Armagh Third Presbyterian Church (1859)




BY THE REV. J. R. M'ALISTER.

I HAVE seen near this place twenty, thirty, forty, fifty persons —some old, some young, some men, some women, some strong, some weak, some literate, some illiterate, some careless, some religious—stricken down on an evening, during two or three hours of public worship. I have moved amongst them, witnessed their agony while under terror of condemnation, and held of Satan, and "hanging," as they often said, "over hell," have directed their minds to Jesus, dropped into their souls the living precious word, and sung and prayed with them. A scene of this kind surpasses description. There are in the church twenty or thirty persons here and there, five or six in the vestry, fifteen or twenty over the graveyard, prostrated, with a cluster of Christian friends around each. In some groups one is praying earnestly over the distressed soul ; in others, one is speaking the words of consolation ; in others, there is the solemn soothing psalm sung. A stranger to the work, in coming into such a scene, would exclaim, "What fearful confusion! the Spirit of God cannot be here!" and might fly away exclaiming, " The people are mad ; it is the work of the devil." He might, however, as well exclaim, when the wind bows the mighty forest, shakes the trees to the extreme roots, and threatens their ruin ; but thus moves them that the sun and rain and dew of heaven may come upon them, and make them stronger and healthier, that it is the work of the devil. In the midst of the apparent confusion there is order—the order natural to be expected in the birth of so many souls. Hear their prayers; what order is in them! Hear each group sing, or hear the distressed soul sing, as it tries to rest on Christ,

" I lay my sins on Jesus, The spotless Lamb of God."

Or, when the dark clouds are rolled away, and it feels lifted up by the mighty power of God, it sings the familiar and suitable psalm,—

" I waited for the Lord, my God, And patiently did bear; At length to me he did incline My voice and cry to hear. " He took me from a fearful pit, And from the miry clay, And on a rock he set my feet, Establishing my way."

And as the face appears radiant with the joy of heaven, you will see order, and beauty, and glory, which the Spirit of Jehovah alone could produce.

I have witnessed the work of revival in daily and Sabbath schools. On one morning, a little girl, about eleven years old, entered into my daily female school, lifted up her hands and clasped them, saying, "Oh, I have found Jesus! I have found Jesus!" There was no minister present at first; there had been no address delivered to children. True, they had been prayed for, and many of them had been thinking about their souls. The words of the child kindled the flame; and in a few minutes a wail of sorrow ascended to heaven, that alarmed, the inhabitants of the surrounding houses. As I passed along the street, a boy came in breathless haste to me, and said, " Come, sir, come, the girls in the school are all crying for mercy." When I entered, some were lying on the floor, some in the arms of the teacher, some in the arms of the monitor, some in the arms of other children; floods of tears were flowing; confession of sin was freely made from little broken hearts; cries for mercy to God; supplications for Jesus to come and save them; earnest prayers for the Holy Spirit to come and take the stony heart out of them, and give them a heart of flesh. A similar scene occurred in my Sabbath school. Many were stricken down in an hour or two. Ah, it was a solemn—a grand scene! Young persons of both sexes, from twelve to twenty-two years of age, awakened, agonising under conviction of sin—lifting up their hands to heaven—fixing their eyes upon Jesus—confessing their transgressions; one saying, " I am lost!—I am a child of the devil; for I have told lies, and the devil is the father of lies!" another exclaiming, "Ah, I have mocked Jesus! Ah, I have mocked Jesus!" another, "What a hypocrite I have been!" many from time to time praying, "0 Lord! for Jesus' sake have mercy upon me !"—"Lord, open the door of my heart, and come in!"—" 0 Jesus! wash me in the fountain of Thy blood!" &c., &c.; the ministers and Sabbath-school teachers moving amidst them; travailing in birth till Christ would be formed in them; praying with them; singing over them; and directing their souls to the great Physician; others coming, seeing the wondrous work of the Lord, returning to their homes to render themselves up to God. This was a sight never to be forgotten, one in which, no doubt, the angels of heaven delighted. Question —What has been the result? So far, many of these young people have given the most satisfactory and delightful evidence that they have been truly converted to the Lord.

There are some who, while labouring in the field, some while working in the mill, some while at their ledgers, some in the house, some by the way, some after much concern, some after no concern, some after praying for the revival, some after opposing it, are stricken down, cry for mercy, and find it. Ten, for one "stricken," are entering into the kingdom of heaven without observation. Philosophy is vain in accounting for the movement. It is silenced. The whole is the power, mercy, majesty, and sovereignty of the Divine Spirit.

Prayer-meetings are held and attended by crowds, where no prayer was wont to be made; many schools and many children now have their own prayer-meetings, well and wondrously conducted; the sound of praise ascends from many mansions and cottages where none was before; more Bibles have been purchased this year than any year in the history of our island; sanctuaries, formerly ill-occupied, are now well filled, often to excess; communion tables despised are now honoured ; audiences, which previously did little more than criticise sermons, now hang with breathless attention on the plainest preaching, and return to their closets criticising themselves; large assemblies can be had after a few hours' notice, in rural districts, on every week evening, where few could be had before; many Romanists have been awakened, and have fled from antichrist to Christ, and Rome trembles; many abandoned females have left the streets to follow their Saviour ; many drunkards have become sober, and public-houses are going down ; streets and districts proverbial for strife, and brawls, and lewdness, are becoming quiet and pure ; magistrates have comparatively little to do; ministers are overwrought, now visiting ten persons sick in soul for one sick in body ; whole communities are solemnised, and people everywhere are realising that the interests of the body are little to those of the soul—that the interests of time are nothing to those of eternity.

The devil is alarmed. He is very busy. The opposition from Roman Catholics, Arians, Puseyites, infidels, and profane and formal Protestants, is violent, bitter, and unceasing. These parties are more wicked than they were. Many of them are making a mighty effort to swell the calendar of crime. Anti-revival officials now haul up little cases of crime of which they formerly took no notice. What is more to be lamented, that many in the revival work who attempt to lead the people commit extravagances, force sinners to their knees, create artistic prostrations, labour only to proselytise, sing, " Glory to God ! another is born again," where often there is not the shadow of true conviction, conduct their meetings with great irreverence, speak evil of ministers who are most earnest in the Lord's service, and denounce all who are not of their party, and in these ways wound the Saviour in the house of His friends. In the midst of all, however, a mighty spiritual revolution is progressing.

Let me testify, in conclusion, that no person can understand or appreciate the great work that the Lord is doing except those who are in the midst of the revival scenes and movements, day after day for a considerable time, and who are truly and heartily interested in them. Flying from place to place, and from meeting to meeting, calling upon a few persons who are said to be awakened, with a notebook and pencil in hand, hearing one statement from one, and another statement from another, is not the way to know the great movement. Let those who desire to see and understand come with calm, unprejudiced, truly philosophic, and spiritual minds; let them remain in company with a minister in whose hands the revival has begun; go out and in with him for ten or twelve days, and they will leave, lifting up their hearts to heaven, saying, " 0 Lord, thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone."

The Spirit of the Lord visited my congregation about the beginning of August last. Since that time the attendance upon public worship has increased fully one-third; several prayer-meetings have been started where none were before; the Sabbath school has doubled in number, and grown in, spiritual life manifold; the Lord's Supper has been attended by one-third more than usual, and at our last (our revival) communion, fully ten for one of the former average came forward for the first time; more Bibles and religious books have been purchased by the members during the last six months than during the previous six years; family worship is now observed in five out of seven families where it was formerly neglected; a few Roman Catholics have come to us, and several Protestants previously unconnected with us, have taken pews, and attend public worship most regularly; the morality of the people has much improved ; their liberality is much more abundant ; and their attention altogether to divine things is too evident to be mistaken. The Lord indeed has done great things for us, for which I trust our song of gratitude will ever rise—" Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us ; but to thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake."

From ‘Authentic Records of Revival, now in progress in the United Kingdom, published in 1860, re-printed and edited in 1980 by Richard Owen Roberts.

On Wednesday, a great prayer-meeting for all Ireland was held in the city of Armagh. This was advertised in Dublin, 190 miles distant, a fact which shows how deep and wide is the interest which has been created by the movement. When the train arrived at Dundalk, .60 miles from Armagh, numbers were waiting to go, and at every station afterwards, the crowds became larger, so that many had to get on the roofs of the carriages. At Portsdown Junction, 11 miles from Armagh, there were probably a thousand people in the station. Here there was a delay for an hour, during which a prayer-meeting was held in the large waiting-room, while multitudes on the outside were singing hymns. The carriages were too few to take us on, so we had to be stowed away in cattle-trucks and goods-vans. The scene at Armagh was overpowering. Twenty thousand people, or nearly so, in a large field, met at a prayer- meeting. Mr. Noel and his son were there, and took part. There was nothing wild, or extravagant, or ranting,' in the exercises, a deep solemnity pervaded the vast assemblies. Many were "struck down" and taken out of the crowds. In one circle there were twenty-five. I examined several cases very closely, prayed and conversed with them. There was great variety in the symptoms, some were perfectly still, others were convulsed, with agony such as I had never seen. Sonic, who had found peace, spoke of Christ and his salvation as if by inspiration. It was awful and mysterious to be brought so near to God, as he was discovering to one and another their sins. But the greater part of those who were struck down, had been under deep impression for some time past. It was then that they were brought to a crisis. Never can I forget that day, never may I forget the impressions which I received.

Dublin. C.KIRTLAND

From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p66, Sept 24th, 1859.

"The services last Sabbath were deeply solemn and instructive. Mr Kimmit of London preached a most admirable sermon on the words `Men ought always to pray,' and in the evening Mr. McAllister considered and answered the objections raised against the present revival of religion. Mr. Geddis of Sandholes, on Monday evening addressed the prayer meeting, which was large, in a clear, able and truly impressive manner. Good was done. Several left the meeting under deep conviction. Many felt that the drops of the shower of mercy were filling. It fell in a plenteous shower on Tuesday upon the daily schools — the children in the Sabbath School of this church had a similar precious visitation of the Holy Spirit on Sabbath last.

"A little girl entered the female school at about eleven o'clock saying:— `Oh! I have found Jesus.' In a moment another little girl screamed out and fell. The Holy Spirit moved over them. In a short time there was a loud and almost universal wail. The boys rushed into the females' school. A boy ran to Mr. McAllister and met him in the street and cried to him:— 'Come, come, Sir, the girls in the school are all crying for mercy.' When he entered, some were on their knees, some were lying in the arms of the teacher, some in the arms of other children, floods of tears were flowing, confession of sin was made from little broken hearts, cries for mercy from God — for Jesus to come and save them — for the Holy Spirit to print the image of Jesus upon their hearts — for the Lord to take away the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh. Providentially, the Rev. Ferguson of Alwyth was in Mr. McAllister's home and was able to help in the blessed work most ably. The Rev. Messrs. Smith and Henderson by and by came with a great many others and saw this most sublime sight."state of their souls. Mr. McAllister met to pray with them in another and quieter place, and one intelligent and interesting girl could not restrain herself and cried out. Many had been weeping before but now the lamentation over sin and the cry to the Lord Jesus for mercy was loud and long. While the Rev. James Stevenson of Ayr was preaching for Mr. McAllister he, and several of his Sabbath School teachers, were attending to the children under conviction of sin. It was a quickening, refreshing and happy scene when, after the public service, Mr. Stevenson and several parents came to the place where Holy Spirit was working amidst the children, to witness the Lord's marvellous kindness. Hearts were filled with the most joyous emotions. Earnest prayers were offered up and more than one Psalm of gratitude was sung. This is the Lord's doing and marvellous in our eyes — one of the most precious and heart-melting scenes ever witnessed in this city was seen.

"The Armagh Guardian" 30th August 1859


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