The story begins here with the life and death of Isabella Campbell, who lived at Fernicarry House at the edge of Story's parish. Isabella 'was one of his Sunday school scholars, and was by him admitted to the Holy Communion, and after many a long and painful struggle, she was able in God's light to see light and to enter into the glorious liberty of his children. While yet a girl in her teens a pulmonary disease attacked her, and gradually reduced her so low that at last she was chained almost entirely to her home at Fernicarry. While there her minister saw her constantly, and while he helped to instruct and comfort her, his own spirit was much quickened by its intercourse with hers; for during this illness she seemed step by step to enter into the very Holy of Holies, and to enjoy a most rapt and intense communion with her God and Saviour, to the peace and joy of which she bore perpetual witness by the exalted utterances of her faith and love. Her life was indeed hidden with Christ in God; its fountain was within the Veil; there, she felt as few are able to realize, were the realities, here the illusion. "I am not conscious", says one who went, as many did for the truth's sake, to visit her on her dying bed, " that I ever was made so to feel the reality of eternal things; their being had in possession. When I rode away from the house, I actually felt as if the firmament overhead, and your mountains and the lake at our feet, and the very ground over which we were yet sensibly passing, were all elusive, and as if I could have put up my hand to push them all aside, to make room again for the great realities which I seemed to have left with that wonderful girl."'
Isabella's life and death were an inspiration to many and people poured in to visit this godly girl. She died in November 1828 and Story wrote a short memoir about her - 'The Memoir of Isabella, though almost studiously divested of literary grace, or any interest external to herself depicted a life so consecrated by suffering, by faith, by prayer, by rapt, almost mystic, communion with its Divine source, that it produced a very vivid impression. It was immensely read in England and Scotland and was promptly reprinted in America, where it likewise had a wide circulation. To how many it was made by God's Spirit a messenger of peace and salvation, His day shall declare; but even had it produced no effect, save in those cases which became personally known to its author, the result would have been richly ample.' This memoir added to the revival that was going on, further stirring the population.
At the end of 1829, Scott came up to Scotland and spoke for Campbell at Rhu and also at Port Glasgow, speaking for the first time on the Gifts of the Spirit being available for today. 'Religion had at this crisis taken a hold upon the entire mind of the population, which it very seldom possesses. It was not only the inspiration of their hearts but the subject of their thoughts, discussions, and conversations. ’They seem not only to have been stimulated in personal piety but occupied to an almost unprecedented degree with those spiritual concerns which are so generally kept altogether apart from the common tide of life. On such a state of mind Mr Scott’s pregnant suggestion fell with the force that might have been expected from it. That which to the higher intelligence was a matter of theoretical belief became in other hands an active principle, wildly productive, and big with results unpremeditated and unforeseen.' ('The Life of Edward Irving.' Volume 2, page 107, by Mrs Oliphant).
Isabella had a sister called Mary, who developed the same disease as her sister (large abscesses on the lungs) early in 1830. Like her sister she was beautiful and she spent a lot of time seeking God. She became locally famous from the selling of the memoir about her sister and she had many visitors to Fernicarry. Mary had a great desire to become a missionary, she had had a fiance who died, with whom she was going to go abroad as a missionary.
Mary had heard Irving speaking about healing and she had heard Scott teaching on the Gifts of the Spirit late in 1829 when he was visiting his father's manse in Greenock. One Sunday in March Mary was suddenly filled with Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for about an hour. 'The handmaiden of the Lord, of whom he made the choice on that night (a Sunday evening at the end of March), to manifest forth in her His glory, had been long afflicted with a disease which the medical men pronounced to be a decline, and that it would soon bring her to her grave, whither her sister had been hurried by the same malady some months before. Yet while all around her were anticipating her dissolution, she was in the strength of faith meditating missionary labours among the heathen; and this night she was to receive the preparation of the Spirit; the preparation of the body she received not till some days after. It was on the Lord’s day; and one of her sisters, along with a female friend, who had come to the house for that end, had been spending the whole day in humiliation, and fasting, and prayer before God, with a special respect to the restoration of the gifts. They had come up in the evening to the sick- chamber of their sister, who was laid on a sofa, and along with one or two others of the household, they were engaged in prayer together. When in the midst of their devotion, the Holy Ghost came with mighty power upon the sick woman as she lay in her weakness and constrained her to speak at great length, and with superhuman strength, in an unknown tongue, to the astonishment of all who heard, and to her own great edification and enjoyment in God. She has told me that this first seizure of the Spirit was the strongest she ever had; and that it was in some degree necessary it should have been so, otherwise she would not have dared to give way to it.' ('The Life of Edward Irving.' Volume 2, page 129, by Mrs Oliphant). There were several people present and they tried to discern which earthly language she was speaking, not realising that she spoke a heavenly language. This was the beginning of the first move of God that released the gift of tongues in the United Kingdom.
The story now shifts to Port Glasgow where there were five Macdonald siblings living together. The Macdonald brothers came to Jesus in 1828 and they started prayer meetings for the state of the Church and the world that were held two or three times a week. Their local minister spoke against them but they continued praying for revival. Having heard Scott preach they were praying for and expecting the restoration of Spiritual Gifts.
One of the three sisters, Margaret, 'for several days had been so unusually ill, that I quite thought her dying, and, on appealing to the doctor, he held out no hope of her recovery, unless she were able to go through a course of powerful medicine, which he acknowledged to be, in her then case, impossible. Mrs -- and myself had been sitting quietly at the bedside when the power of the Spirit came upon her. She said, "There will be a mighty baptism of the Spirit this day" and then broke forth in a most marvellous setting forth of the wonderful works of God; and, as if her own weakness had been altogether lost in the strength of the Holy Ghost, continued, with little or no intermission, for two or three hours in mingled praise, prayer, and exhortation. " At dinner-time, James and George (brothers) came home, as usual, whom she then addressed at great length, concluding with a solemn prayer for James, that he might at that time be endowed with the power of the Holy Ghost. Almost instantly James calmly said, "I have got it." He walked to the window and stood silent for a minute or two. I looked at him, and almost trembled, there was such a change upon his whole countenance. He then, with a step and manner of the most indescribable majesty, walked up to Margaret's bed-side, and addressed her in those words of the twentieth Psalm, "Arise, and stand upright." He repeated the words, took her by the hand, and she arose when we all quietly sat down and had our dinner. After it, my brothers went to the building-yard, as usual, where James wrote over to Miss Campbell, commanding her in the name of the Lord to arise. The next morning, after breakfast, James said, "I am going down to the quay, to see if Miss Campbell is come across the water" at which we expressed our surprise, as he had said nothing to us of having written to her.'
'On Wednesday I (Mary Campbell) did not feel quite so languid but was suffering some pain from breathing and palpitation of my heart. Two individuals who saw me about four hours before my recovery said that I would never be strong — that I was not to expect a miracle to be wrought upon me. It was not long after until I received dear brother James McDonald's letter, giving - an account of his sister being raised up, and commanding me to rise and walk. I had scarcely read the first page when I became quite overpowered and laid it aside for a few minutes, but I had no rest in my mind until I took it up again and began to read. As I read, every word came home with power, and when I came to the command to arise, it came home with a power which no words can describe; it was felt to be indeed the voice of Christ; it was such a voice as could not be resisted. A mighty power was instantaneously exerted upon me: I felt as if I had been lifted from off the earth, and all my diseases were taken from off me at the voice of Christ. I was verily made in a moment to stand upon my feet, leap and walk, sing and rejoice." (these last two paragraphs came from 'Memoirs of James and George Macdonald of Port Glasgow' by Robert Norton)
Mary then crossed the water and met an expectant James who was waiting at the dock.
'After her restoration to health, Mary Campbell went to Helensburgh, where, in the summer of 1830, meetings were constantly held, amid much wonder and excitement, in which persons who were believed, and probably believed themselves to be, under the influence of the Spirit, spoke in tongues, prophesied, interpreted, &c. To these meetings, envoys came from Edinburgh and London, who, returning to their respective congregations inaugurated similar scenes in both these cities.'
Obviously, something so new would bring opposition and so it did. The most obvious person to attack was Mary Campbell. As the first person to receive tongues and the second to be healed in this move of God; if you could discredit her, you could argue against the whole movement. Unfortunately, Mary had weaknesses that made her an easy mark. Most of the criticism against her came from her own pastor, Robert Story. In the biography by his son, Story suggests that Mary's head was turned by all the attention she received after the death of her sister. He points out that she was very selfish, telling the story of how despite her brother dying upstairs, she continued to sing hymns and pray loudly with friends downstairs, making so much noise that her brother could not sleep. She later married and went down south to be with Irving for a time and on one of her trips back to Scotland she seems to care little for her poor family while dressing in silks herself. Story met her and wrote a long letter to her, pointing out where she was going wrong and urging her to get back on the right path. Mary had told him that the Lord wanted her to be a missionary but now she showed no inclination of doing so. Story also writes that Mary admitted to him that some of the prophecies she uttered were from her own imagination. I want to be generous towards her here because people in those days must have wondered what was going on if a prophecy they spoke was not fulfilled. They did not have the experience we have these days, knowing that we prophesy in part and that the timing of God is different from ours.
Once her own minister was known to question what happened to Mary, it was easy for others to do the same. Her healing and Margaret's were easily discarded by some by saying that they were on the mend anyway. I think it unfair to discard what happened to Mary. She may have not had a perfect character and led away by the world but I do not think that diminishes what she experienced which was witnessed by several people.
Mary died in 1839.
(All the quotes above that are not attributed, all come from, 'Memoir of the life of Rev Robert Story,' by his son in 1862)