True and Sham Revivals
True revivals are born from above, sham revivals from below.
True revivals proclaim the whole gospel. Sham revivals skip the terrors of the law, the doom of the damned, the depravity of the soul, assurance of conversion, and the claims of heart holiness, substituting instead a sickly sentimentalism.
True revivals proclaim the truth fearlessly, no matter whom it hits. Sham revivals, for fear of the consequences or of the opposition of church leaders, either touch very lightly or else leave entirely alone needed truths that might offend someone.
True revivals not only command men and women to repent but also make them aware of the specific sins of which they need to repent. Sham revivals are silent on the subject of repentance for fear of hurting peoples’ feelings.
True revivals urge men and women not to rest until they know they are converted. Sham revivals take it for granted that they are saved because they weep or come forward to the altar for prayers.
True revivals are deeply concerned that the conversions that seekers profess are real. Sham revivals are content to merely count the so-called converts.
True revivals change the nature of fallen human beings and not only get their converts into the church but register them in the Book of Life. Sham revivals do not change the heart at all.
True revivals bring the sanctifying baptism of the Holy Spirit to the hearts of believers, as well as the assurance of pardon to believers. Sham revivals are as afraid of sanctification as the devil is said to be afraid of holy water.
True revivals are awake to the fact of formality and worldliness among professors of religion and seek the conversion of sinners who are in the church as earnestly as they seek the conversion of sinners who are outside it. Sham revivals shut their eyes to the fact of professing Christians who are really unconverted in heart and take for granted that all who belong to the Church are saved.
True revivals always bear some permanent fruit. Sham revivals leave a church and community in a worse spiritual condition than they were before.
True revivals are a dread to the persistently wicked, but they are a joy to the children of God. Sham revivals are insipid to the wicked, sickening to the saints, disgusting to God, and delightful to no one but the devil.
True revivals are like refreshing showers to the thirsty earth. Sham revivals are like blasts from the deserts which blight and destroy.
May true revivals abound!
Wise are they who heed the truth found in the following extract from an old revival tract:
Let us seek a revival in our own hearts first. It is only hypocrisy to talk about the low state of religion among our neighbors unless we begin at home. But when we have humbled ourselves before God and besought Him to revive His work within us, we may then look out upon the Church and the world around us and plead for them.
Pray for your ministers, pray for your fellow Christians, pray for the world, which is perishing in its sins.
‘O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years;
in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.’”
Martin Wells Knapp (1853–1901) was a Methodist pastor, revivalist, author and leader of the early holiness movement. He is remembered as the founder of God’s Revivalist and God’s Bible School. This selection, edited and updated, is from his Revivalist Kindlings.