Old Time Revivals - John Shearer

shearerOld Time Revivals is an all-time favourite and has introduced many to the subject of Revival.

It is a popular account of a variety of revivals through history and is ideal for those who are new to the subject.

"These chapters on the story of Revival first appeared in The Christian and The Scottish Baptist Magazine. They are reprinted with the kind permission of the proprietors of those Journals." (from original)

The printed work is in the public domain but we would be grateful if the use of this electronic version was restricted to private reading and research. For any other use (including publishing, storing or reproducing) please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for authorisation.

We have included 4 of the 12 chapters.

Chapter I. The Puritan Fire

The story of the Puritan Revival is that of England itself in the most heroic period of her history. It is the story of her great uncrowned king, Oliver Cromwell; of an earnest and sustained endeavour to found the government of this realm upon the deep, broad base of the Eternal Righteous-ness; of a time when, in the glowing language of Baxter, "England was like to become a land of saints, a pattern of holiness to the world, and the unmatchable paradise of the earth." And it is all this because it is the story of the English Bible. The real beginnings of Puritanism are seen in London, when, as the fruit of the sacrificial labours of Tyndale and his brethren, the Book of God was at last given to the people in their own tongue. The first six Bibles were set up in the nave of st Paul's, and day after day crowds flocked to the edifice to drink from the living stream. Good readers were in great request, and one of these stands out vividly in the page of the historian, John Porter, a fresh young man, big of stature, to whom the multitude resorted, "because he could read well and had an audible voice." Soon that glad and solemn scene was repeated throughout the whole land, for in every Parish Church the Bible was displayed, chained in the porch, and, as in the days of Nehemiah, men listened with streaming eyes to the words of the Book.

But the Book did not remain in the porch. In the form of the small Genevan version, it entered the homes of the people, and there it was deeply, prayerfully pondered. It is well that it was so, for the clergy of that day, ere the Puritan fire reached the pulpit, were faithless shepherds and in many cases grossly immoral. In Baxter's parish, the vicar, an old blind man, holding two livings twenty miles apart, never preached at all, but repeated the prayers by heart (and without heart!) being assisted latterly by his son, the best stage player and gamester in the country round. Sunday was a day of revelry. The Morris dancers, in their fantastic dress, entered the church, gave careless heed to the mumbled devotions, then ran out to play. But, quietly and surely, the Bible did its Divine work in the homes of the people. Everywhere men and women, as they read, were awakened and converted.These converts of the pure Word were marked at once as a peculiar people. A deep sense of the Holy Majesty of God possessed them. An ineffable light seemed to spring from the Book and invest them. The awful purity of God, contrasting with the foul world around them, almost over-whelmed their spirit. It entered into them and filled them with a tremendous earnestness of moral purpose. No wonder they appeared to their neighbours as inhabitants of another sphere. Men tried to find a name for them, and as often before and since, the nickname they invented stuck fast. They called them Puritans.

In other days Puritanism might have held on in its quiet channels, vitalising the nation by a gently pervasive influence. But the course of events brought it into a great and terrible pro-minence. Because of the decisive part it played in the Civil War, we are apt to think of it as essentially stern and warlike; but, in truth, Puritanism found its strength in a quiet and peaceable people. They suffered long and patiently under the cruel tyranny of the Stuarts. Rather than lift the sword against their unworthy rulers, a multitude sought refuge in the New World, and, battling with Nature's grim but honest powers, built up a free and righteous state. In the course of some ten years, 20, 000 of the best of England's race crossed the Atlantic, and the great American Commonwealth is the direct outcome of the Puritan awakening. From the days of the Pilgrim Fathers America has been the Home of Revival, and there the living waters have again and again appeared to diffuse a world-wide blessing.

In England itself a strange and wonderful time followed the triumph of Cromwell and the Puritan host. By the Solemn League and Covenant, the nation bound itself to God in holy obedience. The Bible was placed on the table of the House of Commons and recognised as the fount of its laws, the inspiration of its life. Vital godliness became the indispensable qualification for public office. Swearing, drunkenness, and impurity were criminal offences. Every theatre in the land was closed. England became a refuge of the oppressed, the tower and strength of Protestantism in Europe. It never stood higher among the nations than in the days of Cromwell's Protectorate.

These were the days of the great Puritan preachers of Owen, Howe, Baxter, Goodwin, and the immortal Bunyan, whose works have enriched every generation of preachers since, and whose pastoral devotion has never been surpassed. In a brief account of one of these we may taste the quality of a Puritan minister and feel the power of the Puritan Fire. When Richard Baxter went to Kidderminster it had a population of about 3000, shrewd, hard-headed weavers, who worked diligently and lived in considerable comfort. Their vicar was a weak, incompetent man who preached but once a quarter, and then so foolishly that he roused only the laughter of his audience, while his curate was a common drunkard seldom out of the alehouse, and ignorant even of the Children's Catechism. The people, thus neglected, abode in deep spiritual darkness, ignorant, wild, and ungodly.

When Baxter settled amongst them they gave him a rough reception, but the utterly selfless spirit of the man soon secured their respect. His was one of the finest intellects of the time. He was a master of mathematics, physics, and medicine. But the whole mass of his knowledge, the whole being of the man, were aglow with the love of God and of his fellows. His whole energy flowed in one channel; he was always and every where a soul-winner. He preached with passionate earnestness, and ever, he tells us, "as a dying man to dying men." Soon the large church was filled to overflowing, and gallery after gallery had to be added, to the number of five.

How often is the pastor lost in the preacher! Baxter felt that his work was but half done when he had studiously prepared and forcefully preached his sermon. He must come into vital, personal, individual touch with his people, and so he invented his own method of catechising. He arranged that every family in his parish should come to his house, one by one, and with each family he spent an hour. Then he took each member apart, and urgently, tenderly besought him to make immediate decision for Christ. Seldom did a family leave Baxter's door without tears. The fruit of this labour was most precious, and filled the faithful minister's heart with an overflowing joy. Fully a third of the older inhabitants were converted, and the young received a great blessing. Family worship was set up in almost every home, and as one passed through the streets, the songs of Zion might be heard resounding from every quarter. Kidder-minster became a "colony of Heaven" in the days of the Puritans. The blessing spread to the country around. The neighbouring ministers especially felt the Heavenly influence, and Baxter became a shepherd of shepherds to his brethren. "The Reformed Pastor," that great Puritan homiletic, contains the gist of his instructions, and it has inspired and directed some of the noblest ministries of modern times. This book and his "Call fo the Unconverted," with "The Saints' Everlasting Rest," are his abiding legacy to the Church.

 bg pattern

Chapter II. A Great Day At Kirk Of Shotts

John Livingston was born in the manse of Kilsyth in 1603. He was one of those happy souls who can never date their second birth. Claimed for God in his infancy by the mighty faith of his parents, reared in a home that shone with the beauty of holiness, he could never remember a time when he did not love God, and yearn to please Him. In his schooldays he was a member of the Church at Stirling, and never did a communicant approach the table in a more fitting frame. A holy awe came upon him that made his very body tremble, but soon sweet comfort and assurance came to this lamb of the Good Shepherd. He ardently desired to serve Christ, and at first he thought he could best do so as a physician. But one day, as he meditated in a cave by the Mouse Water, God spoke and called the lad. He left the cave with the conviction that one path alone lay open to him. He must serve in the ministry of the Gospel.

He prepared himself at Glasgow College, and in 1625, when the holy fire fell at Stewarton, he began to preach Christ. The True Church was quick to perceive the grace of God in him, and in many places his pastoral services were eagerly sought. But everywhere the Bishop forbade his settlement. His warm evangelism was highly oftensive to the "moderate" palate, and so young Livingston entered the furnace. For five long years he remained there. It was a heavy trial. With a heart hungering to preach Christ, with fields of service invitingly opened before him, he was held back by the grim hand of the royal episcopate. But, though he knew it not, God' s hand was quietly overruling the enemy' s purpose, and refining him for a glorious task.

And now we have to note, as so often before in the story of Revival, how God made use of a seemingly fortuitous circumstance to further His great purpose of grace.

It happened that some ladies of high rank, who mourned in secret the decline of the Reformed Faith, were travelling in the neighbourhood of Shotts when their carriage broke, down. The accident took place beside the manse. The minister, Mr. Hance, hastened out and invited them to shelter under his roof until repairs were completed. They gladly did so, and finding the minister' s house was sadly dilapidated, and indeed in a still more parlous state than their carriage, they returned his kindness soon afterward by building a new manse in a better situation. Kindness begets kindness. When Mr. Hance waited upon the ladies to thank them, he asked if there was anything he could do to express his gratitude. Then they ventured to make a bold request, a request that was the real outcome of their secret prayers. Would he open his church at the coming sacrament to some of the persecuted ministers, whom they named? Mr. Hance at once consented, and amongst those named was the young man, John Livingston.

The communion was fixed for June 20th, 1630. Great interest was aroused, and from all parts a vast assembly was gathered together. Rich blessing followed the Word at the Sabbath services, so rich indeed that it was felt they could not part without an added day of thanksgiving. And it was on this added day that God outpoured the superabundant blessing. After much persuasion Livingston consented to preach on the morrow. Finding their hearts too full of joy for sleep, many formed themselves into little companies, and spent the whole night in fervent devotion, in praise and supplication. The young preacher was one of these praying bands, and when the morning came a sore trial beset him. As he thought of the great, expectant multitude, he was overwhelmed by a sense of utter unworthiness, incompetence, and insufficiency. All strength seemed to leave him, and he was brought down to the dust of death. So real and painful was the abasement that he gave up all thought of preaching, and was preparing to steal away through the fields when his friends gathered about him, and constrained him to remain. And so, on June 21st, in the Churchyard of Shotts, John Livingston stood up amongst the people, feeling himself the weakest and least of God' s creatures. Then was fulfilled the saying of the prophet Hosea, "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel." God uplifted him and perfected His strength in the young man's weakness. His text was Ezekiel 36. 25, 26: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." As he expounded it, burning thoughts and burning words filled his heart and lips. For an hour and a hal.f he preached to a people Who seemed rooted to the ground in a great stillness, Then when he thought he must close, again the Spirit filled him with a fulness that must be outpoured, and for another hour he continued with a melting of heart and liberty of utterance he never experienced before and never after. Five hundred men and women, some from the high ranks of society, some poor wastrels and beggars, were converted where they stood, and lived from that day as those who had indeed received a new heart and a new spirit. The memory of that day has never died, and the very telling of its story, as at Kilsyth, has proved a fount of revival.

 bg pattern

Chapter III. The Great Awakening

John Livingston was born in the manse of Kilsyth in 1603. He was one of those happy souls who can never date their second birth. Claimed for God in his infancy by the mighty faith of his parents, reared in a home that shone with the beauty of holiness, he could never remember a time when he did not love God, and yearn to please Him. In his schooldays he was a member of the Church at Stirling, and never did a communicant approach the table in a more fitting frame. A holy awe came upon him that made his very body tremble, but soon sweet comfort and assurance came to this lamb of the Good Shepherd. He ardently desired to serve Christ, and at first he thought he could best do so as a physician. But one day, as he meditated in a cave by the Mouse Water, God spoke and called the lad. He left the cave with the conviction that one path alone lay open to him. He must serve in the ministry of the Gospel.

He prepared himself at Glasgow College, and in 1625, when the holy fire fell at Stewarton, he began to preach Christ. The True Church was quick to perceive the grace of God in him, and in many places his pastoral services were eagerly sought. But everywhere the Bishop forbade his settlement. His warm evangelism was highly oftensive to the "moderate" palate, and so young Livingston entered the furnace. For five long years he remained there. It was a heavy trial. With a heart hungering to preach Christ, with fields of service invitingly opened before him, he was held back by the grim hand of the royal episcopate. But, though he knew it not, God' s hand was quietly overruling the enemy' s purpose, and refining him for a glorious task.

And now we have to note, as so often before in the story of Revival, how God made use of a seemingly fortuitous circumstance to further His great purpose of grace.

It happened that some ladies of high rank, who mourned in secret the decline of the Reformed Faith, were travelling in the neighbourhood of Shotts when their carriage broke, down. The accident took place beside the manse. The minister, Mr. Hance, hastened out and invited them to shelter under his roof until repairs were completed. They gladly did so, and finding the minister' s house was sadly dilapidated, and indeed in a still more parlous state than their carriage, they returned his kindness soon afterward by building a new manse in a better situation. Kindness begets kindness. When Mr. Hance waited upon the ladies to thank them, he asked if there was anything he could do to express his gratitude. Then they ventured to make a bold request, a request that was the real outcome of their secret prayers. Would he open his church at the coming sacrament to some of the persecuted ministers, whom they named? Mr. Hance at once consented, and amongst those named was the young man, John Livingston.

The communion was fixed for June 20th, 1630. Great interest was aroused, and from all parts a vast assembly was gathered together. Rich blessing followed the Word at the Sabbath services, so rich indeed that it was felt they could not part without an added day of thanksgiving. And it was on this added day that God outpoured the superabundant blessing. After much persuasion Livingston consented to preach on the morrow. Finding their hearts too full of joy for sleep, many formed themselves into little companies, and spent the whole night in fervent devotion, in praise and supplication. The young preacher was one of these praying bands, and when the morning came a sore trial beset him. As he thought of the great, expectant multitude, he was overwhelmed by a sense of utter unworthiness, incompetence, and insufficiency. All strength seemed to leave him, and he was brought down to the dust of death. So real and painful was the abasement that he gave up all thought of preaching, and was preparing to steal away through the fields when his friends gathered about him, and constrained him to remain. And so, on June 21st, in the Churchyard of Shotts, John Livingston stood up amongst the people, feeling himself the weakest and least of God' s creatures. Then was fulfilled the saying of the prophet Hosea, "When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel." God uplifted him and perfected His strength in the young man's weakness. His text was Ezekiel 36. 25, 26: "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and ye shall be clean. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you." As he expounded it, burning thoughts and burning words filled his heart and lips. For an hour and a hal.f he preached to a people Who seemed rooted to the ground in a great stillness, Then when he thought he must close, again the Spirit filled him with a fulness that must be outpoured, and for another hour he continued with a melting of heart and liberty of utterance he never experienced before and never after. Five hundred men and women, some from the high ranks of society, some poor wastrels and beggars, were converted where they stood, and lived from that day as those who had indeed received a new heart and a new spirit. The memory of that day has never died, and the very telling of its story, as at Kilsyth, has proved a fount of revival.

 bg pattern

Chapter IV. The "Wark" At Cambuslang

Cambuslang, on the outskirts of Glasgow, now a populous and thriving town, was, in the eighteenth century, a small parish of about 900 souls. Here a memorable and far reaching awakening took place, and its green braes are fragrant to this day with the Divine breath that breathed so sweetly there in 1742.

The work is abidingly associated with the name of William M 'Culloch, minister of the Parish Church. He was not at all a "popular" preacher. His delivery was slow and cautious, but his message was intensely Biblical. He rose at five that he might revel in the riches of Divine Truth. He abounded in charity, but, above all, he was a man of prayer. He loved the secret place, and he was ever encouraging his people to unite in praying bands, and to make the chief burden of their petitions the revival of God's Work.

Like Elijah's servant, he eagerly scanned the heavens for the tokens of coming blessing, and the news of the gracious movement under Wesley and Whitefield filled his soul with joy. He at once began to tell his people the story of the great revival in England and America. The church being small and in need of repair, the services were often held in a green hollow of the surrounding hills. Here, then, on the Sabbath evenings, when his sermon was finished, he told his flock, little by little, the great tidings that had gladdened his own heart. His preaching, more than ever, became a solemn and awakening call. For fully a year he dwelt on the need of the new birth, and strictly kindred topics, and gradually the effect was seen in deepening reverence and a growing hunger for prayer.

God times the movements of His obedient servants with a beautiful accuracy. He now sent Whitefield to Scotland, the first of a long series of visits. In July, 1741, he commenced a truly apostolic ministry in Dunfermline. When he gave out his first text, the rustle of the leaves as the whole audience opened their Bibles, filled him with surprise and delight. He felt like Paul in Berea. The soil had been enriched by long and systematic study of the Scriptures, and the good seed at once took deep root. At Edinburgh he preached twice daily, and every morning he had "a levee of wounded souls." He then turned to the West, and the vast graveyard of Glasgow' s ancient Cathedral became the birth-place of a multitude of souls. When he went south in October, Whitefield. had the assurance that God had visited His people in Scotland, and that greater things were in store.

In Cambuslang the work had received a new impetus. The year of grace 1742 opened with lively hope. In January a petition was presented to Mr. M 'Culloch from ninety heads of families, requesting that a weekly service be held for the further ministry of the Word. Thursday was at once fixed for this purpose.

Prayer now became importunate. On Monday, February 15th, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday, a band of intercessors gathered at the manse. Next day the newly established service was held, and when the sermon closed it was evident that the great power of God had been liberated. The Word, quietly delivered, cut like a sharp sword, and when the minister retired to his house fifty people followed him in an agony of conviction. The whole night was spent by Mr. M'Culloch in the blessed labour of directing these wounded souls to Christ. The following day the church doors were thrown open, and for twelve weeks he preached daily to a stricken people. The deep conviction that their sins had pierced the Son of God this was the heart of their sorrow. Now the Gospel was heard, as it were, for the first time, and beholding the Lamb of God, their sorrow was turned into a joy unspeakable. Heaven seemed to come down to earth again, and the very glory of God seemed to shine on every hillside. A mighty hunger for the Word seized the new-born converts, and old people went to school with the children that they might learn to read the Bible. The life of the community was transformed. Drunkenness and blasphemy ceased. A spirit of tenderest love filled their hearts and shone in their eyes. Faults were confessed and forgiven. Restitution to the utmost was eagerly made. Family worship was revived, and every one sought to bring another to the Saviour.

The tidings of this gracious movement spread far and wide, and the "Wark at Cambuslang," as it was called, became the talk of Scotland. People came flocking from all parts of the land to see the grace of God, and Mr. M 'Culloch now frequently ministered the Word to ten thousand. The blessing culminated in two great comniunions, the like of which Scotland had never seen. The first was fixed for July 11th. On the previous Tuesday, Whitefield, again in Scotland, came to Cambuslang for the first time. He preached thrice, at two, at six, and at nine o' clock. The people were literally smitten down, and had to be borne into the surrounding houses. When he was exhausted, Mr. M 'Culloch continued to preach until long past midnight. Through all that night the voice of prayer and praise was heard in the fields and barns of the country around. On the Sabbath twenty thousand assembled to hear the Word, while more than 1700 pressed to the Communion Tables, sitting down by companies upon the green grass, as in Galilee of old.

So great was the blessing that it was determined to hold a second Communion on August 15th. Many travelled from afar to the sacred feast. Old Mr. Bonar, minister of Torphichen, from whom has sprung a famous and godly seed, though very frail, was determined not to miss this crowning joy. He took three days to ride the 18 miles that lay between, and joined Whitefield and the goodly band of ministers who had come to Mr. M 'Culloch' s assistance. More than thirty thousand hearers assembled, and three thousand sat down at the Lord' s Table. The windows of Heaven were again opened above the thronging multitude, and an even richer blessing was outpoured. There was indeed no room to receive it, and again the mourning of stricken hearts mingled with the song of the redeemed throughout the night.

The "wark" was of God, and it stood the test of time. When the flood of spiritual ecstasy subsided, a rich soil remained, and a bountiful harvest was securely garnered. The movement spread quietly through the land, and not a few of the subsequent and seemingly isolated outbursts of the Holy Fire can be traced to a spark wafted from the great blaze on the hills of Cambuslang.

bg pattern

Title Page

Chapter 1.   The Puritan Fire
Chapter 2.   A Great Day At Kirk Of Shotts
Chapter 3.   The Great Awakening
Chapter 4.   The "Wark" At Cambuslang

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

Chapter 5.   Brainerd And The Indian Revival
Chapter 6.   The Great Missionary Revival
Chapter 7.   Robert Haldane In Geneva
Chapter 8.   The Kilsyth Revival
Chapter 9.   The Revival In Dundee
Chapter 10.   The American Awakening
Chapter 11.   The Ulster Revival Of 1859
Chapter 12.   The Aberdeenshire Revival

1932  112pp

Get your complete book here

Go to top