HEMAN HUMPHREY AND JOHN R. RICE
ON REVIVAL PRAYING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, January 20, 2008

The introduction to the following sermon comes from Rev. A. H. Rice, Sr., a Baptist pastor in Vinton, Virginia, from his introduction to Revival Sketches and Manual by Dr. Heman Humphrey (Sprinkle Publications, 1999).


Dr. Heman Humphrey was converted as a young man. After his conversion he worked eight years as a school teacher and farm hand while preparing himself to attend college. He was accepted as a student at Yale College at the age of twenty-five. The things that happened when he was at Yale influenced him for the rest of his life. He said, “When the revival reached Yale College it came with such power [that none of the students had ever seen anything like it before]…it was like a mighty rushing wind. The whole college was shaken. It seemed…as if the whole [student body] would [be converted]. It was the Lord’s doing, and marvelous in all [our] eyes.”

After he graduated from Yale, the experience of that revival, with so many conversions, was in his mind for the rest of his ministry. After graduating he pastored a church for six years. Then, in 1823, he was called as the president of Amherst College. He remained the president of Amherst for 22 years. Several revivals broke out on the campus under his preaching and guidance. During the 22 years he was president 765 young men graduated. Four hundred and fifty of them entered the ministry, that is well over half of his students were called as preachers under his guidance at the college.

After retiring from the presidency of Amherst he became an evangelist, and was used to promote many revivals during the Second Great Awakening. In his book, Revival Sketches and Manual, he recorded the unique experiences of revival conversions, which he saw with his own eyes during many outpourings of the Holy Spirit. This qualified Dr. Humphrey to teach on the important subject of revival conversions. He was an Old-School evangelist, in agreement with Asahel Nettleton on the need for promoting revival conversions God’s way – rather than resorting to the New School theology and methods of Charles G. Finney. That means he was not a “decisionist” in any sense of the word. I wish every young man thinking of entering the ministry would read Dr. Heman Humphrey’s great book on revival conversions titled, Revival Sketches and Manual (republished by Sprinkle Publications, Harrisonburg, Virginia, 1999).

Dr. Heman Humphrey believed and preached the view that revival conversions are God’s method of church growth. This is not a popular view today. It is generally believed in our day that church growth occurs through the use of various techniques, such as those promoted by Fuller Theological Seminary and Rick Warren. But Dr. Heman Humphrey was from the Old School, and he held that only God could promote revival conversions. That is the subject of his book, which I have mentioned. How I wish that every ministerial student would buy it and give it a prominent place in his library, reading it again and again. This book is an indispensable introduction to the subject of revival conversions. It was his view (and I believe he was correct) that “Religion [real Christianity] has never flourished and rapidly extended its saving influence, [except] in connection with special reformations, or revivals as we now call them.” In answer to the question, What is revival, Dr. Humphrey said,

In a congregation [a local church] there is a true revival when [unconverted] sinners in considerable numbers are awakened and converted within a few days, and many are added to the Lord of such as shall be saved.

I agree heartily with that definition of revival conversions. Let me read it to you again.

In a congregation [a local church] there is a true revival when [unconverted] sinners in considerable numbers are awakened and converted within a few days, and many are added to the Lord of such as shall be saved.

We should remember that Dr. Humphrey was from the Old School, and strongly opposed Finney’s “new” methods and “new theology,” which brought many thousands into the churches in an unconverted state.

This evening I will bring out two of the means Dr. Humphrey mentioned, which God uses to bring about revival conversions. First, he said,

Preaching is the [main instrument God uses, by which revival conversions are promoted]…it requires an earnestness in the pulpit…a sounding of alarm to [unconverted church people]…a sounding of an alarm that will make their ears tingle. They must be earnestly [told by the preacher to] examine themselves whether they are [real Christians], whether remaining as they are, they can have [any] evidence that they are not [still lost]…they must be exhorted to wake and rise from the dead, that Christ may give them life. [They may be upset at first, before they are converted], but if the [hard preaching] sinks down in their hearts it will rouse them to prayer and action [until] they are [converted].

So, Dr. Humphrey emphasized hard preaching, soul-searching preaching, that showed lost people in the church that they were doomed to eternal Hell-fire if they did not know Christ. That was the type of preaching he recommended if we are to see revival-conversions in our church.

The second thing Dr. Humphrey emphasized was prayer. He said,

Christians agree that God pours out of his Spirit in answer to prayer, and that the more earnest and specific the prayer, [the greater] the encouragement that it will be granted [and lost sinners] will be converted. [He said], I very much doubt [that there are converting revivals] that [are] not definitely prayed for by some earnest wrestlers [in prayer] at the throne of [God]…There are two conditions which must never be lost sight of: That there can never be any true revival without the outpouring of the Spirit…and that a revival is never to be expected but in answer to prayer.

This brings us to the text I want you to study tonight.

“Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Please turn to Luke 11:1.

“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

Jesus responded by giving them the model prayer, which is known as the “Lord’s Prayer.” Notice that this short prayer has no “Amen” at the end in the Gospel of Luke. God gives us the ending in Matthew 6:13,

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen” (Matthew 6:13).

But here in Luke God does not give the ending. Why? Because Jesus has not finished answering their request,

“Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Jesus continues to teach them to pray by giving them the parable of the Importunate Friend and the parable of a Good Father. These are not really parables, but illustrations, to form a strong argument from the minor to the major, or from the physical to the spiritual. Both of these illustrations are given as part of Christ’s teaching on prayer.

First, Christ gave the illustration of a man going to his friend at midnight and asking for “three loaves.” Another friend of his has come to him and he has “nothing to set before him.” The sleeping friend tells him that the door is shut and he can’t rise and give him any bread. But the fellow outside won’t give up. He shamelessly keeps asking and the man inside finally gives him “as many as he needeth.” The argument is this – that if this man could succeed in getting bread from a man that was asleep, then we can succeed in prayer to our Heavenly Father, who is not asleep. At the end of the illustration Jesus tells them,

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (Luke 11:9-10).

Second, Christ gave the illustration of a Good Father. Let us stand and read Luke 11:11-13 aloud.

“If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).

You may be seated.

Notice that a good father will not give his son a stone if he asks for bread. A good father will not give his son a snake if he asks for a fish. If he asks for an egg, a good father will not give him a scorpion.

“If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

As I read these verses, I think Dr. John R. Rice was right when he said,

Strangely, Jesus did not put in exact words until the very close of this lesson on…praying, that He was teaching the disciples to pray for the Holy Spirit…who really brings revivals, who convicts sinners and converts them, who gives wisdom and leadership to the man of God! When we pray for bread for sinners, we really mean that we need the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit of God to…enable us to do what otherwise we could not do (John R. Rice, D.D., Prayer – Asking and Receiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1981 reprint, p. 93).

Dr. Rice said,

Some ministers have a way of saying to people who seek for the power of the Holy Spirit that they should simply go home and believe that they have the power, that already they have… all they need. Well, suppose that the neighbor at midnight would go [and say] to the man who was outside pounding upon his door, “Go home and believe that you have bread for your friend that has none and it will be all right”…if the neighbor had acted on such advice he would have gone home without the bread, however hard he tried to believe it was in his hands. The power of the Holy Spirit is real and definite and…we may have the bread if we mean business, but I want you to know there is a price to pay. You may have the bread if you are willing to knock at the door and wait before God until He gives you as many loaves as you need (Dr. Rice, ibid., pages 94-95).

We can bring people to church until the building falls down. But no one will be converted without the Holy Spirit. We can tell sinners that Christ died to pay for their iniquities. We can tell them that the Blood of Christ will wash them clean. We can make it clear and plain. We can preach the Gospel 'till the stars fall from their sockets. But lost sinners will not remember a word we say, and it will have no effect on them at all, unless we have the Holy Spirit in this place, in this pulpit, on their hearts, pricking their consciences!  Jesus said, 

“He will reprove the world of sin…because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).

Jesus said,

“He shall not speak of himself…He shall glorify me… he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-15).

That’s what we have got to have! We have got to have the convicting, converting work of the Spirit of Almighty God! We have got to pray down the convicting and converting power of the Holy Spirit of the living God! If we fail to pray like this, we will not have revival conversions!  You can count on it! 

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Luke 11:1-13.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Revive Thy Work” (by Albert Midlane, 1825-1909).