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Repentance Baptism The Holy Spirit Communion
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What is true
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The nature
and purpose
of baptism.
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you wanted
to know.
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The im-
of the


When He first the work begun, small and feeble was His day:
Now the Word doth swiftly run, now it wins its widening way:

More and more it spreads and grows, ever mighty to prevail,

Sin's strongholds it now o'erthrows, shakes the trembling gates of hell."

- Charles Wesley

THERE WAS RECOVERED at the time of the Protestant Reformation belief in what became known as Revival Christianity. It was believed by the Reformers that revivals of religion would be the means by which the church and the kingdom of God advanced in the world. This idea was later propagated by the leaders of the Puritan movement, which followed closely on the heels of the Reformation.

When the Teutonic barbarians overturned Rome and reduced a stable world to chaos in the fifth century A.D., many in the Church were thrown into despair and drew the wrong conclusion that the world could have no future. Even larger numbers did so as the millennium following Christ's first Advent drew to a close and the year 1000 approached. Later, in the gloomy years of the fourteenth century, tracts appeared entitled The Last Age of the Church.1

Throughout the Church's history there have been periods when the Church has picked up this same despair. One common reason for believing that as the world grows worse and worse it heralds only one response from God - judgement and most probably the end of the world - is the ever abounding evidence of moral decay. Confronted by this evidence it is often supposed that the only work left for God is judgment. Yet, the history of revivals teach us that often the precisely opposite has been true and that there have been many who even in the midst of prevailing evil have formed the opposite conviction.

Revivalist Thinking

John Wesley, one of the greatest revivalists of all time was one such man. Arriving in New Castle-upon-Tyne in England, in May, 1742, he wrote these memorable words: "I was surprised; so much drunkenness, cursing and swearing (even from the mouths of little children) do I never remember to have seen and heard before in so small a compass of time. Surely this place is ripe for Him who 'came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"2 The Great Awakening and the evangelical revival which was then dawning proved Wesley's conviction to be correct.

David Livingstone, who dedicated his life to explore unknown parts of Africa in order to open it up for the gospel, was another great missionary who was of the same opinion as John Wesley. After preaching to a particular African tribe he made the following entry in his journal:

"A good and attentive audience, but immediately after the service I found the Chief had retired into a hut to drink beer ... A minister who had not seen so much pioneer service as I have done would have been shocked to see so little effect produced by an earnest discourse concerning the future judgement, but time must be given to allow the truth to sink into the dark mind and produce its effect. The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord - that is enough. We can afford to work in faith, for Omnipotence is pledged to fulfill the promise ."

Another journal entry records: "A quiet audience today. The seed being sown, the least of all seeds now, but it will grow a mighty tree. It is as it were a small stone cut out of a mountain, but it will fill the whole earth ... Future missionaries will see conversions follow every sermon. We prepare the way for them. May they not forget the pioneers who worked in the thick gloom with few rays to cheer, except such as flow from faith in God's promises! We work for a glorious future which we are not destined to see. We are only morning stars shining in the dark, but the glorious morn will break..."3

Livingstone was found by natives, dead upon his knees, no doubt praying for his poor downtrodden Africa. During his life-time, he traveled 29,000 miles, much of it on foot in his endeavors to explore the uncharted African terrain, to map it out so future missionaries could bring the gospel. He believed that one day the whole earth would be filled with converts to Christianity. When he died in the heart of Africa, darkness and ignorance of God were universal. Today millions of Africans are being swept into the kingdom of God as they are seeing unprecedented revival. Livingstone died in undiminishing confidence in the hope which was the anchor of his soul. He wrote: "Missionaries do not live before their time. Their great idea of converting the world to Christ is no chimera: it is divine. Christianity will triumph. It is equal to all it has to perform."4

Charles Spurgeon, great revivalist and one of the last of the Puritans in England, wrote at the end of the 19th century, "I believe myself that King Jesus will reign, and the idols be utterly abolished: but I expect the same power which once turned the world upside down will still continue to do it. The Holy Ghost would never suffer the imputation to rest upon His holy name that he was not able to convert the world."5

That The World Might Be Saved

Men not too many centuries ago, armed with such faith and consumed with such hope, transformed the world. The hope for the world-wide conquest of Christianity was, up until recently, the historic view of the Church. They really believed what Jesus told Nicodemus when he was explaining the reason why He came into the world: "For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." (John 3:17)

Having emerged from an age of darkness and apostasy which lasted over a period of 1,000 years, the Reformers believed that the rule of the man of sin, whom they saw to be the head of the church of Rome was drawing to an end. Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, Calvin, Knox, Tyndale, and John Wesley are just a few of the Reformers and Protestants who held this view.

They saw that what lay ahead for the world was not an anticipation of the coming of Antichrist, but a day when the dwellers in every land would learn righteousness, when unto Jesus every knee would bow, when the nations would stream into the kingdom of God.

The history of revivals show that in various centuries, revivals of apostolic Christianity have broken out in the most unlikely circumstances and have powerfully, rapidly, and extensively affected whole communities. As Isaiah prophesied, "When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." (Isa. 59:15)

The wonder of God's saving works ought to make Christians slow to believe the gloom and doom predictions of catastrophe that await the vast population of this evil earth. It was Jesus who himself said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."(John 3:16)

"Why should it not be that in this era when the population of the world has reached its height, that God will show on a yet greater scale that truth is more powerful than error, grace is more powerful than sin, and that those given to Christ are indeed 'as the sand which is upon the sea-shore' for multitude."6

Charles Wesley, song writer and brother of John Wesley and psalmist of the Great Awakening, captured this idea which was the hallmark of revivalist Christianity when he wrote:

Depth of mercy! can there be,
Mercy stillreserved for Me?
Can my God His wrath forbear -
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament;
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to his calls,
Grieved him by a thousand falls.

Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.
There for me my Savior stands,
Holding forth his wounded hands;
God is love! I know, I feel,
Jesus weeps and loves me still.

The Reformers saw their age as a springtime of new life for the church. To them, it was a day as important as early Pentecost. Emerging from the Dark Ages, the Reformers saw great multitudes of men, women, princes and nations swept out of religious darkness into the light of God.

They observed, being eye-witnesses of this great awakening that when the Holy Spirit is poured out in a day of power, the results are bound to affect whole communities and nations. As Isaiah prophesied, "When the spirit is poured from on high, then the wilderness become a fruitful field." As God spoke through the prophet Zechariah, "Not by might, nor power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 4:6)

The Transforming Power of Truth

What the early Reformers believed about the power of the truth to prevail and conquer, and what they believed about the future, marked them out in history as men and women of hope and as heroes who possessed conquering faith. In the face of brutal persecution and martyrdom, they arose with unswerving confidence. They stood up for truth, broke out of the chains that bound them to the papal system of the day, and saw the world reborn.

In the wake of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance swept Europe. Men who had been less than men, bound up in feudal systems and ecclesiastical darkness, began to experience new creative power. A rebirth of learning began. Great strides were made in art, music, science and in all fields of education, causing the world to be transformed and renewed.

During the Protestant Reformation, what could be called the hope of Christian dominion burst into flame - the belief that the kingdoms of this world are destined to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ, the expectation that there would be the extensive triumph of Christianity in history.

Calvin, noted Reformer, wrote concerning the Lord's prayer and the phrase, "Thy kingdom come" - "As the kingdom of God is continually growing and advancing to the end of the world, we must pray every day that it may come: for to whatever extent iniquity abounds in the world, to such an extent the kingdom of God, which brings along with it perfect righteousness, is not yet come."7

In the preface to his Institutes of the Christian Religion, published in 1536, Calvin address his appeal to King Francis of France on what would be the prospect if Francis and all the kings of the earth continued their rage and persecution against the cause of Christ; Calvin, undaunted answers his own question:

"Our doctrine must stand sublime above all the glory of the world, and invincible by all its power, because it is not ours, but that of the living God and His Anointed, whom the Father has appointed King even to the ends of the earth; and so rule as to smite the whole earth and its strength of iron and brass, its splendor of gold and silver, with the mere rod of His mouth and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel according to the magnificent predictions of the prophets respecting His kingdom"8 (Dan 2:34, Isa 11:4, Ps 2:9)

Consideration of texts such as these quoted from John Calvin awoke zeal for the world-wide acknowledgement of the claims of Christ in the sixteenth century, and taught men and women to look with assurance for the progressive realization of His kingdom. This assurance also caused them to gladly seal their cause with their own blood.9

The Puritan Hope

The torch was passed on to the Puritans and the Pilgrims - some of whom where to become the founders of this nation. America was born out of this passion. Although America had been discovered numerous times by other cultures, those Pilgrims and Puritans who were successful at planting colonies here were expecting that the New World would be Christianized. Their goal was to conquer the world for the kingdom of God.

Writing about the Puritans, J.C. Ryle stated in 1870, "The Puritans as a body, have done more to elevate the national character than any class of Englishmen that ever live."

Iain Murray in his work The Puritan Hope states, "The source of this influence was their theology, and within that theology there was an attitude ... which distinguished them as men of hope.

"In their own day this hope came to expression in pulpits and in books, in Parliaments and upon battle fields. But it did not end there. It colored the spiritual thought of the "American colonies; it taught men to expect great outpourings of the Holy Spirit; it prepared the way to the new age of world missions; and it contributed largely to that sense of destiny which came to characterize the English speaking Protestant.

"When nineteenth century Christian leaders such as William Wilberforce viewed the world not so much as a wreck from which individual souls must escape, but rather as the property of Christ, to whose kingdom the earth and the fulness thereof must belong, their thinking bore the genuine hall-mark of the Puritan outlook.10

Puritan expositor, George Newton (1602-1681) wrote: "... Let our hearts be full of joy while we are looking forward to the accomplishment of this work ... Oh let it cheer our spirits under all the sinking damps and deep discouragements that are upon them in relation to the church, to think in what blessed state and glorious posture she will be, when Christ shall have declared His Father's name to all the nations under heaven, when the Jews shall be converted, and when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in.

"O my beloved, that will be a joyful time indeed! It is true, those times my brethren, shall be very comfortable and full of gladness in many ways. And this is not the least, that people shall be brought into the knowledge of the Lord out of all quarters of the world, and that by heaps and multitudes, there was never such a time since the foundation of the world, nor shall be till that blessed season come. Therefore let our souls rejoice in the foresight of it, though we never live to see it."11

It is precisely this hope that caused the early founders of this nation to see themselves as stepping stones for generations yet unborn, and to see their work as a work for posterity's sake.

Energized by this faith and hope, nations were shaken for the kingdom of God, great strides in learning took place, reforms of every kind were instituted , and liberty, justice, righteousness, education, science, and the arts advanced as never before in the history of the world.

By comparison, how small have been our efforts? Can we disregard the possibility that the reason for our smallness stands related to the smallness of our anticipations and to the weakness of our faith in the promises of God? Will the end of the world coincide with our own individual end: Isn't that belief actually a selfish motive in disguise? If the end is not yet, what will be future be?

The Power of the Gospel

Arnold Guyot, a 19th century French geographer made this observation: "And what is the vital principle we find at the very root of America? It is the gospel. Not the gospel disfigured and cramped by the iron fetters of a powerful hierarchical church ... but the gospel restored by the Reformation,with its life-giving doctrines, and its regenerative power ... The founders of social order in America are indeed the true offspring