BY THE REV. JONATHAN SIMPSON.
By a strange coincidence in the Divine Providence, both the clergy of the parish church, and the Presbyterian minister of the town of Portrush, were attracted to Ballymoney in the same week, (without any previous concert with each other,) to see and investigate the remarkable work of revival going on there in its earliest stages. The former called on the latter, and proposed an open-air union meeting for prayer, into which he entered cordially; and the three knelt in prayer in the manse, craving a blessing on the proposed meeting, led by the senior Episcopal minister. Their hearts were melted by the love of Christ, and, with suffused cheeks, they felt that God was about to give a blessing; and they were not disappointed, blessed be His name!
The meeting took place on the 6th June, on the hill in the rear of the town, and was very large, probably two thousand souls, (the town containing a population of about nine hundred souls.) Short addresses of only a few minutes were delivered by the local ministers and several persons, usually called "converts," from Ballymoney; and a. very remarkable scene took place that will never be forgotten in the village, nor by many of its inhabitants in eternity. The first two "stricken" ones were, one a Presbyterian, and the other an Episcopalian, as if God would honour the first union prayer-meeting. Shortly several others became prostrated, varying from the ages of nine to about seventy; and till midnight the manse presented a remarkable scene, with souls weeping under a sense of sin, or rejoicing in an accepted Saviour. A solemn awe crept over the entire populace, and many a house heard "the voice of rejoicing and salvation" that night that never heard it before. About thirty were visited that evening with deep impressions of eternal things, and a large number, it is believed, found the.Saviour.
Next morning assembled the first daily union prayer-meeting, which was continued with great success till the close of the bathing season, in September. As many as one hundred and fifty-one have been counted leaving it, and in some instances several went away who could not get in; while a ball-room, put up during the summer, could get none to dance in it. The first two mornings it met, a young man, in each case, came under convictions of sin—one Episcopal, the other a Presbyterian.
During the entire week the neighbourhood was in commotion, and many, at little meetings in the country, were visited and blessed; some quite young, others approaching threescore and ten, and one old woman a Roman Catholic.
On the following Sabbath, (12th June) after the first prayer in the Presbyterian church, a wave of life seemed to sweep over the house. Many were in tears. Two young persons dropped down, and were borne out, one exclaiming, as she fell, "Blessed Jesus!" Five walked out--one a Roman Catholic servant-maid, who was afterwards, at her own request, rebaptized, and received to the communion of the Supper. Others in better circumstances were very deeply impressed, and, it is believed, were led to decision in laying hold on the blessed Jesus. Several came under convictions of guilt next day who had been present on Sabbath.
After morning service, twenty-one, of various ages and circumstances, remained for prayer, in a state of anxiety, most of them bathed in tears. Exactly thirty were "impressed" that day, of whom several have since given all satisfying evidence of a saving work of grace in the soul. Not so many could have been reckoned during the previous sixteen years and a half of a laborious ministry.
That very Sabbath night, in a neighbouring farm-house, where an anxious one came to seek the prayers of the farmer, others soon joined, and it is believed seven souls were born to God. They "continued all night in prayer to God;" and before morning broke in the eastern sky, "the Sun of righteousness had arisen with healing in His wings" on several dark souls, who have .since "gone on their way rejoicing."
The churches were crowded all summer. The Episcopal church has been enlarged, and the Presbyterian would require to be double its present capacity to contain the anxious applicants for accommodation.
Several open-air meetings were held on Sabbath afternoons, on Rathmore Hill, near the village of Portrush, attended by eager crowds of all classes. Once there were six magistrates, with their families, present, and the most fashionable lodgers mingling among the poor in plain clothing; and at one of these meetings an Episcopal clergyman, a Presbyterian minister, a Congregationalist, and a Baptist Look part.
But the meetings attended with the most signal blessings, and indeed where " showers of blessing" fell, were held at a hill called Dunmull, about three miles from Portrush. Four meetings were held on Sabbaths, and one on a weekday, and attended by teeming thousands, and every one of the meetings followed by a blessing. They were addressed by ministers, Episcopal and Presbyterian, and "converts," some local, some from a distance, and several times young men from Connor, where the awakening first began.
Brownlow North, Esq., visited most opportunely, and, by his earnest and thrilling appeals, largely contributed to advance the glorious cause. He preached twice in the Presbyterian church, Portrush, and addressed two open-air meetings, one in the town, and the other at Dunmull. The latter was the noblest meeting ever seen in the neighbourhood—the very sight was grand, apart from its bearings on eternity. Mr North, accustomed to large audiences, computed it at seven thousand souls; and so many were stricken that day, that the people in the neighbouring houses never got to bed the entire night. So many hearts bleeding under a sense of sin, and weeping over a pierced Saviour! About three hundred souls have been visited by the Spirit of God, and, so far as we can see, the great majority of them are still "walking in newness of life." Even in apostolic times, and under " the very chiefest of the apostles," there was " a falling away;" and we may expect, where the whole framework of society has been moved before the wave-tide of the Spirit's power, some will only have been alarmed in their sins, not saved from them: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth, sure, having this seal, THE LORD KNOWETH THEM THAT ARE HIS." (2. Tim. ii. 19.)
The work goes on noiselessly; after the lapse of six months, the whole country is now studded over with a network of prayer-meetings. A moral revolution has passed over the face of society; iniquity, as ashamed, has hid its head; and the worship of Jehovah is set up in many families. "The kingdom of God suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." God has redeemed His own word: "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power." Oh, let all Christians pray that God may still say, "Speak to the people, that they go forward!"
A remarkable illustration took place on the Sabbath, 12th June, of the lines in the 68th Psalm, 12th verse—" And women, who remained at home, did distribute the prey." The wife of a small farmer, M" remained at home " with her six children, keeping no servant, and sent her husband to get a share of the precious spoil the Eternal Holy Spirit was distributing. In her humble home the God of Majesty paid her a visit, and her husband returned to find her "rejoicing in Christ Jesus, and having no confidence in the flesh." At the very time the heavenly dews were falling in my church, fully two miles away, God was sending them on her soul "at home." When I entered next day, the scene was one of the most touching of the many touching ones I came through, at a time of such abounding love. She rushed to the door to meet me, a little infant clinging on her arm, and, almost unconscious of its presence, she pressed my hand with that grasp peculiar to " stricken " ones; her whole frame shook in the tempest of emotion; and such tears!—how large and how fast they fell as she exclaimed, " Oh, how I longed to see you, to tell you it was you first led me to care for my soul." Her agitation becoming so great, I had to keep hold of her till I conveyed her to a seat. When asked what I should pray for, " Oh, pray—oh, pray for my poor, coldrife hus¬band, that God may give him the seal of the everlasting covenant in Christ's blood, which He has given me, and which binds me to Him for eternity !" This beautiful language and sentiment from one who can read only imperfectly! and when prayer was offered it was amid a very tempest of sobs—it being in the next house the seven were born to God the previous night. Until this time of precious awakening and revival, ministers did not know almost what it was to be loved. Thank God, they do now!
With a few references to the results of the great meetings at Dunmull, we close. At our first, both the Episcopal ministers of the parish were present and addressed, and at our second, one of them, along with Rev. J. J. Black, Dublin. At our first meeting, Mr Peter Drummond of Stirling was also present and addressed. In the last address, a few words were spoken to children, so many of whom were present. They were taught the little Highland kitchen-maid's prayer: " Lord, shew me myself! Lord, show me thyself! "and the thief's: "Lord, remember me! " Towards the close, several were stricken. One of these, M. C, wife of a small farmer, and mother of four children, shortly after commenced family prayer, which was afterwards taken up by her husband, and has been ever since continued. Another was struck by the remark that a wave of mercy was rolling over the country, and how dreadful it would be if it rolled past them, while if they mounted and rode it, it would raise them up to heaven. She continued for ten days to be haunted with the idea of this wave rolling past her, and at another meeting in a neighbouring place of worship was stricken. Unable to go home, an old city magistrate from Glasgow, who had been going with me among the people from day to day, pro¬posed taking her on his car, and leaving her at any convenient place. She was left at a brother's, and next day on being taken home, she commenced the worship of God Almighty, and conducts it daily ever since, though she has an old father, (seventy-six years of age) and a brother in the house with her. I believe M. J. G— has thereby given proof of her having found Jesus, and is in every other respect " walking worthy of Him unto all well-pleasing," under very trying circumstances.
Twin sisters were at that meeting, M. J. and S. A. B—. They continued to pray night and day, "Lord, remember me;" so much so, that their mother has informed me she has overheard them repeating it through their sleep. A faithful God listened to artless country girls of sixteen years of age, the only surviving children of their parents, and at the close of a prayer-meeting in the neighbourhood both were "remembered;" and how precious the thought that the God of love gave both the second birth the same night, as He had done the natural birth ! On our first visit after the " Lord remembered them," the fountains of feeling were unsealed and gave forth their sparkling treasures. It was moving to see the girls sitting side by side repeating alternate verses of the 12th chapter of Isaiah. An old gentleman from London and a rector from England accompanied me. The latter asked to be allowed the privilege of praying in that house; and remarked when we passed out, " I wish my bishop had been here to-clay; I think he would have altered his next charge to his clergy about the Irish Revival." And the old Londoner, who was very much overcome, when he had dried his cheeks, and got his handkerchief put to rights, lifted up both hands, and exclaimed, " Well, if this be hysteria, God grant that London may be soon smitten with it!"
Another young woman, present on that day, caught one link in the golden chain binding her soul to the throne of God. A lad, born in Lucknow, India, son of a major in the army, is staying at the Shore with ladies with whom he and sisters are at school. He is only nine years of age. He goes aside into the room where this young seamstress is working, and says, thoughtfully, "E. J., I want you to promise me something." "What is it, Willie?" "Oh, I want you to promise me." "But what do you want?" "Oh, to promise me,"—and with the pertinacity and perseverance with which boys usually carry their point, he succeeded in extracting the promise. "Now, what is it?" "Well, E. J., I dreamed last night GOD HAD GIVEN ME A NEW HEART; but as I 'm not sure whether He has, I want you to promise me you will pray God He may." E. J. W began to think, " Now, here 's a child nine years of age, born in India, wants me to pray God to give him a new heart; before I ask it for another, should not I try and see if I have got it myself ?" The train of thought was in her mind when she sat on the grass at Dunmull, weeping all the time; and the prayer, "Lord, remember me," seemed so suitable to her case. Another morning, a worthy minister from Edinburgh, of the Free Church, is conducting worship in the house where this young woman is serving; the chapter read is the 36th of Ezekiel. At the promise, "A new heart will I give you," (ver. 26,) he pauses to ask," Any in this little company who have not got that 'new heart?' "E. J. W— thought she was the person he referred to and left the breakfast-table to go to her room to weep and pray for the new heart. Her own minister, calling at the time, was asked to see her; and after a few directions and counsels, and passages marked in her Bible for her to read, (Isa. liii.; Rom. v.; Eph. ii.; 1 Peter i., and also suggesting she should read over, on her knees, the 51st Psalm, she was left alone for the day, and before evening found peace. Every one of the young persons in her father's house have successively been visited,—a sister, niece, apprentice. It is not now "one of a family" God takes, but whole families. Another similar instance I know. The first and youngest was impressed at first meeting at Portrush, and, after six weeks' struggle and conflict, found Jesus; next, impressed at second meeting at Dunmull; then her brother, then her elder sister, and all seem " bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord of hosts."
After another meeting at Dunmull, an old man came to me, D. M, seventy-six years of age, in great distress of soul. For about twenty-three years, he had been going to no place of worship, and was first awakened by a remarkable repetition of dreams, and struggled under convictions for three months. A few words of exhortation on "looking unto Jesus" being given, followed by prayer, he went away quite relieved,—never absent from public worship since, except twice prevented by sickness, and has established the worship of God in his family daily. Finding the few thoughts on these words blessed to one soul, we took them as the subject of our last Sabbath address at Dunmull. Never saw so many tears shed at any meeting, especially when the people knew it would be the last for the season. Learned afterwards, that in one direction there was scarcely seen one going away, young or old, that was not shedding tears; and next day, on a round of visiting, we fell in with a blacksmith who had been stricken after he returned from the meeting. He had continued from two to three hours on his knees, and then was so weak he could not go into bed without help; and was not able to rise the next day,—" was as if all bruised,"—his own words. This is about the last case, with only one exception, I know of the physical prostrations in this neighbourhood, and it occurred 4th September; and though it is almost too soon to pronounce on a saving change wrought, still, so far as we can see at present, A. N -- is a changed man, and, as is usual in the great majority of cases, has established the worship of God at once in his family.
I have never pronounced oracularly, or dogmatically, as some of our brethren were in the habit of doing, that such and such persons were at our meeting, and got conversion,—were born again. Great mischief has been done thereby. I am willing to wait and abide God's test,—" Ye shall know them by their fruits:" Nor did I ever adopt the universal application of the term " convert," as that was taking God's place, and pronouncing on a change we did not know whether it had taken place or not. I preferred the word " awakened," as persons may be awakened, and go to sleep again; but cannot be " converted," and converted back again, except we adopt the Arminian idea, so dishonouring to God, of " in grace to-day, and out of it tomorrow." Even an inspired apostle could say of the arch-adversary of souls, "We are not ignorant of his devices." We know the devil can get up imitations of conversion to throw discredit on the whole work, when his converts come out in their true colours; and if he himself can " transform himself into an angel of light," he may, he does, cause, in a time of revival, many to assume the colour of light whose souls are dark and dead. We read, "The magicians did so with their enchantments;" but in their case there was no miracle—only imitation of it. We did often pray, when the religious excitement ran high, the old Scottish minister's prayer, that "the Lord would prevent Satan getting up imitations of conversion."
One thing has struck me as very remarkable in this great awakening,—the large number of farm-servants, male and female—a class formerly so utterly reckless—visited and saved; as also the very large number of desolate widows and orphans. Some of these I have given in the detailed cases. Only one other I mention, because a fatherless, motherless, orphan "little servant maid," and with it I close. She is only thirteen years of age, and when about seven was left by a wretched mother in a farm-house, and she never came back to inquire after the child, and sometime after the poor thing heard that all the being she had for a mother was dead. It was early for the little creature to put down her tiny hands to work for her bread—but so it was, and she can say, "When my father and my mother FORSAKE me, then the Lord will take me up." (Ps.xxvii. 10.) S— M, by the kindness of her mistress, is permitted to attend regularly the Presbyterian Church Sabbath School, and by the care of an excellent teacher can read very well. In the beginning of August, her mistress being from home, she was left alone in the house, and there came under deep conviction of sin, and when her mistress came home she found her (the little girl) lying in bed weeping; and she was again stricken while pulling flax in the field. When I called, on the 18th of that month, in answer to the question, "When this work of grace began in her soul?” her reply was, "Several weeks ago." "What brought you to think?" "Just felt I was a great sinner, and needed Jesus." "Have you got Him?" "Yes." "How do you know?" "Because my sins are taken away." "How do you know that?" "God says, The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.'" "Are you resting on that word of His?" "Oh yes, sir." As additional reasons of her being forgiven, she said, "she now laved the Bible, which she did not do before; loved prayer, felt it sweeter," &c. She was next asked, "What she prayed for?
"For the blood of Christ to cleanse my sins away, and the Spirit of Christ to renew and sanctify my nature; and that He would be a father and mother unto me." During these answers tears fell fast, and again and again she had wiped them away with her hand, not possessing the luxury of a pocket-handkerchief; but at the last allusion to her orphan situation, .a convulsive sob shook her little breast, and the shower from her eyes came on heavier. It may be easily supposed there was no one present unmoved. As a last question, she was asked, "Was there any particular text more than another her soul was now reposing on since she found peace?" "Yes." "What?" She raised her hand over her eyes, it seeming vain to try to stem the flowing spring-tide, and in broken sobs repeated, as well as choking utterance would let her, " I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord." (Rom. viii. 38, 39.) One of the " Scots Worthies" departed this life, sitting at his breakfast-table, (Bruce, I think,) hav¬ing requested his daughter to open the family Bible, and lay it before him, and place his forefinger on those two verses ; and the priceless passage that formed peaceful anchorage for the happy spirit of the " Worthy" going home, forms anchorage for the little Irish orphan maid, stunted in bodily growth by toil and hardship from a child, yet admitted a daughter, I believe, of the great King.
There were present with me at this scene several ladies from Scotland, one of them the owner of a lordly mansion and handsome estate, and widow of one of Glasgow's wealthiest merchants. During the quoting of the latter passage by the little girl, I looked to see how the wealthy lady, sitting opposite her, was getting on, when I discovered her eyes brimful and ready to overflow. After prayer, and when we were leaving, this lady remarked, she would not have liked to have stood the same examination I gave the girl, to which the others assented. She seemed to feel, the poor little homeless orphan servant was wealthier than her; "rich in faith," possessing it in a stronger measure.
From a journal kept with verbal accuracy, from time to time, these details are merely excerpts. After having given them, ample materials are left behind, which would form a bulky pamphlet, and which may never see the light. I have been asked again and again, by .brethren in Liverpool, London, &c., to give extracts, and could never afford the time to write them out, which seemed uncourteous to dear friends. These are committed to the Master of Assemblies, that He may use them for His glory as He will. My record covers over three hundred cases, I dare not say of conversion, but I must say of the mighty Spirit's power to "convince the world of sin." From contact with this " wonderful work of God," and being honoured to take a prominent part in carrying it on, my spirit has been literally overwhelmed with a sense of my own deep unworthiness, and yet that God should “count me worthy, putting me into the ministry" at such a precious time of abounding mercy to perishing men ; and I have felt that all earthly honours pale into insignificance when compared with the highest God could confer on man—being a " fellow-worker with God, and with His Christ." It were worth living ten thousand ages in obscurity and reproach, to be permitted to creep forth at the expiration of that time, and engage in the glorious work—the Irish Revival—of the last six months of 1859; a year that shall figure high in eternity, as well as bulk largely in the elevation of a ruined world to Jehovah's loving bosom. No words but His own could describe this great work—" MARVELLOUS LOVING-KINDNESS." Oh, may His infinite love and mercy carry it on, until the Great Awakening and Revival of 1859 shall girdle the globe "with light as with a garment," and " FILL THE FACE OF THE WORLD WITH FRUIT !" (PS. lxxii. 16)
From ‘Authentic Records of Revival, now in progress in the United Kingdom, published in 1860, re-printed and edited in 1980 by Richard Owen Roberts.
On Sabbath last, an immense meeting was held on Dunmull Hill, about three miles from Bushmills The number assembled could not have been fewer than 7000. The meeting was addressed by two lay Christian converts from Connor, and afterwards by Mr Brownlow North. The latter gentlemen were obliged to speak a second time, in consequence of the immense assemblage who were present, many of whom remained for a long period after the meeting had been expected to terminate, exhibiting the greatest anxiety to hear what fell from the lips of the eloquent speaker. All the addresses were of the most edifying description. While they were being delivered, a large number of persons were stricken down under conviction of sin; and a deep solemnity pervaded the entire meeting.
From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p36, August 27th, 1859.
You get to this space by travelling south on the B62 until you get to the junction with the B17. Turn right. Take the first right up Ballyhome Road. Take the second lane on the left (approx 1/2 mile). This lane will take you uphill a little and then there is a gate. If you go through the gate and follow the path round to the right you will come to the enclosed space where the meetings occurred. If you get lost locals will tell you how to get to Dunmull Hill.