1859 Ulster Revival

March 14 – James McQuilkin

1859 Ulster Revival

James McQuilkin

Revival swept Great Britain also, including the Ulster revival of 1859.

During September 1857, the same month the Fulton Street meetings began, James McQuilkin commenced a weekly prayer meeting in a village schoolhouse near Kells with three other young Irishmen. This is generally seen as the start of the Ulster revival. The first conversions in answer to their prayers came in December 1857. Through 1858 innumerable prayer meetings started, and revival was a common theme of preachers.

On Monday, March 14, 1859, James McQuilkin and his praying friends organized a great prayer meeting at the Ahoghill Presbyterian Church. Such a large crowd gathered that the building was cleared in case the galleries collapsed. Outside in the chilling rain as a layman preached with great power, hundreds knelt in repentance. This was the first of many movements of mass conviction of sin.

The Results of the1859 Ulster Revival

The revival of 1859 brought 100,000 converts into the churches of Ireland. God’s Spirit moved powerfully in small and large gatherings, bringing great conviction of sin, deep repentance, and lasting moral change. Prostrations were common—people lying prostrate in conviction and repentance, unable to rise for some time.

By 1860 crime was reduced; several times the judges in Ulster had no cases to try. At one time in County Antrim no crime was reported to the police and no prisoners were held in police custody.

This revival made a greater impact on Ireland than anything known since Patrick brought Christianity there. By the end of 1860 the effects of the Ulster revival were listed as thronged services, unprecedented numbers of communicants, abundant prayer meetings, increased family prayers, unmatched Scripture reading, prosperous Sunday Schools, converts remaining steadfast, increased giving, abated vice, and reduced crime.

Revival fire ignites fire. Throughout 1859 the same deep conviction and lasting conversions revived thousands of people in Wales, Scotland, and England.

Revival in Wales found expression in glorious praise including harmonies unique to the Welsh, which involved preacher and people in turn. There, too, 100,000 converts (one- tenth of the total population) were added to the church and crime was greatly reduced.

Scotland and England were similarly visited with revival. Again, prayer increased enormously, and preaching caught fire with many anointed evangelists seeing thousands converted.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a Baptist minister known as the prince of preachers, considered 1859 as the high-water mark although he had already been preaching in his Metropolitan Tabernacle in London for five years with great blessing and huge crowds.

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.

For further research:
The Year of Grace William Gibson