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Jonathan (1859-1936) and Rosalind (1864-1942) Goforth

Revivalist Missionaries in China



Who Were Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth

Jonathan and Rosalind Goforth served as missionaries in China with the Canadian Presbyterian Mission. While there, Jonathan became became very involved in revival efforts, and eventually spent most of his time in evangelistic and revival work. The revivals that God brought about through his ministry always included confession as a key factor—more so with him than with any other revivalist that I am aware of. Jonathan learned about revival from a tract that he read regarding the Welsh revival and some thoughts of Charles Finney on the certainty of revival if certain conditions were met. Convinced that Finney's statements were true, he carefully studied four books on the subject over the course of a year and then proceeded to follow what he had learned. The results were wonderful and continue to be highly instructive. I have chosen to list him/them among the revivalists because of key insights gained from his ministry on the subject of revival even though they spent much of their ministry as missionaries.

Goforth Directory

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Why Learn About the Goforths

Quick Facts About the Goforths

Books by the Goforths

Revival Experiences & Testimonies

Insights on Revival by the Goforths

Insights on Witnessing by the Goforths

Insights on Salvation and Victory by the Goforths

Insight on Prayer by the Goforths

Practical Lessons on Life by the Goforths


Why Learn About the Goforths?

The Goforths were extraordinary people who did extraordinary work for God in China. Starting with his conversion and immediately beginning to witness for God as a  younger person, his spending two hours reading and memorizing the Bible every day, his immediately witnessing to the poor in Toronto upon admission to Knox College in spite of the sneers of his classmates, his proposing to Rosalind and insisting that God have the last word, their going to China in 1888 and working there in spite of many dangers and trials, the supernatural gift of the Chinese language, the loss of five children, the loss of all of their possessions on two occasions, the quick and constant witnessing when entering new territory, God's deliverance during the course of the Boxer rebellion, his reading and preparing to bring revival to China similar to that which was taking place in Wales, etc. afford many practical lessons. One can learn much from Rosalind as well, including her exemplary desire to only marry a man fully devoted to God; her remaining faithful in obeying God in accepting Jonathan's proposal even though her mother disapproved; the practical challenges to overcome as a missionary in her own right, a missionary's wife and mother of many children; trusting God with a home that was made accessible to the local people; praying and sometimes seeing the children of others healed, but not her own; trusting God to go into the interior of China irregardless of the increased danger to her children; and her own victory much later in life; all bring a wealth of practical insights to sincere Christians. And, because she was a gifted writer, we know much about their ministry. If you want to read a book to children about the Goforth's ministry from the perspective of answered prayer, read to them How I Know God Answers Prayer.—Dan

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Quick Facts

Jonathan was one of ten children, and grew up on a farm near London, Ontario (Canada).

Committed his life to Christ at the age of 18, and immediately witnessing to people in his community.

Acquired calling to ministry reading Robert Murray McCheyne's Memoirs.

Attended Knox College in Toronto, where he was persecuted by other students for being too fanatical.

Immediately upon arriving at Knox College, he began working with the poor in Toronto.

Met and married Rosalind Smith in 1885. In offering his proposal he extracted the promise that God would ALWAYS have the last word in their marriage. He did not give her an engagement ring because he spent the money in purchasing many copies of Hudson Taylor's China's Spiritual Need and Claims to distribute to others.

Departed for China in 1888 to do pioneer work in the North Henen mission.

The second week after they arrived, they lost all of their belongings to fire. Later, in Changte, they would lose all their belongings in a flood.

Jonathan was advised to "Go forward on your knees" by Hudson Taylor, since their new territory would be so difficult to enter.

Jonathan struggled with learning the Chinese language and considered returning home. In response to earnest prayer for God's help one morning, later that day he began speaking and understanding Chinese while he was witnessing in the marketplace—apparently an authentic example of the New Testament gift of tongues. He later learned that the students at Knox College had been specifically praying for him on that particular day.

Jonathan and Rosalind had 11 children, five of whom died while still children. The children are as follows: Gertrude Madeline, Donald, Paul, Florence, Gracie, Ruth, William Wallace, Constance, Helen, and J. Frederick. Gertrude, Donald, Florence, Gracie, and Constance all died as very young children.

Jonathan almost lost his life from wounds incurred while fleeing during the boxer rebellion.

He was convicted to learn about, and seek, revival as the result of reading about the Welsh revival and coming to believe that God could bring about the same results in China. He accordingly carefully read and studied four books over the course of a year: A. J. Gordon's Ministry of the Spirit, S. D. Gordon's Quiet Talks on Power, Charles Finney's two books, Lectures on Revival and Memoirs, and then proceeded to hold revival meetings.

For a time they planted a new church every 30 days in the interior of China.

They observed revival first hand in Korea in 1907. On the way home, they shared in Manchuria. Being invited to return in 1908, Goforth played a key role in bringing about the Manchurian revival. As a result of that revival work, he primarily spent his future time doing evangelism and revivals.

Jonathan and Rosalind were sent by their denomination to Manchuria in 1925, and remained until 1935.

Jonathan became blind in 1933, which necessitated his eventually returning to Canada where he continued to minister, though many pastors were not open to his variety of "confession-based" revival.

He died in Wallaceburg, Ontario (Canada), October 8, 1936.

During his 46 years of ministry in China, he set up 31 mission stations, trained 61 native pastors and brought 13,000 people to  Christ.

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I have been greatly blessed reading the books of Jonathan and Rosalind and heartily recommend them. HOWEVER! I don't agree with everything they wrote or espoused, so please with discernment.

Books by Rosalind:

Chinese Diamonds for the King of Kings (1920)

Blind Chang

While staying in the home of a missionary in Mukden, Manchuria, the Goforths heard the story of Blind Chang, one of the individuals who early gave his life for the sake of the gospel. Rosalind mentions a booklet on Blind Change by James Inglis being especially helpful.

How I Know God Answers Prayer (1921)

This is a wonderful book that shares many stories of answered prayer, as well as how to obtain answers to prayer. There is also a precious final chapter on how to obtain victory.

Portuguese Translation: Como sei que Deus responde a oração Rosalind Goforth

This is the Spanish translation of How I Know God Answers Prayer.

Goforth of China (1937) 

This is Rosalind's biography of Jonathan.

Climbing (1940)

This is Rosalind's biography.


Books by Jonathan:


By My Spirit (1929)

This book is on Jonathan's revival work in China.

When the Spirit's Power Swept Korea

This book is on the wonderful revival that Goforth observed and helped further in Korea.


Books by Jonathan and Rosalind:

Miracle Lives of China (1931)

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Revival Experiences and Testimonials

Revivals in Manchuria in 1908

Revivals in Moukden - 1908 (Goforth)

"The whole congregation has been of one mind to-day. And it was this: we must get the Spirit and the power He can bring, and we must take every step, however painful it may be, in order not to miss the great blessing. The spirit of prayer has been wonderfully manifest. Sometimes half a dozen would start at once, and on one occasion the entire congregation of seven or eight hundred people were all praying together. But there was not the slightest feeling of discord. One felt they were all of one heart and one mind.” (Read the letters describing this revival.)

The Revival at Shansi - 1908 (Goforth)

"Mr. Goforth's last meeting, there was a continued outpouring of blessing, and when Mr. Goforth asked the people to pray for the forth-coming meetings in Honan, they all began to pray aloud, earnestly but quietly, each one uttering his or her own petitions, and it harmonized into a perfect blending of sound, through which one felt the breathing of the Holy Ghost. So far was it from being unseemly or disorderly that those few moments of intercessory prayer, pouring forth from the lips of some two hundred people with such entire oneness of spirit, seemed the most wonderful time of these mighty meetings." (Read all of the article on the revival at Shansi)

Revivals in Manchuria - 1909

When the Spirit Came to Nanking - 1909 (Goforth)

"The evidences of the actual presence and work of the Holy Spirit were too numerous to be gainsaid. Sins unrepented of, of years gone by, often forgotten sins, were brought to light. Some who came to the meetings, resolved that “Mr. Goforth should never drag a confession from them,” were compelled to acknowledge it all and to tell out the story of defection and sin. It was felt by very many that these were days of judgment such as Joel foretold, and that to hide their sins now would be the cause of being eternally ruined in the last day. The terrors of Sinai were not preached by Mr. Goforth, but they were brought home to the people by the Spirit Himself." (Read the rest of the description of this revival led by Jonathan Goforth)

Revival at Changtefu - 1909 (Goforth)

"Looking back on that time now, and recalling the great number of definite petitions presented, and definite answers received almost immediately, one cannot but “praise God for all His goodness and His wonderful works to the children of men.” We would go direct to the general meeting from our knees, and oh the gladness and the glory of it, as we saw one after another of those for whom we had been praying, going forward to tell how God had met with them and brought conviction of sin to their hearts." (Read more about the revival at Changtefu)

Revivals in Manchuria - 1910

These testimonies come from other writers.

Blessings in Fuhkien - 1910

"During the evening service the word written in I Pet. iv. 17 became true: “For the time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God”; first the pastor, then the elder, later others realized that only by confession and complete surrender could they come into all the fulness which is in Christ Jesus. As soon as these men knelt at the altar, there swept a power over the people convicting them of sin and sweeping away all indifference and resistance." (Read all of Blessings in Fuhkien)

Revival in Manchuria - 1910)

"There were none of the terrible scenes which characterized the great revival two years ago, but many came forward asking for prayer, confessing vows unfulfilled and carelessness as to the welfare of their neighbours. Then the same waves of general petitions swept over the congregation without the agony." (Read more about the revival in Manchuria in 1910)

Revival at Mienchuhsien (1910)

"The messages given on Sunday and Monday were all bearing on this point, and the confessions of sin, accompanied by bitter crying and tears, which began at the first meeting, went on at intervals right through to the end of the mission. Perhaps the most solemn seasons were those early morning meetings, when the silence was broken by fervent outbursts of prayer, not the usual kind of prayer for everybody, but it was the pouring out of broken confessions of many cries for mercy, cries for forgiveness and acknowledgments of unworthiness, coldness, pride, anger, backsliding, and neglect of prayer. At each service there were these long continued seasons of prayer; not one person praying at a time, but many in different parts of the church praying at once; then at times there were waves of prayer, for everyone was praying aloud: men, women and boys." (Read the rest of the letter on the Revival at Mienchuhsien in 1910)

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Other Ministry Stories

Ministering to the Troops Under General Feng

One of the remarkable stories from the life of Jonathan Goforth was his influence and close relationship with a Chinese General. This article from China's Millions tells more about that story.

"Another colonel, who led the rear guard of 1,500 men during the escape, said: "I remembered your advice when in Hunan last year. You said then, ‘If we would impress our Christianity upon the armies of China, we must come behind in no military detail, even to our shoelaces.’ We travelled at night, and were always ready for attack, and when we encamped for a rest during the day, we immediately threw up entrenchments. It was the hot season, therefore night marching was less trying upon the men. After we escaped from the Southern armies, we were in danger from a numerically superior Northern army. They had orders to set ambush for us and destroy us. Their general afterwards admitted that every time he planned attack, he found us so ready that he gave it up as too dangerous.”

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Sermons, Articles and Other Writings

Insights on Revival

Jonathan's Reading About Welsh Revival Brought Revival Focus to his Ministry

Reading about the revival work going on in Wales brought a desire to bring the work of revival to his ministry. Later reading Finney's application of the work of a farmer to revival brought conviction that God would bring revival to China if the same conditions were created that Finney spoke of. Accordingly, he obtained four books and studied for a year. (You can read about his discovery in this document.}

The Spirit's Fire in Korea

A book of sermons of the Victorious Life Conference includes two chapters on the revival work that took place in Korea. This is the first one. (Read what Goforth had to say about revival in Korea)

God's Overflow in Korea

This is the second of the two sermons from the Victorious Life Conference book. In this address Goforth mentions areas of overflow that come in the revived church. 

"I have again and again seen all in an audience convicted and saved; but it was only after the followers of the Lord had got right with one another and with God. The three thousand never would have been saved that day at Pentecost unless the one hundred and twenty had first got right with God and man and had been Spirit-filled. The Lord Jesus Christ is hindered in the house of his friends. Judgment must first commence in the house of God. It is a sin, equivalent to murder, to hinder the salvation of souls by our non-victorious lives. It defrauds the Son of God, for it keeps him from seeing of the travail of his soul, even unto Divine satisfaction."

Confession in Revival

In reading about Goforth's revival work, one quickly realizes that his revivals always included a strong emphasis on confession, though he did not call for it. As a result, the first chapter of By My Spirit is on his understanding of godly confession. The following is an excerpt.

"We cannot emphasize too strongly our conviction that all hindrance in the Church is due to sin. It will be seen from the following chapters how the Holy Spirit brings all manner of sin to light. Indeed, the appalling fact is that every sin which is found outside the Church is also found, although perhaps to a lesser degree, within the Church. For fear that some may judge too harshly, we would point out that many of the Chinese churches, of which mention is made, are not even one generation removed from heathenism. At the same time, let us not delude ourselves by thinking that all is well with our old established churches at home. It is sin in individual Church members, whether at home or on the foreign field, which grieves and quenches the Holy Spirit.' I imagine that we would lose much of our self-righteousness if we were to find that pride, jealousy, bad temper, back-biting, greed and all their kindred are just as heinous in God's sight as the so-called grosser sins. All sin in the believer, of whatever kind, mars the redemptive work of Christ." (Read the rest of Jonathan's thoughts on this important subject.)

The God Who Can Move London

This is perhaps the most striking article I have found of Jonathan Goforth on the subject of revival, and should be carefully and prayerfully studied, with a view to applying what he talks about. Some of the things shared are also found in other articles, but they come through in a very striking way in this address. Note the  following:

"If we are to be channels of this power, to bring down blessing upon our own people, families, and all we are connected with or responsible for, there must be absolute obedience. The Holy Spirit seems to be exceedingly jealous along those lines." 

So far as the "God Can Move London" title, the article did not include any indication of why it was entitled that way. Perhaps he was speaking in London. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the Life of Faith document.  (Read all of Jonathan Goforth's address on God's mighty work of revival in China.)

Revivals in China

This wonderful presentation on revival by Jonathan Goforth was given at a student missionary convention in Rochester, NY in 1909. In the course of his address he speaks of his own early desires AND feelings of unworthiness to be used of the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, when Jonathan did all he could, God was able to do what only He could do!

"This is how I came to be used myself. I saw God’s power in a measure, but one verse kept ringing in my ears and would not go — “Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do because I go unto the Father.” I felt that these greater works were not being accomplished in my life, and I could not blame God—I felt that God had made ample provision in the gift of His Son and was only hindered by sin. As I looked into my own life I discovered many things which would grieve God, the Holy Spirit, and there was nothing for it but to get rid of them. Then when I did all I could, God did what He could, and I firmly believe He will give to us all the divine fullness if we just come and get right with Him. I discovered in myself the hindrance — sin. I believe the same hindrance existed in the Church."

The Topical Order of a Revival Series by Jonathan Goforth



Prayer in Revival

This comes from a chapter of By My Spirit.

"The following morning, after I had given my address, I said to the people: "Please let's not have any of your ordinary kind of praying.  If there are any prayers which you've got off by heart and which you've used for years, just lay them aside.  We haven't any time for them.  But if the Spirit of God so moves you that you feel you simply must give utterance to what is in your heart, then do not hesitate.  We have time for that kind of praying. Now the meeting is open for prayer."  Immediately eight men and women got up, one right after the other and prayed.  The missionaries were astounded.  They confessed they had never seen anything like it.  After the evening address, that same day, over twenty men and women followed one another in prayer.  Next day even the schoolboys and schoolgirls were taking part.  On the third day the eagerness to pray was so great that no one could get started unless he began his (prayer) before the one preceding him had said "Amen." (Read the rest of the chapter by clicking here.)

Learn About Revival

Reading about the Welsh revival and Charles Finney's conviction that the right conditions could bring revival anywhere in the world, Goforth determined to learn the secret of revival to bring revival to China. He accordingly obtained Finney's Lectures on Revival and Memoirs, A. J. Gordon's Ministry of the Spirit, and S. D. Gordon's Quiet Talks on Power. If Goforth were to be writing these lines I am certain he would be assuring you that God could bring revival into your life and ministry if you created the right conditions. He learned by reading more on the subject. You can also read the books he was reading by download the pdfs that are available here. Please understand that I don't agree with everything these men believed—in some cases I strongly disagree, nor do I condone all of their ways of promoting revival, but there is much to learn from them. As you read, ask God to direct you in your own quest for revival.

Charles Finney:

Lectures on Revival:  PDF for Tablet     

Memoirs:  PDF 

A. J. Gordon:

By My Spirit:  PDF for Tablet 

S. D. Gordon:

Quiet Talks on Power:  PDF for Tablet

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Insights on Witnessing

Praying and Receiving a Territory In Prayer

Jonathan asked God to give him a section of Honan in prayer and felt God gave him the assurance that he had received his request. He continued busily working to secure the area for six years. Finally God overcame local opposition and Jonathan immediately entered without wasting any time.

Preaching at Fairs and Theatricals

"The importance of this work [preaching in open places where many people were coming and going] cannot be emphasized too strongly at the present time. It is a work that brings the heralds of the cross into immediate contact with multitudes composed of all classes, and even of both sexes, and free contact is the first essential to evangelization." (Read all of Goforth's presentation on the importance of preaching at fairs and theatricals.)

Praying for an Extreme Medical Case

In this excerpt we learn of the group seeking healing for a really challenging medical case, so that the local people would trust the CIM physician. This similar to Samuel Chadwick praying for the conversion of a "Lazarus."

Praying for Early Converts

Like Hudson Taylor, Jonathan and Rosalind prayed and worked for early converts. Many missionaries at that time felt that quick conversions could not be enduring conversions. Jonathan, however, chose to believe that God would send early converts and worked accordingly.

Winning the People By Opening Their Home

Jonathan and Rosalind were highly tempted by "nesting" desires and for a time thought to begin closing the door to their home when they built a home in Changte. But God impressed them that their home could be a wonderful witnessing venue if they continued their open door policy. As it were, by allowing people to visit, the local people were won over. Note the following: 

"The answer to this prayer, as is often the case, depended largely upon ourselves. We had to be made willing to pay the price that the answer demanded. We came to see that in order that our prayer could be answered we would have to keep open house every day and all day, which was by no means easy."

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Insights on Salvation and Victory

Rosalind's Conversion

Rosalind found Jesus as a result of hearing a sermon on John 3:16 at the age of 12. She was assured by others that she was too  young, but reading the Scriptures she was assured that she had indeed obtained salvation.

Rosalind Finds Victory

This document shares how Rosalind eventually found victory. Also included is a Bible study on victory and a link to a helpful little booklet that she read in the process. (Read all of the document by clicking here.)

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Insights on Prayer

“I was beginning to learn that God is limited only from the human side; and that He is always willing to give beyond our asking if the human conditions He has plainly laid down in His Word are fulfilled."—How I Know God Answers Prayer

Conditions of Answered Prayer

This is a short but most helpful excerpt on how to get answers to prayer.

The Supernatural Gift of the Chinese language

Jonathan almost returned home due to his inability to learn the four-toned Chinese language. But one day, after earnestly seeking God's help with the language, he discovered that he was understanding the people and they were understanding him. This is the kind of gifting that occurred on the day of Pentecost. I am not aware of any other such gifting with a missionary up to now.

Praying For Personal Healing

Jonathan and Rosalind were often called to pray for the health needs of others. They also prayed for their own needs and the needs of their children. Sometimes those prayers were answered; sometimes they were not answered. In this excerpt she describes a time when she remained sick and had been urged by the doctors to return to Canada for the sake of her health. Having heard the testimony of Hunter Corbett another missionary who had ignored such a warning and lived to the age of 90, she decided to stay and experienced a miracle. This is a wonderful story.

An Early Recollection on Answered Prayer

This recollection, which comes from the life of her grandfather, is instructive and inspiring—also a good one to share with children.

Early Answers to Prayer

Here you will find several helpful stories about God answering her prayers as a younger person.

An Unanswered Prayer

In this excerpt you will read about earnest prayers for Gracie—one of their daughters, and another child, both of which were ill. Gracie died but the other child lived? Why? Note the following, "Does this case of unanswered prayer shake my faith in God’s willingness and power to answer prayer? No, no! My own child might just as reasonably decide never again to come to me with a request because I have, in my superior wisdom, denied a petition. Is it not true, in our human relationships with our children, that we see best to grant at one time what we withhold at another? “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” (Read the rest of this excerpt to learn all the details of what went on.)

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Practical Lessons

Jonathan's Marriage Proposal and Putting God First

The manner in which God led the Goforths together, and the values that guided their decision-making are highly instructive and worthy of emulation.

Surrendering Their Children

At one point, Jonathan became deeply convicted that God was calling them to enter the interior of China and plant a new church every 30 days. Because Rosalind had already lost multiple children and knew the dangers to children were increased in the interior, she refused to accept Jonathan's proposal to enter the interior multiple times. Eventually she came to see she had made a terrible mistake as noted below. Be sure to read the entire story to discover the wonderful outcome!

"When we were kneeling round her bedside waiting for the end, my eyes seemed suddenly opened to what I had been doing — I had dared to fight against Almighty God. In the moments that followed God revealed Himself to me in such love and majesty and glory that I gave myself to Him with unspeakable joy. Then I knew that I had been making an awful mistake, and that I could indeed safely trust my children to Him wherever He might lead. One thing only seemed plain, that I must follow where God should should lead. I saw at last that God must come first. Before the precious body was laid away preparations for our first trip were begun." (Read the rest of this precious story and learn how God responded to their surrender of the children.)

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Goforth Directory#

(Click on the links to quickly go to the section)

Why Learn About the Goforths

Quick Facts About the Goforths

Books by the Goforths

Revival Experiences & Testimonies

Insights on Revival by the Goforths

Insights on Witnessing by the Goforths

Insights on Salvation and Victory by the Goforths

Insight on Prayer by the Goforths

Practical Lessons on Life by the Goforths