A reader asks:
“Why do we not hear of Revivals today? I mean, of course, true Calvinistic Revivals.”
Most of us shy away from the term “revival,” especially because it so often refers to something that is purely the work of men and not originated by the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church. Many of our modern crusades, like that of Billy Graham, serve to create no more than an emotional excitement, which produces no lasting fruit, but leaves the “converts” in a worse state of false security than before. Where are the thousands who were supposed to have made a decision for Christ under the visits of Billy Graham to many parts of the world? Even the Pentecostals appeal to the gifts of prophecy and of speaking in tongues, which are evil attempts to add to the revelation of the Scriptures, and are condemned strongly in Revelation 22:18, 19.
The word revival is defined as “a term widely used among Protestants since early in the 18th century to denote periods of marked religious interest, when church members are quickened to a new sense of responsibility and privilege and others are for the first time brought openly to profess their faith” (New Encyclopedia, vol. 21, pages 135, 136).
It is in that sense that our reader refers to revivals. For, besides speaking of “Calvinistic Revivals,” he mentions in his letter such revivals as took place under the Calvinist George Whitefield (1714-1770), who preached as an itinerant preacher in Wales, Scotland, and in England, and who made seven trips to America, where he was in contact with the well-known Jonathan Edwards, also mentioned in this letter. Jonathan Edwards was used by God to bring about the “great awakening” (1840-41) in the New England States, and is probably best known for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and other writings.
Therefore the question could be recast in this form, “Why does God not bring about revivals today?” No reference is being made to the various reformations that have taken place from time to time within certain denominations, but the question refers to revivals or reformations that would awaken the entire Calvinistic church world out of its spiritual lethargy, would oppose the prevailing heresies that run rampant in the churches, and would arouse the sincere believers to contend for the faith once delivered unto the fathers, as well as draw others into the sheepfold of Christ.
The answer to that question must be that the hour has grown late, the end of the ages is upon us. When we consider the signs of Christ’s return as described in various parts of the Scriptures, we realize that perilous times have arrived, in which men are lovers of self, even lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof, I Timothy 3:1-5; in which false prophets and false teachers have arisen among us, who privily bring in damnable heresies, through covetousness and vain words making merchandise of the members of the church, II Peter 2:1-3; in which we hear of wars and rumors of wars, false prophets who show great signs and wonders; in which iniquity abounds and the love of many waxes cold, Matthew 24:3-25.
I like to refer to a lecture of Rev. G. Van Baren, which appears in pamphlet form under the title of the lecture, “Shall There Be Reformation No More?” He writes: “I have worded my theme very deliberately in the way I have: “Shall there be reformation no more?” By this I mean to express the almost hopeless despair of many who think that reformation is now impossible. We live in a time in which liberal trends develop rapidly, false doctrines increase on every hand. One can read quotations in newspapers and magazines which reveal the latest theological fads—all of them contrary to the Word of God. . . .
“No wonder that the faithful child of God feels lost. He does not know where to turn. And he asks, (if he can find another sympathetic to him) “Do you think there’s going to be another reformation? Do you think there’ll be another Martin Luther? Somewhere? Some place? One who will. lead once more the church back to the truths of justification by faith alone, and to the truths of the infallible Word of God?’
“But when one studies Scripture, especially those many passages that speak of the apostasy of the church, one can legitimately come to the conclusion that there is not going to be a reformation again as was seen in the days of Luther. There is not going to be another Martin Luther nor another John Calvin to inspire thousands to follow again the principles of the Word. . . .
Should we then perhaps despair? Or should we say that it’s no use—no use to oppose the corruption within the church? Should that be our attitude?
“What is your calling? First of all, it is to know for yourself, and instruct your children, in the truths of God’s Word. Know the Word thoroughly; study it carefully and diligently. . . .
“But what must members in rapidly apostatizing denominations do? . . . Where the church rapidly departs from the Word of God, where there seems no hope anymore of its reform, the calling of this child of God is to come out. That is the instruction of Revelation 3:10, where Christ addresses the church of Laodicia. . . .
“And when Christians do come out, they should seek to reform completely. Their reform ought not to be half-hearted or partial, as in some instances has been the case in the past. Children of God, called out of the apostate churches, are called to hold fast once more to the principles of the Reformation: justification by faith alone; and Scripture interprets Scripture—for Scripture is the infallible Word of God.”