By Victor Ochieng
One of the most remembered revivals is the Cane Ridge Revival that took place in 1801. Speaking about it, historian Paul Conkin said the revival was “arguably … the most important religious gathering in all of American history.”
Describing the Cane Ridge scene, one witness said, “Sinners dropping down on every hand, shrieking, groaning, crying for mercy, convoluted. Professors [believers] praying, agonizing, fainting, falling down in distress for sinners, or in raptures of joy! Some singing, some shouting, clapping their hands, hugging and even kissing, laughing; others talking to the distressed, to one another, or to opposers of the work, and all this at once.”
It was so big and touching that ahead of camp meetings or crusades, people would go to God and say, “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge.”
Events like what was witnessed in Cane Ridge are what clearly demonstrate what Perry Miller considers to be a Christian predicament, which made him refer to Puritan faith as another version of Augustinian piety, something quite illustrative of American evangelicalism. Talking about the Puritans, Miller says, “As long as it remained alive, its real being was not in doctrines but behind them; the impetus came from an urgent sense of man’s predicament, from a mood so deep that it could never be completely articulated.”
Those who don’t live in denial will tell you that evangelical Christians are suffering from a sickness of the soul, stemming from an “urgent sense of man’s predicament.” They’re trying so hard to live righteous, but are feeling weighed down by failure, brought about by bodily weaknesses, human inadequacies and subtle sins.
What these things do is make them feel a ripple of pain in their entire body. But even when they feel the need to seek help from God, they realize there is a chasm between them and the Holy One of Israel. When they look at God’s standards of holiness, they despair because their lives are deeply entangled in their weaknesses. Some have given up; some have lost hope; some stopped trying; some choose to remain lukewarm just in case God remembers them; some have chosen to compromise the word just so that they can have some form of godliness (Timothy 3:1-6).
Evangelicals have to endure that kind of crisis. We see a clear illustration of this in their revivals when they throw themselves to the ground in writhes of agony.
This constant sickness comes about because God convicts us of our sins and it then exposes our weaknesses and clear helplessness. And what it does is point us to our one and only Helper. But even as you journey on that road, it’s nothing but travail, with the greatest hope being the glorious Kingdom of God where sin will be no more.