Portglenone (1859)

R. M. Sibbett in “The Revival in Ulster” states:

“The revival appeared suddenly and with great power at Portglenone, a village ten miles from Ballymena. Aroused from an apparently hopeless spiritual lethargy by the earnest preaching of the Rev. William Kennedy McKay, the Presbyterian population of the town and neighbourhood could not have been better prepared for such a visitation, and, turning from their evil ways, large numbers of them became devoted servants of the Lord Jesus, According to accounts of the movement by those who attended the services then conducted in the old First Presbyterian meeting-house, on the site of which the present building stands, the congregation, at first impressed by what they had heard from Connor and Ballymena, manifested an eager spirit of expectancy. The Psalms were sung with a fervour never before approached in the place, the prayers were frequently punctuated by excited appeals for mercy, and the sermons were listened to with gravest attention. All the old formalism was passing away and a real living religion was making itself felt in every heart. It could not be otherwise, for the Holy Spirit was mightily at work overcoming the strongholds of Satan. Darkened understandings were enlightened under His gracious influence and the steps were made visible that led from the ‘fearful pit’ and ‘the miry clay’ right up to the solid Rock of Salvation, man’s sure and unchanging hope in life’s perilous sea.

“On a Sabbath morning, as the service was proceeding in the customary manner, a piercing cry was heard. Every eye turned instinctively towards the pew from which it came, and a woman was seen in a state of prostration. A few friends gathered round her and she was carried into the vestibule. Moaning heavily, she kept ejaculating, ‘Oh, my sins! Lord have mercy! Save me, O Christ, or I perish.’ About half-an-hour afterwards the affected one was helped away. Great agitation prevailed amongst the rest of the worshippers. Several of them had also to be removed in a terribly shaken condition, uttering strange cries for mercy and forgiveness, and the voice of the preacher was at moments altogether inaudible. He appealed for calmness. The Lord was in their midst and they were merely feeling the wonder-working power of His presence. It was unnecessary to become hysterical. They were guilty sinners before Him and worthy of the torments of hell; but, blessed be His Name, He had provided a way of escape in Christ Let them look upon this mighty Saviour, who was anxious to deliver them, and they would be safe in His arms for ever. No ill could then come nigh them. The Lord would be on their side and form an everlasting tower of defence.

“At the conclusion of the service, the congregation scattered and seriously discussed the scenes which had just been witnessed. The Lord, who had not forgotten His heritage, was again amongst them for blessing, and in those marvels of grace they were seeing the true essentials of His glory. While the righteous exhibited joy, the ungodly quailed with fear, and on every face could be read the signs of either one or other of those conflicting emotions. During the second service, which was protracted until a late hour in the evening, there were several fresh cases of prostration. Immediate assistance was rendered, and these people, when recovered, were taken to their homes testifying to what the Lord had done for their souls. In some instances, restoration was delayed as long as the sense of guilt and need for pardon remained. This was a cause for great anxiety to relatives, but the steady improvement, which set in after a day on two quickly dispelled all gloomy forebodings.

“Excitement reigned supreme. Scarcely anything but the revival was talked about in the homes of rich and poor. Meetings were held every evening throughout the whole district, and the crowds, which attended, were often so large that, for lack of sufficient accommodation inside farm buildings, the proceedings had to be conducted in the open air. Converts local and from a distance, worked with great energy and determination.”


The gracious revival has extended from the parish of Connor to that of Ahoghill, then to Portglenone, and round by Tully, Largey, Grange, Straid, Slatt, Galgorm Park, Killalers, Cloughwater, Clough and Rasharkin. Nor is it yet showing any symptoms of decline – on the contrary, it is moving on with amazing Power. Every day, almost every hour is bringing tidings of conviction. The interest is more and more awakening and extending.

From a statement by Rev Frederick Buick on 18th May 1859.

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