Dunlop (1860-1862)

An observation by a Stewarton minister.

It has often been a matter of remark in Stewarton that, while religious revivals were frequently taking place of many of the towns of Ayrshire, we would have none of them here. This state of matters, however, is now at an end in Stewarton, and more especially in the village of Dunlop and its immediate vicinity. For some time past we have heard of religious awakenings in the latter place being of frequent occurrence, and in considerable numbers; and being anxious to see for ourselves how the revival prayer meetings were conducted in Dunlop, we went over on Monday night—a distance of two miles and we stayed there from 7:00 pm until midnight. Entering the Parish Church at the hour mentioned we found it filled in every part with a well-dressed and that time a well-conducted audience.

The services were conducted by the Rev. Mr Gebbie, the parish minister, assisted by the Rev. Mr M'Leish of the Free Church, and were commenced with praise and prayer. There were no cases of prostration for some considerable time; and the first that took place was that of a young man belonging to Stewarton, who was standing near the platform, and was seized instantaneously with the mysterious visitation; and while being assisted to the vestry a number of the congregation sung a hymn appropriate to the occasion. And now commences a scene among the "converts" which almost baffles description. They were mostly supplied with a hymn book compiled by Richard Weaver, the revivalist; and gathering in circles, they sang portions of its contents, with frantic gestures, and in every variety of time and tune... To persons unaccustomed to such scenes the spectacle of young men, women, boys and girls, embracing each other in transports of religious delirium - swaying their bodies backwards and forwards - standing on the seats and stamping time with their feet to the tune, and howling forth at the pitch of their voices "Christ for me," must have been anything but pleasant to their feelings.

Rather before this stage of the business intimation was given to the meeting that the Free Church and schoolroom would be open for those who could not obtain accommodation in the Parish Church, and a considerable number went away to these places along with Mr M'Leish, who was to superintend the revivalism there. This arrangement left more space to those who remained, and the manifestations continued with greater force than before. Some were weeping and some praying, while numbers of the converts, male and female, were going amongst them trying to console them and bring them to the blissful state in which they themselves rejoiced. Others of the converted ones were acting as catechists.

We observed while standing near the platform, one of the many cases of conversion which occurred that night. The fair missionary who accomplished it was gifted with no ordinary portion of female charms. She had an intellectual appearance and winning manner, while her language was of the most persuasive kind and well calculated to effect the object she had in view. We saw her going up to a young man near her, and ply him with questions about the state of his soul, to which he replied with seeming indifference. She told him of the unspeakable bliss of which she had become the recipient and lavished on him her most engaging glances. Still there seemed to be no effect. She then placed her hand on his shoulders, and enfolded him in a half embrace, sunk her dulcet tones to whispering accents, and her purpose was not long in being accomplished. In a few minutes he was standing on the seat, with one of her hands clasped in his, whilst with the other he swung the Bible round his head, and cried aloud "Christ for me! Christ for me!"

Whilst witnessing the foregoing case, we heard singing outside the church, and going out we found a group of young persons of both sexes, some of whom were in each other's arms, swaying their bodies with frantic energy and still on the calm silence of the night in a frenzied accents fell the words, "Christ for me! Christ for me!" This state of things continued till three o'clock on Tuesday morning and was encouraged by the minister, who waited with them to the close and asked the blessing of God on their conduct. In the Free Church matters were conducted with a little more propriety, and less noisy manifestations of their feelings, but it was far on in Tuesday morning before the proceedings were ended, and the wearied converts dismissed to their homes. The conduct described above has been repeated every night since with little variation...

In Stewartong on Tuesday night there was a prayer meeting in the Free Church, which was well attended, and numbers of the audience remained after the blessing was given to converse about the state of their souls with the clergymen who assisted at the meeting. In the Parish Church on Wednesday evening a still larger meeting was held, and about 40 persons remained after the services were over for the same purpose as on Tuesday night. We are glad to have it in our power to state that a considerable number of persons seem disposed to forego their evil ways and to begin a new and a better life. This surely can be done in a calm, religious manner, and without the delirious excitement which so much prevails in the parish of Dunlop.

Another correspondent writes:—

Nothing could exceed the excitement that has prevailed here during the past week, on account of the religious awakenings and meetings which have taken place at the village of Dunlop, about two miles distant. In the latter end of last week the religious ferment was great in the extreme, and this week it seems to be on the increase. Hundreds left Stewarton for Dunlop on Sunday and on Monday the number who left on foot and in omnibuses was even greater. A gentleman who was at Dunlop on Monday evening informs us that the Parish Church was crowded to excess, while the churchyard and village was thronged with people eager to get into some place of worship. The Free Church was opened and immediately filled. Nothing like it has taken place yet in this part of the country, and the singing sounded like the anthems of thousands - it was so loud and earnest. A complete stop has been put to the liquor traffic of the district, as the only innkeeper in the place and all his family have been turned from the error of their ways.

"The Scottish Guardian," October 30th, 1860.

In response to the above.

An article recently appeared in the Ayrshire Express, professing to describe a Revival meeting at Dunlop. This has been reproduced in several journals, and the following reply thereto has been addressed to the editor of the Scottish Guardian.

DEAR Sir,—In common with many others, I am exceedingly sorry that a letter, worse than a caricature; of the Revival at Dunlop, should have found its way into the columns of the Scottish Guardian of a recent date. I am sorry, not so much on the account of those who are without, but because some of the Lord's people have been grieved by it. Again and again this has been expressed to myself and therefore I venture to send you these few lines. Since the Revival began I have, on two different occasions, gone to aid my esteemed friend, the Rev. Mr M'Leish, in his abundant labours there, and I speak of what I have been privileged to see and to hear. During the past fourteen months—the most memorable period, perhaps, in the history of Scotland's church—I have visited many Revival scenes and taken part in many Revival meetings, and I feel constrained to say I have not witnessed anything so deep and wide-spread and so evidently from above. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." On my way, the first day when I went from Kilwinning to Dunlop, I alighted and called at the first farm-house within the borders of the parish, where I found the first fruits of the Revival in the conversion of the servant-girl, the tones of whose voice fell on my ear as she sang one of Zion's songs. That is a homestead into which I have often turned on my way to Dunlop, and where for years fervent believing prayer has been offered up for that very shower from heaven, which now has so copiously fallen. Before preaching in the Free Church, I spent about two hours in going through the village and passing from house to house; and in every house which I entered, with only one exception; I found one or more persons who professed to have found the Saviour. These cases are, many of them, of thrilling interest, and which will not soon be effaced from memory. In one instance, the whole family were rejoicing in Christ; father, mother, brother, and sisters. Salvation had come to that whole house.

The awakening in the parish is as extensive and powerful as in the village. The last remaining signboard was quietly taken down a few days ago, and now Dunlop is without one solitary public house.

In the evening I preached, and during the public service all was still, and calm, and solemn, as on a sacramental Sabbath. Just as I was closing the service, a large number came from the Established Church after the slogs of the meeting there, and so I preached again.

At the close of the service an invitation was given to any who felt disposed to remain. Nearly the whole remained for about an hour and a half. The only peculiarity in that part of the evening's work was, that at one and the same time one little company was engaged in earnest prayer for some anxious inquirer, another group was eagerly conversing, with Bible in hand, on some sacred subject, while a third and a fourth were singing some favourite hymn or psalm. Thus, that river, whose streams make glad the city of God, rolled on; and we left the house of God that night, some with glad and rejoicing hearts, and all with thankful ones.

On Monday of this week I paid a second visit to Dunlop, at the request of the Free Church minister. It was the communion Monday, and never before was there such a communion season in that place. Brighter and better days they were even than those of Livingston and the Kirk of Shotts.

After the evening service was over in the Free Church, I stepped in with some others to the Established Church, where a vast gathering had convened, consisting of persons of various denominations, and from the surrounding parishes of Stewarton, Beith, and Kilwinning. I must say it was the most impressive and strangely solemnizing meeting I ever attended. God, of a truth, was there. You felt it in the swell of song which arose from that moved multitude; you felt it in the short, and fervent, and believing prayer; you felt it in the converse with whomsoever you might speak in that mixed throng. The labours of the Established Church minister have been most abundant, - and very greatly blessed. What I have now stated is in vindication of the truth, only a tithe of what I have seen and heard. It is a sin of no ordinary kind to speak against God's work or to cast a stumbling block before any of God's people. Men should beware of "offending one of these little ones which believe in Christ,"- and of incurring that awful doom pronounced by the Saviour on those who commit that sin—" It were better for him that a millstone was hanged about his neck, and that he was drowned in the depth of the sea."

There may be a tendency sometimes, even on the part of the" Lord's own people, to arrest or check at the beginning some things which God may be using to promote his own work If does not tally with their preconceived notions of things; it does not precisely fit into their type or model of a Revival. But if it be not contrary to Scripture, is it not safer to let it alone, or to guide and direct it, "lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them"?

Everything with which man has to do is mixed with infirmity and imperfection. It is the duty of ministers and elders to guide and direct this movement, whose wave is widening and deepening and flowing on. Should we fail to occupy our rightful position, other instrumentalities will be raised up, and God's work will be carried on. In this whole movement, I am impressed with the overwhelming testimony raised up on behalf of the good old standard and scriptural doctrines of Presbyterian Scotland. It is the Lord's work. "Salvation belongeth to the Lord." One young man was asked, "Have you found the Lord?" his answer was—" No, but the Lord has found one." The importance of Bible classes in these days cannot be over-estimated. Many of the awakened are uninstructed and extremely ignorant, and liable to fall into various forms of error. -

Dunlop is within three miles of the town of Stewarton, where, in 1630, a remarkable work of grace began. The godly Mr Castlelaw, the minister of the parish, sowed the seed. But it was given to David Dickson, of Irvine, to gather in the harvest sheaves. Such was the eagerness of the people to hear the word that he established a weekly lecture on Monday, the market day when the town was thronged with people, from the surrounding parishes. The people of Stewarton, encouraged by their own minister, attended those services, and such was the result that a great and glorious work of awakening spread in the town of Stewarton, and extended for miles along the slopes of the Anwick, the Stewarton water. As now, even so then, "the ignorant and proud secure livers," says Robert Blair, "called them the daft people of Stewarton.

Ayrshire was then called "the garden of Scotland." May it yet become "like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters fail not."WILLIAM PINKERTON. Free Church Manse, Kilwinning, Nov. 6.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume iii, p165.In response to the above


The Rev. Mr Gebbie, of Dunlop, gives the following description of the origin and progress of the Revival in that place: Nearly two years ago, when so much was said about the Lord's work in Ireland, he felt a wish to pay a visit to that island. One day, however, just as he was thinking over the matter, one of his people called and expressed a desire that Mr Gebbie would come and see his wife, who, he said, had been in a wonderful state during the night, and that something was working in her. What was the case The Spirit of God had come down in answer to prayer, and the work was now beginning sensibly in Dunlop. It was not necessary now to go to Ireland to see that work; the Lord had sent it to themselves, and from that time till the present He had been giving them manifestations of his loving-kindness and mercy, his grace, and his power. One case of conversion which had occurred about this time last year was that of a woman, the mother of a family, whom he had visited regularly while she was lying ill of consumption, of which she died. She had been unable to see that Jesus was hers, till one day, perhaps about six weeks after she was first confined to bed, he went to see her, when, on entering her apartment, she said, "Oh, I have good news to tell you. I am saved. Christ is mine now. He is all my salvation and all my desire! "He desired her to tell him how the change had occurred, when she said, "I was lying on my bed; it was not a dream, it was not a trance nor imagination, but it seemed to be the greatest reality. God took me by the hand, as it were, and led me up to Calvary, and there I saw three crosses as distinctly as if I had been standing that day on the mount when Christ was crucified. On the middle one was the Son of God, and God seemed to say to me, pointing to Him who was on the middle cross, ‘That is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; He hath done all the work, and you have nothing to do. He will not half the work with you. Only believe;' and I just did it, and my burden was removed." Nothing but self-righteousness had before prevented her from seeing that Christ was hers; now she saw that she had only to exercise faith in the work of a substitute, and this faith appeared to her so simple that it seemed impossible for her to explain it. God said, "Only believe," and she just did it, and then Christ was hers. We at Dunlop got the blessing, I believe because God put it into us to ask; and if you can tell me that there is a spirit of prayer awakened amongst the people of this and other congregations, I think I can also tell you that the Lord, according to his word, will not be far off with the great and gracious blessing of his salvation.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume iv, p140.

From what has appeared of late in the public press regarding the work of revival in the parish of Dunlop, many will doubtless think that it must have been a very scandalous affair. Listen to me, dear reader, and I will tell you something very different. I have been well acquainted with the Revival movement in and around Dunlop since its very commencement. I have watched its progress with great interest; I was present and took part in many of the meetings, and conversed freely with the people under all the stages of the new birth, many of whom I have been personally acquainted with for years; and, of course, can tell what they were, what they have passed through, and what they are now.

As firmly do I believe that the Revival movement in Dunlop was the work of the Holy Spirit as that recorded in the 2nd of Acts. Previous to the middle of 1859 the people were lying in darkness and indifference about salvation to a great extent, although they had the pure gospel faithfully preached to them. After that, drops of the abundant shower began to fall here and there. Sinners were brought to the Lord, some in a quiet way, others with all the startling accompaniments of prostration, while pursuing their ordinary callings, apparently without human agency. While, on the other hand, I have seen the preacher, while quietly relating the sufferings of the blessed Redeemer, interrupted with the agonizing cries of sincere penitents.

Things went on nearly in this manner till October 1860, when the rain came down in torrents of blessings. Nothing could then be more manifest than that the secret but powerful influence of the Eternal Spirit was at work. I have been in many Revival meetings in the north and south of Scotland, but never did I witness more clearly the Mighty One making bare his holy arm. and doing his own work. What deep penitence, what humble, honest confessions, what heart-felt sorrow, what gladness and joy, what zeal for the honour of Christ and the salvation of souls was there witnessed. The reality of all this struck me with such force that I could not help repeating the words, "Behold I make all things new." The light of eternity seemed dawning upon us. Every one stood unmasked for the time being. The dark shades of hypocrisy and formality could not bear the awful gleams of the dawning light. None were unmoved; believers rejoiced, and sinners were pricked to the heart, and led to cry, "What shall I do to be saved?" One could not help involuntarily ejaculating, "O what an awfully solemn day the Day of Judgment must be."

I have seen persons under conviction, just like one in a sore fright. Their minds were so engaged with their past sins, or "the certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation," that they could not listen intelligently for a moment to a person addressing them. Their tongues seemed fastened entirely or faltered in the shortest utterance. Some, also, could not contain themselves, but cried out in the bitterness of their souls; many a place was a Bochim, no matter who was present; while others had to be carried out apparently all but lifeless. Some, on the other hand, coming to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, and apprehending the merits of the Redeemer crucified for them, could not contain themselves for joy, but went on “Telling to all around What a dear Saviour they had found," while others opened their mouths in loud praises to the Lord, singing "psalms and hymns and spiritual songs," some of which were actually extempore, when the persons had not on their memory a suitable hymn.

Persons of all ages were brought under the influence, but especially young men and women. It is an insinuation to say that the young came there for low, grovelling motives. I never heard anything spoken of but such as belonged to the soul and eternity.

Now, dear reader, do you wonder that, where such things were going on, there was some confusion; that the meetings had often to be protracted; that there were things said and done out of the usual way?' I think similar scenes must have been witnessed after Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. But my design is not to vindicate everything said and done in Dunlop, during the Revival (although I do not look upon that as any difficult task if persons would hear the truth) so much as to show that it was a real work of the Holy Spirit, and the good resulting from it.

This work went on for many weeks together with unabated vigour, but it was not to be expected that it would always continue. However, there are still conversions happening now and again; and frequent meetings, well attended, are being held all around, showing that the Revival in Dunlop has not been like "the morning cloud and the early dew," To tell the extent of the good done would be impossible; but I could count the converts not by the dozen nor by the score, but by the hundred, with whom I am personally acquainted. I cannot say that everyone that made a profession of faith in Jesus was truly converted. Some seem to merit the designation of stony-ground, thorny-ground, or way-side hearers. But the majority are still true to their profession. I could bring you to many that would gladden your heart with a recitation of the circumstances of their conversion. In many instances, the family altar has been erected where formerly there was none; and where formality reigned it has given way to real worship. I have known cases of reconciliation among neighbours, and in families where feuds of long-standing existed. Indeed, it would be impossible to recount all the good that has resulted from it. The last day alone can reveal its extent. And now, reader, are you converted? Have you found the Saviour? I have seen many that have had to flee from the meetings when pressed with such questions: they went away vowing never to enter another meeting of the kind, and so escaped our efforts for their salvation; but, oh, unconverted sinner, the day is fast coming, when the dens and rocks of the mountains will afford you no escape" from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb." If you are a believer, pray that all the land may be visited like Dunlop and its neighbourhood. God can do great things for us and waits to be gracious. A. H.

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume vi, p143.

'I have been in many revival meetings, both in the north and south of Scotland, but never did I witness more clearly the Mighty One making bare his holy arm and doing his own work. What deep penitance, what humble confessions, what heart-felt sorrow, what gladness and joy, what zeal for the honour of Christ and the salvation of souls, was manifest there. The reality of all this struck me with such force that I could not help repeating the words, 'Behold I make all things new.'

From, 'The Wynd Journal', 10/5/1862.


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