Two weeks ago in this space I wrote about “Killing Marriage.” Since then, the U.S. Supreme Court has made a decision that expands the definition of marriage and also increases the likelihood of more lethal attacks on God’s institution. However, since that decision, have fewer people been saved than before? Are more people backsliding as a result? Have churches closed at a higher rate? Has grace been diminished? Is the gospel less effective?
I suggest that in most of our own lives as well as in the lives of those we know personally, we have seen little change. Which points out something important for us who live in the City of God (see Augustine) while also inhabiting the City of Man: While things may happen in the City of Man that are very detrimental, we should not allow them to dictate or proscribe our activity as citizens of the City of God. We should also see them as possible distractions to our main goal which is to preach the gospel to every creature.
Consider some of our history as American believers. When Jonathan Edwards was greatly used by God in the First Great Awakening and multitudes came to Christ, who was the leading politician? During the Second Great Awakening where millions were converted to Christ, who were the justices on the Supreme Court? When the great revival happened later after what was called the Haystack Prayer Meeting, who were the leading senators and representatives? The fact is, those leaders of the City of Man were irrelevant to what was happening in the City of God.
But what happened in the City of God had a great impact on the City of Man. Allow me to recap some personal history. I was raised in central Pennsylvania where I was surrounded by Christians who had come to Christ in a revival in the Hannah Methodist Church. I heard their testimonies. I watched their lives. And I was convinced that Jesus really was the Son of God, who had died for our sins and risen on the third day. When I got older, I asked them about that revival, and wrote down what they told me.
“For the second night in a row Howard Walk could not sleep. Quietly he turned over his tear-soaked pillow and buried his face again. Ever since he had gone to the revival at the Hannah Methodist Church something had been wrong.
“Howard remembered why he had gone. There were some amazing things going on at the church that winter of 1937. It seemed like every one in Bald Eagle Valley was starting to talk about it. Howard had gone to the service out of curiosity. His brother Gordon said he got religion and that was too much to let go unnoticed. Gordon had liked card playing and whiskey drinking as well as anyone, and now he was religious! They had been into a lot together but this was something different. And the church service had been different. That trombone playing evangelist C. B. Peters had preached with fire and when he was done, Charlie Osterhout walked back to Howard and asked him if he would give his life to Jesus Christ. Howard remembered thinking how he was going to send him away with a sharp word, but when he looked into Charlie’s face he saw two big tears rolling down his cheeks. That stopped him. And then Gordon had stepped up and reminded him how in 1932 they had both almost died with the fever that had spread into the valley and God had spared their lives.
“‘Don’t you think it’s about time to do something about this?’ asked Gordon. That was too much. Howard sat down on the church pew, buried his face in his hands, and broke down and cried. Later, when he walked out he vowed he’d never go back to that church.
“The community of Hannah was an unlikely prospect for revival. The young men in the town were the rough and tumble sort who thought nothing of drinking whiskey and playing cards right at the steps of the church. The statement had been made that ‘people in Hannah were beyond being saved.’
“But the unusual occurred. People found themselves unexplainably drawn to the church. Like Pete Poullus, who lived in a cabin on the Bald Eagle Mountain. Something seemed to say to him, ‘Pete, go to church.’ And he found himself sitting in that church with his work clothes on. The next night found him better dressed and praying for forgiveness of his sins at the mourner’s bench, and Pete Poullus became a new person.
“After several sleepless nights, Howard Walk could stand it no longer and was found again in that Methodist revival meeting. And before he left he had gone to the altar and found peace with God. It was such conversions that shook the whole community. One rough-hewn sinner after another made his way to a place of prayer and found new life in experiencing God’s love and forgiveness.
“Hannah underwent a drastic change. Every person in Hannah was saved except for two men. Much of the poker playing and whiskey drinking stopped. J.T. Beckwith, who owned the General Store, noticed a change in business. Each week he sold bundles of Sunday papers. One day the distributor called Beckwith. ‘Why aren’t you selling the Sunday papers?’
“‘People have been getting saved in the Methodist Church,’ Beckwith replied, ‘They won’t look at them anymore.’
“The drinking business was severely crippled in Bald Eagle Valley as a result of that revival. ‘It knocked off a lot of moonshinin’,’ recalled one of the first converts of the revival. For a while, the valley went ‘dry’ on the local option.”
What happened in that particular corner of the City of God had nothing at all to do with presidents, judges, senators, or representatives. In this context, what the City of Man was doing, good or bad, did not make a drop of difference to the work going on in the City of God. But the influence of God’s City was felt by the City of Man.
It is for this reason that we can have hope. The gospel of Christ is true. All sinners are in trouble with God. But whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. This truth is completely independent of the winds of changeableness in the mindset of those in the City of Man. So hope can rise. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:13).