Forgotten Revival of 1921

Douglas Brown, a Baptist minister in South London, saw conversions in his church every Sunday until he began to engage in itinerant evangelism in 1921. Within
eighteen months, he addressed over 1700 meetings, and saw revival under his evangelistic ministry. The Lord had convicted him about leaving his pastorate for mission work. Although reluctant, he finally surrendered. In his words: ‘It was in February 1921, after four months of struggle, there came the crisis. Oh, how patient God is! On the Saturday night I wrote out my resignation to my church, and it was marked with my own tears’ . . . .

‘Then something happened. I found myself in the loving embrace of Christ for ever and ever; and all power, joy and blessedness rolled in like a deluge. How did it come? I cannot tell you. Perhaps I may when I get to heaven. All explanations are there, but the experience is here. That was two o’clock in the morning. God had waited four months for a man like me; and I said, “Lord Jesus, I know what you want; You want me to go into mission work. I love Thee more than I dislike that.” I did not hear any rustling of angels’ wings. I did not see any sudden light’.

Hugh Ferguson, the Baptist minister at London Road Baptist Church in Lowestoft on the East Anglia coast, had invited Douglas Brown to preach at a mission there in March. The preacher was ill when he arrived by train. However, he spoke Monday night and at meetings on Tuesday morning, afternoon and night. The power of the Holy Spirit moved among the people from the beginning.

On Wednesday night ‘inquirers’ packed the adjacent schoolroom for counselling and prayer. Sixty to seventy young people were converted that night, along with older people. Each night more packed the ‘inquiry room’ after the service. So the mission was extended indefinitely. Douglas Brown returned to his church for the weekend and continued with the mission the next Monday. By the end of March, the meetings were moved from the 700 seat Baptist Church and other nearby churches to the 1100 seat St John’s Anglican Church. March saw the beginning of revival in the area.

Although Douglas Brown was the main speaker in many places, ministers of most denominations found they too were evangelizing. Revival meetings multiplied in the fishing centre of Yarmouth, as well in Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge and elsewhere. Scottish fishermen working out of Yarmouth in the winter were strongly impacted, and took revival fire to Scottish fishing towns and villages in the summer. Jock Troup, a Scottish evangelist, has visited East Anglia during the revival and ministered powerfully in Scotland.

At the same time, the spirit of God moved strongly in Ireland, especially in Ulster in 1921 through the work of W. P. Nicholson, a fiery Irish evangelist. This was at the time when Northern Ireland received parliamentary autonomy accompanied by and tension and bloodshed. J. Edwin Orr, the revival historian, was converted then, although not through W. P. Nicholson. Orr wrote:

‘Nicholson’s missions were the evangelistic focus of the movement: 12,409 people were counselled in the inquiry rooms; many churches gained additions, some a hundred and some doubled in membership; prayer meetings, Bible classes and missionary meetings all increased in strength and ministerial candidates doubled’.

In Great Britain the Welsh Revival of 1904-5 impacted the nation. Though not as widespread or as intense, the revivals of 1921-22 touched thousands following the devastation of World War I. Revival flamed again in 1948-49 after World War II, especially in the Scottish Hebrides.

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