First Presbyterian Church Rathfriland (1859)

'The youthful speaker from Belfast then rose and proceeded to address the vast assemblage with the utmost coolness. The discourse had not continued fifteen minutes when the audience began to be stirred. A venerable-looking old man sank to the ground close by the platform. Apparently he had swooned, and he was removed out of the crowd as speedily as possible. The silence of the multitude became breathless; the feelings were deeply intense. But the solemn stillness was soon broken by a faint cry which was raised on the opposite side of the platform to that where I had taken my stand. I had scarcely time to turn myself, when, sudden as a gunshot, a strong woman sent forth an unearthly scream at my very side. In a moment she was upon her knees, crying, as she clapped and wrung her hands alternately in wild excitement, ‘Oh! my heart. Oh! my hard heart.’ The crowd was convulsed and shook like a stem in the breeze. The voice of the speaker was soon drowned amid the shrieks; the air was filled with groans and screams for mercy. Crowds gathered and pressed around to listen to the lamentations, and here and there to the fervent appeals to the awakened. It was not till long after nightfall that a large portion of the helpless mourners were carried to their homes.

“A tremendous awakening had taken place. During the week that followed, the meetings were continued, and the prostrations did not in the least subside. It seemed, indeed, as if a new era had dawned. Men and women left their ordinary avocations to talk about their souls, and the strange sights they had witnessed. The public mind was pervaded with awful solemnity, and that whole week seemed a protracted Sabbath.”


Cases of prostration are not now so numerous, but anxious inquirers may be found in almost every house. Many that were impressed at the beginning of the movement are now rejoicing in Christ or busily engaged in evangelizing in the neighbourhood. The hunger and thirst for the 'Word of Life’ almost exceeds belief. At a moment's notice, a congrega­tion can be had in any quarter, and none more eager than in a street which was a few months ago the disgrace of the town. People are seen along the streets or country roads sitting in the sun and reading the Bible or religious tracts. Local prayer-meetings have multiplied beyond reckoning; in one evening there may be a hundred such meetings in the town and neighbourhood, with results which nothing but "the day " will declare. Meantime, families notoriously ungodly and unruly —disturbers of the peace—have become homes of prayer, the inmates sitting, clothed and in their right mind, at the feet of Jesus. The streets resound with the singing of psalms, a marked sobriety characterizes the weekly markets, and a general, wide-spread, deepening sense of divine things is ob­served by all. Some poor families have lost considerably by being some days off work during their weakness; yet the visitor scarce ever hears a murmur, even from persons who formerly could be got to speak of nothing but their poverty. At Brookvale, near Rathfriland, the Revival has spread ex­tensively since it first commenced, about a month ago. There are now daily convictions of sin, and a change on the face of society truly miraculous. The conversion of a poor boy who was looked on as beyond the pale almost of religion, being weak in mind, a cripple in body, and profane in language, has rejoiced the hearts of many.

From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p34/5, August 27th 1859.

The general opinion seems to be that, with the exception of a few ignorant persons, stricken perhaps out of sympathy, and never really impressed, the young converts are giving great satisfaction—growing in humbleness and persevering in piety. We had in this place one or two females prophesying dumbness, and recovering a strange speech, with more or less visions and revelations; but that has ceased, and the calm "river of life" is flowing on through the land, gladdening homes that were once scenes of folly or shame, and bearing m its bosom many families embarked for eternity. We are now in the fifth month of the movement, yet the people are as thirsty as ever for gospel teaching, and life—spiritual life—is throbbing warm and strong in all the pulses of society, A drunkard has been deeply impressed and is now living soberly. A gentleman, fallen from self-respect, and from his place in society, has become a suc­cessful evangelist; and will, if he persevere, be one of the most wonderful displays of Divine grace throughout this Revival. Two vendors of spirits have intimated to their minister their intention of abandoning the business. Several fallen women and others disorderly heretofore are living very unexception­ably. Some little foibles naturally appear on the surface. The gold is in a nugget state, mixed with some soil, but still it is gold, genuine gold, which, when purified by heavenly disci­pline, will yet shine in the diadem of Christ glorified,—Banner of Ulster.

From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p114, Nov 5th, 1859.

Additional Information

I do not know where the meetings were, but probably in this lovely old church. The congregation dates from 1662 and the church from 1679.

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