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Great quotes on revival.
William Sprague (1795-1876), best known for his Annals of the American Pulpit, wrote one of the best ever studies upon the sacred topic of revival known as Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1832).
In this article, we will share forty great thoughts taken directly from the 2005 edition of Sprague’s masterpiece, published by Solid Ground Classic Reprints. Page numbers are in brackets at the end of each quote.
May you be stirred as you read!
1.- Religion consists in a conformity of heart and life to the will of God. It consists in a principle of obedience implanted in the soul, and in the operation of that principle in the conduct. (6)
2.- The first step [in a revival] is an increase of zeal and devotedness on the part of God’s people. (8)
3.- Revivals, like everything else that is good, have their counterfeits. (13)
4.- It is admitted that great excitement may attend a true revival; but it is not the necessary accompaniment of one, and it may exist where the work is wholly spurious. (13)
5.- It is no certain evidence of a genuine revival that great numbers profess to be converted. We are too much inclined, if I mistake not, to estimate the character of a revival by the number of professed converts; whereas there is scarcely a more uncertain test than this. (14)
6.- The fact that anything which claims to be a revival has been effected by scriptural means, is an evidence in favour of its genuineness. God has given us His Word not only as a rule of faith but of practice; and in the same proportion that we adhere to it, we have a right to expect His blessing; in the same proportion that we depart from it, we have reason to expect His frown. (17)
7.- Suppose there were to be a powerful excitement on the subject of religion produced by means which are at war with the spirit of the Gospel. Suppose doctrines were to be preached which the Gospel does not recognize, and doctrines omitted which the Gospel regards fundamental. Suppose that for the simple and honest and faithful use of the sword of the Spirit, there should be substituted a mass of machinery designed to produce its effect on the animal passions. Suppose the substance of religion, instead of being made to consist in repentance and faith and holiness, should consist of falling and groaning and shouting. We should say unhesitatingly that that could not be a genuine work of divine grace. (17-18)
8.- That on which we are principally to rely as evidence of the genuineness of a revival is its substantial and abiding fruit. (21)
9.- If you have read the prophetical parts of Scripture attentively, you cannot, I think, but be struck with the evidence that, as the millennial day approaches, the operations of divine grace are to be increasingly rapid and powerful. (32)
10.- The church is to see greater things than she has yet seen. (32)
11.- I ask who are the persons who have ordinarily the best regulated families, who are most faithful to their children, most faithful in their closets, most faithful and conscientious in their relative duties, and even in their worldly engagements? If I may be permitted to answer, I should say unhesitatingly, they are generally the very persons who love the social prayer meeting and the meeting for Christian instruction and exhortation. (47)
12.- It will always be right for individuals to secure the salvation of their own souls, let it involve whatever domestic inconvenience or whatever worldly sacrifice it may. (51)
13.- There are cases indeed in which God is pleased to glorify His sovereignty, by marvellously pouring down His Spirit for the awakening and conversion of sinners, where there is no special effort on the part of His people to obtain such a blessing; but it is the common order of His providence to lead them earnestly to desire, and diligently to seek, the blessing before He bestows it. (64)
14.- Much of what God does is through His people; and if they remain with their arms folded, it were unreasonable to expect that God’s work should be revived. (71)
15.- It is not an option of God’s ministers to select one truth from the Bible and omit another; but they are required to preach the whole counsel of God; and where they neglect to do this, it were unreasonable to expect a blessing. (83)
16.- God has promised to bless nothing but His own truth. (85)
17.- All the means which God’s Word authorizes are characterized by seriousness. (118)
18.- All ludicrous anecdotes and modes of expression, and gestures and attitudes, are never more out of place than when the Holy Spirit is moving upon the hearts of a congregation. Everything of this kind is fitted to grieve Him away; because it directly contradicts the errand on which He has come –that of convincing sinners of their guilt and renewing them to repentance. (120)
19.- In all the accounts of which the Bible records respecting revivals of religion, there is nothing that even approaches the confines of levity. All that is recorded as having been spoken or done on these occasions, was of a deeply serious character. (121)
20.- Another characteristic of the means which God authorizes in connection with a revival is simplicity; and by this I mean the opposite of all parade and ostentation. (124)
21.- What God requires His ministers to do, is not to frame anything new, or even to correct or revise His own Word, but to dispense it just as they receive it at His hands: and if they do this, He will take care for consequences. But if they adopt any different course, they may fairly expect that, in some way or other, the divine pleasure will be visited upon their presumption. (127)
22.- I would have the naked sword of the Spirit brought directly in contact with the sinner’s conscience. I would have no covering up, or softening down, of plain Bible truth. I would have the terrors of the invisible world, and the fearful depravity and doom of the sinner, held up in the same appalling terms in which they are represented in God’s Word. (128)
23.- The faithful discharge of parental duty is another important means of promoting a revival. There is no human influence ever exerted in forming the character more decisive, whether for good or evil, than that of parents. (143)
24.- Let a parent train up his children in the way which the Bible prescribes. Let him faithfully instruct them in the truths of God’s Word as soon as they are capable of being taught. Let him render his instruction as familiar and practical as possible, mingling with them appropriate counsels and admonitions. And let him pray with them and for them, and teach them to pray for themselves. And if all this is not immediately instrumental of their conversion, it will, at least in all ordinary cases, render them peculiarly promising candidates for converting grace; it will be a happy preparation for the effectual work of God’s Holy Spirit. (144)
25.- Go into any place where you will, where the Holy Spirit has been extensively and powerfully at work, and you will find that the families which have been specially blessed, are those in which God has been honoured by the faithful discharge of parental duty and the general influence of Christian example; while only here and there one is taken from those families in which there is no parental restraint, nor instruction, nor prayer. (145)
26.- Let not the sinner then dream that he has any excuse for continuing unreconciled to God for an hour. Press him with the obligation of immediate repentance and faith and submission to God. (159)
27.- Trifling with divine influences must serve greatly to harden the heart. (160)
28.- [The sinner] can do nothing toward his salvation but throw himself into the arms of sovereign mercy. (166)
29.- The very doctrine of election, when rightly understood, so far from being a discouraging doctrine, lies near the foundation of the sinner’s hope; for if all, when left to themselves, are inclined to reject salvation, where is there hope for any, independently of God’s sovereign grace? But this is nothing more or less than the scripture doctrine of election.
30.- It is impossible that a gracious principle should exist in the soul and be habitually and entirely inoperative. (188)
31.- You cannot do better service to those who believe themselves to have been recently converted, than by presenting distinctly before them the evidences of Christian character. (190)
32.- Strive then to impress the young convert, from the very beginning, with the conviction that God has called him into His kingdom to struggle with the corruptions of his heart –to war with principalities and powers. Admonish him that there is still an evil principle within him; and that if its operations seem to be suspended for a season, it yet retains a deadly energy, which will call him ere long to severe conflict. (193)
33.- I would say then to everyone just entering on the Christian life –study the Bible for yourself. Study it with humility, diligence and prayer. What you find written there, believe; whatever is not written there is either not true or not important. (198)
34.- It is in the closet especially that every Christian must labour to keep alive the flame of devotion in his own soul. (204)
35.- Everyone who has made much progress in the Christian life, has been taught by his own experience that the world is a deadly enemy to the believer’s growth in grace. (207)
36.- No being on earth every awakened a more violent religious controversy than Jesus Christ. (219)
37.- The instrument by which every conversion is effected is God’s truth. If then ministers, during a revival, fail to hold up the truth in its distinctive and commanding features, and confine themselves principally to impassioned addresses and earnest, exhortatory appeals, there is great reason to apprehend many spurious conversions. God requires, indeed, that the truth should be preached in an earnest manner; but it must be the truth that is preached; and that only He will honour in the conversion of men. I appeal to the whole record of revivals for evidence, that where anything has been substituted to any extent in place of this –where exhortation instead of holding its proper place, has taken the place of instruction –there has been the least of sound, deep, abiding religious impression; and there have been found the greatest number of hopeful converts, whose subsequent experience has proved that they had no root in themselves. (226)
38.- Let sinners remember that no degree of attendance on means, no degree of animal fervour, can be substituted for repentance of sin and faith in the Saviour. (253)
39.- The grand result to which revivals are here tending is the complete moral renovation of the world. (261)
40.- It has often been remarked that ministers, after having passed through a revival, have preached and prayed and done their whole work with far more earnestness and effect than before. (271)