First Presbyterian Church Newtownards (1859)

We are happy to state that the expectation of a revival in this town is being now finally fulfilled. Symptoms of a revival had been, for some time previously, displayed but it was not until last week that any very decided manifestation of Divine Power appeared. The weekly meeting for united prayer was held in the Rev. Mr McCullough's church, and the intense interest excited was shown by the fact that it was one of the largest that ever assembled in this spacious building. This interest was deepened by the news that arrived daily from Comber of the outpouring of the Spirit on members of the Rev. Mr Killen's church, and particularly by a case of woman belonging to that place who had been attending the meetings held there on Friday evening and had come over to Newtownards on Saturday morning when she was suddenly prostrated in the Market Square.

“Since that time there have been a very considerable number of cases of conviction, followed, in most of the incidents, by conversion. Prayer meetings are being daily held in almost all the churches and several private houses in different districts of the town. The Incidents of the revival are even already numerous and striking. People who have doubted its reality have become, at once, convinced of its genuine character, when they saw and conversed with people who had been affected — in this way the statement is frequently verified that, 'seeing is believing'. The change which passes over the character of those who had been truly awakened is marvellous. “A visitor was astonished, on entering a house, of a person he had known as one of those who are without God in the world, to find him with the Bible in his hand, strengthening his own faith in the reality of his conversion by pointing to examples, from scripture, of salvation obtained by the chief of sinners. He was also surprised to meet with individuals whose hearts have been changed, who had not been, for a long time, in the habit of attending any place of worship. They had heard of the Spirit's work in other places and, without any Philip to guide them, they had taken down the dusty Bible from the shelf and found it to be able to make them wise unto salvation.

"Nothing indeed connected with the movement is more remarkable than the Sovereignty of the Spirit. He chooses whom He will, and works in them how He will. The outwardly moral and openly profane, the old and the young seem to be all equally capable, if He pleases, of becoming the subjects of Divine grace. One of the happiest incidents indeed of the revival here is the case of a lttle child, scarcely more than ten years of age. The child was being questioned, by a minister, on the meaning of the opening address of the 'Lord's Prayer', and in order to illustrate the love due to our Father in Heaven by the love rendered to an earthly parent, he asked her, 'Is your father loving?' 'Yes.' 'Do you love your father?' Of course I do.' 'There is no one I suppose whom you love better than your father?' 'Yes. I love Christ more' was the unexpected reply. 'I love Christ more' is a matter of thankfulness that the movement has been, so far, largely characterised by the absence of any great physical prostration."

"The Banner of Ulster" 23rd June 1859

"The gracious work of the Spirit is steadily advancing here. In a town of more than ten thousand inhabitants it may be expected that the movement, even at its present rapid rate of advancement, will be a considerable time in effecting a thorough change, but already the change is so great that it has become one of the ordinary topics of conversation. The Sabbath, which had often been kept in many houses as a day of special feasting and revelry, is now so strictly observed that the stillness of the streets is seldom broken except by the crowds who flock to several churches. A few drunkards may still be seen at rare intervals staggering on the footpath, but drunkenness is so far abated that it may be said to be almost gone. Some weeks ago a bargain could scarcely be made on the market day without drink and the payment of wages was, in very many cases, immediately followed by a visit to the public house. But now the rule is exactly reversed. Districts of the town that on Saturday evenings used to be so turbulent the very police were timid in following people who had taken refuge there are now perfectly quiet and peaceful.

“In one district of this kind the weavers now spend a part of each Saturday evening fitting up, with their 'seat boards', an apartment in the neighbourhood in which a prayer meeting is held on Sabbath afternoon. Instead of the noisy sounds with which in such localities the week was often closed, the first thing that frequently catches the ear now is the singing of hymns with grave sweet melody in the houses of the stricken. It is indeed a common thing to find the people affected surrounded by a band whose hearts the Lord has touched acting the part of the good Samaritan, in pouring oil on the spiritual wounds, and it is often with no small surprise that a visitor recognises, in the very leader of the band, a person whose mouth was lately full of 'cursing and bitterness'. “It is needless to state that the effects of the movement are not confined to any one class or society. The physical accompaniments may not be equally found in all classes, but it would perhaps be difficult to state which has received the greatest spiritual benefit. There is plainly a Power at work here who is rapidly changing the character of the whole social fabric, though in some parts the changes may be wrought, as in the building of the temple, without the sound of either hammer or axe. It may also be remarked that persons of all religious denominations of the town have been brought under the Spirit's power and it hardly requires to be added that, whatever they were, they invariably adopt Paul's determination to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The sentiments expressed by a convert from an utterly false religion are often as purely evangelical as those of one who had been taught the truth from childhood. Besides the ordinary services in the various churches during the week, the meeting for united prayer in the 1" Presbyterian Church is still attended with such unabated interest the large building is always filled to overflowing."

"The Banner of Ulster" 9th August 1859

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