Before being appointed city missionary
in downtown New York, by the North Dutch Church, Jeremiah Lanphier was
a simple businessman. When he was hired by the church to conduct visitation
in the immediate neighborhood, Lanphier took to his duties with gusto.
After a couple of months Jeremiah became aware of the anxiety and fear
on the faces of the downtown business men. He took the initiative and
asked permission to open the church at noon to provide these men with
a place to pray. On September 23, three weeks before the bank panic of
1857 the first Fulton Street prayer meeting had an attendance of 6. The
meetings grew in attendance and enthusiasm so that by October 14, the
day that the banks closed; there were over 100 in attendance.
This meeting became the model for the many businessmen’s prayer
meetings that sprang up around the country during the first few months
of the Third Great Awakening. The Fulton Street prayer meeting continues
to this day.
Lanphier was born in upper New York in 1809. He was converted in 1842
in Broadway Tabernacle, which had been built by the great revivalist Charles
Finney ten years earlier. He was to epitomize the layman’s role
in the Third Great Awakening, serving diligently and humbly, never seeking
or gaining any earthly reward, but assuredly receiving his crown in glory.
Clay Fish (1820-1877)
In 1857 Henry Clay Fish published “Primitive
Piety Revived.” In this essay,
Fish indicated the coming of a great nationwide awakening. He advocated
the training of laity for soul-winning, in preparation of this revival,
role in the New Testament and the example of the Methodists. While many
of the clergy were shocked at these ideas, the fact remains that a national
awakening, in which the laity were to be greatly involved, was on the
Henry Clay Fish was born in Halifax, Vermont, January 27, 1820. His father
was a Baptist clergyman. Henry studied at an academy and taught for two
years in Massachusetts. He then entered the Union Theological Seminary
in New York, where he was graduated in 1845. In January of 1851 he became
the pastor at First Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. He was a man
of great industry, and was actively engaged in advancing the interests
of education and missions. He also did much by his writings to popularize
life insurance. Beside a large number of tracts and sermons, he was the
author of “Primitive Piety Revived," a prize essay (1855; Dutch
translation, Utrecht, 1860); " The Price of Soul Liberty, and Who
Paid it" (1860); "Harry's Conversion "(1872); “Harry’s
Conflicts" (1872); “Handbook of Revivals" (1874); and
"Bible Lands Illustrated" (1876). Among his numerous compilations,
abounding with annotations, are “History and Repository of Pulpit
Eloquence" (1856); "Pulpit Eloquence of the Nineteenth Century"
(1857); "Select Discourses translated from the French and German"
(1858); “Heaven in Song" (1874); and “When Heaven Touched
The Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn
opened its doors on December 3, 1857 for prayer meetings for the businessmen
of the community. The pastor, Henry Beecher refused to chair the meeting.
Beecher felt that the meetings suggested a manufactured religion. However,
in March of 1858 none other than Henry W. Beecher himself led 3,000 people
in prayer and devotions in Burton’s Theater.
Henry Ward Beecher was the eighth son of the Rev. Lyman Beecher, and the
brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe. He was educated at the Lane Theological
Seminary before becoming a Presbyterian minister in Lawrenceburg (1837-39)
and Indianapolis (1839-47). His pamphlet, Seven Lectures to Young
Men, was published in 1844.
Beecher moved to Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn in 1847. By
this time he had developed a national reputation for his oratorical skills,
and drew crowds of 2,500 regularly every Sunday. He strongly opposed slavery
and favored temperance and woman's suffrage.
Beecher edited The Independent (1861-63) and the Christian Union (1870-78)
and published several books including the Summer in the Soul (1858), Life
of Jesus Christ (1871), Yale Lectures on Preaching (1872) and Evolution
and Religion (1885).
Charles Finney (1725-1875)
Charles Finney played a major role in the
awakening of 1820-1830. Finney
was ministering in Boston’s Old South Church when the Third Great
Awakening started. Eventually if was necessary for Finney to increase
the number of meetings he conducted, so that the crowds could be accommodated.
Charles Finney was born in Connecticut into an ordinary family. His early
life that gave little hint of the great things God had in store for him.
He was a schoolteacher and then a lawyer before his conversion at age
Finney, a fiery speaker and vocal opponent of slavery, traveled and preached
in extended revival meetings. He considered revival to be a natural result
of following the instructions God had laid out in His Word. During Finney's
fifty years of preaching, more than 500,000 were saved.
He wrote many books, the most enduring of which are The Autobiography
of Charles Finney and Lectures on Revival of Religion. From
1852 until 1866
he served as president of Oberlin College in Ohio.
Jacob Knapp ( 1799-1874)
Elder Jacob Knapp,
a Baptist evangelist, arrived in St. Louis, Missouri early
in 1858. For several months Knapp preached in the Baptist churches of
St. Louis. Writing about one occasion, Elder Knapp said, “On the
last days of my labors with the Second Baptist Church, I extended the
hand of fellowship to 150, the scene .... among the most soul-stirring
ever witnessed in the city.
The house crowded, many shed tears, and many were pricked in their hearts.”1
Jacob Knapp was born in Otsego County, New York, December 7, 1799. He
was educated at Madison University, and was ordained to the Baptist ministry
in 1825. In his revival work he visited New York, New England, and the
western states, including California. Knapp preached about 16,000 sermons,
led 200 young men to become clergymen, and baptized 4,000 persons. Vast
numbers attended his meetings, and such excitement prevailed that mobs
often threatened him and his hearers. The protection of the police was
often called for to prevent serious disturbances. His preaching was characterized
by fiery metaphors and denunciation of sin. His energy increased with
his excitement, so that, to quote his own words, “he was able to
shake sermons from his sleeves.”
1 [Jacob Knapp, from The Autobiography of Elder Jacob
Knapp, page 169]
J. W. Alexander (1804-1859)
James Waddell Alexander was pastor of the
Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City during the Third Great
Awakening. He was at first skeptical of the revival events. However, he
was eventually forced to admit that there was indeed a move of the Holy
Spirit within the land. Being a conservative Presbyterian, Alexander was
adamantly opposed to the freedom given to laymen to teach or pray in the
union prayer meetings. Laity were not typically educated or trained for
Alexander, the son of Rev. Archibald Alexander, D.D., was born at Hopewell,
Va., March 13, 1804. After graduating at Princeton College, he entered
the ministry. He was a pastor in Charlotte County; Va., and later in Trenton,
N. J. He then became a professor in Princeton College, and in 1844 a pastor
in New York City. In 1849 he returned to Princeton, becoming a professor
in the Theological Seminary. He resigned from this position at the end
of three years, his heart yearning to get back into the regular work of
Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874)
In the fall and winter of 1857 Phoebe Palmer,
along with her husband held evangelistic meetings in Hamilton, Ontario,
Canada. These meetings witnessed some of the very first conversions in
the Third Great Awakening.
Phoebe Palmer has been said by some to be one of the most influential
of the 19 century. She became interested in the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian
perfection. Mrs. Palmer held weekly meetings at her home for the advancement
of this doctrine for nearly fifty years. In a time when women were not
allowed to preach by the established churches, Mrs. Palmer and her husband
traveled extensively in the United States and in Europe in supporting
She was an editor of a monthly magazine entitled“The Guide to Holiness,”
and she was the author of “The Way of Holiness” (New York,
1845) ; “Entire Devotion” (1845); “Faith and its Effects”
(1846) ; “Incidental Illustrations
of the Economy of Salvation” (1852); “Promises of the Father
”(1856) ; “Four Years in the Old World” (1865);“Pioneer
Experiences” (1867) ; and “ Sweet Mary; or A Bride made ready
for her Lord” (England, 1862).
Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899)
D.L. Moody was living in Chicago at the onset
of the Third Great Awakening.
He was anxious to teach in the church. In the summer of 1858 Moody began
a Sunday School class for young men from the streets. From this humble
beginning D.L. Moody went on to becoming a major force in the Kingdom
D. L. Moody may well have been the greatest evangelist of all time. In
a 40-year period he won a million souls, founded three Christian schools,
launched a great Christian publishing business, established a world-renowned
Christian conference center, and inspired literally thousands of preachers
to win souls and conduct revivals.
He traveled across the American continent and through Great Britain in
some of the greatest and most successful evangelistic meetings communities
have ever known.
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