Hull - George Yard Chapel - Alexander Mather (1794)

Letter from Mr A. MATHER, giving an Account of

the late Revival of Religion at Hull in Yorkshire.

For some years past it has pleased the Almighty to favour the Society of Methodists at Hull with much peace and unity, particularly since the opening of their New Chapel; and they have not only increased in number, but most of them have experienced a gradual growth in the divine Life. During the time I have laboured among them we have been blessed with awakenings, conversions, and now and then some entered into the liberty of pure love. When we heard of the great outpouring of the Grace of God upon the Circuits in the west Riding of Yorkshire where hundreds and even thousands have lately been awakened and converted, a very earnest desire was kindled in the hearts of the people, especially among the leaders, for a revival in our Society; which impelled us to address the Throne of Grace, both in public and private with ardent importunity. One hindrance perhaps to such displays of the awakening powers of God as were manifested in other places, was a too anxious attachment to decorum and order; and consequently a strong aversion to loud lamentations and cries, especially in the public congregation, which circumstances were common in various parts of the country where the work of conviction had recently broken out. However at the Christmas Love-feast, this difficulty was surmounted and in some degree we were willing to let God work upon the minds of the people which way He pleased, although we should incur the disagreeable reproach of being accounted enthusiasts. At this meeting we were put to the trial and bore it very well; one person being in great distress of mind, cried out mightily for mercy and was soon delivered.

In the latter end of January some of the brethren came to me and requested to have a prayer meeting appointed on Sunday evening after the service of the day, which was agreed upon. Soon after they were gone I considered that there was no necessity for deferring the meeting till Sunday, we could make a beginning on Tuesday evening, as I had that night at leisure. Accordingly, the people being apprised of it, we had a full congregation and a very solemn season. The hearts of the brethren who exercised the gift of prayer were much enlarged, and a general expectation was raised among us that the Lord would shortly answer our supplications. The meeting concluded about ten o'clock, but the people returned home with reluctance and seemed much inclined to stay longer. Many were greatly quickened and excited to double their diligence; one person found peace and another obtained the cleansing virtue of the blood of Jesus. From this time we embraced every opportunity of assembling together for public prayer and were greatly encouraged to persevere in this duty by an accession of serious hearers, and the satisfaction they manifested on these occasions. The mouths of many were likewise opened and their hearts enlarged, who had never been accustomed to exercise in public before. And although we were not acquainted with many conversions, yet it was very evident the Lord was carrying on a great work among the people in general, as well as in the members of the society. We had many tokens for good, particularly on the national Fast Day. On Sunday the 9th March, after Mr Brown had done preaching, the prayer meeting began and concluded at the usual time. But some who were in great distress would not depart from the place; they were therefore convened in the vestry, and several of our brethren assisted them by their supplications to the Fountains of Mercy, till four or five persons obtained divine peace and consolation. This being noised abroad excited great expectations in the minds of many who felt the burden of their sins, and they came to the chapel on Monday evening. When Mr. Brown had concluded his discourse he requested the Bands to meet in the vestry and likewise invited any that were in distress to meet with them. But the vestry not being large enough to contain all that tarried, they attempted to collect them into a body in one part of the chapel; this however they were not able to accomplish, because there were many in great anguish of mind, in different parts of the chapel, and those required help as well as others which obliged the brethren to pray with them, and encourage them to look unto the Lord for his promised salvation. In a short time, several who had been in great agony found the blessing of forgiving mercy, and instantly rising up, declared what the Lord had done for their souls; and their friends who were around them, united together in praising the Lord in their behalf; while others, in different parts of the chapel still remained in distress. In this manner they continued until about ten persons found the Lord. at the same time in different parts of the chapel, while some were encouraging the distressed and others praising the Lord for benefits received, occasioned some idle by-standers to report thro' the town, "that it was all confusion." Undoubtedly it must have had this appearance to persons destitute of sympathy for the disconsolate mourners, and uninterested in the happiness of pardoned penitents. But the seeming disorder, as matters then stood, was unavoidable, nor did any disagreeable consequences follow. There were nothing irrational or unscriptural in these meetings. It was perfectly natural for sinners who were overwhelmed with a sense of their sin and misery, to cry aloud for help to Him who is mighty to save, and on some occasions, to be inattentive to every surrounding object. They were conscious of the depravity of their hearts and the sinfulness of their lives;--against God they had sinned and fallen short of his glory;—the burden they felt was intolerable; forgetting for a moment their fellow creatures, they cried out aloud, her the disquietude of their souls, as if only God was present, and the sole spectator of their sorrows. When the answer of peace returned, and they were filled with unexpected and unspeakable comfort, it is no wonder if their joy was as excessive for a time as their preceding sorrow had been. From the circumstances of two or three persons praying Next evening, after the public prayer meeting, many who mere groaning for redemption retired into the vestry, and continued several hours in fervent supplication; about twelve persons found peace before they departed. In this manner the work went on during the first fortnight; at every prayer meeting ten or twelve persons, and sometimes more, being brought out of darkness into the light of God's reconciled countenance and some were likewise awakened at the same time. In the mornings I was generally employed in visiting those persons who had recently tasted that the Lord is gracious, and in a few days seventy were added to the Society. These being distributed among the respective classes, and frequently bringing others with them, were instrumental of spreading the work through various parts of the town. The class meetings were very lively and frequently four or five persons were set at liberty every time they met. On the 23rd March, Mr Grant kept a Love-feast at Beverley; many of our friends from Hull were present and spoke freely of the great things which the Lord had done for their souls; the brethren at Beverley were much revived and two or three were brought into liberty. The same evening our meeting at Hull was accompanied with much of the divine presence, and a greater number found peace than on any former occasion. March 25th. I set out on my journey into Staffordshire. Mr Grant attended the prayer meetings at Hull that week and the following. From twenty to thirty persons found peace at every meeting. I returned on the 6th April and in the course of a week added upwards of one hundred and fifty, the greater part of whom were awakened and converted during the time of my absence. Mr Stephenson from Bridlington preached and attended the prayer meeting, which continued till he began to preach again next morning at five o’clock. About thirty were converted that night. The work continued to prosper every day during the ensuing week, both at the chapel and in private houses. April 13th. We had our Love-feast. Many of the new converts stood up before the congregation and gave a clear and satisfactory account of the work of God upon their hearts. The meetings continued till five o'clock and it was then with reluctance that they departed. The chapel was crowded with deeply serious hearers at six o'clock and the prayer meeting began as soon as the preaching concluded, and continued till ten when the congregation was dismissed a second time and they were entreated to return home, especially all whose family affairs required their attendance. But this requisition had very little effect, for the greater part continued in prayer till one or two o'clock, and even some remained till the morning preaching. Above twenty found peace. At this meeting were present many of our friends from the country Societies whose souls the Lord abundantly blessed; they returned home greatly rejoicing and praising God for the things which they had heard and seen. They likewise faithfully represented these matters to their brethren in various parts of the Circuit; their testimony was received, and through the divine blessing, proved the means of stirring up the people to seek the Lord with redoubled diligence and earnestness. From that time the work revived in many places in the country, and in a few weeks, hundreds were convinced and converted. Monday, April 14th. This evening the prayer meeting continued to a late hour, and many were brought into the liberty of the children of God.On Tuesday the divine power was present to heal the broken in heart in all the class meetings. April 18th. Being Good Friday we met at five in the morning for prayer and had a very gracious season. At seven o’clock we had preaching and again at six in the evening. The congregation was large and deeply serious. The prayer meeting continued till ten o'clock which was indeed solemn and lively and several were delivered from the burden of sin. The congregation was then dismissed, but a large number remained in every part of the chapel, as well as in the vestry, in great distress. When these were released from their troubles more and more fell under conviction, which unavoidably lengthened the meeting to a very late hour. It being impossible for those who had themselves tasted that the Lord is gracious not to sympathise with their brethren whom they beheld in the greatest anguish of spirit; they could not refuse to watch a few hours with them, and afford them every assistance in their power, especially by their prayers and exhortations to look unto Jesus in faith for a present salvation. And many who had been delivered but a few days, or per­haps a few hours, now became earnest and prevailing intercessors for others. Even some who had ignorantly inveighed against this extraordinary work and represented it as a scene of confusion and disorder, were constrained themselves by the mighty power of God to cry out for mercy as well as others. Sunday, April 20th. A large company assembled this morning at five o’clock to commemorate the Resurrection of our Lord and a still larger at seven o’clock. At six in the evening the chapel was crowded with a serious congregation that cordially united in blessing God, who according to His abundant mercy had begotten them again to a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The prayer meeting began after preaching and continued till midnight. Easter Monday being one of the great holidays for the young people in Hull, I wished to draw as many as possible from their wild and frantic ways and engage them in better exercises; for this purpose I appointed a prayer meeting at three o’clock which was well attended and the divine blessing visited the people. Before seven o’clock upwards of twenty prisoners were liberated from the bondage of sin and Satan, and likewise many more the same night in the prayer meeting after the sermon. On Tuesday several new places were opened for prayer meetings in different parts of the town, which were well attended, and in most of them some were set at liberty. The work continued to prosper in this remarkable manner until the 12th May, considerable numbers being deeply wounded and graciously healed.

Taken from the Methodist Journal.

Additional Information

The meetings were probably at George's Yard