The Time for Prayer: The Third Great Awakening
By 1820 it seemed that the Second Awakening was waning; yet within a few years it had sprung to life under the ministry of Charles Finney. His enormous success inspired a large number of “professional evangelists” to come to the fore from the ranks of every major denomination. By 1840 the concept of large campaigns led by preachers who were not pastors of specific churches was generally accepted. From 1840 until the 1870s numerous preachers entered the ranks of traveling evangelists.
Despite all this, the religious life of America was in decline from 1840 to 1857. Many causes were responsible. Agitation over the issue of slavery in both the North and South had reached fever pitch, and hatreds boiled. Great numbers were disillusioned over spiritual things because of the extremes of the Millerites, a radical group that had widely proclaimed that Christ would return to earth between 21 March 1843 and 21 March 1844. When this did not happen, William Miller, the leader, reset the date at 22 October 1844, and again those who had trusted his prediction were disappointed and infuriated. So widespread was the clamor that even the general churches who had nothing to do with the Millerite delusion were mocked. In October 1857 a financial panic occurred, with banks failing, railroads going into bankruptcy, and financial chaos arising everywhere. A civil war seemed unvoidable to many because of the slavery question. America tottered on the brink of disaster.
Meanwhile, in Canada an awakening was starting. From June through October 1857, Dr. Walter Palmer and his wife Phoebe conducted camp meetings in Ontario and Quebec with crowds of 5,000 and more. They then went to Hamilton, Ontario, where they had to wait for a train ...