First Ballymena Presbyterian Church (1859)

“The week which began with May 17 can never be forgotten, though it cannot easily be described. When the great outpouring came, worldly men were silent with an indefinite fear, and Christians found themselves borne onward in the current, with scarce time for any feeling but the overpowering conviction that a great revival had come at last. Careless men were bowed in unaffected earnestness and sobbed like children. Drunkards and boasting blasphemers were awed into solemnity and silence. Sabbath-school teachers and scholars became seekers of Christ together; and languid believers were stirred ‘up to unusual exertion.”

Rev. S. J. Moore, minister of Third Presbyterian Church, writes:

“On my return, after two days’ absence at a meeting of Synod, I found the town in a state of great excitement; many families had not gone to bed for the two or three previous nights. From dozens of houses, night and day, you would hear when passing along, loud cries for mercy from persons under conviction, or the voice of prayer by kind visitors, or the sweet soothing tones of sacred song; business seemed at a standstill. In some streets, four or five crowds of people, in houses, and before the open doors and open windows, engaged in prayer or in praise, all at the same time. A goodly number of young men, in business establishments in town, and not a few young workmen, shoemakers, carpenters, sawyers, and labourers, who were depending for their daily bread on their daily wages, gave up almost their entire time, day and night during the first week, to minister to the religious instruction, and physical and spiritual comfort of the poor stricken sufferers. I put this on record to the honour of these young members of the church. But for them, in this crisis, I do not see what would have been done, for, in their first alarm, the people of both town and country would demand that a minister, an elder, should be in a dozen places at once. Prayer-meetings, in town and country, became very numerous: in private houses they were held at all hours of the day and night; at first, they were held in the principal Presbyterian churches every evening; latterly they are held alternately in these churches: at each meeting, addresses are delivered and prayers offered by converts, the minister presiding.”


THE following graphic and deeply interesting description is from a hitherto unpublished letter dated "Belfast, June 2nd," to a Christian brother in Limerick. We hope to present our readers with further information from the same pen:—

I have got glorious news to tell you and all who love our Lord Jesus. Our God is doing wonders here whereof we are glad. There have been many many souls brought to Christ, absolutely born again by the Word of God. I heard much of the work of God in Ballymena, a place an-hour-and-half from here. Men, women, and children smitten down by the convincing power of the Holy Ghost, and made to cry for mercy. I could hardly believe it, everything about it seemed so peculiar and unusual. But why should I think so? The reason is because of the narrowness of my own heart; I fancied that God would not act in any other way but in that which I foolishly imagined. But now He has shown me that He can and will do his own work in the way He likes, no matter what man thinks about Him, and that He can and does come down signally, and may I say manifestly to accomplish, in the riches of his grace, the ardent desires of his loving heart, namely to convince the world of sin because they believe not on Jesus, and bring them in deep and solemn humility to see their lost and ruined condition and cry, yes, cry, and when I say cry, I mean cry, shout, scream, for mercy. Oh! we little know what it is to see our sins in the light of the countenance of a holy God! We know we are sinners, we know we were born in sin, but when God in his holy power makes a little insertion in our hearts (for out of our hearts proceed, &c.,) and lets in the merest stream of his sin-revealing light, what corruption and rottenness we then see. This then is, I think, what He is doing about us; this is what is making poor sinners shout for mercy; and then the cross, Jesus on Calvary, the life-giving, peace-giving, joy-giving power in the revelation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified to the poor soul under these solemn circumstances of soul anguish, begets a wondrous change! "Lo, all these things works God oftentimes with man, that He may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man."

Well, I thought I would see for myself what was going on, and so I went to Ballymena on Saturday last, and on arriving there, I felt deeply humbled, not by anything I saw there, but as if going into the presence of God, and that my shoes should be off my feet. A good deal of this might have been nature, God knoweth, I know not, but I only tell you what I felt. I went to a meeting in a large Presbyterian house, it was filled, and every feature was solemn and subdued; every one seemed to "wait," as it were, "for the moving of the water." The minister was preaching, and by-and-by there was an interruption and a little confusion, as a person had been stricken down by the hand of God and was carried out to some place where a few Christians read or pray or sing with that sin-stricken soul, whether it be conscious or not. Then, in a short time another one, a woman, fell with a deep groan, and was carried past me; I had an opportunity of seeing her person; she was one, judging from appearance, in poor circumstances, she had no bonnet, and I could not say if she had shoes; she was supported by two or three persons. Indeed I was thrilled at this case; she appeared in great pain and agony, she did not speak nor cry, I could not tell if she was conscious, but her face was deadly pale, her features rigid, her lips clenched, her hands clasped firmly together, and her head inclined, as if her neck was unable to support it; she uttered some deep moans through her nostrils, and her head moved from side to side as if to indicate internal agony. I then lost sight of her. But there was a third case in that place of a similar nature before I left. I had been there about an-hour-­and-a-half. The inhabitants seemed to stand in awe. Some souls after being smitten down remain for but a little time, say an hour or even less, ere they get peace, before they see Him who " is our Peace," and others are much longer, as long perhaps as a fortnight or three weeks, but oh, then you never saw such joy, and every released soul is ready and eager to tell to others of the blood of Jesus.

The whole movement, if you will admit the word, is charac­terised by this feature—that the Lord Jesus is the only object, aim, end, and desire, of those who have found peace in Him ; and there is yet another curious and blessed thing—I did not hear of any attribution of means to any person or persons, that is to say, it was not under Mr So-and-so, but the praise is all to God. "The Lord shall work and ye shall hold your peace." I had a brother with me, and we were both asked to speak or address a meeting to be held on the morrow (Lord's-day). He haft consented, our hearts were so full, so I expected to be able, out of a full heart, to tell of Jesus; but, my dear brother, when I drew near to the meeting-place (a large quarry) and saw about 6000 people, my heart sank within me, and I felt as if God said this to me—" Stand back! don't imagine you have anything to do with this people, so just stand aside and let Me act, for the work is all mine." I thank his name I was enabled, to say, "Go on, Lord God, and do thine own work, and to Thee, not unto us, be all the praise and the glory." And, brother, He did work; I think about fourteen or fifteen souls in that meeting of three-and-a-half hours were laid prostrate on the earth yelling for mercy.

When I got forward to look, a young man, a new convert, was addressing the crowd in a clear voice, and most earnest deportment; he was an unlearned and ignorant man, truly, but I "took knowledge of him that he had been with Jesus." He was about 18 years of age, I suppose; he could not speak five words together grammatically, and had those five words been put together according to the rules of grammar for him, he, even then, could not pronounce them in plain or intelligible English, the accent and language of that part being so peculiar. But oh, brother, the gospel of Christ proceeded from his mouth and his heart, and power and unction accompanied him. In describing this man I also describe four or five speakers who followed, all burning to tell sinners of Him who forgave and blotted out all their sins by his own blood. They may have varied their illustrations, but all tended to the one object—to exalt Jesus — not the cold technicalities of Providence, the Good Being, the Deity, the Most High—all true in their way, but these are not the warm expressions of loving hearts. Nothing short of Jesus, the blessed Jesus, God the Father and his Holy Child Jesus, will satisfy these wondrous men. Near the end of the preaching, one old man stood up to address the multitude, he was a remarkable looking man; I was beside him before he rose; a dealer in rags would not have given more than sixpence for all the clothes he had on his person; he bore the marks and tokens of a "hard liver," a confirmed drunkard. He spoke something to the following effect, as nearly as I can remember: —" Gentlemen," and he trembled as he spoke, "Gentlemen, I appear before you this day as a vile sinner, many of you know me, you have but to look at me and recognise the profligate of Broughshane; you know I was an old man hardened in sin; you know I was a servant of the devil, and he led me by that instrument of his, the spirit of the barley. I brought my wife and family to beggary more than fifty years ago; in short I defy the townland of Broughshane to produce my equal in profligacy, or any sin whatever; but ah, gentlemen, I have seen Jesus, I was born again on last night week, I am therefore a week old today, or about; my heavy and enormous sin is all gone, the Lord Jesus took it away, and I stand before you this day, not only a pattern of profligacy, but a monument of the perfect grace of God! I stand here to tell you that God's work on Calvary is perfect— yes, I have proved wax is perfect—He is not like an architect who makes a drawing of a building, and then he looks at it, and he takes out this line and that, or makes some other alteration, and frequently alters all his plan, and even when the building is going on he makes some other change,— but God drew out the plan of salvation, and it was complete, and ho carried it out with his blessed Son Jesus, and it is all perfect, for had it not been so, it would not have been capable of reaching the depth of iniquity of--, the profligate nailor of Broughshane." While listening to this speaker, various cases of God smiting to the earth occur. I looked around in the direction of a small crowd surrounding a woman, and was attracted by seeing a little boy of about twelve or fourteen years, standing at the head of this woman: he was in earnest prayer for her, and truly his shoes were off his feet, he was barefooted, and he said, "Lord Jesus, you know I do not know how to pray to you ; you know I do not know how to say one word pleasing to you ; but you have forgiven my sins, and oh, I ask you to shew this woman your loving heart, and that you are willing to forgive her her sins also."

I could tell a good deal more, dear brother, that I saw, and I afterwards visited a great many who were converted, and I can just say that my poor soul was sweetly fed in being allowed to be a partaker of their joy. I asked one poor girl, bare-headed and without shoes, "What in the world makes you appear so happy?" "Oh, sir," said she, "haven't I got Christ, and if He does not make a body happy, I do not know who can." But I must conclude, I have taken two days to write this, with the various interruptions of the shop, and as the Lord has come to Belfast, I must leave off. Twenty or thirty persona brought to the foot of the cross here since yesterday, and I am just now, (six o'clock), going out to see some of his workmanship. I have no doubt you will soon see his work in poor Limerick, as He is going his travels with Jesus his Son.

With much love, I am, yours, &c.,

From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume i, p4/5, July 30th 1859

REMARKABLE DECREASE OF DRUNKENNESS.—Ballymena market is held on Saturday, and parties accused of drunkenness on that day are generally brought up for trial before the Petty Sessions' Bench on the following Monday. On such occasions, we have seen as many as fourteen persons so accused, the greater number of whom were marched into the court from the bridewell, where they had been incarcerated during the entire Sabbath. Now, let us refer to the custody cases, on charge of drunkenness, at the three latest meetings of the court, ending with that of Monday (8th inst.):—October 16th, none !—October 29th, none !—November 7th, not one !! On the first occasion, one man appeared on summons and was con­victed on charge of drunkenness, but the case occurred at Cullybaekey; on the second, a Ballymena inhabitant was con­victed in like manner, but he had never been, nor had he ever pretended to be, of the Revivalists—he was a scoffer at them; on Monday (3rd inst.) there was not a single prosecution for drunkenness, either by summons or otherwise.

From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p138, Nov 26th, 1859.

Additional Information

I do not know which Presbyterian Church the meetings were in.

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