It Happened 200 Years Ago - The Great Revival"
-by Jim Brooks  <JBrooks972@...>

The only period in our history comparable in any way with this
present day was out on the western frontier in the period after
the Revolution.

Many areas of the frontier had a reputation for great lawlessness,
and at that time it had few ministers.  Indeed, the spiritual
condition of the entire country seems to have suffered as a
result of the Revolutionary War, and also as a result of the
influence of Deism, Unitarianism, and the anti-Christian aspects
of the French Revolution.  (Deism is a belief that there is a god,
but that he is an impersonal one who has no care or concern
for his creation.)  Many Americans were concerned about the
religious state of the nation.

One of those who was concerned was a Presbyterian minister,
James McGready. Arriving back in North Carolina in 1790, he
pastored a church there until 1796. Here he experienced both
revival and persecution.

McGready taught that all true revival came from God, and must be
preceded by prevailing prayer, and that with that prevailing prayer,
God would send true revival.

Magready sought the most “ungodly, irreligious" place in America,
as an area where his teaching on revival could be proven. The spot
he chose was Logan County, Kentucky, along Red River, in south
central Kentucky .

Logan County at that time was considered the most wicked place
in the entire country.  It was known locally as “Rogues Harbor.”
Other common names for it were “Devil’s Den,”  “Outlaw’s Haven,”
and “Satan’s Stronghold.”  So many desperadoes and ungodly people
had settled there, that when an attempt was made by vigilantes to
run these outlaws out, the outlaws burned the homes of some of
the vigilantes, killed others, and forced still others and their families
to flee the area.

James Magready got several hundred people, most of them living in
North Carolina, to sign his "Carolina Covenant", promising to pray
and intercede with God until such time as He would send true
revival to Logan County.  These people were asked to pray without
ceasing. The covenant was to pray for revival in Logan County until
the revival came or they died. James Magready himself, not
wishing to miss the impending revival from God, moved to Logan
County in the year 1796.

Arriving in the county, he began pastoring the church that met in
the “Red River Meetinghouse,” which was located near the river
of the same name. Shortly after, he established two more small
congregations, Gasper River Church and Muddy River Church,
both also in Logan County.

James Magready asked his parishioners to pray every Saturday
night, each Sunday morning, and all day on the third Saturday
of each month.  They were also asked to fast on the third
Saturday.  He asked them to pray specifically for three things:
repentance, redemption, and Pentecost!

The second greatest revival in American history, known then
and today as the "Second Great Awakening", or “The Great
Revival.” It  began in Logan County, Kentucky, on Red River,
exactly where McGready and those interceding with him for
the revival had asked that it occur.

James McGready did not have large congregations interceding for
revival.  His longest established church, Red River Meeting
House, was very small, having only some 20 to 25 members
in 1797.

In its early days the revival was known as the "Red River Revival."
Later, it was sometimes called the Cane Ridge Revival.

“The Great Revival” lasted about five to seven years, depending on
what year you count as its beginning. It is generally held to have
begun in the year of our Lord 1800, but some of the local people
placed its beginnings even earlier, some placing its origins as far
back as 1797.

As early as 1797, grown men, members of one or another of
James McGready’s three little churches, were spending days
at a time in the woods, under deep conviction, praying, crying,
weeping, and seeking God for an assurance of their personal

When the revival began, it began without warning. At a meeting
at Red River Meeting House in June of 1800, though some
attendees cried and wept, and others fell to the floor under
conviction of their sinfulness, and though there were conversions,
it seemed that there would be no great move of God at that time.
Disappointed, James Magready and two ministers who had been
assisting him left the building.

A visiting minister from nearby Sumner County, Tennessee,
William McGee, looking sorrowfully around, suddenly felt
impressed to shout to the people, “Let the Lord God Omnipotent
reign in your hearts!”  At this, pandemonium broke forth among
the congregation.

Some of the lost began to scream, others fell to the floor...
Describing the event years later, McGee said that he felt as if
one greater than himself was speaking. Several members went
to McGee and urged him to try to stop what was happening,
saying that Presbyterians could not allow such goings on.
Instead, William McGee went throughout the building, shouting
praises to God and encouraging the people to yield themselves
wholly to God.

Many were changed forever that night. In the words of James
McGready, "a mighty effusion of [God's] Spirit" came upon the
people, "and the floor was soon covered with the slain; their
screams for mercy pierced the heavens."

Heartened by the results of this meeting, another was planned at
Magready’s Gasper River Church.  This was the first planned
campmeeting.  Volunteers arrived days early to cut away trees
and undergrowth around the “meeting house.” This was to make
room for the people and the wagons that were expected. They
did not anticipate what occurred.

An enormous crowd, as many as several thousand, arrived at
the appointed date. Thirteen wagons loads of people and
provisions showed up ready to camp out at this meeting. Whole
families had come prepared to camp out for days. Some of these
people had traveled over 100 miles, on wilderness roads or trails,
to be there. The estimates of the number present ran as high as
8,000 men, women, and children.

Later, writing of the events of that campmeeting, McGready wrote:
“At a huge evening meeting lighted by flaming torches... a
Presbyterian pastor gave a throbbing message... The power of
God seemed to shake the whole assembly. Toward the close of
the sermon, the cries of the distressed arose almost as loud as
the speaker’s voice. After the congregation was dismissed the
solemnity increased, till the greater part of the multitude seemed
engaged in the most solemn manner. No person seemed to wish
to go home - hunger and sleep seemed to affect nobody - eternal
things were the vast concern...”

Thus began the tradition known as “campmeeting.”  The term
came into use to describe meetings where people would come
in such a manner, in wagons loaded with tents and provisions,
and would camp out while the meeting lasted.  Such a meeting
might be for only days, but sometimes it was for a week or more.
Although the term camp meeting was not used until 1802, this
was the first true camp meeting, where a continuous outdoor
service was combined with camping out.

In addition to campmeetings, two other new and novel practices
originated during the Great Revival.  One of these was the new
type of worship.  Since there were virtually no musical
instruments on the frontier of the type traditionally used in
worship, music for the worship began to be provided by local
musicians, trained or not. Anyone who had any type of musical
instrument and who desired to participate was welcomed. This
meant that the primary musical instruments used in the services
were mandolins, fiddles, banjoes, and the like.  Along with the
new type of worship music, a new type of singing arose.  As
there were no trained choirs and no organs or pianos on the
frontier, so there were no hymnals.  New songs were written
during the revival. These were a totally new type of song.  The
melodies were simple ones, with simple easily remembered
words and lengthy choruses.  From this singing, with its
homemade instruments, evolved Gospel Music. Later, from
Gospel came Black Gospel and Country Music.

Besides the new type of songs and music, another new practice was that
of placing a bench or a railing at the front of the congregation. Those who
were lost, and who came under conviction of their sinfulness, were
encouraged to go forward to what came to be called the “altar,” or the
“mourner’s bench.”  Here they would pray and seek a knowledge of
forgiveness for their sins.  When that knowledge or assurance of
forgiveness came, then, and only then, was it felt that the one under
conviction had joined the ranks of the redeemed.

The largest campmeeting, which was at Cane Ridge in 1801, drew
an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people. (Some estimates run much
higher). This in a frontier region with still only a sparse population.
(The largest city at the time in Kentucky was Lexington, and it
had a population of less than 1,800.) The number of people
attending the meetings in Tennessee and Kentucky was so great
that no building could hold them, so all meetings were held outside.
They would camp out in the open with their families, staying for
days, and not wanting to go home.

Writing years later, in 1820, John McGee described the meeting at
Desha’s Creek thus:
"Many thousands of people attended. The mighty power and mercy
of God was manifested. The people fell before the word like corn
before a storm of wind, and many rose from the dust with a divine
glory shining in their countenances, and gave glory to God in such
strains as made the hearts of stubborn sinners to tremble."

The Reverend William Hodge, writing of the Desha’s Creek meeting,
described it thus: Sabbath evening exhibited the most awful scene
I ever beheld. About the centre of the camp, they (people) were
lying in heaps and scattered all around. The sighs, groans, and
prayers seemed to pierce the heavens, while the power of God fell
upon almost all present."

By 1801, the revival had spread over most of the settled regions of
Kentucky and Tennessee, and into Ohio.  In only a short time it
swept like a wave over the states of Georgia, North and South
Carolina, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and continued on until the
entire nation was impacted.

Peter Cartwright, a famous frontier evangelist:
"I have seen more than a hundred sinners fall like dead men under
one powerful sermon, and I have seen and heard more than five
hundred Christians all shouting aloud the high praises of God at
once; and I will venture to assert that many happy thousands were
awakened and converted to God at these camp meetings. Some
sinners mocked, some of the old dry professors opposed, some
of the old starched Presbyterian preachers preached against these
exercises, but still the work went on and spread almost in every
direction, gathering additional force, until our country seemed all
coming home to God."

In the Great Revival, laymen seem to have been used as much
as ministers, with men, women, and even children being greatly
used of God.