The following account gives a great illustration of how a few Christians surrounded by great wickedness used what they had–regular assembly of the saints, prayer, and ministry of the Word–and saw God act in a might way. It is a great encouragement. I have additional comments and items for prayer after it:
Shelter Island, (Long Island)
This little spot of earth rising amid the flowing sea, and lifting itself above the highest wave, was a place to which the drunkards of other regions came, and unhallowed fishermen drew up their nets, and hailed their wicked companions, as having arrived to a shelter from Sinai’s arrows and the multitudinous sounds of gospel trumpeters. There, a population, not exceeding three hundred, poured down their thirsty throats eleven hogsheads of rum annually [about 580 gallons]. These profane violators of the laws of God and man, regarded not the work of the Lord, neither did they consider the operation of his hands [Isa 5:12], that were declared to them, by those who had been eyewitnesses of the goings of our God and King.
Amid these outrageous sinners, a few pious Christians were found, who resorted to a little sanctuary on Lord’s days and poured out prayers to the Savior of sinners to come and make known his great power. They did not call in vain, for they soon found Him there, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain [1 Kings 8:27]. A revolution on that little isle of the ocean, was clearly effected, not by the might and power of man, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts, through the instrumentality of those, who abounded not in gifts of eloquence, but in the work of faith, in the labor of love, and the patience of hope [1 Thess 1:3].
The Lord has brought a number to love him, and a church of about sixty members assemble in unity, and walk as children of the day. The rum drinkers are so scarce, that one hogshead supplies their demands through the year.
We can easily learn, why the lovers of rum, and all other haters of Christ, ridicule revivals of religion, pure doctrinal preaching, and a revelation from heaven. For these all declare that Our God will come and will not keep silence. A fire shall burn before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens above, and to the earth beneath that he may judge his people [Psalm 50:3-4]. What a terrific time!—when the heavens shall be shriveled as a scroll, and the elements melt with fervent heat! When the earth and its appendages shall be burnt up and the fury of the conflagration be such, that there shall be no more sea? [Rev 21:1] A time when the noble and ignoble dead, the small and the great shall stand before God, and be judged according to their works; Yea, a time, when the thoughts of the heart and every secret thing, shall be brought to light! When the innumerable millions of transgressions in embryo, and abortive sins shall be exhibited in all their purposes and intents! A time when justice, eternal justice—shall sit alone on the throne, and pronounce a sentence, as impartial, as irrevocable; and as awful as eternal! There is a term of human life; and every human being is rapidly gliding to it, as fast as the wings of time, in their onward motion incomprehensibly swift, can carry him! And shall not the living lay this to heart? And shall we not live in order to die? Should we not die in order to be judged? And should we not live and die, so as to live again to all eternity; not with Satan and his angels, but with God and his saints? O thou man of God! thou Christian, thou immortal spirit, think of these things!
(Joshua Bradley, Accounts of Religious Revivals in Many Parts of the United States from 1815 to 1818, pp. 244-247)
Consider the character and consequent activity of those who live around us:
- Those who believe in heaven expect to be there regardless of how they live or what they believe
- Those who deny God’s existence view this life as their only time of existence, and so live accordingly rather than repent and seek the Lord (1 Cor 15:32 “let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”; cf. Isa 22:12-13; 56:12; Joel 2:1-17)
- They think that life is long and so live for the present (Luke 12:19 “I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry”)
- Bodies are used for glorifying oneself through prideful and vain expression with clothing, tattoos, body piercings, diets, make-up, and exercise rather than glorifying God and demonstrating such through proper appearance (cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20; 9:27; 1 Tim 2:9-10; 1 Pet 3:3-4)
- Strength and talents are used for self-promotion, sensual gratification, and idolatrous worship (cf. 1 Pet 4:3-5)
- God’s institutions (e.g. marriage, family, government) are dismissed and perverted to align with demonically inspired teaching (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-3)
What must we pray for?
- We will view our lives correctly and live accordingly (in light of eternity)
- We would wake up to what is of real, eternal significance
- We will rejoice that our names are written in heaven, that as we trust in Christ we will be with him forever
- We will give ourselves confidently and boldly to Christ’s work, having this sure hope and confidence, not worrying about our lives but being concerned only with God’s glory (Matt 10:28)
- As a church we will see our existence and purpose as not for “us,” but as Christ’s instrument in a world that will soon face his judgment (John 5:26-29; Acts 10:42; 17:30-31; 2 Pet 2:9-10; 3:7)
- Lost sinners would see how short their lives are and the sure judgment they will face unless they repent and trust Christ
- The self-righteous, moral, and those trusting in false religion would see the barrenness, inefficacy, and filthiness of such in light of a holy God and Jesus Christ