The '59 Revival – Ian R. K. Paisley

 

59revival

This book begins by outlining the background to the 1859 Revival by charting the previous Ulster Revival of 1630 and a brief history of the Ulster Church up until the origins of the '59 Revival.

The origins of the Revival are described in some depth and then the effect of the Revival spreading out through the districts and the work of The Holy Spirit on the lives of ordinary men and women is documented.

This work is placed in categories, for want of a better word, including; regeneration, reformation, prostration and manifestation. The lasting results of the Revival, its foundation, the basis of the Revival, and an exhortation to us to be challenged and inspired by the Revival of 1859 concludes this wonderfully uplifting book. It is easy reading and the requirements for Revival clearly identifiable. This book is not in the public domain.

The copyright is held by the Ravenhill Free Presbyterian Church and it is reproduced here with their kind permission. No part of this publication may be reproduced, in any way whatsoever, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder.

We have included 5 of the 16 chapters.

Chapter I. Preparation - The Background of the Revival

The great Ulster Revival of 1859, like the great Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, had its impulses far back in the past.

Any study, therefore, of the revival must give a place to its historical, ecclesiastical and spiritual background.

The Historical Background

We can trace in history the fingerprints of the Eternal God. Overruling and controlling the many human purposes is the one Divine purpose. As we glance at the historical background of the Great Revival and notice the reconciling of contrary forces unto the furtherance of the Gospel, we can but confess, “This is the finger of God”

The oft-quoted maxim that history repeats itself is also aptly illustrated and vindicated.

Dr. Thomas Hamilton, in his “History of the Irish Presbyterian Church “, graphically describes the momentous event, which led to the foundation of modern Ulster.

“One September day in the year 1607, a small vessel of the old-fashioned type of naval architecture which prevailed two hundred and fifty years ago might have been seen working its way out of the wildly beautiful Lough Swilly, on the north-western coast of Ireland. Sailing cautiously along, with the lofty Slieve Snaght towering to the sky from out the wilds of Innishowen on the right, and the other Donegal mountains frowning down on the left, she at length leaves the calm waters of the picturesque lough behind, and finds herself on the rougher surface of the open sea. On her deck, as she rounds the point, may be discerned the figures of two gentlemen, who ever and anon, as the little vessel leaves Ireland farther and farther behind, cast many a regretful look at the mist-crowned hills and the woods beginning to assume their ruddy autumn tints, and the rolling corn-fields, already yellow for the reaping hook. These were O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone, and O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnel. For long they had been the leading spirits of Irish disaffection. Followed by thousands of devoted followers, they had faced the soldiers of Queen Elizabeth on many a battlefield. Now, their power broken, and all their plots disconcerted, they leave Ireland for ever, to seek an asylum on the Continent.”

After the flight of the two earls an abortive rebellion broke out headed by Sir Cahir O’Dogherty, the Irish Lord of the district of Innishowen on the coast of Derry. The rebellion ended with the death of O’Dogherty in an encounter in the neighbourhood of Kilmacrennan on the 18th July 1608. O’Dogherty seriously implicated some of the other Irish lords of Ulster, including Niall Gav O’Donnell and his son Naghtan who were seized by the British authorities and eventually confined in the Tower of London, where they died.

So the two great ruling families of Ulster, the O’Donnells and the O’Neills, in a few years became almost extinct. Their lands, moreover, along with those of O’Dogherty and other lesser Irish chiefs, amounting in all to 2,000,000 acres and embracing the counties of Donegal, Tyrone, Derry, Fermanagh, Cavan and Armagh, were forfeited to the British Crown. The escheated lands did not include the Counties of Antrim and Down, as these were already partially occupied by Scots.

With such a vast territory at the disposal of the crown the way was opened for James I to put into operation his project to secure perpetually “the back door of the kingdom” as Ireland was styled, by planting it with Scotch and English settlers. In transplanting such settlers from the Border of England and Scotland, James also hoped to achieve the quieting of a very unruly area of his united kingdom. Moreover, the borderers were the right type of hardy stock for the difficult work of pioneering the plantation and in contrast to the natives, they were all exclusively Protestant. E. W. Hamilton, in “The Soul of Ulster” describes the operation of the scheme.

“In 1609 the work of deportation started and continued ror several years. Armstrongs. Elliots, Johnstones, Pattersons, Watsons, Thompsons, Riddles, Littles, Scotts, Bells, Turnbulls, Pringles, Routledges, Andersons, Blacks, Bairds, Nixons, Dicksons, Crosiers, Rutherfords, Beatties, and a host of other Border clans crossed the seas, with their wives and families, and turned their backs for good and all on the land of their birth. So was carried out the great Ulster Plantation. There was no armed opposition; the natives withdrew into the mountain districts, and the colonists settled down on the granted lands. They increased and multiplied; they utilised the waterpower for factories; they reclaimed the bogs and tilled the land so gained. All went well in the planted districts. Peace and prosperity took the place of rapine and misery, and before the first quarter of the Seventeenth Century was passed, the justification of the Ulster Plantation seemed beyond dispute.”

The whole history, not only of Ulster but of Ireland, was altered by this colonising scheme and through it Ulster politically, educationally, morally and spiritually, became what the old Irish writers used to describe her as “the thumb on the hand which is able to grip and to hold against the four fingers, Leinster, Munster, Connaught and Meath.”

At the commencement of the plantation the morals of the colonisers were deplorably low. An eyewitness of these early days, Andrew Stewart, testifies, “Iniquity abounded, contention, fighting, murder, thieving, adultery etc.”

In the wake of the early planters there came, however, in the gracious purpose of God, a number of eminent and godly Scottish preachers with the result (to quote our eye-witness again) “that the Lord visited them in admirable mercy, the like whereof had not been seen anywhere for many generations.” Many of these ministers were gentlemen of the highest lineage and scholars second to none in the three kingdoms.

Blair, the minister of Bangor was six years a professor in the college of Glasgow before coming to Ireland. He was a gentleman by descent. Welsh was the grandson of John Knox and the great-grandson of Lord Ochiltree. Livingston was that pious young man who at the Kirk of Shotts on a communion Monday, 21st June 1630, preached a sermon on Ezekiel 36:25,26, which resulted in the conversion on the spot of 500 souls. He was also one of the most able linguists of his day. Bruce was of the highest descent, for his lineal ancestor John de Bruce was uncle to King Robert the Bruce. Ridge, a native of England, was the friend of Lord Chichester and was described by a contemporary as a “judicious and gracious minister.” Cunningham had been chaplain to the Earl of Buccleugh’s regiment in Holland. His likeness to his master was so remarkable that a contemporary said of him, “he was so far reverenced by all, even by the wicked that he was oft troubled with that Scripture, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you’!” Hamilton, a man of learning, was a nephew of Lord Clandeboye.

Upon the ministry of such men the blessing of God could have been expected to descend as the dew upon the mown grass. In the inscrutable ways of the Almighty, the one chosen as the original channel of the great revival of those early days was the least worthy and competent of all the preachers of Ulster, James Glendinning of Oldstone. Our eye-witness before quoted bears the following testimony: “Mr. Glendinning, a man who never would have been chosen by a wise assembly of ministers, nor sent to begin a reformation in this land, for he was little better than distracted— yea, afterward did actually distract— yet this was the Lord’s choice to begin the admirable work of God, which I mention on purpose, that all men may see how the glory is only the Lord’s in making a holy nation in this profane land, and that it was not by might nor by power, nor by man’s wisdom, but by my Spirit, says the Lord. This man, seeing the great lewdness and ungodly sinfulness of the people, preached to them nothing but law, wrath, and the terrors of God for sin; and in very deed for this only was he fitted, for hardly could he preach any other thing; but behold the success! for his hearers, finding themselves condemned by the mouth of God speaking in the Word, fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience, that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned, as those of old who said, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’ and this work appeared not in one single person only, or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out ‘What shall we do?’

“I have seen them myself stricken, and swoon with the Word— yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead, so marvellous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin, condemning and killing; and some of those were none of the weaker sex or spirit, but indeed some of the boldest spirits, who formerly feared not with their sword to put a whole market town in a fray; yea, in defence of their stubbornness, cared not to lie in prison and in the stocks, and, being incorrigible, were as ready to do the like the next day. Yea, I have heard one of them, then a mighty strong man (now a mighty Christian), say that his end in coming to Church was to consult with his companions how to work some mischief, and yet at one of those sermons was he so catched, that he was fully subdued. But why do I speak of him? We knew, and yet know, multitudes of such men who had no power to resist the word of God; but the heart, being pricked and smitten with the power of God, the stubborn, who sinned and gloried in it, because they feared not man, are now patterns of sobriety, fearing to sin because they fear God; and this spread through the country to admiration, so that, in a manner as many as came to hear the word of God, went away slain with the words of his mouth, especially at that river (commonly called the Six-Mile Water)— for there this work began at first— thereafter at Lauren by Mr. Dunbar. For a short time this work lasted as a sort of disease for which there was no cure, the poor people lying under the spirit of bondage; and the poor man who was the instrument of it, not being sent, it seems, to preach Gospel so much as law, they lay for a time in a most deplorable, condition, slain for their sin, and knew of no remedy. The Word they could not want, and yet the more they heard it, the more they could not abide it, as Paul says.”

Adair, the first minister of Belfast and the first historian of the Irish Presbyterian Church, takes up the story.

“There was at Antrim Mr. John Ridge, a judicious and gracious minister, who, perceiving many people on both sides of the Six-mile Water awakened out of their security, and willing to take pains for their salvation, made an overture that a monthly lecture might be set up at Antrim, and invited to bear burden therein, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Hamilton with Mr. Blair; who were all glad at the motion, and complied at the first, and came prepared to preach. In the summer day four did preach, and when the day was shorter, three. This monthly meeting, thus beginning, continued many years, and was a great help to spread religion through the whole country. Sir Hugh Clotworthy was very hospitable to the ministers that came there to preach. His worthy son, now Lord Viscount Massareene, together with his mother and lady, being both of them very religious and virtuous women, did greatly countenance this work.”

Glendinning subsequently became deluded, but the other ministers were enabled by the word of God to so expose his fallacies that only his wife was led away by them and the gracious work of revival continued and spread to their several parishes. Each minister became the leader of the movement in his own particular parish. Competent witnesses spoke of this revival as “a bright and hot sunblink of the gospel and one of the largest manifestations of the Spirit that almost since the days of the apostles hath been seen.”

Perception easily sees the parallel between this early revival and the latter revival of 1859 and faith can readily trace the connection between the two. Both revivals were preceded by periods of spiritual declension and moral depravity. Both commenced in districts of Co. Antrim adjacent to Antrim town. Both were characterised by severe apprehension of the terrors of the law, resulting in the bodily prostrations of many. Both witnessed counterfeit workings of Satan. Both led to the salvation of multitudes and a marvellous reformation of society. Both were characterised by fervent prayers and faithful preaching of the word. Both spread rapidly throughout the whole province. Both reached their zenith in the parishes of evangelical ministers. Both were opposed by certain religious leaders.
Weighing up these facts we can conclude that this early revival was but the precursor of that of 1859 and in many ways its originator. The latter revival was reaped from the same field in answer to the prayers of the former poured out before the Lord.

Truly, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise!”


The Ecclesiastical Background

As the ‘59 Revival had its origin amongst Presbyterians, and its continuation largely through the zeal of the converts and ministers belonging to that Church, the ecclesiastical background of the revival is primarily a Presbyterian one. It must be stated, however, that the then established Church had in its ranks at that period many faithful evangelical preachers. Of the established Church the great Dr. Henry Cooke testified, “that in no denomination of Protestants do I know a greater proportion of learned,, faithful, laborious and zealous heralds of the gospel of salvation.

Many of these clergy of the established Church as well as the ministers of the smaller evangelical denominations, were most energetic in the spread of the revival, but the Presbyterian Church was the main ecclesiastical channel of the movement. An eyewitness has rightly commented, “The impartial historian of whatever name, will acknowledge that, while all the evangelical communities of Ulster were watered by the gracious grace that fell upon ‘the pastures of the wilderness,’ the Scoto-Irish soil received in amplest measure the shower of blessing.”
During the generation in which the revival came, Presbyterianism in Ulster passed through momentous scenes. The actual achievements of those tempestuous days and testing crises were the Purity and Unity of the church. These are essentials to real revival.

In the larger section of Presbyterianism owning the jurisdiction of the General Synod of Ulster, there had been working since the beginning of the eighteenth century the insidious leaven of Arianism or Unitarianism. The Arians, in refusing to subscribe the Westminster Standards, became known as Non-subscribers and from then onwards the Synod was divided into Subscribers (the Orthodox party) and Non-subscribers (the Unitarian party). In order to stop the ever-increasing collisions between the two parties the Synod placed all the Non-subscribers in one Presbytery, the Presbytery of Antrim, and in the year 1726 cut off that Presbytery from communion in the Church Courts. This separation was half-hearted and ineffectual. It was only in the Church Courts that the non-subscribers had no access for they continued to preach and dispense the sacraments when invited in the Churches of the Synod. Moreover, many sympathetic to Arianism remained in the Synod and so the pernicious leavening continued.

This departure of many ministers of the Synod from historic Presbyterianism led to the establishment of the Secession Church in Ulster. The Secession Church originated in 1733 when Revs. Ebenezer, Erskine, William Wilson, Alexander Moncrieff and James Fisher withdrew from the Church of Scotland and formed themselves into “The Associate Presbytery.” This Church was from its inception a Subscribing Church; both its ministers and elders subscribed the Westminster Confession at their ordination. Subscription was not demanded in the Ulster Synod and so the door was wide open for the admission of heterodox ministers.

Through the gracious providence of the Great King and Head of the Church, Henry Cooke was raised up to purify the Synod. Cooke was undoubtedly the greatest son Irish Presbyterianism ever produced. Early in his ministry he recognised the great issues involved in the Unitarian controversy and prepared himself to champion the cause of Presbyterian orthodoxy. At the commencement of his battle for Church purity he stood alone. His biographer writes: “None of his brethren as yet stood by him. They hesitated, they wavered, they questioned his prudence; some denounced him as a rash enthusiast, who would rend the Church. He was harassed by the attacks of enemies; he was wounded to the heart by the indifference of friends. “Peace, peace,” the old Syren cry, was still echoed by the great body of the Presbyterian clergy. Mr. Cooke would have no peace with error; he would have no compromise with Arianism. Once and again he said, in private and public, to the preachers of peace: — ‘If you can convince me from Scripture that Trinitarians, Arians, and Socinians can form a Scriptural Church, and cordially unite in licensing and ordaining one another, I shall resign my present views, and unite with you in preserving our present Constitution.’ He felt that purity of faith was the first requisite in Christ’s Church; and he resolved to secure it to the Church of his fathers, even though peace should fall a sacrifice in the struggle.”

Dr. Cooke’s faithful and uncompromising testimony was not in vain and in the Synod of 1829 he completely routed the leader and spokesman of the Unitarians, Dr. Montgomery of Dunmurry. The effect of Cooke’s answer to Montgomery’s three-hour tirade against him was unparalleled in the history of debates in the Synod. His biographer comments: “The Rev. Drs. Henry and Killen have stated to me that the effect produced upon the Synod and the entire audience surpassed anything they had ever witnessed. As a reply to Montgomery, it was admitted to be not only conclusive, but overwhelming. I have been informed by one who was present that many of the country people, when their hands became painful with long clapping, took off their shoes in the heat of their enthusiasm, and beat them together.”

As the result of Montgomery’s utter defeat the Unitarians found their position untenable and the same year withdrew to form the Remonstrant Synod of Ulster. Reid and Killen, the historians of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, speak of the insidious working of Unitarianism in the Synod thus: “The annals of the synod of Ulster, for the hundred years prior to the Remonstrant separation, singularly display the spirit and tendency of Unitarianism. It entered ‘privily’ into the Irish Presbyterian Church, like the pestilence that ‘walketh in darkness,’ and its virulence soon appeared in the traces of its desolation. Wherever it spread its infection, piety withered and died; and the deserted meetinghouse proclaimed that ‘the glory’ had departed. Under the pretence of contending against the imposition of creeds, it contrived to conceal its own creed from the people. According to the statement of one of its advocates, the year 1824 witnessed ‘the first printed avowal and defence of its principles among the Presbyterians of the North of Ireland. And experience has demonstrated that it is entirely unsuited to the actual state of man. Other forms of error may captivate the senses and administer a measure of false comfort, but Unitarianism can neither satisfy the reason, nor light up the imagination, nor pacify the conscience. As, with the eye of scepticism, it surveys the glorious truths of revelation, it scarcely ever changes its frigid countenance; and, as it fails to catch the spirit of the holy oracles, no wonder that it cannot impart either the ‘faith, nothing wavering,’ or the hope that ‘maketh not ashamed.’ It is, in fact, little better than a species of sublimated deism, and it must be peculiarly offensive to Him on whose head are ‘many crowns,’ as it at once degrades His character, and makes light of His salvation.

“The history of Arising, as connected with the synod of Ulster, clearly points out the advantages of a Scriptural form of ecclesiastical polity. The synod always recognized the right of the people to elect their ministers, and the enlightened exercise of this privilege tended greatly to impede the progress of anti-evangelical principles. For at least a quarter of a century before the commencement of the Arian controversy, congregations had been scanning with increasing vigilance the doctrines propounded from the pulpit; and, on the occurrence of a vacancy, the very suspicion of ‘New-Light’ was almost sure to destroy the prospects of a candidate. In 1827, when the synod began fairly to grapple with the question, the people themselves had already performed so effectually the process of purgation, that only a comparatively small fraction of the body was tainted with Unitarianism. The passing of the overtures, in 1828, laid a final arrest upon its progress; and a considerable number of the orthodox members of the synod were desirous that the Unitarians then among them should be suffered to die out, as well to avoid the irritation of a schism, as to secure for their flocks, on their demise, the benefits of an evangelical ministry. Had they chosen to remain, they might not, possibly, have been visited with excision; but they deemed it better voluntarily to withdraw than to submit to the inglorious alternative of consenting to the gradual annihilation of their party. The narrative of their overthrow and separation supplies a striking proof of the conservative energy of Presbyterian government. A doctrinal reformation, so rapid and so complete, has never yet been effected in any Church, either Independent or Prelatic.”

Cooke’s strenuous efforts against Unitarianism were crowned with complete success when the Ulster Synod enacted in 1835 that all ministers must subscribe the Westminster Confession of Faith. His great work can best be summed up in the words of Prof. J. L. Porter: “The importance of the work he accomplished cannot be over-estimated. Presbyterianism in Ireland had fallen asleep long before he entered the ministry. The Church, as a whole, was satisfied with a cold observance of the routine of worship. There was no power in the pulpit; there was no energy in the Synod; there was no spiritual life among the people. Missionary work, whether at home or abroad, was not thought of. The Church seemed indifferent to Christ’s command and commission—’ Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.’ Cooke believed that, so long as Arianism existed in the Church, life and power could not be developed. Others feared that disruption would be fatal to the Church’s social influence; and that Arianism, unrestrained by orthodox energy and zeal, would spread over the land. Cooke’s opinions were different. He had faith in the power of a pure gospel. He had faith in the promises of God. He knew that the dogmas of Arianism would not satisfy the wants of a thoughtful community. The result proved he was right.”

The organ of the Unitarians bore him this striking testimony: “Let the consequences of the present excited state of feeling in the Synod of Ulster be what they may, let them be adverse, or let them be prosperous, the principal part of the blame or the praise, the merit or the demerit, will rest on the head of the Rev. Henry Cooke. He is the man who sounded the earliest note of alarm. He it is who blew the first, the loudest, and the longest blast— a blast with which the walls of our Church still continue to reverberate. So great is his ardour, that he roams, like Peter the Hermit, from one place to another, preaching a crusade against Arianism.”

The purifying of the Ulster Synod, doctrinally, led to the unifying of orthodox Presbyterian witness in Ireland. In the year 1840 the General Synod of Ulster and the Secession Synod united, to form the General Assembly. of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

The two synods met together for devotional exercises on April 10th at 11 a.m. “The meeting was held in May Street Church which was filled with a deeply-impressed audience. The services were commenced by the Rev. Dr. Hanna, the venerable Professor of Divinity, who read the 17th chapter of John’s Gospel. When he came to the words, ‘That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may know that thou hast sent me,’ a fervent ‘Amen,’ breathed by many voices, showed how deep was the feeling. Dr. Cooke concluded the solemn services by a prayer whose earnestness and pathos touched every heart. The most intense emotion was manifested. Sobs were heard in every part of the assembly; the eyes of strong men were suffused with tears; all seemed to realise the presence and power of the Spirit of God. ‘We believe,’ says an eye-witness, ‘that this day will be long remembered for the hallowing tone which it imparted to the minds of all present. The universal feeling during the whole meeting, especially during the concluding prayer, was that of high devotion. All seemed to be lifted up above the earth, with its distracting and dividing passions, and to breathe a purer atmosphere— the atmosphere of heaven.’

On the 10th July of the same year the Union was consummated by the Synods passing the following Act of Union: - “It is hereby resolved and agreed upon, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Head of the Church, by the said General Synod of Ulster, and the said Presbyterian Synod of Ireland, distinguished by the name of Secedes, on this the 10th day of July, in the year of our Lord 1840, duly assembled together, that they do now, and in all times hereafter shall, constitute one united Church, professing the same common faith as set forth in the Standards as aforesaid, and in all matters ecclesiastical exercising, and subject to, the same government and discipline.

“And it is hereby further resolved and agreed upon, that the said United Church shall henceforth bear the name and designation of ‘The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’; and that its Supreme Court shall be styled ‘The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.’”

Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne, author of the great hymn “Jehovah Tsidkenu,” who had just returned from the Holy Land, was an eyewitness of this great event. He was one of the deputies of the Church of Scotland to the newly constituted Assembly. Dr. Cooke introduced him with the following words: “Mr. McCheyne is almost the only man in the world whom I could envy. He is the bringer of good things from the land, which has been trodden by the feet of Jesus. He has stood in Jerusalem, upon the foundation stones of the Church apostolic and universal. He is here to-day as an apostolic messenger to bid God-speed to our propitious union.”

The first public act of the Assembly was the setting apart of two missionaries, Rev. Alexander Kerr and Rev. James Glasgow, to labour in India. This act showed the new spirit, which energised the united Church.
Thus Presbyterianism purified doctrinally and united ecclesiastically, formed a vital background to the Revival.


The Spiritual Background

Spiritual life in Ulster prior to the Revival was at a low ebb. The Presbyterian Church re-established and consolidated on the broad basis of orthodox Christianity had a name to live but was dead.

This was also true of the other evangelical communions. The letter of orthodoxy had a killing effect. Deadness, formality and indifference characterised the vast majority of the Church members. These members, on the whole, were mere professors of Christianity. Professor John Edgar cited the testimony of three eminent ministers in regard to the spiritual state of their congregations before the awakening: —“Hitherto,” says one of them, “our condition was deplorable. The congregation seemed dead to God, formal, cold, prayerless, worldly, and stingy in religious things. Twice I tried a prayer-meeting of my elders, but failed; for after the fifth or sixth night I was left alone.”

“There seemed,” says a second, “great coldness and deadness. So deeply did I feel this, that, on the Sabbath preceding the Revival, I preached from Lam. v. 20, 21, and said that I had preached the gospel faithfully, earnestly, and plainly, for eleven years; yet it was not known to me that a single individual had been converted.” “The congregation,” says a third, “was in a most unsatisfactory state; in fact, altogether Laodicean.”

“All along I believed that the faithful use of the means of grace would be followed by their effects, as certainly as the tillage of a field is followed by a good crop, or as diligence in any profession is attended with success; and great was my disappointment, as year after year passed, yet still no fruit— no outpouring of the Spirit. I wondered and was grieved at what seemed so mysterious. What alarmed me most was the indisposition, almost hostility, of the people to meetings for prayer. They seemed mostly to think that they were well enough, and that I was unnecessarily disturbing them. I had never been so desponding or distressed as during the weeks immediately preceding the awakening. I had almost ceased to hope. I felt as if I was almost alone, no one mourning or praying with me; and I told my people I was appalled at their determination to have no prayer-meetings, and that we would not have a drop of the shower of grace which was going round, but would be left utterly reprobate.”

Of the Connor congregation, through four members of which the revival originated, Prof. Edgar wrote: — “The congregation is one of the old stern Calvinistic school, long in unbroken enjoyment of an evangelical ministry, yet often lifeless and cold, with many mere formal professors, and many more not having even a name to live.”

Dr. William Gibson, Moderator of the General Assembly in 1859 and author of a popular history of the revival, gives this description of the state of Ulster’s society:—

“Many forms of evil had existence in the community not infrequently in connection with a religious profession and under the very shadow of the sanctuary. Foremost amongst all these, and parent of most of them, was intemperance. At fairs and markets, sometimes even at funerals, the ‘whisky demon’ held his horrid carnival; while party brawls and battles, mingled with fearful yells and imprecations, often closed the scene.”

Amidst the indifference of the religious professor and the open profligacy of the worldling, however, there were those who longed for a real movement of the Holy Spirit and whose yearning cry was that of the Psalmist, “O Lord, revive us again.”

The news of the great awakening in America in 1858 to these faithful souls in Zion was, as the cloud like a man’s hand to Elijah, a certain harbinger of the sound of abundance of rain. So great was the interest in the American movement that the General Assembly meeting in Londonderry in 1858 appointed two of their ministers, Dr. William Gibson and Rev. William McClure to visit North America.

In America these ministers visited the centres of Revival and rejoiced like Barnabas of old when they had seen the grace of God.

Upon their return the two deputies had many public opportunities of bearing testimony to what they had witnessed of the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit across the Atlantic.

Their united testimony no doubt contributed to the spiritual background of the revival.


Rev. Isaac Nelson, minister of Donegall Street Presbyterian Church (now Cliftonville), in his bitter attack on the Awakening published under the title “The Year of Delusion” unhesitatingly describes one of these deputies as “the germ of Revival imported into Ireland.”

Thus in various ways, Ulster’s fallow ground was broken up, for the time for God to work had come and the copious rains of righteousness were about to descend.

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Chapter II. Origination - The Beginning of the Revival

Without doubt, the first springing up of that mighty river of God, which so soon engulfed the whole of Ulster in its flood of revival blessing, was in the parish of Connor, Co. Antrim. The parish of Connor includes the village of Kells and is situated about 3.5 miles from Ballymena. The district is usually called by the joint name, Kells and Connor. Claims that the revival had its origin elsewhere cannot be substantiated.

In November 1856 a Mrs. Colville, an English lady, visited Ballymena. This lady had a remarkable testimony. She had been religious but unregenerate, then one day the grace of God visited her, bringing salvation to her heart. She immediately testified of the great things God had done for her soul. Her relations were very angry and said she had “gone mad.” So embittered did they become that she had to leave her home and become a “wanderer.”

This persecution, however, did not quench her zeal for Christ. Like the apostles of old she could not but speak the things, which she had seen and heard. She became a missionary of the Baptist Missionary Society in England. Her work brought her to Ulster and to County Antrim where she went from door to door telling forth the message, which had brought such peace to her heart.

One day she visited a home in the town of Ballymena where a young woman lay dying. Mrs. Colville spoke to the dying woman and those of her girl companions who were gathered round her, concerning the things that pertain unto eternal peace. She described the nature of true conversion to God and pointed out that they were strangers to it and still “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”

Her words were overheard by a young man named James McQuilkin, and the barbed arrows from this bow drawn at a venture fastened with a mighty pricking upon his conscience. He rose and hastily made his way homewards in deep anxiety of soul. This anxiety increased and became so unbearable that he was forced to seek out Mrs. Colville and have further conversation with her. Mr. Jeremiah Mencely, a neighbour and close associate of Mr. McQuilkin, takes up the story: “Mr. James McQuilkin was a strong Calvinist and he feared that Mrs. Colville was not teaching straight Calvinistic doctrine. He asked her whether she was a Calvinist or not. ‘I would not wish,’ she replied, ‘to be more or less a Calvinist than our Lord and His apostles. But,’ she continued, ‘I do not care to talk on mere points of doctrine. I would rather speak of the experience of salvation in the soul. If one were to tell me what he knows of the state of his heart towards God, I think I could tell him whether he knows the Lord Jesus savingly.’”

“James felt that his heart was not right toward God, but he was too proud of his head-knowledge to admit the fact and he at once dropped the conversation. A woman who was present then began to un-bosom herself to Mrs. Colville. Her spiritual condition was so much like that of James McQuilkin that he felt as though he could not have described his own condition more perfectly. He waited with almost breathless expectation to see what Mrs. Colville would say to the woman regarding her, spiritual condition. After a brief pause, she said, ‘My dear, you have never known the Lord Jesus.’ James felt that this was true concerning himself, and the reply sent conviction like a dagger to his heart. After weeks of struggling under great agony of soul, he at last found peace and rest through trusting Jesus.”

The experience of forgiveness of sins flooded his whole being with a ray of celestial light. Immediately he began to testify of the Saviour whom he now knew personally.

Shortly after this, a meeting was held in the National School, Kells, to consider the doing of some repairs to the school fabric, which had become somewhat dilapidated. At the conclusion of this meeting the young man Jeremiah Meneely, mentioned above, and the schoolmaster walked homewards together, accompanied by another young man named Robert Carlisle. - Carlisle asked them had they heard about the great change that had come over James McQuilkin. (McQuilkin was well known to them all. His wife kept a shop in the village of Kells and he himself worked at the linen trade in Ballymena. Each Saturday he returned home to Kells and spent Sunday there.). They both replied they had not. Carlisle was greatly surprised at this and told them how McQuilkin had put away the fighting cocks he had been rearing and had turned away from all the worldly pleasures because he claimed God had cleansed him from all his sins. All three of them, being old-line hyper-calvinistic Presbyterians, thought that such a claim as McQuilkin’s was, to say the least, presumptuous. Jeremiah Meneely was a communicant member of Connor Presbyterian Church but he could not claim such a knowledge of sins forgiven. Nevertheless, conscious of the unsatisfied depths of his yearning soul, he exclaimed, “I would give the world to know my sins forgiven.” Carlisle and the schoolmaster were of the same opinion.

Eager to discover more about this amazing matter, Jeremiah Meneely sought out James McQuilkin and after a long conversation with him became convinced that McQuilkin had something, which had miraculously, transformed him.

As far back as 1853 Meneely had been awakened to flee from wrath to come and afterwards oft repeated the couplet:

“Wakened up from wrath to flee
In the year eighteen-hundred and fifty-three.”

but he had no satisfying assurance as was so evidently manifested in his friend McQuilkin. Deep anxiety now possessed him but a misconception of the doctrine of election was used by Satan to keep him from the assurance of salvation. “If I only knew I was one of the elect” was his continual and soul-disturbing cry. One day in his own kitchen in Jerry’s-town, Ferniskey, Kells (the place was called Jerry’s-town after his grandfather Jeremiah) he was reading in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John, when he read the words of verse thirty-seven, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” he stopped and exclaimed, “There it is again, how can I know I am a given one?” Then a voice, like the voice from the excellent glory which spoke to Peter, James and John on the holy mount, brought home to his heart the second part of the verse, “and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” with the question “What are you doing now, aren’t you coming to me?” The glorious light burst into his heart and the same peace which his friend had experienced, became his too. He slapped his knee exclaiming, “I see it now “and arose assured of his sins forgiven and of his name written in heaven. This was in the year 1857.

About this time also two other young men, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace were brought to Christ through the efforts of McQuilkin.

These four young converts were naturally closely allied in spirit and they mutually agreed for their own edification and the salvation of precious souls to meet weekly for prayer and Bible study. The following verses from John’s First Epistle bad been mightily applied to their hearts by the Holy Spirit and greatly prompted them in their decision. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things and is truth and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” I John 2: 20 and 27 the place chosen for the meetings was the Old Schoolhouse near Kells and the meetings commenced in September 1857. During the long winter of 1857-1858 every Friday evening, these young men gathered an armful of peat each, and taking their Bibles made their way to the old schoolhouse. There they read and meditated upon the Scriptures of truth and with hearts aflame with a pure first love, poured out their prayers to the God of heaven. The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate and warmed their bodies from the winter’s chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven, which set all Ulster ablaze for God, and warmed with saving rays at least 100,000 souls.

These young converts were convinced of three great fundamentals and upon these their prayer and fellowship meeting was based. ‘They believed in the Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture, and the Secret of Holy Supplication, and these three great truths not only characterised the Kells prayer-meeting but the whole subsequent revival movement.

In an interview with J. G. Lawson in 1903, Jeremiah Meneely himself described the prayer meeting in the following words: —” The prayer-meeting was started in the autumn of 1857 and continued for three months before there were any visible results. Two more men joined in the prayer meeting during that time. One was an old man named Marshall and the other a young man named Wassan. On New Year’s Day 1858 the first conversion took place as a result of the prayer meeting, but after that there were conversions every night. At the end of the year 1858 about fifty young men were taking part in the prayer meeting.

“Women were not allowed in the prayer meeting during the first year and after that they had a prayer meeting of their own. We had so much opposition and persecution to encounter that we did not think it advisable to allow women in the prayer meeting. The world would have said that the meetings were held only for the purpose of flirtation.

“We did not allow the unsaved in the prayer meeting. It was a fellowship meeting of Christians met for the one great object of praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon the surrounding country. This was the one great object and burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing and did not run off to anything else. The Presbyterian minister (Rev. John H. Moore) was favourable toward us all the time but many of the people ridiculed our praying for an outpouring of the Spirit, saying that He had already been poured out on the day of Pentecost. But we replied that the Lord knew what we wanted and we kept right on praying until the power came.

“George Muller’s ‘Life of Trust,’ ‘The Life of McCheyne’ and Finney’s ‘Lectures on Revivals’ had much to do with the spread of the revival. We saw a notice in the ‘British Herald’ about a wonderful book, the life of a young German who had come to England and started orphan houses without any money and who was trusting God day by day to support the orphans under his care. James McQuilkin sent for the book, the first edition of George Muller’s narrative and it was one of the means that led to our starting the prayer meeting, which led to the revival. My son still has the book McQuilkin sent for. It has McQuilkin’s name written on it.

“The work was confined to this parish (Connor) during the year 1858. Beside the regular prayer meeting for Christian men only we had cottage meetings until no cottage was large enough to hold the people. We also had great open-air meetings.”

Rev. S. J. Moore, of Ballymena, a brother of Rev. John H Moore of Connor, in a publication entitled “The History and Prominent Characteristics of the Present Revival in Ballymena” traced the continuation as follows: — “The Spring Communion came on. Throughout the extensive parish, consisting of some thousand families, it was generally known that, lately, persons had been turned to the Lord among them, some moral, and some wildly immoral. A few had heard of a similar triumph of Divine grace beyond the Atlantic. The services were peculiarly solemn. The Master’s presence seemed to be recognised, and his call heard. A great impulse was given to consideration and seriousness, intensifying and extending these general precursors of conviction and revival. The old prayer meetings began to be thronged, and many new ones established. No difficulty now to find persons to take part in them. The winter was past; the time of the singing of birds had come. Humble, grateful, loving, joyous converts multiplied. They, with the children of God, who in that district have been revived—greatly refreshed by this Divine Spirit—, are now very numerous. There are on an average sixteen prayer meetings every night in the week, throughout the bounds of that one congregation—i.e., about one hundred weekly. The awakening to a sight of sin, the conviction of its sinfulness, the illumination of the soul in the knowledge of a glorious Saviour, and conversion to Him— all this operation, carried on by the life-giving Spirit, was in the Connor district for more than eighteen months, a calm, quiet, gradual, in some cases a lengthened process, not commencing in, or accompanied by, a ‘smiting down’ of the body,. or any extraordinary physical prostration more than what might be expected to result from great anxiety and deep sorrow. Thus, it is worthy of being noticed and remembered, that the present American Revival began in 1857; so did the Revival in Connor; the one began in the month of September, so did the other: one youth in each of the movements dates his conversion, November 1856: prayer—fervent, confiding, and unceasing—was, and continues to be, the prominent characteristic of the one and of the other: laymen, one or six, in the one case, and four in the other, were the prominent agents, in commencing, as they continue to be in carrying on, the work in the one country as well as in the other.”

A striking proof that those in both the American and Ulster awakenings really expected God to answer their prayers literally is given by the fact that during the revival two young Americans arrived in the Connor district. When questioned, they said that they had come to see if any good work was going on in the same neighbourhood for they had heard Connor and Kells named at a meeting in their own country as places for which someone had specially requested prayer to be made.

As the revival tide rose the old schoolhouse was crowded out and the four original members of the prayer-meeting found themselves the leaders of a band of converts, who were eagerly sought after by many, who wanted to hear the great things God had done for them.

Without doubt, Jeremiah Meneely was the preacher of the group. He had a very strong clear voice and a firm grasp of the nature of man’s ruin and God’s remedy. On the way to one of their first meetings the converts discussed who should do the preaching. Many expressed unwillingness and inability for the task. At last Jeremiah, better known to his friends as Jerry, said he would preach if they all promised to pray. This promise was readily given and as readily fulfilled. The meeting was a tremendous success and many were brought to Christ. Describing the meeting afterwards, the preacher said “I yelled, they prayed and God worked.” The whole work was truly by the Spirit of God and in Jerry Meneely the Spirit had a sanctified channel for His mighty operation.

Some idea of Jerry’s zeal and labours in the gospel can be gathered from the following incident. Asked to preach in a hall in Harryville, Ballymena, during the revival year, he readily consented. That whole day he was kept busy for the Lord and finding himself late had to run part of the five miles to the meeting place. When he arrived the place was literally crammed with a teeming multitude. Jerry preached with his usual ardour and when he had finished the people refused to leave. He then preached the second time and attempted to dismiss the gathering. They again refused to go. After four or five such attempts he left the platform and going aside, took off his coat and waistcoat and removing his shirt, wrung out from it a stream of sweat. Attiring himself he re-entered the hall and preached for another hour after which he walked five miles home.

A few minutes after he arrived, his door was knocked by a man seeking the way of salvation. Jerry’s neighbour was John Craig, and he went to call him in order that he might help in the instructing of the seeker. At the late hour, naturally, Craig was in bed. Nothing daunted, Jerry hammered on the door, exclaiming “What, lying in bed and souls seeking Christ!”

Jerry Meneely served his apprenticeship as a preacher in the hard school of experience. On one occasion he had two engagements on the same day, one in the morning in a country district and the other in the evening in Great George’s Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast. At the first place the people pleaded with him to stay for the evening service. They emphasised the fact that Belfast had a multitude of preachers while they had no one but himself to call on that evening. Reluctantly, he stayed and preached again. Jerry, however, paid dearly for this action. A day afterwards he received a letter from Rev. Thomas Toye (Tommy Toye) the eccentric minister of Great George’s Street, which read: “Preachers ought not to be liars. Yours respectfully, ‘Tommy Toye.’” Needless to say, Jerry never again yielded to a similar temptation.

Another instance in Meneely’s ministry might here be given. A great open-air meeting was held at Whiteside’s Corner near Ballymena during the Revival. A young man named David Boyd, a relation of Jerry’s, who was very religious but unregenerate, declared he would attend the meeting and if the hotheads from Connor said anything unscriptural or unsound he would openly rebuke them. Armed with a Bible, he stood behind the hedge awaiting his opportunity. As Jerry was preaching David Boyd became so convicted of sin that he dashed through the hedge and ran into the centre of the meeting crying out that he wanted to be saved. The open air became the place of his new birth. What greater vindication could the converts have had?

Sometimes travelling with his other three brethren or some others of the Connor converts and sometimes travelling alone, Jerry went from town to town and village to village declaring the wonderful works of God. God richly honoured his ministry and along with his fellow-converts he rejoiced to witness the spread of the revival right throughout the whole province. Called to preach the gospel in the Revival, he made full proof of his ministry as long as his health enabled him preaching not only in Ireland but in Gt. Britain also. Jerry Meneely lived to the ripe old age of eighty-five, outliving the other three brethren who along with himself commenced the Revival prayer-meeting. He joined the others in glory on March 24th, 1917 and his earthly remains were laid to rest not far from the old schoolhouse in which the stream of blessing arose. He died an old man full of years but with the revival fire still burning in his heart. For him it was the Lord’s fire on the altar, which never went out.

The revival quickly spread through the Condor district, Rev. John Hamilton Moore, the Presbyterian minister, taking a leading part in its furtherance, his ministry being abundantly blessed to the salvation of many. Dr. John Edgar spoke of him as, “No Whitefield whose oratory might be supposed to effect wondrous changes by his own power; but he is plain, honest, direct— meaning somebody and going right to the understanding and heart— in doctrinal, practical, preaching of the truth which alone can save.” Mr. Moore described his own preaching as “very plain and barren of all attempt at ordinary pulpit refinements. The terrors of the Lord and the free offer of mercy— heaven and hell— these constituted the almost exclusive theme.”

Rev. William Arthur, himself a native of Kells, testified to Mr. Moore’s sincerity and humility: —” Mr. Moore says nothing of numbers, writes nothing to papers, leaves the numbers to be learned by the state of the church— the effects to be found out in the lives of the people. He is not so anxious to trumpet conversions as to save souls.”

Mr. Moore was “a son of the manse,” his father Rev. David Moore being minister of the Secession Church at Markethill, Co. Armagh. He was born on November 28th 1813 near Markethill. After taking his B.A. in Trinity College, Dublin, he studied theology in Belfast. He was licensed to preach in 1840. In the same year he was called to the important charge of Connor, as assistant and successor to the venerable Rev. Henry Henry. He ministered in Connor for nineteen years before the Revival and three years afterwards in 1862, he became the first minister of the newly-formed 25th Presbyterian congregation of Belfast, that of Elmwood. In all he served in Connor twenty-two years.

James Dewar, in his history of Elmwood Church, states: — “The Irish Revival of 1859 had for its birthplace the parish of Connor, where it sprang up within the bounds of the Presbyterian congregation. Mr. Moore was the man of the Revival. He threw himself into the work with a warm heart, and taxed the whole force of his mind and body in the discharge of the task, which that spiritual movement opened up to him.

“It would have been well, to speak humanly, if that remarkable movement had been guided in every quarter by so robust and well-balanced a mind as his. From Connor it is well known the movement spread to adjacent parishes— to Ballymena, Ahoghill, Antrim, and Belfast, and not only among his own people, but elsewhere, Mr. Moore was one of its leading spirits.

“He was endowed with a singularly vigorous and original intellect. ‘A life for a life’ was the watchword of his theology, and faith in the finished work of Christ was the very breath of his spiritual being. A profound theologian, a highly original thinker, and a diligent reader, he enriched the most familiar topics with fresh views; his racy rhetoric, his strong melodious voice, but, above all, the kindly light of his eye, and the utter sincerity and tenderness that thrilled through every tone and cadence, combined to make a most impressive preacher. Hypocrisy, double-mindedness, pretence, were not to be breathed in the same breath with the name of John Hamilton Moore. He was sterling and genuine to the heart’s core.

“It was in the sick chamber more than anywhere else that Mr. Moore stood forth a prince among ministers. Whoever received a visit from him invariably wished for a second. The Love of Christ breathed through him, and heaven seemed nearer when he left than when he entered.”

It was Dr. Henry Cooke who moved in the Belfast Presbytery that the unanimous call to Mr. Moore from Elmwood be sustained and be presented to him in the usual form. Mr. Moore was installed in Elmwood on March 19th 1862 and ministered there for twenty-five years. In 1885 the “Presbyterian Theological Faculty” conferred on him the degree of D.D. He died, aged seventy-five, in the forty-eighth year of his ministry, on August 6th 1888 and was buried in the City Cemetery, Belfast. A noble monument erected to his memory marks the site.

Some idea of the intense and thrilling atmosphere of the church services during the Revival in Connor can be gleaned from the account given by Dr. Wm. Gibson of his visit to the congregation in May 1859: — “The services on the Sabbath were attended as usual by an immense audience. The congregation being one of the largest in Ulster, and comprising nearly a thousand families, the church, at all times well filled, was thronged by a mass of devout worshippers. During the service there were indications of an unusual solemnity, the most intense earnestness being depicted on every countenance, and many being melted into tears. The singing of the psalms was a perfect outburst of melodious sound, the greater portion of the people having for some years previously been trained in the practice of sacred music, and their hearts being manifestly engaged in the enlivening exercise. The discourse was largely occupied with a setting forth of the leading characteristics of the American revival of the preceding year— a subject with which the hearers were not altogether unfamiliar, as a few months previously they had been addressed by visitors from Philadelphia— young men connected with the Christian Association, on whose labours such a signal blessing has rested in that city. When the service, which had been somewhat more protracted than usual, had concluded, the pastor rose and stated, that in consideration of the period of the day and of the meetings for prayer throughout the congregation in the evening, there would not on that occasion be a second diet of worship; but he requested as many as could find it convenient to remain for an additional half hour, for the purpose of invoking the Divine blessing on the statements which they had then heard. The greater portion of the audience remained, when, after a brief exposition of a psalm, a general request was made that some member of the church would engage in supplication. The call was at once responded to, and our devotions were led with much appropriateness by an individual who, as his pastor afterwards informed me, had not on any former occasion taken such a part in the public services of the house of God.”

The sequel to that morning service, Dr. Gibbon records: — “A short time after we had returned to the pastor’s dwelling, an intimation was made to us that in the course of the morning service a young man who had for some time been under anxiety of mind had obtained ‘peace in believing “ —‘ but that,’ said my excellent brother, ‘is nothing uncommon, for scarce a sermon is preached or meeting held in which some such results are not realised’; and then he went on to mention other similar instances.

“Next morning I took my departure. On passing through the village, Mr. Moore, who accompanied me to Ballymena, alighted from the vehicle on which we were conveyed, and entered a respectable-looking dwelling. On his rejoining me, he said, ‘Yes, it is even as we heard last night. That is a house, which is visited by almost all our younger converts as soon as they have obtained peace. They are all in Christ in that habitation, and there others are attracted by the assurance of their sympathy. Late in the evening, the young man referred to, a holder of land in the neighbourhood had called. He told them that at such a part of the service his burden was lifted off, and when he came to them, as they expressed it, ‘the tears were trickling down his cheeks for very joy.’”

Dr. John Edgar describes one of the hundred weekly prayer meetings commenced in the Connor district as a result of the Revival, thus: —“ The place was a butcher’s shop. The butcher, two years since, did not know A from B; God converted him; he taught himself to read, and he is now a large tract distributor at his own cost, and a chief hand in the Revival work.

“The secretary was a working shoemaker— another Carey. Others present were day-labourers, a stonebreaker, and a blacksmith’s boy. The stonebreaker, who still sits on the roadside breaking stones to earn his bread, is one of four brothers lately converted. Their mother was sister to a blackguard pugilist, to whom she used to be bottle-holder, and when she entered a shop she was watched as a noted thief. Her sons were pests, but God’s grace has made them vessels of mercy, overflowing with goodness for not a few. I have heard them, and others like them, speak and pray in public. I do not defend their pronunciation, grammar, style, or delivery; but I say fearlessly that their addresses and prayers are scriptural, wise, and powerful, and, as their effects show, most wonderfully adapted to do great and permanent good to persons in humble life like themselves.”

Another eyewitness bears this testimony: —
“We arrived at the village of Kells on Saturday evening. On that evening we found that a prayer meeting is held, consisting exclusively of those who engage in prayer in their turn, the object of which is to supplicate the divine blessing on the pastor and on the flock, and more particularly to ask the Father for the promised gift of the Spirit. They have a book in which are entered the several objects for which they approach the throne of grace in prayer. Two or more of these are sought in prayer every Saturday evening.

On the Sabbath nothing was observable in the house of God but the largeness of the congregation, the attention of the worshippers, and the liveliness of the singing. In the interval between the first and second services, consisting of twenty-five minutes, four different rooms about the church were occupied with little companies engaged in singing and prayer. The afternoon attendance was equal to the forenoon.

“During the afternoon and evening of the Sabbath, meetings for prayer were held in many private houses, in schoolrooms, and one in a large floor of a factory. One of these, held at four o’clock, consisted of females alone, in which a chapter was read, a portion of a psalm sung, and prayer offered up by one female after another. In their prayers, allusions were made to the discourses of the minister, proving that they were earnest and intelligent hearers. In the large assembly, at six o’clock, in the mill, composed of four or five hundred persons, a table was placed in the middle of the room, around which were seated the speakers, being farmers and mechanics of different kinds. One who managed the meeting, asked a blessing on the exercises, and than gave out a psalm, which was sung. He then called upon a brother to engage in prayer, and address the people. After singing, another was requested to pursue the same course, and so on until the meeting seemed sufficiently prolonged. In the addresses given there was a plain statement of some old gospel truth, suited to the occasion, and pressed home upon the audience with great warmth and tenderness. There was no new doctrine. In the prayers uttered there was an earnest cry for the Spirit of God to soften the heart, to beget faith in the soul, and to bestow the peace and joy of believing in Jesus. The hearts of the people present were touched, and engaged in the solemn work of entreating the mercy and favour of God. After being engaged about two hours in this way the meeting quietly dispersed.”

Such is the story of the great revival in its origination; the precursor— the faithful testimony of Mrs. Colville; the persons— four newly-born converts; the place— the old School house, Kells; the preparation— scriptural meditation and secret supplication; the plea—’ Lord, wilt thou not revive us again?’ the power— the outpoured Spirit of God; and the plenitude— the salvation of multitudes and the kindling of revival fire that blazed to every county of Ulster.

Truly, its beginning was small but its latter end did greatly increase.

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Chapter III. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival

Without doubt, the first springing up of that mighty river of God, which so soon engulfed the whole of Ulster in its flood of revival blessing, was in the parish of Connor, Co. Antrim. The parish of Connor includes the village of Kells and is situated about 3.5 miles from Ballymena. The district is usually called by the joint name, Kells and Connor. Claims that the revival had its origin elsewhere cannot be substantiated.

In November 1856 a Mrs. Colville, an English lady, visited Ballymena. This lady had a remarkable testimony. She had been religious but unregenerate, then one day the grace of God visited her, bringing salvation to her heart. She immediately testified of the great things God had done for her soul. Her relations were very angry and said she had “gone mad.” So embittered did they become that she had to leave her home and become a “wanderer.”

This persecution, however, did not quench her zeal for Christ. Like the apostles of old she could not but speak the things, which she had seen and heard. She became a missionary of the Baptist Missionary Society in England. Her work brought her to Ulster and to County Antrim where she went from door to door telling forth the message, which had brought such peace to her heart.

One day she visited a home in the town of Ballymena where a young woman lay dying. Mrs. Colville spoke to the dying woman and those of her girl companions who were gathered round her, concerning the things that pertain unto eternal peace. She described the nature of true conversion to God and pointed out that they were strangers to it and still “in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”

Her words were overheard by a young man named James McQuilkin, and the barbed arrows from this bow drawn at a venture fastened with a mighty pricking upon his conscience. He rose and hastily made his way homewards in deep anxiety of soul. This anxiety increased and became so unbearable that he was forced to seek out Mrs. Colville and have further conversation with her. Mr. Jeremiah Mencely, a neighbour and close associate of Mr. McQuilkin, takes up the story: “Mr. James McQuilkin was a strong Calvinist and he feared that Mrs. Colville was not teaching straight Calvinistic doctrine. He asked her whether she was a Calvinist or not. ‘I would not wish,’ she replied, ‘to be more or less a Calvinist than our Lord and His apostles. But,’ she continued, ‘I do not care to talk on mere points of doctrine. I would rather speak of the experience of salvation in the soul. If one were to tell me what he knows of the state of his heart towards God, I think I could tell him whether he knows the Lord Jesus savingly.’”

“James felt that his heart was not right toward God, but he was too proud of his head-knowledge to admit the fact and he at once dropped the conversation. A woman who was present then began to un-bosom herself to Mrs. Colville. Her spiritual condition was so much like that of James McQuilkin that he felt as though he could not have described his own condition more perfectly. He waited with almost breathless expectation to see what Mrs. Colville would say to the woman regarding her, spiritual condition. After a brief pause, she said, ‘My dear, you have never known the Lord Jesus.’ James felt that this was true concerning himself, and the reply sent conviction like a dagger to his heart. After weeks of struggling under great agony of soul, he at last found peace and rest through trusting Jesus.”

The experience of forgiveness of sins flooded his whole being with a ray of celestial light. Immediately he began to testify of the Saviour whom he now knew personally.

Shortly after this, a meeting was held in the National School, Kells, to consider the doing of some repairs to the school fabric, which had become somewhat dilapidated. At the conclusion of this meeting the young man Jeremiah Meneely, mentioned above, and the schoolmaster walked homewards together, accompanied by another young man named Robert Carlisle. - Carlisle asked them had they heard about the great change that had come over James McQuilkin. (McQuilkin was well known to them all. His wife kept a shop in the village of Kells and he himself worked at the linen trade in Ballymena. Each Saturday he returned home to Kells and spent Sunday there.). They both replied they had not. Carlisle was greatly surprised at this and told them how McQuilkin had put away the fighting cocks he had been rearing and had turned away from all the worldly pleasures because he claimed God had cleansed him from all his sins. All three of them, being old-line hyper-calvinistic Presbyterians, thought that such a claim as McQuilkin’s was, to say the least, presumptuous. Jeremiah Meneely was a communicant member of Connor Presbyterian Church but he could not claim such a knowledge of sins forgiven. Nevertheless, conscious of the unsatisfied depths of his yearning soul, he exclaimed, “I would give the world to know my sins forgiven.” Carlisle and the schoolmaster were of the same opinion.

Eager to discover more about this amazing matter, Jeremiah Meneely sought out James McQuilkin and after a long conversation with him became convinced that McQuilkin had something, which had miraculously, transformed him.

As far back as 1853 Meneely had been awakened to flee from wrath to come and afterwards oft repeated the couplet:

“Wakened up from wrath to flee
In the year eighteen-hundred and fifty-three.”

but he had no satisfying assurance as was so evidently manifested in his friend McQuilkin. Deep anxiety now possessed him but a misconception of the doctrine of election was used by Satan to keep him from the assurance of salvation. “If I only knew I was one of the elect” was his continual and soul-disturbing cry. One day in his own kitchen in Jerry’s-town, Ferniskey, Kells (the place was called Jerry’s-town after his grandfather Jeremiah) he was reading in the sixth chapter of the Gospel according to John, when he read the words of verse thirty-seven, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me,” he stopped and exclaimed, “There it is again, how can I know I am a given one?” Then a voice, like the voice from the excellent glory which spoke to Peter, James and John on the holy mount, brought home to his heart the second part of the verse, “and him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out,” with the question “What are you doing now, aren’t you coming to me?” The glorious light burst into his heart and the same peace which his friend had experienced, became his too. He slapped his knee exclaiming, “I see it now “and arose assured of his sins forgiven and of his name written in heaven. This was in the year 1857.

About this time also two other young men, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace were brought to Christ through the efforts of McQuilkin.

These four young converts were naturally closely allied in spirit and they mutually agreed for their own edification and the salvation of precious souls to meet weekly for prayer and Bible study. The following verses from John’s First Epistle bad been mightily applied to their hearts by the Holy Spirit and greatly prompted them in their decision. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One and ye know all things. But the anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things and is truth and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” I John 2: 20 and 27 the place chosen for the meetings was the Old Schoolhouse near Kells and the meetings commenced in September 1857. During the long winter of 1857-1858 every Friday evening, these young men gathered an armful of peat each, and taking their Bibles made their way to the old schoolhouse. There they read and meditated upon the Scriptures of truth and with hearts aflame with a pure first love, poured out their prayers to the God of heaven. The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate and warmed their bodies from the winter’s chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven, which set all Ulster ablaze for God, and warmed with saving rays at least 100,000 souls.

These young converts were convinced of three great fundamentals and upon these their prayer and fellowship meeting was based. ‘They believed in the Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit, the Sufficiency of the Holy Scripture, and the Secret of Holy Supplication, and these three great truths not only characterised the Kells prayer-meeting but the whole subsequent revival movement.

In an interview with J. G. Lawson in 1903, Jeremiah Meneely himself described the prayer meeting in the following words: —” The prayer-meeting was started in the autumn of 1857 and continued for three months before there were any visible results. Two more men joined in the prayer meeting during that time. One was an old man named Marshall and the other a young man named Wassan. On New Year’s Day 1858 the first conversion took place as a result of the prayer meeting, but after that there were conversions every night. At the end of the year 1858 about fifty young men were taking part in the prayer meeting.

“Women were not allowed in the prayer meeting during the first year and after that they had a prayer meeting of their own. We had so much opposition and persecution to encounter that we did not think it advisable to allow women in the prayer meeting. The world would have said that the meetings were held only for the purpose of flirtation.

“We did not allow the unsaved in the prayer meeting. It was a fellowship meeting of Christians met for the one great object of praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon the surrounding country. This was the one great object and burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing and did not run off to anything else. The Presbyterian minister (Rev. John H. Moore) was favourable toward us all the time but many of the people ridiculed our praying for an outpouring of the Spirit, saying that He had already been poured out on the day of Pentecost. But we replied that the Lord knew what we wanted and we kept right on praying until the power came.

“George Muller’s ‘Life of Trust,’ ‘The Life of McCheyne’ and Finney’s ‘Lectures on Revivals’ had much to do with the spread of the revival. We saw a notice in the ‘British Herald’ about a wonderful book, the life of a young German who had come to England and started orphan houses without any money and who was trusting God day by day to support the orphans under his care. James McQuilkin sent for the book, the first edition of George Muller’s narrative and it was one of the means that led to our starting the prayer meeting, which led to the revival. My son still has the book McQuilkin sent for. It has McQuilkin’s name written on it.

“The work was confined to this parish (Connor) during the year 1858. Beside the regular prayer meeting for Christian men only we had cottage meetings until no cottage was large enough to hold the people. We also had great open-air meetings.”

Rev. S. J. Moore, of Ballymena, a brother of Rev. John H Moore of Connor, in a publication entitled “The History and Prominent Characteristics of the Present Revival in Ballymena” traced the continuation as follows: — “The Spring Communion came on. Throughout the extensive parish, consisting of some thousand families, it was generally known that, lately, persons had been turned to the Lord among them, some moral, and some wildly immoral. A few had heard of a similar triumph of Divine grace beyond the Atlantic. The services were peculiarly solemn. The Master’s presence seemed to be recognised, and his call heard. A great impulse was given to consideration and seriousness, intensifying and extending these general precursors of conviction and revival.

The old prayer meetings began to be thronged, and many new ones established. No difficulty now to find persons to take part in them. The winter was past; the time of the singing of birds had come. Humble, grateful, loving, joyous converts multiplied. They, with the children of God, who in that district have been revived—greatly refreshed by this Divine Spirit—, are now very numerous. There are on an average sixteen prayer meetings every night in the week, throughout the bounds of that one congregation—i.e., about one hundred weekly. The awakening to a sight of sin, the conviction of its sinfulness, the illumination of the soul in the knowledge of a glorious Saviour, and conversion to Him— all this operation, carried on by the life-giving Spirit, was in the Connor district for more than eighteen months, a calm, quiet, gradual, in some cases a lengthened process, not commencing in, or accompanied by, a ‘smiting down’ of the body,. or any extraordinary physical prostration more than what might be expected to result from great anxiety and deep sorrow. Thus, it is worthy of being noticed and remembered, that the present American Revival began in 1857; so did the Revival in Connor; the one began in the month of September, so did the other: one youth in each of the movements dates his conversion, November 1856: prayer—fervent, confiding, and unceasing—was, and continues to be, the prominent characteristic of the one and of the other: laymen, one or six, in the one case, and four in the other, were the prominent agents, in commencing, as they continue to be in carrying on, the work in the one country as well as in the other.”

A striking proof that those in both the American and Ulster awakenings really expected God to answer their prayers literally is given by the fact that during the revival two young Americans arrived in the Connor district. When questioned, they said that they had come to see if any good work was going on in the same neighbourhood for they had heard Connor and Kells named at a meeting in their own country as places for which someone had specially requested prayer to be made.

As the revival tide rose the old schoolhouse was crowded out and the four original members of the prayer-meeting found themselves the leaders of a band of converts, who were eagerly sought after by many, who wanted to hear the great things God had done for them.

Without doubt, Jeremiah Meneely was the preacher of the group. He had a very strong clear voice and a firm grasp of the nature of man’s ruin and God’s remedy. On the way to one of their first meetings the converts discussed who should do the preaching. Many expressed unwillingness and inability for the task. At last Jeremiah, better known to his friends as Jerry, said he would preach if they all promised to pray. This promise was readily given and as readily fulfilled. The meeting was a tremendous success and many were brought to Christ. Describing the meeting afterwards, the preacher said “I yelled, they prayed and God worked.” The whole work was truly by the Spirit of God and in Jerry Meneely the Spirit had a sanctified channel for His mighty operation.

Some idea of Jerry’s zeal and labours in the gospel can be gathered from the following incident. Asked to preach in a hall in Harryville, Ballymena, during the revival year, he readily consented. That whole day he was kept busy for the Lord and finding himself late had to run part of the five miles to the meeting place. When he arrived the place was literally crammed with a teeming multitude. Jerry preached with his usual ardour and when he had finished the people refused to leave. He then preached the second time and attempted to dismiss the gathering. They again refused to go. After four or five such attempts he left the platform and going aside, took off his coat and waistcoat and removing his shirt, wrung out from it a stream of sweat. Attiring himself he re-entered the hall and preached for another hour after which he walked five miles home.

A few minutes after he arrived, his door was knocked by a man seeking the way of salvation. Jerry’s neighbour was John Craig, and he went to call him in order that he might help in the instructing of the seeker. At the late hour, naturally, Craig was in bed. Nothing daunted, Jerry hammered on the door, exclaiming “What, lying in bed and souls seeking Christ!”

Jerry Meneely served his apprenticeship as a preacher in the hard school of experience. On one occasion he had two engagements on the same day, one in the morning in a country district and the other in the evening in Great George’s Street Presbyterian Church, Belfast. At the first place the people pleaded with him to stay for the evening service. They emphasised the fact that Belfast had a multitude of preachers while they had no one but himself to call on that evening. Reluctantly, he stayed and preached again. Jerry, however, paid dearly for this action. A day afterwards he received a letter from Rev. Thomas Toye (Tommy Toye) the eccentric minister of Great George’s Street, which read: “Preachers ought not to be liars. Yours respectfully, ‘Tommy Toye.’” Needless to say, Jerry never again yielded to a similar temptation.

Another instance in Meneely’s ministry might here be given. A great open-air meeting was held at Whiteside’s Corner near Ballymena during the Revival. A young man named David Boyd, a relation of Jerry’s, who was very religious but unregenerate, declared he would attend the meeting and if the hotheads from Connor said anything unscriptural or unsound he would openly rebuke them. Armed with a Bible, he stood behind the hedge awaiting his opportunity. As Jerry was preaching David Boyd became so convicted of sin that he dashed through the hedge and ran into the centre of the meeting crying out that he wanted to be saved. The open air became the place of his new birth. What greater vindication could the converts have had?

Sometimes travelling with his other three brethren or some others of the Connor converts and sometimes travelling alone, Jerry went from town to town and village to village declaring the wonderful works of God. God richly honoured his ministry and along with his fellow-converts he rejoiced to witness the spread of the revival right throughout the whole province. Called to preach the gospel in the Revival, he made full proof of his ministry as long as his health enabled him preaching not only in Ireland but in Gt. Britain also. Jerry Meneely lived to the ripe old age of eighty-five, outliving the other three brethren who along with himself commenced the Revival prayer-meeting. He joined the others in glory on March 24th, 1917 and his earthly remains were laid to rest not far from the old schoolhouse in which the stream of blessing arose. He died an old man full of years but with the revival fire still burning in his heart. For him it was the Lord’s fire on the altar, which never went out.

The revival quickly spread through the Condor district, Rev. John Hamilton Moore, the Presbyterian minister, taking a leading part in its furtherance, his ministry being abundantly blessed to the salvation of many. Dr. John Edgar spoke of him as, “No Whitefield whose oratory might be supposed to effect wondrous changes by his own power; but he is plain, honest, direct— meaning somebody and going right to the understanding and heart— in doctrinal, practical, preaching of the truth which alone can save.” Mr. Moore described his own preaching as “very plain and barren of all attempt at ordinary pulpit refinements. The terrors of the Lord and the free offer of mercy— heaven and hell— these constituted the almost exclusive theme.”

Rev. William Arthur, himself a native of Kells, testified to Mr. Moore’s sincerity and humility: —” Mr. Moore says nothing of numbers, writes nothing to papers, leaves the numbers to be learned by the state of the church— the effects to be found out in the lives of the people. He is not so anxious to trumpet conversions as to save souls.”

Mr. Moore was “a son of the manse,” his father Rev. David Moore being minister of the Secession Church at Markethill, Co. Armagh. He was born on November 28th 1813 near Markethill. After taking his B.A. in Trinity College, Dublin, he studied theology in Belfast. He was licensed to preach in 1840. In the same year he was called to the important charge of Connor, as assistant and successor to the venerable Rev. Henry Henry. He ministered in Connor for nineteen years before the Revival and three years afterwards in 1862, he became the first minister of the newly-formed 25th Presbyterian congregation of Belfast, that of Elmwood. In all he served in Connor twenty-two years.

James Dewar, in his history of Elmwood Church, states: — “The Irish Revival of 1859 had for its birthplace the parish of Connor, where it sprang up within the bounds of the Presbyterian congregation. Mr. Moore was the man of the Revival. He threw himself into the work with a warm heart, and taxed the whole force of his mind and body in the discharge of the task, which that spiritual movement opened up to him.

“It would have been well, to speak humanly, if that remarkable movement had been guided in every quarter by so robust and well-balanced a mind as his. From Connor it is well known the movement spread to adjacent parishes— to Ballymena, Ahoghill, Antrim, and Belfast, and not only among his own people, but elsewhere, Mr. Moore was one of its leading spirits.

“He was endowed with a singularly vigorous and original intellect. ‘A life for a life’ was the watchword of his theology, and faith in the finished work of Christ was the very breath of his spiritual being. A profound theologian, a highly original thinker, and a diligent reader, he enriched the most familiar topics with fresh views; his racy rhetoric, his strong melodious voice, but, above all, the kindly light of his eye, and the utter sincerity and tenderness that thrilled through every tone and cadence, combined to make a most impressive preacher. Hypocrisy, double-mindedness, pretence, were not to be breathed in the same breath with the name of John Hamilton Moore. He was sterling and genuine to the heart’s core.

“It was in the sick chamber more than anywhere else that Mr. Moore stood forth a prince among ministers. Whoever received a visit from him invariably wished for a second. The Love of Christ breathed through him, and heaven seemed nearer when he left than when he entered.”

It was Dr. Henry Cooke who moved in the Belfast Presbytery that the unanimous call to Mr. Moore from Elmwood be sustained and be presented to him in the usual form. Mr. Moore was installed in Elmwood on March 19th 1862 and ministered there for twenty-five years. In 1885 the “Presbyterian Theological Faculty” conferred on him the degree of D.D. He died, aged seventy-five, in the forty-eighth year of his ministry, on August 6th 1888 and was buried in the City Cemetery, Belfast. A noble monument erected to his memory marks the site.

Some idea of the intense and thrilling atmosphere of the church services during the Revival in Connor can be gleaned from the account given by Dr. Wm. Gibson of his visit to the congregation in May 1859: — “The services on the Sabbath were attended as usual by an immense audience. The congregation being one of the largest in Ulster, and comprising nearly a thousand families, the church, at all times well filled, was thronged by a mass of devout worshippers. During the service there were indications of an unusual solemnity, the most intense earnestness being depicted on every countenance, and many being melted into tears. The singing of the psalms was a perfect outburst of melodious sound, the greater portion of the people having for some years previously been trained in the practice of sacred music, and their hearts being manifestly engaged in the enlivening exercise. The discourse was largely occupied with a setting forth of the leading characteristics of the American revival of the preceding year— a subject with which the hearers were not altogether unfamiliar, as a few months previously they had been addressed by visitors from Philadelphia— young men connected with the Christian Association, on whose labours such a signal blessing has rested in that city. When the service, which had been somewhat more protracted than usual, had concluded, the pastor rose and stated, that in consideration of the period of the day and of the meetings for prayer throughout the congregation in the evening, there would not on that occasion be a second diet of worship; but he requested as many as could find it convenient to remain for an additional half hour, for the purpose of invoking the Divine blessing on the statements which they had then heard. The greater portion of the audience remained, when, after a brief exposition of a psalm, a general request was made that some member of the church would engage in supplication. The call was at once responded to, and our devotions were led with much appropriateness by an individual who, as his pastor afterwards informed me, had not on any former occasion taken such a part in the public services of the house of God.”

The sequel to that morning service, Dr. Gibbon records: — “A short time after we had returned to the pastor’s dwelling, an intimation was made to us that in the course of the morning service a young man who had for some time been under anxiety of mind had obtained ‘peace in believing “ —‘ but that,’ said my excellent brother, ‘is nothing uncommon, for scarce a sermon is preached or meeting held in which some such results are not realised’; and then he went on to mention other similar instances.

“Next morning I took my departure. On passing through the village, Mr. Moore, who accompanied me to Ballymena, alighted from the vehicle on which we were conveyed, and entered a respectable-looking dwelling. On his rejoining me, he said, ‘Yes, it is even as we heard last night. That is a house, which is visited by almost all our younger converts as soon as they have obtained peace. They are all in Christ in that habitation, and there others are attracted by the assurance of their sympathy. Late in the evening, the young man referred to, a holder of land in the neighbourhood had called. He told them that at such a part of the service his burden was lifted off, and when he came to them, as they expressed it, ‘the tears were trickling down his cheeks for very joy.’”

Dr. John Edgar describes one of the hundred weekly prayer meetings commenced in the Connor district as a result of the Revival, thus: —“ The place was a butcher’s shop. The butcher, two years since, did not know A from B; God converted him; he taught himself to read, and he is now a large tract distributor at his own cost, and a chief hand in the Revival work.

“The secretary was a working shoemaker— another Carey. Others present were day-labourers, a stonebreaker, and a blacksmith’s boy. The stonebreaker, who still sits on the roadside breaking stones to earn his bread, is one of four brothers lately converted. Their mother was sister to a blackguard pugilist, to whom she used to be bottle-holder, and when she entered a shop she was watched as a noted thief. Her sons were pests, but God’s grace has made them vessels of mercy, overflowing with goodness for not a few. I have heard them, and others like them, speak and pray in public. I do not defend their pronunciation, grammar, style, or delivery; but I say fearlessly that their addresses and prayers are scriptural, wise, and powerful, and, as their effects show, most wonderfully adapted to do great and permanent good to persons in humble life like themselves.”

Another eyewitness bears this testimony: —

“We arrived at the village of Kells on Saturday evening. On that evening we found that a prayer meeting is held, consisting exclusively of those who engage in prayer in their turn, the object of which is to supplicate the divine blessing on the pastor and on the flock, and more particularly to ask the Father for the promised gift of the Spirit. They have a book in which are entered the several objects for which they approach the throne of grace in prayer. Two or more of these are sought in prayer every Saturday evening.

On the Sabbath nothing was observable in the house of God but the largeness of the congregation, the attention of the worshippers, and the liveliness of the singing. In the interval between the first and second services, consisting of twenty-five minutes, four different rooms about the church were occupied with little companies engaged in singing and prayer. The afternoon attendance was equal to the forenoon.

“During the afternoon and evening of the Sabbath, meetings for prayer were held in many private houses, in schoolrooms, and one in a large floor of a factory. One of these, held at four o’clock, consisted of females alone, in which a chapter was read, a portion of a psalm sung, and prayer offered up by one female after another. In their prayers, allusions were made to the discourses of the minister, proving that they were earnest and intelligent hearers. In the large assembly, at six o’clock, in the mill, composed of four or five hundred persons, a table was placed in the middle of the room, around which were seated the speakers, being farmers and mechanics of different kinds. One who managed the meeting, asked a blessing on the exercises, and than gave out a psalm, which was sung. He then called upon a brother to engage in prayer, and address the people. After singing, another was requested to pursue the same course, and so on until the meeting seemed sufficiently prolonged. In the addresses given there was a plain statement of some old gospel truth, suited to the occasion, and pressed home upon the audience with great warmth and tenderness. There was no new doctrine. In the prayers uttered there was an earnest cry for the Spirit of God to soften the heart, to beget faith in the soul, and to bestow the peace and joy of believing in Jesus. The hearts of the people present were touched, and engaged in the solemn work of entreating the mercy and favour of God. After being engaged about two hours in this way the meeting quietly dispersed.”

Such is the story of the great revival in its origination; the precursor— the faithful testimony of Mrs. Colville; the persons— four newly-born converts; the place— the old School house, Kells; the preparation— scriptural meditation and secret supplication; the plea—’ Lord, wilt thou not revive us again?’ the power— the outpoured Spirit of God; and the plenitude— the salvation of multitudes and the kindling of revival fire that blazed to every county of Ulster.

Truly, its beginning was small but its latter end did greatly increase.

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Chapter IV. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part II: Belfast

To three Presbyterian congregations and an episcopal church can be traced the beginnings of the revival in Belfast.

On 17th April 1858 Rev. Thomas Toye, the minister of Gt. George’s Street Presbyterian Church, after hearing of the great awakening across the Atlantic, commenced prayer meetings in his church especially for revival. Mr. Toye, often called “the revivalist of the South,” hailed from Southern Ireland, had a unique personality and was the outstanding soul-winning minister in Belfast.

The connection between these prayer meetings and the advent of the revival could not be better demonstrated than in the following incident.

A minister from a distance, dressed in coloured clothes, stopped to inquire the way to Great George’s Street. “I want,” said he, “to see this work about which there is so much noise. is that a good place for seeing it?” “Oh, yes,” said the man of whom he inquired, “you will see plenty of it there.” “Then,” said the minister, “you don’t consider the revival a good thing?” “How can that be good,” said the man, “which affects business so much? It has been at a complete stand-still for the last few weeks.” “And how do you account for this?” inquired the minister. “The men that I blame for it are the ministers, and no one do I blame more than the very man to whose place you are now going. Why, sir, he has been holding meetings and praying for it for years. When the comet appeared here,” continued he, “he gave out that he would preach on it. You never saw anything like the number that went to hear him. Hundreds went away, who could not get in. Now, what do you think, sir? The sermon was all about ‘The Revival of Religion.’ I am quite sure that he expected it would come at that time, but how he knew it is not for me to say.” This man was a publican. He knew that if the revival went on much longer his business would be ruined.

The incumbent of Trinity Episcopal Church, Rev. Theophilus Campbell, also experienced the early droppings of the revival shower. He testifies; “During this time, that is, prior to May 1859, the Lord also vouchsafed more numerous instances of His blessing on the seed of life sown among the people, than previously. Many cases might be specified, were it necessary, especially among young men.

“To only one shall I particularly refer, it is that of a profligate and infidel, who, hearing the sound of the evening church bell, was led by it, unconsciously, to the church door, and as he expressed it, ‘an irresistible impulse forced him into the church.’ He retired to his lodging an altered man; his infidelity had given way, and, after a short time, he could look up to his Saviour, and find ‘joy and peace in believing.’

“It was, however, in connection with our Bible class that I perceived the most undoubted proofs of the awakening. The class meets from October to May in each year; the instruction is imparted conversationally. When about to separate, May 1857 the young men requested permission to meet in the school-house once every week for prayer during the summer; a request which I gladly granted, so that, in place of breaking up until the following October, I had the happiness to know that fervent supplications were offered by them for the outpouring of the Spirit on me, on themselves, the schools, the congregation, the parish at large, the whole Church, and the country.

“When we assembled in October 1858, I saw, from the very opening of the session, the manifestation of a deeper interest in the Scriptures, and also an increased attendance. When the close of the session arrived, May 1859, far from a wish to separate, the desire of the class was to continue its meetings through the month of June; the numbers too, were larger than at the beginning of the term.”

It was, however, through the ministry of the converts from Connor and Ahoghill that the revival burst forth into mighty conflagration and spread with such power that in a few weeks the newly converted numbered at least 10,000.

The first visit of the converts to Belfast was to Great George’s Street Church. Mr. Toye describes their visit:

“In the end of May 1859 I brought three lay brethren, two of them converts, from Ahoghill to Belfast, who held meetings, morning and evening, for three days, and whose visit awakened great interest. There were no screams nor prostrations during their addresses, but there seemed to be a deep and evident impression.”

Next, Rev. Robert Knox, Moderator of the Belfast Presbytery and minister of Linenhall Street Church invited the converts to address his evening service on the first Sabbath of June. A colleague of Mr. Knox describes the service: “On the first Sabbath in June, a meeting was held in Linenhall Street Church, and was addressed by two lay converts from Connor. The meeting was very large. The converts were intelligently acquainted with the Bible, and had felt the power of grace in their hearts: they possessed little learning beyond their knowledge of Divine truth and but for their great earnestness would not for five minutes have been listened to by any assembly in Belfast. But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things and things that are despised hath God chosen to overthrow the mighty. And God owned them. He signally put His approbation on their testimony. One woman fell down in a pew as if she had suddenly been smitten by an invisible but resistless energy. She cried out for mercy. The meeting was impressed indeed; but the impression was not very deep. Incredulity, despite our expectations, was very great. The woman may have been excitable. She may not have been a person of very strong mind, and other imaginations started up to account for her prostration, independently of the Spirit of God. And so the meeting dissolved.”

On the Tuesday following the same two converts, along with Mr. Knox, held a revival meeting in Berry Street Presbyterian Church. At this service a young woman and a young man cried for mercy. Dr. Hugh Hanna, the minister of the church, reports:

“After the meeting was formally dissolved, the people were reluctant to depart. The meeting was reconstituted, prayers were offered, and two others were brought to a deep conviction of sin, and expressed their feelings in such a way as made a profound impression on the audience. The hand of God was visibly at work, and acknowledged in our midst.

“The next evening was that of the congregational prayer meeting, conducted by the elders and other praying people in the congregation. There was no minister present: there was no exciting address; but God made bare His arm in a most marvellous way. Many were convinced and converted. The meeting was large, and great fear fell upon all the people. It was resolved to continue every evening the meetings that God had thus signally owned.

“There had been, for many months, in Great George’s Street Church (the Rev. Mr. Toye’s) a faithful band who, on every evening of the week, besieged the throne of grace. They waited, like the believers of old, for the ‘Consolation of Israel.’ With the exception of these, the meetings in the Berry Street Church were the first assemblies identified with the revival movement in Belfast. And so they continued for six weeks on every evening of the week. The church was literally crammed; every available spot within and around it was occupied. Many thousands of souls must have been brought within the influence of the truth under the most solemn circumstances during those six weeks. Not only from the population of the town were their audiences drawn, but many earnest souls came from great distances in the country. It was now no uncommon thing for persons to travel forty miles for the sole purpose of seeking God where he was pleased so marvellously to manifest himself, and an incalculable good was done. During that period nearly eight hundred souls were visited at their own houses by the minister and office-bearers of the church—all brought under conviction of sin at the revival meetings. Many more, and by far a larger multitude, there is reason to believe, were overtaken by the grace of God, and brought to Christ by the silent inspiration of the Spirit. We are receiving proofs of this every day.

“The whole population was aroused. The Lord’s people rejoiced greatly. The churches were opened to accommodate the thousands that thronged with deepest earnestness to hear the word of God. And so the wondrous movement continued until flesh and blood could stand it no longer. The great excitement that worked the first stage of the revival subsided, and the gracious work continued, but under a quieter aspect. The world that walks by sight thought it external, and said it was so. The irreligious press gloried in preaching the fiction to be a fact, as it had done all it could to disparage and misrepresent it during its more active manifestations. But the work continues very auspiciously still. In the churches of Townsend Street, Eglantine Street, Great George’s Street, Berry Street, among the Presbyterians; in Christ Church, Trinity, St. Paul’s, and St. John’s, among the Episcopalians, where faithful ministers labour; Donegall Place, Wesley Place, and Salem, among the Methodists, the Spirit of God has been mightily manifested. Many trophies have been rescued from the hands of Satan. In Belfast alone some tens of thousands have been brought under serious impressions. There is probably no evangelical church in the town where the attendance is not greatly increased at all the services. It was somewhat difficult once to get the ear of the people for the Gospel. But is open now, and hearts are open also. Wherever a minister chooses he may have a congregation in a short time, the great majority of whom will listen to him with the most reverent attention. It is undeniable that a mighty change has been effected in the character of society; that a mighty good has been accomplished. Multitudes, I believe, have been savingly converted to God, and the gracious work is progressing still. Every day we are accosted by some in tones and terms of heavenly rapture, as they tell of the same struggles of soul they had heard of in others, and of the precious Saviour they have found.”

The Presbytery of Belfast, at its first meeting after the revival manifestation, was unanimous that the movement was of God and urgently called on all its members “to use all diligence in improving the present serious attention to Divine things, by the use of such means of religious awakening and instruction as may to them appear best fitted to accomplish the great end of the ministry in the conversion of souls to Christ, and the quickening and edifying of the Church of God, and very especially to plead with the Lord for the plentiful outpouring of His Holy Spirit.”

Dr. Knox, the evangelical bishop of Down, Connor and Dromore, called a conference of his clergy to discuss the awakening, which had his support and blessing. His clergy agreed with him that it was indeed a movement of God. They differed, however, on the question of the “strikings down,” some regarding these as Divine and others maintaining they were no part of the Divine method, but hysteria.

The ministers of the smaller evangelical denominations with characteristic energy gave themselves wholeheartedly to the spread of the revival.

A united weekly prayer meeting was started in the Music Hall (now Victoria Memorial Brethren Hall) with the zealous co-operation of all the evangelical denominations. At the first meeting the Mayor of Belfast took the chair, supported by almost one hundred ministers on the platform, the building being crowded to excess. Rev. Charles Seaver, incumbent of St. John’s, Belfast, and Dr. Morgan of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church were joint secretaries of this weekly prayer meeting. Bishop Knox presided at the second meeting, supported by the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, the President of the Methodist Church, and scores of local ministers.

So vast was the attendance that many hundreds could not gain admittance to the main hall. These, however, engaged in prayer in other parts of the building.

Some Unitarians, including their notable leader Dr. Montgomery, attended this second meeting as observers. Shortly afterwards the Remonstrant Synod and the Unitarian Association at their annual meetings ridiculed the revival, denying that the fruits of the Spirit were in any way its results, and condemning the whole awakening as an unmixed evil and an abomination. Unitarianism could not flourish in the apostolic atmosphere of the revival, and through it she received a fatal blow from which in Ulster she has never recovered.

Rome, naturally, joined hands with the Unitarians in opposition. Her priests were greatly alarmed and enraged at the numbers of their flocks who were delivered from superstitious idolatry and who stoutly resisted all their pleadings, arguments and threats to return to the old faith. Quite a number of the episcopal clergy outside Dr. Knox’s diocese also opposed the revival, as did a few Presbyterian ministers.

On Wednesday 29th June 1859 a monster open-air union prayer meeting was held in the Botanic Gardens. Just a year before, on the same site, the Prince of Preachers, Rev. C. H. Spurgeon, had proclaimed the gospel to the largest audience which ever assembled up to that time, to hear the gospel in Ireland. Now a far vaster throng gathered, not to hear the voice of man but to commune in prayer in order to hear the “still small voice” of God. The lowest estimate of the number attending this monster gathering was 15,000, the highest 40,000. Somewhere about 25,000 would probably be the right figure. The vast audience was made up of crowds from Armagh, Tyrone, Antrim and Down who came by railway trains packed to excess, and other throngs from the immediate neighbourhood and the city itself. A contemporary describes the service:

“When this vast assembly was gathered together in front of the platform, and occupying every available spot of the entire ground between the pavilion and the conservatory, the scene was certainly one of the most striking, as well as impressive, ever witnessed in the province. Crowds, however, continued to pour in through the gates for more than an hour subsequently, till at last the whole space in view from the platform was closely packed. ‘Even the branches of the trees were taken advantage of by the junior members of the audience, as the most suitable situations for either seeing or hearing; and there, while the sounds of praise were rising from the multitudes below, these young worshippers were heard joining in the song of thanksgiving. Nothing of holiday levity, nothing of the thoughtless mirth of youth was manifest among them; their attention to the proceedings was as marked, and their attention as well-ordered, as that of any person in the vast assemblage.’

“The Rev. John Johnston, D.D., the Moderator of the General Assembly—whose name was identified with Christian missions, Bible circulation, Sunday-school instruction, when these were little prized in Ulster, and who still more recently was the leader of that great open-air preaching movement which has acted as a pioneer to the present work of God—was the chairman and president on this remarkable occasion. He opened with a deeply impressive prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those before him. After reading a portion of Scripture, he then gave out the 100th Psalm, and never before, in Belfast, did so many voices unite in such hearty accord in singing this favourite song in Zion.

“The chairman then addressed the throng. The following is a portion of his observations: —’ When the destroyer of men’s lives was vanquished at the battle of Waterloo, the crowned heads of Europe fell down on bended knees, and with uncovered heads acknowledged themselves grateful to that God who had put an end to the shedding of human blood; and when the God of peace is now treading underfoot the destroyer of men’s souls, and is rescuing from his fatal grasp so many immortals for whom Christ died, shall we be ashamed to acknowledge His goodness, and the might of his Eternal Spirit, as we are this day met to do, and with one heart to pray ‘Thy kingdom come?’

“‘O Jesus, ride on till all are subdued, and the universe filled with the knowledge of God; Let the whole earth be filled with Thy glory. Amen and Amen.’

“But, my friends, we are in a world that lieth in wickedness, There are scoffers who say, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning.’ Let us not give occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme, by any levity, trifling, or impropriety, unbecoming this occasion. Let us set the Lord God before us, and so realise His awful presence in this place, that good may be done, and God may be glorified. We are especially met to do homage to the Holy Ghost, whose convincing and converting power has been so strikingly manifested amongst us for these several months; and let us not resist the Holy Spirit, nor grieve Him, but ask unanimously, earnestly, and expectingly, that He will descend upon us on this day as He did on the day of Pentecost; in answer to the many prayers offered up, and to be offered, and that many sons and daughters may this day be born, to the Lord Almighty.

“While the addresses were being delivered, and the prayers offered, there were very many, who found it impossible to catch the sounds by reason of distance. Hence it came to pass that other congregations were rapidly formed and collected in other parts of the gardens, numbering from 500 to 1000 each. In these smaller meetings many were ‘struck down’ under deep conviction of sin; some weeping bitterly, but silently; some crying out piteously for mercy, and others unable to utter a word. Some proceedings in one of these circles—where a coloured gentleman, agent to the Temperance League, and three others, were offering up prayer in a manner, the vehemence of which gave occasion to considerable remarks— ‘were,’ said the Banner of Ulster, ‘not at all to our taste.’

“Prayer meetings among the young formed another feature of this remarkable gathering. In many parts of the gardens groups of boys and girls, some of them ragged, who had evidently belonged to the outcast classes, and were recently converted, prayed in language most affecting and impressive.

“On the same day on which the united prayer-meeting was held at the Botanic Gardens, the regular weekly prayer-meeting was held at the Music Hall, and was largely attended. Week-evening services also continued to be held in the various
places of worship, and these, as well as services in the open air, were crowned with results truly astonishing.”

Rev. Thomas Toye tells of the continuation of the Spirit pervading the Botanic Gardens meeting in his own church.

“On Wednesday, June 29, the great revival meeting was held in the Botanic Garden, and on the evening of that day, the glorious work may be said to have commenced with power in the congregation of Great George’s Street, The Lord introduced it in a very unexpected way. The girl who had found peace on the previous Sabbath evening stood up, declared that she was happy in the Lord, and simply added the words, ‘Come to Jesus.’ The effect of her invitation was like the effect of an electric shock, and many sinners came that evening, weary and heavy laden, to Jesus, and found rest for their souls.

“But this scene was soon to be eclipsed by another. The people gathered in such numbers on the following evening, June 30, that there was not accommodation for them; and there was one congregation in the church, and two in the street. After the service in the church began, there were piercing cries for mercy in every part of the house. There is a garden behind the church, into which there is an entrance from it, and several persons under conviction of sin were removed thither, while others were taken into my own dwelling house. The season of the year and the state of the weather were very favourable for those taken into the garden; and it may be truly affirmed, that such a scene had not been witnessed in Belfast before. There were several groups of individuals. Some were exhorting those who were seeking salvation; some were weeping, and praying aloud for mercy; and some, with joyful lips, were praising God for having obtained salvation, and singing the converts’ psalm:

‘He took me from a fearful pit, and from the miry clay, And on a rock he set my feet, Establishing my way. He put a new song in my mouth, Our God to magnify: Many shall see it, and shall fear, and on the Lord rely.’

“The usual time for dismissal came, but they were heedless about the hour of the night. The day brightened in the heavens, the morning star was succeeded by the rising sun, but they still remained exhorting, praying, and praising the Lord. They did not leave the spot till five o’clock in the morning; and it has been stated, that out of eight hundred persons professing to have been converted to God in this revival in Great George’s Street Church, there were forty who underwent that great change that night in the garden”

In July the revival tide continued to rise. Rev. H. Grattan Guinness was the most popular preacher in the Ulster Revival, and he addressed at this time in Belfast a crowd of 15,000 in another great open-air meeting. Speaking of the revival fifty years afterwards, the great preacher said: — “The predominating feature was the conversion of people of all ranks and positions, in ways sudden, startling, amazing. Before that time I had seen tens, or scores, brought to Christ under Gospel preaching; but this new movement of 1859 was something quite different. Ministers were occupied until midnight, or even till two or three o’clock in the morning, conversing with crowds of inquirers who were crying: ‘What shall we do to be saved?’”

Brownlow North, another great evangelist, preached to great indoor and open-air gatherings during the summer months of 1859 and the Presbyterian Assembly recorded their thanks for his help.

The General Assembly of the Irish Presbyterian Church met in the city of Dublin at the beginning of July. This Assembly was one of the most memorable in the history of ecclesiastical legislative gatherings in Ireland. Minister after minister rose and told of the outpourings of the Spirit of God in their respective congregations. The Moderator was Dr. Win. Gibson and he himself summed up the tone of the meetings thus: “It was felt throughout that the deliberations of our Assembly were pervaded by an overawing solemnity never realised before, filling the soul with a profound sense of Jehovah’s presence, subduing personal prejudices and prepossessions, and infusing a spirit of mutual forbearance and generous conciliation. The Lord had visited His Church as a court in His own house, so that, even in its ecclesiastical procedure, there had been realised as pure delight, as sweet communion, and as ennobling aspirations,, as could be hoped for in the most favoured times of visitation. It is impossible ever to forget those hours of blessing that flew by on rapid wing, when the theme of every tongue was the Spirit’s wondrous grace and power, and when every heart was melted, as under the descent of a heavenly influence.”

The Assembly recorded profound thanksgiving to God for the revival, recognising “with reverence and awe, and at the same time with inexpressible joy, the sovereign and infinite grace, which, notwithstanding our many provocations, has bestowed on us such evident and abundant tokens of the Divine favour.”

The revival fires were burning with such power as the Assembly met that before its business was a little more than half concluded it was found necessary to adjourn, its ministerial members being anxious to return to their respective flocks before the Sabbath. The fact that such an adjournment was necessary strikingly attests to the power and spread of the movement. The Assembly, nearly three months later, resumed their consultations in Belfast. During the intervening period the movement had spread far and wide and its fruits had been tremendous. Consequently the following resolution was most appropriate: —

“That the Assembly appoint a special day for public worship in all our churches, and for prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God for His gracious mercy vouchsafed in the revival of religion; and that supplication be offered for the extension of this gracious work to all churches and all lands; and that our moderator be requested to prepare an address, including reasons for the observance of such day, to be printed and circulated immediately amongst the brethren.”

Another union prayer meeting in the Botanic Gardens was held on the 17th August when 20,000 people attended. Dr. Weir, an eyewitness of the revival, describes this great gathering:

“From remote portions of Antrim, from far away districts in Down, from portions of Armagh, where the sickle was busy, from Tyrone, were seen numerous groups, all apparently earnest in the cause which had concentrated them at the same point. These consisted mostly of young people, respectable in dress and demeanour, evidently of the better class of tenant farmers’ families, attended by fathers, brothers, or husbands. A better, a fairer, or more honest specimen of the descendants of these Scottish settlers has never before been presented upon a field in Ulster, or upon an occasion when they could be seen to such advantage.

“There were numbers of persons present from Scotland— ministers and laymen of various congregations. Some of these took part in the devotional exercises, and all expressed themselves delighted and astonished by a work, which is now sowing its seeds in the motherland (Scotland), producing, we trust, good fruits.

“There were also present Episcopalians and Wesleyans, Presbyterians and Independents (including Geo. Pritchard formerly missionary at the Sandwich Islands, and afterwards British Consul at Otaheite), with Baptist, other ministers and laymen from every part of the United Kingdom. The Rev. Robert Knox discharged the duties of president. The Revs. Messrs. Seaver and Hanna, and Mr. McQuilkin—a convert from Connor, whose addresses have been so signally blessed—together with Dr. Edgar, addressed the people. Dr. Edgar spoke as follows: —

“Brethren, I am very desirous of impressing upon the minds of all here, that by such meetings as this, by the news of these revivals, which has been spread through the newspapers, we have brought upon ourselves great responsibility. For example, I have recently been visiting about twenty meetings in the south and west of this country, and wherever I have been, it has been my anxiety to hold both you and the people of this province as furnishing an example worthy of imitation. I have been told that such is the wonderful change that has been exhibited in Ulster, that, in one single Presbytery, conversions have been computed at no less than 1000 persons; that in one single congregation sixty young men have been brought in a few weeks to God; and that, in another congregation, out of 209 families, 207 now regularly observe family worship. Now, I tell you, you are pledged; we are before the world, and we must show to the world that our actions are equal to our words—that this is not a mere evanescent movement. I believe that now there is a greater demand for Gospel truth than there ever has been in our day—that there is a greater demand for Bibles than we have heretofore known— that our colporteurs never had their labours so much called upon. It is our duty to keep this work going on; to endeavour especially to supply Bibles with Psalms to your brethren. I have told how, during the course of this movement, members of one family felt for the conversion of others of the same family—how sisters have sat up all night praying for the conversion of a brother. It is your duty to see that such statements as this shall not be made in vain; and that to take care the work of sobriety, which this movement has so singularly encouraged, will continue to progress. I have said that where this work has gone on, spirit-sellers have been compelled to abandon their trade; and I trust this principle will be established to still greater extent, and that your band of union will be still greater than before!”

Meanwhile, the evangelical churches of the city were reaping a rich harvest of souls. Dr. James Morgan, of Fisherwick Presbyterian Church tells of the spread of the revival in his congregation.

“In the Sabbath schools, the work was more marked and general than in the congregation. The teachers were most assiduous and faithful. Many of the young were impressed. At the present time, the signs of spiritual good are as hopeful as at any previous period, perhaps even more so.

“I meet a large class of young persons every Sabbath evening. At present it contains about seventy. Formerly I found occasional inattention, or lightness of conduct, but latterly there has been a uniform spirit of the deepest seriousness and attention.

“Three evenings in the week we have long had a school for mill-girls, who could not attend at any other time. Formerly many of them were rude and unmanageable, but now they are devout, respectful, diligent, and in all respects present the most agreeable and encouraging appearance. There has been a gracious work in the souls of many of them.

“The day schools have exhibited similar results. The scholars hold a weekly prayer meeting, and some of themselves take part in the exercises. Lately, an application was made to us by some little boys for the use of a schoolroom in which they might hold a prayer-meeting during the interval of public worship on the Sabbath-day. Of course it was granted; and I can hear their voices in devotional exercises while I am awaiting the hour of our afternoon service. A fortnight ago, it was announced that I was to preach my annual sermon to children, in the afternoon. During the interval the children held a special prayer meeting to seek the Divine blessing on my sermon.

“I must add that I have abundant evidence of a similar work prevailing in other places; for some of my congregation, who left us in the beginning of the summer careless and worldly, have returned in the autumn earnest and lively Christians, having been brought under the influence of the Divine Spirit in the places where they resided.

“I will not presume to say how many may have been savingly influenced in all these ways and exercises, but I believe they amount to several hundreds. And there are two things, which I am constrained to testify of them—that I never saw a case, which suggested to me the idea of insincerity—and that I never saw an example of backsliding into open sin. I do know a few instances, but only a few, in which the glow of first love has abated, and in which, I fear, there never was a maturity of the Spirit’s work; but I have not been disappointed in any case where I had reason to believe there was a sound conversion to God.”

Rev. Theophilus Campbell, incumbent of Trinity Episcopal Church reports: “Gradually, and silently among many has the work proceeded; young and old have felt the influence of the truth, who exhibit, as its fruit, a desire for scriptural instruction, constant attendance in God’s house and at His table, until, in my own case, the congregation is overflowing, and more than half are communicants. A weekly prayer meeting in the schoolhouse, such as I never expected to see, not in any respect the result of undue excitement, speaks volumes for the deep religious feeling existing. It is conducted by myself or some brother clergyman. At first one schoolroom and about half the second were occupied, but night after night the numbers increased, until both rooms were completely filled. After the first excitement, occasioned by the stricken cases, had subsided, the interest increased, and at the last meeting, what I had not witnessed before, every individual knelt during prayer.

“The young people of our congregation and schools requested permission to meet in the school-house for prayer and reading God’s word, and singing His praises, at eight o’clock every Sunday morning, and at four in the evening. They have not abused the permission; far from it; this means of grace has increased their anxiety for God’s house and instruction in His Word, and has led to a more regular attendance at Sunday school. No impropriety marks their proceedings. From the first, I will bear my testimony, I have not witnessed nor heard of the slightest breach of the strictest decorum and propriety that should mark our intercourse with each other, and I know from experience that my authority and position as their minister is respected by all.

“Perhaps I ought to state that at our annual confirmation this year my numbers were one hundred and sixty-one, while the average of former years may be stated at twenty. All of these, with perhaps half-a-dozen exceptions, have come to the Lord’s table. During the confirmation many of the candidates were deeply affected, and could scarcely restrain their feelings. Of these one hundred and sixty-one, only sixteen were ‘stricken cases.’”
Strange to relate, the account of the spread of the revival in Linenhall Street Presbyterian Church is given by an episcopal clergyman, Rev. J. P. Garret, rector of Kellstown. Along with another episcopal minister, Mr. Garret visited Ulster during the awakening. His first visit was to a prayer meeting held in the schoolroom of the church for the factory women at the lunch hour. The local ministers were so busy with pressing duties as a result of the revival that he was asked to preside. He relates as follows: —

“Having given out a suitable hymn and prayer, I then read the first fourteen verses of John xvi., especially dwelling on the 7th and 13th verses. I felt my heart drawn towards these people, and after using expressions to stir up convictions, I assured all true subjects of conversion that when the Heavenly Physician commenced His work, He would perfect it, and carry on His stricken one to the rest in glory.

“Then occurred a scene I shall never forget: a strong girl sat near me, named Agnes J., twenty years of age, who, throwing up her hands, fell back with a suppressed moan. Three girls next her, held her from falling; her body quivered, tears fell, perspiration broke out over her face, her lips moved, the names of Jesus, Saviour, and Holy Spirit, were audible.

“We joined in the 40th Psalm, and after it was sung, two of the converted girls, at my request, prayed in turn, and never did I hear a more earnest prayer—so simple, so scriptural; beautifully they expressed themselves whilst wrestling with God in behalf of her they now called sister.
“Not one in the whole meeting but now held down their heads, and all seemed to pray as with one heart and one soul. Just before the conclusion of the meeting, the. Rev. Mr. Knox, the Presbyterian minister, entered, and feelingly he prayed on behalf of the oppressed and stricken one. She was then carried to his house, which was at hand. I followed. We then praised God together, and again prayed for her, and I left her with the intention of seeing her next day when taken to her home.

“Another girl, aged eighteen, called Rachel O., was stricken at the same moment, but she was able to suppress outward expression of what was passing within her. The next day, Wednesday, quite unexpectedly I called with a Scripture-reader of Christ Church, whom I had known for above twenty years, and we found Agnes in bed, very weak but very happy. She knew me at once, and her bright eyes bid me a joyous welcome. She told me, in answer to many questions, that she had for nearly three weeks been under conviction of sin; but that assurance that ‘God never commences his own work in a soul but he perfects it,’ went like a dart to her heart. She was overpowered, and fell. She said her heart felt as if it would burst; but now the load was gone, and sin was pardoned. She was full of gratitude—humbled in the dust for past sin and neglect of God, but, blessed be His name and His Holy Spirit, all was now changed. ‘Never, oh! never,’ she exclaimed, ‘will I doubt; He will never let me go.’ The girl who was also stricken at that meeting came in while we were there, and actually rushed to the bed, and threw herself into the arms of Agnes. They felt they were new creatures— one in Christ, and sisters for Eternity.”

In Lepper Street, about the middle of July at an evening meeting for prayer, upwards of twenty people were stricken with deep conviction. A local journal reported that all these cases resulted in genuine conversion.

Great open-air meetings were held at the Queen’s Island during the lunch hour by the men of the ironworks. The converts themselves were the chief speakers at these gatherings and through their testimonies many returned to work rejoicing in the knowledge of sins forgiven. A young woman, herself converted in the revival, tells of the spread of the awakening in Ewart’s Row.

“Ewart’s Row is a manufacturing suburb of Belfast, on the north side of the town, having a population of about fifteen hundred souls. It was visited by the grace of God at an early period of the revival. Many were brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus in a very remarkable way. The change that was thus manifested, and the earnest entreaties and fervent prayers of the converts for the salvation of their friends and neighbours, by the Divine blessing, awakened the whole locality. There was no district of Belfast so deeply moved. The whole population crowded to prayer meetings and open-air preachings, evincing the deepest seriousness and concern about eternal things. Every one betook himself to the prayerful reading of the Bible. Those who could read but imperfectly or not at all bewailed their inability; every one became eager for instruction in the Word of God.

“The good done in every direction is incalculable. Scripture classes and prayer meetings are without end in the district the excitement attendant on the earlier stages of the revival has passed away, but a deep and settled seriousness remains, the result, it is believed, of the saving grace of God. The change witnessed in the locality is astonishing. The leisure hours were formerly devoted to boisterous amusements, in which profane swearing was practised to a fearful extent; now the name of God is never heard but with reverence, on any lips. Both sexes have shared in the grace of God, and Ewart’s Row is now a regenerated locality.”

Berry Street Presbyterian Church, where the revival in Belfast first broke out with power, continued to enjoy rich manifestations of the Spirit’s anointing. A mid-day children’s meeting was held in this church. 300 children attended and 100 of them found peace in Christ. Dr. Hanna, the minister of the church, writes: —
“The Lord has done great things in Berry Street among the Romanists. Consequently, the priests and their sturdiest adherents are exceedingly mad against us. The press teems with the vilest productions that Romanism can engender. Many of them are grossly libellous—all of them abominably filthy, with the purpose of disparaging the revival, and warning Romanists against attendance at any of the meetings. To a large extent they are successful in kindling the hatred of the masses, and I cannot traverse any of the streets without encountering insults, which evince the desperate demoralisation of Belfast papacy. I believe it never was so bad. The devil seems to be preparing himself against the truth, by more mischievous efforts among the Romanists. But the Lord knoweth them that are His, and God’s people shall hear His voice, saying ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her plagues.’

“We have now about forty weekly meetings for scriptural instruction and prayer connected with my congregation, and scattered over all the town. We have chosen the most necessitous localities for their establishment. They are working well. They are managed by the active and godly people, chiefly the young people of the congregation. The average attendance at each may be about fifty. I attended one of them the other evening, and I never breathed a more heavenly atmosphere than that which pervaded it.

“The converts are maintaining their profession with hopeful consistency. Of many of them we have now three months’ proof. I do not know, within my own sphere of observation, a single case of backsliding. The Lord is putting His seal on the work in such a manner as to call forth the gratitude of the churches. The testimony from all parts of the country is uniformly to the credit of the young believers. God has gotten to Himself great glory by so marvellous a work.

“Human infirmity will appear and somewhat mar the work in which God employs man as an instrument. Hence the irreligious press here makes a great outcry against a few evils that have arisen. It speaks as if there were nought but evil. It refuses to make honest acknowledgement of the mighty good that has resulted from the revival. The good so vastly preponderates, that the evil is as nothing to the good. ‘The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.’”

Rev. William Johnston speaks of the results of the revival in his congregation at Townsend Street. “The classes in my congregation, I should suppose, like any other, consist of the profane, the careless, the formalists, the backsliders, and the children of God. These have all been brought, more or less, under the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and effects have been produced, the personal knowledge of which has created the deep-seated and deliberate conviction, that, however many may doubt or deride, ‘this is the finger of God.’
“Some may deny the work of the Spirit, and some require the test of time. I can only say, that whilst a large amount of mere emotion has arisen and passed away, and whilst many have been awakened but not converted, many, very many, remain to testify to the saving work of grace which has passed upon them. Not one of those joining the church has lapsed into carelessness or inconsistency, but all stand fast in the Lord and in the power of His might.”

In Great George’s Street Church, the revival continued with unabated power mainly through the zeal of its minister. Rev. Thomas Toye himself speaks of its progress: “The revival movement continued to advance during the months of August, September and October. The congregations were so large, that the people were not only obliged to sit and stand in the aisles of the church, but, on some Sabbath evenings, I had individuals with me in the pulpit. The screams and prostrations became less frequent; but the presence of the Lord continued to be powerfully felt by the audience.

“In the early part of November, I found that the work was not advancing with that rapidity which circumstances required, and I directed the people to consider two particular passages of Scripture—Psalm lxxxv. 6, and Mal. iii 10 I entreated them to make these passages the subjects of prayer, and to pray over them in the prayer meeting, in the family, and also in the closet. The Lord remembered the words unto His servants, upon which He had caused them to hope.

“The work of revival appeared to begin afresh on Monday, November 28; and many of the converts were delighted by the thought that the scenes of July were about to return. On Monday night, five individuals were affected; on Tuesday night, five; on Wednesday night, eight; on Thursday night, three; and, on Friday night, I cannot tell the number.

“On this last night, the people were so unwilling to separate, that they began to sing in the open air at the gate of the church; and, before they parted, a young woman was ‘stricken down.’ She was immediately brought into my dwelling house, accompanied by a dear brother in Christ. He spoke to her, prayed with her, and remained by her side until she found peace.

The effect of these strikings-down, as they have been called, is wonderful. A man came into town that morning from the country on business. He was not able to return home so soon as he expected; and being in company with a person who was coming to the prayer meeting, resolved to come with him. He saw the woman affected, and was scarcely able to stand upon his feet. He forsook his sinful ways, returned to his God, obtained mercy, and was abundantly pardoned. And, on his return to his family, he commenced to have family worship—a circumstance which astonished all his acquaintances around.

“Nor was this the only result of the stroke. A young man, who belongs to a first-rate establishment in town, was amongst the people who remained at the gate. He saw the woman fall. He called on me soon after. He stated that he had never been so moved by any circumstance in all his life, and that he had now resolved to seek the salvation of his soul.

“In conclusion, I have to add that the prayer-meetings are held every night at eight o’clock, and will be, please the Lord, while three, or even two, will attend them. They are generally refreshing seasons. The Lord pours water on the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, and His people spring up as grass—as willows by the watercourses. I bless the Lord that I have lived to see such times. I always indulged in the hope that I would see a revival before I died; but I never anticipated such glorious scenes as will be associated with the recollections of 1859.

‘Ye mountains and vales, in praises abound, Ye hills and ye dales, continue the sound, Break forth into singing, ye trees of the wood, For Jesus is bringing lost sinners to God.’”

An eye-witness tells of the last night of 1859 and the early days of 1860 in Great George’s Street Church: “The revival movement continues to advance here in an extraordinary manner. The usual service to bring in the New Year commenced at ten o’clock on Saturday night; and, notwithstanding the rain which fell, the people assembled in such numbers that the house could not hold them. Mr. Toye preached from 1 Peter iv. 7—’ The end of all things is at hand.’ As the hour approached, he said that four minutes were reserved in which a sinner might come to Jesus in 1859. A young girl became deeply affected for her sins, and afterwards found peace in believing. There were also two other individuals arrested in their sin, concerning whom hopes are now entertained. The communion service on the following Sabbath was one of the largest and most refreshing ever experienced in the house, and was marked by a very interesting circumstance. A woman who was married to a Roman Catholic had been threatened by her husband in case she came to the meeting. She had been for some time grieving under the spirit of bondage, and while sitting at the table she lost it, obtained the spirit of adoption, and said aloud, ‘I bless the Lord I have found the pearl of great price.’ At the evening service the Church was crowded to excess, even from the stairs to the pulpit, the pulpit itself being filled. The influence of the truth was undeniably plain. There were several cases of conviction, and one young man left the Church rejoicing in God his Saviour for the first time in his life. The presence of the Lord continues to be felt, and His blessing to be given at our nightly prayer-meetings. The work is not marked by the bodily prostrations of the summer revival, but there is an awakening, a weeping and inquiry, a praying, a believing, a rejoicing, and an acknowledging of received mercy, which continues its progress among the people. The cases which continually occur are very numerous, and some of them very interesting.

“During a short address, Mr. Toye referred to the death of his beloved brother, Rev. David Hamilton, of York Street, and asked who would be baptised for the dead. The boy cried aloud that he would. He and his father were both made happy on that occasion.”

Early in 1860 Mr. Toye wrote: “There is no abatement of the revival work in this congregation. The meetings continue to be large, the interest is wonderful, and the efforts of converts to bring sinners to Jesus as decided as ever. The peculiar circumstances attending some of these cases would form a very interesting record.”

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Chapter V. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part III: Co. Down

CROSSGAR.

The early rain of the revival in Co. Down fell on Crossgar, a small village situated about six miles from the ancient town of Downpatrick where, according to tradition, Patrick the patron saint of Ireland, is buried.

The Presbyterian minister, Rev. J. G. Thompson, relates the following: “In the middle of the month of January 1859 I was called upon early one morning to see a previously strong healthy young man, who supposed himself to be dying. On my arrival, I found him lying in bed, and evidently in a state of great bodily weakness, although his sickness did not seem to be unto death. Entering into conversation with him, I learned that he had been sick of soul, previous to his being sick of body, and that the former was the cause of the latter. He told me that he had been very much impressed by a sermon I had preached on the last Sabbath afternoon, from these words, ‘I have a message from God unto thee.’ (Judges iii. 20). Alarmed on account of sin and the punishment due to it, he could get no rest, day nor night. Loudly did he cry for mercy, and did not cry in vain. He knocked, and the door of mercy was opened for the outpouring of spiritual blessings. He obtained pardon and peace after a severe struggle, by which he was left in a state of great bodily weakness. He was unable to walk for a number of days, and not until two months had passed was he able to pursue his ordinary business. Strange to say, when affected first, he complained of there being about his heart, unattended by any pain, a heavy weight, which he considered in some way to be associated with the idea of sin. This was removed, as he said, when the Holy Spirit came into his heart, and produced within him that faith which enabled him to lay hold upon Jesus, and to fly to Him from the wrath to come. His features indicated the gladness of one who had found some great and lasting treasure. You could have seen the very joy sparkling in his eye; and more than once did I hear him say, that if the Lord willed, he would rather depart and be with Jesus. His case was, in many particulars, similar to that of a great many I have seen since the great religious movement came among us. While his weakness remained, I frequently read the Scriptures, conversed and prayed with him. In all such exercises, he took, and still takes the deepest interest, He is still growing in grace, and by his walk and conversation in the world, gives every evidence of being a son of the Lord Almighty. This and similar cases have been like drops before the shower.

CARRYDUEF, DUNDONALD AND CASTLEREAGH

The revival in Belfast quickly spread to Carryduff, Dundonald and Castlereagh, adjacent districts in Co. Down. Eleven revival prayer-meetings soon sprang up in Dundonald, and the number of converts increased rapidly.

In Carryduff such great numbers thronged the Presbyterian Church that measures had to be taken to enlarge the building.

The closing of a public house situated at the gate of the church and the pouring of the whiskey in stock down the roadway sent a thrill through the neighbourhood and added fuel to the already blazing revival fires.

Rev. Dr. Given of Castlereagh announced the commencement of the revival in his district shortly after its breaking forth in Belfast. The marvellous change by conversion of a crippled man who drove about the locality in a donkey cart and who never was known to enter a church building made a deep impression. Dr. Given says of him: “He loses no opportunity of testifying for God, and recommending to others the Saviour whom he himself has found. As his change was a marvel to many at the time it occurred, so has his behaviour ever since been truly an ensample, and himself a living epistle, seen and read of all.”

BALLYGOWAN

At Ballygowan, a village ten miles from Belfast, a remarkable work of grace was accomplished. In describing the results of the revival, the Presbyterian minister of the district wrote in joyful exclamation, “The entire neighbourhood transformed!”

SAINTFLELD

Saintfleld village, adjacent to Ballygowan, is situated about eleven miles from Belfast. An eye-witness of the revival here recounts the following: “On Wednesday evening, 15th June, a meeting for prayer and exhortation was held in this town. It was addressed by two young men from Belfast. On Thursday evening another was conducted by the local ministers, we believe. Several cases of conviction, leading to free confession of sinfulness in the sight of God, and in some instances to the prostration of bodily strength, occurred at this meeting. On Friday evening the meeting was much larger, and the number of cases greater. The ministers began to be overwhelmed with the labour of ministering to the spiritual necessities of the people. A missive was sent to Belfast for aid, and a minister from Scotland, who happened to be disengaged, was sent out. Mr. Macgregor reported on his return that on Saturday the number of distressed souls was still increased; that the people could not be satisfied; until after eleven o’clock, the minister had to appoint a meeting at nine o’clock on Sabbath morning. The excitement of mind and the anxiety of the conscience-stricken souls still continued on the Sabbath.

“On Monday many had begun to rejoice, but three meetings had to be held during the day, and numerous prayer-meetings in private houses were going on during the intervening time. On Tuesday evening, after two meetings during the day, the large church of the first congregation was filled with anxious people. About forty persons were discovered to be brought under deep conviction of sin during the evening. The regular service was closed about nine o’clock. Afterwards the people who were lingering at the door were addressed by a minister. The anxious souls with their friends remained in prayer and spiritual exercises for several hours. The meeting house was not closed till after twelve o’clock. Of those who were brought to a sense of their sinful state, and their need of a Saviour, some were married men, some young men, some women, and some children of ten or twelve years of age, the depth of their convictions was so great that they could not repress their tears and cries. Scarcely any seemed to have altogether swooned away, and all appear to have been able at length to walk home accompanied by their friends. Some before leaving were enabled to rejoice that they had found the Saviour. Others went away still heavy laden with the burden of their sins. To the natural eye the scene was bewildering, but to the spiritual eye, especially to one a little accustomed to such manifestations of the grace of God that bringeth salvation, there was the perfection of order and beauty in the expressions of thought and feeling that met the ear, and in the gradual transition through which some souls were observed to pass. First came the groans, and tears, and exclamations of a soul just quickened and enlightened by the Spirit to see its guilt and need of a Saviour. In all this there was the most perfect decorum; no rude or unseemly unveiling of the particular manifestations of sin which may have marked the individual, but a deep contrition for the sinful state of the heart and life, in which a strong sense of the exceeding sinfulness of indwelling sin in itself puts to flight all thought of its particjziar forms. Then, whether by a friendly voice or by the memory of the truth, it is hard to tell, the Spirit brings the Saviour and His salvation before the mind. Then follows prayer for pardon and acceptance. Then intercession for others almost unconsciously begins to occupy the attention. Then if an acquaintance is observed to be in spiritual distress, prayer for that individual, and exhortation to come to Christ, alternately issue from the overflowing heart. The soul has now in reality come to Christ, and gradually a feeling of assurance of salvation leads to expressions of confidence, peace, joy and thanksgiving.”

NEWTOWNARDS

The town of Newtownards stands at the northern end of Strangford Lough, some ten miles from Belfast. One of the ministers of the town, Rev. George Hughes, tells of the awakening there:—” The extraordinary work of the Spirit at Connor and Ahoghill became generally known in Newtownards in the month of May 1859. The news immediately increased the desire of the people of God in the town for a revival of religion among themselves, and this desire was gradually turned into expectation. They knew that the gracious shower would not come down till God Himself opened the windows of heaven; and that, therefore, it was their duty to wait, but to wait at the same time in the attitude of prayer. Special meetings for prayer were accordingly held in several churches; and early in June, a weekly union prayer-meeting was established. About the same period, a deputation from the neighbourhood of Connor addressed a large assembly in the Rev. Julius McCullough’s church. The facts stated were sufficient to shew the hearers that it was their privilege to expect great things from God. But still there had not yet occurred any decided manifestations of Divine power. The Spirit was moving on the face of the waters, but His irresistible hand had not yet stirred their depths. There was intense interest excited in all parts of the town, and the doors of almost all the evangelical churches were thrown open on several days of the week besides the Sabbath, to accommodate the eager crowds that assembled for prayer and hearing the word. These were indications of the coming shower; but it was not till the middle of June that the drops began to fall thickly and in rapid succession. The first cases of conviction attended with bodily prostration occurred at that time; and, for several months afterwards, scarcely a day elapsed without a number of persons being thus almost visibly brought under the power of the Spirit, while the work of silent conversion was being at the same period wrought out on a much more extensive scale.”

In 1859 Newtownards had about 12,000 inhabitants. There were four Presbyterian churches, two Reformed Presbyterian, two Methodist, one Episcopal, one Unitarian and one Roman Catholic. There was also a town mission with a full time missionary. 6,000 of the inhabitants had not even a nominal connection with any place of worship. Sabbath desecration, intemperance and immorality were fearfully prevalent.

The union prayer-meeting referred to by Mr. Hughes was commenced in one of the Reformed Presbyterian Churches and was attended by about 200 people. Such a gathering for a weeknight service in Newtownards was something marvellous and seriously impressed many in the town. The meeting changed from church to church every week, until it had gone the rounds of all the evangelical churches. The numbers attending increased rapidly from week to week. A local school-teacher, Mr. Harbison, took the lead in open-air preaching and soon not merely hundreds but thousands were listening to the word of life. In almost every street in the town conversions were reported.
The union prayer meeting increased until not even the largest church could accommodate the crowd of about 4,000 who attended.’ So great became the desire for revival services that all the evangelical churches in the town opened their doors, some every night in the week, for such meetings.

The Presbyterian, Covenanting, Episcopalian and Methodist ministers and their office-bearers along with the town missionary worked together untiringly in the furtherance of the movement.

CARROWDORE

Carrowdore, a village in the Ards Peninsula, also enjoyed the refreshing showers of revival. On a Sabbath in July Rev. Hugh Smythe of Craigmore, Co. Antrim, preached in the open-air at 9 a.m., 12 noon and 5 p.m. to immense and very attentive congregations. Many were eternally impressed.

COMBER

Comber, famous for its whiskey, is four miles from Newtownards and nine miles from Belfast. In this small town the revival in Co. Down first broke out in all its powerful manifestations. Many hundreds were savingly converted to God. On May 30th a vast multitude packed the First Presbyterian Church to hear the converts from Co. Antrim. On Thursday evening, June 9th, when the Presbyterian minister Rev. J. M. Killen was addressing a crowded prayer-meeting, the revival burst forth with power. Many were in tears, several cried out, and some fainting away had to be removed. On Sabbath 19th the scene was overwhelming and scores were smitten down by the power of God.

Mr. Killen, in a statement on the awakening, says: “Our congregation, having been the first in County Down to be blessed with the outpouring of the Spirit, when the work commenced, a great sensation was produced. The whole town and neighbourhood were roused. Many did not retire to rest the first night at all, and for several days great numbers were unable to attend to their usual avocations, but gave themselves almost unceasingly to the study of the Scriptures, singing and prayer; and for the first month, with about three exceptions, I did not get to bed till morning, such was the anxiety of the people for pastoral instruction and consolation. For twenty-one days after the revival commenced we had on an average more than ten cases daily, and altogether we have had above three hundred and fifty cases of visible awakening in our congregation, not to speak of the still more numerous instances of a silent character, of which no proper estimate can yet be formed. The revival too, has embraced those hitherto beyond the pale of the church altogether; and drunkards have been reformed, prostitutes reclaimed, thieves have become honest— Sabbath-breakers, profane swearers, scoffers, neglecters of ordinances, and worthless characters of all descriptions have been awakened or converted. No sex or age has been exempt. Our converts include children of seven and old men and women of upwards of seventy years of age. Those renewed, too, especially the females, manifest a wonderful power in prayer and fluency of expression, and as yet I know no case of apostasy amongst them.”

KILLINCHY

Killinchy is seven miles from Comber and was the scene in the early part of the seventeenth century of the labours of Livingston the preacher at the Kirk of Shotts revival of 1630. The Hon. and Rev. H. Ward, rector of the parish, bore the following testimony three weeks after the revival broke out in Killinchy.

“I am the incumbent of a large parish, and having laboured among the people for five-and-thirty years, I know them well. The great majority of them are Presbyterians, living scattered over a district exclusively agricultural, and not congregated, as in towns. They are intelligent, industrious, well and scripturally taught, calm and reserved in their disposition, and, as regards the reception of Divine truth, would be considered by strangers, perhaps cold. The spirit of revival visited us not very long after it made its appearance in the county of Antrim. In reference to the results of these revival meetings, which have been continued now for three weeks, it would be impossible to speak with any accuracy. The grand total of good already done must be left unreckoned until ‘the day shall declare it’; but 150 persons of all ages and conditions are known as having been, in an extraordinary manner, brought under conviction of sin. I have met them in a class for special instruction, and have visited many of them in their houses.

“I may add, that the spirit of these newly-awakened persons is all gentleness, teachableness, and humility; while the fruits of the Spirit,—love, joy, peace—rule in their hearts most manifestly.”

Rev. David Anderson, the Presbyterian minister writes:
“God has been pouring out His Holy Spirit upon us here very abundantly. We have an awakening in my congregation, I think I may say a revival, that is most cheering. I have a meeting for prayer and exposition nearly every night in the week. Hundreds have been awakened; in some instances, strong bodily manifestations. The individual falls down, or gradually sinks, clasps the hands, or lifts the eyes, or both, and cries, ‘Oh, my sins! Lord, have mercy on me! None but Christ,’ &c. A gradual desire for prayer, and an increased anxiety about spiritual things, have been visible for more than eighteen months here; but we had no bodily manifestations till about one month since. For the last three Sabbaths the meeting-house has been crowded to suffocation, and on each of these many had to be helped out who were either stricken down, or likely to be so, under a sense of sin. Our week-day evening services are sometimes even better attended. Last night we held our meeting,’ by appointment, in the open air. I had a number of clergymen to assist; among the rest, the Hon. and Rev. H. Ward, rector of Killinchy, who has taken a lively interest in the movement all along.

KILLYLEAGH

Killyleagh, a few miles from Killinchy, shared in the outpouring. In the August issue of the 1859 Presbyterian Magazine the following appears: “The good work has commenced vigorously in this place. Great meetings for prayer have been held in the Rev. Mr. Bleckley’s church. Several outward manifestations of conviction have appeared; and, altogether, a work similar to that which we have been noticing in other localities, is going on here.”

RAFFREY

The revival broke out in Raifrey near to Killyleagh on Wednesday, 22nd June. A vast congregation crowded out the Presbyterian meetinghouse. Towards the close of the service, ten individuals had to be removed under deep conviction of sin. Many more were deeply impressed, and a sense of the gracious presence of God pervaded the whole locality.

BOARDMILLS

Boardmills is eleven miles from Belfast and six miles from the town of Lisburn. Here the revival commenced with a large meeting in the First Presbyterian Church. A solemnity that could be felt settled down on the gathering and two people stricken down had to be removed. Both of these that same evening found joy and peace through believing. Later the same night the minister was called out to visit another stricken one. From then onwards the revival swept the neighbourhood. On one morning alone, before ten o’clock, seventy people called at Rev. G. H. Shanks’ manse under deep spiritual concern, while every night his house was filled with anxious ones removed from the meetings in the church. Mr. Shanks himself writes: “For some five weeks, without intermission, a public meeting was held every evening, the church being frequently unable to hold them all; while at my own house, at ten o’clock forenoon, crowds assembled in deep spiritual anxiety. For some days every room in my house had a ‘stricken’ soul in it, surrounded by a small group of praying friends, no bustle nor noise being allowed, but all calm, solemn, prayerful, reading God’s Word, or singing a psalm, as the case might require.

“After some eight days, the ‘striking down’ and all external manifestation nearly ceased, except a case at intervals; but there appeared no abatement of religious concern nor cessation of the Spirit’s influence. Whole households were awakened and brought to seek the Saviour, and have all ever since ‘brought forth fruits meet for repentance.’ Everybody for a number of weeks was moved, and all seemed to think they should seek salvation, feeling as if they were on the very verge of the spiritual and eternal world, and in the immediate presence of Deity.

In August at a place called “The Temple” in Mr. Shanks’ parish, a revival meeting was held in the open-air. One thousand people attended. This locality, the scene of cock-fighting and many other abominations, was transformed through the awakening.

BALLYNAHINCH

Ballynahinch lies fifteen miles from Belfast, and eighteen miles from Banbridge. When one of the ministers of this town was speaking to a few people gathered in the open-air the company were all at once arrested by a piercing cry, and brought under deep conviction of sin. Such an occurrence, needless to say, caused a deep impression on the entire neighbourhood and from then onwards the awakening spread in all directions. Converts multiplied and prayer-meetings sprang into existence. God had indeed made bare his saving arm.

DROMARA

Dromara is a village five miles from Ballynahinch. Rev.
W. J. Patton, author of the famous books “Pardon and Assurance” and “ How to live the Christian Life” and himself a convert of the revival, was minister of the Second Presbyterian Church when the revival spread to this district. Concerning Patton’s spiritual state at the time, his biographer comments: “Throughout this awakening, Mr. Patton was intensely in earnest, and took a prominent part in promoting it. And yet his views regarding the way of life were not clear. His position seemed very much to resemble that of John Wesley about the time of his mission to Georgia, when, as he afterwards expressed it, ‘he was in a state of salvation as a servant, but not as a child of God.’”

Nevertheless, Mr. Patton wrote of the revival as follows :— “On the 25th July about a thousand persons assembled in Mr. Craig’s church for prayer. A deep solemnity pervaded the meeting. Many sobs were heard, many tears were shed, and many were the ‘groanings that could not be uttered.’ The meeting closed, and all separated for their homes. Shortly afterwards intelligence arrived that some persons had been ‘stricken’ on their way home. We started off and the scene which met our gaze will not soon be forgotten. There, on the roadside, with their backs against the ditch, and their faces towards heaven, lay seven persons, supplicating mercy.

“On the 29th July a prayer-meeting was held on the green beside my church, that building being unable to contain the two thousand or more who were present; and at the same place, on the succeeding Sabbath evening, there was another meeting, larger still, attended by not fewer than three thousand. Those were two evenings long to be remembered. None who were present can ever forget them. On the first not fewer than fifty persons and on the second about seventy, young and old, men and women, stretched on the greensward, were heard openly to bewail their sins before God, and ask forgiveness in the name of Jesus. In some few this was accompanied with strange convulsions of body; but in most of those affected there was nothing but tears, and groans, and earnest prayers.

“During the fortnight that followed, many were similarly affected in their own homes, and in the prayer-meetings, which were held in private houses all hours of the day and night. For the time being business was very much suspended. The whole parish was a place of weeping, and praying, and singing, and reading. There cannot be a doubt that there were more Bible-readers, more believing prayers, more loving thoughts of Jesus, in our parish in the month of August than had been in the five years previous.

“I conclude by saying, that any one who knows what the parish was in January 1859, and what it is now in April 1860, will have no hesitation in writing of Dromara what Luke, eighteen hundred years ago, wrote of Antioch—’ And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.’”

BANBRIDGE

The town of Banbridge is situated twenty-four miles south of Belfast and fourteen miles north of Newry. William Greene, Esq., a civil engineer by profession and an eye-witness of the movement in the town, relates: “Prayer-meetings were held from time to time, and month after month passed, but no sign was given. At length I was present at a solemn meeting. I could not refrain from tears at the earnest spirit evinced by all. We parted, however, without having witnessed anything uncommon but intense earnestness. It was about three days afterwards, when the same persons were assembled, that the blessed showers came down to refresh the waiting hearts of God’s people. Such sights as were witnessed on that night it would not be possible to describe. Multitudes had their stony hearts broken under the subduing influences of the Divine Spirit.

“Soon after I was in the neighbourhood again, and went in the evening with the same friend to a prayer-meeting. On our way, about half a mile from the town, we went into two lowly dwellings; and, in a few minutes, there gathered around us eight or nine, who seemed to be filled with joy and peace. We remained but a short time to pray and exhort, and then went off. Scarcely had we got to the door of the Presbyterian church, which was very full, when we met some sin-sick ones being carried, one after another, to the school house adjacent, crying and sobbing in indescribable agony. Some received peace in answer to earnest prayer whilst there, and many were taken to their own homes.”

The service Mr. Greene refers to, as one impossible to describe, was held on a bleach green. Three students of theology addressed the meeting and sixty-four cases of prostration occurred. The Unitarian minister bitterly opposed the revival, pouring ridicule and contempt on its manifestations.

DONACLONEY

Dr. Weir gives the following description of a revival meeting which he himself addressed in Donacloney, a small village on the border of Co Armagh, near to the town of Lurgan: “Passing rapidly to the old and venerable place of worship whither we were bound, the pastor ascended the pulpit, and commenced the devotional meeting, for which—as on every other night in the week, except Saturday—a large number of persons, of all ages and both sexes, many of them coming from great distances, had assembled. In this gathering I saw a fair specimen of what had been common, and I might almost say universal, in nearly every part of Ulster, during the last two or three months. Prayer was the characteristic of the movement, and were there no other proof of the divinity of its origin, this were alone sufficient.

“What a change presented itself to my eyes in that old familiar place! Here was a large body of people, who on a week evening had come together, not expecting an address from a stranger, and thinking mainly, if not entirely, of praise and prayer. And when the prayer of the pastor (the Rev. J. Moorhead)—full of solemnity and unction—was over, I could not help marking, with glad surprise, the eyes of strong men wet with tears. A psalm was sung, and I then entered the pulpit It was to me a solemn moment, and a very solemn place, and all the more did I feel this, because I had come thither so unexpectedly to myself.

“What could one say amid such a people, but tell them of sin and its penalties, and of pardon, peace, life, and healing, through faith in a Saviour’s name, and by the grace of His Holy Spirit? As words of this import were spoken, my ear was startled by a suppressed cry proceeding from a pew to the left of the pulpit. I looked and saw a young woman in great agitation, but there sat by her side one of the elders of the church, who took her hand in his, and calmed her. But a little time later, her emotions and physical sufferings were so great that it was found necessary to remove her.

“The address was closed: prayer was offered by the young minister of Waringstown, the closing psalm was sung, and the benediction was pronounced. Proceeding to the adjoining session-house or vestry, I found a crowd of persons gathered before the door. Entering the house, I found the young woman in a state of great prostration and weakness on one of the benches, her head leaning on the breast of an elderly female. Words of instruction and consolation were spoken to her. I found that she was an orphan girl in humble circumstances. I asked her had she felt anything of this kind before? She replied, ‘Yes, once or twice’; but there had been no external manifestation till that evening. She gradually revived, and spoke of going homeward. She was taken into the open air, but she found herself so weak and oppressed, that a chair was placed for her, and the people gathered around her.

“The Rev. Mr. McMurray standing near, prayed very earnestly, and all the people bowed their heads, and worshipped with him. I then proposed a song of praise-—the first verses of the 40th Psalm. The poor girl hailed the idea with delight, crying out, ‘Oh, yes, do sing! ‘ and the soft sweet swell of that song of a redeemed soul rose up on the evening air and died away. It seemed to act on the sufferer as did the harp of David on King Saul,”

MAGHERALIN

Magheralin is another small village near to Lurgan. The rector here, Rev. Henry Murphy reported as follows to the Bishop of Down: “It affords me the most sincere pleasure to be able to say that the effect produced among us answers to the ‘cause.’ There is a hungering and thirsting after the word of God, as is clearly evidenced by the full attendance on every means of grace. My church was built to accommodate five hundred; it is full every Sabbath morning (yesterday there were five hundred and thirty-one) and the evening congregation averages three hundred—(it used to be forty or fifty). I have two evening services during the week; one in a school-house, which is always crowded—the other in the church, which is attended by a steady congregation of between three and four hundred. Before this religious awakening (about three years ago), I commenced an evening service in the village; but after some time I discontinued it, because I could get no attendance. Now, had I a service every evening in the week, I could command a meeting. Beside all this, morality, in every sense of the word, is the order of the day. The change, indeed, is a mighty one.”

TULLYLISH

Dr. Weir narrates: “At Tullylish Presbyterian Church, some miles from Banbridge, where the venerable John Johnson, D.D. (the father of the Irish open-air preaching movement, and late Moderator of the Irish General Assembly), has been pastor for nearly half a century, I addressed a very large assembly. This was to me an affecting scene, for outside the walls, in the family burying-ground lay the dust of my parents and sisters, of whom I could say with truth, ‘These all died in faith.’ Since the period of my visit, the awakening has made great progress in this district. The Rev. Mr. Bewley, curate of the parish, writes, ‘Hitherto ministers had considerable difficulty in persuading the people to attend public worship: now the difficulty is to find room for the multitude who press forward both on Sunday and week-days. The badness of the weather has absolutely no effect in diminishing their numbers. The communicants in the parish church have been doubled within the last few months.’”

RATHFRILAND

The village of Rathfriland is built on a steep hill twelve miles to the south of Banbridge. Here the revival manifested itself on Saturday 9th July when some were stricken down under the power of the Word. The next day Sunday 10th, a young convert from Belfast addressed a vast multitude which no building in the town could accommodate. This meeting consequently was held in a nearby field. An eye-witness describes the service:
“The exercises of praise and prayer were conducted by one of the ministers. The youthful speaker then rose and proceeded to address the vast assemblage with the utmost coolness. The discourse had not continued fifteen minutes when the audience began to be stirred. A venerable-looking old man sank to the ground close by the platform. Apparently he had swooned, and he was removed out of the crowd as speedily as possible. The silence of the multitude became breathless; the feelings were deeply intense. But the solemn stillness was soon broken by a faint cry which was raised on the opposite side of the platform to that where I had taken my stand. I had scarcely time to turn myself, when, sudden as a gunshot, a strong woman sent forth an unearthly scream at my very side. In a moment she was upon her knees, crying, as she clapped and wrung her hands alternately in wild excitement, ‘Oh! my heart. Oh! my hard heart.’ The crowd was convulsed, and shook like a stem in the breeze. The voice of the speaker was soon drowned amid the shrieks; the air was filled with groans and screams for mercy. Crowds gathered and pressed around to listen to the lamentations, and here and there to the fervent appeals to the awakened. It was not till long after nightfall that a large portion of the helpless mourners were carried to their homes.

“A tremendous awakening had taken place. During the week that followed, the meetings were continued, and the prostrations did not in the least subside. It seemed, indeed, as if a new era had dawned. Men and women left their ordinary avocations to talk about their souls, and the strange sights they had witnessed. The public mind was pervaded with awful solemnity, and that whole week seemed a protracted Sabbath.”

NEWRY

Newry is the main border town between Ulster and Leinster, lying eleven miles west of Rathfriland and thirty-eight miles south of Belfast. The population in 1859 was evenly divided between the Protestant and Roman Catholic communions. The revival, however, had little or no effect on the Roman Catholic section.

Dr. Weir gives the following account of a revival service he addressed in the town: “Here I stood up in the presence of a large assembly of various evangelical denominations, and surrounded by many to whom for years I had ministered the word of life, and introduced into the church of Christ. The pastor, the Rev. J. Dodd, opened by solemn prayer; and not without much emotion did I address the assembly.

“While speaking, there was a noise in the gallery, and the sound of footsteps of parties hastily retiring. Immediately afterwards, I heard a loud cry outside, twice at least repeated. The sound was peculiar; a lady afterwards described it as a ‘wail.’ But to me it suggested the idea that some intoxicated person, or a Romanist, had got into the grounds surrounding the church, and had raised this cry in mockery.
“After the service was over, the pastor came to me, and informed me of the true cause of this strange outcry. A young man sat in the gallery that evening, who had received a religious education, but who had wandered from God and His ways. A companion sat in the same pew, and about the middle of the service, his friend suddenly turned to him and said, ‘I am very ill. Come out with me.’ They then hastened forth, and as soon as the area in front was gained, the young man, unable to control his feelings any longer, gave utterance by agonising cries to the fear and agitation which oppressed him.

“Immediately after this service, a meeting for awakened persons was held in the vestry.”

United prayer meetings were instituted by the Dean of Dromore, Dr. Bagot, the five episcopal clergy, the three Presbyterian ministers and the Independent pastor. These meetings were crowded to excess.

GLASCAR

Rev. James Rogers, minister of the Presbyterian church, writes: “Anything like the earnestness manifested by the people generally on the subject of religion has never been witnessed in our day. Multitudes who never attended a place of worship in times past, now rush to every meeting, and can with difficulty be got to leave. In my own congregation we have men who had grown grey in the neglect of ordinances, who are now waiting regularly, and with all attention and seriousness, on the means of grace. The appearance of the congregation is entirely changed. They come into the sanctuary as a people prepared for the Lord, and the attention paid to the Word, and the spirit of the worship, are as different as it is possible to conceive. The singing is like the sound of many waters.”

DONAGHMORE

Here the revival came suddenly and made rapid progress. The whole surrounding districts were affected. Sunday and weekday services became crowded and multitudes were savingly impressed. Twenty-three prayer meetings were started in sharp contrast to the solitary one convened in the district prior to the awakening.

THE MAZE

Four miles from Lisburn, at The Maze in Co. Down, a most remarkable prayer meeting was held on the great Ulster holiday, the twelfth of July. The Presbyterian Magazine, August 1859, reports: “At two-o’clock on Tuesday 12th instant, a prayer-meeting was held at The Maze. There could not have been fewer than 10,000 present. There was one case of conviction. The meeting broke up about 5 o’clock; but several groups were afterwards formed on the field, who were addressed by brethren on the work of salvation. The meeting, altogether, was most interesting; and when we consider the place and time of its assembling, it will be admitted by those who were present to have been a most successful one.”

In contrast to this revival gathering, the October meeting of the Maze Racecourse only attracted 500 instead of the usual 10,000.

THE COAST TOWNS

The following report from Donaghadee appears in the columns of the Presbyterian Magazine for September 1859:

“For the last fortnight the good work has proceeded steadily here. In the early part of last week there were a great many ‘prostrations,’ but for the last few days they have considerably decreased. On Tuesday evening, 2nd instant, a very large open-air prayer-meeting was held—about two thousand present. The meeting was addressed by several gentlemen. A number of persons had to be assisted to their homes, crying out under the weight of their sins, and are now rejoicing in the mercy and love of their Redeemer; but, as is the universal experience, these extraordinary cases give but a very imperfect idea of the number of those who are seriously impressed about their souls’ welfare, and who are led to inquire, ‘What must I do to be saved?’”

Rev. Robert Black of Millisle, describes the awakening in his parish thus: “When the revival visited Millisle the whole village was moved. Few retired to rest, crowds collected around the doors of the awakened ones to hear them cry for mercy— such a night was never witnessed here. This greatly intensified the feeling.

“From that date there was no difficulty in collecting a large meeting on any day of the week, with the shortest notice. I may say that open-air services were held here throughout the entire summer, on the Sabbath evenings, with an attendance varying from three hundred to twelve hundred of all classes in the district—high and low, rich and poor, moral and immoral—listening, not only with attention but with deep earnestness, to plain gospel truths proclaimed in the name of Christ.”

The town of Bangor, the scene of Blair’s early labours in the seventeenth century, witnessed many prostrations and the usual continuing results.

Conlig, an inland village a few miles from Bangor, shared the revival in answer to the prayers of the Presbyterian minister, Rev. S. J. Hansen. He himself tells the story: “I had gone to Coleraine to witness the movement there; and, having ascertained that that place, so richly watered by the outpouring of the Spirit, had been made the subject of special prayer by the Ahoghill converts, I resolved to request the prayers of those lately awakened on behalf of Conlig.

“On the following week I was in Comber, addressing a meeting for Mr. Rogers, and during my address my resolution flashed over my mind. I seized the suggestion, and then and there besought God’s children to join in prayer for Conlig. I returned home the following day, and found, on arriving, that there had been a messenger for me. I immediately set out for the place from which the messenger came, and, to my delight, there found a soul rejoicing in Jesus. On making enquiry as to the time and circumstances of the merciful visitation, I learned that, at the very time Mr. Rogers’s people were engaged in prayer for us, this woman awoke from sleep, repeating Isaiah lii. 2, ‘Shake thyself from the dust; arise and sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.’ Such was the introduction of the revival work here, as if, in answer to special prayer, God was encouraging us to climb more frequently the Mount of Intercession by this token of assurance that the prayer of the righteous availeth much.”

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Contents

Chapter 1. Preparation - The Background of the Revival
Chapter 2. Origination - The Beginning of the Revival
Chapter 3. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival
Chapter 4. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part II: Belfast
Chapter 5. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part III: Co. Down

All remaining on the CD ROM or on the instant download at the shop

Chapter 6. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part IV: The City and County of Londonderry
Chapter 7. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part V: County Tyrone
Chapter 8. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part VI: County Armagh
Chapter 9. Continuation - The Blaze of the Revival. Part VII: Counties Fermanagh, Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan
Chapter 10. Regeneration - The Beauty of the Revival
Chapter 11. Reformation - The Blessing of the Revival
Chapter 12. Prostration - The Battle of the Revival
Chapter 13. Manifestation - The Bounty of the Revival
Chapter 14. Confirmation - The Boon of the Revival
Chapter 15. Foundation - The Basis of the Revival
Chapter 16. Inspiration - The Burden for Revival

1958   208pp

 

 

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