We at the Credo House are suckers for any book looking at Church History. I was interested to get my hands on the recent Kregel Publications book Reviving the Heart: The Story of the 18th Century Revival. The book is written by Dr. Richard Turnbull from Oxford.
The great revival of the 18th century is one of those events where I wish I had a time machine. It would be so fascinating to see the passion of the Wesley brothers, the powerful preaching of George Whitefield, the fascinating man John Newton, all the great characters of the Clapham sect leading to the great social reformer William Wilberforce.
Dr. Turnbull offers a short (just 240 readable pages) exposure to these legendary people while connecting them to all the secondary people who were used by God in powerful ways. The book introduces us to the key players but then spends a generous amount of time discussing the conflicts these people had in trying to continue the movement. I was reminded several times of the conflict between Paul and Barnabas. It is unfortunate for key leaders of such a monumental move of God, namely John Wesley and George Whitefield, to have such substantial theological disagreements leading to significant fractures.
The only criticisms I had with the book is there were a few times I felt lost. The first time I felt lost was in all the interchanges between Wesley and Whitefield. I thought to myself a few times when reading a quote, “Did Wesley say that or was it Whitefield?” I would have to back up a page or two, re-read it, and still be unable to follow some of the interaction.
Secondly, I got lost in geography a few times. Since I am not very familiar with all the regions of England there were times I felt points mentioned by the author were lost to me because I was unable to appreciate the geographical significance. It became obvious to me I was reading a book which would be better appreciated by someone more familiar with England than I am.
I still, however, recommend this book to someone wanting to get their feet wet in all the fascinating people of the great 18th century revival. There is much to learn from this time period to help direct us to make a difference for Jesus today.