Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Antirevivalist Revival?

High churchman and general enemy of all things revivalistic John Williamson Nevin writes:
"It is a most unfair view of the system of the Catechism to think of it or speak of it as unfriendly to all special and extraordinary forms of action in the work of the gospel. The system, it is true, makes more account of the regular, the ordinary, and the general than it does of the occasional and the special....

"The extraordinary in this case, however, is found to stand in the ordinary, and grows forth from it without violence, so as to bear the same character of natural and free power. It is not the water-spout, but the fruitful, plentiful shower, causing the fields to sing, and the trees of the wood to clap their hands for joy. Such is the concept of a Revival.

"For such special showers of grace, it is the privilege of the Church to hope, and her duty to pray, at all times. To call into question the reality or the desirableness of them, is a monstrous skepticism, that may be said to border on the sin of infidelity itself.

"[Revivals] are the natural product of the proper life of the Church. Wherever the system of the Catechism is rightly understood, and faithfully applied, it may be expected to generate revivals in this form" (The Anxious Bench, 72-73, emphasis original).
I agree with the comments under the previous post to the effect that the term "revival" conjures up all sort of nasty images from unfettered emotionalism in general to barking in the Spirit in particular.

But such images would have been suggested even more strongly to people's minds in Nevin's day, and yet he refused to surrender the term, or to allow the phenomenon to be highjacked by well-meaning but fanatical revivalists.