How Long?

by Peter Barker

In his presidential address, Tom Stuckey referred to a book written in 1856 by William Arthur entitled The Tongue of Fire (or The True Power of Christianity), & this prompted me to re-read it but this time from the early edition & not the abridged centenary one. In doing so I was very challenged by the following passage. The emphasis is mine.


‘In this age of faith in the natural, & disinclination to the supernatural, we want especially to meet the whole world with this credo: I believe in the Hoiy Ghost. I expect to see saints as lovely as any written of in the Scriptures — because I believe in the Holy Ghost. I expect to see preachers as powerful to set forth Christ evidently crucified before the eyes of men, as powerful to pierce the conscience, to persuade, to convince, to convert, as any that ever shook the multitudes of Jerusalem, or Corinth, or Rome — because I believe in the Holy Ghost.


I expect to see churches the members of which shall be severally endued with spiritual gifts, & everyone moving in spiritual activity, animating & edifying one another, commending themselves to the conscience of the world by their good works, commending the Saviour to it by a heart-engaging testimony — because I believe in the Holy Ghost. I expect to see cities swept from end to end, their manners elevated, their commerce purified, their politics Christianized, their criminal populations reformed, their poor made to feel that they dwell among brethren; righteousness in the streets, peace in the homes, an altar at every fireside — because I believe in the Holy Ghost. I expect the world to be overflowed with the knowledge of God; the day to come when no man shall need to say to his neighbour, 'Know the Lord', but when all shall know him, "from the least unto the greatest"; east & west, north & south, uniting to praise the name of one God, & the one mediator — because I believe in the Holy Ghost.’


At the end of the book he writes, ‘And now, adorable Spirit, proceeding from the Father & the Son, descend upon all the churches, renew the Pentecost in this our age, & baptize Thy people generally— 0, baptize them yet again with tongues of fire! Crown this nineteenth century with a revival of “pure & undefiled religion” greater than that of the last century, greater than that of the first, greater than any “demonstration of the Spirit” ever yet vouchsafed to men!’


Within a few years of the first publication the Second Evangelical Awakening broke out, & started in Ireland where William Arthur ministered. He followed the credo mentioned by the following comment:


‘Unbelief & neglect of prayer generally go together as preventives of spiritual power. Let all of us who are painfully conscious that the results just indicated will never be attained by the instrumentality of men, in the condition in which we are, simply ask our selves: “How long, how often, how importunately have we waited at the throne of the Saviour for the outpouring of the Spirit?”

It seems to me that that is the key question if ever we are to see revival. There are many other vital & important issues, but that question is the bottom line. I certainly feel it.

Peter Barker is a Local Preacher in the Bournemouth Circuit.