Acharn (1802)



One of his students was John Farquharson, who was born in nearby Glen Tilt. On account of his zeal and godliness he had been accepted by Haldane, but after six months' trial he was rejected because his "capacity of learning seemed hardly to warrant his persevering in academic studies." He was sent by the recently-founded Society for the Propagation of the Gospel at Home to Breadalbane "with the view of trying whether he might not be of use as a Scripture reader amongst the poor and uneducated Highlanders." Farquharson, however, was of that type who do not need the imprimatur of any school of the prophets and whose call comes directly from God Himself. His sincerity, zeal, and devotion overcame all obstacles, and he was successful from the first. Years later, Principal Daniel Dewar of Aber¬deen described Farquharson as "the most wonderful man he had ever known" and says, that while he preached almost every day, "he was remarkable in this respect, that he seldom preached without someone being awakened. . . . I think, I see him still on his black pony, riding round Loch Tay and from farm to farm, carrying the message of salvation to the people. Divine power accompanied his ministry. There was an awakening all round the loch. Many were brought to Christ and continued steadfast and immovable in the gospel." Further testimony to this good man's zeal and success is equally emphatic. "From the accounts of him which still linger in the traditions of the people, we learn that he was continually going from house to house, from hamlet to hamlet, to make known the Saviour. Of Him he spoke on the road, in the house, in the assembly, wherever he could find listeners. He seemed as if there was no room in his mind for any other object."

It is hardly believable that such labors should have been rewarded with envy and opposition, but thus it was. "So strong was the opposition of the Established Church ministers and the landed proprietors . . . that only three families in the wide Breadalbane district would receive Mr. Farquharson into their homes." No inn would shelter him for a night, and all this unkind opposition occurred almost from the beginning of his labors. He started work at Killin, a village at the western extremity of Loch Tay, but his place of meeting was soon taken from him. A new start was made at Ardeonaig, several miles along the south shore of the lake. It was there and at Ardtalnaig and Acharn, still farther to the east, that the chief events of his ministry took place.

By the autumn of 1802, the results were of such importance that they could be spoken of as a revival. Farquharson was aided by two of his converts—John Campbell, a native of Ardeonaig, who afterwards became pastor of the Congregational Chapel at Oban, and James Dewar, afterwards minister at Nairn, whose father was a farmer on the north side of Loch Tay. The movement 'began unostentatiously enough at Ardeo¬naig. It is said that those who were awakened endeavored to conceal their state from Farquharson and met in secret to support and encourage each other by prayer. But one day, while crossing the loch, a boatman informed the evangelist of what was happening in his absence. This seems to have brought the movement to the surface, and a corresponding increase of interest was shown. Men who were engaged in the work or who saw it for themselves, made such reports as the following: "The manner in which many of them [the converts] were impressed was to be at first surprising—they were suddenly struck during the time of prayer; they fell to the ground, and many of them, both young and old, continued speechless for twenty minutes or half an hour." "From this place it spread to and a space of about nine miles.' They all flocked together and continued to go from house to house, praying and praising God, for eight or ten days and nights, with only two hours' sleep each morning; and many of them were several nights without any sleep, busily employed conversing and comforting those who were impressed."

"It was at meetings for social prayer that the most consider¬able awakening took Cartlechan, a most extraordinary influence was felt. Fourteen persons fell down to the ground crying for mercy. Worldly business was wholly neglected, and whole nights spent in prayer and exhorting one another."

One of the immediate results of this attention to religion was the formation of a congregation of seventy members at Acharn in 1802, a number which was increased in the following year to one hundred. Farquharson was ordained over them as their pastor, and members were drawn from all the neighboring glens. Everything seemed prepared for a fruitful ministry, but unfortunately dissension broke out in the congregation in 1804. It is impossible now to discover the cause, but however extraordinary it may appear, it seems to have been connected with dissatisfaction with Farquharson's preaching. (This looks like a classic case of someone working outside his gifting. We have already seen that Robert Haldane did not think him suitable to me a minister, and yet he took on the church. I have seen this many times; someone with a wonderful gift, trying to be a pastor) Farquharson resigned and after ministering for a time at Killin, ultimately emigrated to America, where he shortly afterwards died. (but not before he made a considerable contribution to a major revival in Skye – see this website).

A revival could hardly survive such an experience, the more especially as petty disputes also arose in the district over unimportant points in ritual and church government. The final blow was administered when the Haldanite discussion on baptism threw everything into confusion, and those whom the revival had called into spiritual life became the fiercest of sectarians. "Thus the interesting churches at Acharn and Killin were diminished in number and weakened in influence, and shortly afterwards . . . they became as sheep without a shep¬herd. Four Baptist Churches subsequently emerged from the general confusion." However sad though this result was, it would be a mistake to suppose that the work was made totally without effect. It was the first rough ploughing of unbroken land. When the next sowing took place, the harvest was plentiful.

The set time to favor the district came during the ministry of Robert Findlater whose name is still remembered with reverence on Lochtayside after the lapse of nearly a century. This movement took place within the Established Church.

Like many Highland parishes, those of Breadalbane are of great extent. Fortingall includes the long stretch of twenty miles which forms the secluded valley of Glenlyon, as well as large tracts beyond its mountainous walls. Kenmore runs westward from the village of that name and almost encloses Loch Tay. It is beyond the power of the most energetic minister to do justice to territories of such extent, and special efforts were according¬ly made in many cases to accomplish their spiritual purposes by planting extra stations. The Royal Bounty Fund and the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge stepped in to help with resources of men and money. The pious Lady Glenorchy placed a chapel in Strathfillan and gave financial assistance in other cases. Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the part of Kenmore parish near the western extremity of Loch Tay had been provided for in this special way. Both sides of the loch were put under the charge of a mission minister whose stipend was drawn from the funds available for the purpose. Each side had its own place of meeting: the church on the north side being at the Milton of Lawers, and that on the south side at Ardeonaig. The manse stood near the latter building.