After the Prayer Meeting Revival swept across the United States in 1857-1858 (see my July 6, 2015, Perspective), it was carried by God’s Spirit across the Atlantic to Britain. There powerful, prayer-based revival ignited in both Ireland and Wales in 1859.
Hearing of these developments, churches of various denominations in South Africa began earnestly praying that God would be pleased to bring revival to their country as well. Dramatic spiritual awakening first came to the village of Montagu, located about 115 miles east of Cape Town, in May, 1860.
At the time Montagu did not have a resident minister and prayer meetings had become rare. But suddenly a spirit of prayer and expectation started to grip Montagu. So many people began streaming to prayer meetings that former locations for those gatherings were unable to accommodate all who wished to participate. Separate prayer meetings were held daily for men, women, boys and girls; prayer meetings multiplied and convened up to three times daily.
Rev. Servaas Hofmeyr had been called as Montagu’s pastor but did not arrive and begin his ministry there until the end of September. He later reported: “Extraordinary scenes were witnessed in those days. Anxious cries were uttered, heavy with fear. Heart-rendering testimonies of conversion were heard. Visions were seen and troubled dreams dreamt. Here in corporate prayer, elsewhere in quiet dwellings, even behind bushes and rocks, on mountains and in ravines, men, women, grayheads, children, gentlemen, servants – all kneeling on the same ground crying for mercy. And none of this expected by anyone, nor prepared by anyone, nor worked up or preached by anyone – it was all the Spirit of God; and not for a few hours or days, but months long.”
Nicolaas Hofmeyr, a professor at the Stellenbosch Theological Seminary, conducted his brother’s installation service at Montagu. Professor Hofmeyr testified of the revival there: “In Montagu, especially, where I had ample opportunity to speak to many of those who had been awakened, I was firmly convinced that a powerful work had been carried out by the Spirit of God. When I was there, the feeling of anguish and distress had generally subsided. The soul had been able to appropriate to itself the offered pardon in the blood of Christ. Love had banished fear. But some had still to carry on a hard conflict caused either by their wavering faith or by their outbursts of native depravity.
“For two or three weeks, when the awakening was in full strength, cases of heartfelt conversion occurred daily. A pious man told me that during that time the awakened were so much increased in number, and felt so anxious for spiritual advice, that he could scarcely allow himself bodily rest.
“Scarcely a house in the village is to be found where the awakening of God’s Spirit has not been felt by one or more individuals. The religious indifference for which this place has been known has given way to a tone of earnestness, which is diffused throughout society. The aspect of this place is entirely changed. Even those who do not approve of the revival have told me that the general improvement in the conduct of the inhabitants, within a few months, has been quite marvelous.”
The revival was not long in spreading to Worcester, nearly fifty miles northwest of Montagu, where Rev. Andrew Murray, Jr., had recently been called as pastor. (To be continued …)
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A full account of South Africa’s 1860 revival is recorded in chapters 11 and 12 of my forthcoming biography, Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa. That volume is to be released in the U.S. next month.
Copyright 2015 by Vance E. Christie