I had the privilege of visiting lately the district of Eskdale, in which the town of Langholm is situated; and during my stay there had an opportunity of witnessing much that was deeply interesting and encouraging in the religious condition of that district.
My personal observations have reference to the parish of Langholm alone, but I know that a deep and earnest work has begun in several of the surrounding parishes of the same district, of which some one on the spot might doubtless furnish an interesting and satisfactory account.
In the town of Langholm, for some years past there has been much cordiality of feeling among all the denominations of worshippers, and a monthly union meeting for prayer and conference has long been held in connexion with the four Sabbath-schools of the town. About three years ago, or more, a weekly united prayer-meeting was begun, and it has been continued without interruption. At the beginning of this year arrangements were made for joining in the general concert for prayer; and in these arrangements the principles of Christian union were fully acted upon. Subsequent to that season, an arrangement was made for an additional week of special united prayer and religious services, with especial reference to the work of God in other parts of the country; and with the earnest desire and hope that the Holy Spirit might be graciously outpoured on the parish of Langholm and the surrounding neighbourhood. These services were so numerously attended, and the interest manifested was so deep and general, that their continuance seemed a necessity, and arrangements were made accordingly.
The original "Weekly Union Prayer-meeting" had become a "Daily" one, held at 3 p.m., and in addition meetings for worship were held every evening at 8 o'clock, taking the place, on some evenings, of the Congregational Prayer-meetings which had previously been held. At those meetings the attendance continued very large; and the ministers of the town were occasionally assisted by laymen and ministers from a distance, and by laymen connected with the district, and when I visited the locality, nearly a fortnight since, they had been in full operation for about three weeks, the interest being unabated, and the attendance always large.
For a long time previous to the opening of the present year, earnest prayer had been made by some of the Lord's people there for a "time of refreshing," and lively expectations were entertained that the Lord's "set time" would come. It seems now that this hope is being realized, these prayers fulfilled. I had much intercourse with the ministers who have taken so active a part in fostering and directing the religious movement there. I conversed with many of the most earnest Christians in the place, and with not a few also of the inhabitants who are understood to care for none of these things, and I found among believers an extraordinary degree of earnestness, which soon affected myself—a strength of faith, a vigour of hope, and fervour of love, which were deeply moving. In the meetings there was an indescribable tone of true and earnest devotion, of deep anxiety, of real communion with God. and one another, that was most edifying and solemnizing. The addresses were on all occasions calm, faithful, sound, and plain, but most heart-stirring, because of the reality with which truth was invested, while there was something deeply impressive in the rapt and sustained attention of the audience—a quiet, earnest, waiting disposition seeming to characterize old and young. This continuing day after day, for weeks, was new in Langholm, and was significant of the presence among us of a power most mighty and gracious. The ministers felt it to be so; every-earnest Christian hailed it as the blessed. work of the Holy Spirit; andthe general solemnity and seriousness which pervaded the community, as well as the number of convicted sinners seeking Mr Jesus—asking the way of peace—left no room to doubt that a day of merciful visitation had arrived, which all seemed anxious should not pass away without a blessing being obtained on a large and liberal scale, to the glory of Christ our Saviour, to the praise of the grace of God, to the joy of angels, and to the comfort and peace of poor sinners in our midst.
Old-established believers owned to having been revived, and longed for more life and true grace in their souls; professors were beginning to feel that something more was needed than mere outward membership in the Christian church, and anxious inquirers increased in numbers daily, many remaining after each meeting for conversation on the subject of salvation. With many of these I myself conversed, and most touching was their very look, most affecting their unfeigned anxiety, sometimes modestly expressed in trembling words, but oftener exhibited by deep-drawn sighs and copious tears. Most blessed was the privilege of pointing such to Jesus, and leading their hearts to God in prayer. Most humbling the felt unfitness for such a duty, and the absolute need of the revealing, teaching, applying power of the Holy Ghost. Oh, how precious, under such circumstances, the knowledge of our Saviour's tender sympathy and infinite love and wisdom. How blessed the conviction that the "excellency of the power" is of God, and not of man, however man may be an instrument employed.
Not a few of those anxious ones found peace in believing, and some of them I myself heard testifying in calm and grateful assurance that they had been enabled to lay all their sins on Jesus, and felt themselves at peace with God through faith in Him In all this movement there has been an entire absence of outward excitement; the deep seriousness of mind which prevails, the large and earnest attendance on all the means of grace, and the continuance of daily special services, are the prominent characteristics of this work in Langholm. I have heard even to-day that all these things still continue, and that the number of anxious inquirers is on the increase. The comparative few who openly remain in the churches for conversation are only representatives of the many who are met with in families by the ministers and Christian visitors. A Young Men's Prayer Meeting has been established on Sunday mornings, at the first meeting of which eighteen were present, and on that on last Sunday morning twenty-four, " all of whom testify to its being a season of the purest enjoyment they ever had in all their lives." Surely this work can only be of God. I would call on Christians to give thanks for it, and to pray that it may please God to continue his gracious operations in Langholm and the neighbourhood. Yours very faithfully, G. M.LONDON, 10th April, 1861.