One of the greatest contributors to the Great Awakening was a pastor and evangelist by the name of Samuel Davies. His life on earth was brief, spanning a mere 37 years, but his influence on American Evangelicalism is immeasurable. Known, among other things, for his powerful preaching skills, one of his contemporaries noted, “he spoke with a glowing zeal … and an eloquence more impressive and effective than had ever graced the American pulpit.” Though deeply committed to higher education, Davies’ most important training was obtained in Christ’s school of affliction. Below is brief excerpt from Iain H. Murray’s, “Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858″:
Oppressed by a sense of his ‘rawness and inexperience’, Davies’ health broke down under the load of preaching and there were fever-ridden nights when people would sit with him until the morning. By August 1747 his first visit to Hanover was over and he was fit enough to ride the 100 miles back to Delaware, in time to witness the sudden death of his wife and the infant she was carrying on 15 September. Grief and depression were added to his own bodily weakness: ‘After I returned from Virginia I spent near a year under melancholy and consumptive languishments, expecting death.’ All this was undoubtedly part of God’s preparation for his future usefulness. As Archibald Alexander wrote in another context, ‘Too much applause is a dangerous thing to a young minister.’ Davies was soon to see much success, but before it came he had been deeply chastened by a sense of his own infirmity and the consciousness of the brevity of all earthly things.
One of the biggest cancers in the modern day church is the prosperity gospel. It has opened wide the door to the vicious wolves Paul warned of in Acts 20:29 and who, in their total depravity, teach that godliness is a way to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). The truth is, the people most used by God are often the most afflicted by Him. As George Whitfield, the most notable preacher of the Great Awakening observed, “Christian experience is only learned in the school of affliction.”
Iain H. Murray, Revival & Revivalism: The Making of and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858 (Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1994) 8.