The 1892 Launceston Revival

2017 was the 125th anniversary of the 1892 Launceston revival which occurred  during the mission tour of Australia and New Zealand by the Church of Ireland minister Rev. George C. Grubb. The night before the first meeting there was an earthquake which many believed was an answer to prayer. The revival is described in Stuart PIggin’s recent book, The Fountain of Public Prosperity, Evangelical Christians in Australian History 1740-1914, Monash University Publishing, Victoria, 2018, p 526-528. This post will look at some of the original accounts of the revival.

In 1893 Edward Millard, who had accompanied Grubb, published The Same Lord, an account of their mission tour to Australia and New Zealand. It can be found online here.

A photo of the mission party from The Same Lord. George Grubb is third from the right.

This is Millard’s account of the events in Launceston;

We landed around 4.30 p.m., on Saturday afternoon, and rested until Monday, when THE LAUNCESTON CONVENTION was opened by a prayer meeting at 7.30 p.m., and Mr Grubb presided.

The Lord made His presence and power manifest in many ways, not only at the convention meetings, but also by giving us a slight repetition of Acts xvi. 25, 26; for “at midnight … there was a great earthquake,” which lasted about thirty seconds. The whole town was shaken, clocks stopped, chimneys fell, and people were rocked in their beds. Many were much alarmed, while several of the convention Christians rushed to their windows and looked out, thinking that the Lord was coming, and said, “Praise the Lord!” while several unconverted yielded to God. Strange to say, Pastor Soltau, who had been mainly instrumental in getting  up the convention, had, on the previous Sunday, prayed, “O Lord, if nothing but an earthquake will awake these people, send us an earthquake.”

The blessing at this convention without doubt surpassed the previous ones held at Geelong and Sydney. The Lord simply took possession of the speakers. The clear teaching given of FULL SALVATION was used as the means of showing many the cause of failure in the past, and the folly of asking God to fill with the Holy Ghost till He had been allowed to make empty by cleansing from all sin. The testimonies on the last night were thrilling. The chairman said, that the ministers on the platform would be allowed two minutes each to tell of blessing received. Immediately up stood one after another (representing all denominations), and humbly acknowledged before God and the two thousand five hundred people present, how they had come to the convention to “see” and not to receive; but that although at its commencement they had been “dead against” the movement, they had not only been convicted, but the Lord had cleansed them of their sins of unbelief and other things, and filled them with the Holy Spirit.

One clergyman said that the Lord told him to give up his pipe as a test to full surrender. He rebelled for some time, but finally yielded to God, and the Lord so baptised him with the Holy Ghost that he was unable to refrain from praising God aloud.

The missionary meeting was again a season of great power. Rev. John Watsford, who had been present in Sydney, had come here also as one of the speakers. So many candidates were offering for the mission fields at home and abroad, that some of us met for special prayer, to ask guidance as what ought to be done; for although many were willing to follow the Lord anywhere, in some cases, there was manifest an unfitness which we felt could be overcome by  a little training. The result of this was that Dr. and Mrs. Warren were led to definitely offer to start a training home in Melbourne.

The parish of St. John’s was literally thrown open to us, and we were greatly drawn to the rector and his family. The Lord gave us much blessing, but the church was small, and on several occasions the usual church members found that the place was filled before they arrived, so could not share in the mission.

This church is the oldest “Church of England” building in Tasmania, and was erected in the year 1825 by the convicts.

From Launceston we went by train to Hobart. (Edward C. Millard, The Same Lord, Malborough, London, 1893, p 267-270)


St John’s Anglican Church, circa 1900

The revival was described in the local newspapers the Daily Telegraph and the Launceston Examiner

Daily Telegraph January 26 1892 reports;

The first meeting of the Christian convention to be held in the city this week took place in the hall of the Mechanics Institute last night. Most of the ministers of the principal denominations were on the platform with the exceptions of the Roman catholic and Anglican clergy. The hall was so crowded that many were unable to find more than standing room.

After the meeting had been opened by hymns and prayer, the Rev. G. C. Grubb, MA, read the sixth chapter [of] 2nd Samuel and based the address he delivered on that chapter. The speaker commenced by asking all those who had brought their Bibles with them to stand up. About one quarter of the audience responded; very few of the ministers present appeared to have brought Bibles, whereupon Mr Grubb asked them how soldiers could expect to fight without their swords. The rev, gentleman then proceeded to compare the ark of the covenant mentioned in the chapter he read to Christ who, he said, was the ark that ought to be placed in every believer’s heart, and if anyone in the audience were asked the reason of their conversion they would say it was bold to put the ark in the right place. Mr Grubb had been mentioned by the Sydney papers as an “old convention hand”, and such he hoped the ministers who were ready with prepared speeches would forget them and  speak as the  Holy Spirit gave them utterance, pointing out the harm often done by ministers defending the word of God by carnal arguments instead of leaving it to stand alone, as it was well able to do. The speaker then warned the ministers present to sanctify themselves before the convention opened, as the priests of David had done before removing the ark; also saying that as David danced before the ark, as the convention was going to wind up with a public dance, such dancing as Launceston would hear. Mr Grubb then dilated on changes wrought by the holy Spirit, prophesying that it would make the  cantankerous woman amiable, and the covetous man come to Mr Soltau with a cheque for 500 pounds. Referring to the charge of certain Melbourne and Sydney papers that his influence was due to hypnosis, Mr Grubb depreciated the spirit of God and HIs influence being blasphemed, those who displeased that spirit would remain barren and unfruitful Christians until the day of their death.

Mr Grubb, after his address, asked all those who had not yet put Christ in the right place to stand up: several among the audience responded, and two or three ministers in the platform, these were made the subjects of special prayer, the meeting being closed by the Doxology and the Benediction, pronounced by the Rev. J. Watsford.

1861 photo of the Mechanics’ Institute on the corner of St John and Cameron Streets, next to St Andrews’ Presbyterian Church

The Launceston Examiner 27 January 1892 reports;

The actual work of the Christian Convention commenced yesterday morning, and throughout the day crowded meetings were held in the Mechanics’ Institute, great enthusiasm being shown by the clerical and lay persons of the city. The ministers of various churches were engaged at intervals in visiting their parishioners and urging them to attend the meetings, and as a consequence at the evening meeting every available space was occupied, and numbers were compelled to St.  Andrews’ Church where an overflow meeting was held, and very largely attended.

At 7 a.m. a prayer meeting was held when several ministers offered up earnest exhortations for the success of the Convention. The 10:30 a.m. service was largely attended, and on this occasion the president, the Rev. G.C. Grubb, MA, delivered what may be called the opening address of the Convention from the text I Chronicles, chap. iv, verses 9 and 10, “And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren, and his mother called his name Jabez because I bear him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that Thou wouldst keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! and God granted him that which he requested.” In this, the rev. gentleman said, would be found the reason for the holding of the Convention, that the people may call to God to keep them from evil, and that they may make their peace with Him.

At 3.30 p.m. the second meeting of the Convention was held, when several ministers spoke on the subject of the Convention, and urged the Christians of Launceston to take full advantage of the grace offered. The Rev. Messers. Bunning and Mitchell, of Victoria, were amongst the speakers.

In the evening the Institute room was filled fifteen minutes before the hour appointed for commencing the meeting, and during that time several hymns were sung by  a strong choir. Archdeacon Langley opened the meeting with prayer, and the president Rev. G.C. Grubb, MA, delivered a powerful address from the text Malachi, chapter iii, 10th verse, “Bring ye all the tithes into the store-house, that there might be meat in Mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven and pour out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it.” He said that a great object in holding the Convention was to ask God to open the windows of Heaven to Christians. To do that they must be willing to be saved. There was no unconditional salvation, it was conditional on belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. A brief historical account of the use of the words “Open the windows of Heaven” in the Bible was given The speaker said they wanted the “windows” open in judgment, and added that by baptism they would be saved. He went on to speak from the text II Kings, chapter vii, 7th to the last verse, and said they had come from Australia to this city, like the Syrians to the subjects of the king of Israel with a message of peace. He then concluded by exhorting them to allow the Lord to judge them, to have a great belief in the Lord and to surrender themselves entirely to His service. After hymns had been sung Archdeacon Langley  and the Rev. Mr. Watson of Victoria gave earnest addresses.

At the overflow meeting the Rev. Allan Webb, of Victoria, presided, and delivered a short address on the work of the convention. He was followed by Miss Millard and Dr Watson.

After the afternoon meeting yesterday those who attended assembled outside the Mechanics’ Institute, and paraded through several of the streets singing hymns.

The Launceston Examiner 28 January 1892 reports;

Proceedings commenced yesterday in the Mechanics’ Institute at 7 a.m. with a prayer meeting, at which there was a large attendance. Several persons engaged in devotional exercises, and an adjournment was made until the subsequent meeting. At 10.30 a.m. the large hall at the Mechanics’ Institute was well filled, and the Rev. G.C. Grubb gave a Bible reading, selecting for his subject “The working of the Holy Spirit”, and basing it principally on the incidents in connection with the multiplying of the widow’s oil by Elisha and the raising of the dead boy, contained in II Kings, chapter 4. The address which the reverend gentleman delivered was a fervent one, and it was followed by a prayer meeting, which was somewhat remarkable owing to the intensity of the Holy Spirit which pervaded the gathering.

In the afternoon the meeting was a crowded one, and addresses were given  by the Revs. J. E. Harrison and J,. Copperthwaiite, both of Ballarat. Mr. Harrison’s topic was “Following Jesus Fully” and in enlarging upon it he entreated his hearers to put their full and complete trust in Him. Mr Copperthwaite followed on “Claiming the promises and obeying the commandments attached hereto”. On this subject he delivered a logical and impressive discourse. During these daily meetings there has been an evidence of the greatest interest in the whole proceedings. At the conclusion of the afternoon meeting the members formed in line outside the Mechanics’ Institute, and following along Cameron Street, the principal streets were paraded slowly, all joining in singing the Convention hymns.

About 3000 persons assembled at the Albert Hall in the evening, when the platform was thronged with the adherents of the Convention. After the opening hymns and prayers had been given the Rev. G.C. Grubb addressed the meeting on the subject of “Redeeming love”, taking his text from the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians, chap. iii, verses 13 to 19. In commencing the discourse he told them that his theme would be something about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the present time the principal features of everyday life were vengeance and dissatisfaction, but the Book of Ecclesiastes was written specially to tell the world that nothing under the sun would give fulness of God. It was to Him alone they had to look for forgiveness, and when they had obtained that pardon for their sins they would be new men and women. It was He alone that could break down the stubborn-hearted, and at that meeting he trusted they would obtain that which was necessary to secure perfect peace and happiness. There were so many unbelieving persons at the present time that he hardly knew how to deal with them, but the wanted them to attend the meetings of the Convention so that they might get their doubts turned into shouts. In other places the newspapers had stated that the Grubb fever was worse than the influenza epidemic but if it imparted to the multitude the redeeming love of Jesus it was a malady worth catching. The Convention was really formed for telling the people how they could get their sins taken away. They should first get heaven into themselves before they get into heaven. After redeeming love came forgiving love, and God had commissioned him that night to preach a full and free forgiveness of sin. God offered unfettered grace to every sinner who sought it, and all that sinner had to do was to cry, “Lord, I’ll take it,”and if he really meant it, he would receive it, because the Lord was a faithful and just father. Then came the transforming and reclaiming love of Christ, which if they claimed it would take all the cares and worries away from their lives, and remove the wrinkles from their cheeks – as no much advertised cosmetic could possibly do; the Lord could restore to them their youth, and they would then testify what they knew, and what God had told them. Most persons were anxious at different portions of their lives to turn over a new leaf, but the leaves generally turned back again, and instead of turning new leaves they wanted to commence new lives. In addition to the loves he had mentioned there was restoring love, or the new life which sprung up in the heart of the newly converted. There could be no union with the church and the world. All that savoured of the world should be trampled underfoot and there would be no power in the church until everything appertaining to the world was rejected. There should be no bazaars, lotteries or gambling started to raise funds for church purposes or indeed for anything else. If any money was required, they should go down on their knees and pray for it, and if they asked in a prayerful spirit, they would get whatever sum they required. His Father in heaven was very well off, and He was a very generous parent, and would give bountifully  for whatever was wanted. The address, which occupied an hour, was listened to with great attention.

Albert Hall, Launceston

The  Launceston Examiner 29 January 1892 reports;

Yesterday the prayer meeting at 7 a.m. at the Mechanics’ Institute was well attended. The Rev. W.C. Bunning (Melbourne) conducted the meeting, and many others entered with spirit into the devotional exercises.

At 10.30 am the Albert Hall contained a good congregation where the Rev, G. C. Grubb, M.A., presided, and gave an interesting and elegant address from St John, chap 7, verse 37, “In the last day, that day of the great feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”

Addresses were also given by Archbishop Langley (Gippsland) and the Rev. Alan Webb (Geelong).

There was a large assemblage at the three o’ clock service when the Rev, G. C. Grubb gave a Bible reading, which was followed by addresses by Pastor J. Soltau and Rev. A. Webb (Geelong). The Rev. J. Watsford (Melbourne) closed the meeting with prayer.

The Rev. G.C. Grubb presided at the meeting at the Albert Hall in the evening, at which despite the unpleasant weather there was a large gathering. After the ordinary opening ceremony the chairman gave an address from part of Isaiah chap. vi. He said he would tell them that evening how the prophet Isaiah got the Saviour’s blessing. Some said that the chapter under review told of Isaiah’s conversion, but that was not the case. He was converted many years before then, but in that chapter they were told he got cleansed. The address would be specially delivered to himself and the ministers on the platform so that they might be cleansed and made more fit for their daily work. In the vision referred to in the chapter, Isaiah saw a typical scene of worship. He saw the Lord Jesus sitting upon the throne, above which stood the seraphim who purged his sins with fire. There was a burning worship and no worship was fully pleasing to God unless it was a burning one. He wished them all to become seraphs, but before they could they had to get seraphic wings, and the object of the Convention was to turn Christians into serpahims. If a man had an unclean heart he could never praise God, but when he became pure he obtained power. There were many impure things done by persons who professed Christianity. When he heard one Christian talking ill of another he felt inclined always to tell him he saw flames coming put of his mouth. The devil meant slander, and he was never more to be feared when he came as an angel of light. He besought that all might to pray for a blessing, and he asked those who had specially received a blessing on that occasion to stand up. Nearly all on the platform responded, and afterwards a few of the Sunday School teachers and church elders in the body of the hall stood up. Several of those standing then offered up prayers, and the Rev. John Watsford of Melbourne then delivered an impassioned address in which he said the truth had been very clearly put to those who had attended the meetings of the Convention and the blessing had been asked for and received. He would never forget the feeling that had pervaded the meeting held on Wednesday morning, but still he felt  that although many had obtained that Divine blessing there were many who had gone to the border line, and then had not entered in, and before the Convention closed they wanted all those people to go right in and be cleansed. A prayer meeting concluded the proceedings.

Mechanics’ Institute, Launceston

The Launceston Examiner 30 January 1892 reports,

A number of meetings were held in connection with the mission at present being conducted by the Rev. G.C. Grubb, M.A., yesterday, and at all the attendance was good.

A prayer meeting was held at 7 a.m. at which many persons  joined in the devotions.

The Albert Hall was well attended at 10 a.m. when a foreign missionary service took place. Addresses were delivered by the Rev. G. C. Grubb and Mrs. Millard (a missionary from China), and Rev. J. Watsford gave some reminiscences of his sojourn with the cannibals of Fiji nearly half a century earlier.

At 3 p.m. a meeting for women only was held in the large hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, which was filled to hear the various addresses touching on women’s duties.

A conference of ministers met the Rev. G. C. Grubb in the class room  of the Mechanics’ yesterday afternoon, when several questions affecting the details of the Convention work were put to Mr. Grubb, and answered by him.

The YMCA Lecture Hall was fairly attended during the afternoon when a meeting was held specially for professional and business men. Drs Warren M’All (Melbourne), Mr Virgo (Adelaide) and Mr Millard (Melbourne) addressed those present from various texts in the Bible which presented themselves to the speakers.

In the evening the Convention was brought to a conclusion with a testimony and praise meeting, which was crowded. The Rev.  G. C. Grubb presided, and addressed his remarks solely to those who were converted, his subject being holiness. He said that faith in the Lord Jesus would make them dead to the world, the flesh and the devil. Frequently Christians had to leave friends and home to follow Christ and obey His commands. Ministers instead of giving forth to their congregations the earnest words which God would give them if they asked, oftentimes frightened them by high flown sermons full of Latin and other foreign words which confused the listeners. At the close of his remarks he called upon the members of the Convention to give testimonies and he limited the time of each to two minutes. The Revs. A Webb, J.G. Millard, E.C. Tennant, R. Smith, J.G. Wheen, Pastor Soltau, then informed the meeting of the special blessings they had received during the week. Pastor Soltau said he now had full demonstration of the power of God to answer prayer. He knew He could do so, but he doubted somewhat if He would heed his (Mr Soltau’s) little appeal. However, he was thankful to say that he had given him a direct and practical answer for on last Sunday night week he prayed to the Almighty specially to send an earthquake upon Launceston so that the inhabitants would be shaken so that they would realise their peril. In His own good time and in the very week the Convention were holding their meetings his request had been granted and he thanked God for it. The usual prayer meeting brought the mission to a close.

A recent photo of Civic Square, Launceston from The Examiner newspaper. The Mechanics’ Institute used to be between St Andrews Church and the Town Hall


The First Revival In Australia


According to Stuart Piggin of the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience in his book Firestorm of the Lord (Paternoster Press, Cumbria, 2000, p 165-166),

“The first revival on Australian soil of which I am aware was a prayer revival at Hobart, Tasmania in June 1834, during the ministry of the Revd Nathaniel Turner, a Wesleyan. It stemmed from a prayer meeting started by a few eminent Christians posted to Tasmania in the 48th Regiment.”

His source is The Pioneer Missionary: Life of the Rev. Nathaniel Turner which is quoted in Iain Murray’s Australian Christian Life.


Mrs Turner wrote,

“Our June quarterly visitation was, I believe, the best our society ever knew in this part of the world. Glory be to God! At our quarterly fast the power of the Spirit came down so that many were led to cry aloud for mercy. Several souls found peace with God. The spirit of prayer was given in an extraordinary degree. Such wrestling and pleading with God I never beheld in these regions. I could almost have believed myself carried back to one of our revival meetings in England, at one of which I remember nearly one hundred souls professed to have found forgiveness for their sins. at most of our prayer-meetings, which are numerously attended, souls are crying out for mercy. At one meeting a man and his wife were meeting side by side. The man was happy, and immediately prayed aloud for his wife. She too found the saviour.” (J.G. Turner, The Pioneer Missionary: Life of the Rev. Nathaniel Turner, George Robertson, Melbourne, 1871, p 146)

This revival does not get a mention in C.C. Dugan’s A Century of Tasmanian Methodism 1820-1920. However, R.D. Pretyman appears to be describing the same period in A Chronicle of Methodism in Van Dieman’s Land 1820-1840 when he quotes a letter from Nathaniel Turner to the London Committee,

“You will be pleased to hear that the Lord is graciously carrying on his work amongst us in this part of the world. In the course of our last quarterly visitation, I had much satisfaction. Never I believe, did so deep and hallowed a feeling pervade the minds of the society as at the present time. Last Friday was kept as the society’s quarterly fast and prayer-meetings. At six in the morning the vestry was so crowded that we were obliged to remove into the chapel, and again at the prayer-meeting at noon. Some who had been truly brought from the gates of destruction into the liberty of Christ, gave up their employ for the day, and spent the whole of the forenoon in the school-room, in prayer and praise to God. On Monday morning at six o’clock we held a meeting for special prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit, and never do I recollect to have felt more of the power of the divine presence, than on that occasion.” (R.D. Pretyman, A Chronicle of Methodism in Van Dieman’s Land 1820-1840, Aldersgate Press, Melbourne, 1970, p 86)

As far as I can tell, Australia’s first revival took place here in Wesley Hall in Melville Street, Hobart. On one side is the multistory car park where I usually park when I go to Hobart, and on the other side is what used to be the Avalon Cinema where I first saw Jaws in the 70s.

The front part of the building appears to be a later addition.

This is the inside of the building where Australia’s first recorded revival took place.

This revival took place at the same time as the Second Great Awakening in the United States. Perhaps it should be seen as part of that movement.

Australia has never experienced a widespread revival comparable to the First and Second Great Awakenings in the United States and Great Britain. Revivals in Australia tend to be confined to local churches and do not spread. Stuart Piggin has suggested the closest Australia has come to a national revival was the Billy Graham Crusade in 1959 (Stuart Piggin, Spirit of a Nation, Strand Publishing, Sydney, 2004, p 154-171)