(Article for publication week of 4-30- AD 2015)
"That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent me" (John17:21).
We have been bringing to your attention during Confederate Heritage Month the Great Revival that took place amongst the armies of the South during the War for Southern Independence. Our information for these articles is drawn from two primary sources, "The Great Revival in the Southern Armies" by W.W. Bennett and "Christ in the Camp" by Dr. J.W. Jones. Another valuable book that tells of the Revival is "The 16th Mississippi Infantry" by the late Hon. Robert G. Evans who served as Circuit Judge of the 13th District of Mississippi. Judge Evans compiled his book from letters written by Confederate Soldiers from Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Copiah, Pike, Wilkinson, Adams and Claiborne Counties who formed the 16th Mississippi and Served under General Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia. Many of the letters written by these men to whom many (probably most) of us are related mention the Revival and the numerous conversions that took place. Reliable statistics indicate that around 150,000 Southern Soldiers entered the Narrow Way via the Strait Gate during the War.
We stated in our two previous articles that prayer and faithful preaching were used of the Lord in the Great Revival, as in all true Revival. But thirdly to be noticed is the great unity of the preachers, evangelists, chaplains and colporters that were instruments of God in this Great Revival. Although there were men from all the Christian denominations active in the Work, they did not preach denominationalism, but preached on the Great Themes of the Gospel: regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification and Final Judgment. They with a united voice called upon men to repent of their sins and flee to Christ, the Only Saviour of sinners. Any man who does not preach these great themes is not a true preacher and will give an account at the Day of Judgment. I cry out to the professed ministry of this County- men are you preaching these great soul changing themes? This is what the preachers in the Confederate Army preached. And saints were comforted and sinners were converted. Backsliders were reclaimed and false professors were genuinely saved.
The unity of the preachers from the Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Episcopal denominations is related sweetly by J. W. Jones. He records that when a man was converted under the preaching of some of the Paedobaptist men and desired to be immersed, they would direct them to one of the Baptist ministers. And the Baptists reciprocated in like fashion. These men were united without compromise. The Baptists continued to immerse those who joined their communion, and the Paedobaptists continued to sprinkle (although Bro. Jones records a few exceptions among the Methodists), but they were all determined to know nothing among their hearers but Christ and Him crucified. Many other outstanding examples of unity and cooperation among the various Christian denominations are related in "Christ in the Camp."
And when we read the history of revivals we see that there is always such a unity among the preachers and the churches. For example, during the First Great Awakening the Baptists in Colonial America opened their doors wide for George Whitefield, an Anglican and leader in the early Methodist movement. We even read of Whitefield participating in the ordination of a preacher in the Baptist Church in Boston.
Our Lord prayed for our unity and it is something for which true Christians will be praying. The unity of the Lord's people is pleasant in His eyes and is sweet to us (Psalm 133), and is used of the Lord in the advancement of His Kingdom (our text). Although our unity will not be perfect until we are perfected in Glory, it is something for which we should presently pray and labour. The Church will approximate its final unity during the Millenium, for we read in Isaiah 52:8 when the Lord's watchmen shall "sing together" and " see eye to eye." I urge the Remnant of the truly saved in our Readership (I realise we are a little flock) to pray for revival. I urge the true ministers of Christ( I realise we are few) to preach nothing but the pure gospel without compromise. And may we all labour for peace and unity among Zion. Perhaps the Lord may show mercy in His wrath and favour us with a Great Revival in our generation.