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.

    6 replies to "Book Review: Reviving the Heart"

    • StuartB

      Christianity’s Dangerous Idea was a dangerous and wonderful book for me to have read. Learned a lot from it, and am still seeking things similar to it in terms of scope, tone, and readability.

      Any good book recommendations on things like the Burnt-Over District?

    • I love the Evangelical view of the 18th century! Though it was surely imperfect, it was “aglow” with desire for/and godliness! But we still have the many theological back-drafts today. And somewhat rightly so! Whitefield is buried in Boston, Mass. (USA) I wonder sometimes how often Evangelicals today visit his grave? And of course Great Britain has so many godly men and women buried in her soil! I can’t help but think of Heb. 12:1! And yet, ‘the Faith’ is dying in both lands! (Lk. 18: 7-8)…But GOD always has HIS people, (2 Tim. 2:19).

    • Tim Kimberley


      I’ve got a resource that I can’t quite bring to mind about the Burned Over District. I’ll let you know when I think of the book.

      This looks promising:


    • Just a note and opinion, but I think Calvinist Methodistism, did better overall than Wesley Methodistism! But then, it all depends upon your doctrine of soteriology of course. Amercia had more Wesleyanism, and the Brit’s more Calvinism. Again at one time, now Calvinism is minimal for the British. But, we still have Banner of Truth Trust! 😉

      Btw, I love both the Wesley brothers, John & Charles…English Anglicans! They both were closer to Luther, but also to Calvin.. on Justfication by Faith Alone, and for all three “alone” did not leave out Christian Santification!

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    • Ben Thorp

      You made it sound so great I went to add it to my Amazon wishlist, only to find someone selling a brand new copy for £0.89 (about $1.43) plus P&P, so I bought it 🙂


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