Today was our day in Niagara Falls, and we spent it on the Falls. We started with a boat trip up the Niagara river to the base of the falls, where we stayed for 5-10 minutes, while the water roared over the cliffs above and crashed into the rocky water below, creating waves of mist that washed over us. It was so exciting, people were spontaneously shouting and screaming.
I suspect it was not too dissimilar from a church service during the Great Awakening, where people were moved by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to cry out during the sermons of Edwards, Whitefield, Tennant, and Davenport. The difference was that the first was created by a natural stimulant and the second a spiritual one.
After lunch, we took an elevator down into the bowels of the visitor center to access a tunnel system behind the Falls. The tunnels allow views from behind the Falls, although all we could see was a wall of water. The best part of the Journey Behind the Falls was the view from the terrace below the Falls where we were so close to the Falls looming over us, even with the provided trash-bag-turned-raincoat, we got soaked.
Two figures loom large in the kingdom of God for their work in the Niagara Falls area: George Neal and Christian Garner.
George Neal fought as a soldier in the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. After the war, Neal took a teaching job in Georgia. While there, he was born again through the work of the Methodists (which can be traced back to the Great Awakening and the work of the Wesleys and Whitefield). Major Neal’s ability to preach was quickly recognized, and he became an itinerant preacher.
Because of the difficulties faced by a former British soldier remaining in the colonies after the war, in 1785, Neal crossed the border into Canada at Niagara and settled there. Neal was persecuted because his preaching excited too much enthusiasm, and, as a result, the garrison commander ordered Neal to stop preaching but died before he could enforce the order. So, Neal’s work continued.
Christian Garner had also served in the British Army during the American Revolutionary War and was taken prisoner after the Battle of Saratoga. After his release, Warner left the colonies crossing into Canada in the Niagara area. In 1790, he heard George Neal preach the gospel, and Garner was born-again, as was a number of Warner’s neighbors. Neal established in Garner’s home what we would probably call a home church in 1788, and it ultimately became the first Methodist church in Canada. Neal was an influential leader in the Methodist Church for the remainder of his life.
The kingdom of God advanced even though its citizens and future citizens were trying to kill one another during the American Revolutionary War, but it did so in spite of the war not because of it. It did so because the Wesleys, Whitefield, Neal, and Warner were faithful to King Jesus. This kingdom of God is durable. It survives the wars of earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:44) and will ultimately put an end to earthly wars (Isaiah 2:4).
Tomorrow, back across the border to America. GS