By Charles G. Finney
This Psalm seems to have been written soon after the return of the people of Israel from the Babylonian captivity, as you will easily see from the language at the beginning of the Psalm. The Psalmist felt that God had been very favorable to the people, and while contemplating the goodness of the Lord in bringing them back from the land where they had been carried away captive, and while looking at the prospects before them, he breaks out into a prayer for a revival of religion.
"Wilt Thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?" Since God in His providence had re-established the ordinances of His house among them, the Psalmist prays that there may be also a revival of religion to crown the work.
When Is A Revival Needed?
A revival is needed when there is a want of brotherly love and Christian confidence in the church. Then there should be a loud call for God to revive His work. When Christians have sunk down into a low and backslidden state, they have not the same love and confidence toward each other as when they are all alive and active, and living holy lives.
The love of benevolence (kindness, charitableness) may be the same, but not the love of complacency (satisfaction, contentment). God loves all men with the love of benevolence, but He does not feel the love of complacency toward any but those who live holy. Christians do not and cannot love each other with the love of complacency, except in proportion to their holiness.
If Christian love is the love of the image of Christ in His people, then it cannot be exercised except where that image really exists. A person must reflect the image of Christ and show the spirit of Christ before other Christians can love him with the love of complacency.
Secondly, there is great need of a revival when there are dissensions and jealousies and evil speakings among Christians. These things show that Christians are far from God, and it is time to think earnestly of a revival. Christianity cannot prosper with such things in the church and nothing can put an end to them like a revival.
Next, there is need of a revival when there is a worldly spirit in the church. It is evident that the church is sunk down into a low and backslidden state when you see Christians conform to the world in dress, parties, seeking worldly amusements, reading novels and other books such as the world reads (Ed. note: and watching television shows such as the world watches). It shows they are far from God and that there is a great need of a revival in the church.
When the church finds its members falling into gross and scandalous sins, then it is time for the church to awake and cry to God for a revival of religion. When such things are taking place as give the enemies of religion an occasion for reproach, it is time for the church to ask of God, "What will become of Thy great name?"
When there is a spirit of controversy in the church or in the land, revival is needful. The spirit of Christianity is not the spirit of controversy. There can be no prosperity in religion where the spirit of controversy prevails.
When the wicked triumph over the church, and revile them, it is time to seek for a revival of religion.
When sinners are careless and are sinking into hell unconcerned, it is time the church should bestir themselves. It is as much the duty of the church to awake, as it is of the firemen to awake when a fire breaks out in the night in a great city. The church ought to put out the fires of hell which are laying hold of the wicked. Sleep! Should the firemen sleep, and let the whole city burn down? What would be thought of such firemen? Yet their guilt would not compare with the guilt of Christians who sleep while sinners around them are sinking into the fires of hell.
A revival is the only possible thing that can wipe away the reproach which covers the church and restore her to the place she ought to have in the estimation of the public. Without a revival, this reproach will cover the church more and more, until it is overwhelmed with universal contempt. You may do anything else you please, and you can change the aspects of society in some respects, but you will do no real good. You only make it worse without a revival. You may build a splendid new house of worship and cushion your seat, put up a costly pulpit and get a magnificent organ and everything of that kind to make a show and in that way you may procure a sort of respect for religion among the wicked. But it does no good in reality!
It rather does hurt. It misleads them as to the real nature of religion, and so far as converting them is concerned, it carries them further away from salvation. Look wherever they have surrounded the altar of Christianity with splendor and you will find that the impression produced is contrary to the true nature of religion. There must be a waking up of energy on the part of Christians and an outpouring of Godís Spirit or the world will laugh at the church.
Nothing but a revival can prevent the means of grace from doing great injury to the ungodly. Without a revival they will grow harder and harder under preaching and will experience more damnation than they would if they had never heard the Gospel. Better were it for the unsaved if there were no means of grace, no sanctuary, no Bible, no preaching and if they had never heard the Gospel, than to live and die where there is no revival. The Gospel is the savor of death unto death, if it is not made a savor of life unto life.
There is no other way in which a church can be sanctified, grow in grace and be fitted for heaven. What is growing in grace? Is it hearing sermons and getting some new notions about Christianity? No, no such thing. The Christian who does this and nothing more, is getting more and more hardened and every week it is more difficult to rouse him up to duty.
If we need to be revived, it is our duty to be revived. We should set about being revived ourselves, and relying on the promise of Christ to be with us in making disciples always and everywhere, we ought to labor to revive Christians and convert sinners with confident expectation of success.
From Lectures on Revivals of Religion, by Charles G. Finney
To read more about revival from the outstanding revivalist, Charles G. Finney, ask us for the book in magazine format, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, when you send your contribution this month.