By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: "Wilt thou not revive us again; that thy people may rejoice in thee?" (Ps. 85:6.)
"O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of years make known; in wrath remember mercy." (Hab. 3:2.)
From these passages we conclude that God is anxious to revive His work. There are many other references which go to show the willingness and ability of God to save. May we not ask then, why do we not see greater manifestations in the work of soul saving? There can be but one answer -- Hindrances. We will reverse the order and consider hindrances first, for if we can get these out of the way, something is sure to follow. What are some hindrances to a revival? There are many, but we will give but three.
II. Unconfessed sin.
What is prejudice? Divide the word and you have it -- pre-judging. Many people are prejudiced and do not know it. You may be prejudiced and not aware of it. Yea, you may be prejudiced to your own hurt; and this is a hindrance to God in His workings. A broad minded man may become prejudiced, but upon investigation immediately changes his attitude. It is the little, narrow man who retains a biased feeling. Sad to say, there are plenty of them. You may be prejudiced against the speaker. You have heard or read something, and gotten an impression that will make it hard for him to help you. You may be prejudiced against the singer, or the song books used; you may be prejudiced against the method of altar work, or carrying on the meeting. You hear someone pray or speak, against whom you are prejudiced, and immediately you cease to fellowship and co-operate; hence you bring about a jar, a coldness, and thus instead of being a blessing and help, or getting help yourself, you are a hindrance in the meeting. There are multitudes of good people in this fix. Is there any wonder that it is sometimes days and weeks before the "break" comes? It was when the disciples were with "one accord" that the Holy Ghost fell upon them. It seemed to require at least ten days. We can hurry up, or hinder the outpouring of the Spirit.
Prejudice is like the flaw in a window pane; a ray of sunlight may travel 97,000,000 miles in a straight direction, but when it reaches that little flaw it is diverted and falls obliquely upon the floor. In like manner, the truth of God may have traveled from the eternal throne of God and passed down through the preacher's mind and heart; but when it reaches a prejudiced mind it is diverted and hardens rather than softens. It is an awful thing to have a biased, or prejudiced mind. You cannot afford to hinder yourself or hinder others. Better for you had you been born a heathen, than to be held responsible for hindering others.
II. Unconfessed Sin
Now we come to another hindrance, more serious than that of prejudice. We read, "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." (Prov. 28:13.)
A person who comes into a Gospel meeting with unconfessed sin in his past life will be like a 200-pound cake of ice in a baby's crib -- the baby is bound to be affected thereby. He is like a water-soaked log which wilt not burn itself, nor let others burn and produce heat. He may pretend to be all right; he may assent to the truth; yea, he may take active part in the meeting, but if there is crookedness, or deception in his back life he will be a hindrance, rather than a help.
We were in a great camp-meeting in Michigan. Five days had passed without a break. I got desperate and preached on confession and restitution. A preacher's wife sat beside her husband in the audience, and when the truth of God began to come like hail-stones, she became uneasy, trying to find a place to hide. But she was overtaken by conviction and succeeded in getting her husband to retire to their tent, where she made the confession of her life. She told him that she had at various times felt she ought to make the acknowledgment, but upon feeling a little relief of conscience, concluded this was sufficient, and later doubted the importance of making an open confession. This is a trick of the devil. Remember, nothing is made right until it is made right. It is not enough while at the altar, or on a sick bed, or at the sacramental rail, to promise yourself that you will make certain things right; and then, as time passes and you feel less compunction of heart, conclude that after all, perhaps it is not necessary to make a detailed confession. Right here is where Satan has gained many a victory. And right here is where many a person has gone insane. He trifled with convictions and backed down from light until he got into despair. Then reason toppled from its throne and he went mad. Do not blame this on religion. The grace of God causes no one to go mad. It is for the want of grace that many lose their minds.
This woman's confession was about as follows: "Husband, I do not know what you will think of me. It may take all you have and all your father has, and all that my father has to make it right, but I can stand it no longer. Years ago when I was a young girl, another lady and I kept a millinery store. We did well and made money until the panic came, when we commenced to get behind and saw that we were going into bankruptcy. We had a nice stock of goods, but could not dispose of them. We had them insured and one dark night with my own wicked hand, (after many attempts to resist the temptation), I finally yielded and struck the match that did the work, then hastily left the small building. In just a little while the place was in flames and, notwithstanding all the efforts put forth on the part of the townsmen, everything went up in smoke. But the fire did not stop there, for the wind arose and two entire blocks were burned, thousands of dollars being involved. The people were very sorry for the two girls, and the insurance company came forward without a word and paid what our policy called for. That was years ago and I have been a most guilty wretch ever since. I frequently tried to make myself believe when overpowered by the Spirit that all was well, but every time I hear red hot truth I get uneasy. This is my confession and a great load has rolled off my mind and heart."
It is needless to say that this one confession, though not made in public, brought so much of the presence and power of God upon that camp ground that other awful confessions were made. Backsliders, hypocrites and unconverted church members rushed to the altar in great numbers. Yes, unconfessed sin will hinder a revival.
A spirit of bondage will hinder the operation of the Holy Spirit. Many times when a meeting is about to close, we hear a timid soul pray through and finally leap to his feet declaring, "I will not be in bondage any longer." For days he was in bondage to the evangelist, or his neighbor, or some visiting relative, but at last he flings the opinion of others to the winds and declares his freedom in God. Now, it was too bad that he did not get free at the beginning of the revival and thus many others would have been saved or helped by his example. If God wants you to give expression by an uplifted hand, or "Amen," the announcing of a hymn, or in any other way, do not quench the Spirit. "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15).
These are some ways of hindering a revival or campmeeting. Now we wish to notice a few helps to a revival and will likewise take three to offset the three hindrances:
III. Prevailing Prayer.
What is co-operation? It is simply everybody at it and always at it. If you think the evangelist has brought a revival in his suitcase, and as soon as he opens it, the revival will fly all over the community, you are sadly mistaken. Everyone has a part and lot in this matter, and you can help in various ways. For instance: You can use a telephone, write post-cards, hand out announcements, talk on the street, at the post-office and everywhere you go; you can agitate the subject of the meetings. Little things make big things. The Brooklyn suspension bridge started with one tiny wire, then others and then wire cables, and finally the great mechanical structure was completed; and now millions of tons pass over it every twenty-four hours.
We read, "Not by might, nor by power" (Marginal, not by might, nor by armies), "but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."
Everyone can speak to his neighbor and perhaps pray with that neighbor; loan a good book, give out some tracts, get subscriptions to a holiness paper and thus start the leaven to working in your own community. Do not say you cannot do it! Susanna Wesley, the mother of nineteen children, felt irrepressible longings and requested her husband that she might start mid-week prayer meetings for the ladies. He reluctantly consented. The attendance increased from time to time until the house did not hold them. He remonstrated that she was getting out of her place, but later felt rebuked and gave his consent; and a great work for God broke out. Yes, you can help by cooperation to bring on a gracious revival.
There is something beautiful about self-sacrifice. It pleases God and almost compels His recognition and assistance. One reason the old-time Methodists had such great revivals was that they counted it a privilege to walk ten, or fifteen miles, sleep on the floor and share their last crust of bread to help entertain others. Where is God working now-a-days? Not in big churches, but in mission halls, tent and camp meetings, and mission fields, where there is a lot of self-sacrifice and self-denial being practiced; and you can help along this line! Use that automobile to bring in two or three loads; that horse and buggy, or bob-sled; go out in the highways and byways and bring in the maimed, the halt, the blind! Write some of your friends, or relatives to come and make you a visit and thus get them under the influence of the meeting; bring your hired help along with you to the meeting! Do not say, "It will cost too much to entertain, or take the man out of the field. Wife is nervous and we cannot have a crowd around us." I tell you it will cost you more not to do something! The majority of the people, yea good people are everlastingly taking in, but never giving out unless squeezed. They have sponge-religion. They can sing, pray or shout, but cannot fast, give liberally, or wrestle in secret prayer until something happens.
Now brother, if you would be a blessing to others, forget ease and fleshly desires and see what God will do. He can humble and bring down your loved ones who are proud and self-willed, but it may mean some midnight praying on your part. What of it! Would you not rather lose a little sleep, or a few pounds of flesh and see a revival, than drift along like others and finally weep bitter tears over the downfall, or damnation of those who might have been saved had you laid yourself out full length for God?
III. Prevailing Prayer
Singing may be good, preaching may be fair but nothing will make a meeting go, like prevailing prayer. A half-dozen pray-ers are worth more than a score of pay-ers. Somebody had to prevail with God for your soul and for mine, and now in return we must prevail for others. John Wesley made a startling, but true statement when he said that Jesus Christ is not now interceding for a lost world, but rather for His saints, and He has left the intercession for a lost world to His saints. If this be true -- and we believe it is, what tremendous responsibility is upon us. The salvation of a lost world, simply for our asking, for our interceding, for our refusing to be satisfied with anything else. This is no place for dry eyes, or making a show in the flesh. If we would see a revival, it will take all that is in us. We cannot bring it about ourselves, but we can beseech the God of all grace to pour upon the community a mighty awakening.
The following is a remarkable case of prevailing prayer: A man who had an only son, had taught this boy to drink, gamble and visit vile places. At the age of forty-five the father was wonderfully converted, but now the boy had grown to manhood and was a profligate. The father deeply regretted his example and pleaded with the son to reform, but to no avail. Again and again he tried to persuade him to attend the house of God, but the billiard hall and the theater had more attraction for the young man. At last the father became desperate and told his wife to leave an empty chair at the head of the table every supper-time, as a testimony to his son that he was fasting and praying for his salvation. At first, when the young man was apprised of the fact, he threw back his head and laughed, declaring, "Dad will get tired of that; this will give me more to eat," and other light remarks. The empty chair continued to testify, not only for one week, but two weeks, and three weeks. The son began to show signs of seriousness. Between conversation, when everything was quiet, the voice of the father could be heard in an undertone, pleading for the salvation of his boy. Finally the fasting started into the fourth week, and the boy declared to himself, "If this does not stop I must either get saved or leave home." The fifth week began and the father was not at the table, whereupon hearing the voice of the father pleading and weeping, the son suddenly pushed his chair from the table! The mother was a little alarmed lest he was angry and had planned to go down town and drown his conviction. But instead, up the stairs he went, taking two or three steps at a leap, and throwing himself upon the carpet said, "Father, I know now that you love my soul more than something good to eat, and I must have this same salvation."
Yes, if you prevail with God, it may mean fasting, sleepless nights and many tears, but it is a good investment. O, Lord, "wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?" Who then is willing to pray, "Lord revive Thy work, and let it begin in my heart and my home."
"Revive thy work oh Lord,
Thy mighty arm make bare;
Speak with the voice that wakes the dead
And makes the people hear.
"Revive thy work,
And send refreshing showers;
The glory shall be all thine own,
The blessing shall be ours."