Purpose, Power and the Occasional Obnoxious Preacher’s Kid

by Jan 27, 2024Christian Ethics, Church History0 comments

What God loves to do with unruly preacher’s kids is a great blessing to me. Firstly, because I am one, but second, because it is always entertaining to me. Here is one of my favorite testimonies of one such PK. It is from the autobiography of Peter Cartwright.  

“While I was preaching, near the close of the discourse, suddenly the power of God fell on the congregation like a flash of lightning, and the people fell right and left; some screamed aloud for mercy, others fell on their knees and prayed out aloud; several Baptist members fell to the floor under the power of God. There was a Baptist preacher present. After I had talked, and exhorted, and sung a long time, I called on this preacher to pray, but he was so astounded that, he told me, he could not pray. Our meeting lasted nearly all night. About twelve persons were converted in the good old way, and shouted aloud the praises of God. … The Baptist minister who was pastor of the congregation that worshiped at the meeting-house where I preached, had a dreadful rude set of children, especially a daughter whom they called Betsy. She would stand on the seats, point and laugh, and when any would fall under the power of God, she would say it was nothing but a Methodist fit.” 

The next night at the close of Cartwright’s sermon 

“the power of God suddenly was displayed, and sinners fell by scores through all the assembly. We had no need of a mourners’ bench. It was supposed that several hundred fell in five minutes; sinners turned pale; some ran into the woods, some tried to get away and fell in the attempt, some shouted aloud for joy; among the rest my Baptist preacher’s daughter, whom we have called Betsy. As I went through the assembly I came across Betsy, who had fallen to the earth, and was praying at a mighty rate. When I came to her, she said to me: 

“O, do pray for me; I am afraid I am lost and damned forever!” 

I said to her, “Betsy, get up; you have only got a Methodist fit,” (using her former language;) but she roared the louder two or three times. I bid her get up, saying to her, “You are playing the hypocrite, and have only got a Methodist fit; get up, Betsy.” But I assure you she was past getting up. Just near by I saw her father, the Baptist preacher. He was crying, and shaking every joint in him. I went to him, and said, 

“Brother A., come and pray for Betsy.” He replied: 

“Lord, have mercy on me! I cannot pray.” 

“Amen,” said I. “Pray on, Brother A., the Lord will have mercy.” I then exhorted Betsy, and prayed for her. If ever I saw the great deep of a sinner’s heart broken up, hers was. She wrestled and prayed all night. Next morning, about sunrise, the Lord in a powerful manner converted her. She rose and went over the camp-ground like a top…”

I love to read about preacher’s kids being radically converted, (I get nostalgic). I relay this story to show how manifestations can be demonstrative in power and still not be the focus. When it comes to any physical manifestation of the Holy Spirit, the Lord can be up to a lot while keeping the main thing the main thing. So many different reasons for such powerful encounters can be proposed while Jesus remains at the center. Below are just a few of those possible reasons.  

  • Sometimes God uses it in conversion. Edwards testifies to many in North Hampton during the Great Awakening, after being struck down by the Lord who rose to live in a newness of life. Their beliefs and behavior changed so drastically that there was no doubt they had experienced the new birth. People who formally were spiritually dead and functionally deists, rose from their encounter as proper believers with fruit following. 
  • Sometimes God uses such manifestations to widen someone’s spiritual paradigm. This often happens to apathetic conservative evangelicals types, who can only envision God’s power as rising no higher than the social or political.   
  • Sometimes, God uses manifestations to break our pride. Our sinful nature does not want to be humbled or exposed before others. When guys like Cartwright and Wesley say such manifestations are a judgment from God, this is partly what they me also mean is instances like the one Cartwright tells a story of a drunker and wicked man, who mocked the preaching of the Gospel. He got the jerks so severely that when he tried to pull a flask and drink them away, He jerked so violently that he snapping his neck and died! (pg.45-46)
  • Sometimes, God can also use the unusual manifestations to expose religious bondage and the idolatry of the traditions of men. God may offend us in order to expose a proud heart.
  • Sometimes, God’s plan may be to declare His sovereignty through supernatural manifestations. Jesus warned Nicodemus that the Holy Spirit cannot be contained or controlled for He is like the wind. 
  • Sometimes, God uses manifestations as fertilizer for future ministry. God desires for us to be continuously filled with the Holy Spirit. It follows that it also pleases Him to bring upon us fresh anointings of His presence and so renew us for mission and empower us for ministry. 


All Quotes From Peter Cartwright, Autobiography of Peter Cartwright (New York, NY, Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1956), 87-89