Marvellous Melbourne and Spiritual Power: A Christian Revival and Its Lasting Legacy
Please note that the printed version of this book is no longer available to purchase through this website. It is, however, available to purchase through Koorong.
Marvellous Melbourne and Spiritual Power is a unique record of the rich Christian spiritual heritage of Melbourne. The foundations for this heritage were laid within the city’s first months of European settlement, when Henry Reed preached the gospel at Port Phillip in 1835. In the decades that followed, many gathered regularly to pray for evangelistic and missionary activity, and for a revival of faith in the young nation. One significant outcome was the growth of a flourishing evangelical movement in Victoria with its distinctive Keswick-style convention ministry, which originated in England and proclaimed abundant life and full salvation.
This is a story of how God equips ordinary people to become extraordinary leaders in his service. It is a powerful testimony to the importance of persevering prayer and intercession in the deep reviving work of God in his church and the wider community.
‘Will Renshaw’s book left me pondering the question of why so many of today’s churches and Christian ministries seem to have lost the hunger for the fullness of God’s Spirit evidenced in a commitment to corporate prayer for revival among God’s people and the evangelisation of the world. Is our current spiritual malaise due to the fact that “we have not, because we ask not”?’
Chairman – Belgrave Heights Convention
Former Principal of the Bible College of Victoria
Will Renshaw worked as an accountant in professional practice for over 50 years. He has been involved in many ministries, including the Fellowship for Revival within the Methodist (and later, Uniting) Church of Australia, the Bible Society, the Christian Leaders’ Training College in Papua New Guinea, New Life Australia, Steer Incorporated and the Keswick-Scripture Union Bookshop and Keswick Bookshops Inc. He was Treasurer of the Belgrave Heights Convention, President of the Bible College of Victoria, and is now a Life Member of the Melbourne School of Theology.
Marvellous Melbourne and Spiritual Power: A Christian Revival and it’s Lasting Legacy
Will F. Renshaw
Melbourne. Acorn Press. 2014.
‘The Victorian Age of Giants’
Also published in Church Heritage, Historical Journal of the Uniting Church in Australia (NSW & ACT). Volume 19, Number 2, September 2015. To download a copy of this review, click on this link.
Mr. Will Renshaw is now old enough to remember the chief characters of a race of Christian giants who dominated the evangelical scene in Melbourne for many years through the twentieth century. Many of these men also dominated much of the business world of Melbourne in these years, as well. The remarkable thing about our author is that he is still alive, and still able to write and speak so meaningfully about these giants of the past.
There were, of course, powerful evangelical leaders in Melbourne before Will Renshaw’s story begins – men like James Balfour, Charles Carter and Henry Varley. Melbourne’s evangelical history was also affected by visits of a string of evangelists during the “marvellous Melbourne” period of the 1880s.
Renshaw’s contention is that evangelical revival appeared strongly in Victoria in the years between 1891 and the start of the First World War in 1914. This revival produced long-term results in the lives of individuals, and in the organisations which these people led. In particular, it produced results in the life of H. P. Smith, and through his many spheres of work. In his turn, Smith influenced many others in the generation following, and the ongoing results of the revival can be seen there, as well.
Renshaw’s story starts around 1891 with the visit to Australia and New Zealand of the Anglican evangelist, the Rev. George Grubb, who was a travelling speaker on behalf of the Keswick Convention, a famous annual gathering, meeting in the Lakes District of England, where the speakers emphasised certain teachings on Christian holiness.
Through these years from 1891 and onward, a thirst for spiritual revival grew amongst a number of evangelical leaders, culminating in the visit to Australia in April, 1902, of the Principal of the Moody Bible Institute, the Rev. Reuben A. Torrey and the song-leader Charles M. Alexander. The impact of these meetings was like a revival, and the success of these meetings were greeted in many parts of the world as signs that a wider revival was breaking forth. Renshaw describes the subsequent campaigns of Torrey and Alexander in England and America, and then the outbreak of the famous Welsh Revival in December, 1904.
This again led to interesting revivals on many of the mission fields, and a decade of mass evangelism in Australia, and in many other countries.
H. P. Smith (Hervey Perceval) was born in 1870, and his spiritual life was renewed in the decade leading up to Torrey’s meetings in Melbourne in 1902. He had joined the Independent Church in Melbourne (now St. Michael’s Uniting Church), and was appointed as a prayer meeting leader in preparation for the mission. There was also, however, a dramatic experience during the mission, centred upon Jesus Christ, which transformed his life. He was already an established businessman, and his links with these mission meetings made a radical change in the way he was committed to serving Jesus Christ.
The Keswick m