Sarasvati Ramabai and Mukti Mission

Pundita Sarasvati Ramabai Dongre was born in the forests of Southwest India to Brahmin parents. It was April 23, 1858. By the age of 12 years she had committed to memory 18,000 verses from the Hindu scriptures (Famous Missionaries, Famous Missionaries, by J.C. Lawson, page 53).

When she was 16 famine struck and the family lived on water and leaves for 11 days. When both her parents died she was protected by her older brother, who later died, leaving her alone. Her education enabled her to gain respect and she married an educated Bengali who had also thrown off Hindu teaching. Nineteen months later her husband died and Ramabai was unprotected once again. She also had a baby daughter to care for. Such a situation is shameful in Indian culture and young widows are in a very vulnerable state.

Visiting Calcutta in 1878 the educational leaders bestowed upon her the title “Pandita”, meaning “Learned” (English pundit) – the first woman in the world to have received such an honour.

But further study of the Hindu writings – and the realisation that they held “little or no hope of salvation” for women – led her to turn her attention to investigate Christianity. Widowed, the mother of a small child, she visited England and was impressed by Anglican “Sisters of the Cross“, and their devoted Rescue Mission work. In 1883 Pandita Ramabai was baptised into the Church of England.

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Eight years later she chanced upon the book, From Death to Life by Rev. William Haslam – and to quote Pandita Ramabai: “I read the account of his conversion and work for Christ. Then I began to consider where I stood and what my actual need was…  I took the Bible and read.  One thing I knew by this time, that I needed Christ, not merely His religion” (Pandita Ramabai, by H. Dyer, page 35).

So this brilliant Indian lady came to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus. When she visited the USA she studied their education system and determined to return to India to educated widows, so they would not be at the mercy of those who would exploit them.

She returned to her native land and, in 1896, commenced the Mukti Mission. “Mukti” means “Salvation” (literally the escape from reincarnation’s horrible repeated cycle of life and death), and from that centre the old time gospel was faithfully proclaimed to thousands of women and children.

In 1905 “a Holy Ghost revival swept over Mukti and hundreds of girls and some boys were gloriously saved” (Herald of Hope, by John Ridley, December, 1959). Ramabai had heard of the revivals in Wales and elsewhere and was desperate to see the power of God. She organised the children to pray.

Thirty young women met for prayer every day. On the morning of June 29 a missionary working at the Mission “was awakened at 3.30, by one of the senior girls saying, ‘Come over and rejoice with us, J. has received the Holy Spirit. I saw the fire, ran across the room for a pail of water and was about to pour it on her, when I discovered that she was not on fire.’ When Miss Abrams arrived, all the girls of that compound were on their knees weeping, praying, and confessing their sins.”

The next evening, during a message on the adulterous woman “the Holy Spirit descended with power, and all the girls began to pray aloud so that she had to cease talking. Little children, middle-sized girls, and young women, wept bitterly and confessed their sins. Some few saw visions and experienced the power of God, and things that are too deep to be described. Two little girls had the spirit of prayer poured on them in such torrents that they continued to pray for hours. They were transformed with heavenly light shining on their faces.”

The girls called the revival “a baptism of fire. They say that when the Holy Spirit comes upon them it is almost unbearable-the burning within. Afterwards they are transformed, their faces light up with joy, their mouths are filled with praise.”

Ramabai also had inexplicable ecstatic experiences: “a consciousness of the Holy Spirit as a burning flame within her and times when, alone in prayer, she involuntarily uttered some sentences in Hebrew.” This Pentecostal revival was marked by confession of sins, prayers, much singing, dancing, clapping, speaking in tongues, and sensations of being consumed by fire.

Before her death on 5 April, 1922, apart from impacting so many lives that would otherwise have been ruined, Pandita Ramabai had also translated the Bible into the Marathi language.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

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Ulster Revival Impacts Ireland

The Ulster Revival broke out on March 14, 1859.

James McQuilkan had been converted three years previously when a visiting English lady (a Baptist Missionary), Mrs Colville, had witnessed to him. The initial contact led James to several weeks of desperate searching for conviction of salvation. Once this was gained, James began to witness to others and so attracted the interest of Jeremiah (Jerry) Meneely, a faithful church-goer who lacked assurance of salvation. Shortly thereafter Jerry also came to confidence in his salvation and James had also led two other young men, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace, to Christ.

Reading George Mueller’s autobiography, Life of Trust, had fired McQuilkan’s prayer life. McQuilkan was also impacted by reading ‘The Life of McCheyne’ and Finney’s Lectures on Revivals. McQuilkan began to long for revival.

So, in September 1857 the four young men agreed to meet weekly for prayer and Bible study, to edify themselves and win souls. The Schoolhouse at Kells became their prayer closet.

“During the long winter of 1857-1858 every Friday evening, these young men … made their way to the old schoolhouse. There they read and meditated upon the Scriptures of truth and with hearts aflame with a pure first love, poured out their prayers to the God of heaven.” They focused on three great fundamental truths, “the Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture, and the Secret of Holy Supplication”.

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On New Year’s Day 1858 the first convert was won. A year later there were 50 men meeting to wrestle and travail in prayer, despite being ridiculed and mocked by those who did not believe in their fervent praying.

Several of the initial band of men belonged to the Presbyterian Church in Connor, where Rev Hamilton Moore encouraged their prayer activities. His prayer meeting filled up and others were started and a hunger for God’s reality swept people out of their passivity. Moore was asked to report on these doings to the General Assembly that same year.

Word has also come that similar stirrings were afoot in America and further investigation revealed that a prayer movement had begun there, also in September 1857, with ordinary men initiating prayer meetings. 12,000 men were gathering in New York City to pray for revival.

By early 1859 the church in Connor had 100 separate prayer meetings each week, in homes, barns, schools and workplaces. One meeting in a mill had 500 attendees and the preaching was done by a local farmer. The ordinary folk were not only praying but taking the ministry roles as well.

On March 14, 1859, the Presbyterian minister at Ahoghill invited McQuilkan and his three friends to organise a prayer meeting.  The church was crowded, we are told … and hundreds more gathered outside ‘in the chilling rain’ … on their knees in the mud!

Edwin Orr describes this as “the first outbreak of mass conviction of sin to occur anywhere in the British Isles during the mid-19th century …”  “This revival made a greater impact spiritually on Ireland than anything else known since the days of St Patrick …”

Revival broke out and the prayer meetings became revival meetings, attracting crowds of thousands and mass open air meetings of 25,000. James McQuilkin emerged as a most powerful preacher and later in 1859 he travelled to many towns to preach in churches and the open air to great crowds. He saw a bountiful harvest.

“When this Revival hit Ballymena it was dramatic and sudden. Many families had not gone to bed for two or three days. Everything seemed at a standstill and the noise of people crying for mercy or the singing of praise came from many homes night and day. One Minister said ‘The difficulty used to be to get the people into the church, but the difficulty now is to get them out’.”

Churches were packed … sinners were converted.  Statistics show that crime was reduced by half.  Colin Whittaker, member of the executive council of the Assemblies of God, in his book Great Revivals (page 78), makes the interesting observation that although “amazing physical manifestations occurred,” the principle one being that people were often physically prostrated, “these prostrations were very different from some current phenomena of people falling down when prayed for in healing meetings …”. Prostrations in the Ulster Revival attended deep agony over sin, then led to great outbursts of praise.

Among the many evangelists used in this spreading revival fire were H.G. Guinness and Brownlow North of Scotland. People not only collapsed or were struck down, but people fell into trances and others had visions as well. The Catholic leaders anticipated a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment, since this was a Protestant revival, but the opposite occurred. The normally strife ridden areas became trouble-free as hearts were turned to God and away from the politics of religion.

The Ulster 1859 Revival is credited with bringing 100,000 souls to Christ in one year in Ireland, but it spread to other parts of Great Britain as well. “Wales also saw 100’000 converts added to the church (one tenth of the total population). In Scotland a harvest of 300’000 souls came in. Then in England a greater harvest still.”

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

The Cambuslang Revival Comes in Response to Prayer

The Cambuslang Revival commenced on the outskirts of Glasgow, February 15, in the year 1742.

“On Monday, 15 February, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday, a band of intercessors gathered at the manse,” writes John Shearer in his exciting book Old Time Revivals (page 33). The minister of the Parish Church was Rev William McCulloch. There had already been a touch of revival in the area the year previous, when George Whitefield came a-preaching in Glasgow. But now it broke out afresh under this humble, godly minister.

“For 12 weeks he preached daily to stricken people. The life of the community was transformed. Drunkenness and blasphemy ceased. Faults were confessed … restitution was eagerly made. Family worship was revived” (page 34).

And it all began with “a band of intercessors …”

“If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray…” (II Chronicles 7:14).

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In the 1740’s Cambuslang was a farming, mining and weaving community 5 miles south west of Glasgow. The faithful parish minister, William McCulloch, was of no special quality, but he earnestly desired to see his people come to genuine faith. Upon hearing of the George Whitefield revivals in America he began to preach gospel messages about what it is to be saved. This awakened the congregation to spiritual concerns.

A prayer movement of sorts was spreading through Britain and McCulloch authorised special prayer meetings in the parish, but only for those who were approved by the sincerity and consistency of their commitment. He was afraid of emotion and sensationalism, teaching his congregation to maintain decency in all matters, especially within the church.

As the fervour of the congregation rose, so too did the fervour of McCulloch’s preaching, until on Sunday February 14, 1742 a woman came under extreme conviction in the morning meeting. She was carried to the parsonage and there McCulloch answered her anguished cries of despair with promises from the Bible. McCulloch kept the event as orderly as possible by having those gathered at the parsonage sing psalms from time to time to settle the atmosphere. Note that psalms were the only approved songs for singing in Presbyterian churches. At the end of an extended and exhausting time of despair, exhortation and response the woman came to a glorious conviction of salvation.

That woman’s conversion popped the cork on the revival that had been brewing for many months and which had been bathed in earnest prayer. Word spread like wild-fire and crowds were drawn from far and wide. Ministers were called in to meet the needs of the ever growing crowds. Tents were erected near a spacious natural amphitheatre close to the church, as well as in the church yard and a nearby field.

McCulloch called upon George Whitefield to come and preach and when he arrived Whitefield declared that this was the most profound expression of revival he had seen anywhere in the world.

Over the previous century a tradition of special outdoor meetings focused on the Lord’s Table had been built up. Sacramental gatherings would run for four days or so and culminate in the serving of communion to the believers. Revivals had previously been associated with such events. McCulloch called for two such sacramental events in the months that followed. The second such gathering brought together over 30,000 people, some say as many as 50,000.

Hundreds were saved, piety and transformation was abundantly evident and uncontrolled weeping was widespread, despite the calls for decorum. This was the highlight of Scottish revivalism.

Opponents, mostly those of Deist persuasion, who did not believe in a present God who touched the hearts and lives of men, accused the revival of shallow emotionalism and ignorant sentimentality. And though the revival fires and the sacramental gatherings spread to other communities and touched many more lives, the revival was effectively doused by its opposition. Shortly thereafter the rising tide of reformed thinking extinguished the revivalist elements within the Scottish Presbyterian church.

But Cambuslang still stands as testimony to what can happen when humble souls preach the true gospel and willing hearts pray for revival.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Dohnavur Revival Breaks Out In Southern India

This is the day that Revival came to Dohnavur, under the care of Amy Carmichael. It was 1905.

Amy Carmichael’s ministry began in Ireland where she reached out to women working in the factories. She was influenced by the Keswick Movement calling people to enter a deeper life of devotion.

In 1893 she went to Japan at age 25, where she stayed for just over a year. During that time she was challenged about her culture getting in the way of her ministry.

She recounts the experience as follows. “We went to see an old lady who was very ill. She had not heard the Gospel before, but was willing and eager to listen. … She seemed to be just about to turn to Him in faith when she suddenly noticed my hands. It was cold weather and I had on fur gloves. `What are these?’ she asked, stretching out her hand and touching mine. She was old and ill and easily distracted. … I went home, took off my English clothes, put on my Japanese kimono, and never again, I trust, risked so very much for the sake of so little.”

She went to South India because “the Lord told me to follow Him down to Ceylon”. She then spent the rest of her life (57 years) in Dohnavur saving children from temple prostitution. After 12 years she had 130 children under her care. She formed a Protestant religious order called “Sisters of the Common Life”, emphasizing celibacy, mysticism, fellowship, and service. She also wrote 35 books detailing life in India and sharing testimonies about her work. Bishop Houghton was attracted to learn more about her when he discovered that she did not include photographs of herself in her books.

Ten years into her missionary service in India a wonderful revival broke out. Amy Carmichael had spent the previous five years rescuing young girls from a life of misery and shame before the revival fell at Dohnavur.

Dohnavur was a refuge that had previously been set up with funding from a Swedish-Prussian Count Dohna (hence its name in his honour). When Amy Carmichael began rescuing girls she was able to use this refuge as her base.

Child devadasis are literally “female servants/slaves of god”, so they were temple courtesans, dancers and prostitutes. Amy was able to rescue huge numbers of these girls from a life of slavery and degradation.

One Sunday, as the group of children met for worship, revival came. Let us read of the blessing that fell – in Amy’s own words.

“On 22 October, to quote one of the little girls, Jesus came to Dohnavur. He was there before, but on that day He came in so vivid a fashion that we cannot wonder that it struck the child as a new coming.

“It was at the close of the morning service that the break came. The one who was speaking was obliged to stop, overwhelmed by a sudden realization of the inner force of things. It was impossible even to pray. One of the older lads in the boys’ school began to try to pray, but he broke down, then another, then all together, the older lads chiefly at first.

“Soon many among the younger ones began to cry bitterly, and pray for forgiveness. It spread to the women. Our children began, I think, simultaneously with the boys, but it was so startling and so awful, I can use no other word, that the details escape me. Soon the whole upper half of the church was on its face on the floor crying to God, each boy and girl, man and woman, oblivious of all others. The sound was like the sound of waves or strong wind in the trees. No separate voice could be heard … nothing disturbed those who were praying, and that hurricane of prayer continued with one short break of a few minutes for over four hours. They passed like four minutes.”
(From Amy Carmichael, by Bishop F. Houghton).

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Felix Neff Spends Himself in the High Alps

This is the day that … Felix Neff was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1798. His father died when he was young and his mother denied him expressions of motherly affection, hoping to increase his manliness. She was a deist, having no interest in worship of God, yet her son displayed a ready keenness for worship and faith.

Despite his religious interests and attendance he was not converted until he read Honey from the Rock by Thomas Willcock. He was struck by the fact that he could bring nothing to God and yet receive everything from Him. He wrote in the book, “Felix Neff has found peace here on these two pages”.

He went on to various forms of ministry, but his serious approach to religion did not go down well with those more given to wordliness. After 2 years of ministry in France, facing various oppositions, he, at the age of 24, was ready to commence his remarkable ministry in the French Alps.

He appreciated the chance to minister where he did not have to confront the shallow state of other ministers.

From village to village he travelled – “in dead of winter through drifts, the thunder of avalanches alone awakening the alpine stillness.  In four years he did not sleep five nights successively in the same place.  His stomach was destroyed by poor food and the irregularity of meal times.  He was always alone …” (A Book of Protestant Saints, by E. Gordon, page 201).

But he persevered.  He saw a “marked improvement in the moral life of the people” as they responded to his Christian teaching.  He introduced irrigation, taught better methods of potato culture, worked alongside the men of the village, helped build school houses – and even founded a teachers’ training college.

He became known as “the Apostle of the High Alps” of France. He described the conditions of the people thus. “The work of an evangelist in High Alps greatly resembles that of a missionary among the savages; the almost equal degree of uncivilization that prevails among them both, being a great obstacle to missionary labours. Among the valleys, under my charge, that of Freyssinieres is the most backward. Architecture, agriculture, education of every sort is in its very earliest infancy.”

However he did see revival there. “All the people seemed to give themselves up to reading, meditation and prayer; the young people especially seemed animated by a holy spirit; a heavenly flame appeared to have communicated itself from one to another. I had scarcely thirty hours’ rest during the week.”

And on his deathbed he wrote his final letter:  “I ascend to our Father in entire peace.  Victory!  Victory!  Through Jesus Christ.”

Felix Neff died at the age of 31.

Neff is called by some the David Brainerd of the High Alps. He had much in common with Brainerd. Both laboured in primitive conditions. Both were young. Both came to their field of labour under a cloud of misrepresentation. Both were highly self-sacrificing. Both remained unmarried. Both died at an early age from over-exertion under conditions of extreme hardship. Both experienced a work of reviving grace. Both were men of prayer.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.