We give next Mr Milne's own statement. It does not enter into particulars; but, brief as it is, it is very satisfactory.
There has been a revival to a considerable extent in my congregation, and in the town generally. Chiefly through the instrumentality of Mr W. Burns. I believe there are also several persons who consider them- selves indebted to my own preaching, and that of Mr Bonar of Collace, and Mr Cumming of Dumbarney, who took part occasionally in preaching and conversing with the people.
I had abundant opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with Mr Burns, as he lived and laboured with me constantly for between three and four months. I never knew anyone who so fully and unfalteringly obeyed the apostolic precept: "Meditate upon these things; give thy- self wholly to them." I was struck with his close walk with God, his much and earnest prayer, his habitual seriousness, the solemnizing effect which his presence seemed to have wherever he went, and his success in leading those with whom he conversed to anxious, practical, heart-searching concern about their state in God's sight. In public, his ministrations were chiefly of an awakening nature, addressed to the un- converted. With this view, his subjects were always wisely selected, being such as included fundamental points: man's lost state as a sinner; its marks and consequences; man's helplessness as a sinner; the vanity of all his endeavours to justify or sanctify himself, and the certain and everlasting ruin of all who should persevere in such attempts; Christ Jesus, His righteousness, its alone sufficiency, its perfect freeness, its immediate gift to all who believe; the blessed effects of such faith; the Holy Spirit, His work in convincing and converting, and the danger of resisting Him. These subjects were treated more subjectively than objectively, which Mr Burns was the better enabled to do, from having much intercourse with people under concern, who had fully opened up their minds to him. The effect of his preaching was also aided by the unusual earnestness and solemnity of his delivery, as well as by the densely-crowded state of the church, and the spirit of prayer and expectation in which very many came to the meetings. In compliance with the language of the query, I have spoken of the chief human instrument, but I am persuaded, both from what I saw and felt at the time and from what I have since known of the permanent and blessed results, that a greater than man was among us: "Not by power, nor by might, but by my Spirit." I never witnessed before, nor have I since, such manifest tokens of God's gracious presence as were vouchsafed us during several of the first months of last year. I can only say, in the words of Jonathan Edwards, "The goings of God were then seen in His sanctuary, God's day was a delight, and His tabernacles were amiable. Our public assemblies were then beautiful; the congregation was alive in God's service, everyone earnestly intent on the public worship, every hearer eager to drink in the words of the minister as they came from his mouth." What he also mentions of the much weeping and deep concern manifested under the preaching of the word is also true in regard to the meetings here but is noticed in a subsequent query.
There was no address specially to children, though a considerable number attended the meetings, and seemed deeply affected. Some of them, on being questioned, were found to possess correct views of their state as sinners. They had prayer-meetings among themselves in several parts of the town; and though these, as was perhaps desirable, were soon relinquished, yet I would hope that some on these occasions received impressions, which God will acknowledge as His own work.
I had only been settled here a few weeks when the revival began, and, consequently, had little previous knowledge of the people. I have since, however, had intercourse with many; some were godly persons before, but on these occasions, they seemed to have been literally revived and stirred up. They received enlarged and more realizing and influential views of their privileges and duties as Christians. The generality, however, were persons who had either been greatly careless of religion, or had been resting self-satisfied in a form of godliness, though destitute of its power. The language frequently used was, "We always thought we were well enough, we had no idea we were such sinners."
Many are to this day growingly adorning the gospel of God their Saviour in all things, and gradually forming a peculiar people, zealous of good works. I am acquainted with families where all, or almost all, the members seem to have been savingly converted. During the time the awakening continued the state of the town was greatly changed. The watchmen at night often remarked that they had little now comparatively to do, the streets were so quiet. At some of the manufactories and large workshops, the improvement was very marked. Of course, this does not now continue to the same extent; but still, there is a sensible improvement within the last twelve months on the general state of the town, as various circumstances show.
Once or twice the services went on till one or two o'clock; they were generally, however, concluded about ten o'clock, or a little later. It was often exceedingly difficult to prevail on the people to go away. I would remark the unusual and long-continued thirsting for the word which the people manifested. Night after night, for many weeks, the church was one dense mass of human beings, all the passages being crowded with persons, who remained standing for hours together, and seemingly inaccessible to weariness and fatigue. I would remark, also, the deep, solemn, almost awful attention which they maintained during the whole of the services. I would observe, also, that the awakening extended to many miles around. Persons frequently came in considerable numbers from great distances to attend the meetings and returned home through the night. I may also remark, that one of the things which was most to be regretted, during the awakening, was the want of a sufficient number of judicious experienced Christians to take charge of prayer-meetings, which were, therefore, necessarily entrusted to young men. And now, though it was to me a time of much labour and anxiety, I look back with thankfulness that I was privileged to see such a season; and it is my desire and prayer that I may yet see similar days of the right hand of the Most High.'
Perth, 25th October 1841. — I was favoured with your letter of queries regarding the work of God in this quarter. I regret much that I did not make an effort to answer it immediately. My reason for not doing so was my hope that I should find time to do it at some length. The engagements, however, connected with the concert for prayer, followed by those of our communion season, which occurred yesterday, rendered, or seemed to render, this impossible. I this morning write rather for the purpose of acknowledging your letter, than with the hope of being able to communicate any information that will conduce to accomplish the end of your inquiry. You are probably aware that I formerly furnished a short account of God's work here to the Presbytery of Aberdeen. That account, however, was written hurriedly, without the idea that it would be published, and the questions were not perhaps fitted to elicit a full and fair view of the subject. I subjoin a note or two, passingly, in answer to your queries.
The previous state of 'the people. — I can say little on this subject, having been only settled here about two months when the revival began.
First symptoms of change, and circumstances preparing the way. — Perhaps the settlement of a new minister may have been of some use, at least in my own congregation. Indeed, I know of cases where it was so. There was also a longing, anxious expectation among the praying people — a kind of cL7rox.c1pctlox.1x. Their hearts had been stirred by what had occurred at Kilsyth, and still more by what was doing at Dundee, almost at their own door. They felt a kind of godly and humbling jealousy that the Lord should visit other places, and yet pass by them. As is said of Israel in the days of John, not a few were in expectation and mused in their hearts. I mention this because I believe it to be an important element in preparing the way for Him who usually stands at the door, and will not force His way, but waits till He is invited or constrained to come in. On the last Sabbath of the year, Mr W. Burns preached for me in the afternoon. He asked those who wished to converse concerning the state of their souls, to come into the vestry after the service. I had been preaching in another church that afternoon, and when I reached the vestry, found four or five persons there. It was late, and I proposed that they should go home for a little, and return at seven o'clock when we would meet with them. They went accordingly; and when we returned at seven, instead of the few we expected, we found a considerable number of persons assembled in the lower part of the church. Mr Burns prayed, and sung psalms and paraphrases, making remarks before singing, especially on the 51st Psalm and 44th Paraphrase. There was deep solemnity, which gradually almost awfully increased; many began to shed tears, and to throw themselves on their knees at prayer, in the seats and passages. Mr B. was speaking plainly, simply, without the slightest effort; and yet perhaps at no time during the whole season of revival was there more of the effectual presence and power of the Lord than on that night. Most of those, I have reason to believe, who were present, were either quickened or lastingly impressed. Hour after hour passed, and still, they would not or could not go away. It was near midnight ere they all retired. Next day there was a full meeting at twelve o'clock, and another, very much crowded, in the evening at seven, which lasted for several hours. Next day it was the same, and the next, and the next; and thus for nearly three months these daily double meetings continued without interruption, the evening ones always densely, oppressively crowded, and continuing usually for three or more hours — the passages within and without being completely filled with people standing all the time. During this season there were all the marks of a work of God which we see in the account given of the preaching of the gospel by the apostles. The multitude was divided, families were divided; the people of God were knit together, they were filled with zeal and joy and heavenly-mindedness; they continued steadfast, and increased in doctrine and fellowship, being daily in church and in prayer-meetings; and numbers were constantly turning to the Lord.
Nature and amount of change. — God's people quickened; backsliders restored; doubting and uncertain brought to decision and assurance; hidden ones, who for years had walked solitarily, brought to light, and united to a family of brothers and sisters; and a large number of the worldly, thoughtless, ignorant, self-righteous turned to the Lord. We have a peculiar people growing up among us, who are separate from the world; know and love one another; watch over, exhort, and aid one another; they seem to grow in humility and zeal, and entertain frequent and endearing intercourse, both by letter and mutual visits, with the good people of Dundee, Aberdeen, and other places.
Facts illustrating. — Had I time, I could, with Mr Burns' help, who kept a record of cases from the beginning, furnish many interesting facts relating to the first impressions and subsequent progress of different individuals. I mention only one, that of more than two hundred young persons whom I have admitted to communion, and of very many of whom I have reason to hope there was a real heart-work, almost all dated the origin, or deepening and perfecting, of their convictions from this season.
Means employed. — The means chiefly honoured in this work was the preaching and conversation of Mr Burns. I regard his appearance as a kind of era in our Church affairs. I know how dear he is to the heart of multitudes here, and in the country many miles around. On the Tuesday after the work began, Mr Cumming joined us, and on the Friday, Mr A. Bonar; and their preaching and conversation were also much blessed, and their names are very dear to the hearts of our people. There were numerous open and private prayer-meetings. The zealous exhortations, example, and prayers of those who had themselves been awakened were a most important means of alarming and bringing in others.
Kind of preaching. — Solemn, earnest, affectionate, beseeching; never losing sight, or rather never thinking of anything but the conviction and conversion of sinners, and thinking nothing done if this was not accomplished. The ministers preached after much prayer, and with the almost assured expectation of getting the blessing. The people came believing that they would meet with God. The subject was Christ Jesus in His fulness, freeness, offers; and privilege and duty of immediate acceptance, and danger and present guilt of delay or refusal. Christ's grace and kindness to even the vilest sinners seemed to break the hearts of many. Such passages as the woman that was a sinner; beginning at Jerusalem; Ethiopian eunuch; washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; He was made sin for us, and He righteousness; barren fig-tree; washing disciples' feet. I should say that the holding forth the priestly office and work of Christ was especially blessed. But the goings of Jehovah were then in His sanctuary. None could help feeling this is Bethel. The most careless were awed. There was something unspeakably solemn, sweet, and exhilarating in the services. After exercises of several hours' continuance, there was no feeling of weariness or satiety. People who were worldly then, and who are worldly now, were drawn and kept, as by a charm, night after night, in the house of God, instead of straggling about the streets, or haunting places of amusement and dissipation. I felt as if the presence of God were resting on the whole town, and the country round was shaken for many miles. My time is gone. I do not know if I should send these hurried lines. If you wished, I would try to draw up an account befitting, as much as I could, the momentousness of the subject. The season of which I have been speaking is pleasant to my memory, and its fruits remain. I like the queries you propose; they comprehend the subject. I have often heard of you from my dear friend and brother, A. Bonar. Accept my prayers and best wishes. May grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you and your Synod.'
'Life of the Rev John Milne of Perth' by Horatius Bonar, pages 51-59.