Portadown (1859)

The Portadown Weekly News of July 23rd says, In reference to the beginning of the work here; it is our privilege to report the rapid progress of this wonderful religious movement, the decided commencement of which we recorded last week. The public services held since have been exceedingly numerous, and in all cases of which we have heard, have been remarkably well attended. On Sunday last a prayer-meeting was conducted in the Messrs. Irwin's field near the railway gates. Although the afternoon was threatening, the attendance, it was thought, exceeded 1,500. On Monday evening the usual union meeting was held in Mr. John Montgomery's field. Many hundreds were present. The service was for the most part conducted by a young man from Belfast. In addition to these, the usual meetings of a more denominational character were held. The cases of physical prostration which have occurred during the week both in town and in various parts of the country have been exceedingly numerous. Amongst them have been the young and the comparatively old, both of men and women. It seems as if an all-wise Providence had designed by them practically to refute the various theories which have been put forth to account for a fact which cannot be denied. They could not have been produced by ill-ventilated and crowded meetings, as most of them occurred not in places of worship, but either as the parties were engaged at their usual employments, or were at home; and the majority of those which took place at religious services were at meetings in the open-air which were of the quietest possible character. Nervousness could not have been the cause, as strong men and women of a very vigorous frame were affected as well as the constitutionally weak. Hysteria will not account for them, for its effects are decidedly painful, while the results in these cases are uniformly joyous. Some general features distinguish all the cases we have met with though marked by great variety in other respects. The influence was irresistible. Few desired, most dreaded, and some were of those who had mocked at it. Yet they had to yield and frequently in places and amongst persons whom they would wish to have shunned. Its first effect is a keen and frequently agonizing sense of personal guilt and danger. This seems to occupy the whole soul, while the cries for mercy are constant and piteous. This gives place, without any outward cause, to peace comfort, and joy. The assurance of God's favour is as distinct as was the conviction of his wrath, and gladness beams forth in the countenance where anguish had been depicted. Love and praise to the great Deliverer then engross the powers of the soul. The name of Jesus is uniformly precious, and they never weary telling of his love. Earnest concern for unsaved friends is evidenced in constant prayer and urgent entreaties. These are not feeble and occasional; they are without exception the accompaniments of this work, no matter how averse the subject of it, or how completely separated they may have been from others similarly affected. Are they not sufficient to recommend it, and to secure for it the hearty approval and sympathy of those who wish to promote God's glory? But numerous and striking as these cases are, they bear a very small proportion to the number of instances in which decided con­version to God is experienced without any particular affection of the body. Testimonies to this effect we have received from persons of all denominations. And multitudes of others are under a powerful religious influence, by which they are led to the means of grace and to serious reflection. It is the hope of many---and in it we heartily join—that the work is yet only in its infancy; and that this town and, neighbourhood will be visited by a still more general outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' p11, August 6th 1859.

At Portadown daily union prayer-meetings were commenced in the town-hall, and continued for several weeks, without inter­mission, and in various parts of the adjoining country similar means were adopted on a smaller scale. In connection with these services several persons were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. On the evening of July 11th the work received a great impulse, and from that date progressed with wonderful rapidity and power. A considerable number of persons had assembled in a field, adjacent to the town, for an open-air service, and as a young man from Belfast told, in a simple and unim­passioned way, what he had seen of the revival, two persons were seized with deep convictions of sin. Next day there was a marked change in the tone of feeling throughout the town. Earnest people were inspired with courage and confidence, fear took possession of many who had been unconcerned, and a spirit of solemnity rested on the entire population. Similar services were held each evening, during the following fortnight, in a field where a new Wesleyan chapel was about. to be erected, and at each of these conversions took place, while on one occasion not less than forty entered into the liberty of the children of God. Amongst the trophies of Divine grace were many persons of mature, and even advanced age, and some who had been notorious transgressors. Those who had not bowed in prayer for years, those who had been habitual drunkards, and those who had seldom uttered a sentence without an oath yielded to the influence of saving grace. Several females also, who had sunk to the lowest point of moral degradation and wretchedness, were made witnesses of the Saviour's love, and for them suitable employment was secured. From the town the work soon spread to the surround­ing country. The season was a very dry one, and it was customary to hold the Sabbath and week-evening services in the open air, retiring to some adjacent house to pray with those in distress. Here the local preachers, with Mr. John Shillington at their head, found a congenial field of labour, which they cultivated most diligently. Many incidents might be given in illustration of the powerful and widespread influence of the Spirit upon the people. Each locality had a history of its own, and no matter how in­disposed persons might be to yield to the power of the movement, or even to regard it with any degree of appreciation, they were constrained to acknowledge its superhuman character and its blessed results. At the September love-feast, when the Wesleyan chapel at Portadown was filled, the large school-room was thrown open, and it was soon crowded; then the town-hall was secured and proved inadequate, and then the court-house was placed at the disposal of a fourth congregation! Similar success attended the labours of the Primitive Wesleyans on this circuit, and by else Society a considerable amount of additional chapel accommodation had to be provided. The Wesleyans erected houses at Derrylee, Edenderry, Derryall, and Corcrain; and the Primitives built one at Derryall, and enlarged another at Derryanvil.

From 'History of Methodism in Ireland', Volume III, by Crookshank, p517.

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