Vicar of St. Paul’s London
This is a very interesting and encouraging account of a great revival in the church of which the author is Vicar. We give a few useful paragraphs :—
"Prior to the commencement of this season of blessing was a seed-time of tears. The inquiry was frequently made of members of different communions, 'Are you prospering? Is there much life amongst you? To which the humbling reply was almost always returned, 'Alas! we are not as we should be: there is much deadness of soul: we greatly need an awakening.'
""The Lord owned His word upon each occasion of its utterance. Every night crowds of penitents came to God's ministers for direction. The afterservices were prolonged until nearly or quite midnight; and, even when the last doxology was sung, numbers lingered in the sacred edifice, as though loth to depart without realizing a further blessing."
"It pleased God, about two years ago, to put it into the hearts of some of His children to meet together every Friday evening to pray, specially, for a blessing on the services, Sunday-school teaching, and other means of grace on the approaching Lord's Day, and also that God would graciously pour out His Spirit on the church with which they were connected, as well as upon all other Christian congregations in the town. Amid various discouragements this little prayer-meeting was carried on week after week. At first only a very few assembled; but by-and-by the number increased; until, at last, the room in which they met became inconveniently crowded. The Lord gave them the spirit of prayer and supplication, but withheld any special or signal indication that their petitions would be abundantly answered. They did certainly perceive a change in their Minister's preaching, and remarked upon it one to another. He himself, too, was conscious of it, and was led publicly to express his gratitude to God for the sustaining intercessions of the 'praying band,' meeting together, in so much love and faith, each Friday evening. At length, however, a deep impression was made on the minds of some of those who had thus continued together in prayer, that the Lord was about to commence a great work in Newport. Their faith had long been exercised: now they began to expect a gracious answer.
"Just at this time the wish was expressed by members of the Young Men's Christian Asoeiation, (with which several of our praying men wore connected,) that a meeting for united prayer should bo held at an early date. The Committee of the Association at once took steps to carry out the suggestion, and an earnest invitation was issued to 'Christian men and women of all denominations,' asking them to meet together at the Victoria Hall, on Thursday evening, January 12th, 1871, 'to call on the Lord (1.) for the descent of the Holy Spirit amongst us, and an increase of vital godliness; and (2.) for the conversion to God of many of our fellow townsfolk during the coming year.' This united prayer-meeting was attended by a large number of persons: a most solemn spirit pervaded the assembly: the Lord Himself was in the midst, His presence being felt by many a soul.
"A short season of praying and waiting again elapsed. The Lord 'tarried'—but it was not a long tarrying. The spirit of expectation continued, and, indeed, became intensified. At length the Lord gave the 'earnest' of the approaching 'showers of blessing.' On Sunday evening, February 26th, the preacher (who had himself on the previous day experienced a glorious deliverance from the buffetings of Satan, and been brought out into 'a wealthy place,' a place of sunshine and certainty never before experienced by him) made an earnest appeal to any of his congregation who might then be in an anxious and inquiring condition of mind, to remain in church at the close of the service. His prayer that one soul might be given him as 'a token for good' from his Heavenly Father, was more than answered. The penitents were not counted, but several souls that night found peace with God, through Jesus Christ. The work of 'in-gathering' had now fairly commenced, although, as yet, but on a small scale. Several weeks passed away. Every Sunday night inquirers were led to Jesus: and every week it became more and more apparent that the Lord was preparing the minds of many for the utterance of the momentous cry, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'
"At the close of the sermon an invitation was given to any who might be desirous of direction, to remain to the afterservice. A large number remained, many of whom were evidently in a state of deep concern as to the salvation of their souls. Penitents thronged the chancel rails, and were there led to Jesus. The Lord Himself was present, giving, 'beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.'
"The Lord owned His word upon each occasion of its utterance. Every night crowds of penitents came to God's ministers for direction. The afterservices were prolonged until nearly or quite midnight; and, even when the last doxology was sung, numbers lingered in the sacred edifice, as though loth to depart without realizing a further blessing.
"His people felt they were 'one,' not artificially or theoretically, but actually and truly. Blessed be the name of the Lord for that! God's children knew not of distinctive titles, indicative of divisions in the family; they were forgotten, at all events for awhile. Churchmen, Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, Brethren — all met together in the house of their common Lord, not as 'sectarians,' but as 'Christians;' with one heart and voice they prayed and praised; with one purpose they assisted, when occasion served, in directing the inquiring.
"Thus closed the second week of the special services. Altogether six hundred souls had been brought to the Lord. Among the converts were persons connected with nearly all the congregations of the town. No attempt was made to proselytize; on the contrary, the converts were desired to remain in connexion with the communions to which they had formerly been attached, unless indeed it seemed clearly laid upon them by the Lord, as a duty, that a change should be made. It cannot be wondered at that many congregations were stirred up to pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon themselves, and that a reviving work began to make itself felt among the people."
The Christian Miscellany, and Family Visiter, (London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1872), p. 93. These excerpts comes from God's Work at Newport, Monmouthshire. A Narrative by the Rev. J. Tinson Wrenford, M.A., Vicar of St. Paul's. London: S. W. Partridge and Co. 1871.