5 Effects of True Revival

5 Effects of True Revival

5 Effects of True Revival

Today, many people pray and long for revival – a special outpouring of God’s blessing when His people are spiritually renewed and many others are converted. They view the advancing tide against the truth and Word of God with alarm and are concerned for the honour of God. This must not be a counsel of despair, as though we can do nothing without it and neither must we despise the day of small things. It’s possible to have a false romanticism about these things. Yet if the glory of God is truly paramount in such desires it is commendable. Revival is a time when God is truly seen as God – in His glorious majesty. This is what we desperately need. Secularism has pushed God to the edges and sometimes even Christians can be comfortable with that. Perhaps part of the difficulty is that revival is a distant memory. What would it look like and what effects would it have?

Some may ask: “do we need revival today?” The following brief clip may help to provide some answers to that question. It is the conclusion of the second video in the forthcoming Scotland’s Forgotten History series. The second video focuses on Scotland’s Forgotten Revival. This was a period which was arguably Scotland’s greatest revival. It went further, deeper and lasted longer than any other.


How Should We Pray for Revival?

Psalm 85:6-7 is a cry for God to revive His people again and have mercy on them. This is the Church praying for some relief from the distress in which they were at this time. David Dickson has some helpful comments on this Psalm that draw out the nature of true revival. The following is an updated extract. He notes that the cry assumes that God’s purpose and pleasure must be that His people should have joy in their God. On this basis and on the grounds of His covenant, they request new tokens of mercy.

It is like a death to be deprived of the evidence and sense of God’s favour. Likewise, it is life to be clear that we are in favour with God. Those who have had experience of the sense of God’s favour cannot endure to be without it and seek to have it restored.

We can expect a change for the better because plagues and wrath upon God’s people are only temporary. After they have smarted for their sins for a while, they may yet expect to be restored to joy and comfort again. Our joy should not be in the gift, but in the giver–we are to rejoice again in God Himself.


1. Revival Brings the Peace of God

Revival mercy removes the tokens of God’s wrath and brings peace and reconciliation.

(a) Although God’s people may be under the sense of wrath, yet the Lord will comfort them after they seek grace from Him: “he will speak peace unto his people” (v8).

(b) Those who are concerned about true holiness indeed are God’s people, to whom the Lord will speak peace. It is for the sake of such that the society in which they live will partake of the fruits of God’s favour to them: “he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints”.

(c) Our folly (foolishly following the vanities that allure us to sin) interrupts our peace with God. This is what diverts us from communion with God. Thus peace must come by our forsaking the sinful and foolish ways which have brought wrath. The way to keep us in that peace is not to return to these ways again. The very purpose both of God’s correcting us and His restoring peace is that we do not sin as before. “He will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly”.


2. Revival Brings More of God’s Glory in Our Land

The nearness of free salvation in Christ who is the glory of any land in which His saints dwell is another effect of revival (see verse 9).

(a) The heirs of the promises are the only ones that make it their business to please God and avoid provoking Him. They are those that “fear him”.

(b) The afflicted believer, labouring under the sense of wrath, cannot be satisfied with any other deliverance except Jesus Christ. He is really the only complete salvation of God. He alone is able to answer fully to that name. Christ was known to the Church before His coming in the flesh by that name. Simeon said that his eyes had seen God’s salvation when he had Christ in his arms (Luke 2:25-26, 30). Here is the name by which Christ was of old known to the Church, among many other titles. He is God’s salvation, as He is called here.

(c) Consolation and deliverance, and salvation in Christ, are near at hand to every upright afflicted believer. The afflicted believer may or may not be able to see it with comfort for the time being. Surely God’s salvation is near “them that fear him”.

(d)  Glory dwells in any land in which the true church of Christ, the saints, and those that fear God dwell. There God is glorious through Christ by His Spirit bringing righteousness and salvation to such a society. The people are glorious because of His presence and that land glorious above all other lands. Surely His salvation is near them that fear Him, “that glory may dwell in our land”.


3. Revival Brings More of God’s Saving Grace

The third fruit of mercy is the grace of Christ in justification and its fruits in those are justified by faith. There are three pairs here that sweetly agree together: (a) mercy and truth; (b) righteousness and peace; and (c) truth and righteousness (verses 10-11).

Mercy and Truth. God’s mercy pities, spares and pardons His sinful people. His truth performs all the good things which He has promised in His Word. A merciful God and unbelieving sinners are separated, and stand at a great distance, the one departing more and more from the other. A merciful God and a believer are surely reconciled and quickly meet together. God in Christ holds out mercy to the sinner, and mercy bestows faith on the redeemed. Faith lays hold on mercy, and so mercy and truth are met together. Mercy calls for faith, and creates it, and faith calls for mercy, and so this couple meet together.

Righteousness and Peace. Both of these are the effects of mercy and truth meeting together, or of mercy and faith saying amen to mercy’s offer. Faith laying hold on mercy, brings down righteousness or justification by faith. We, being justified by faith, have both peace with God and our own consciences (at least in terms of our right and privilege – our assurance of this peace may be interrupted). In all those that mercy (the offer of grace) and faith (receiving the offer) meet, justification (imputed righteousness) and peace with God also meet.  In this way “righteousness and peace have kissed each other”.

Truth and Righteousness.  This is truth, or true faith in man on earth and righteousness from God in heaven. Faith springing out of the earth as planted by mercy. It springs forth in its discernible fruits which are sincere love to God and man. The righteousness of God from heaven shines down as the sun to for nourish and protect what He has planted and to perform all promises to the believer.

When mercy in God and true faith in man meet together this is followed with the righteousness of justification and peace with God. Thus, true faith in man is followed with fruit. It cannot be idle but works to bring forth the effects of faith or truth. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness from heaven is followed with active influence on faith springing forth. It defends, increases and blesses it, just as the sun fosters and refreshes the fruits of the ground. “Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven”.


4. Revival Brings God’s Favour on the Land

Outward benefits are given to the believer as well as blessing on the land where believers dwell (v12).

(a) The things of this life are appendages to the chief mercies of the gospel, which reconciled people may expect to receive of God, as their need and good require. The “Lord shall give that which is good”.

(b) The place or land, where the Lord’s people dwell, bears the tokens of God’s displeasure when they provoke Him. In the same way, the land is clearly blessed when His people are reconciled to Him: and “our land shall yield her increase”.


5. Revival Brings Us Forward in Holiness

The grace of Christ for directing and advancing believers in sanctification is also provided (v13). Christ will be their leader. The righteousness of Christ imputed to believers will make believers follow Christ’s ways, and go on in the paths of His obedience.

(a) Christ is the captain of His redeemed and reconciled people. He and His people are walking in one way in which He goes before His people so that they may follow His steps. He also goes behind them to bring and set them forward in the way, so that none may fall away.

(b) Righteousness prepares Christ’s people to follow Him: This happens in the work of conversion or regeneration, in which the mind is enlightened to see righteousness and the heart inclined to follow it. It also takes place in the work of daily direction by His Word and Spirit. “Righteousness shall go before him”.

(c) The believer must walk in the way prescribed by the Lord as leader. The grace of righteousness or sanctification is that which advances us effectually towards holiness.  Christ as leader sends this into His people’s hearts to make them follow the direction given to them. “Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of his steps”.

Scotland’s Greatest Revival



What insights might you learn from understanding the seven key points why the Second Reformation period was not only a national movement of reform in the Church and Nation but also the greatest period of revival in our country’s history?  What if the key to the future is knowing the past?

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Go forward best. Look back first.

Watch the mini documentary series that  opens up a compelling, yet often ignored, chapter in Scottish history to reveal some surprising lessons for the future.



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The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

The Glorious Marriage Day of the Kingdom With God

This, for Archibald Johnston, was the best way of describing the 28 February 1638 – the day that the National Covenant was renewed. Ultimately, it would be signed by the whole nation. Politically, it was Europe’s first revolution. Ecclesiastically, it was Scotland’s Second Reformation. Johnston, a lawyer, was one of two men who were responsible for drawing up the Covenant. In the context of protests against the King’s Prayer Book, the Covenant enabled those protesting to unite together.

The Covenant called for adherence to the official doctrines confessed by the nation as confirmed by Acts of Parliament. It rejected “innovations” in religion and pledged defence of “the true worship of God”. The protesters re-subscribed the 1596 Confession of Faith. Although they professed loyalty to the king and denied that they were guilty of treason, Charles I condemned them, threatening arrest. Yet within days it had been signed by the people of Edinburgh and copies were then sent to the rest of the country for other people to sign in their thousands. Within weeks it had been subscribed by the Lowlands of Scotland, including almost all the nobles.  

It was a moving experience as the historian William Hetherington describes:

The intense emotions of many Scot Presbyterians that day became irrepressible. Some wept aloud; some burst into a shout of exultation; some, after their names, added the words unto death

Johnston recorded the following in his diary:

Wednesday, 28 February 1638, that glorious marriage day of the kingdom with God…The noblemen having appointed the body of the gentry to meet at two in the Greyfriars Kirk to hear copies of it read and to answer objections, I proposed and resolved to have the principal ready in parchment…[that]…it might be presently subscribed…after a divine prayer most fit for the time and present purpose made by Mr Alexander Henderson, the Covenant was subscribed first by the noblemen and barons all that night till 8 at night. On Thursday morning I had…four principal copies in parchment. At nine it was subscribed by all the ministry; at two hours by the burghs. (Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston).

The National Covenant begins as follows with a moving expression of faith and personal commitment. Scripture, the gospel and Reformed doctrine are resolutely defended:

We all, and every one of us underwritten, do protest, that after long and due examination of our own consciences in matters of true and false religion, we are now thoroughly resolved of the truth, by the word and spirit of God; and therefore we believe with our hearts, confess with our mouths, subscribe with our hands, and constantly affirm before God and the whole world, that this only is the true Christian faith and religion, pleasing God, and bringing salvation to man, which now is by the mercy of God revealed to the world by the preaching of the blessed evangel, and received, believed, and defended by many and sundry notable kirks and realms…

The concluding words display courage and a commitment to personal reformation as key to the whole endeavour:

Neither do we fear the foul aspersions of rebellion, combination or what else our adversaries from their craft and malice would put upon us, seeing what we do is so well warranted, and ariseth from an unfeigned desire to maintain the true worship of God, the majesty of our King, and the peace of the kingdom, for the common happiness of ourselves and posterity.

And because we cannot look for a blessing from God upon our proceedings, except with our profession and subscription, we join such a life and conversation as beseemeth Christians who have renewed their covenant with God; we therefore faithfully promise, for ourselves, our followers, and all other under us, both in public, in our particular families and personal carriage, to endeavour to keep ourselves within the bounds of Christian liberty, and to be good examples to others of all godliness, soberness and righteousness, and of every duty we owe to God and man; and that this our union and conjunction may be observed without violation we call the living God, the searcher of our hearts to witness, who knoweth this to be our sincere desire and unfeigned resolution, as we shall answer to Jesus Christ in the great day, and under the pain of God’s everlasting wrath, and of infamy, and of loss of all honour and respect in this world; most humbly beseeching the Lord to strengthen us by His Holy Spirit for this end, and to bless our desires and proceedings with a happy success, that religion and righteousness may flourish in the land, to the glory of God, the honour of our King, and peace and comfort of us all.



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What Does Revival Transform?

What Does Revival Transform?

What Does Revival Transform?

Many people pray and long for revival. But what do we mean by it? Perhaps this is assumed to be rather obvious. It is a special outpouring of God’s blessing when His people are spiritually renewed and many others are converted. Revival includes this but it is in fact much more besides. In its totality, it is a deepening and strengthening of God’s whole work not just in the lives of individuals. But what do we mean by God’s whole work?

John King (d. 1679) answers this vital question in a sermon on Habbakkuk 3:2 about God reviving His work. He observes that there are times when God’s work may be near ruin but not quite ruined. The church and people of God may not only be near ruin but may experience much deadness on their spirits. This may be true and yet we may not have a true sense of it. All of us need to pray for reviving. This condition may continue for years, or a considerable time. This is why Habbakkuk prays for revival “in the midst of the years” i.e. during the Jews’ long exile in Babylon.

King was preaching in times of great persecution. This is the only sermon that survives of the many that he preached in the fields. It was preached in 1678 in the district near to Loch Lomond. He had a powerful voice that could easily carry for a quarter of a mile. Frequently hunted down and imprisoned for preaching “illegally”, King was executed in 1679 together with another minister, John Kid. The last words of his written testimony are significant. “The Lord visit Scotland with more and more faithful pastors, and send a reviving day unto the people of God…Farewell all creature comforts, welcome everlasting life, everlasting glory, welcome everlasting love, everlasting praise; bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me”.

In applying his text, King says that we must be greatly taken up with God’s work and its need for reviving. Sadly, many pray for revival without a sense of our woeful lack of obedience to God. The Bible makes it clear that we cannot expect to enjoy God’s blessing if we are willfully disobedient to Him. This relationship between obedience and God’s blessing is important to understand. King focusses on our role, are we willing to fulfil our responsibility in relation to the work that we are looking for God to revive? What is the responsibility we must discharge in relation to God’s work? He identifies the following areas.


1. Gathering the Church of God

Gathering a Church to Himself is God’s Work. He calls His Church “the work of mine hands” (Isaiah 19:25). This may give deep conviction to many, since you have cared very little about this work. What care have you taken about it? If we were all brought to give our answer, what would we say? It is true, we are not called to have greater care than our responsibilities reach. I fear, ministers have not been taken as much care concerning His Church as we ought. This is lamentable.

This belongs to you and every one of you, in your particular position of responsibility. “What can we do?” they say, “…nothing”. Have you been sent into the world to do nothing? You should both do and be able to do. Although you may not be a prominent member of the body, you may be useful in your position. Although you are not the hand or the head, yet you may be a finger or toe.

We should all take care concerning the Church of God. But what should we do in reference to the Church? Contribute all you can do or have for the Church in your capacity. If you can do no more, will you pray for the Church which is God’s work and concern. Pray that He would advance His own work and take care of His own Church. Are we not in a capacity to do more, and to act and do for the Church? Now who does that? We are all at ease and the work of God is laid aside. But says the Spirit of God in Isaiah 45:11 “Concerning the works of my hands command ye me”.


2. Reforming and Building the Church of God

Reforming and building God’s house comes to a stop and is hindered. See to it then. In Nehemiah 3, this was one of God’s works in which they were to engage. They were to reform and build the house of God that the Babylonians had destroyed. That is one of His works and we should all endeavour to do it. Some are not in a capacity to do this but labour to do all that you can. We once had a well-ordered Church; but what is it now? What have we done for to build up His work?

In Haggai 2 they lacked the silver and gold and had many enemies. So they neglected building the house of God and built their own houses. He reproves them for it in Haggai 1:4 that God’s house was lying waste. Have many not done the same nowadays? This house is lying in ashes. This is lamentable indeed; we have not been careful in rebuilding and restoring the house of God. Let everyone’s conscience tell him or her about this. 


3. The Preaching of the Gospel

We should take care about this.  We should all (as it were) hold fast our hands around this. Were it not for some, we do not know where the preaching of the gospel would go. You should promote the preaching of the gospel. It is one of His works: it is His great work. It concerns our eternal happiness: and will it not increase our grief if we are found careless about it?


4. The Worship of God

Worship is called the work of God (Nehemiah 10:33). Nehemiah was careful about these things. O that there were many Nehemiahs in our day, to pray for the work and worship of God. We cannot tell what we have done for the worship of the house of God. We have taken little trouble about the house of God and for His worship. No care is taken to get it set up in our families. There is little concern amongst us to see to the whole work of God.


5. The Work of Grace

The work of grace in your heart and mine is God’s work. How little care there is about that. It is called the work of grace (1 Corinthians 15). What care have you taken about it: how to get it or keep it when gotten? Our blessed Lord Himself says “This is the work of God” (John 6:29), believing in Him. Get faith in exercise. O if we had faith to lay hold on His promises we might stand on our feet despite all that our enemies could do to us. But we lack faith and that takes us off our feet.  The disciples lacked faith to believe that He was able to bring them through this world, and yet He was able to set food before them (Luke 22:35).  Do not lack faith in His ability to carry you through; many have gone wrong in these days because of this.



These are His works; therefore we should give attention to them. Especially to have the gospel preached and promoted, to have the house of God built and things in His house rectified. These things tend greatly to the glory of God. What blessing there will be when all these things go well. If we do not do so we will be reckoned for His dishonour, not for His glory.

Contribute much to the edification of His saints and the good of souls, to have the gospel preached and the Word hid in your hearts, to have the house of God rebuilt, His work revived and things brought to purity and the due order. Is there not great good in all this?  Where will you get good, if it is not in this? Nowhere else.

These are the means of saving as well as edifying souls. Will you not therefore give attention to them? You take care for yourself in the needs of your body and in worldly things, so you should. But the work of God should be the great work. This is your first work, but we bring it in last.

May this not be a rebuke and challenge to many a conscience? Must this not be a fore regret? How we should lament it, considering how little we have done for the reformation and rebuilding of His house and the reviving of His work and worship. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion”, who are not concerned about the work of God. How can those who lay themselves aside and are lifeless escape this curse when they might have been useful for the work of God? How can such think to be free from that woe?

It is His work, His house: therefore, you should do all you can to build and rebuild it. Do all the service to him you can. This will entitle you to the promise in Isaiah 66:10 “Rejoice with her all ye that mourn for, and be glad with her all ye that love her”. When the work of God shall be restored and revived, they shall be comforted and you shall have a share in it with them.


In The Scandal of Stumbling Blocks, James Durham helps us to consider this vital issue deeply by defining the nature of stumbling as well as showing its serious consequences. He looks in considerable detail at different kinds of stumbling and identifies the ways that people can stumble and be stumbled. Durham provides practical advice for avoiding and preventing offense.

Now edited in modern English, Durham’s classic treatment on considerate Christianity can be used to edify a new generation.


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Catch the Flame – the Faith of the Gospel on Fire

Catch the Flame – the Faith of the Gospel on Fire

Catch the Flame – the Faith of the Gospel on Fire

Revival is the weak flame of the Church being reignited by the power of the Holy Spirit. Reformation is Christ’s refining fire to purify and transform His Church. The Second Reformation in Scotland was both a revival and reformation.

It was not simply that the faith of the gospel was maintained and proclaimed. It was on fire across the nation and in the hearts and lives of believers. It was a burning fire within the hearts of preachers so that they could not do anything but declare it with power.

This is the description that John Macleod gives in his classic Scottish Theology.

It was the faith of the gospel on fire that wrought so mightily in those days of the seventeenth century.

Scottish Theology in relation to Church History is full of momentum and interest. It interweaves biography, history and doctrine in an engaging way. This is not a cold and technical book but full of human interest.  A fresh reprint by the Banner of Truth Trust is now available.

Macleod shows how the Second Reformation took the flame of the faith of the gospel from “the godly evangelical fathers” of the Reformation. Their “plain undiluted teaching of sovereign grace” was applied earnestly both in preaching and catechising.

“This was to be found in a rich and full exhibition of the doctrine of grace alike as it builds on the humbling revelation of man’s sin, and of God’s wrath called forth thereby, and, on the other hand, as it sets forth a salvation that is all of God and all of grace in its inception, in its provision, and in its effectual bestowal.


This doctrine of salvation they drew from the Scriptures which they took at their own valuation and so looked upon as the very word of God. The truth of this divine message they laid to heart as it told them their own doom and that of their fellows. The truth too, of its message they believed when it spoke to them of Jesus our Lord as the Saviour of sinners. They received it as truth when it told of what he has done and won and of how he lives to bestow the life that he died to secure.


They would not be content unless they had him as their own. And as they felt their fellows to be sinners like themselves, under the same curse and needing the same blessing, they yearned over their souls, set forth to them the truth of law and gospel and with all earnestness besought them to flee from the wrath to come and betake themselves to Christ the Lord.


As they wrestled in prayer with God for power to attend and crown his word they wrestled with their fellows to win them for him.

They bore witness to the truth. They warned of danger. They entreated. They exhorted. They reasoned. They taught. They called. They invited.


Nor was their ministry left without the seals that attest the power of the gospel. For as they were anointed richly with the spirit of their office they preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to crown it with success in his new-creating power.


A message sent forth with such power carried with it its own credentials. The faith that it called into being saw with opened eyes the evidence of the truth that it welcomed. Thus convinced sinners had, like those who heard the apostles, a witness in themselves which left them satisfied that what they welcomed was no cunningly devised fable, but the very truth of God.


A community which got the good of such a message was rooted in the doctrine of the gospel and tended to become one that was very theologically minded. And this was none the less the case as the outcome of the catechetic method of instruction that was current in the Reformed churches and in the use of which the Reformed church in Scotland did not lag behind her sisters”. (pp.103-105).

Read the article “Scotland’s Greatest Revival” to learn more about how the Second Reformation was the period of greatest revival throughout the whole nation that Scotland has ever experienced.


Scotland has made a unique contribution in the field of theology, and the influence of its theologians has been and continues to be felt across the world. Indeed it was an American audience for whom John Macleod prepared this narrative of Scottish Theology, which was originally delivered as lectures to students at Westminster Theological Seminary.

Scottish Theology in relation to Church History is published by Banner of Truth



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Scotland’s Greatest Revival

Scotland’s Greatest Revival

Scotland’s Greatest Revival

The Second Reformation period was not only a period of radical reformation and rediscovery of Biblical truth in the Church of Scotland. It was also the period of greatest revival throughout the whole nation that Scotland has ever experienced.

John Livingstone experienced revival on several occasions during his life. Once was at Six Mile Water in Ulster in 1625 and more famously at the Kirk of Shotts in 1630 when 500 people were said to be savingly changed. He recalled an occasion where the spiritual power of revival was evident during the time of swearing the National Covenant.

“I was present at Lanark, and several other parishes, when, on Sabbath after the forenoon service, the Covenant was read and sworn: and I may truly say that in all my life time, excepting at the kirk of Shotts, I never saw such motions from the Spirit of God. All the people generally and most willingly concurred. I have seen more than a thousand persons all at once lifting up their hands, and the tears falling down their eyes.”

Johnston of Wariston recorded a similar experience in Currie Parish Church near Edinburgh. There was “an extraordinary influence of God’s Spirit upon the whole congregation”. This took place “at their standing up and lifting up their hands” “in the twinkling of an eye”. The Spirit of God worked on them “melting their frozen hearts, watering their dry checks, changing their very countenances as it was a wonder to see”.

He says that the minister was almost suffocated with his own tears “and astonished at the motion of the whole people, sat down in the pulpit in amazement”. “When he saw all the people falling down on their knees to mourn and pray” he arose and “prayed for a quarter of an hour…with many sobs, tears, promises and vows to be thankful and fruitful in time coming”.

On 1 April he witnessed a similar event in Edinburgh involving many nobles. There was at the time of swearing such abundance of tears and “heavenly harmony of sighs and sobs, universally though all the corners of the church as the like was never seen nor heard of”.

“The Spirit of the Lord…filled the sanctuary, warmed the affections, melted the hearts, dissolved the eyes of all the people, men and women, poor and noble”.

For a long time they stood still with their hands up to the Lord. It was, said Johnston, the most glorious day that the capital ever enjoyed.

Scotland’s Greatest Revival



What insights might you learn from understanding the seven key points why the Second Reformation period was not only a national movement of reform in the Church and Nation but also the greatest period of revival in our country’s history?  What if the key to the future is knowing the past?

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