First Presbyterian Church Armagh (1859)

In August 1859. Rev. Jackson Smyth relates how it commenced:

“One evening, as we assembled for prayer in the church as usual, the pews were almost empty. I made a few remarks in reference to our wonderful position. Like Gideon’s fleece, we were dry, whilst all around the earth was watered. But I concluded thus: — God has already blessed us in a silent way, and He will further bless us. If there are ten praying people in the city, God will revive His work, and I know there are more than ten.’ A brother minister rose, read a chapter of Isaiah, commented very briefly on it, and gave out a psalm. As he sat down, I whispered to him, ‘I see a young man under deep conviction of sin in one of the pews; he will cry out very soon.’ When the singing ceased, the wail rose up to heaven—’ O Jesus, have mercy on my soul.’ A new thing this in the city of Armagh! and the few in the church exhibited strong sensations. Another voice was heard in the gallery, crying loudly for pardon and acceptance with an offended God. The revival had come! That first young man was a Sabbath-school teacher, but his teaching had been lifeless till then. Now he teaches with all his soul, and he has been blessed to the conversion of many.

“This young convert, the first-fruit of a public manifestation of the power of God’s Spirit, on the following Sabbath evening, held a prayer-meeting in a private house, out a little distance in the country, where there were two or three cases of striking.’

Dr Weir, who visited the city, narrates: “The revival had but begun to display its energy in Armagh when I visited it, but in the country districts around, at Moy, at Markethill, at Richhill, and Redrock, great numbers had been brought under alarming convictions of sin, and many truly converted.

“On arriving at the house of a beloved brother, the Rev.J. McAllister, about nine o’clock, pm I was told that he was at a meeting in the Second Presbyterian church and that such meetings were now held nightly at Armagh in different places of worship: and so after a little rest and refreshment, I proceeded to the place of assembly. Here I found a numerous congregation, which increased as the night advanced, until, when I was retiring about ten o’clock, I found many persons of the humbler class standing in the vestibule and near the door. The minister of the church, Mr Henderson, presided on the occasion, and the Congregational minister was also present, after having conducted a separate service of his own. The Episcopalians (Mr Wade, the rector, is evangelical), while they stood apart from other sections of the Church of Christ, held occasional meetings of their own, but to return to my narrative. A Scottish minister of great earnestness and piety was delivering a solemn address on ‘things revealed to us and our children,’ and concluded by fervent appeals to the ungodly and undecided. Then my friend Mr M. ascended the pulpit and informed the people of a manifestation of Divine grace which had appeared in the forenoon of that very day among the children of his day-schools. It appeared from his statement, and from what I more fully learned from him afterwards, that a scene similar to what had been realised at Ballymena and Coleraine among school children, had occurred that day at Armagh. The pious monitor of the girls’ school had previously noticed an increasing tenderness and solemnity of feeling among the children, as she spoke to them of sin, of Christ, and of eternal things. The Spirit was preparing the soil for a special shower of blessing, and that morning a little girl came into the girls’ school, and with joy sparkling in her eyes she threw up her arms and exclaimed, ‘I have found Jesus!’ Instantly, an electric sympathy ran from heart to heart, and a large number of the children fell down on their knees weeping over their sinfulness and crying to the Saviour for mercy. Mr M. and his Scottish friend came speedily, calmed, instructed, and comforted the children. Some of them were heard ere long, pleading with their parents to repent and turn to God.”

A great-united prayer meeting similar to the Botanic Garden meeting in Belfast was organised for Wednesday, 16th September. In order that a concentrated effort might be made for full attendances, there were special trains from Monaghan, Dungannon and Belfast. While the crowded train was on its way from Belfast, the sound of voices singing well-known hymns arose from almost every carriage, while at the several stations, large numbers of tracts were extensively circulated.

The meeting was held in a capacious field near the Armagh railway station. Very many laymen from England and Scotland were present, as well as clergymen and ministers from different districts of Ireland. Two of the chaplains of the Lord Primate were on the ground. The chair was occupied by J. M. Lynn, M.D. The chief speakers were the Hon. and Rev.B. W. Noel, his son, Ernest Noel, Esq., and the Rev. S. J.Moore of Ballymena. The Banner of Ulster gives the following outline of the Hon. and Rev. B. W. Noel’s address: “He took for the basis of his address the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was ready to save the immortal souls of sinners, and that they only were to blame if they did not ultimately obtain salvation. Upon this topic he spoke with an amount of fervent simplicity, which we have rarely heard equalled. He expressed the great delight which he felt in being privileged to attend such an immense meeting as that was, and he thanked God that the souls of the people had been awakened to a sense of their position. If in the multitude (he said) that was before him there was one unconverted soul— and he was sure there were many—now was the time to approach the throne of grace—now was the time to approach to that heavenly Father, who, through the intercession of the Saviour, was willing and ready to forgive the transgressions of their past lives, if they only appealed to Him in the true spirit. He addressed himself to the young and to the old—he addressed himself to those who were upon the noontide of life, and to those who were upon the brink of the grave, and he earnestly besought them to avail themselves of this glorious opportunity to make their peace with God. He trusted that, with the blessing of God, this movement would not be confined to Ireland; that it would spread itself among the great intellects of England, and that men would see, at length, in a true and sincere spirit, that they had souls to be saved. It might be a strange thing that the north of Ireland, and its people, should become the great heralds of this movement; but he believed that, if they exercised their influence, they might do much to extend the cause of God’s kingdom and glory. He prayed that the mind of this country might be made to thrill with the name of the great Evangelist and that Ireland might really become, in the sight of Heaven, the ‘Isle of Saints.’”

A Presbyterian minister, from Rochester, was present on this occasion and wrote thus: — “At Armagh I attended the great gathering (upwards of 20,000), and took part in the service. Truly it reminded you of a field of battle, so many were the slain by ‘the sword of the Spirit.’”

“Considerable emotion,” says the Rev. R. Wallace of Tottenham, who was also present, “soon began to evince itself in the meeting, and during the day many (as many as sixteen came under the personal observation of my friend and fellow-traveller) men, women and children were struck down and forced to cry for mercy; in all there were about thirty such cases on this occasion. I sat on the platform and had a commanding view of the countenances of the people during the whole of the service. The excitement was at its height during the address of a young convert, as he detailed God’s dealings with himself, and earnestly besought all hearing him to flee from the wrath to come and lay hold on eternal life. And what struck me most of all was, not the case of those who were prostrated and forced to cry out for mercy, but the case of those who were manifestly struggling to conceal their convictions and to suppress the rising emotions of their hearts. In many cases I saw the big tear roll down the man or woman’s cheek, and I saw strong men seeking to conceal their feelings by hiding their faces in their caps and hats, and leaning upon one another, as hardly able to stand before the preacher’s words and appeals. And from what I beheld of this sort, and from the general solemnity and seriousness which pervaded that meeting, it is my conviction that the number of persons struck down bears no proportion to the number of those who were really smitten in heart, truly convicted of sin, and made to cry out, although silently, ‘ What must we do to be saved?’”


"In the 1st Presbyterian Church, many souls are daily finding peace at the cross of Christ. On Sabbath morning last the Spirit's presence was greatly manifested in the Sabbath School. Many of the children and young persons of both sexes left the church with the solemn words on their lips:— 'Lord, save me or I perish.' A great number of those are now able to say:— 'I am happy in Christ.' After the morning service in the church last Lord's day an affecting scene was witnessed in the retiring room. Eight persons were all on their knees, at the same time wrestling in intense agony of prayer to Christ to save their souls. Four of these were of the same family — three brothers and a sister. Besides them were kneeling their father — a godly man — and two sisters who had already known Jesus to be 'the way, the truth, and the life.' Within a minute or two, two of the brothers exclaimed:— 'Blessed Jesus!' 'Sweet Saviour!' It was then that the scene was truly sublime — the meeting of a father with two newborn sons of God. On last Sabbath morning, affectionate addresses were delivered to them by the Rev. Messrs. Stevenson and McAllister. One and another cried for forgiveness. The scene was solemnizing. To see so many young people in deep agony for their sins, praying to God for the Redeemer's sake to have mercy upon them and, after a time, the Lord lifting up the light of His countenance upon them and giving them peace and joy, was indeed solemnising and joyful."

"The Banner of Ulster" 3rd September 1859

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