At times, his way was only a trail wide enough for him and his horse. Night was near and he needed a place to stay. He came upon a crude sign which read: “Kept Entertainment,” and he approached the “tolerably descent” place and asked for lodging.
The owner said yes, but a dance was to be held and he might not get much sleep. Since no other lodging was available, Cartwright decided to stay.
When the dance began, the preacher sat in a corner and was shocked by a beautiful young woman who asked him to dance with her. He was known as the “unpredictable Peter Cartwright,” and suddenly he devised a plan.
Standing with the young woman, he stopped the music and said: “For several years it has been my practice not to undertake any matter of importance without asking the blessing of God upon it. Let us all knell down and pray.”
The preacher went to his knees and prayed with all the power he could muster. Soon the young woman fell to her knees, and so did others. Some stood, others sat, and still others left.
Cartwright continued to pray while people sobbed and prayed for mercy. All night he prayed, exhorted, and sang, while the people continued to moan and weep. By morning, fifteen had repented of their sins.
All that day and the following night, the people wept, rejoiced, and repented. Finally more than 30 people were converted. What a remarkable revival. What a remarkable man.
Summer revivals have played an important role in spreading the gospel of Christ. This is especially true in the Deep South, where the summers are long and the nights are warm.
Meeting in tents, brush arbors or the open air, worshipers heard the gospel sung and preached, and unconverted people surrendered their lives to God.
The entire family attended the meetings, and mothers would carry quilts and make “pallets” for smaller children. The depth of those early revivals was indeed remarkable, giving testimony to the ungarnished power of Christ to convict and convert people.
Men who were widely known for their godlessness melted under the overwhelming Spirit of God, and often whole families were gloriously converted.
With great zeal and enthusiasm, the converts testified to their friends about their newfound faith and revival spread like a prairie fire. Such revivals were reminiscent of those of Jonathan Edwards or Charles G. Finney.
The meetings were conducted either in the open with the starry sky as a canopy and seats without backs. Sometimes a “brush arbor” was built from poles cut from surrounding woods and covered with limbs from trees—which kept out only dew or sunshine; it did not stop rain.
Also, there were tents, often without curtains. Unlike a church building, crowds could overflow the surrounding area, yet could still see and hear what was going on.
It was not uncommon for a person standing outside in the shadows to be convicted of his or her sins and to come forward for prayer.
Of course, we can still have open-air services. A local church in Pennsylvania built a tabernacle without walls where each summer the church has revival services to get people saved. Then they involve the new converts in the local church.
Regardless of where we meet for worship — brush arbor, tent, or sanctuary — God will be there. He will revive the believer and save the sinner if we will seek Him with all of our heart.