Without a single exception it is the rediscovery of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith that has led ultimately to revival. There is always a preliminary to revival. It appears to come suddenly, and in a sense it does. But if you look carefully into the history, you will always find that there was something going on quietly, there was a preliminary, a preparation unobserved by people. And the preparation, invariably, has been a rediscovery of these grand and glorious central truths.
Take, for instance, the history of the Protestant Reformation. It was only after Martin Luther had suddenly seen the grand truth of justification by faith alone that the Protestant revival came. It was getting back to that truth, in the epistles to the Galatians and the Romans, that prepared the way for the outpouring of the Spirit. It happened in this country and in every country where the Reformation spread.
That also happened in the eighteenth century. There you had that deadness. Bishop Butler wrote his book The Analogy of Religion, and the “Boyle lectures” were started in an attempt to counter this rationalism, but it availed nothing. Then suddenly the revival seemed to come. Whitefield, the Wesleys, and others like them appeared. Yes, but how did revival come through these men? Well, the story is well-known. What really made it possible for John Wesley to have the experience he had in Aldersgate Street, when his heart was “strangely warmed” by the Holy Spirit, was something that happened three months earlier. He had the experience in Aldersgate Street on May 24, 1738, but in March 1738 his eyes had been opened to the truth of justification by faith only. The famous conversation, on the journey between London and Oxford, between Peter Bülow and Wesley was all about justification by faith alone. It was only after he had seen that, and it had gripped him, that the Holy Spirit came upon him and began to use him.
A Thought to Ponder
There is always a preliminary to revival. And always a result.
– Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones From Revival, pp. 35-36.