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I'm starting to read up on the biographies of some the most notable revivalist preachers in Christianity. Wikipedia has an article that lists many of them. What brought my attention to this topic in the first place was the many times I've heard people tell stories about the great revivalists of old, who testified of powerful encounters with the divine prior to the start of their revivalist ministries. I've done a bit of research, and can confirm at least that these experiences were in fact reported by the following revivalists (assuming that the testimonies were really written by them):

John Wesley (1703 - 1791):

About three in the morning as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we recovered a little from the awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice, 'We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.'

In souls filled with love, the desire to please God is continual prayer

My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.

Charles Finney (1792 - 1875):

The 29-year-old lawyer Charles Grandison Finney had decided he must settle the question of his soul's salvation. So on October 10, 1821, he headed out into the woods near his Adams, New York, home to find God. "I will give my heart to God, or I never will come down from there," he said. After several hours, he returned to his office, where he experienced such forceful emotion that he questioned those who could not testify to a similar encounter.

"The Holy Spirit … seemed to go through me, body and soul," he later wrote. "I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves of liquid love, for I could not express it in any other way."

Evan Roberts (1878 - 1951):

God visits in the night

“One Friday night last spring, when praying by my bedside before retiring, I was taken up to a great expanse – without time and space. It was communion with God. Before this a far-off God I had. I was frightened that night, but never since. So great was my shivering that I rocked the bed, and my brother, being awakened, took hold of me, thinking I was ill.

“After that experience I was awakened every night a little after one o’clock. This was most strange, for through the years I slept like a rock, and no disturbance in my room would awaken me. From that hour I was taken up into the Divine Fellowship for about four hours. What it was I cannot tell you; except that it was Divine. About five o’clock I was again allowed to sleep on till about nine.

At this time I was again taken up into the same experience as in the earlier hours of the morning until about twelve or one o’clock.

They questioned me at home. Why didn’t I get up earlier, &c., &c.

Another deep experience of the Spirit at Seth Joshua meeting

‘On the way to the nine o’clock meeting the Rev. Seth Joshua remarked, ‘We are going to have a wonderful meeting to-day.’ To this I replied, ‘I feel myself almost bursting.’

“The meeting, having been opened, was handed over to the Spirit. I was conscious that I would have to pray. As one and the other prayed I put the question to the Spirit, ‘Shall I pray now?’ ‘Wait a while,’ said He. When others prayed I felt a living force come into my bosom. It held my breath, and my legs shivered, and after every prayer I asked, ‘Shall I now?’ The living force grew and grew, and I was almost bursting. And instantly someone ended his prayer-my bosom boiling. I would have burst if I had not prayed. What boiled me was that verse, ‘God commending His Love.’ I fell on my knees with my arms over the seat in front of me, and the tears and perspiration flowed freely. I thought blood was gushing forth. Mrs. Davies, Mona, New Quay, came to wipe my face. On my right was Mag Phillips, and on my left Maud Davies. For about two minutes it was fearful. I cried, ‘Bend me! Bend me! Bend us!’ Then, ‘Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!’ and Mrs Davies said, ‘O wonderful Grace!’ What bent me was God commending His Love, and I not seeing anything in it to commend. After I was bent a wave of peace came over me, and the audience sang, ‘I hear Thy welcome Voice.’ And as they sang I thought of the bending at the Judgement Day, and I was filled with compassion for those who would be bent on that day, and I wept.


Question: How common is it that behind a revival there is a preacher who has had a dramatic, life-changing encounter with the divine? So far I know that this is the case with John Wesley, Charles Finney and Evan Roberts according to testimonies attributed to them. Is this also the case with other notable revivalists? Is it a recurrent pattern? Is it also true of more recent or less notable revivals?

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  • The three you have chosen have something in common. The question 'How common . . . ?' is answered by 'very common' in those three instances. Their religion incorporated a certain facet of human nature. But that is not a fundamental aspect of the gospel of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Your selectivity of subjects has skewed the statistics in favour of your own choice of subjects. Discernment is required between what is of flesh (religious and legal flesh) and what is of Spirit (that is to say Holy Spirit). Gathering hearers may not be the same as ministering the Spirit.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 25 at 15:18
  • @NigelJ - I never claimed those three individuals to represent the whole world population. I only said that the rumors I had previously heard about revivalists appear to be true at least in those 3 instances, but I never claimed anything about the rest (if I knew the testimony of every single revivalist throughout human history, I wouldn't have asked the question in the first place). Apr 25 at 16:34
  • @NigelJ - also, I'm struggling to see how a question about objective statistics can be opinion-based. Apr 25 at 16:42

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