This very rare 200 page volume includes chapters on a number of revivals that occurred in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. There are chapters on the revival in Ulster 1623-1641, at Stewarton in 1625, Shotts in 1630, Wales from 1640, various parts of Scotland during the Great Awakening of 1742, Skye and Kilsyth in 1812 and 1839 respectively.
This is a brilliant book chronicling some generally unknown revivals in a lively and engaging first-hand style.
We have included 4 of the 12 chapters
EVERY Christian is aware of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the amazing success which accompanied the preaching of the gospel immediately thereafter; but very many are ignorant that God has since, from time to time, refreshed his heritage, and extended the kingdom of his Son, in a manner almost equally remarkable. This ignorance induces a belief that Zion is to be enlarged only in the silent and gradual manner of our own day: and it is to be feared that Christians, in pleading for the outpouring of the Holy Ghost, have so little expectation of obtaining their request, that they would be astonished beyond measure were their prayers answered. They pray for the outpouring of the Spirit because the word of God teaches them to do so, and yet they are hopeless of succeeding in their suit, al-though the same word engages that the prayer of faith shall not be in vain. The inconsistency is striking, and it is melancholy; for so long as it obtains, we cannot look for those displays of Divine power in the conversion of sinners, which we
might otherwise warrantably anticipate. As a means of leading to a better state of mind, it is well to be acquainted with what God has already done in answer to prayer; and that we may the more readily expect the fulfilment of what he has engaged yet to do, the following narrative has been drawn up. The work of which it treats attracted the attention and greatly rejoiced the hearts of Christians at the time, and it may, through the divine blessing, encourage the hopes and stimulate the prayers of Christians at the present day.
Cambuslang is a parish about four miles southeast of Glasgow, and at the time of this revival, was under the pastoral care of Mr. McCulloch, a man of decided piety and anxiously desirous of the spiritual welfare of his people. In his ordinary course of sermons for nearly a year before the work began, he had been preaching on those subjects which tend most directly to explain the nature and prove the necessity of regeneration; and for some months before the remarkable events now about to be mentioned, a more than ordinary concern about religion appeared among his flock; as an evidence of which, a petition was given in to him, subscribed by about ninety heads of families, desiring a weekly lecture, which was readily granted. This was in the beginning of February 1742.
On the 15th of that month, the different prayer meetings in the parish assembled at his house, and next day they again met for solemn prayer, relative to the interests of the gospel. Although this second meeting was of a more private description, others getting notice of it, desired to join, and were admitted: and on the day following they met a third time for the same purpose. At this period, though several persons had come to the minister under deep concern about their salvation, there had
been no great number; but on Thursday the 18th, after sermon, about fifty came to him under alarming apprehensions about the state of their souls; and such was their anxiety, that he had to pass the night in conversing with them.
After the desire of the people for religious instruction was so great, that Mr. McCulloch found himself obliged to provide them a sermon almost daily; and after sermon, he had generally to spend some time with them in exhortation and prayer; and the blessing of God on these ordinances was so great, that by the beginning of May, the number of persons awakened to a deep concern about salvation exceeded three hundred.
About this time, (June, 1742,) Mr. Whitefield revisited Scotland, and in consequence of earnest invitations, he came to the west country, and to Cambuslang amongst other places, where, with his customary zeal, he preached three times on the very day of his arrival, to a vast body of people, although he had preached the same morning at Glasgow. The last of these exercises began at nine in the evening, and continued till eleven; and such was the relish for the word of life, that Mr. McCulloch preached after him till past one in the morning, and even then the people could hardly be persuaded to depart. All night, in the fields, the voice of prayer and praise was to be heard.
The sacrament of the supper was dispensed on the 11th of July, and the solemnity was so remarkably blessed that it was speedily repeated. The following extract of a letter written by Mr. McCulloch, giving an account of the proceedings at this period, will be read with interest:-
“The dispensation of the sacrament was such a sweet and agreeable time to many, that a motion
was made by Mr. Webster, and immediately seconded by Mr. Whitefield, that we should have another such occasion in this place very soon. The motion was very agreeable to me, but I thought it needful to deliberate before corning to a resolution. The thing proposed was extraordinary, but so had the work been for several months. Care was therefore taken to acquaint the several meetings for prayer, who relished the motion well, and prayed for direction to those concerned to determine this matter. The session met next Lord’s day, and taking into consideration the Divine command to celebrate the ordinance often, joined with the extraordinary work that had been here for some time past; and understanding that many who had met with much benefit to their souls at the last solemnity, had expressed an earliest desire of seeing another in this place shortly; and hearing that there were many who intended to have joined at the last occasion, but were kept back through inward discouragements, or outward obstructions, and were wishing soon to see another opportunity of that kind here, to which they might have access;—it was therefore resolved, God willing, that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper should be again dispensed in this parish, on the third Sabbath of August: and there was first one day, and then another, appointed for a general meeting of the several societies for prayer in the parish, at the manse; but as the manse could not conveniently hold them, they went to the church, and when light failed them there, a good many, of their own free motion, returned to the manse, and continued at prayer and praise till about one o’clock next morning. One design of these meetings was, to ask that the Lord would continue and increase the blessed work of
conviction and conversion, and eminently countenance the dispensing of the holy sacrament of the supper a second time in this place, and thereby make the glory of this latter solemnity to exceed that of the former.
“This second sacrament did, indeed, much excel the former, not only in the number of ministers, people, and communicants, but, which is the main thing, in a much greater measure of the power and special presence of God, in the observation and experience of multitudes who were attending.
“The ministers who assisted at this solemnity, were Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Webster from Edinburgh, Mr. McLaurin and Mr. Gillies from Glasgow, Mr. Robe from Kilsyth, Mr. Currie from Kinglassie, Mr. McKnight from Irvine, Mr. Bonner from Torphichen, Mr. Hamilton from Douglas, Mr. Henderson from Blantyre, Mr. Maxwell from Rutherglen, and Mr. Adam from Cathcart. All of them appeared to be very much assisted in their work. Four of them preached on the fast day; four on Saturday; on Sabbath I cannot well tell how many; and five on Monday; on which last day it was computed that above twenty-four ministers and preachers were present. Old Mr. Bonner, though so frail that he took three days to ride eighteen miles from Torphichen to Cambuslang, was so set upon coming here, that he could by no means stay away; and when he was helped up to the tent, preached three times with great life; and returned with much satisfaction and joy. Mr. Whitefield’s sermons on Saturday and Sabbath were attended with much power, particularly on Sabbath night about ten, and that on Monday, several crying out, and a very great but devout weeping and mourning
was observable through the auditory. On Sabbath evening, while he was serving some tables, he appeared to be so filled with the love of God, as to be in a kind of ecstacy [sic] or transport, and communicated with much of that blessed frame.
“The number of people that were there on Saturday and Monday was very considerable: but the number present, at the three tents, on the Lord’s day, was so great, that, so far as I can hear, none ever saw the like since the Revolution in Scotland; nor even any where else, at any sacrament occasion: some have called them fifty thousand—some forty thousand. The lowest estimate I hear of, with which Mr. Whitefield agrees, who has been much used to great multitudes, makes them to have been upwards of thirty thousand.
“The number of communicants appears to have been about three thousand. The tables were doubled, and the double table was reckoned to contain one hundred and fourteen, one hundred and sixteen, or one hundred and twenty communicants. The number of tables I reckoned had been about twenty-four, but I have been since informed, that a man who sat near the tables, and kept a pen in his hand, and carefully marked each service, said that there twenty-five double tables, the last wanting only five or six sitters to fill it up. And this account seems the most probable, as agreeing nearly with the number of tokens distributed, which was about three thousand. And some worthy of credit, and that had proper opportunities to know, gave it as their opinion, that there was such a blessed frame upon the people, that if there had been access to tokens, there would have been a thousand more communicants.
“This vast concourse of people, you may easily
imagine, came not only from the city of Glasgow and other places nearby, but from many places at a considerable distance. It was reckoned there were two hundred communicants from Edinburgh, two hundred from Kilmarnock, one hundred from Irvine, and one hundred from Stewarton. It was observed that there were some from England and Ireland at this occasion; a considerable number of Quakers were hearers, and some that had formerly been Seceders were communicants.
“There was a great deal of outward decency and regularity about the tables. Public worship began on the Lord’s day just at half-past eight in the morning. My action sermon, I think, was reasonably short. The third or fourth table was a-serving at twelve o’clock, and the last table about sunset. When that was done, the work was closed with a few words of exhortation, prayer, and praise, the precentor having so much daylight as to let him read four lines of a psalm. The passes to and from the tables were, with great care kept clear for the communicants. The tables filled so quickly, that often there was no more time between one table and another, than to sing four lines of a psalm. The tables were all served in the open air, beside the tent below the brae; the day was temperate; no rain nor wind in the least to disturb. Several persons of considerable rank and distinction, who were elders, most cheerfully assisted our elders in serving tables; such as the honourable Charles Erskine Bruce of Kennet, Gillon of Wallhouse, and others.
“But what was most remarkable, was the spiritual glory of this solemnity; I mean the gracious and sensible .presence of God. Not a few were awakened to a sense of sin, and their lost and per-
ishing condition without a Saviour. Others had their bands loosed, and were brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Many of God’s dear children have declared, that it was a happy time to their souls, wherein they were abundantly satisfied with the goodness of God in his ordinances, and filled with joy and peace in believing. I have seen a letter from Edinburgh, the writer of which says, that having talked with many Christians from that city, who had been here at this sacrament, they all owned that God had dealt bountifully with their souls. Some declared that they would not for the world have been absent from this solemnity. Others cried out, ‘Now let thy servants depart in peace from this place, since our eyes have seen thy salvation here.’ Others wishing, if it were the will of God, to die where they were, attending God in his ordinances, without returning to the world or their friends, that they might be with Christ in heaven, as that which is incomparably best of all.”
Such is the substance of Mr. McCulloch’s account of this remarkable period; and as Mr. Whitefield was frequently at Cambuslang about this time, the following observations, given nearly in his own words, will be interesting. “Persons from all parts flocked to see, and many from many parts went home convinced and converted unto God. A brae, or hill, near the manse at Cambuslang, seemed to be formed by Providence for containing a large congregation. People sat unwearied till two in the morning to hear sermons, disregarding the weather. You could scarce walk a yard but you must tread upon some, either rejoicing in God for mercies received, or crying out for more. Thousands and thousands have I seen, before it was possible to catch
it by symphathy, [sic] melted down under the word and power of God. At the celebration of the holy communion, their joy was so great, that, at the desire of many, both ministers and people, in imitation of Hezekiah’s Passover, they had, a month or two afterwards, a second, which was a general rendezvous for the people of God. The communion-table was in the field; three tents at proper distances, all surrounded by a multitude of hearers; above twenty ministers (among whom was good old Mr. Bonner) attending to preach and assist, all enlivening and enlivened by one another.”
Amongst the multitudes that flocked to Cambuslang at this interesting period, there were persons who went with a design to find matter of diversion; and while the bands of such mockers were, no doubt, generally made stronger, others were made happy monuments of Divine grace. The case of two young men may be mentioned, as affording a striking example of sovereign mercy. They were very profane, and had gone over to be amused with “the falling” at Cambuslang, as they jestingly termed it; but in place of being amused, they were both impressed the same day; and so deep were their convictions, that they were glad to get into a stable hard by, for the purpose of supplicating that grace which they had hitherto despised, and their subsequent conduct afforded reason to conclude, that the word they had that day heard had proved the savour of life to their souls.
As to what these young men termed “the falling,” it was a way of speaking among scoffers at the time, occasioned by the bodily distress which, in many instances, accompanied conviction. The work was much objected to in consequence; but when the intimate connexion of soul and body is
considered, it will not appear surprising that great outward agitation should mark the emotions of a soul fully awakened to the dread realities of judgment and eternity. The loss of a dear relative, and many of the other painful vicissitudes of life, when suddenly forced upon the mind, affect the bodily constitution so powerfully as, in some instances, to occasion even death. And if such is sometimes the effect of things merely temporal, need we wonder that a vivid sense of the sinner’s situation out of Christ, with nothing but the brittle thread of life between him and everlasting destruction, should overpower the body? The wonder rather is, that the preaching of the solemn truths of God’s word is so rarely followed by such consequences; and we can account for this only by supposing, that the Spirit of God does not make the sinner at once alive to all the terrors of his condition. With regard to the revival at Cambuslang, the greater number of the subjects of it were not observably under bodily distress, and as for those who were, their lives proved that they had been made partakers of Divine grace: which is a proof that such agitation is, at least, not inconsistent with a work of the Holy Ghost.
The narrative now given has been fully attested by the most able and pious ministers of the time, and their attestations might be transcribed here did space permit. Amongst others who have borne testimony to this glorious display of Divine power, are Mr. McLaurin, of the Northwest Church of Glasgow, (now St. David’s) well known by his remarkable sermon on the Cross of Christ; Mr. Hamilton, of the Barony Parish; Mr. Hamilton, of Bothwell; Mr. Hamilton, of Douglas; and Mr. Connell, of Kilbride. Mr. Willison, of Dundee,
also, has recorded his opinion, and the following extract shows what were his sentiments:—”Seeing some are desirous to know my thoughts of the work at Cambuslang, I am willing to own that I have travelled a good way to inquire and get satisfaction about it. And having resided several days in Mr. McCulloch’s house, I had occasion to converse with many who had been awakened and under convictions there; I found severals [sic] in darkness and great distress about their souls’ condition, and with many tears bewailing their sins and original corruption, and especially the sin of unbelief, and slighting of precious Christ. Others I found in a most desirable frame, overcome with a sense of the wonderful love and loveliness of Jesus Christ, even sick of love, and inviting all about them to help them to praise him. I spoke also with many who had got relief from their soul trouble, and in whom the gracious work of the Spirit of God appeared in the fruits and effects of it, according to my apprehension; such as their ingenuous confessing of their former evil ways, and professing a hatred to sin; very low and abasing thoughts of themselves; renouncing the vanities of the world, and all their own doings and righteousness, and relying wholly upon Christ for righteousness and strength; and expressing great love to Christ, to the Bible, to secret prayer, to the people of God, and to his image, in whomsoever it was, without respect of persons or parties; and also love to their enemies. I conversed with some who had been very wicked and scandalous, but now wonderfully changed; though some were rude and boisterous before, they now had the meekness and mildness of the lamb about them, and though I conversed with a great number, both men and
women, old and young, I could observe nothing visionary or enthusiastic about them, for their discourses were solid, and experiences scriptural; I had heard much of this surprising work by letters, and by eye-witnesses, before I came, but all that made slight impressions on me when compared with what I was eye and ear-witness to myself. Upon the whole, I look upon the work at Cambuslang, to be a most singular and marvellous outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which Christ hath promised; and I pray it may be a happy forerunner of a general reviving of the work of God in this poor decayed Church, and a blessed means of union among all the lovers of our dear Jesus.”
We have likewise the testimony of Mr. McCulloch himself, who, in a letter written about nine years after the revival, and when ample time had been afforded to test the sincerity of the professions then made, writes nearly as follows:—”Setting aside all those that appeared under awakenings here in 1742, who have since remarkably backslidden, there is a considerable number of the then awakened that appear to tiring forth good fruits. I do not talk of them at random, nor speak of their number in a loose, general, and confused way, but have now before me, at the writing of this, April 27th, 1751, a list of about four hundred persons awakened here, at Cambuslang, in 1742, who from that time to the time of their death, or to this, that is, for these nine years past, have been all enabled to behave, in a good measure, as becometh the gospel, by any thing I could ever see, and by the best information I could get concerning them.” While this letter furnishes such satisfactory evidence of the reality of the work, the following paragraph, from the same communication, affords
a beautiful proof of the humility of him who was a main instrument in promoting it. “When I mention such comfortable abiding effects of this work, I would not have it ascribed to any creature, but that the entire glory of it should be given to God, whose work it was. It is true, there were many ministers here, from places near and more remote; and some of them men of great eminence, who preached here at my desire, and who also joined with me in exhortation to souls appearing in spiritual distress, who resorted to the manse. But what could all these avail without the Divine power and blessing? Whoever plant and water, it is God that gives the increase. Ministers are but instruments in his hands. No praise was due to the rams’ horns, though Jericho’s walls fell down at their blast: if God will vouchsafe that his word shall breathe through ministers, it is God, and not the means, must have the praise. It is very fit and reasonable that he that builds the temple should bear the glory: and Christ is both the foundation and founder of the Church, and therefore let all the glory be ascribed to him.”
The period which elapsed between 1740 and 1750, forms an important era in the religious history, not of the little village of Cambuslang only, but it may almost be said of Scotland, as revivals were then very general. During these ten years a great multitude of souls were added to the Church; and it is important to remark, that a spirit of prayer was extensively prevalent. In illustration of this, the substance of a letter, written at Edinburgh in 1743, by Mr. George Muir, afterwards one of the ministers of Paisley, may be quoted:
“The praying societies in this place are, as near as we can guess, between twenty-four and thirty;
some of which will be obliged to divide, by reason of too many meeting together, which will increase the number. Amongst them are several meetings of boys and girls, who, in general, seem to be growing in grace, and increasing in knowledge. The little lambs appear to be unwilling to rest upon duties, or any thing short of Christ. There are several meetings of young women, who, I am informed, hold on very well; and there are numbers of young men, who meet for the excellent purpose of glorifying God, and promoting Christian knowledge. A good many old men, substantial, standing Christians, meet for edification, (the glory of their God being always their chief end,) and are thereby often revived and very much refreshed. This is not all; for several country people are beginning to assemble together, in little meetings, to worship God; and I am informed, that, about two miles from this place, several ploughmen, and other illiterate persons, meet, and are going sweetly on, having some added to their number daily. In the east country, also, near Dunbar, many are now meeting for social prayer and conversation upon religious matters, having the Lord with them of a truth; and in that place, there is a more eager thirsting for the word, and the ministers are learning to speak with new tongues.”
Such remarkable manifestations of the Holy Spirit have been so long withheld from the churches of Scotland, that many who bear the name of Christian are tempted to think, that his affecting operations on the souls of men, through the preaching of the gospel, belonged only to the extraordinary ministrations of the apostles; and that now no more is necesary, [sic] in order to make men good Chrisians, [sic] but a mere rational conviction of the deformi-
ty of vice, and of the beauty and excellency of virtue. An external profession of religion, with a general assent to the truths of revelation, and a life unblamable in the eye of human laws, are all that is considered needful, though, at the same time, the person be an absolute stranger to the faith of God’s elect, and to the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, having made no particular application of Jesus Christ to himself, nor having been brought to rest upon him alone for the whole of his salvation; and yet it is as certain as God’s word is true, that unless the most moral man in the world is “born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” and that “if any man have not the Spirit of Christ,” be he otherwise what he will, “he is none of his.” Great, and, alas! too successful endeavours have been made to bring men to rest upon a ministry and ordinances without the Spirit.
By nature we love not God, nor the things of God. The Sabbath is a weariness—the Scriptures are without interest, and the ordinances of God’s house possess no attraction. In this state we are obviously unfit for the eternal Sabbath, and for the blessed employments of the upper sanctuary. We must be changed if we would ever enjoy these. This change the Spirit of God accomplishes on every soul that comes to Christ. Our tastes, therefore, afford a plain test by which our state may be ascertained. Reader, have you any relish for these things? Have you any sympathy with the hungering and thirsting after God which was so remarkably displayed at Cambuslang? If you have not—if conscience tells you that religion is unsavoury—it is certain that you are without Christ, and consequently without hope. Up then, and flee to Christ: delay not, for “now is the accepted
time.” The needful change the Holy Spirit will accomplish in you, “today, if you will hear his voice.” “God now commandeth all men every where to repent.” This command is laid as a terror across your path; you cannot proceed one step further in an irreligious course without trampling it under foot; without practically saying, God commands me to repent, but I will not repent: the Holy Ghost saith, hear his voice to-day, but today I will not hear it.! If tomorrow’s rising sun find you out of the narrow way of life, it will find you where God forbids you to be on pain of his severest displeasure.—Remember eternity is at hand. Time speeds away.
“No winds along the hills can flee
So swiftly or so smooth as he;
Like fiery steed—from stage to stage,
He bears us on from youth to age,
Then plunges in the fearful sea
Of fathomless eternity.”
Let the faithful in Christ Jesus, into whose hands this narrative may come, be stirred up to earnest, persevering prayer, that the Lord’s work may be successfully carried on in Scotland, even the great work of quickening the dead, justifying the guilty, and sanctifying the ungodly. Let Christians throughout the land unite for this purpose. Let congregations unite to implore the Divine blessing on the labours of their pastors. It is in this manner that the arm of the Lord must be awakened; and when societies for prayer are multiplied, we may be assured that a day of power is at hand. The showers which have before refreshed our land will refresh it yet again, and the gospel will
anew be preached with the Spirit sent down from above, making ministers divinely wise to win souls to Christ, and sending them forth in all corners and churches of this land, with as full a blessing of the gospel of Christ as Scotland or America has ever before experienced.
WHEN the Saviour had nearly “finished the work” the Father had given him to do, and when about to be invested as Mediator with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, he comforted his disconsolate followers by telling them, that when he went away, he would send the Comforter, who would lead them into all Truth, and who would abide with them for ever. And, after his resurrection, before he bade them a final adieu, he left with them, and through them to all his followers in every age, this animating promise—“Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Every Christian is aware how remarkably these promises were accomplished, in the experience of the primitive church. “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” Since the memorable day of Pentecost he has repeatedly, and sometimes not less remarkably fulfilled his gracious promise of “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Perhaps no country in the world since the days of the Apostles, has been so signally blessed, in this respect, as Scotland. Many are the instances in which Divine influence has de-
scended “as dew upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass,” on this hitherto privileged and happy land. If the Jews of old, when they reached “the other side Jordan,” were required frequently to recount “ the acts of the Lord,” and the way by which their fathers had been led, surely it is most befitting that the spiritual seed of Jacob should recollect and commemorate the manifestations of Divine grace, in past ages, towards the true Israel of God. The remembering of God’s dealings with his ancient people was intended to benefit the descendants of those who had been the subjects of them; so, perhaps, the present attempt to record “God’s mighty acts,” towards His spiritual Israel in this land, may, by the blessing of the Spirit, stir up some of the present generation in faith and in fervency to desire even “greater things than these.”
It was early in the year 1742, when the Spirit of God remarkably visited the parish of Cambuslang, then under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. McCulloch. It was computed that, by his instrumentality, aided by many pious ministers, about four hundred individuals were brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. This remarkable display of the Mediator’s power awakened great joy in the hearts of God’s people, and stirred up many pious Ministers and people in other parishes to earnest persevering prayer that the Lord would carry on His work, and refresh his weary heritage over the land. Among the many godly ministers who frequently visited Cambuslang on this memorable occasion was the Rev. Mr. Robe, minister of the neighbouring parish of Kilsyth. Like Mr. McCulloch, he was a man of prayer, deeply aware of the responsibility attending his office, and anxious-
ly solicitous for the eternal welfare of his people. Every time he visited Cambuslang he seems to have returned to his own charge as if “anointed with fresh oil,” resolutely determined to know nothing among them but “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” By this time he had laboured in the parish of Kilsyth for the space of thirty years, without being aware of any remarkable success having accompanied his ministrations. During that period, the parish had been visited with a severe fever, by which many, particularly of the godly, were suddenly cut off. That visitation was followed by a famine, and shortly after, in the summer of 1733, great loss was sustained by a destructive storm of thunder and lightning; but, instead of these judgments leading the people to think of God, whose displeasure they had incurred, and to seek Him “with weeping and with supplication,” wickedness seemed to increase. Mr. Robe, in his narrative, testifies that no one appeared to be affected with sin, the cause of all the evils that were complained of. On the contrary, the societies for prayer declined, the love of many waxed cold, the spirit of formality seemed to prevail, and open transgression greatly abounded. In these painful circumstances the good man betook himself to prayer in behalf of his people, and continued still most faithfully to set before them “life and death—the blessing and the curse.” In the year 1740, he commenced a series of practical discourses on the doctrine of regeneration. He explained and applied, with all faithfulness and scriptural simplicity, the nature, the importance, the necessity, the evidences of this spiritual transformation, and although these discourses were listened to with apparent seriousness, yet no visible effects followed at the
time. When Cambuslang and other parishes were sharing so copiously of the Divine influence, it was matter of grief and discouragement to Mr. Robe that not one of his people seemed as yet at all to be awakened. He continued to wrestle much in prayer, and still with affectionate earnestness to exhibit to his people a full and free salvation. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Like Jacob, he wrestled, and, like Israel, he prevailed—The Lord did in due time send a “plenteous rain.” The first symptoms were the reviving of many of the meetings for prayer, the institution of some new similar associations, and particularly of one composed exclusively of females, from ten to sixteen years of age. These movements were hailed as the harbingers of brighter days.
Mr. Willison of Dundee, “whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches,” being on a visit to Cambuslang, spent a few days at Kilsyth, on his way home. Being requested to preach, he did so, and delivered “a distinct, plain, and moving sermon,” from these words:—“He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Many of those who were afterwards effectually awakened dated their first serious concern about their souls, from hearing that sermon. On the Sabbath following, 18th April, 1742, Mr. Robe preached from these words:—“My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” He experienced more than usual tenderness in reading the text, and could not refrain from tears. On the Sabbath immediately following, one woman was awakened to a very distressing sight of her sinfulness and consequent
exposure to misery. She was observed by some in the congregation to be under great uneasiness. When the congregation dismissed, she was not able to proceed on her way home, and soon after was found in a field, crying out like the jailer, “what shall I do to be saved?” She was brought back to the minister, who conversed with her for a considerable time. She said that in hearing the sermon she was made to see that she was unlike Jesus Christ, and like the Devil, and altogether in a state of unregeneracy. She had strong impressions of the greatness of the wrath of God, to which, on account of sin, she felt herself liable. She parted with Mr. Robe considerably composed. She continued for some time to endure occasionally, very great mental anguish, but soon after obtained sensible relief, by an “apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.” On Sabbath, the 9th of May, following, five persons were awakened to a distressing sight of their sinful and lost estate. Mr. Robe, and the praying people around, fondly cherished the hope that this might be but as a few drops before the plentiful rain.
And now the period of peculiar favour to this parish was come—the time that God had set. Mr. Robe in his Narrative states,—“On May 16, I preached, as I have done for some time, on Gal. iv. 19: ‘My little children, of whom I travail in birth until Christ be formed in you.’ While pressing all the unregenerate to seek to have Christ formed in them, an extraordinary power of the Divine Spirit accompanied the word preached. There was a great mourning in the congregation, as for an only son. Many cried out, and these not women, but some strong and stout-hearted young men. After the congregation was dismissed,”
continues Mr. Robe, “an attempt was made to get the distressed into my barn, but their number being so great this was impossible, and I was obliged to convene them in the kirk. I sung a psalm and prayed with them, but when I essayed to speak to them I could not be heard, so great were their bitter cries, groans, and the voice of their weeping. After this, I requested that they might come into my closet, one by one. I sent for the Rev. Mr. John Oughterson, minister of Cumbernauld, who immediately came to assist me in dealing with the distressed. In the meantime, I appointed psalms to be sung with those in the kirk, and that the precentor and two or three of the elders should pray with them. The noise of the distressed was heard from afar. It was pleasant to hear those who had been in a state of enmity with God, despisers of Jesus Christ, and Satan’s contented slaves, crying out for mercy;—some, that they were lost and undone;—others, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ others, praising God for this day, and for awakening them; and not a few, not only weeping and crying for themselves, but for their graceless relations. And yet it would have moved the hardest heart, that many of them, like the Israelites under Pharaoh’s oppression, hearkened not when I spoke unto them, they were so overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, because of the spiritual bondage they felt they were under.—There appeared about thirty awakened this day, belonging to this and the neighbouring congregations. About twenty of them belonged to this parish. Some few to the parish of Campsie, and the remainder to that of Kirkintilloch. But I have found since, in conversing with the distressed, that the number of the awakened far exceeds thirty.”
“On the Wednesday immediately following this day of the Redeemer’s power, there was a sermon for the first time on a week day. Mr. Warden, minister of Campsie, and Mr. McLaurin, one of the ministers of Glasgow, preached on the occasion. The number of the awakened this day was as great as on the Lord’s day. The greater number was from the parish of Kirkintilloch; there were also some from the parishes of Campsie and Cumbernauld. Nor did this movement of Divine grace soon terminate. The blessed work of conviction and conversion went on. The Redeemer did “ride prosperously because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness,” —His “arrows were sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies. The number of the awakened, belonging to this parish, amounted this week to forty.”
When the Revival commenced, such was the desire of the people to hear the word of God, that, as has been just stated, it was found necessary to institute a week-day lecture. Wednesday was the day selected for that purpose; and on that day there were sometimes two and even three discourses. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, were appropriated for conversing with the spiritually distressed. Notwithstanding such abundant labours, Mr. Robe was enabled to persevere—his bodily health suffered not, and his inward man prospered day by day. His friends sometimes tried to persuade him to relax his excessive labours, but growing love to Jesus, intense compassion for perishing souls, ardent zeal for the promotion of God’s glory, constrained him to persevere in his arduous but interesting duties. “It soon became,” says he, “ the pleasantest work in which I ever engaged. Though I was wearied when I went to
bed, yet, like the labouring man, my rest was sweet to me. The Lord gave me the sleep of his beloved, and I was fresh by the morning. The way of the Lord hath been my life and my strength.”
The ordinance of the Supper was as usual, dispensed on the second Sabbath of June, and was attended by the happiest results in the experience of many. The blessed work of conviction and conversion continued greatly to increase after that solemn communion service, and it was intimated to the minister in the middle of September following, that a general desire existed among the people for another and an early opportunity of observing that ordinance. After much prayer and conference on the part both of the minister and the people, it was resolved that the death of our Lord should be a second time celebrated that year; which was accordingly done on the third Sabbath of October. The account given by Mr. Robe of that interesting solemnity is truly heart stirring. “I was assisted on the occasion by the Rev. Mr. McLaurin of Glasgow, Mr. James Warden of Calder, Mr. John Warden of Campsie, Mr. James Burnside of Kirkintilloch, Mr. James Mackie of St. Ninians, Mr. John Smith of Larbert, Mr. Spiers of Linlithgow, Mr. Thomas Gillespie of Carnock, Mr. Hunter of Saline, Mr. McCulloch of Cambuslang, and Mr. Porteous of Monivaird. Upon the Fast-day, sermon was in the fields to a very numerous and attentive audience, by three ministers, without any intermission, because of the shortness of the day. Upon the Friday evening there was sermon in the kirk, and there was a good deal of concern among the people. Upon Saturday there was sermon both in the kirk and in the fields. Upon the Lord’s day the public service began about half-past eight
in the morning, and continued without intermission till half-past eight in the evening. I preached the action sermon, by the divine direction and assistance, from Eph. ii. 7. ‘That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus.’ There were about twenty-two services each consisting of about seventy persons. The evening sermon began immediately after the last table-service. And though I desired that the congregation in the fields should be dismissed after the last service, yet they chose rather to continue together till all was over. During all the services there was the most desirable frame and observable concern among the people that had ever been any where seen. It began to be considerable, when Mr. Warden of Campsie preached, and it continued and greatly increased while Mr. Spiers preached, who concluded the public work of the day in the fields. On Monday there were sermons both in the kirk and in the fields. There was a good deal of observable concern; and several were brought under spiritual distress in the fields. In the evening, two ministers preached to the numerous distressed convened in the kirk. On Tuesday morning there was a sermon preached, and a discourse by another minister, containing suitable instructions and directions both to the awakened, and to those who had never attained to any sight or sense of their sin and danger. The spiritual fruits of this solemn and extraordinary dispensation of Word and Sacrament were truly animating. Many secure sinners were awakened. Zion’s mighty King brought the wheel of the law over them, and sent, them home with broken and contrite hearts. Some who came hither in a state of spiritual distress and
law-work, felt such a time of the Mediator’s power as enabled them to embrace Jesus Christ with such distinctness, as to know that they had done it. Many had the love of Christ so shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, that they could not contain, but were constrained to break forth in floods of tears in the most significant expressions of their own vileness and unworthiness, and of the deep sense they had of the exceeding riches of God’s grace, in his kindness towards them by Christ Jesus.”
It is delightful to contemplate the solid nature of this work of Revival. It was far removed from enthusiastic fanaticism on the one hand, and presumptuous Antinomianism on the other. Although some who seemed to be awakened ultimately fell away, yet the experience of many made it unequivocally manifest, that “the Lord himself had given the word.” Deep humility, hatred of all sin, love of holiness, aspirations after conformity to the image of God, fervent prayers and endeavours that others might be brought to the same views and the same enjoyments, characterized the greater number of the individuals with whom Mr. Robe was called to converse. Indeed, the views of sin, and of the way of salvation, entertained by the individuals brought under the power of this blessed work of the Spirit, were, generally speaking, of the most scriptural and enlightened description. One man being asked “what he took closing with Christ to be; “made this most intelligent reply:— “I take closing with Christ to be a receiving of Him as a Prophet, to teach me the way of salvation; as a Priest, to atone for me, and to be my righteousness in the sight of God; and, as a King, to rule over me, and to subdue sin and cor-
ruption in me; and that without Christ’s righteousness imputed, I can never be accepted in the sight of God.” One woman, after she was brought distinctly to receive, and rest alone upon Christ for salvation, thus expressed herself: “Worldly thoughts are away from me now, and oh that they would never return again! Ten thousand worlds could not give me the love and joy with which Christ now fills me.” When asked some questions by Mr. Robe, she said, “Sir, though you put questions to me, as was done to Peter, Christ, who knows my heart, knows that I do love Him, and I am resolved, in the strength of imparted promised grace, to show my love to Him by keeping His commandments.” She sometimes gave utterance to such words as these—“He is my sure portion, whom I have chosen for ever. Oh, what hath he done for me! I desire to have all the world brought to Him, that they too may partake of His rich and sovereign grace.”
Although the greater number, like the awakened at the day of Pentecost, or like the convicted jailer at Philippi, were made to cry out, under a sense of sin and apprehension of coming wrath, and could not conceal their distress, yet many were brought to Jesus in a more gentle and silent manner, whose cases were not made known to Mr. Robe till they had obtained peace in believing. Two or three instances of this kind may be given, nearly in Mr. Robe’s own words, from among the many that might be quoted:—A woman who was brought to concern on 16th May, waited upon Mr. Robe the following week, manifesting great anxiety for the salvation of her soul. “I was,” says he, “much pleased with the character of her convictions, with her knowledge, and the longing desires she ex-
pressed after Jesus Christ. I said to her, essay to accept of Christ, bestir yourself, rise up at his call, and invite Him to enter into your heart, into your soul.’ Although I did not intend or mean this, she arose with great composure, stood and prayed in a most scriptural style. She acknowledged sin, original and actual, her utter want of righteousness, the wonderfulness of God’s patience to her. She prayed for mercy to be drawn to Jesus Christ, and that she might be clothed with His white raiment. Sometimes in her address, she would say—’Sweet Jesus;’ ‘He is precious;’ ‘He is altogether lovely.’ She first came to sensible relief from a sermon I preached on John xvi. 10, ‘Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more.’ In her return home that day, these words were strongly impressed on her mind—‘My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed; I will sing and give praise.’ She fell down upon her knees; her heart being filled with joy in the Lord, and her mouth with His praise.”-
“C. D. came first under convictions by hearing the doctrine of regeneration stated, as it is the writing of God’s law upon the sinner’s heart, from Heb. viii. 10. He was made distinctly to see that it was not as yet written upon his heart, and that if he would be happy hereafter, it was indispensably necessary that it should be so. Upon the evening of the day when he received his first impressions, he conversed with a friend concerning the resurrection, the general judgment, and the sad state in which impenitent sinners must be throughout eternity. By such converse his impressions were deepened. Every sermon and every awakening experienced by his neighbours was blessed for the same end. He told me that he could apply to
himself the greater part of a sermon he heard from me concerning the Spirit’s convincing the world of sin: such as, that he usually begins with one sin, and after that proceeds to convince of particular sins. He was convinced of the sins of his heart, and of the evil nature of sin. He was not so much distressed about sin, as exposing him to hell, but he felt particularly grieved as it was an insult offered to a holy God. He got such a sight of the filthiness of sin, as to loathe himself on account of it. He was also convinced of the great sin of unbelief, of the sinfulness of the least thought of iniquity, though not consented thereto; of the evil of self-conceit, a sense of the sinfulness of which stuck as long with him, as he termed it, as any thing else. He was also sensible of his inability to help himself, of his own want of righteousness, and that he could not work out a righteousness for himself. He was brought to see the sufficiency of Christ’s righteousness, and that He, to use his own words, was always ready, if he would but trust in Him. Seeing that he had not informed any one of his spiritual distress till he got relief by believing in Christ, I asked what it was that kept up his spirit under fear and trouble of mind, continuing so long. He told me that when his heart was like to burst in prayer, that word came constantly in his mind, and encouraged him to wait for the Lord with patience and hope: ‘I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.’ His first relief came in this manner. In the Society for Prayer of which he had become a member, he inquired, What was the most proper exercise for a person under convictions?’ to which it was replied by a very judicious Christian, ‘ That it was to behold the Lamb of God,’ which
he essayed to do. When I gave, in a public discourse, the marks of those who had Christ formed in them, he said that by the help of the Spirit he could apply them all to himself, and that during prayer and after sermon he was in a frame surprising to himself; that his whole heart and affections went out in closing with Jesus Christ, and that he was filled with rejoicing and wonder at His love.”
“R. S. was first touched with convictions on the Lord’s day, May 16. He heard sermons upon the Wednesday at Kilsyth, and upon Thursday at Kirkintilloch. He spent the greater part of the last mentioned evening in the fields, crying out under a deep sense of sin. He came to me on the following day in great mental distress. He had a distressing sight of particular sins, such as Sabbath breaking, cursing, swearing, evil thoughts, &c. He was grieved for sin as an offence against God; and said with great earnestness, he would give a thousand worlds for Christ. He saw that he had a vile corrupt nature, and mourned over the sin of so long despising Christ through unbelief. I endeavoured to instruct him in the nature of faith and the way of salvation through Jesus Christ. On a subsequent occasion, when conversing with him, he said he had endeavoured to close with a whole Christ in all his offices, and counts all things but loss and dung, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and that he may win him. He said that he had now an inclination to Christ, and that his heart flutters in him like a bird when he thinks of him.”
It is emphatically said by an inspired writer, that “the grace of God which bringeth salvation, teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and
to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present evil world.” This declaration of holy Scripture, received remarkable illustration at Kilsyth. The number of individuals who were awakened in the parish, and who afterwards publicly professed the faith of Christ, was upwards of three hundred; and by various authentic documents, recorded in Mr. Robe’s Narrative, it is ascertained that the life and conversation of these, with fewer exceptions than might have been expected, were such as became the gospel. The moral influence on the parish generally, was remarkable.
Mr. Robe thus writes—“Among the instances of the good fruits of this work upon the people, may be mentioned visible reformation from many open sins, particularly cursing, swearing, and drinking. In social meetings, edifying conversation has taken place of what was frothy, foolish, or censorious. Instead of worldly and common discourse on the Lord’s day, there is that which is spiritual and good to the use of edifying. There is little of what was formerly common, strolling about the fields, or sitting idle at the doors of their houses on that holy day. There is a general desire after public ordinances. Before this, I could never prevail with the best to attend the preaching of the Word during the week, and therefore could have no stated weekly meeting for expounding; now, however, they desire it, and the generality of the people attend as regularly as upon the Lord’s day. The worship of God is set up and maintained in many families who formerly neglected it. There are many new societies for prayer, composed of individuals of all ages, and not only of those who have been lately awakened, but of those who before had a character for seriousness. For-
mer feuds and animosities are in a great measure laid aside and forgot, and this hath been the most peaceable summer amongst neighbours that was ever known in this parish. I have heard little or nothing of that pilfering and stealing that was so frequent before this work began. Yea, there have been several instances of restitution, and some of these showing consciences of more than ordinary tenderness. The change on the face of our public meetings for worship is visible: there was never such attention and seriousness seen in them as now. The change is observed by every one who formerly knew the parish. One observing person said to me, that if there was no more gained by this wonderful work of the Spirit, there was at least a great increase of morality.”
Such is a short sketch of the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God at Kilsyth during the year 1742-3. It furnishes one among the many emblems of that more “plentiful rain” with which the millennial glory shall be ushered in. When the past history of the world and of the church is contemplated, it is refreshing to find such verdant spots amidst the spiritual sterility that every where abounds. And when viewing the present aspect of society, so lukewarm and so secure, it is delightful to anticipate with certainty the predicted period, when, in the metaphoric language of Scripture, the wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, by which alone this change can be effected, is matter of promise, and matter of prophecy. The prayer of faith works wonders. The plea of the finished work of Emmanuel is irresistible. Encouraged then by the promises, the pre-
dictions, and the arguments, of Scripture, let every true wrestler at the throne of grace adopt the resolution of the Prophet—” For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”
While secret prayer for the descent of the Holy Spirit is thus earnestly pressed, small concerts for prayer are at the same time no less urgently recommended. Such meetings preceded, accompanied, and followed the Revival of 1742. Jesus still reigns “a Prince and Saviour”— “a Priest upon his throne”—ready to subdue the rebellious heart of man by the efficacy of his own sacrifice. The love of Jehovah is still overflowing. The resources of the Spirit are still equal to the conversion of a world; one breathing from Him would make our people live. O then let God’s people unite together—let them speak often one to another: He will hearken and hear! Let them give Him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth!
AN attempt has been made, in the two preceding numbers of this series, to give a sketch of the state of religion in Cambuslang and Kilsyth, during the years 1742-3; and in the present it is proposed to give a brief account of the progress of the truth in other parts of Scotland during the same period; for the work of religion, revived in these parishes, could not but excite great interest in the districts and congregations around them. Multitudes flocked from all quarters; some attracted by curiosity, others to gain spiritual refreshment, and not a few to mock and to ridicule. At the memorable dispensation of the Lord’s supper at Cambuslang, for instance, on the third Sabbath of August, 1742, there were present many individuals from Irvine, Kilmarnock, Dreghorn, and other parishes in that neighbourhood; and it was afterwards ascertained that about sixty of these returned home seriously impressed with a sense of their sinfulness and misery, and not a few rejoicing in the grace of the gospel. These individuals were instrumental in awakening others. Prayer meetings were established; and then, by the preaching of the gospel,
many other converts were added to those who had been awakened at Cambuslang.
In the parishes eastward of Kilsyth the revival was little felt. The people were keenly engaged in discussing the externals of Christianity, and were thereby prevented from studying very minutely the doctrines of vital religion. It has been found that keen party spirit almost necessarily destroys spirituality of mind. An anxious desire to obtain connexion with a sect, is too frequently substituted for earnest solicitude to gain union with Jesus, the Saviour. Nevertheless, there were a few witnesses for God raised up even in these parishes. In Denny and Larbert, particularly, this was the case. The Almighty Spirit triumphed over the carnality of many nominal professors, and rendered them the living members of Christ. Not a few gainsayers were reclaimed, whose lives afterwards furnished a practical and ocular demonstration, that the work was of God, and not of man.
In the parish of Torphichen, to the eastward of Linlithgow, at that time under the ministry of Mr. Bonar, seven persons were awakened at the dispensation of the Supper of the Lord, on the first Sabbath of August, 1742, who afterwards were enabled to give scriptural evidence of being in Christ by a living faith.
The case of the parish of Baldernock deserves to be particularly noticed. Few of the people had visited those places in which the revivals had originated; and although for some years there had been no regular pastor, yet about ninety individuals were brought under the quickening influence of the Spirit of promise. Mr. Wallace, who had previously laboured amongst them in holy things
for about fifty years, had been faithful and zealous; and perhaps the many conversions that now took place, might be remotely traced to his ministrations. The seed which lies long concealed may spring up in an abundant harvest. But in the absence of a regular ministry, God, who can accomplish His purposes of mercy with weak as well as with powerful means, raised up and qualified Mr. James Forsyth, who occupied the humble but honourable station of parochial schoolmaster, as the instrument of carrying foward in that parish, the good work that had made such advances in the surrounding country. He was evidently a good man. He had been long distinguished for godliness. His experience of the preciousness of Christ, could not but prompt him to embrace the opportunity, which his profession furnished, of diffusing the knowledge of that Name, and of that Salvation, which he knew to be essential to the true happiness of the people with whom he was brought in contact. He partook of the joy with which the news of God’s dealings with his church was received by such as had themselves tasted that the Lord is gracious; and in the peculiar circumstances of the parish, he endeavoured, by every means in his power, to infuse the same spiritual life among the people. He spoke, more especially to the young, with earnestness and affection about their lost condition by nature and practice, about the love of God manifested in the gift of his Son for the salvation of sinners ready to perish; and the Holy Spirit was pleased to convey these simple but impressive truths to the hearts of his interesting charge, who, in their turn; were enabled to leave a testimony to the truth, in the consciences of the adult population. Would there were many such teachers of
youth! Would that they felt that they and their youthful charge shall stand together in the judgment, and must render an account of their important stewardship! Religious instruction was made to hold a prominent place in the school under the charge of Mr. Forsyth; and for the encouragement of all in like circumstances, these instructions were rendered instrumental for the conversion of many. God countenanced his feeble endeavours, and made him the honoured instrument of winning many souls to Christ. His own account of the matter is detailed in letters to Mr. Robe, and will be felt deeply interesting and animating by all who have any love for ardent piety or disinterested zeal. In a letter dated 17th July, 1742, he thus writes, “Since the first of February last, I endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, to instruct the children under my charge in the first principles of religion—that they were born in a state of sin and misery, and strangers to God by nature. I pressed them, with every argument I could think of, to give up their sinful ways, and flee to Jesus Christ by faith and repentance; and by the blessing of God, my efforts were not made in vain. Glory to His holy name, that which was spoken in much weakness, was accompanied by the power of His Holy Spirit. I likewise warned them against the commission of known sin. I told them the danger of persisting contrary to the voice of conscience, and the plain dictates of the word of God; assuring them, that if they did so, their sin would one day find them out. These exhortations, frequently repeated, made at last some impression on their young hearts. This was used as a means in God’s hand for bringing the elder sort to a more serious concern, and a greater diligence in religious duties. One of the
school boys, who went to Cambuslang in March, was the first awakened. He, in a short time thereafter, asked permission to meet with two or three of the other boys in the school-room, for the purpose of praying and singing psalms. I had great pleasure in granting this request. Very soon after, a few more of the boys manifested deep concern for their souls; and in fourteen days after the opening of this youthful prayer meeting, ten or twelve were hopefully awakened; none of them were above thirteen years of age—a few of them were so young as eight or nine. These associated together for devotional duties. Their love for these services increased; so much so, that they sometimes met three times a-day—early in the morning—at noon, during the interval of school hours—and in the evening. These soon forsook all their childish fancies and plays, and were known to their school companions by their general appearance, by their walk and conversation. All this had a happy effect upon the other children. Many were awakened through their means. They became remarkable for tenderness of conscience. A word of terror occurring in their lessons would sometimes make them cry out and weep bitterly. Some of them could give a most intelligent account of their experience of divine truth. They were sensible of the sin of their nature, of their actual transgressions, and even of the sin of unbelief; for when I would exhort them to believe in Christ who was both able and willing to save them to the uttermost, they would reply, in the most affecting terms, that they knew He was both able and willing, but their hearts were so hard that they could not believe aright of themselves, till God
gave them the new heart—that they could do nothing for their hard hearts.”
It has been often illustrated, that “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings God perfects praise.” What heart that reads this narrative can feel unmoved at the striking illustration thus furnished of this Scripture saying, in the case of the youth of the parish of Baldernoch, under the care of Mr. Forsyth! Who would not pray that all teachers of youth were blessed with piety like his, with zeal like his, with success like his!
Respecting the people in general, Mr. F. thus writes— “Some were awakened at Cambuslang, others at Calder and Kirkintilloch, but the greater number at the private meetings for prayer held in the parish. These meetings were held twice a-week, and all were admitted who chose to attend.” —These meetings were eminently countenanced. Many who attended were blessed with the communications of Divine grace, and made to experience the image and the earnest of the fellowship that is above. “Two young women,” says Mr. Forsyth, “who had been at Cambuslang, and who brought back an evil report, saying, that they wondered what made the people cry out, on the 22d of June, came to one of these meetings in Baldernoch, as was supposed, with no good design. Before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, they were brought under serious convictions, and continued in distress during the remaining exercises of the evening.”
These details of the awakening in Baldernoch furnish an impressive commentary on these words of Scripture—” Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord:” “ I will have mercy
on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion:”—and should stimulate every Christian, in his own sphere, to labour for Christ, trusting that the Divine Spirit will come “ and leave a blessing behind Him.”
Respecting the case of Baldernoch, Mr. Robe has the following judicious remarks;— “I have been the more particular, that we who are ministers of the gospel may learn not to be lifted up by any success we may have in our ministrations; though the Lord maketh especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building up them who are converted, yet he also blessed the reading of the word, Christian communion, and religious education, by parents, schoolmasters, and others, for the same blessed ends, and, also that he sometimes makes use of weak and inconsiderable instruments for beginning and carrying on a good work upon the souls of men, while men of great gifts are not so successful. The people are not the less careful to attend upon public ordinances; their meetings do not interfere with the public means of grace in their own congregation, nor with the same privileges in the neighbouring congregations, when deprived of them in their own church, in consequence of there being at present no regular minister.”
At the parish of Killearn, about sixteen miles north from Glasgow, at that time under the pastoral inspection of Mr. James Bain, there was a considerable awakening at the dispensation of the Lord’s supper on the third Sabbath of July, 1742. This was particularly the case on the Monday, when sermons were delivered by Mr. Michael Potter, professor of divinity in the University of Glasgow. and Mr. Mackie, minister of St. Ninians.
There were about a hundred awakened in the parish of Campsie; and about the same number in the parish of Calder, in the immediate neighbourhood. The circumstances connected with the revival at Calder are somewhat remarkable. Mr. Warden, the minister, was accustomed to give a weekly lecture in a small village at some distance from the church. The attendance had become so very inconsiderable, that he had resolved to discontinue it. The evening he went to make this announcement, to his great amazement he found the room crowded. Dismayed at such a multitude, and as he had prepared no subject of exposition, he retired into a wood at a little distance, earnestly imploring Divine direction and blessing. Immediately he returned to the people, and preached from these words which had been suggested to his mind while in the wood— “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men,” Prov. viii. 4. From this text he opened up the fulness, the freeness, the grace of the gospel proclamation. The Holy spirit accompanied the word spoken with power. Many were brought under His humbling influence, and ultimately made to bow to the sceptre of Jesus. On a subsequent occasion there were about fourteen persons brought under great concern and anxiety about their spiritual and eternal state.
About this time about sixteen young people in the town of Kirkintilloch were observed to meet in a barn for prayer. This took place at the suggestion of one of the older boys, and was cordially acceded to by the rest. This incident coming to be known, seemed to make deep impressions both upon old and young. The minister of the parish was rejoiced by this movement, inquired after the
little prayer meeting, and frequently joined the society, for giving direction and instruction. At the dispensation of the Lord’s supper, in May following, Mr. McLaurin of Glasgow, and Mr. Robe of Kilsyth, preached on the fast-day preparatory to the celebration of that solemnity. Mr. Burnside, the minister of the parish, preached in the evening of the same day. The work of conviction was general and powerful. In the words of Mr. Robe, “Zion’s mighty King did appear in His glory and majesty, and his arrows were sharp in the heart of His enemies.” About a hundred and twenty applied to the minister, anxiously seeking the way to Zion evidently with their faces thitherward. About the same time there were fourteen or fifteen awakened at Cumbernauld, under the preaching of Mr. Whitefield; and about eighty individuals by the ordinary ministrations of their own pastor Mr. Oughterson.
At the dispensation of the supper, in St. Ninians, on the first Sabbath of August of the same year, there were several awakened by means of the sermons on the Saturday, many more on Sabbath, and a far greater number on the Monday, which was, on the testimony of Mr. Robe, “one of the greatest days of the Mediator’s power ever beheld.” On Thursday immediately following, at the usual week-day lecture, a considerable number more were awakened. Mr. Mackie, the minister of the parish, was instrumental in leading many of the inquirers to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world. Some time after, Mr. Mackie states, “that impressions upon the people are far from wearing off. Their behaviour is such that their enemies themselves cannot find fault with. It gives me great pleasure to hear them pray and
converse. Our audience is most attentive to the preaching of the word.”
In the parish of Gargunnoch there were about a hundred awakened, the greater number of whom were brought to a state of concern for their souls, while attending the dispensation of the supper at Kilsyth, on the second Sabbath of July, or the dispensation of that ordinance at Campsie, on the last Sabbath of that month, or at St. Ninians, on the first Sabbath of August. At the week-day lecture on the 5th of August, there were eighteen awakened; and in the week following many more. In a letter of date 17th March, the following year, Mr. Warden, the minister of the parish, writes—“The concern in a great measure continues; fellowship meetings increase; and even the meetings for prayer among the children. The impression among the people, in general, is still apparent, by a diligent attendance upon ordinances, love to our God and Redeemer, and to all the children of our Lord’s family; crying to Christ, and rejoicing in Him; and all this associated with a sober and blameless walk and conversation. A few are under spiritual concern in the parish of Kippen, and there is some stir in the parish of Monivaird.”
About the same time, this wondrous work of the Lord extended to the parish of Muthill, in Perthshire. Mr. Halley, the minister, gives the following account, in a letter, addressed to Mr. Robe, dated March, 1743. “The work of God is going forward in this parish. Many seem truly awakened to a sense of their condition, as connected with eternity. All those with whom I have conversed, appeared to be touched to the very quick, the arrows of the Almighty shot to their very hearts; trembling like the jailer, crying out against sin,
and breathing and thirsting after a Saviour. My bowels were moved for them, and, I hope the bowels of a compassionate Redeemer were yearning over them when they were with Ephraim bemoaning themselves. As a token for future good, a praying disposition among the people, not only continues, but is upon the increase. Thirteen societies for prayer, have been recently instituted, and a new one is about to be established. I cannot express how much I am charmed with the young people. They have now three prayer societies. The members of one of these made me a most agreeable visit upon the first Monday of the year, a day which young people especially, usually spend in mirth and folly. Upwards of forty attended, and continued in prayer and other exercises, till about ten at night. And oh! to hear the young lambs crying after the great Shepherd, to hear them pouring out their souls with such fervour, with such beautiful expressions, with such copiousness and fulness, did not only strike me with admiration, but melted me into tears. I wished in my heart that all contradicters, gainsayers, and blasphemers of this work of God, had been where I was that night.” In a subsequent letter, Mr. Halley thus writes— “The concern in hearing the word, still continues, though not with such a noise and outcrying as formerly. And though the public awakenings are not so discernible as they were sometime since, yet few Sabbaths pass, but there are some pricked in their hearts, and with great anguish of spirit, crying, What shall we do! A law-work is still severe and of long continuance with many, but the Lord is supporting, helping to wait, and keeping them thirsting after relief in Christ.”
In the parish of Crief, then under the pastoral
care of the Rev. Mr. Drummond, there were many awakened, and ultimately made happy, in knowing and believing the truth. Several praying societies were formed.
In all the parishes in which this revival made any progress, a corresponding increase of practical godliness immediately became apparent. Fellowship Meetings were instituted, family religion every where revived, Sabbath desecration was discountenanced, open profanity, for the most part, disappeared. The virtues of honesty, industry, and sobriety, characterized the people, and amongst the peculiar subjects of the revivals, instances of restitution not unfrequently occurred. These fruits of holiness must have tended to remove the cavils of the “enemy and the avenger,” during that interesting period, and to this day, attested as they are by irrefragable evidence, furnish the most satisfying proof, that the work was of God, and not of man. “Godly sorrow for sin, universal hatred of it, renouncing their own righteousness, and embracing the righteousness of God, by faith in Jesus Christ, embracing him in all his offices, universal reformation of life, a superlative love to the blessed Redeemer, love to all who bear his image, love towards all men, even to enemies, earnest desires and prayers for the conversion of all others:”— “These,” says Mr.. Robe, “are the happy fruits of this blessed work, and sufficiently demonstrate that it is of the operation of the Spirit of God.”
This may be better illustrated by one or two examples of individual experience, taken from Mr. Robe’s narrative. “L. M., aged about twenty-eight years, and formerly of a blameless life, was awakened by conversing with his brother under spiritual distress. On that night he was so deeply
affected that he could not sleep. Next morning, his distress was increased by reading that passage of Alleine’s Alarm,’ in which he discourseth of God’s being an enemy to unconverted sinners, which passage he met with at the first opening of the book.” Mr. Robe continues— “he was brought to me the following day, and though he was a very strong man, I found his mental disquiet had greatly affected his body. I observed that his reason was clear and undisturbed, as he was able to give a distinct account of himself. He was impressed with particular sins, and in a lively manner felt himself to be a guilty, condemned sinner. He had a deep impression of original sin and corruption, as rendering him liable to eternal wrath, even though he had not been guilty of actual sin. He had also a deep sense of the hatefulness of sin, as committed against God, and the sin of unbelief, as hardening his heart against the voice of Christ, in the reading or hearing of His Word. He was struck with dreadful fears of falling into the state of torment, and saw the great goodness and long suffering of God, in not cutting him off in the midst of his iniquity. He was supported sometimes by views of the remedy, Christ Jesus, that He had come into the world to save sinners, which he desired to lay hold of, for the ground of his hope. He soon attained to some composure of mind, in essaying to close with Jesus Christ.” Conversing with L. M. again, eight days after, Mr. Robe writes —“He declared that when engaged in prayer, he felt his soul going out in the acceptance of a whole Christ as his only Saviour; his Prophet to teach him by his Word and Spirit; his Priest to reconcile him to God by his sacrifice; his King to subdue his sin, sanctify, and rule him. He disclaimed
all confidence in his duties, and desired to rely on Him alone for salvation; withal, giving himself to the Lord to be saved, upon his own terms, to live unto him, and to serve him in newness of life—resolving also, in the strength of Jesus Christ, to live a holy life to his glory, and yet not to rest on it as a ground of peace and acceptance. He said he was greatly afraid lest he should fall back unto sin, and be a scandal to religion, after what God had done for him. He was exercised with the fears of hypocrisy and presumption in receiving Christ, against which it relieved him to look unto Christ anew who came to save the chief of sinners, and who is offered to him, in common with all others.”
“L. M.,” says Mr. Robe, “who was before this blameless in his life, is now spiritual, edifying, and exemplary in his ordinary conversation and deportment.”
One other instance may be quoted from the narrative of Mr. Robe;—
“After a sermon preached on the Monday of the sacrament, by Mr. Webster of Edinburgh, a young woman was brought to Mr. Robe, who found her so filled with a sense of the love of God to her soul, and with love to Jesus Christ, that she was all in tears, and could not refrain from weeping with joy. She had been awakened at Kilsyth about the beginning of July, but had obtained no sensible relief till she heard Mr. Webster. Before her awakening, she was of a blameless life, but when brought to feel the spirituality of God’s law, she was filled with alarm on account of the coming wrath. Sometime after, hearing Mr. Webster, she was enabled to state distinctly the consolation she experienced in taking hold of Christ in all his offices. Her subsequent conduct in life was of
such a kind as to make it manifest that she was now born from above.”
These examples are produced from among the many that might be selected, and furnish decisive evidence that the instructions delivered by the Pastors, and the experience of the people, were of the most scriptural kind; but it may be interesting to state, in Mr. Robe’s own words, what was the doctrine that was so zealously propagated, and which God’s Holy Spirit honoured so much:— “I feared to daub or deal slightly with my people, but told great and small that they were by nature the children of the Devil, while they were in the state of unbelief; and, that if they continued so to the end, I told them, in our Lord’s plain terms, they would be damned. I resolved that I would cry aloud, and not spare, and preach with the seriousness and fervour of one that knew that my hearers must either be prevailed with or be damned; and so that they might discern I was in good sadness with them, and really meant as I spoke. Aware that the greater part of every public audience is secure, unconcerned, and fearless, I preached the terrors of the law in the strongest terms I could, that is to say, in express Scripture terms. Yet I ever delighted to follow up such statements with a declaration of the gospel of the grace of God. After the law had done its office, I have seen the congregation in tears of joy when the law of grace from Mount Zion was proclaimed.” Such statements as these, full of earnestness and faithfulness, and Scripture simplicity, joined with believing prayer, are ever accompanied more or less with Divine power, and in the instances now related, were so abundantly blessed, as to make it manifest that they are not the doctrines which man’s wisdom
teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth;— the true sayings of God.
The preaching of the other ministers was in perfect agreement with this outline, and the very names of many of them are a sufficient guarantee for the soundness of their doctrines, —Mr. McLaurin, Mr. Gillies of Glasgow, Mr. Willison of Dundee, Mr. Bonar of Torphichen, Mr. Whitefield, and many others, were severally engaged in promoting the work, and have severally attested the truth of the facts that have been related. They are still well known to the Church by their able and judicious writings. These men acknowledged that the work was of God. They had the means of examining the experience and character of those who were its subjects. They laboured and prayed that the good work might spread over the land, that it might fill the whole earth. And besides, there is the evidence of Dr. Erskine of Edinburgh, who was ordained in the parish of Kirkintilloch, in the year 1744, and continued there till 1754. During that period he must have had sufficient opportunity of knowing the doctrines that had been preached, and the views and character of those who had been awakened, and he has given his recorded testimony to the reality of this work; and to the fact that the subjects of it in that parish lived as became the followers of the meek and lowly Jesus.—“The memory of the just is blessed.” The men who were honoured of God to edify the church during this interesting period of Scottish history, have long since gone the way of all the earth. “They rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” As they that have turned many to righteousness, they now shine as the stars for ever and ever.
It is now nearly a century since the Revival, which has just been related, took place; but the traces of it still remain—many prayer meetings exist, and not a few of them in Glasgow, that can date their institution from the period now referred to. The work of the Lord has been going on, though silently, in Scotland ever since. Many have been the faithful pastors that have been instrumental in gathering strayed sheep, in feeding “the flock of God, which He has purchased with his own blood.” It is the earnest and increasing prayer of the friends who issue these Tracts, that the number of such faithful men may be greatly increased, that the zeal of church rulers may be extended, that the exertions and prayers of the Christian people may be rendered more abundant, and more fervent; that so the church in this land may be revived, and may yet appear “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.”
Let every one into whose hand this tract may come, be assured, that he is by nature dead in trespasses and sins, and that with put the experience of the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, he must for ever perish. Let him know that there is “a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness;” let him understand that that fountain is the Redeemer’s blood. Let him, without delay, repair to it. Let him “wash and be clean.” Then, being freed from the curse of the law, invested with the Redeemer’s “robe of righteousness,” dwelt in by “the Spirit of promise,” he will look abroad over the earth, and earnestly breathe out the simple, yet sublime prayer of the Saviour—“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”
THE blessed promise of God to his ancient church, that, “when the enemy should come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord would lift up a standard against him,” has often been fulfilled in the experience of the Church of Scotland throughout the many eventful periods of her history. Soon after the death of Knox, attempts were made by the enemies of the truth to overturn that church order and discipline which, under the blessing of God, had been established in this country by the great Reformer; but these attempts were not permitted for the time to be successful. Andrew Melville was raised up to catch as it were the mantle of the departed Reformer, and, like him, in the strength of God, nobly to assert and defend the liberty of the church and her exclusive subjection to her Divine Head. Nor was he left to fight the battle alone. Welch of Ayr, the son-in-law of Knox, James Melville, and others who might be named, aided him in contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. They were eminently men
of prayer, as the history of Welch sufficiently testifies, and like the patriarch, had power with God and prevailed; and for a time they were enabled to defeat all the wiles of the adversary, and carry forward the church to a measure of purity and efficiency, beyond what she had formerly attained. This state of things continued with slight interruptions till about the period of the ascension of James to the throne of England, when the church was again brought into the furnace of affliction.
Melville and Welch, for their faithful contending, were first imprisoned, and afterwards banished their native country, while those ministers who were permitted to remain were forbidden to preach, and grievously harassed by the infliction of heavy fines and occasional imprisonment. This state of matters continued till the death of James, and during the early part of the reign of Charles the first. But, though the powers that then were, had banished and otherwise removed the ministers, they could not destroy the effects of their labours; for being faithful men, they had been much honoured by the great Head of the Church, in the conversion of souls. A spirit of prayer and supplication was poured out upon their bereaved flocks, and they were wonderfully enabled in patience to possess their souls, so that no sufferings, however great, could induce them to abandon those principles which they firmly believed to be the truth and cause of God, neither did they ever give themselves entirely to despair. “Nay,” says Guthrie, in his memoirs, in reference to this period, “when the darkness was at the greatest, and when to the eye of reason there seemed scarcely a ray of hope, the Presbyterians declared that utter desolation shall yet be to the haters of the virgin daughter of Scot-
land. The bride shall yet sing as in the days of her youth. The dry olive tree shall again bud, and the dry dead bones shall live; for the Lord shall prophesy to the dry bones, and the Spirit shall come upon them, and they shall live.” “On-waiting,” says Rutherford, “has ever a blessed issue; and to keep the word of God’s patience, keepeth still the saints dry in the water, cold in the fire, and breathing blood-hot in the grave.”
Though their efforts were as yet unavailing to free the Church from the bondage under which she groaned, let it not be imagined that they prayed and fasted altogether in vain. Many faithful ministers, such as Dickson, Livingstone, and Henderson, had great boldness given them to preach the glorious gospel, while standing forward amidst much opposition to witness for the cause of truth. The remarkable revivals which took place at Stewarton, and at the communion at the Kirk of Shotts —narratives of which form the subject of this tract —tended not a little to revive their drooping spirits, and increase their hope and confidence in their heavenly Father, who, having thus “appeared to water his heritage when it was weary,” would in his own good time and way work out their complete deliverance. Nor were they disappointed. The deliverance of the Church was ultimately accomplished, and she came out of the furnace purer and fairer than ever—so much so, that the state of the Church after the glorious second Reformation in 1638 is still looked back to as one of the brightest periods of her history.
The awakening at Stewarton having occurred first in the order of time, we shall proceed to give a detailed account of the circumstances connected with it, as they are to be found in the history of
those times. The parish of Stewarton, at the period referred to, had for its minister the Rev. Mr. Castlelaw, who appears from the sequel to have had the spiritual welfare of his flock very much at heart; but the principal instrument employed by the great Head of the Church in originating and carrying on this Revival, was the Rev. David Dickson, minister of the neighbouring parish of Irvine.
Mr. Dickson had been formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow; but on receiving a call from the town of Irvine to be their minister, he resigned his chair in the college, and was ordained to the pastoral office in that town in the year 1618. For four years he continued to labour there with great acceptance; but Satan becoming alarmed at the inroads that were making upon his kingdom, through means of Mr. Dickson’s ministry, stirred up the persecuting party against him, who summoned him to appear before the High Commission Court at Edinburgh, on the 9th of January, 1622. On his appearance before the court, he was urged to submit to those arbitrary measures they were at this time forcing on the Church. Upon his refusal, he was not only subjected to the most insulting and contemptuous treatment, but sentenced to be ejected from the parish of Irvine, and banished to Turreff, in the north of Scotland, during the pleasure of the court. To all this Mr. Dickson meekly replied, “The will of the Lord be done; though ye cast me off, the Lord will take me up. Send me whither you will, I hope my Master will go with me; and as he has been with me heretofore, he will be with me still, as being his own weak servant.” The Master whom he so dearly loved and so faithfully served having much people in Irvine and its vicini-
ty, who were to be to Him for a name and a praise, did not permit him to remain long in banishment. Having the hearts of all men in his hand, turning them whithersoever he will, He stirred up the Earl of Eglinton, the magistrates and others of the town of Irvine, to petition for his release from the sentence of banishment; and through the overruling providence of God, their request was granted, and about the end of June, 1623, Mr. Dickson was permitted to return to his flock without any condition whatever being imposed upon him.
After his return, his ministry was singularly countenanced and honoured of God for the conviction and conversion of multitudes. Few ministers in his day were more useful in opening up the way of salvation, and leading souls to Christ as their only refuge; so that persons under deep exercise and soul concern came from all the parishes round about Irvine to attend his preaching, and not a few even came from distant parts of the country to settle at Irvine, in order that they might statedly enjoy the benefit of his ministry. The communion seasons, especially, were times of great refreshing from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. The enjoyment of such a privilege in other parts of the country being rare, caused these seasons at Stewarton to be attended by the most eminent Christians from all corners of the land; and so great was the power accompanying the preaching of the gospel, that few Sabbaths passed without some convincing proofs being given of the Holy Spirit’s carrying home the word spoken to the hearts and consciences of the hearers. Many who afterwards became solid and lively Christians, were so filled with a sense of the awful evil of sin, and a view of their own vileness and unworthiness,
that they were quite overpowered, and had to be carried out of the church.
On the Sabbath evenings after sermon, many persons under soul distress came to Mr. Dickson at his house, with whom he usually spent an hour or two in hearing their cases, and in comforting and directing such as were in doubt or despondency. Indeed for this department of his ministerial work he was remarkably fitted; for his Divine Master had given him in a very special manner “the tongue of the learned, that he might know how to speak a word in season to him that was weary.”
Encouraged by these visible tokens of the power of the blessed Spirit, Mr. Dickson began a weekly lecture on the Mondays. That being the market day in Irvine, the town was usually thronged by people from the country; but so wisely did he arrange the time when the congregation assembled, that the lecture was usually over before the market began. The people from the parish of Stewarton, especially, availed themselves of this privilege; and as many of them as were able to travel, regularly attended Irvine market with some little commodities for sale, their chief design being to hear the Monday lecture. To this they were greatly encouraged by their minister, who strongly urged his parishioners to avail themselves of the privilege of hearing Mr. Dickson, and their example stirred up others in their own and other parishes, who also attended; so that the power of religion was felt throughout that part of the country.
Nor was this all. In a large hall in the manse, there would often be assembled upwards of a hundred serious Christians, waiting to converse with him, after the lecture, as to the state of their souls, and join with him in devotional exercises. And
it was by means of these week-day discourses and meetings that the famous Stewarton Revival began, and spread afterwards from house to house for many miles along the valley through which the Stewarton water runs. Many, who had been well known as most abandoned characters, and mockers of every thing bearing the semblance of religion, being drawn by motives of curiosity to attend these lectures, afterwards became completely changed, showing by their life and conversation that the Lord had opened their hearts “to attend unto the things spoken by his servant.”
The great enemy of souls, when he found that he could not hinder the progress of this Revival, endeavoured to bring reproach upon it, by leading some who seemed to be under serious concern about their souls into great extravagances, both in the church under sermon, and at private meetings; but the Lord enabled Mr. Dickson, and others who conversed with them, to act so prudently, that Satan’s design was in a great measure frustrated, and solid, serious, practical religion, flourished greatly illustrating in a remarkable manner what is said of God’s ancient people in a similar situation, “That the more they were afflicted, the more they multiplied and grew.”
The pious Mr. Robert Blair, who was at this time a professor in the College of Glasgow, often visited Stewarton during the vacation, for the purpose of assisting in the work, and conversing with the people. When there, he resided with the Lady Robertland, a person well known in those times for her piety and the interest she took in the spiritual welfare of others. Mr. Blair preached frequently to the people of Stewarton, and was very useful in assisting in carrying forward the work
of revival. Many of the people were at first under great terror and deep exercise of conscience, arising from the views they obtained of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, who afterwards, through the Spirit’s teaching, attained to sweet peace and strong consolation by believing in Jesus Christ; thus illustrating the promise of the Saviour, that when the Spirit would come into the hearts of sinners to make them willing in the day of his power, he would not speak of himself, but take of the things of Christ, and show them to their souls, that looking to the finished work of Christ they might see how completely all the demands of the broken covenant had been met and answered by the blessed Redeemer, and that through this new and living way the chief of sinners may now have access by one Spirit unto the Father, and so be filled with joy and peace in believing.
Mr. Blair modestly observes, “that in these conferences with the people of Stewarton he thought that he profited more by conversing with them, than they did with him.” Although formalists and men not knowing the gospel brought against them the charge that was once made against the great apostle of the Gentiles, when he replied, I am not mad, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness—“I bless the Lord,” says Mr. Blair, “that ever I was acquainted with them, and for the help I received by interchanging letters with Mr. Dickson, whereby I was greatly assisted, according to my ability, to relieve them that were in spiritual distress, and to sympathize tenderly with such as I knew to be tempted, and lying under heavy pressure of conscience, so that I still learned more of the wicked wiles of Satan, and of the blessed way of God.”
The venerable Principal Boyd of Glasgow, who was at this time living in retirement on his own estate in Carrick, came also to visit this parish; and having conversed with many of the people, he heartily blessed God for the rich display of his mercy towards them, and for the manifestations of his grace in them. Anna, Countess of Eglinton, although bred in her youth amid the splendour of a court, was an humble and eminent Christian, and exerted all her influence for the promotion of the interests of religion. Eglinton Castle being often a shelter for the persecuted ministers of the gospel, she took a deep and lively interest in the work at Stewarton, and persuaded her noble husband to give up for a few days the sports of the field to converse with some of the people she had invited to the castle for that purpose. His lordship declared, after conferring with them, “that he never spoke with the like of them, and wondered at the wisdom they manifested in their conversation.”
This great springtide of the gospel, says Fleming in his work on the Fulfilling of the Scriptures, did not last for a short time merely, but continued many years—commencing about 1625, and ending about 1630, and, like a spreading stream, increasing as it flows, and fertilizing all within its reach, so did the power of godliness advance from one place to another, increasing in its progress, and throwing a marvellous lustre over those parts of the country. The fame of this Revival brought many from distant parts of the country, who, when they came and witnessed the gladdening sight of so many turned from darkness to light, and walking in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Ghost, thanked God and took courage, and became more earnest in prayer than ever for the descent of
the Spirit on other parts of the Church. The remembrance of the gracious promise, that “for all these things I will be inquired of by the House of Israel to do it for them,” would quicken their importunities at a throne of grace—that God for Christ’s sake would come and visit that vine which his own right hand had planted, and make it fruitful and fill the whole land.
This brings us to the Narrative of the Revival at Shotts. This Parish is situated in the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, and seems to have enjoyed in these troublous times the rare privilege of having a stated minister amongst them disposed to promote the interests of religion. Of his pastoral labours nothing is now known, except in connection with this remarkable Revival. The manse, says Gillies in his Collections, was at this time situated where the public inn now stands, and being far from any place of entertainment, was often resorted to by strangers. Some ladies of rank, who had occasion often to travel that way, received at different times civilities from the minister, particularly on one occasion, when their carriage broke down near to the manse, he kindly invited them to alight and remain at his house till it could be repaired, so as to enable them to proceed on their journey. During their stay in the house, they noticed that it had little accommodation, and was much out of repair. In gratitude for his kind attention to them, they got a new manse built for the minister, and in a better situation. Mr. Hance, on receiving so substantial a favour, waited on the ladies to thank them for their kindness, and wished to know if there was any thing in his power he could do to testify his gratitude. The ladies loved the gospel, and the persecuted ministers who were faithfully witness-
ing for its purity. They therefore gladly seized the opportunity of asking Mr. Hance to invite such of them as they named to assist at the sacrament, in order that they might enjoy the benefit of their ministrations, and also give an opportunity to others to partake of so precious a privilege, at this time rarely enjoyed. To this the minister gladly consented; and information of it spreading abroad, brought together an immense number of choice Christians, from all parts of the country, to attend the dispensation of the ordinance, which was fixed for Sabbath, the 20th June, 1630.
Nothing is now known of the names of the ministers who conducted the preparatory exercises, nor of the subjects to which they directed the attention of the people, but this, that the venerable Mr. Robert Bruce was one of their number, and that the Holy Spirit was evidently at work in the hearts of the worshippers, much of their time being spent in social prayer and spiritual conference. Their prayers for the ministers were heard in their own happy experience; for with great power were they enabled to witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Much of the Spirit of light and love was imparted on the Sabbath of communion; and so filled were they with joy and peace in believing, that instead of retiring to rest on the evening of the communion Sabbath, they joined together in little companies, and spent the whole of the night in devotional exercises. And there is no doubt that while their hearts were thus filled with the love of Christ, they would be touched with the tenderest pity for the situation of those perishing around them strangers to this love, and that many fervent petitions would be presented in their behalf at a throne of grace.
It had not been usual in those times to have sermon on the Monday after the dispensation of the Lord’s supper; but God had given so much of his gracious presence on this occasion, and afforded his people so much communion with himself, on the preceding days, that they knew not how to part on the Monday without thanksgiving and praise. And while their hearts were thus warm with the love of God, some expressed their desire of a sermon on the Monday, and were joined by others, till in a little the desire became general. Mr. John Livingstone, chaplain to the Countess of Wigton, (at that time only a preacher, not an ordained minister, and about twenty-seven years of age,) was with difficulty prevailed on to consent to give the sermon. The night before had been spent by him, and most of the Christians present, in prayer and conference; but when he was alone in the fields in the morning, there came upon him such a misgiving, under a sense of unworthiness and unfitness to speak before so many aged and worthy ministers, and eminent and experienced Christians, that he was thinking of stealing away, and had actually gone to some distance, and was just about to lose sight of the kirk, when these words, “Was I ever a barren wilderness, or a land of darkness?” were brought into his mind with such an overcoming power, as constrained him to think it his duty to return and comply with the call to preach. He accordingly preached, with much assistance, for about an hour and a half, on the points he had meditated, from Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, 26— “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within
you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.”
As he was about to close the discourse, a heavy shower came suddenly on, which made the people hastily take to their cloaks and mantles, and he proceeded to speak to the following purpose:— “If a few drops of rain so discompose you, how discomposed would you be—how full of horror and despair, if God should deal with you as you deserve? and thus he will deal with all the finally impenitent. God might justly rain fire and brimstone upon you, as he did upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain. But, for ever blessed be his name! the door of mercy still stands open for such as you are. The Lord Jesus Christ, by tabernacling in our nature, and obeying that law which we have wickedly and wilfully broken, and suffering that punishment we have so richly deserved, has now become a refuge from the storm, and a covert from the tempest of Divine wrath, due to us for sin. His merits and mediation are the alone defence from that storm, and none but those who come to Christ just as they are, empty of every thing, and take the offered mercy at his hand, will have the benefit of this shelter.” In such expressions, and many others, was he led on for about an hour, (after he had finished what he had premeditated,) in a strain of exhortation and warning, with great enlargement and melting of heart, and with such visible impressions on his audience, as made it evident that the power of God was present with them. And, indeed, so great was the power of God manifested on the occasion, that about five hundred persons were converted, principally by means of this sermon.
Of this day’s exercises Mr. Livingstone has
himself left the following memorandum:— “The day in all my life wherein I found most of the presence of God in preaching, was on a Monday after the communion, in the churchyard of Shotts, June 21, 1630. The night before, I had been in company with some Christians who spent the night in prayer and conference. When I was alone in the fields in the morning, before the time of sermon, there came such a misgiving of spirit upon me, considering my own unworthiness and weakness, and the multitude and expectation of the people, that I was consulting with myself to have stolen away and declined preaching; but I thought I durst not so distrust God, and so went to sermon, and got good assistance about one hour and a half upon the points which I had meditated on. And in the end, offering to close with some words of exhortation, I was led on about an hour’s time in a strain of exhortation and warning, with such liberty and melting of heart, as I never had the like in public all my lifetime. Some little of that stamp remained on the Thursday after, when I preached at Kilmarnock; but the very Monday following, preaching at Irvine, I was so deserted, that the points I had meditated and written, and which I had fully in my memory, I was not able to get pronounced—so it pleased the Lord to counterbalance his dealings, and to hide pride from man.”
Of the effects of this work, Mr. Fleming, then minister of Cambuslang, writes—“I can speak on sure grounds, that about five hundred had at that time a discernible change wrought in them, of whom most proved lively Christians. It was the sowing of a seed through Clydesdale, so as many of the most eminent Christians in that country could date either their conversion, or some remarkable
confirmation from it: and this was the more remarkable, that one, after much reluctance, by a special and unexpected providence, was called upon to preach that sermon on the Monday, which was not usually practised. And the night before being spent in prayer, the Monday’s work might be discerned as a convincing return of prayer.”
The following particular instance of the mercy of God on this occasion is well attested:—On that remarkable Monday, three young gentlemen belonging to Glasgow, had made an appointment to go to Edinburgh, to attend the public amusements. Having alighted at Shotts to take breakfast, one of their number proposed to go and hear sermon, probably more from curiosity than any other motive. And for greater expedition, they arranged to come away just at the end of the sermon, before the last prayer. But the power of God was so felt by them, accompanying the sermon, that they could not come away till all was over. When they returned to take their horses, they called for some refreshment before they mounted; but when it was set upon the table, they all looked to one another, none of them daring to touch it till a blessing was asked; and as they were not accustomed formerly to attend to such things, one of them at last remarked, “I think we should ask a blessing.” The others assented at once to this proposal, and put it on one of their number to do it, to which he readily consented. And when they had done, they could not rise until another should return thanks. They went on their way more sedately than they used to do, but none of them mentioned their inward concern to the others—only now and then one would say, “Was it not a great sermon we heard?” Another would answer, “I never heard
the like of it.” They went to Edinburgh: but instead of attending the amusements, they kept their rooms the greater part of the time they were there, which was only about two days, when they were all quite weary of Edinburgh, and proposed to return home. Upon the way home, they did not discover the state of their minds to one another; and after arriving in Glasgow, they kept their rooms very much, coming seldom out. At last one of them made a visit to another, and declared to him what God had done for him at Shotts. The other frankly owned the concern that he had been brought under at the same time; and both of them proceeding to the third, and finding him in the same state of mind, they all three agreed immediately to begin a fellowship meeting. They continued to have a practice suitable to their profession for the remainder of their lives, and became eminently useful in their day and generation.
Another instance, equally well authenticated, is related of a poor man, a coachman in Glasgow, employed by a lady to drive her conveyance to the Shotts. During the sermon, he had taken out his horse to feed at a small distance from the tents; and when the power of God was so much felt during the latter part of the sermon, he apprehended that there was a more than ordinary concern among the people. He felt something strike him in such a way as he could not account for. He hastily rose up and ran into the congregation, where he was made a sharer of what God was distributing among them that day.
The following important testimony to the after life and conversation of many of the persons brought under the power of religion on this remarkable occasion is given by Mr. Andrew Gray of Chrys-
ton, an eminently pious old gentleman, in a letter embodied in Gillies’ Collection:-
“Notwithstanding the blessed Reformation from popery, which God brought about by the endeavours of a few, the bulk of the country continued in much ignorance and immorality. But two springs of the revival of religion in this corner, were the famous sermon at the Kirk of Shotts, and the labours of Mr. Robert Bruce. At the sermon at Shotts, a good number of people were by grace made acquainted with the life and power of religion—many of them became eminently good men, and remarkable not only for a pious, inoffensive behaviour, but also for abounding in all the good fruits which pure and undefiled religion enables its sincere followers to perform. Among other good fruits, you cannot doubt a strong inclination to promote the spiritual good of others was a principal one. As the labourers were then few in this part of God’s vineyard, he seemed to have inspired these private Christians with an uncommon degree of love to the souls of men—inciting them to labour, by all proper methods, to bring others to the knowledge of that grace which had produced such blessed effects on themselves: and their labours were not without a considerable effect. They were called the Puritans of the Muir of Bothwell, perhaps by way of reproach, by those who were ill affected towards them. Some relations of mine were much the better for having conversed with them. I have seen some of those people myself, who lived to a great age, and have conversed with many good people at this house, who had been very well acquainted with them.”
In conclusion, it is very worthy of notice, that, previous to the revival at Shotts, there had been
much fervent prayer on the part of the preacher, and prolonged social prayer on the part of the people. And it has been well remarked by a late writer, that while God sometimes works without his people, he never refuses to work with them. Certain it is, that when the hearts of his children are united and enlarged in prayer for a blessing on the ministrations of their pastors, the blessing will not be withheld. God is more ready to give than we are to ask. And it may truly be said, that if we have not now such glorious displays of God’s power, it is simply “because we ask not,” or asking, we “ ask not in faith,” forgetting the Saviour’s solemn promise, “Verily, verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name he will give it you. Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
Reader! are you a stranger to the exercise of believing prayer? Remain not a moment longer, we beseech you, in such an awful condition. Know that to you now is the word of salvation sent; and for your encouragement we tell you from the Bible —God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
Part I. Cambuslang, 1742.
Part II. Kilsyth, 1742-3
Part III. Baldernock, Kirkintilloch, &c., 1742-3
Part IV. Stewarton, 1625; Shotts, 1630
Part V. Island Of Arran, 1804, 1812-13.
Part VI. Moulin, 1798-1800.
Part VII. Ulster, 1623-1641.
Part VII. Island Of Lewis, 1824-1835.
Part IX. Wales, 1640-1794.
Part X. Skye, 1812-14.
Part XI. Kilsyth, 1839.
Account of the Communion September 1839