The Hon. and Rev. Henry Ward on the Revival.
Sir,—The Revival movement in. the North is making progress and forcing itself upon the attention of the public. I make no apology for volunteering a brief statement of the work as it is now advancing in my parish under my own observation.
I am the incumbent of a large parish and having laboured among the people for five-and-thirty years, I know them well. The great majority of them are Presbyterians, living scattered over a district exclusively agricultural, and not congregated as in towns. They are intelligent, industrious, well and Scripturally taught, calm and reserved in their disposition, and, as regards the reception of Divine truth, would be considered by strangers perhaps cold.
The spirit of revival visited us not very long after it made its appearance in the County of Antrim. Immediately on its manifesting itself, it was met by increased religious exercises, which consisted exclusively of the ordinary means of grace, conducted in the ordinary manner, and extended throughout the week from day to day. The power of God's Word began immediately to be felt—numbers were daily brought under conviction. No effort was needed to excite an appetite, the difficulty was, how to satisfy it. The crowds which come together to hear the Word of God are truly astonishing. What is the attraction? Christ is lifted up by the preacher—. the Spirit is honoured by prayer the Lord alone is exalted.
In reference to the results of these revival meetings, which have been continued now for three weeks, it would be impossible to speak with any accuracy. The grand total of good already done must be left unreckoned until "the day shall declare it;" but 150 persons of all ages and conditions are known as having been in an extraordinary manner brought under conviction of sin. I have met them in a class for special instruction, and have visited many of them in their houses; their profession is made with earnestness and apparent sincerity; the terms of the Gospel have been faithfully explained to them, and one and all have offered themselves wholly to the Lord, with purpose of heart to follow Him fully.
The impressions made upon all are uniform, and characteristic of true conviction, if not conversion: sin their only misery, mercy their only plea, Christ their only comfort; "Take away my stony heart, give me a heart of flesh," the universal prayer. The pain and distress felt has indeed been great, but not unreasonably or unscriptually so, and not much more than what our Liturgy supposes may be realised when calling upon us, as " miserable sinners," to acknowledge that the " remembrance" of our sins "is grievous unto us, the burden of them is intolerable," and certainly not in excess of that which must have pierced the heart of Him who, as our Surety, became sin and a curse for us, when in the agony of his soul He sweat great drops of blood in the garden of Gethsemane, and when under the frown of Heaven upon the cross He cried with a loud voice, " My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?
I may add, that the spirit of these newly awakened persons is all gentleness, teachableness, and humility, while the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace—rule in their hearts most manifestly.
The spirit of our meetings throughout the week is all harmony and love — the Presbyterian not annoying the Episcopalian, the Episcopalian not vexing the Presbyterian. The labour being divided between the ministers of the two denominations, no distinction is made, and the hearts of all are knit together in one holy bond of Christian fellowship. There is no exaltation of man or means—no novelty, no unnatural excitement, no confusion; all order, solemnity, and devotion.
There can be no imposition practised here; such a thing, from the deep feeling of seriousness which pervades this part of the country at the present time, would not be tolerated by the people.
Now, that this work, so far as it has come under my observation, is the work of God, I have no more doubt than of the truth of the Philippian jailer's conversion. The simple preaching of the Word, accompanied with praise and prayer, more prominently having been given to the last than to the first, have been the means, under the Divine blessing, of gathering out a people bearing the stamp of the new creation as clearly impressed upon them as it is possible for the Word of God, written by the Spirit of God on the fleshy tables of the heart, to be discerned by human eye.
And it is not a correct view of this work to say that it is an evil which, no doubt, God will overrule for good ; but God, I am persuaded, in fulfilment of his promise to pour out his Spirit in answer to prayer, has, in the exercise of his sovereignty, and independent of any occasion, willed it. And Jesus being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He has shed forth this which we now see and hear. As such, it is the voice of God speaking to us, in all its majesty and power introducing a special season of refreshing, a day when the things which belong to our peace are set before us with more than ordinary clearness, and when God is manifesting Himself with more than ordinary powers, either for good or for evil, for life or for death. HENRY WARD, Rector of Killinchy,
County Down. >From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p20/1, August 13, 1859