Harris (1825-1830)

In Harris, John Morrison, the bard, was used by the Lord in a true work of grace between 1825 and 1830. He was a man of uncommon powers of mind, and of great prudence. When he came to a saving knowledge of the Lord himself, the need of his friends and neighbours weighed like a heavy burden on his soul. He began to deal with them personally about their souls in private conversation. They generally took it in good part, but thought his mind was becoming unhinged. So they allowed him to have his way. This personal and public testimony strengthened his own faith, and he was, in course of time, led to hold Readings in his own house on the Sabbath day. This was something new for his neighbours to talk about, and they went to the meetings, not for the purpose of getting any spiritual benefit, but in order to get amusement. In the course of his reading he was in the habit of making comments of a plain and practical nature, which aroused the interest and sometimes the opposition of his audience. As the meetings were entirely informal, some of his auditors, when he ventured to make a remark, questioned and cross-questioned him as to the correctness of his views, for few of them at first took him seriously. Eventually, however, they were obliged to acknowledge that he was in the main right. He used those opportunities for bringing the Word of God home to their consciences, and not a few were awakened to concern about their souls. These now came to the meetings in a different spirit, and gradually there were few in the parish who would dare to contradict, or even question, what he said. His influence grew rapidly. Prayer began to abound. The anxious went to the barns, the hills, and the creeks of the rocks, praying for themselves and for others. He went from village to village, and from parish to parish, holding meetings and preaching the Gospel with manifest power.

In 1828 he obtained a commission from the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. That gave him an official standing. He secured the co-operation of other agents and teachers throughout the island. Family worship was established in the homes of the people, while young and old engaged in personal, private devotion. The first open-air meeting was held in Tarbet, in 1830, when it is said 2000 people were present, so manifest was the interest taken in divine things. The Uig revival had, by that time, spread practically through the entire island of Lewis. Murdo MacLeod, the catechisto fresh from those stirring scenes and experiences, came to visit John Morrison. Both men were full of faith and of the Holy Ghost. They refreshed and strengthened each other. There was much expectation among the people, .and much prayer. While anxiety and seriousness prevailed generally, the real awakening began with the ample reading of Scripture. While Mr Morrison was leading the Word such an overwhelming sense of the Divine presence seized him that he broke down. The congregation felt the same gracious presence and melted into tears. The words of exhortation spoken by Mr Murdo MacLeod only deepened the feeling of solemnity, and so profound was the impression of the power of the Spirit that not a soul went away in a careless mood. The work thus began spread throughout every part of the island till every hamlet was touched rid quickened by the Spirit of life.

Such was the spiritual condition of Harris when Dr.MacDonald, of Ferintosh, paid his second visit. His faithful, devoted, and enthusiastic convert, the bard, heard of the approaching visit with uncontrollable joy. He wrote, "Someone came one evening to the smithy, where I was hard at work at the anvil, and mentioned that Dr MacDonald was come. I tried to subdue my emotion, and I longed for the absence of the messenger, and whenever the messenger had gone, I ran to the smithy door and bolted it. I could then, when alone, scope to my emotions. I danced for joy—danced round and round the smithy floor, for I felt a load taken off my spirit suddenly. I danced until I felt fatigued, and I knelt down and prayed and gave thanks. The result of that visit was to deepen and quicken the young life of converts and to lead to light and hope, through grace, many who had no real peace or joy in believing. The life of the entire community was changed. Old things passed away, and new views and habits of life— those of Christian love and piety—took their place.

Revivals in the Highlands and Islands by Alexander Macrea – Republished in 1998 by Tentmaker Publications.

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