Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival & the Reformed Tradition- A Review

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition
Editors: Robert David Smart, Michael AG Haykin, Ian Hugh Clary

 “Biblically and historically speaking, the term revival represents the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in which there is recovered a new awareness of the holiness of God among His people. This heightened knowledge brings in a new season of the conviction of sin, which, in turn, leads to heartrending repentance. This lowly humility ushers in an awakened love for Christ. Believers begin to pursue personal holiness. Love for other believers intensifies. The gospel spreads like wildfire. Sinners are brought to faith in Christ, and the church is enlarged and empowered..” (p5)
This is how Stephen J Lawson defines revival in the foreword to Pentecostal Outpourings. It is a definition which would undoubtedly meet with the approval of the authors of this great work.
The book itself is divided into two sections:

Firstly- Revival in the British Isles. This half of the book is comprised of 4 essays overviewing revivals within reformed traditions in the UK; Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Irish Dissenters, Calvinistic English Baptists, and Scottish Presbyterians respectively. Each of these chapters are well written summaries, and each manage to cover some oft neglected revivals (I found the information on the Kirk O’ Shotts revival in Scotland particularly new to me- even although I live relatively nearby.) None of the summaries are simplistic, but the footnotes offer excellent guidance in finding further reading should anything be of particular interest.

The second part of the book looks at the history of revivals in America, starting with a very helpful chapter on Jonathan Edwards (I’ve read a lot by Edwards, and at least one biography but this essay really helped place him in the context of the 18th century American church).

Subsequent chapters are equally well written- Peter Beck examines the revival movements in the Congregationalists in the 18th-19th Century, Tom J Nettles looks at Baptist revivals in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Joel Beeke covers revival and the Dutch Reformed Church in the 18th century.


"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands." (Psalm 143:5)

The revival accounts outlined in Pentecostal Outpourings should to encourage us as we remember and reflect on what the Lord has done in our land in the past. Iain D Campbell says of John MacDonald in chapter 4:

“The remembrance of the working of the Lord’s right hand, in these favoured places, often cheered him when his heart was fainting in the toil of later and less fruitful years.”(p154)

These accounts will, I'm sure, cheer many believers as they labour in difficult days and challenging contexts in the cause of Christ.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:6)

Any book on revival ought also to lead to prayer for more revivals. Robert Davis Smart says in the introduction:

“Subsequent outpourings of the Holy Spirit, working by and with the Word, are reviewed in this volume in order that we may seek God earnestly to revive His church once again soon…

Pentecostal Outpourings depicts these special seasons of mercy in such a way that readers will hope for revivals once more as well as learn from past revival leaders.”(p7,8)

This book achieves these goals, furthermore it is more balance, biblical and honest that many books on revival.

“Although the authors prize true revivals, we have taken special care to demonstrate that revivals are mixed with counterfeit Christianity and require wise leadership. Quality leadership in the midst of revivals requires discernment, as evil still seeks to ‘work us woe’.”(p8)

“Every work of God dealing with flawed human nature will be a mixed work: the wheat of genuine conversions will be mixed with the tares of artificial experiences.” (p35)

Pentecostal Outpourings is a real achievement and a very helpful resource, one that ought to be turned to again and again. Broad in scope, not shallow in depth, inspirational, honest and thoroughly biblical. A worthwhile addition to any reformed believer’s shelf.

This book was provided to me courtesy of Reformation Heritage Books and Cross-Focused Reviews in exchange for an honest review. 

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