Asbury “Revival” – Compared to Cane Ridge

The Cane Ridge Revival of August 1801 was led by Barton W. Stone at his church in Cane Ridge, KY, near Lexington, KY. This is close to Wilmore, Kentucky, where Asbury is located. 222 years apart, there are some historical similarities and differences.

Note: my perception of the Asbury Revival is based on reports by people who have been there or are still there. I have not visited Asbury myself. It is possible, perhaps likely, that my perceptions are inaccurate or imprecise.


1. Cane Ridge (CR) was part of a long series of revival events in Kentucky, and CR was not wholly unique among them; Asbury has a long history of revivals, the most recent in 1970.

2. CR was a planned communion festival (which was common as well) designed to call people to repentance, recommit/convert, and experience communion (the Lord’s Supper on Sunday of the revival) while Asbury appears to stir the hearts of the converted to renewal (though I presume conversions are also happening).

3. CR has hours and hours of preaching, though only Presbyterians could preach inside the church building itself (preaching is not a primary dimension of Asbury’s revival, though testimonies are present at times).

4. CR had overt expressions of the Spirit in barking, laughing, falling down, shaking, etc. while Asbury has not exhibited this kind of response (rather they are more quiet, solemn, weeping, praying, as the worship in song continues with the chapel; some are speaking in tongues and there are some deliverances, but this is not the focus or common).

5. CR was led primarily by ministers (though not exclusively) while Asbury is primarily led by students.

Stone recounts his own experience of seeing “bodily agitations or exercises” in chapter 6 of his Autobiography. These came in the context of their “sense of the danger of their unconverted children, brothers, or sisters–from a sense of the danger of their neighbors, and of the sinful world. I have heard them agonizing in tears and strong crying for mercy to be shown to sinners, and speaking like angels to all around.” Stone identifies several categories of “bodily agitations.”

1. Jerking: whether the head is jerking back and forth, or the whole body is suddenly jerked back and forth, and he had even “seen some wicked persons thus affected, and all the time cursing the jerks, while they were thrown to the earth with violence.”

2. Barking (as critics called it): these were the sounds emitted by those who were experiencing the jerks.

3. Dancing: this typically followed the jerks, and “such dancing was indeed heavenly to the spectators” with the “smile of heaven on the countenance of the subject, and assimilated to angels appeared the whole person.”

4. Laughing: “It was a loud, hearty laughter, but one sui generis; it excited laughter in none else. The subject appeared rapturously solemn, and his laughter excited solemnity in saints and sinners. It is truly indescribable.”

5. Running: “nothing more than, that persons feeling something of these bodily agitations, through fear, attempted to run away, anad thus escape form them; butit commonly happened that they ran not far, before they feel, or become so greatly agitated that they could proceed no father.”

6. Singing: “the subject in a very happy state of mind would sing most melodiously, not from the mouth or nose, but entirely in the breast, the sounds issuing thence. Such music silenced every thing, and attracted the attention of all. It was most heavenly.”


1. Fervent Devotion expressed in many ways such as weeping, prayer, and seeking God.

2. Extended Time (CR went longer than planned but only for a few days)

3. Renewed Hearts in repentance and mourning.

4. Communal sense of the tangible presence of God.

5. Non-sectarian character of the revival (at CR Presbyterian, Baptists, Methodists, among others preached on the grounds of the church).

Here is Stone’s brief summary of the Cane Ridge Revival:

The roads were literally crowded with wagons, carriages, horsemen, and footmen, moving to the solemn camp. The sight was affecting. It was judged, by military men on the ground, that there were between twenty and thirty thousand collected. Four or five preachers were frequently speaking at the same time, in different parts of the encampment, without confusion. The Methodist and Baptist preachers aided in the work, and all /68/ appeared cordially united in it–of one mind and one soul, and the salvation of sinners seemed to be the great object of all. We all engaged in singing the same songs of praise–all united in prayer–all preached the same things–free salvation urged upon all by faith and repentance. A particular description of this meeting would fill a large volume, and then the half would not be told. The numbers converted will be known only in eternity. Many things transpired there, which were so much like miracles, that if they were not, they had the same effects as miracles on infidels and unbelievers; for many of them by these were convinced that Jesus was the Christ, and bowed in submission to him. This meeting continued six or seven days and nights, and would have continued longer, but provisions for such a multitude failed in the neighborhood. To this meeting many had come from Ohio and other distant parts, who returned home and diffused the same spirit in their neighborhoods, and the same works followed. So low had religion sunk, and such carelessness universally had prevailed, that I have thought that nothing common could have arrested the attention of the world; therefore these uncommon agitations were sent for this purpose. However, this was their effect upon the community. As I have seen no history of these bodily agitations of that day, but from the pens of enemies, or scorners; and as I have been an eye and ear witness of them from the beginning, and am now over three score and ten years of age, on the brink of eternity, into which almost all of the old witnesses have entered, therefore I will endeavor to give a description of them in a distant chapter, for your information.

Stone’s Autobiography is available here.

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