We seem to be living during one of the more interesting times in church history. Many who call themselves Christians point to “great” movements of the Holy Spirit, both in this country and abroad. And yet, the focus on fabulous signs and the degradation of preaching in modern revivals have caused many to question whether the Holy Spirit is still moving today. And even in many churches where the Word of God is treated with the respect it deserves, pessimistic eschatology prevents the lasting effect on culture that comes when the Word of God is preached with boldness.
In The Puritan Hope, Iain Murray points us to the great Puritan divines of yesteryear and focuses on their view of prophecy and its relation to their own revivals. He reminds us that revivals were a regular result of Puritan culture and preaching. In turn, these revivals inspired and directly produced the great forward advance of the gospel in the nineteenth century.
Unlike modern “revivals,” which seem to stress visible manifestations of healings, tongues-speaking, and other “signs,” Puritan revivals first and foremost stressed the preaching of the Word of God and the conviction of sin, Murray writes. For these reasons, the revivals of old resulted in the conversion of non-Christians, while modern “revivals” seem to have little impact on anyone other than those who are looking for the next “mighty move of God.”
Murray’s discussion of the Puritan interpretation of prophecy is one of the most helpful elements of the book. Puritan theology applied the unfulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament to the church. The result was a deep confidence in the power of the preached Word of God as a means of advancing the kingdom. Puritan eschatology was hopeful, expecting a mighty advance of the church and its message.
Murray’s excellent book encourages us to remember fondly the revivals of old and look forward to what yet lies ahead, the greatest church revival of all.