Baldernock (1742)

The case of the parish of Baldernock deserves to be particularly noticed. Few of the people had visited those places in which the revivals had originated, and although for some years there had been no regular pastor, yet about ninety individuals were brought under the quickening in­fluence of the Spirit of promise. Mr Wallace, who had previously laboured amongst them in holy things for about fifty years, had been faithful and zealous; and perhaps the many conversions that now took place, might be remotely traced to his ministrations. The seed which lies long con­cealed may spring up in an abundant harvest. But in the absence of a regular ministry, God can accomplish His purposes of mercy with weak as well as with powerful means. He raised up and qualified Mr James Forsyth, who occupied the humble but honourable station of parochial schoolmaster, as the instrument of carrying forward in that parish the good work that had made such advances in the surrounding country. He was evidently a good man, long distinguished for godliness. His experience of the preciousness of Christ could not but prompt him to embrace the opportunity, which his profession furnished, of diffusing the knowledge of that Name, and of that Sal­vation, which he knew to be essential to the true happiness of the people with whom he was brought in contact. He partook of the joy with which the news of God's dealings with his church was received by such as had themselves tasted that the Lord is gracious; and in the peculiar cir­cumstances of the parish, he endeavoured by every means in his power, to infuse the same spiritual life among the people. He spoke more especially to the young, with ear­nestness and affection about their lost condition by nature and practice and about the love of God manifested in the gift of his Son for the salvation of sinners ready to perish.Holy Spirit was pleased to convey these simple, but im­pressive, truths to the hearts of his interested charges, who, in their turn, were enabled to leave a testimony to the truth, the consciences of the adult population. Would there were many such teachers of youth! Would that they felt they and their youthful charges shall stand together in the judgment and must render an account of their important stewardship! Religious instruction was made to hold a prominent place in the school under the charge of Mr Forsyth; and for the encouragement of all in like circumstances, these instructions were rendered instrumental for the conversion of many. God countenanced his feeble endeavours and made him the honoured instrument of winning many souls to Christ. His own account of the matter is detailed in letters to Mr Robe and will be felt deeply interesting and animating by all who have any love for ardent piety or disinterested zeal. In a letter dated 17th July, 1742, he thus writes—"Since the first of February last I endeavoured, to the utmost of my power, to instruct children under my charge in the first principles of religion --that they were born in a state of sin and misery, strangers to God by nature. I pressed them with every argument I could think of, to give up their sinful ways and flee to Jesus Christ by faith and repentance; and by the blessing of God, my efforts were not made in vain. Glory to His holy name, that which was spoken in much weakness was accompanied by the power of His Holy Spirit. I likewise warned them against the commission of known sin. I told them the danger of persisting contrary to the voice of conscience and the plain dictates of the word of God; assuring them, that if they did so, sin would one day find them out. These exhortations, frequently repeated, made at last some impression on their young hearts. This was used as a means in God's hand for bringing the elder sort to a more serious concern and a greater diligence in religious duties. One of the school-boys, who went to Cambuslang in March, was the first awakened. He, in a short time thereafter, asked permission to meet with two or three of the other boys in the school-room for the purpose of praying and singing psalms. I had great pleasure in granting this request. Very soon after, a few more of the boys manifested deep concern for their souls. In fourteen days after the opening of this youthful prayer meeting, ten or twelve were hopefully awakened; none of them above thirteen years of age - a few of them so young as eight or nine. These associated together for devotional duties. Their love for these services increased; so much so, that they sometimes met three times a-day—early in the morning, at noon (during the interval of school hours) and in the evening. These soon forsook all their childish fancies and plays and were known to their school companions by their general appearance, by their walk and conversation. All this had a happy effect upon the other children. Many were awak­ened through their means. They became remarkable for ten­derness of conscience. A word of terror occurring in their lessons would sometimes make them cry out and weep bit­terly. Some of them could give a most intelligent account of their experience of divine truth. They were sensible of the sin of their nature, of their actual transgressions and even of the sin of unbelief. When I would exhort them to believe in Christ, who was both able and willing to save them to the uttermost, they would reply, in the most affecting terms, that they knew He was both able and willing, but their hearts were so hard that they could not believe aright of themselves until God gave them the new heart—that they could do nothing for their hard hearts."

Respecting the people in general, Mr F. thus writes-- "Some were awakened at Cambuslang, others at Calder and Kirkintilloch, but the greater number at the private meetings for prayer held in the parish. These meetings were held twice a-week and all were admitted who chose to attend." These meetings were eminently countenanced. Many who attended were blessed with the communications of Divine grace and made to experience the image and the earnestness of the fellowship that is above. "Two young women," says Mr Forsyth, "who had been at Cambuslang and brought back an evil report, saying that they wondered what made the people cry out, on the 22nd of June, came to one of these meetings in Baldernoch, as was supposed, with no good design. Before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, they were brought under serious convictions and continued in distress during the remaining exercises of the evening."

Respecting the case of Baldernoch, Mr Robe has the following judicious remarks: " I have been the more particular, that we who are ministers of the Gospel may not to be lifted up by any success we may have in our ministrations. Though the Lord maketh especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building up them who are converted; yet he also blesseth the reading of the word, Christian communion and religious education by parents, schoolmasters and others, for the same blessed ends. Sometimes he also makes use of weak and inconsiderable instruments for beginning and carrying on a good oil upon the souls of men, while men of great gifts are not so successful. The people are not the less careful to attend upon public ordinances; their meetings do not interfere with the public means of grace in their own congregation, nor with the same privileges in the neighbouring congregations, when deprived of them in their own church, in consequence of there being at present no regular minister."