The 2nd Great Awakening powerfully set afire many churches and cities of the Carolinas in the early 1800’s. But even as late as the 1850’s, God was still moving in mighty ways to revive the hearts of His people. In this period before the Civil War, God stirred up fires of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of one multi-racial church in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. 

The church that God would choose for this revival was a small church of 48 blacks and 12 whites that made up the Anson Street Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of Anson Street and Calhoun. It was common before the Civil War for Christians in Charleston to worship together, whether they were white or black. In the summer of 1857, the church’s pastor John Girardeau pressed his congregation to begin to seek intently for another great spiritual awakening, awaiting a fresh outpouring of the Spirit again. 

The church fervently started to pray. They even set aside the normal preaching services in order to focus on crying out to Heaven. The congregants labored in prayer for months on end. Then, one evening, it happened. Pastor Girardeau was in the middle of a prayer meeting when he felt a surge of electricity pierce his head and go through his whole body. On his knees, he looked up to see the whole congregation shaking and tears flowing down their faces. The Holy Spirit amplified the groaning in their hearts so that the praying became more and more intense. Then, they as one body lifted up their voices in loud praises and weeping and singing, and they agonized in prayer for the lost souls in their neighborhoods. The Spirit of God had exploded upon the scene. 

This set off a chain reaction within the city. Every night, for the next 8 weeks, Girardeau declared the Gospel to crowds of up to 2000 people daily who gathered for a touch of the Holy Spirit. Folks, both black and white, came from around the city to hear and see this fresh move of God. Many unbelievers, skeptics and seekers alike, came and were saved. The revival fire then spread to other churches in Charleston, bringing about tremendous growth in the Body of Christ. 

As revival moved out to other cities, many people were stirred to re-consecrate themselves to the Lord. In one city, Beaufort, South Carolina, a small church reported seeing 400 new members join their assembly in just a few days. The Holy Spirit would use the huge ripples of this awakening to even inspire and touch off other revivals like the Fulton Street revival in New York City later that year. This, in turn, caused outpourings of the Spirit all through the East Coast in the winter of 1857-1858. The nation became caught up in the news and conversation of God’s mighty work of revival in America. Nearly every college and institution of higher learning across the USA was impacted by the Holy Spirit’s work of conviction and life transformation. Finney, a well-known revivalist, commented that it was the time of a great revival prevailing in the land, with well over 50,000 souls saved every week, crossing lines across denominations and races and social status. All in all, from 1857-1859, more than one million Americans responded anew to the Gospel and the Holy Spirit’s beckoning.

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:

  1. What do you think makes a pastor and his church so zealous for prayer and revival? How did Girardeau’s church demonstrate their zeal and heart for revival?
  2. What marked this revival and stands out in your mind as you read the account of that fateful evening when revival erupted?
  3. How would you describe the ripple effect of the Anson Street revival to a curious friend?

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