is man exalted in the exercise or utilization of __________? 

There is a common saying that the “message is sacred, the method is not.” It probably originated with Charles Finney as he began introducing new measures into the churches and defended against folk that had concerns about them. If the method contradicts the message then we are in error. For example: if someone sought to utilize the vehicle of mixed martial arts to promote non-violence most rational people would say that the method contradicted the message. Likewise, God is not going to bless any method that simultaneously militates against His word. This is common sense. God is glorified when the method is in harmony with His purposes.

Does it edify the born again?

You will notice that I have italicized born again for emphasis. People that are unconverted are built up by partaking of carnal things. They are repulsed by spiritual things. This is why there is often a mixture of carnal/spiritual in certain circles. They are trying to suit both groups. Paul asked in effect, “does it edify?” Does _________ build up believers in their most holy faith? Does it promote true godliness and holiness? Does it contribute to their spiritual growth in the Lord? Does it equip them to be salt and light or does it corrupt the salt and shade the light? Does it build the person up to walk in the Holy Spirit? This is a different question than asking if someone “likes” _______ or is “entertained” by __________. 


The essential nature of testing

Radio altimeters are used to determine the distance between the plane and the ground. Without such an instrument, a pilot will not know how high of low he/she is flying and may crash into the ground. These instruments are electronic and subjected to rigorous testing. They are powered up and tested in extreme environments. Extreme heat and cold are but one phase of the testing. If the meter fails, it must be repaired before it can be fitted to the plane. No need to ask if we are glad these meters are strictly tested. To slapdash a test of this kind could cost hundreds of lives. So too in the churches of God, everything that is implemented into the service of God has to pass the test. It must be proven. It must be proven to effect the intended purpose of glorifying God and edifying the born again or it is to be rejected. 

Summary

We have briefly demonstrated the Divine imperative to proves all things holding fast only to that which is good. We have said that all things must either glorify God or edify the born again (or both). This agrees with Paul’s admonition to “take heed” how we build upon the foundation that has already been laid (Christ). Methods cannot contradict the message; if they do, they must be rejected. 




The Birth of the Bible Belt

The Birth of the Bible Belt
An excerpt from “Televangelicalism” 
Robert Wurtz II
        
        As with the spread of the Gospel in the first century, so also the Second Great Awakening owes its spread, in part, to religious persecution. James McGready (1763-1817) was a powerful preacher in North Carolina calling sinners to repentance. He had experienced revival on a local level in three different places. The trouble was that the revival began to upset their monetary endeavors, and soon a people more interested in money than mercy had had their fill of him. The secular residents sought to persuade him nicely to leave, but when that failed they ransacked his church and left a letter written in blood[1]suggesting that he leave town. It was at this time that he decided to answer the call of God to go west with the settlers to what is now Kentucky. This move would mark the beginnings of what has come to be known as The Bible Belt.
         The revival minded McGready is credited with organizing what used to be called camp meetings. They were very similar to what George Whitefield and John Wesley had done in the previous century. McGready would send out a call to folks to get in their wagons or on their horses and travel to a large open area to hear the Gospel preached. Men would split logs and make them into pews for an outdoor church effect. Sometimes a brush arbor roof made of timbers and branches would be erected, one of which was reported to have provided cover for some 5000 people. The minister would ascend on to a tall platform and commence preaching at the top of his voice. John McGee describes his personal experience of attending a communion meeting at Cain Ridge: “We loved, and prayed, and preached together; and God was pleased to own and bless us and our labors. In the year 1799 we agreed to make a tour through the Barrens, toward Ohio, and concluded to attend a sacramental solemnity in the Rev. Mr. McGready’s congregation, on Red River, in our way. When we came there I was introduced by my brother, and received an invitation to address the congregation from the pulpit; and I know not that ever God favored me with more light and liberty than he did each day while I endeavored to convince the people they were sinners, and urged the necessity of repentance, and of a change from nature to grace, and held up to their view the greatness, freeness, and fullness of salvation, which was in Christ Jesus, for lost, guilty, condemned sinners. My brother and the Rev. Mr. Hodge preached with much animation and liberty. The people felt the force of truth, and tears ran down their cheeks; but all was silent until Monday, the last day of the feast. Mr. Hodge gave a useful discourse; an inter mission was given, and I was appointed to preach. While Mr. Hodge was preaching a woman in the east end of the house got an uncommon blessing, broke through order, and shouted for some time, and then sat down in silence. At the close of the sermon Messrs. Hodge, McGready, and Rankin west out of the house; my brother and myself sat still; the people seemed to have no disposition to leave their seats. My brother felt such a power come on him that he quit his seat and sat down on the floor of the pulpit (I suppose, not knowing what he did). A power which caused me to tremble was upon me. There was a solemn weeping all over the house. Having a wish to preach, I strove against my feelings; at length I rose up and told the people that I was appointed to preach, but there was a greater than I preaching, and exhorted them to let the Lord God Omnipotent reign in their hearts, and to submit to him, and their souls should live. Many broke silence; the woman in the east end of the house shouted tremendously. I left the pulpit to go to her, and as I went along through the people it was suggested to me, ” You know these people are much for order, they will not bear this confusion ; go back and be quiet.” I turned to go back, and was near falling. The power of God was strong upon me; I turned again, and losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house shouting and exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy, and the floor was soon covered with the slain. Their cries for mercy pierced the heavens, and mercy came down. Some found forgiveness, and many went away from that meeting feeling unutterable agonies of soul for redemption in the blood of Jesus. This was the beginning of that glorious revival of religion in this country which was so great a blessing to thousands; and from this meeting camp-meetings took their rise. One man, for want of horses for all his family to ride and attend the meeting, fixed up his wagon, in which he took them and his provisions, and lived on the ground throughout the meeting. He had left his worldly cares behind him, and had nothing to do but attend on divine service. The next meeting was a camp-meeting. A number of wagons loaded with people came together and camped on the ground, and the Lord was present and approved of their zeal by sealing a pardon to about forty souls. The next camp- meeting was on the Ridge, where there was an increase of people, and carriages of different descriptions, and a great many preachers of the Presbyterian and Methodist orders, and some of the Baptist — but the latter were generally opposed to the work. Preaching commenced, and the people prayed, and the power of God attended. The nights were truly awful. The camp-ground was well illuminated; the people were differently exercised — some exhorting, some shouting, some praying, and some crying for mercy, while others lay as dead men on the ground. At this meeting it was computed that one hundred souls were converted. But perhaps the greatest meeting we ever witnessed in this country took place shortly after, on Desha’s Creek, near Cumberland River. Many thousands of people at tended. The mighty power and mercy of God were manifested. The people fell before the word like corn before a storm of wind, and many rose from the dust with divine glory shining in their countenances, and gave glory to God in such strains as made the hearts of stubborn sinners to tremble; and after the first gust of praise, they would break forth in volleys of exhortation.”[2]

The Cane Ridge Outpouring

         The Cane Ridge outpouring (1801) was characterized by fellow men and women of God coming together for the cause of Christ. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists united together in the work, meeting together, praying together, and preaching together. As the people would gather together from all over the countryside, scores of ministers from multiple denominations would be spread along the field preaching day and night on stumps to crowds in the thousands. This went on for several weeks. Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) gives an account of the meetings and his conversion at sixteen years old, “I have seen more than a hundred sinners fall like dead men under one powerful sermon[3], and I have seen and heard more than five hundred Christians all shouting aloud the nigh praises of God at once ; and I will venture to assert that many happy thousands were awakened and converted to God at these camp-meetings. Some sinners mocked, some of the old dry professors opposed, some of the old starched preachers preached against these exercises, but still the work went on and spread almost in every direction, gathering additional force, till our country seemed all coming home to God. To this meeting I repaired, a guilty, wretched sinner. On the Saturday evening of said meeting, I went, with weeping multitudes, and bowed before the stand, and earnestly prayed for mercy. In the midst of a solemn struggle of soul, an impression was made on my mind, as though a voice said to me, “Thy sins are all forgiven thee.” Divine light flashed all round me, unspeakable joy sprung up in my soul. I rose to my feet, opened my eyes, and it really seemed as if I was in heaven; the trees, the leaves on them, and everything seemed, and I really thought were, praising God. My mother raised the shout, my Christian friends crowded around me and joined me in praising God; and though I have been since then, in many instances, unfaithful, yet I have never, for one moment, doubted that the Lord did, then and there, forgive my sins and give me religion.[4]

The Enormity of Sins
Perhaps a more candid testimony was given by J.B. Finley who writes, “I had lived thoughtless and wicked, resolving and re-resolving upon mending my ways, but continuing the same, or, rather, growing worse and worse, till I arrived at the twentieth year of my age. About this time a great revival of religion broke out in the state of Kentucky. It was attended with such peculiar circumstances as to produce great alarm all over the country. It was reported that hundreds who attended the meetings were suddenly struck down, and would lie for hours and, sometimes, for days, unconscious; and that when they recovered and came out of that state, they would commence praising God for His pardoning mercy.” Finley had determined that although many others had fallen under the weight of their sins, he would not fall. He determined that he would not be emotionally driven or scared into religion. In this resolution he prided himself and headed to the meeting. Soon his mind was sobered and his resolute attitude began to waver. He described the setting: “We arrived upon the ground, and here a scene presented itself to my mind not only novel and unaccountable, but awful beyond description. A vast crowd, supposed by some to have amounted to twenty -five thousand, was collected together. The noise was like the roar of Niagara. The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm. I counted seven ministers, all preaching at one time, some on stumps, others in wagons, and one — the Rev. William Burke — was standing on a tree which had, in falling, lodged against another. Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents, while others were shouting most vociferously. While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground. A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected. I became so weak and powerless that I found it necessary to sit down. Soon after, I left and went into the woods, and there I strove to rally and man up my courage. I tried to philosophize in regard to these wonderful exhibitions, resolving them into mere sympathetic excitement — a kind of religious enthusiasm, inspired by songs and eloquent diatribes. My pride was wounded, for I had supposed that my mental and physical strength and vigor could most successfully resist these influences. After some time I returned to the scene of excitement, the waves of which, if possible, had risen still higher. The same awfulness of feeling came over me. I stepped up on to a log, where I could have a better view of the surging sea of humanity. The scene that then presented itself to my mind was indescribable. At one time I saw at least five hundred people swept down in a moment, as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens. My hair rose up on my head, my whole frame trembled, the blood ran cold in my veins, and I fled for the woods a second time, and wished I had staid at home. While I remained here my feelings became intense and insupportable. A sense of suffocation and blindness seemed to come over me, and I thought I was going to die.” Finley fled the scene again trying to escape the power of conviction that was after him. He felt that the pressure of his sins being brought to bear upon his heart and mind was so great, that he would die if he did not find relief. At last he went out into a field near his home and cried out to God so loudly, that the neighbors came out to see what was going on. Upon seeing him a Dutchman picked him up and carried him into the house and laid him on the bed. Finley recounts the story: “The old Dutch saint directed me to look right away to the Savior. He then kneeled at the bedside, and prayed for my salvation most fervently, in Dutch and broken English. He then rose and sung in the same manner, and continued singing and praying alternately till nine o’clock, when suddenly my load was gone, my guilt removed, and presently the direct witness from Heaven shone full upon my soul. Then there flowed such copious streams of love into the hitherto waste and desolate places of my soul, that 1 thought I should die with excess of joy. I cried, I laughed, I shouted, and so strangely did I appear to all but my Dutch brother, that they thought me deranged. After a time I returned to my companion, and we started on our journey. O what a day it was to my soul!”[5]


[1] Kenneth Keulman., Critical Moments in Religious History.  1994. P. 129
[2] Richard D. Dickenson., A History of Methodism.1885. P.490
[3] Peter Cartwright.,  The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright: The Backwoods Preacher, Volume III., 1857. P.45
[4] William Francis Pringle Noble., 1776-1876, a Century of Gospel-work: A History of the Growth of Evangelical Religion in the United States. 1876. P.278 
[5] Ibid., Noble, P.282

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