I was affected by this passage from Alvah Hovey’s Life and Times of Isaac Backus yesterday:
The blessed revival of 1780, was followed in Titicut by a long period of relative declension; and not until the labors of Mr. Backus were almost finished, was there another season of extraordinary attention to religion. For upwards of twenty years he continued his work of faith in the patience of hope. One by one a few of those under his care were brought to repentance, but the many appeared to have chosen the world for their portion. Still his ministry was not without a blessing. He endeavoured under Christ to keep those who had been committed to his charge and to feed them with the sincere milk of the word. He esteemed it no inconsiderable part of his work to confirm the weak, to comfort the sorrowful, to restore the wandering, to instruct the ignorant, in a word, to edify the body of Christ; and in this department of labor he was successful even when the ungodly refused to hear and be saved. Thus, not without many trials and discouragements, but with many supports and tokens of usefulness, did he remain at his post and preach the Word to his own people until the Lord took him up.”
Alvah Hovey, Life and Times of Isaac Backus. 1858. Reprint: Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1991, 270.
There are spectacular moments of conversions and growth in the church’s history. These are wonderful seasons called “revivals,” and they are gifts of God’s grace. We should desire these seasons and give thanks when the God visits us with them. But much more of church history is made up of unspectacular plodding, where God’s people by faith and patient hope keep coming to church, reading the Bible, pursuing godliness, and preaching the gospel, regardless of big or small outward results. That means the key virtues needed for the Christian life, as individuals and churches, are perseverance and faithfulness. Let’s be encouraged to maintain the wonder of being included in God’s plan of redemption, even during the very ordinary times. Let’s keep going.