The 1839 Kilsyth Revival
I was admitted to the charge of this parish on the 19th April, 1821, on which I entered “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.” I saw a beautiful valley before me, like that of Sodom, rich and well watered; but, alas! it bore too close a resemblance to it also in its spiritual and moral aspect. Yet there were several Lots, yea Jacobs, among them, who prayed and wrestled for the return of the time of revival. This was often referred to in the prayers of my predecessor, and familiar to the ears of our people, who seemed to think it an honour to have their fathers’ names and sepulchres thus built up and honoured, while they, alas! followed not their example.
A visitation of every family in a parish, after a minister’s induction, is generally an important event in its history. Nothing could have been more kind than the reception I received from all classes and denominations, and which has met me ever since in my annual rounds. The appearance, too, at church, and the solemnity and prayers at funerals, struck me as indicative of more of a spirit of religion than I had anticipated. But these good symptoms were overbalanced by the appalling number who attended no place of worship, and by the woeful prevalence of intemperance and the lightness with which that vice seemed to be regarded, even by religious professors. I was struck with the meaning of our Saviour’s words, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many waxeth cold.”
There were four or five prayer meetings at that time in the whole parish: one of these, composed of the session members, had continued ever since the days of Robe. In 1823, classes on week-day evenings for youth of both sexes from 14 to 20 years were opened by myself. Four of the elders, who are now so active in the cause of revival, were members of the young men’s class.
Of late years a great increase in numbers and efficiency has taken place in the Sabbath schools; and in 1826, a most important improvement took place in the mode of parochial teaching. The mind and heart were daily plied with the lessons of heavenly as well as secular wisdom. In 1829, however, there were frightful outbreakings of wickedness, arising out of drunken quarrels. A day was set apart (January, 1830) for fasting and prayer on this account, and the reasons thereof set forth by a memorial from the Kirk Session. It was very solemnly observed, and was followed by an evident blessing.
In 1832, the cholera visited this country. We saw a dark cloud discharging itself on the neighbouring town of Kirkintilloch; and our people seemed to reason with themselves, “whether this comes from east or west, whether from natural or moral causes, we may be assured of a visit of this dire calamity,” (Yet it never actually came to us!) We had prayer meetings weekly in town and the two Baronies, which were flocked to by many, anxious that they might not die unprepared. The panic soon subsided and the prayer meetings were thinned.
I see it marked in my day-book, May 13, 1832, “Intimated prayer meetings for revival of religion.” Several lectures were given on the subject; at the same time commenced the monthly tract distribution exertions to arrest the tide of intemperance and the conducting of funerals without any other service excepting a prayer. In March, 1836, after the communion, a prayer meeting was held in the church especially for revival, addressed by the Rev. Mr.Walker of Muthil, who had preached on the subject on the Friday before, after which the prayer meetings in dwelling-houses were considerably increased in number and in attendance—all in connexion with the Church.
The Methodists had been for some years more or less active, both in the town and in the East Barony, and had roused not a few careless individuals; and the members of the Relief set about similar meetings. Sabbath evening lectures, of a very plain and familiar character, have been more or less resorted to, but regularly for three seasons; and have been mentioned by several individuals as the means of first impressing their hearts. A goodly number of poor people came out to these evening sermons, who could not be brought to attend on the ordinary services. Prayer meetings have been referred to by many as the means of their first serious thought; and sermons delivered in the church-yard last summer by Mr. Somerville of Anderston, and by myself, have been often mentioned as having been blessed to awakening and enlivening. Nine months ago, a new missionary meeting began, which interested many of our people. Still, after all these and other symptoms of good, it was not till Tuesday, the 23rd July, that a decided and unquestionable religious revival took place.
We may well say of the amazing scene we have witnessed, “When the Lord turned our captivity we were as men that dreamed.” We have, as it were, been awakened from a dream of a hundred years. The communion had been, as usual, upon the third Sabbath, and 21st day. Intimation had been made upon the Saturday, that the minister would wish to converse with such persons as were under religious concern, inasmuch as two or three had previously called upon that errand. The effect was that several other individuals did come to converse.
The Monday evening was the half-yearly general meeting of our Missionary Society, when a sermon was delivered by Dr. Burns of Paisley–text, Isaiah, lii, 1: “Awake,” &c. It was intimated that Mr. William C. Burns, who had preached several times with much power during the solemnity, would address the people of Kilsyth next day in the open air, if the weather proved favourable, the object being to get those to hear the word who could not be brought out in the ordinary way. It was known also, that he was very shortly to leave this place for Dundee, and probably soon to engage in missionary labours in a distant land. The day was cloudy and rainy. The crowd, however, in the Market Place was great; and, on being invited to repair to the church, it was soon crowded to an overflow—the stairs, passages and porches being filled with a large assemblage of all descriptions of persons in their ordinary clothes. The prayer was solemn and affecting; the chapter read without any comment was Acts, ii. The sermon proceeded from Psalm cx, 3, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” Throughout the whole sermon there was more than usual seriousness and tenderness pervading the hearers; but it was towards the close, when depicting the remarkable scene at Kirk of Shotts, on the Monday after the communion there, 1630, when, under the preaching of Mr. John Livingstone, a native of Kilsyth, 500 were converted, that the emotions of the audience became too strong to be suppressed. The eyes of most of the audience were in tears; and those who could observe the countenances of the hearers expected half an hour before, the scene which followed. After reciting Mr. Livingstone’s text, Ezekiel, xxxvi, “A new heart will I give,” &c., and when pressing upon his hearers the all-important concern of salvation, while, with very uncommon pathos and tenderness, he pressed immediate acceptance of Christ, each for himself—when referring to the affecting and awful state, in which he dreaded the thought of leaving so many of them whom he now saw probably for the last time – when, again and again, as he saw his words telling on the audience, beseeching sinners, old and young, to embrace Christ and be saved—when he was at the height of his appeal, with the words, “no cross no crown,”— then it was that the emotions of the audience were most overpoweringly expressed.
A scene which scarcely can be described took place. I have no doubt, from the effects which have followed, and from the very numerous references to this day’s service, as the immediate cause of their remarkable change of heart and life, that the convincing and converting influence of the Holy Spirit was at that time most unusually and remarkably conveyed. For a time the preacher’s voice was quite inaudible; a psalm was sung tremulously by the precentor, and by a portion of the audience, most of whom were in tears. I was called by one of the elders to come to a woman who was praying in deep distress; several individuals were removed to the session-house, and a prayer meeting was immediately commenced. Dr. Burns, of Paisley, spoke to the people in church, in the way of caution and of direction that the genuine, deep, inward working of the Spirit might go on, not encouraging animal excitement. The church was dismissed after I had intimated that we were ready to converse with all who were distressed and anxious, and that there would be a meeting again in the evening for worship at six o’clock.
We then adjourned to the vestry and session-house, which were completely filled with the spiritually-afflicted, and a considerable time was occupied with them. Several of the distressed were relieved before we parted. These were persons believed to be Christians, but who were not before this rejoicing in hope. Others continued for days in great anxiety, and came again and again, but are now, generally speaking, in a peaceful and hopeful state, and have been conversing with a view to admission to the Lord’s table.
In the evening the church was again crowded to excess. Mr. Lyon of Banton lectured on the parable of the prodigal son, and Mr. William C. Burns preached from Matth. xviii, 3, “Except ye be converted,” &c. The impression was deepened, but there was no great excitement, the aim of the preacher being to forward a genuine work of the Spirit.
A great many came to the manse to speak about their souls. Evening meetings in the church were continued without intermission, and even in the mornings occasionally. Our hands were full, but the work was precious, and often delightful. Our elders and praying men were, and still are, very useful in aiding us. He who was honoured as the chief instrument of the awakening was earnestly sought out, and our part in it became comparatively small till the work had made progress.
On Thursday, the 25th, the day proving favourable, the meeting was called in the Market Square, where an immense crowd assembled at half-past six. From the top of a stair Mr. W. C. Burns addressed upwards of 3000 from Ps. lxxi, 16, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God.” The emotions of the audience were powerful, but for the most part silent, though now and then there might be the utterance of feeling, and, in countenances beyond numbering, expressions of earnest and serious concern. Six young girls, from fourteen to sixteen years, two of them orphans, came next day bathed in tears and seeking Christ. The scene was deeply affecting.
This day (26th) many conversations were held by Mr. W. C. Burns in the session-house, and by myself and my other son (on trial for licence) in the manse. Upon Sabbath, the 28th, the church was crowded, and with the unusual appearance of not a few females without bonnets, and men and children in week-day and working dresses. I preached from Heb. iv, 16. In the afternoon we met at three in the churchyard, where there assembled not fewer than 4000. The sermon by Mr. W. C. Burns was solid and impressive, from Rom. viii, 1. He finished about five o’clock; but after the blessing was pronounced, about a third part either remained or soon returned, of various ages, but especially young, which led to various questionings, at first, and then remarks, and appeals frequently repeated, which led to great meltings of heart in many, and, in a few cases, to considerable agitation; so much so, that my son and I continued to address the hearers in various ways, and to sing and pray over and over again, the people still unwilling to depart. Four of our pious men, two of whom were elders, were called to pray at intervals, which they did in a most appropriate and affecting manner. Even at half-past eight it was with difficulty we got to a close, proposing to have a meeting next morning at seven in the church. A great many still pressed around as we left the churchyard for the manse, and several remained till eleven or twelve o’clock.
Next morning I went to the church at seven, after calling on an aged woman on the way, whose cries of distress arrested me. Even at that early hour there were from two to three hundred met in solemn silence, joining with me in prayer and praise, and listening to a short exposition of Song ii, 10-14. Through the whole day conversations were held in the manse, and in the vestry and session-house.
In the evening the bell rung at half-past six. The church being before that filled, and as great a number pressing forward, it was found necessary to adjourn to the Market Square. Mr. Somerville of Anderston addressed a very large assembly of most attentive hearers, from John xvi, 14. At the close I was called to see three or four very affecting cases of mental distress, and there was still a desire to get more of the word and prayer. There was an adjournment to the church, where at first, as I understand (for I was engaged as above stated), there was considerable excitement, but which subsided into solemn and deep emotion, while Mr. W. C. Burns and Mr. Somerville addressed the people, and joined in prayer and praise. Next day at eleven a.m. Mr Somerville again addressed a full congregation in the church.
Ever since the date to which I have brought this imperfect narrative, with the exception of one evening, we have had meetings every evening for prayer, for the most part along with preaching of the Word. On the evening referred to (the 6th August), there was held a meeting in the Relief church, which was crowded by various classes, the work expressly approved of by the ministers present, Mr. W. Anderson of Glasgow, and Mr. Banks of Paisley. From the first, the people of the Relief congregation seemed interested in the work equally with our own people, and there appears to this day to be much of the spirit of love diffused among us.
The state of society is completely changed. Politics are quite over with us. Religion is the only topic of interest. They who passed each other before are now seen shaking hands and conversing about the all-engrossing subject. The influence is so generally diffused that a stranger going at hazard into any house would find himself in the midst of it. The awakening in the newly-erected parish of Banton has, of late, become most intensely interesting. At a prayer meeting in the school there, the whole present, above one hundred men and women, not a few of them hardened miners and colliers, were melted. Every night since this day week there have been meetings in the church of Banton, and many earnest enquirers. The missionary, Mr. Lyon, whose labours have been for upwards of a year greatly blessed, has been aided, as I have been, by many excellent friends in the ministry, and the work goes on there in a manner fully as surprising as here. I am under obligations to my brethren for their ready and efficient services. I may just mention Mr. Duncan of Glasgow, Mr. Macnaughtan of Paisley, Mr. Moody of Edinburgh, Mr. M’Donald of Urquhart, and Mr. Jamieson Willis, as having been longest with us, and given valuable assistance; with Mr. Salmon, our former teacher.
We are tried by the intrusion among us of teachers who are likely to sow divisions, some of them, no doubt, much safer in doctrine than others; strangers also who come among us, from good motives, are in danger of injuring our converts by over-kindness, and bringing them too much into notice. Enemies are waiting for occasion of triumph; and professors of religion, of a cold description, are doubting and waiting a long time ere they trust that any good is doing.
Meantime the work proceeds most certainly; and from day to day there are additions to the “Church of such as shall be saved.” The sermons preached are none of them eccentric or imaginative, but sound and scriptural; and there is not, as formerly, a tendency to compare the merits of preachers, but a hearing in earnest, and for life and death. The waiting on of young and older people at the close of each meeting, and the anxious asking of so many “what to do”—the lively singing of the praises of God, which every visitor remarks—the complete desuetude of swearing and foolish talking in our streets—the order and solemnity at all hours pervading; the song of praise and prayer almost in every house—the cessation of the tumults of the people—the consignment to the flames of volumes of infidelity and impurity —the coming together for Divine worship and heavenly teaching of such a multitude of our population day after day —the large catalogue of new intending communicants giving in their names, and conversing in the most interesting manner on the most important subjects—not a few of the old, careless sinners, and other frozen formalists, awakened and made alive to God—the conversion of several poor colliers who have come to me and given the most satisfactory account of their change of mind and heart, are truly wonderful proofs of a most surprising and delightful revival.
The case of D. S., collier, may be mentioned as interesting. He had for sometime been thoughtful, and had given up entirely taking any intoxicating liquor, and might be characterised as one of the more hopeful description. Since the present awakening, he was deeply convinced of his sin and misery, and for a month was deeply exercised and spending much time in secret prayer and reading the Scriptures. On the evening of the 21st August, he had a meeting with several of his praying companions and spent the night in prayer, praise and converse. He appears to have obtained peace during that night and came home to his house in a very happy state of mind. After taking two hours’ rest, he worshipped with his family and proceeded to his work. Being the foreman, it was his lot to descend first into the pit, which he did with unusual alacrity and with prayer. On reaching the bottom, the air instantly exploded, and in a moment he was ushered into eternity. How soothing and cheering the thought that he has escaped the everlasting burnings and has passed literally through the fire to the regions of glory.
But the bounds of this communication will not permit enlargement. The work I consider as ongoing and increasing. The limits of Satan’s domains here are diminishing daily. The account not a few give of their conversion is that they could not think of being left a prey when others were making their escape. There is thus a provision made for the increase of the Kingdom of Christ by a kind of laudable jealousy—a pressing in ere the door be shut.
I have been engaged, and still continue to be engaged, in conversing with new communicants; and never before now have I had such pleasant work in listening to, and marking down, the accounts which the youngest to the oldest give of the state of their minds. While some, who seem to be savingly impressed, have given a somewhat figurative account of their feeling, yet, in by far the greater number of instances, they give most Scriptural and intelligible accounts of their convictions, and of the grounds on which they rest their peace. Their experiences are evidently so various, as not to be in any degree copies of each other. Yet they all end in building upon the sure foundation, Christ in the promise, and Christ formed in them.
The question naturally occurs, and has been put, “Is there anything peculiar in the subjects and mode of address of the sermons which have been so remarkably successful?” I answer that, upon a groundwork of solid, clear and simply expressed views of divine truth, there was a great measure of affectionate, earnest pleading, rich exhibition of the fulness and freeness of the Gospel, eminently calculated to convey to the hearers the conviction and feeling of the sincerity of the preacher, and of the rich grace of the Lord Jesus. It has also been a matter of general remark, that there is an unction and deep solemnity in the prayers of the preacher who has been honoured to begin this work, and which, perhaps, even more than the sermons, have made way to the heart. We have had much precious truth presented to us by my much beloved brethren, to whom it must be gratifying to be assured that in conversations with my people, there have been references, I may say, to each of their discourses, as having been profitable, as well as acceptable; and that having been so well supported by their cooperation, and the Presbyterial notice taken of the subject, we cherish the pleasing hope that, under the special and continuing blessing of the great Head of the Church, this will prove not only a genuine, but an extensive and a permanent revival—the only means of arresting our downward course, and effecting that blessed consummation, which the diffusion of merely intellectual knowledge will never accomplish.
Manse, Kilsyth, Sept. 16, 1839.Minister of Kilsyth.
Account of the Communion 22nd September, 1839.
About three weeks after this remarkable work commenced, it was considered most desirable and obligatory, to have another communion season. The Session met for special prayer for direction as to the matter, and afterward as to the time most suitable. The number of new communicants amounts to nearly ninety. A few who spoke on the subject seem to have had scruples, and did not come forward. With the exception of a very few, the account given of their views and spiritual condition has been very pleasing and satisfying. They vary in regard to age from twelve to three score and ten; a good many are from fifteen to eighteen years of age.
The work of examining has been of a different character from that of former years, wherein “we have seen evil.” No doubt the systematic knowledge of not a few of them is deficient, and much pains must be taken by themselves and by us in this matter. I have urged on the young converts especially a very careful study of the Shorter Catechism, and the earnest, close, and prayerful study of the Scriptures. We solicit the prayers of Christian friends and ministers that we may have the great joy of seeing our children “walking in the truth,” and established with grace.
The number of communicants would doubtless have been greater had we deferred the communion for a few weeks, as the Banton revival is not so far advanced as to have furnished a large addition. A great concourse of people, including not a few genuine friends of the Lord Jesus, assembled to our communion. It is thought that not fewer than from twelve to fifteen thousand were in and about the town of Kilsyth upon the Lord’s day: at the Tent the number is estimated at about ten or twelve thousand. The day was uncommonly favourable; and indeed, during the whole interesting season external circumstances were most propitious, and having been made the matter of special prayer, the answer should be marked and remembered.
On the Fast day (Thursday) public worship began at the usual hour, the minister commencing with praise and prayer, and reading Psalms cxxvi and cxxx. The Rev. C. J. Brown of Edinburgh preached from Rom. vii, 9, “I was alive without the law once,” &c. The Rev. Dr. Malan of Geneva preached in the afternoon from John xiv, 29, “Peace I leave with you,” &c.; Mr. Macnaughtan of Paisley in the evening from Isa. xlii, 3, “A bruised reed shall he not break,” &c. He preached also at Banton and Mr. Cunningham of Edinburgh from the words in Rom. v, 8, “God commendeth his love to us.” Friday evening the Rev. Mr. Middleton of Strathmiglo preached from Jer. viii, 22, “Is there no balm in Gilead, is there no physician there?” Saturday Mr. W. C. Burns preached in the tent to a large assembly from Rom. x, 4, “Christ is the end of the law,” &c. In the evening Mr. Somerville of Anderston preached to a crowded audience from John xvi, on the work of the Spirit.
This was a remarkable night of prayer, secret and social; probably there was not an hour or watch of the night altogether silent. The beds were not much occupied: many, like the Psalmist, prevented the dawning of the morning. The morning bell rang at nine o’clock, and worship began at fully twenty minutes to ten, both in church and at the tent. The action sermon was from John vi, 35, “I am the bread of life,” &c. Mr. Brown of Edinburgh fenced the tables. Mr. Rose of Glasgow preached in the Tent and fenced the tables. The first table, as usual, contained about 100; but to prevent confusion and undue protraction of the services, arising from so unusual a number of communicants, the second was composed of those already seated in the body of the church; after this the third was composed of those in the usual bounds, with a few seats additional, and the remainder were served in the usual tables, so that the great accession was not felt as any obstruction to order or comfort.
The ministers were at full liberty to address the communicants without the constant urgency of studied brevity. There were eight services as follows:–The Minister, 1st; Mr Martin of Bathgate, 2nd; Mr. Dempster of Denny, 3rd; Mr. Brown, 4th; Mr. Somerville, 5th; Mr. Rose, 6th; Mr. Duncan, Kirkintilloch, 7th; and Dr. Dewar, 8th. Mr. Rose preached in the evening from Isaiah, xlii, 3; all over by nine, without interval. In the tent, after Mr. Rose, Mr. W. C. Burns, Mr. Middleton, Mr. Somerville, and Dr, Dewar preached. Mr. W. C. Burns preached again, by moonlight, to a great assembly, from “The mountains may depart,” &c. All was most orderly and decorous, and in many cases there were symptoms of deep emotion. We have heard of several well authenticated cases of persons who came with levity of mind and went away deeply impressed; and of one or two who could not get away, but remained over Monday. Besides the vast crowd at the tent, Messrs. Martin, Dempster, Brown, and Harper (of Bannockburn) severally addressed groups of people near the church, waiting for entrance to the tables.
After public service, a great number of the godly strangers and of our younger members and of persons concerned about salvation remained. The younger ministers present continued in exhortation, prayer, and psalms successively, for a considerable time in a most solemn affectionate manner, feeling unusual enlargement in their own spirits, with much of the felt gracious presence of God.
On Monday at a quarter past eleven probably from two to three thousand assembled around the tent. Dr. Dewar preached from John, xvi, 3, “He (the Spirit of truth) will convince the world of sin,” &c. W. C. Burns preached from Ezek. xxxvi, 23-26, “A new heart will give you,” &c. The hour of five struck ere all was over, and very few withdrew previously. The sensation was deep and solemn. In the evening Mr. Brown preached in the church from “What do you more than others?” Similar exercises were engaged in also on the Monday night as on Sabbath night: which the ungodly jeer at, the formal wonder at and censure, and which many good Christians would at first pronounce rather carrying it too far. But the fact is, that this is a spring-tide, a very uncommon season, in which a rigid adherence to the roles of ordinary times must not be applied. We have been drawing up a large draught, and the nets cannot be kept and laid by so orderly and silently as usual.
This precious season of communion is now over and gone, but the remembrance is sweet. Having been preceded, accompanied, and followed by very unusual copiousness of prayer, the showers in answer have been very copious and refreshing. We are daily hearing of good done to strangers, who came Zaccheus-like to see what it was, who have been pierced in heart and have gone away new men. Our own people of Christian spirit have been greatly enlivened and strengthened, and some very hopeful cases of apparently real beginnings of new life have been brought to our knowledge. I feel grateful to the God of grace and God of order in the churches, that there has been such a concurrence of what is true, venerable, pure, just, lovely, and of good report, and that little indeed has escaped from any of us which can justly cause regret. We are anxious (we trust we have a good conscience) that nothing should be done against, but everything for, the truth that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ. The solemn appearance of the communion tables, and the delightful manner in which they were exhorted—the presence of not a few unusually young disciples at the tables—the seriousness of aspect in all, and the softening and melting look of others, made upon every rightly disposed witness a very delightful impression. May the Lord give abundant increase.
For ninety years, doubtless, there has not been in this parish such a season of prayer and holy communings and conferences—nor at any period such a number of precious sermons delivered: the spiritual awakening and the genuine conversions at this time are not few, and it is hoped will come forth to victory. But the annals of eternity only will divulge the whole!
The enemy, the Devil, has been also among us, and is doubtless busy now—more so than at the time of this dispensation. We are not ignorant of his devices. Yet upon the whole, there is much cause indeed to give God the glory for what he hath wrought. That he hath been the chief worker is most undoubted, for “the Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the Devil,” and his works have been much damaged and brought down among us. The public houses, the coalpits, the harvest reaping fields, the weaving loom-steads, the recesses of our glens, and the sequestered haughs (flat land by the river) around, all may be called to witness, that there is a mighty change in this place for the better. The wicked scoff–nay, some we hear around us, or passing by, have brought upon themselves the great guilt of speaking evil of this work. We pray for them. “They know not what they do!”
Some decent professors and moral people, are opposed to this whole work, and say, “If it continue, it may do good,” but they do nothing to make it continue, and others throw cold water upon it. It is strange, that when sermons seem to make no impression, these persons should feel no anxiety about the permanency of the good expected–but when there is really appearance of good impressions, their doubt should he expressed about the duration of the good promised. Shall we be satisfied that we preach and are heard, and no one showing any concern, but just sitting, and it may be, sleeping out the hours and returning home as they came? Surely, surely even a degree, yea, a great deal of enthusiasm, is better than death-like insensibility.
Such godly fear has come upon the people, that scarcely a single instance of intoxication, or any approach to it, has been observed in the whole multitude assembled, whereas formerly the prevalence of this and the quarrels it engendered brought dishonour on tent-preaching, and in fact extinguished it.
Special instances of good done are naturally called for. Many memorable cases can be produced. Selection is difficult. A woman from Airdrie was observed by a few around her to be much impressed while Mr. W. C. Burns preached. She at length left the field and retired for prayer. After a little, she was followed by some praying people who conversed with her. She seems to have undergone a complete change, and went away in a composed frame. A young gentleman from Glasgow, with whom I and Mr. Brown conversed, who had come with some indefinite notion of good or of being pleased, went home a new man in Christ Jesus. I know several cases of whole houses being really converted. Mrs. H. has been converted in a very wonderful way. She had been a very passionate regardless character, who with her husband and family spent the Sabbath day in drinking, and other tainted enormities. Two pious women, unknown to each other, had called upon her, telling her that they could get no rest till they came to warn her of her sin and danger. The poor woman thought with herself, if these two are so concerned about me that they cannot get rest, what should be my concernment about myself. She attended a prayer meeting, came home at midnight, and roused her family to tell them of her change of mind. There seems a very remarkable work of grace with the husband, and other branches of the family.
A. B., collier, aged fifty, a month ago was upon the road side on the way from the church in great agony of mind when I passed homewards. I at first thought he had been in drink, but it turned out that he had Hannah-like been pouring out his heart before the Lord, having got a sight of his sinfulness. He went to his bible and prayed; got heartening, as he expressed it, from the thought that had come to him, ‘Shall I be a castaway?’ Enabled to lay hold on Christ as the Ransomer, and as having paid the debt, he said, “Come life, come death, I will depend on his merits and mercies,” resolving to be with Christ henceforward. On receiving his token, he said,”I used to run from you, but am now happy to meet. I served Satan fifty years; I am now the Lord’s.” His two companions, J. S. and T. A., gave very satisfactory accounts of their change of heart, and are also communicants.
The accounts of other cases more detached and interesting must be deferred. I add a very few words in the way of inference.
1 Prayer united, as well as secret, for the bestowal of the Spirit’s influence, is most important, and will sooner or later be heard.
2 Extra means should be used to bring those without the pale of any church to hear the Gospel. The preaching the former summer in the church-yard once and again, and the late frequent addresses in the market and field, have most certainly brought the word near to many who might have remained to their dying day without hearing it. Assuredly these means must be used, otherwise our newly provided churches will remain unoccupied, and in a great degree useless.
3 There is a close connection betwixt Missionary work and revivals. Our newly organised Missionary Society, in January this year, has been marked by several people as an era. No church can be in a lively state when nothing is done for the heathen.
4 The social nature of man is an important element in his constitution, and exerts a powerful influence on the state of the church and of the world. There are those who view the weavers’ shops as objects of unmingled aversion, as hotbeds of anarchy; but when a good influence is made to bear upon the minds of the operatives, the facilities for good are proportional to those for evil—the reviving interest spreads much quicker than in a rural district. Let every minister of the Gospel, and every Christian patriot keep this steadily in view, and ply the workshops with every good and generous influence. Never let us cease in good times and bad, to essay to do good, in the morning sowing seed, and in the evening withholding not our hand: thus are we to sow beside all waters. God give the increase!
Being the Substance of a Statement by the Rev. Mr. Burns, Minister of the Parish, drawn up at the request of the Presbytery of Glasgow, with Additions.
Diary of John Macdonald of Ferintosh. “On arriving at the manse, Mr Burns, the clergyman, felt happy to see me, and set me instantly to work. In the evening I had to address a crowded audience in his church from John iii, 36. All was stillness and deep attention — many in tears — children of eight and ten among the rest. In short, a general impression from above was evidently on the congregation.
“Sunday, 8th.— On Sabbath, I preached in the forenoon from Rom. iv 6, 7, 8, and in the evening from Isa. lv. 1. Mr Burns in the afternoon from Heb. iii. 7, 8. The appearance of the congregation during the whole day was deeply interesting. It was a melting scene — no audible crying, but much silent weeping. After coming out of church in the evening, about one hundred and fifty or two hundred men, women, and children stood around me anxiously waiting to hear something more from me. I addressed them for about forty minutes, concluding with singing and prayer, and dismissed them, still reluctant to go. The scene of weeping, the stillness of the night, and the canopy of the sky, conspired to make this extra and out-door service a solemn one indeed.
“Monday, 9th.— Conversed during the day with several individuals in deep distress — the manse crowded with such, the whole day from 10 to 5. Mr Burns and I had each our hands full of this pleasant work. Some of those we conversed with have got comfort, others are still under conviction. In the evening preached to a large congregation in church. Much melting, but no crying. When returning, numbers gathered round me with tears in their eyes, evidently wishing to hear more of Christ. I addressed them for about twenty minutes, prayed with them and dismissed them. All this in the open air, and under silence of night.
“Tuesday, 10th.— Occupied during the day much as yesterday. In the evening preached at Banton, formerly a district of the parish, but now a new erection, from Eph. v. 14. The Spirit has been evidently poured out on the inhabitants of this place; numbers were in tears, and children from eight to fourteen years old. After dismissing the people, scarcely any would retire; almost all kept their seats, eagerly looking to me. Addressed them for nearly an hour, and then dismissed them all bathed in tears. The scene was truly affecting and interesting!
“Wednesday, 11th — Took a trip to Glasgow.
“Thursday, 12th.— Returned to Kilsyth in the afternoon. Preached there in the evening to a crowded audience from Heb. viii., on the convenant of grace. Many seemed to understand and to feel the subject. It told on their faces by tears of joy.
“Friday, 13th.— Having been urged by young Mr Burns to visit Dundee, and the congregation of which he had interim charge there, where, it appeared, the Lord had begun a work of revival, I started this forenoon for Dundee, taking Edinburgh by the way; but on my arrival in Edinburgh, finding that the Gaelic congregation were without a pastor, agreed, at their earnest-request, to stay with them over Sabbath.
“Monday, 16th.— Preached yesterday in Edinburgh, forenoon, from Heb. xiii. 22; afternoon, 1Sam. iii. 1; evening in English, Eph. v. 14. This day left Edinburgh at nine in the morning by steam. Arrived at Dundee by three. Found Mr Burns deeply engrossed with the work of revival. Preached for him in the evening in St Peter’s Church — that in which he officiates — from Deut. xxxii. 39. The house crowded; and the audience exhibited a solemnity and fixedness of attention rarely to be seen, and which evidently indicated an impression from above. There were tears to be seen in abundance, and much silent weeping, but nothing audible. The speaker felt much liberty in addressing the people, and a more than usual awe on his spirit, as if the Almighty were visibly present.
“Tuesday, 17th.— This forenoon conversed with several individuals, in number about sixteen, about the state of their souls, most of them under deep conviction. A few, however, have obtained comfort. The work is evidently a work of God. In the evening, being obliged, owing to the crowd, to remove to St David’s, a far larger house, containing upwards of 2000, I preached from Isaiah xlv. 24. The audience, though much more numerous, exhibited the same symptoms of solemnity and deep concern as last night.
“Wednesday, 18th.— Made some forenoon calls, and conversed with some who fell in my way in mental distress. The great concern is truly the great concern with them. I preached in the evening in St David’s from Acts xvi. 30, 31. The house crowded to excess, hundreds apparently affected.
“Thursday, 19th.— Mr Burns having got a supply for this evening, I took a trip up to Perth, having been requested to preach an evening there. We met in Mr Stewart’s church. Preached from Isaiah lv. 3. The congregation very attentive, but nothing further to be seen. Was requested, however, by a deputation sent me to the vestry, to promise another evening there.
“Friday, 20th.— Returned to Dundee, and preached in the evening in St David’s to as large a crowd as formerly, and apparently not less under an impression of divine things. This day, Mr W. Burns left me for the Kilsyth communion, and begged that I should continue with his people till his return, which, in their present state, I could not but agree to do.
“Monday, 23th.— On Saturday evening had a prayer meeting with the people in St David’s. The church pretty full. Mr Lewis attended and assisted on the occasion. The spirit of prayer was given. Yesterday, preached forenoon and afternoon in St Peter’s from John xvi. 7-10. A deep and solemn attention, much melting and many tears. In the evening preached in St David’s from Isaiah lv. 1. The house crowded to suffocation — great movement — a season of power indeed. Conversed with some in the vestry after sermon. This day met with several who called, under soul distress (in all, twenty-two), among whom were two girls about nine and a boy of eleven. Had much satisfaction in conversing with them. In the evening preached in St David’s from Ezek. xxxvii. 1, etc.
“Tuesday, 24th.— Spent the forenoon in conversing with people, as yesterday. Upwards of twenty called. No unpromising case. In the evening preached in St David’s from 1 cor. ii. 9, 10. Enjoyed much liberty, and deep impressions made on the congregation.
“Wednesday, 25th.— Preached at Perth from Eph. v. 14, to a crowded and attentive audience, Mr Ewing, one of the town ministers, having kindly taken my place at Dundee.”
Returning home, he began to publish the good news of the Lord’s work in Kilsyth and Dundee, and to sound the alarm to those who were at ease in Zion. A movement commenced among the dry bones under his preaching in Tain and Tarbat on communion occasions, and extended to many other places throughout the country. The power of the Breadalbane days came back to his preaching again. Texts from which he had not preached since then were now resumed. Hundreds were now asking for the first time, “What must we do to be saved?”
But the Lord’s people were complaining that he was witholding their wonted fare from them. He was so bent on the conversion of sinners that he laid out all his strength in preaching towards that object. Never were more alarming sermons preached than those which he then delivered; but never, in the most fervid of them all, did he use other than scriptural considerations to influence his hearers. His imagination, even in those days of excitement, was kept under the strong check of truth. He was always sanguine of good results from such a movement as then waved over the land; but he was careful, in speaking to those who were impressed, to deal faithfully with them, shutting them up to the only good foundation, and exposing the vanity of every attainment short of their being new creatures in Christ. It cannot be said that his expectations were realised. Good was done, and abiding fruit remained; but many a bud of promise withered quite away.