Power From On High
2. When the Spirit Came
"That astonishing prayer meeting beginning in 1727
went on for one hundred years...."
"As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face…. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at His feet. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance." … "As I turned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost…. No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept with joy and love."- Autobiography of Charles G. Finney
"Every step of progress in the Christian life is taken by a fresh and fuller appropriation of Christ by faith, a fuller baptism of the Holy Spirit….. "As we are more and more emptied of all self-dependence, and as by faith we secure deeper and deeper baptisms of the Holy Ghost, and put on the Lord Jesus Christ more thoroughly, by just so much faster do we grow in the favor of God…. You must pray in faith for the Holy Spirit. At every forward step in your progress you must have a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit through faith."- Lectures on Revivals by Charles G. Finney
"Dr. George W. Gale had failed to receive that divine anointing of the Holy Ghost that would make him a power in the pulpit and in society for the conversion of souls. He had fallen short of receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is indispensable to ministerial success. When Christ commissioned His Apostles to go and preach He told them to abide at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high. This power was the baptism of the Holy Ghost poured out upon them on the day of Pentecost…. This is an indispensable qualification for success in the ministry and I have often been surprised and pained that to this day so little stress is laid upon this qualification for preaching Christ to a sinful world."- Autobiography of Charles G. Finney
When The Spirit Came
PRAYER always precedes Pentecost. The Book of Acts describes many outpourings of The Holy Spirit, but never apart from prayer. In our own day the great Welsh and Korean revivals were preceded by months, if not years, of importunate and united praying. Hence the supreme importance of the prayer meeting, for it is "the power-house of the church." So our Fathers found it two centuries ago. The first part of the year 1727 did not seem very promising. Differences of opinion and heated controversy on doctrinal questions threatened to disrupt the congregation. The majority were members of the Ancient Moravian Church of the Brethren. But other believers had also been attracted to Herrnhut. Lutherans, Reformed, Baptists, etc., had joined the community. Questions of predestination, holiness, the meaning and mode of baptism, etc., etc., seemed likely to divide the believers into a number of small and belligerent sects. Then the more earnest and spiritual souls among them began to cry mightily unto the Lord for deliverance. His first answer was a general outpouring upon them of "the spirit of grace and supplications." (Zech. 12:10.) Matthew Henry's comment on this passage was fulfilled in their case:
"When God intends great mercy for His people, the first thing He does is to set them a praying."
He also sent them a human leader and deliverer in the person of the young German nobleman, Count Zinzendorf, who so kindly had offered this persecuted Church a place of refuge on his own estates. This godly youth and preeminent genius had been divinely prepared for his great work of spiritual leadership. Converted in early childhood he composed and signed at four years of age the following covenant: "Dear Saviour, do Thou be mine, and I will be Thine." He had chosen as his life-motto the now famous confession: "I have one passion: it is Jesus, Jesus only." Of his days and years at school he bears the following testimony: "I was not only preserved from committing gross sins, but in some instances succeeded in inducing those very persons, who had tried to mislead me, to join me in prayer; and thus I won some of them to Christ. This was not only the case at school but also in the Universities which I attended, and on my travels ever since. Whilst at the Universities I exercised myself in physical accomplishments, because I deemed them useful; but 1 never indulged in dancing in promiscuous assemblies of both sexes, because I considered it wrong and sinful. I was as fond of amusements as any one; but as soon as an inordinate affection for them arose in my soul, I felt condemned. My whole soul continually tended to the Cross. I spoke with everyone I met on this subject."
Having finished the University courses his education was to be furthered by travel and a visit to foreign countries. But everywhere his master-passion of love for and fellowship with the Crucified Redeemer controlled him. In the Duesseldorf Gallery of paintings his attention was drawn with marked effect to a wonderfully expressive Ecce Homo, over which were the words:
"Hoc feci pro te:
Quid facts pro me.-"'
"This have I done for thee;
What doest thou for Me?"
To a friend the young count wrote: "If the object of my being sent to France is to make me a man of the world, I declare that this is money thrown away; for God will in His goodness preserve in me the desire to live only for Jesus Christ." In Paris a Duchess asked him: "Good evening, Count; were you at the opera last night?" "No, Madame," he replied, "I have no time for the opera." "Oh, brilliant wretchedness!" he exclaimed on leaving this city. Such was the young nobleman whom the Lord sent to be the spiritual and temporal leader of several hundred earnest but quarrelling Christian refugees.
So effective and fruitful was this leadership that nearly two centuries later Professor Binnie of Scotland declared: "It would not be going too far to affirm that Count Zinzendorf did more than any other man to redeem the Eighteenth Century from the reproach of barrenness, in relation to evangelical teaching and work."
If we inquire as to the secret of his success, two Scripture texts suggest themselves, viz.: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord of Hosts." (Zech. 4:6.) "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together, and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31.) Count Zinzendorf had early learned the secret of prevailing prayer. So active had he been in establishing circles for prayer, that on leaving the college at Halle, at sixteen years of age, he handed the famous Professor Francke a list of seven praying societies. Would that he might have many followers among the student body of today! How quickly this would solve all youthful as well as mature problems. It was a condition and not a theory which confronted the young nobleman in 1727 at Herrnhut. How to unite in faith and love and service the pious but disputatious followers of Huss, Luther, Calvin, Zwingle, Schwenkfeld, etc., etc., seemed indeed a hopeless problem apart from divine intervention. In answer to earnest and persevering prayer, superhuman wisdom guided the young Count in the use of certain means which proved of incalculable value. Bishop J. T. Hamilton has called attention to this in a recent article in The Moravian. After describing the Brotherly Covenant drawn up by Zinzendorf, calling upon them "to seek out and emphasize the points in which they agreed" rather than to stress their differences, and the Count's personal interview with every individual adult resident in Herrnhut, Bishop Hamilton says:
"But far more important than this was their entering into solemn covenant with Zinzendorf, that twelfth of May, to actually dedicate their lives, as he dedicated his, to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, each one in his particular calling and position. This covenant was in essentials what constitutes our Brotherly Agreement of today, the link uniting our individual members and our corporate congregations with each other.
"There followed the choice of the twelve elders to complete the organization of the spiritual life of Herrnhut, and the appointment of persons to the various offices foreseen in the statutes. So order, itself a product of greater mutual confidence as well as of mutually recognized devotion, made possible provision for the Bible study and the frequent gathering of bands for prayer, that next marked the ensuing summer months and led the way to and prepared for the baptism of the Spirit that culminated on that blessed thirteenth of August, an enduement with power, that enabled those men and women of Herrnhut to serve their generation so effectively in evangelizing throughout Christendom and in heathendom and in keeping faith aglow during decades of rather general indifference and rationalism as well as in promoting an education that sought to cultivate the heart as well as to inform the intellect and to secure purity of morals."
Truly the great Moravian revival of 1727, which reached its climax August 13, was preceded and followed by most extraordinary praying. The spirit of grace and supplications manifested itself in the early part of the year. Count Zinzendorf began to give spiritual instructions to a class of nine girls between the ages of ten and thirteen years. "The Count," so the historian of that period tells us, "frequently complained to his consort that though the children behaved with great outward propriety, he could not perceive any traces of spiritual life among them; and however much might be said to them of the Lord Jesus Christ, yet it did not seem to reach their hearts. In this distress of his mind he took his refuge to the Lord in prayer, most fervently entreating Him to grant to these children His grace and blessing."
What a spectacle! A gifted, wealthy, young German nobleman on his knees, agonizing in prayer for the conversion of some little school girls! Later on we read as f follows:
"July 16. The Count poured forth his soul in a heart-affecting prayer, accompanied with a flood of tears; this prayer produced an extraordinary effect, and was the beginning of the subsequent operation of the life-giving and energetic Spirit of God." Not only Count Zinzendorf, but many other brethren also began to pray as never before. In the "Memorial Days of the Renewed Moravian Church," we read as follows:
"July 22.-A number of Brethren, covenanted together of their own accord, engaging to meet often on the Hutberg, to pour out their hearts in prayer and hymns.
"On the fifth of August the Warden, viz., the Count, spent the whole night in watching, in company of about twelve or fourteen brethren. At midnight there was held on the Hutberg a large meeting for the purpose of prayer, at which great emotion prevailed.
"On Sunday, August 10, about noon, while Pastor Rothe was holding the meeting at Herrnhut, he felt himself overwhelmed by a wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord, and sunk down into the dust before God, and with him sunk down the whole assembled congregation, in an ecstasy of feeling. In this frame of mind they continued till midnight engaged in prayer and singing, weeping and supplication.
"After that distinguished day of blessing, the 13th of August, 1727, on which the Spirit of grace and supplication had been poured out upon the congregation at Herrnhut, the thought struck some brethren and sisters that it might be well to set apart certain hours for the purpose of prayer, at which seasons all might be reminded of its excellency, and be induced by the promise annexed to fervent prayer to pour out their hearts before the Lord.
"It was moreover considered as an important point that, as in the days of the Old Covenant, the sacred fire was never permitted to go out on the altar (Lev. 6:13 and 14), so in a congregation which is a temple of the living God, wherein He has His altar and His fire, the intercession of His saints should incessantly rise up unto Him like holy incense.
"On August 26 twenty-four brethren and the same number of sisters met, and covenanted together to continue from one midnight to the next in prayer, dividing for that purpose the twenty-four hours of night and day, by lot, among themselves.
"August 27 this new regulation was put into practice. More were soon added to this number of intercessors, which was thus increased to seventy-seven, and even the awakened children began a plan similar to this among themselves. Every one carefully observed the hour which had been appointed for them. The intercessors had a weekly meeting, at which notice was given to them of those things which they were to consider special subjects for prayer and remembrance before the Lord.
"The children of both sexes felt a most powerful impulse to prayer, and it was impossible to listen to their infant supplications without being deeply moved and affected. A blessed meeting of the children took place in the evening of the 26th of August, and on the 29th, from the hours of ten o'clock at night until one the following morning a truly affecting scene was witnessed, for the girls from Herrnhut and Berthelsdorf spent these hours in praying, singing and weeping on the Hutberg. The boys were at the same time engaged in earnest prayer in another place. The spirit of prayer and supplication at that time poured out upon the children was so powerful and efficacious that it is impossible to give an adequate description of it in words. These were truly days of Heavenly enjoyment to the congregation at Herrnhut; all forgot themselves, and things terrestrial and transitory, and longed to be above with Christ their Saviour, in bliss everlasting."
Another eye-witness says:
"I cannot ascribe the cause of the great awakening of the children at Herrnhut to anything but the wonderful outpouring of the Spirit of God upon the communicant congregation assembled on that occasion. The breezes of the Spirit pervaded at that time equally both young and old."
This then is the answer to the question of our chapter-"when the Spirit came." Again we quote from Bishop Evelyn Hasse: "Was there ever in the whole of church history such an astonishing prayer-meeting as that which beginning in 1727, went on one hundred years? It is something absolutely unique. It was known as the 'Hourly Intercession,' and it meant that by relays of Brethren and Sisters prayer without ceasing was made to God for all the work and wants of His church. Prayer of that kind always leads to action. In this case it kindled a burning desire to make Christ's Salvation known to the heathen. It led to the beginning of Modern Foreign Missions. From that one small village community more than one hundred Missionaries who went out in twenty-five years. You will look in vain elsewhere for anything to match it in anything like the same extent." A summary of our chapter may be found in Montgomery's well-known lines:
"They walked with God in Peace and Love,
But failed with one another;
While sternly for the Faith they strove,
Brother fell out with brother;
But He in whom they put their trust,
Who knew their frames that they were dust,
Pitied and healed their weakness.
"He found them in His House of Prayer,
With one accord assembled;
And so revealed His presence there,
They wept with joy and trembled:
One cup they drank, one bread they brake,
One baptism shared, one language spake,
Forgiving and forgiven.
"Then forth they went with tongues of flame,
In one blest theme delighting;
The Love of Jesus and His name,
God's children all uniting;
That Love our theme and watchword still,
The law of love may we fulfill,
And love as we are loved."