Not all pastors have the opportunity to live through a revival of religion, a time of the Spirit's refreshing and life-giving in ample measure. James Waddel Alexander did. In 1857-1858, he was a pastor in New York City, and had the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit work in tremendous ways. You can read his thoughts on this time in a volume entitled The Revival and Its Lessons (1859).
In the preface he explains the circumstances behind the revival and the book:
The short papers here for the first time gathered, had a certain measure of acceptance, less from their own merit, than from their having been struck off during the prevalence of an unusual interest in divine things. For the most part they were penned in the intervals of a hurried life, with the hope that scriptural instruction of the simplest kind might gain a hearing, at a time when every one's attention was drawn to the work of God in the land.
The occasion may be fitly seized for a brief retrospect of the scenes through which we have been led, and which, to a certain extent, surround us still; for we would fain speak of this Revival of Religion, not as past, but as present.
The greatest commercial alarm which our country ever experienced took place in the summer and autumn of the year 1857. It is unnecessary to rehearse what is imprinted on the hearts of thousands, or to open wounds which are still bleeding. Besides the great numbers who were utterly ruined, there were ten times as many whose earthly destinies seemed to be in libration. If we were to look no further than to the wear and tear of mind and brain, caused by pecuniary apprehensions and troubles in business, such as drove some to despair and madness, the evil could not be reckoned at the rate of millions of gold and silver. The writer returned to his native country after a short absence, to find as it were a pall of mourning over every house. Visitations of this kind—the remark is common concerning pestilence—often produce a hardening effect. In the present instance, it pleased God, in his marvellous loving-kindness, by the ploughshare of his judgments to furrow the ground for precious seed of salvation, and to make distresses touching worldly estate to awaken desire for durable riches and righteousness. Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness. From the very heart of these trials emerged spiritual yearnings, thirstings, and supplications after the fountain of living waters. We can not always trace the sequence of events, but it is certain that the meetings for prayer, which noted the dawn of this great Revival, had their beginning while we were still amidst the throes of our commercial distress....