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Chapter 3: The Second Great Awakening


IN THIS CHAPTER, you will discover:       

·   The conditions that precipitated the frontier revivals.       

·   The styles of two nineteenth-century revivalists.       

·   The social reforms produced by these revivals.    

AS A RESULT, you will be able to:       

·   Trace the development of the camp meeting.       

·   Appreciate the successes of Finney and Spurgeon.       

·   Participate in the social reform brought by revival.  

Preparation for Awakening

Key Scripture: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Rom. 1:16).

The nineteenth century can be described in two words: expansion and change. Both Great Britain and America were in a state of flux. Industries were developing; cities were growing; people were seeking land and opportunity; citizens were demanding civil rights and reform. The worst war ever fought in America occurred in the middle of this century. Much time had passed since the First Great Awakening, and many people had become lethargic in their faith. The setting was complete for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit.

Great Britain

During this period, Great Britain attempted expansion abroad. She fought numerous battles — the Battle of Waterloo, the Opium War, the Crimean War, and the Boer War, in addition to small wars with the Chinese, Abyssinians, and Afghans. The War of 1812 pitted the United States against England, but it was futile for both countries. India was transferred from the East India Company and succumbed to British control. Burma became its province also. Canada and Australia became powerful, self-governing states.

Queen Victoria ushered in a new age. The previous period of self-indulgence ended with the beginning of her reign. Instead the British became more moral, modest, enterprising, and self-righteous. The Victorian morality sailed across the Atlantic, exerting great influence over the United States as well.

Railroads and improved roads crisscrossed the country. Telegraph and telephone lines linked all the important cities. In response to a great industrial expansion, the government made safety inspection mandatory in factories. Parliament passed acts that improved labor conditions. Child labor laws were passed and education for minors became compulsory.

The First Reform Bill gave the right to vote to the middle classes. And representation was given to factory towns. This same bill declared slavery illegal in England and in every British colony in the world. The abolition of slavery resulted from the efforts of the Christian statesman William Wilberforce. The civil service also experienced reform. History records rapid and drastic changes in Great Britain during the nineteenth century.

The United States

During the same era, the Louisiana Purchase doubled the area of the United States, and the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Northwest opened up new vistas for exploration. Explorers and fur traders like the Bible-toting Jedediah Smith traveled throughout the frontier West. Pioneers began to travel westward looking for abundant land and a new life. Missionaries such as Marcus and Narcissa Whitman were sent to preach the gospel and to convert the Indians. More new territories were annexed — a large portion when the States won a war with Mexico. Then in the middle of the century, gold was discovered in California providing further incentive to move west.

Increased travel demanded new and better modes of transportation. Fortune hunters in the Gold Rush of 1849 traveled to California either by ship around the tip of South America or across the plains in covered wagons. In the East, canals had already tied the region together, and the newly invented steamboat plied the Hudson River carrying goods and passengers. Railroads stretched halfway across the country, linking the East with the Midwest. A network of goods and services was developing rapidly all over the country.

The owners of large plantations in the South were using slave labor, which became a key political controversy of the day. States were admitted to the union as either “slave” or “free.” Although many in the North and South strived for the abolition of slavery, legal reform did not come in the South until after the Civil War.

After the war, many people began to work in factories that were springing up all over the Northeast. Cotton from the South supplied the textile mills in the North. Factories were built in the South as well. With the invention of automated machinery, workers became mere tenders of machines. But with expanded production came certain evils. When the pool of laborers ran short, women and finally children were drawn into factory work at lower wages and longer hours. Houses and apartments for workers in the burgeoning cities were crowded and often substandard.

It was time for reform. Factory workers started labor unions to protect their rights. Reformation began in prison systems. Dorothea Dix fought for reform in the insane asylums. Free public schools were instituted, and universities broadened their courses of study to keep up with the vocational needs and the growth of knowledge. But the reform in education made religious reform necessary, for the humanist views in many of the universities had turned students away from Christianity. And Christians found themselves in the minority at universities originally founded on Christian principles.

Frontier Life

One place people desperately needed the gospel was on the American frontier. Pioneers had gone there looking for new land and a future. In the process, many were completely isolated. Civilization — the nearest ranch or homestead — was often many miles away. Those who had left local congregations in the East missed their Christian fellowship. Still, others had spent their entire lives in the wilderness, never having heard about God. Into this needy environment rode preachers of a different sort — circuit riders such as Francis Asbury described in Chapter 2.

Circuit riders were an important part of frontier life. These preachers required enthusiasm for sharing the gospel and perseverance over natural obstacles, for life on the frontier was difficult. Many of the pioneers had a reverence for the things of God and still observed Sunday faithfully. But since they were more often than not without a minister, each visit of the circuit rider was greatly anticipated. Moreover, the intervals between their visits could be several weeks or even months. Settlements fairly hummed with excitement as the traveling preacher caught up on all the activities since his last visit. He performed marriages, christened children, and presided at funerals. His visit always included preaching, which the people welcomed. He was paid for his services with food, clothing, and some produce, if available.

Before a settlement grew large enough for a church, people often met for religious services in private homes. A farmer might preach on Sunday and farm the remainder of the week. As the settlement grew more prosperous, a log or sod church would be built. People enjoyed coming to church. In addition to hearing God’s Word, they looked forward to the fellowship and social opportunities a meeting offered.


Because of the sparseness of settlements on the frontier, campmeetings were popular. They were held in the open air and usually lasted for several days. Their purpose was always revival; they were never intended to replace regular church services. Families and individuals brought food, bedrolls, and tents to camp out for the meetings. In the Northwest Territory, a temporary camp of logs and clapboard was erected in a grove of trees. But all campmeetings had certain things in common: preaching, singing, sharing, fellowship, food, and children. The first campmeeting was held by James McGready, in Kentucky, in July 1800.

James McGready

James McGready was a Presbyterian preacher who drove people to conversion when he preached on God’s wrath. The people in North Carolina became so outraged at his preaching that he had to flee for his life. McGready then went to Logan County, Kentucky, where he ministered to three small congregations. Logan County, nicknamed “Rogue’s Harbor,” was a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet the people there, including resident horse thieves and desperados, welcomed his fiery sermons. As he painted vivid word pictures of heaven and hell, his listeners could “see” the grandeur of heaven’s golden streets and the tormented sinners writhing in hell’s fires.

His first revival took place at the Red River settlement. Before the meetings, McGready had people praying for him at sunset every Saturday and at sunrise every Sunday. Furthermore, his congregations held a concert of prayer once a month. Because of the success at Red River, McGready sent out notices far in advance for a sacramental service to be performed at the Gasper River settlement. People from as far away as 100 miles came expectantly waiting for God to move. And He did not disappoint them, for a great revival occurred there. A second revival soon followed at Cane Ridge, in August 1801, led by Barton Stone. Such campmeetings were the first of many that literally swept the western frontier.


The nineteenth century in Great Britain and America was characterized by economic growth, geographic expansion, and social reform. Campmeetings on the American frontier paved the way for brush arbor meetings, Chautauqua-style gatherings, and family resort centers. The success of these revivals did not depend on place or atmosphere; rather it resulted from praying saints and repentant sinners. God picks the time, the place, and the method for revival and reform. The Holy Spirit is not bound to culture, but meets people where they are — at their exact point of need.

Finney and Friends

Key Scripture: “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it” (Mark 16:20).

Into the turmoil of the times, God has always raised up men and women to carry forth the message of the cross. A burning desire to save the lost was the impetus for all of the world’s great revivalists. Charles Finney was such a person. His ministry began in America, but his fame spread to Great Britain through his books and his personal appearances. A contemporary of his, Charles Spurgeon, began his ministry in England. Although he never held American campaigns, Spurgeon became well-known through his writings. The influence of both Finney and Spurgeon is still felt today.

Charles Finney

Known as the “Father of Modern Revivalism,” Charles Finney was born in 1792 in Warren, Connecticut as the seventh child of Sylvester and Rebecca Finney. After the family moved to New York, young Charles attended Oneida Academy where he studied singing and learned to play the cello. He relocated to Connecticut to prepare for studies at Yale, but was persuaded to abandon that path. He returned to New York in 1818 to attend to his sick mother and at that time began to study law.

In his law textbooks he had noticed frequent references to Mosaic law. Determined to know their source, Finney bought a Bible. In 1821, Finney was dramatically converted. After his conversion, he obtained a license to preach in 1823 and was ordained the following year. His first assignment was to serve as a missionary to settlers in upstate New York. Much to the surprise of men trained in revival procedure, Finney led successful revivals in all the villages where he preached. Then he began preaching in urban areas — and revivals broke out there. Finney’s revivalist methods have been summarized by Earle E. Cairns: Finney ... 

...used such means as harsh accusations, protracted meetings, naming sinners in prayers, the “anxious bench” (familiar in frontier revivals), prayers and exhortations by women, the method of addressing congregations as if pleading with a jury, and “helpers” to urge the convicted to the “anxious bench.”  [Finney] assumed that any listener could, of his free will, repent and immediately obtain assurance of salvation. (An Endless Line of Splendor, p. 130)

Twice he traveled to England where he held successful revivals. But in 1832 he had to give up traveling because of poor health. Finney settled in as a pastor, first of the Chatham Street Chapel and then the Broadway Tabernacle — both in New York City. Later, Finney became professor of theology at Oberlin College in Ohio, and in 1851 became its president. He was still teaching at Oberlin when he died at the age of 83.

Revival Timeline

Charles Finney   The World
Born as seventh child 1792  
  1803 Louisiana Purchase 
  1812 War with England
  1816 American Bible Society
Converted to Christ 1821   
  1825  Erie Canal opens
Great Rochester Revival  1830-31  
  1836 Morse invents telegraph
Professor Oberlin College 1836-37  
Preaching tours 1840-48  
Finds “Second Blessing” 1843  
  1848-49 California gold rush
Elected president of Oberlin 1851  
 Tours American cities 1851-57  
  1853 N.Y.-Chicago rail link
Teaching at Oberlin 1860-75  
  1861-65 American Civil War
  1866 Transatlantic telegraph
  1869  Opening of Suez Canal
Dies at Oberlin 1875  


Charles Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon was born in 1834 in Kelvedon Essex, England. He was the oldest son of an independent minister. His father’s full-time job was clerk in a coal yard. Spurgeon’s life was blessed by a Christian heritage. At the age of 18 months, Charles went to live with his grandfather, who was a minister. He lived six years under his grandfather’s tutelage. During that time, the young boy spent a lot of time in the older man’s library. Reading the available Christian literature gave Charles an appreciation for such writers as John Bunyan. Furthermore, because of his family, young Charles had frequent contacts with the Christian community.

On a January day in 1850, Charles set out for his regular church, but a snowstorm made him change direction. Instead, he went to a nearby chapel where he was challenged by a visiting minister. The man took one look at him and said, “You are miserable!” Spurgeon knew at that moment that he needed salvation. After his baptism the following May, Spurgeon began teaching a Sunday school class. In the summer of the same year, he moved back to Cambridge where he studied and taught. He became a lay preacher in the Baptist denomination, which served 13 congregations with circuit riders.

At age 17, Spurgeon began to pastor a church of 40 members. Under Spurgeon’s preaching, the enrollment leaped to 400. Then at the age of 20, Spurgeon was heard by an influential man visiting from the prestigious New Park Street Chapel in London. Even though the most influential ministers in England had preached in this famous church, its attendance had dwindled considerably.

When Spurgeon accepted the call to preach there, things began to change. With his clear voice, rich command of English, and dramatic effects, Spurgeon preached — and they listened. His preaching was powerful and direct. His popular style was altogether different from the poetic sermons that most ministers preferred. Spurgeon’s theology was Puritan, and his strict sermons did make some enemies for him. His audiences grew so rapidly that a larger building was required. As more people came to hear Spurgeon, the congregation moved to a music hall. Quite an uproar accompanied this move, for many felt that a music hall was too worldly for a church meeting. Later, a tragedy in the hall almost caused Spurgeon to give up. Someone yelled, “Fire!” and seven people died in the panic. Although downcast after the incident, Spurgeon returned to preach.

In March 1861, a permanent home for the congregation was dedicated. The new Metropolitan Tabernacle seated over 5,000 members and was usually packed. Spurgeon preached under the Baptist Union for years before withdrawing in 1887. He differed with the Baptists on their interpretation of the basic doctrines of the church. He felt that the younger generation was waffling and watering down the doctrines of the atoning sacrifice, the infallibility of the Bible, and justification by faith. In his 40-year tenure at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, over 14,000 people joined the church. This fellowship also established 22 mission stations, 27 Sunday schools, and an orphanage.

In his later years, Spurgeon suffered from rheumatic gout. Although travel to a better climate seemed to lessen his pain, Spurgeon was never free of it. He grew weaker until his death in January 1892 at the age of 57. When he died, the whole world grieved. Spurgeon is still remembered today as a man of character and integrity whose head was never turned by popularity. Charles Spurgeon still speaks today through his books and printed sermons distributed all over the world.

Lyman Beecher

A contemporary of Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher was a noted revivalist and social reformer. Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1775 just before the American Revolution, he graduated from Yale University and was ordained in 1799. He became pastor of a Presbyterian church and later of several Congregational churches. From 1832 to 1850 he served as the first president of Lane Seminary, a Presbyterian school in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Beecher was a fiery preacher who often preached on temperance and heartily opposed Unitarianism. He initially criticized Finney for his preaching methods and the emotional responses they evoked, but later grudgingly acknowledged that Finney’s work was unparalleled in the history of the church. Beecher championed the efforts of voluntary Christian groups that were organized to effect social change and revivalism. Beecher was the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Henry Ward Beecher, an eloquent Protestant preacher, writer, and social reformer. Beecher died near the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Finney, Spurgeon, and Beecher each made a specific contribution to the cause of Christ in the 19th century. Although distinctively different in style and theology, these men significantly impacted the religious thought and practice of the church today.

Life Application: Finney's principles of revival suggest that we can play a part in the coming of revival. What role in revival do you attribute to people? What role does God play? Are they equal, or does one have a greater role? How do you reconcile God's sovereignty and human free will in the realm of revival?

Social Reforms

Key Scripture: “"In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor"” (Acts 9:36).  

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the Bible, great revivalists espoused some very definite principles. The message of the Second Great Awakening can be summarized as follows: (1) God is sovereign, (2) His moral laws are immutable, (3) humans are depraved, (4) regeneration is possible through Christ’s atonement, and (5) salvation comes through submission to Christ. When these tenets are adhered to, several important things occur: (1) a new faithfulness to God is generated, (2) churches are renewed spiritually, and (3) people reach out to improve society through education, missionary outreach, and social reform.

Motivated by their love for Christ, Christians have always been at the forefront of social reform. The Lord commanded his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. Demonstrating that love involves seeing the need for food, clothing, and shelter —and then doing something about it. But it goes further than that. Christian love looks out for the unfortunate people who are being mistreated or neglected in prisons, in the workplace, in hospitals, or in nurseries —or those whose rights have been taken away. The 19th century was a time when Christians who saw a need for reform pricked the public conscience. The following are a few people who went the extra mile to love their neighbors.  

Elizabeth Fry  

Born in 1780, Fry was the daughter of a wealthy London banker and merchant. Only 12 when her mother died, Elizabeth suffered from ill health throughout her life. Although her family professed to be Quakers, their sect was much less structured. These more liberal Quakers met only once a week for prayer. For the most part, they were assimilated into the mainstream of society. Elizabeth confessed at the age of 17 that she had no religion. But in 1798, Elizabeth heard an American evangelist speak. Her eyes were opened to the fact that God is present among His people on earth. She then went to inquire of some strict Quakers concerning their faith and practices. As a result, Elizabeth decided that the stricter sect was better suited to her beliefs.  

Soon after her conversion, Elizabeth married Joseph Fry, a London merchant. Along with her duties as mother to 11 children, Elizabeth became a minister. Her favorite sermonic theme was the availability of God’'s grace to every individual. Elizabeth’'s heart was touched by the plight of prisoners, especially women, whose children lived in prison with them. She visited Newgate Prison at first to deliver clothing for the children and the women. She found the prisoners living in squalor. All of them,— hardened criminals and innocent victims,— had been thrown into overcrowded prisons together. All were idle, and many were violent.  

By 1816, Elizabeth was a regular visitor to the prison. She had organized a team of a dozen ladies to read the Bible and give sewing lessons to the female prisoners. She chose monitors to supervise the classes. As a result of her care and supervision, the prison changed into an orderly community. Observing the change, the city of London hired a resident matron and bought clothing for the prisoners. Elizabeth Fry almost single-handedly brought reform to the jails. She also set up a shelter for street children in London. The Prison Act of 1823 was passed because of her efforts. Thousands benefitted from her willingness to step out boldly in faith. Elizabeth Fry stands as a shining example of what one person can do to bring prison reform.  

John Newton  

John Newton was born in England in 1725. His mother died when he was barely seven years old; and after a brief education, John went to sea with his father. Later he became the captain of a slave ship plying its trade from Africa to America and the West Indies. Newton was deep in sin and rebellion with no regard for the welfare of others. But God reached down and touched John’'s heart through a book, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. The convicted captain felt that he could improve the conditions of slavery by preaching to the crew. But after a few years, Newton realized that slavery was wrong, and he had to get out of the business. Not only did he leave a lucrative profession, but he became an ardent crusader to rid the world of slavery.  

Although greatly influenced by George Whitefield and the Wesleys, John Newton felt called to stay within the Anglican state church. The Anglicans had a set schedule of meetings, but John Newton held additional meetings in which he testified of God’'s mercy in converting him. He also encouraged the singing of popular hymns rather than the staid psalms sung in other Anglican churches. Then, when Newton could not find enough hymns, he began to write his own. John lived to age 82, never ceasing to marvel at the love, grace, and mercy that God had shown to him. Perhaps his greatest legacy to us today is a hymn that came straight from his grateful heart —— “"Amazing Grace."”  

William Wilberforce  

Born in Hull, England, William Wilberforce was the son of a rich merchant who died when William was only eight years old. After his father’'s death, William went to live with his aunt and uncle. Committed Christians, they had been influenced by George Whitefield and were good friends with John Newton. It was in their home that Newton became a hero to young Wilberforce. His mother, however, was incensed at the relationship and placed her son in boarding school. Later, Wilberforce entered Cambridge University. The young man became popular because of his charm, friendly manner, and innate goodness. William became a friend of William Pitt, who later became prime minister. At 21, Wilberforce became a member of the parliament. An excellent speaker, he was dubbed by his colleagues, “the nightingale of the House of Commons.”  

John Newton advised Wilberforce to stay in politics as a Christian, where he could fight for justice in England. Newton convinced him to prick the nation’'s conscience concerning slavery. And he became the leader in fighting the slave trade and the institution of slavery in the British Empire. But in the middle of the political battle, both the French Revolution and Wilberforce’'s personal illness forced the resolution of the slave issue to be postponed. But a bill to end the slave trade was finally passed in 1807. (That same year the slave trade was abolished in the United States.) Then Wilberforce turned his energies into opposing slavery itself. Although he retired from Parliament in 1825, Wilberforce continued to support emancipation.  

Throughout his adult life, William Wilberforce sought to improve the morals of the English people. In fact, he helped to lay the foundation for the moral revival of England during the Victorian Era. He felt that God had placed him in the political arena where he could accomplish the most good. Wilberforce is an example of the power available to a Christian politician.  

Florence Nightingale  

Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy on May 12, 1820. If ever anyone was born with the proverbial silver spoon, it was she. Her parents were extremely wealthy and owned two estates in England. She was homeschooled; her father acted as tutor for her formal studies, and her mother taught Florence the social graces expected of her status. Florence learned how to manage a large household, which proved beneficial in her later work.  

As a young lady entering British society, Florence was presented to Queen Victoria. Her family’'s wealth enabled her to travel extensively in Europe. An attractive, intelligent young woman, Florence turned away many suitors. And rather than attend the frequent parties given in her social circle, the young debutante preferred studying about health reforms for the poor. Even as a child, Florence developed a real empathy with those in pain. She played at nursing her dolls and later nursed an ailing dog back to health.  

Nursing was not a reputable profession at that time, and the hospitals were broken-down and dirty. Certainly, it was not something a socialite would aspire to. But in spite of her parents’ opposition, Florence went to study in a Paris hospital. Later she entered nurses’' training in Germany. Then at the age of 33, Florence became superintendent of a women’'s hospital in London.  

A year later, she found herself in the Crimean War zone with 38 nurses and 500 wounded soldiers. The hospital was a huge old barracks with wounded soldiers lying on the floor. The nurses had very little to work with, since medical supplies and food were delayed in coming. But Florence Nightingale’'s talents as an organizer and administrator emerged. When she found some men well enough to help, she gave them cleaning assignments and refused to accept slipshod work. She made a schedule for her nurses involved in the care of patients and another one for kitchen work. Florence did not merely delegate work. During the night, she walked the endless corridors to check on patients and to offer help if needed. Because of her nightly vigils, the grateful soldiers named her the "“lady with the lamp.”"   

The "“lady"” believed that every human life was valuable. Her compassion extended beyond the physical health of the soldiers. As they convalesced, she taught them to read and write. Through her reforms in hospital administration and nursing work, Nightingale was responsible for saving many lives. She was the first woman to be given the British Order of Merit. Florence retired as a semi-invalid from the strain on her health while in Crimea. But even in her retirement the world still came to her for advice on nursing care and hospital reform.  

George Muller  

George Muller was born in Prussia in 1805. The son of a government tax collector, he was reputed to have stolen from his own father and to have defrauded several others. Young Muller was wild and rebellious, following an undisciplined, drunken lifestyle. Even so, he enrolled in the University of Halle, expecting to train for the ministry. But in 1825, he attended a meeting in which a missionary from Africa spoke. As everyone present kneeled to pray, Muller was gloriously converted.  

By January 1826, Muller had decided to become a missionary to the Jews. So he went to London, England to study Hebrew. But Muller became ill and had to move from London. With the move, he gave up his training for Jewish missions. Shortly afterward, Muller became associated with the Brethren Church and was baptized by immersion. He and his new bride Mary Groves, already a member of the Brethren, agreed to live totally by faith. Muller believed there were no limits to what God could do for a person through faith.  

The Mullers moved to Bristol, England to revitalize the Bethesda Chapel. They were so encouraged by the results that Muller founded the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. Its purpose was to feed and clothe orphans, provide an education for poor children, give vital Bible teaching, circulate Bibles, and support foreign missions. Muller established two Sunday schools, two schools for adults, and six day-schools. Discipline and Christian character were emphasized in all his institutions. Girls were kept in school till their 17th year and boys until their 14th. Owners of factories and mines were disgruntled with Muller because he had “stolen” their cheap labor.  

After a cholera epidemic, many children were left homeless in Bristol. Muller decided that with 1,000 pounds he could start an orphanage. So, he and his wife prayed, believing that God would provide. And He did! In 1836, the Mullers opened the door to 30 orphan girls. Because the orphanage’'s income exceeded its expenses, the Mullers opened a second one, this time for infants. The third orphanage accommodated boys, bringing the total to nearly 100 children in their care.  

By 1870, the number of residents in the orphanages had risen to 2,000. Muller provided the orphans with nutritious food and an education. The children learned practical skills and attended daily worship. During this period, Muller suffered the loss of his wife Mary. But two years later, he married Susannah Sanger, who also shared his vision. Muller began to travel and minister throughout the world. In the period from 1875 to 1892, Muller covered 200,000 miles, sharing his personal testimony of God’'s miraculous provision.  

The orphanages, left in the care of his son-in-law James Wright, continued to prosper. Although Muller never made an appeal for funds, the orphanages and schools had received over a million pounds by the 1880s. Muller continually expected God to meet their needs, and he was never disappointed. His reliance on prayer was legendary: for every four hours of work he prayed one hour. Sometimes help came just in time,— but it always came. In addition to his schools and orphanages, Muller supported many missionaries, especially those in the China Inland Mission.  

When Muller left the world, he had little personal wealth. But he is still revered today for his contributions in social reform, education, and missions. He never took credit for his many accomplishments but always gave God the glory. George Muller was a testimony to the fact that God provides for his children.  

David Livingstone  

David Livingstone was born at Blantyre, Scotland in 1813. His poor but pious parents lived in a one-room house during the Industrial Revolution. Because poor children were required to work, David went to work at the age of ten as a spinner in a cotton mill. He worked 14 hours a day, sometimes snatching a few moments to read. Converted at the age of 12, David experienced a spiritual awakening eight years later.

Because David Livingstone had heard of a need for medical missionaries in China, he decided to train as a doctor. He studied Greek, theology, and medicine in Glasgow. To subsidize his education, Livingstone continued to work in the mill during vacations. By the time he completed his studies, China had been closed because of the Opium War. So the London Missionary Society sent David Livingstone to South Africa.  

His first trip in 1840 made him painfully aware of two dilemmas: black Africans were exploited by the whites, and missionaries were being sent to the same populated areas time after time. To alleviate these problems, Livingstone determined to crusade against the slave trade and to take the gospel north into areas unreached by missionaries. In attempting to use Africans in missionary work, Livingstone hired Mebalwe, a native teacher who later saved him from being killed by a lion.  

Livingstone married Mary Moffat, the daughter of missionary Robert Moffat. He and Mary lived in Africa for three years in three different homes. Each move took them further upcountry. Livingstone had developed a love for exploration, and he much preferred it over a stationary mission's post. Finally, he sent his wife and children home to England, knowing they could not stand the grueling life that lay before them if he followed his vision for Africa. Livingstone then embarked on a journey that lasted 14 years and covered over 6,000 miles. He served as a doctor, evangelist, and teacher. Neither wild animals, sickness, nor fierce natives could keep him from writing voluminous notes in his diary, studying local languages, and making scientific reports.  

On Livingstone’'s first furlough back to England, he addressed the faculty and students at Cambridge University. That contact led to the founding of the Universities’ Missions Society to Central Africa. Later, as he contemplated returning to Africa, Livingstone had a disagreement with the London Missionary Society regarding the location of their mission posts. As a result, he turned to the British government for support in his exploration. But that move proved to be disastrous. To add to his woes, Livingstone’'s wife died in 1863. After her death, he simply disappeared from sight, cutting all communication with England.  

Then Henry M. Stanley, a reporter from The New York Herald, was sent to find Livingstone. He discovered him at Ujiji, where he gave the ailing Livingstone food and medicine. But Livingstone refused to go home. In 1873, he was found dead, —kneeling by his bed. His native assistants took the body of their beloved leader overland to the coast,— about 1,500 miles away. Before his body was transported to England to be interred in Westminster Abbey, his heart was removed and buried in Africa.  

Livingstone’'s geographical discoveries were many, including Victoria Falls, and the mapping of the Zambezi River system. This feat opened the continent for trade and further missions. Livingstone worked diligently to suppress the slave trade in Africa. Although he saw some progress in that area, the despicable exploitation was not stopped during his lifetime.  

Livingstone was obsessed with serving Africa in the name of Christ. Believing that God was at work in every area of human activity, he felt that conversion should have an impact on the economy and cultural life of a society. He believed in missions expansion rather than consolidation. In fact, he envisioned whole people groups coming to Christ. Livingstone truly opened up Africa for the gospel.  


By the time a society is ready for revival, spiritual and moral darkness covers the land. It is then that God, in His mercy, calls forth believers from all walks of life to go forth into the darkest reaches of society and express His love for the needy. Often, the reform of a political or economic system is not a primary intent, but comes about as the biblical mandates of love, justice, and equality are practiced. Through revival, individuals have consistently changed their societies by acting with compassion in behalf of those less fortunate. All the reformers we have studied committed themselves to making changes in society. Though their projects were different, each made a significant contribution that has made the world a better place to live in today.  

Take the quiz

Quiz Instructions

Test your knowledge by taking this short quiz which covers what you just read. Select the correct response based on the lessons and concepts of this chapter.

1. A consequence of winning independence and establishing the Constitution was that America forgot the __________ roots of her freedom.



2. In the 1800s Bible colleges like Harvard and Princeton remained true to the gospel.



3. Ministers who rode about on horseback were called __________ preachers.



4. The first __________ was born when tents were erected to meet the accommodation needs of the large attendance at a revival meeting.


Crusade meeting

5. In the early frontier revivals both blacks and whites were part of the multitude crying out for mercy.



6. In spite of revival, the American frontier still seethed with gambling, cursing, and vice.



7. De Tocqueville wrote that freedom depends on a __________ foundation of revealed truth mediated through religious institutions.



8. Over a half million people were converted through Finney's ministry.



9. The majority of Finney's converts ended up backsliding.



10. Finney's life revealed a willingness to change, a deep and loving devotional and prayer life, and a radical message of practical and immediate __________.



11. The life and writings of __________ influenced more people toward revival and social reform than any preacher up to that time.



12. __________ was a noted female revivalist who with her husband experienced extraordinary results.

Phoebe Palmer

Mother Teresa

13. In the Great Awakening of 1857 __________ played a key role.



14. __________ believed: "What is morally right cannot be politically wrong and what is morally wrong cannot be politically right."

Karl Marx

Lord Shaftesbury

15. The revivalists who followed the Reformation corrected some of its weaknesses.



16. Finney preached that God's grace in the baptism of the Holy Spirit was the key to __________ of society and individuals.



17. There is an important link between a genuine Christian life and the reformation of the world.



18. The __________ probably saved England from a revolution similar to the French Revolution.



19. The revivalists linked __________ and spiritual growth directly to the alteration of society.



20. One particular group who participated in the "Prayer-Meeting Revival" was __________.



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