I was a boy every Church held at least one revival meeting a year.
As a rule, it continued through three weeks, even longer if
“interest” continued, by which was meant if unconverted people
continued to turn out. High-powered exhorters always were brought
in from a distance. Most of them were professional revivalists,
well schooled in human nature and none too particular about their
first week of this annual effort was devoted to trimming the
saints down to size.
much money did you contribute last year, he would demand to know,
then answer his own question by reading receipts and expenditures
for the previous year. Robbers and hypocrites, he would exclaim,
as he thumbed quickly to what the Prophet Malachi had said on the
subject. Will a man rob God, he would quote, and thunder for the
prophet’s answer, which was that men robbed God by withholding
their tithes and offerings from the treasury. By the time he was
through the brethren felt that a snake in the grass was more
respectable than they.
night, the evangelist would discourse on the small number of
additions to the church during the past year. It was proof to him
that the Devil had received no opposition from the congregation,
whereupon more vials of wrath, scorn and vituperation would be
poured upon the offending saints. How were they going to answer to
an angry God for the neighbors and friends that were posting into
an everlasting hell because of the loafers, vagrants and idlers
who were sitting before him?
night the visitor would relate things he had been told about
worldliness in the local community. Parents whose sons and
daughters were permitted to play cards or attend dances or go to
shows were panned without mercy. And thus it went through the
first seven nights, during which sinners had been attracted to the
church for the fun of hearing the brethren get what was coming.
The, on the theory that the hypocrites would repent and bring
forth fruits mete for repentance, the evangelist would shift the
gears to those who had never made their peace with God. Each night
people were warned about the uncertainty of life, the certainty of
death, the terrors of an everlasting hell. Every sermon was
punctuated with stories about men and women who showed signs of
surrender at a night service, saying they would decide tomorrow,
only to be overtaken by the Death Angel and find themselves in
hell before sunrise.
sinners showed too little interest in invitations to come forward,
make public confession and seek membership in the Church, the
saints were urged to move out into the congregation and do
something about it. Occasionally one would kneel in prayer beside
a friend or relative. Others would personally implore and exhort
somebody to repent and go forward. All the while, the evangelist
was exhorting and the congregation was singing. Too often,
response was disappointing, whereupon, after a hurried conference,
the pastor and evangelist would announce that an “after
meeting” would be held. An after meeting was one that would be
held immediately following the benediction, to make things easier
for any timid soul who lacked courage to make a profession at the
regular service. If any unconverted individuals remained, they
became objects of personal solicitation, while the congregation
sang the old revival hymn, “Almost Persuaded.: If none remained
the preacher took it out on the saints, who were warned that blood
of souls that might have been saved would be visited upon them on
always, prayer meetings were held from home to home during the
day, mostly attended by women. Men who stayed in their offices,
stores and shops were rather unpopular with the visiting minister
and rated among the lost sheep of the House of Israel, whatever
that was. First and last, however, there were no dull days until
the revival was over.
recall the case of a fine local citizen who had become addicted to
drink. After mastering the habit, he went before the congregation
to which he belonged, making a tearful confession, asking
forgiveness and promising to live worthily the balance of his
life, which he did. Long after he had been in an honored grave he
was made the subject of a vigorous sermon and roundly denounced by
a visiting revivalist. I gave that preacher the skinning he so
richly deserved in my paper that week, stirring up so much
resentment at his Un-Christian conduct that he confessed his error
and asked that he be forgiven for whatever harm he had done. But
he had gone too far. Members of the good man’s family, very
influential people, quit the Church and never came back.
who played cards or who danced or took an occasional drink of
liquor were special targets of those professional evangelists.
Most of them took pot shots at other denominations than their own.
While unwilling to go so far as to say salvation in any other fold
was impossible, they did what they could to create the impression
that there was no sense in taking a chance.
When I Was a Boy by Jack Blanton