Portessie Methodist Church (1867)

The most of the people in this place joined the U. P. Kirk, but there were nine young men and two women that didna join them, they were mair inclined for the Methodist doctrine. Well, they met th'gither to consult about gettin' a Wesleyan minister, and ane o' the lads - he's deid noo - prayed that if their project was nae from God - for His glory and for the salvation of souls - to take the meetin' oot o' their hands a' th'gither and scatter it to the four winds of heaven. But instead of scattering the meetin', He poured out His Holy Spirit until every soul in that meetin' were like feels - at least like fouk filled wi' new wine. Then we couldna help speakin', and by-and-bye we had forty that met in the garret, and then we petitioned for a minister. And now we have a minister, an' a chapel capable of haudin' four hundred, an' a manse, a' free o' debt. And the vera first time that the chapel was opened a great work of grace began. Our forty members grew to a hundred and forty, and nae ane o' them but can conduct a meetin'; an' if the minister should happen not to be well, or ha' ony place to gang till, there are at least twenty of them who can take the pulpit at a moment's warnin'. 

When we were needin' a precentor we held a prayer meetin' for ane. And the Lord not only gave us a precentor, but a converted precentor; an' at the time that we held the prayer meetin', he was a member of the Established Church and in his carnal state. An' as soon as ever he was converted he came and joined the Wesleyans, and then offered himsel' to be our precentor, to sing for the Lord, not for money. He praises the Lord for His gift of song; an' as long as the Lord continues it to him he is to use it in His service.

"James Turner, or how to reach the masses,"  by E McHardie, page 166

Henry J Pope, Wesleyan minister.

For two years and three months, more than forty of the members, according to agreement, met at the throne of grace for private prayers, at a given hour, on a certain day in every week. The blessing seemed to linger, and faith was tried by two years' waiting. A number of weekly prayer meetings was then resolved upon, and sometimes six and sometimes ten were held in one week, and all the cry was, "Wilt Thou not revive us again?"

"At length the answer came, and so powerfully that even devout men were, astonished. In the beginning of December, 1866, every praying man and woman seemed conscious of an unusual degree of grace attending the Word. A few weeks after this, God poured out His Spirit upon both Portessie and the adjoining village of Findochty in an extraordinary manner, and many persons were awakened and converted. 

Meetings were held in both places every evening, conducted for the most part by the fishermen themselves, some of whom were remarkably qualified for exhorting the people and expounding scriptural truth, and had besides, a most wonderful gift in prayer.

It was just at this crisis of the work that the day arrived for opening the new chapel, and then it seemed as if the prayers of all the former years were answered at once; as if the blessing had been delayed and praying faith allowed to wait, that the answer, when it came, might be more striking and memorable. God showed that He took the place which pious hands had reared amid so many anxieties and sacrifices. 

From the first hour of its opening, He began to do His own blessed work of saving souls in it, and thus to "make the place of His feet glorious." As at the dedication of Solomon's temple, the fire from heaven descended in answer to the monarch's prayers, in sight of the assembled multitude; so at the dedication of this humbler sanctuary, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire was given; the cloud of the Divine presence filled the place, and multitudes of precious souls, as they were turned from darkness to light, were led to feel,

"The Lord is in this place, this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Both in its erection and consecration, we see fulfilled the ancient prophecy respecting the Head of the Church, 

"Even He shall build the temple of the Lord, and He shall bear the glory".

It was with feelings of profound gratitude and holy joy that the people called Methodists, in Portessie, assembled on Sabbath morning, December 23, 1866, for the opening of their new chapel. They had occasion for such emotions, not merely in the completing of their undertaking, but in the fact that their prayers for another 'revival' seemed about to be answered. A deep religious awakening had already commenced, and it was known that some of the most abandoned sinners were under conviction. The prayer meeting in the fishermen's hall had been largely attended, and to the Methodists chiefly had been assigned the work of conducting them.

An hour before the morning service, a prayer meeting was held in the hall. The people came from all parts of the neighbourhood, and some from villages several miles distant.

At eleven o'clock, the chapel was densely crowded by a thoughtful and devout congregation, and it was soon apparent that the praying people were accompanying the Word with earnest supplications. They did not pray in vain. Whilst they waited and expected, the answer was given. It was a season of overwhelming influence. The Word came with power and many were pricked in their hearts. Amongst a people ordinarily quiet and undemonstrative during divine worship, some trembled on account of sin, while from others arose exclamations of joy. Then a short adjournment followed, and an experience meeting announced for two o'clock.

At two o'clock the chapel was again filled in every part. With great clearness and unction the people of God gave their testimony to the power of saving grace, almost everyone attributing their conversion to the revival that had taken place six years previously, and related some of the trials and temptations which they had since been enabled to overcome. Thus the influence of the morning was intensified, the unsaved more clearly realised their alien and lost condition, until at length their misery became insupportable. One and another began to cry in the bitterness of their spirit, and soon from all parts of the chapel arose the cry of anxious souls. Thus the "experience meeting" changed its character, being forthwith turned into a "penitent meeting," which lasted several hours. The whole congregation was engaged in prayer, some for themselves, some for their relatives who were seeking the Lord, and some for the whole village and neighbourhood. Not a few were enabled to rejoice in a newly found Saviour and to testify for the first time of the sense of God's forgiving love.

In the evening, the crowd that gathered filled the chapel and the fishermen's hall, and in both congregations the scenes of the former part of the day were repeated. These meetings were necessarily continued to a late hour, for the people could not be persuaded to leave, and it seemed cruel to urge them to do so, labouring under the deep distress which burdened so many. 

Besides, to a population composed entirely of Fishermen, there was nothing unsuitable in the late hours. Their periods of labour and rest are determined not by day and night, light and darkness; but by the ebb and flow of the tides. It is not an unusual thing to see the entire population, both young and old, stirring in the middle of the night in pursuit of their ordinary calling; and if, when required, they followed their secular pursuits regardless of the hour, no wonder though it seemed reasonable to them to do this when the salvation of their souls were at stake.

The tea meeting on the following evening proved to be a sort of Christian festival in connection with the opening of the chapel, and ministers of the different denominations were present to offer their congratulations. But the customary speeches were felt by nearly all to be out of place. Many anxious souls were there asking what they must do to be saved, and there was no relish for the ordinary topics. 

After a short address from each of the speakers, a prayer meeting was commenced. Several persons exhorted the penitent and unconverted, who at length were invited to come to a spot set apart for those seeking peace with God.

The next moment was one of intense interest: more than twenty persons, chiefly men, pressed through the crowd, and came forward to the place appointed. There was the young man of twenty, and the old man of seventy years of age, bowing in penitence before God, and earnestly pleading for forgiveness in the name of Jesus. And ever and anon one would rise up and tell before the whole congregation how God had revealed His pardoning love to their soul.

The meeting was thrilled to hear such testimonies from those who had never before spoken a word about religious things. An amazement like that of the multitude on the day of Pentecost was felt, as some of the most unlikely characters in the neighbourhood stood up to disclose the wonderful works of God. There were many others in all parts of the chapel unable to get forward for the press, seeking the Lord and following the prayers and exhortations of believers who were near them. Some who had come only because it was a tea meeting, and who would never have dreamt of being found in a prayer meeting, were arrested by the Spirit's mighty power and influence.

Several of these convicted formalists, who were prominent office-bearers in neighbouring churches, were constrained to cry aloud for mercy. The work was felt to be entirely of God, but little of human instrumentality was used at all, and that of the simplest kind. The power to pray had been given to God's people, and the answer to praying faith had been vouchsafed in this outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It was a season never to be forgotten by those present, and when the meeting was at length concluded, many small companies might be seen in the moonlight wending their way homeward by the sea-side, to some neighbouring village; but amongst them all, there was only one theme of conversation - they glorified God, saying, "We never saw it in this fashion".

This blessed work continued with ever-increasing power for some time and spread to other places on the coast. 


The tremendous power which marked this revival was seen in a variety of ways. The excitement was intense. For nearly three weeks men forgot their worldly business and attended to that of saving their souls. Meetings were held day and night with only three or four hours' intermission. Persons who went to them resolved to seek their souls' salvation quietly, were often so powerfully affected, that in spite of their resolution, they cried aloud for salvation. 

Men, who for hours stood with their hands in their pockets coolly surveying the scene, in one moment would be pierced with strong conviction of sin, and would literally roar aloud for mercy. It was no unusual thing for persons to go to bed to sleep away their misery, but unable to do so, rise and come to the meetings in an agony of distress.

Nothing will explain these scenes except the principle of Divine power at work. I have preached two years and a half to the people, and have yet to learn that they are more excitable than other people. I have never heard shouting or ranting in the ordinary means of grace, and I am afraid many would think us rather dull. Yet, during the period just mentioned, scores of persons would be crying for mercy at the same time, and this too after hours of quiet waiting, and with as much suddenness as a thunder-shower.

The power of the work was also seen in the different classes which came under its influence. 

Formalists are generally considered hard to convert. Yet the formalist was "smiting upon his breast," and crying, "God be merciful to me a sinner." Men of orderly lives, and office-bearers in churches, stood up to tell that they were whited walls. One such found himself a guilty hell-deserving sinner. His distress was awful, and fears were entertained that he would go mad. The moment at which he found peace will never be forgotten by those who were present - the scene surpassed description.

Backsliders in heart were found out by the convincing Spirit. Some who once had the oil in their lamps, but had lost the power without giving up the profession, stood up to tell of their wanderings in heart. But the work was not confined to these moral characters. Some of the most notorious sinners in the place were brought to the feet of Jesus.

Scoffers were penitently seeking the Saviour. There was one man specially distinguished as a mocker of godliness, besides being a drunkard and almost everything bad. When drawing up the boats on the beach he would swear on purpose to vex the souls of the Methodists. Their reproofs only increased his swearing, and they confessed that he was a terror to them. He went further, and told them they were not the true sort of Christians, or they would get him converted, as Jesus Christ had said, "Ask, and ye shall receive". These words, in one sense, led to his conversion. 

The Methodists went to the rocks on purpose to pray for him and for another man. His name was mentioned in every prayer, and, on that very day, conviction seized him. A few days later, this man was seen in a prayer meeting, and the whole village was filled with astonishment when it was known that the worst man in the place was converted.

Another of the scoffers was about sixty years of age. The women he called "poor fanatics" - the revival, "excitement of the brain". He went up to the church to see "the excitement," as he called it, and did not leave until he obtained peace with God. For three days afterwards he could scarcely do anything but weep. 

"I mingle my drink with my tears," he said, "as I think of those who oppose the work. I thought it all excitement of the brain, but now I find it is the love of God, in the heart."

Drunkards formed a very numerous class of the converts. At least twenty hopeful cases of conversion among drunkards occurred in Portessie alone. The publican was one of the first to confess his sins. When saved, he went home from the meeting and pulled down his sign, gathered together his glasses and smashed them among the rocks, and opened the largest room in his house for a young men's prayer meeting.           

It is impossible to tell the entire number of persons who passed from death to life on that coast during the revival. But, without doubt, more than a thousand persons were under conviction, and there is little doubt the numbers of the saved amounted to more than 600 persons.  In Portessie alone, at least one-sixth of the entire population, or 150 persons, turned to the Lord.

The membership of the Methodist Church at once increased from 60 to 140, but this increase gives no idea of the number meeting in class. Members of other Churches sought for and obtained permission to attend the peculiar means of grace among the Methodists; and in Findochty, three or four score of young and old converts, belonging to the Presbyterian Church, formed themselves into classes, and were generally met weekly by members of their own denomination.

With this amazing spiritual success, all the financial difficulties of the new chapel were at once overcome. The people could pay as well as pray, and the new converts found that their pockets were converted as well as their hearts. 

In order to avoid offence, it was found necessary to call at every house for a subscription, and amongst nine hundred people, there was only one refusal. The amount raised included the widow's sixpence, and showed on the whole, an average of two shillings to every family in the place. The chapel was thus presented to the Lord without the blemish of a single shilling of debt.

A complete revolution in the sentiments of the inhabitants towards Methodism had gradually been taking place and was now completed. It had had its days of annoyance and petty persecution, but at length half the village called itself Methodist. If curses had not been heaped upon their heads, certainly, until the revival, they did not get many blessings. They were taunted that "Methodism was rotten, class meetings were popery, the chapel was too large and would make a good store-house". 

Some predicted that it would be the curse of the village, and would ruin those who had to pay for it. But some of the very persons who uttered these taunts were converted and joined the church with all their families. The goodwill of the people was shown in the announcement of the village crier, who went round when the chapel required cleaning, with the summons:

"A' the young women i' the toon mann awa' to the Methody kirk wi' buckets and brushes an' clean it."

The stated congregation filled the chapel, and almost all the seats to let were rented. Sometimes when the sittings in a new chapel are let, there are unseemly disputes for certain places, and people have been known who have left the church altogether - gone back into the world, and at last down into perdition because they could not have a particular pew. There was no such case at Portessie; but there was one man who requested a particular pew, and for this reason: He came to that seat during the opening services, a stranger to God; there he had been so powerfully awakened that for a time he durst not move, for he felt himself hanging over the mouth of the pit; nor did he leave the pew until the believing view of a crucified Saviour had banished his guilty fears. Of course, his request was granted, and with his family he was permitted to occupy the very place in God's house where he first, saw the light of God's countenance shining upon him.

"James Turner or how to reach the masses", by E McHardie, pages 173-6

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