The Great Awakening of 1857-1858 
  America Prior to the Revival
In the twelve years before the Third Great Awakening (also known as: The Revival/Awakening of 1857-1858; The Prayer Revival; and The Businessmen's Revival), the religious life in America was on a decline. It was a time of prosperity, and people were seeking riches rather than God. The churches were losing people, and worldliness was creeping in. (Orr 7)
A number of Christians who had become concerned over the materialism that pervaded the land, and the fact that the young were growing up without God, began to pray that God would break the love of money over people's lives and send another revival to the nation. "Concerts of Prayer" began to spring up throughout the United States of America and Canada. (8 and 12)
This materialism was broken in many lives by the Bank Panic of October 1857.
Due to the long, hard winter of 1856-1857, transportation and trade transactions were delayed. The spring brought some relief, but by the end of summer, businesses had begun to collapse. Before September, the Ohio Life Insurance and Trust Company of Cincinnati, with a branch in New York City, failed, causing "a shock to public confidence." (13)
Some banks refused to redeem their promissory notes, while others suspended operations altogether, including eighteen of New York City's leading banks. (14)
"On the 14th of October, 1857, the extensive banking system of the United States collapsed, a far-reaching disaster bringing ruin to hundreds of thousands of people in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and the industrial centers of the nation." (14)
The Panic caused rich men to go broke literally overnight. Suicide and murder increased, as well as "the number of unfortunate women who roamed the streets in the cities." (14)
Yet experts later agreed that the panic by the banks was unjustified. The Secretary of the U.S. Treasury said that New York's banks "had never been sounder" and even at the worst time had plenty of funds to meet the strain. (14-15)
Some felt that the Bank Panic was Divine judgment against a nation that had made mammon their god. Samuel I. Prime, chief editor of the daily New York Observer, felt "as long as men transact business on unsound principles, they will be punished. The law of trade, as well as of God, necessitate the penalty." (18)
J. Edwin Orr, however, states that the Revival was not caused by the Panic. The prayer meeting which became the focal point of the Revival began three weeks prior to the Panic. Within two months, the crisis was over, and it took another two months before the Revival "officially" began. (21-21)

Revival in Hamilton, Canada West

By 1857, prayer movements were growing in Ontario. In August or September, Walter and Phoebe Palmer, a Methodist physician and his wife from New York, came to hold what turned out to be very successful meetings. Returning to the States, they were delayed in Hamilton. On October 8th, the next day, the Methodist ministers convened a prayer meeting at which sixty-five people attended. The greater number of these people pledged themselves to pray for an "outpouring of the Holy Spirit." That night, Phoebe Palmer felt that God was about to move. (26)
On the evening of the 9th, a larger crowd met in the basement of the John Street Methodist Church. Twenty-one people were converted.
The following meetings were made up mostly of exhortations and testimonies. Many testified of conversion, while those who were already Christians testified to an entire dedication of heart and life to Christ.
The New York Christian Advocate and Journal reported on November 5, 1857, about the "Revival Extraordinary" in Hamilton in Canada West, where twenty to forty-five professions were being made daily, and one hundred were made on the previous Sunday. They wrote:
"The work is taking its range . . . persons of all classes. Men of low degree and men of high estate for wealth and position; old men and maidens, and even little children, can be seen humbly kneeling together, pleading for grace. The mayor of the city, with other persons of like position, are not ashamed to be seen bowed at the altar of prayer beside the humble servant." (27)
The spontaneous revival in Hamilton soon swept the entire community and a large part of the nation. All denominations reported a rise in membership over the following years.
The Canadian Awakening of 1857 sparked the Third Great Awakening in the United States.

Prayer for Revival

"Longing for Revivals" was published in May 1857 by the "New School" Presbyterian Church. This was an appeal to corporate prayer which had been written some time before it was finally published.
"This longing for revivals we cannot but consider as a cheering indication of the noblest life . . . Next to a state of actual revival is the sense of its need and the struggle to attain it, at any sacrifice of treasure, toil, or time. We trust that the period is not distant, when this state of actual, general, glorious revival shall be ours." (48)
The Presbyterians were not alone in their longing. The Baptists and Methodists were also calling their members to cry out to God to send another awakening to the land. By early 1857, many were praying "that the popular addiction to money-making might be broken." (48)
When the bank panic broke the love of money over many lives, the intercessors focused their prayers on revival.
Prayer meetings increased in numbers and frequency amongst almost all denominations. Theodore Cuyler, pastor of Nineteenth Street Church, New York, said in November 1857, that he was "struck with the earnestness of petitions for the descent of God's Spirit on out city churches." (50)

The First Signs of Awakening in America

Fulton Street in New York City is said by most people to be the beginning of the "Prayer Meeting Revival." Charleston, South Carolina, was, however, already experiencing a revival in the middle of 1857--among its slaves!
Black slaves had their own churches with mostly white leaders. One of these many congregations was found in Charleston with Dr. John L. Girardeau as its minister. Anson Street Presbyterian Church had forty-eight black members and twelve white. In 1857, they began a prayer meeting, petitioning God to send "a spiritual awakening," and waiting for the outpouring of the Spirit." (40)
One evening while leading in prayer, Girardeau felt as if a surge of electricity struck his head and gone through his entire body. He then stated: "The Holy Spirit has come. We will begin preaching tomorrow evening." He dismissed the church, but no one left. "Immediately he began exhorting them to accept the Gospel." By the time he was able to re-dismiss the congregation, it was midnight. (40)
Every night for the next eight weeks, he preached on "sin and repentance, faith and justification, and regeneration" to crowds of 1,500 to 2,000. Many whites as well as blacks were converted. They later joined the various congregations in the city.
The new revival scenes were not limited to the black churches. In the autumn of 1856, Charles G. Finney, one of America's most prominent evangelists, began preaching in Boston and remained there until the following April. He wrote in his Memoirs: "The work was quite extensive that winter in Boston, and many very striking cases of conversion occurred." (Rosell 560)
The Boston correspondent of New York's The Independent reported of these meetings: "Members of other churches in the city soon began to come in considerable numbers; then from the neighboring towns; and finally from distant places in New Hampshire and Maine, came ministers by the scores, private Christians by the hundreds if not by the thousands, to hear the word, and catch some of the sacred influences that evidently attended it." (560)
Churches in Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Iowa, California, Conneticut, Virginia, in New England as well as other states reported "spiritual outpourings." (Orr 59) Nor were they contained to one denomination. Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and most of the other denominations all reported an increased interest throughout 1857.
When Finney returned to Boston the following winter, the nationwide interest for revival was pretty much underway, so that he could later write:
"This was in the winter of 1857 and '58; and it will be remembered that it was at this time that a great revival prevailed throughout the land in such a tremendous manner, that for some weeks it was estimated that not less than fifty thousand conversions occurred per week." (Rosell 561-562)