Portgordon Methodist Church (1873)

Someone reported, "Shortly after this I was driving through Portgordon, when I met, or rather called at the door of a Christian family and asked for the mother. I had known her for a long time. She is one of "Turner's Converts." This woman is a seaman's wife, and I mention this because I think it's an honour to do so. She adorns the Gospel. Her equal I know not for gifts and graces in any class of society. She has what no education or any amount of training could give her. She is highly gifted of God physically, mentally, and spiritually. She talks as if she had been trained in a boarding school. Her language is eloquent when giving her experience, and speaking on spiritual subjects, and I have never heard her without being blessed. She has three sons and four daughters, all of whom are advanced Christians, and almost, if not all, converted before herself, through the instrumentality of "dear brother Turner," as they call him, and all in 1860; and from that time to this they have, without exception, continued not only Christians but working Christians in the vineyard of "Turner's God".

This woman, her family, and a few others, held on for years, never taking a step backwards, but always progressing in the divine life. Not finding food either in quantity or quality where they used to worship, they resolved to go to Portessiewhere the Methodists met, and whose teachings were more congenial to the tastes of new-born children of God, desiring the sincere milk of the Word. There they got food that contained all the properties necessary for the support of the soul (blood, flesh, sinew, bone, and marrow of the Gospel).

For their refusing of the husks, or the refusing of the stone when they asked and required bread, they suffered much persecution at the hands, not of the ungodly, but at the hands of formalists and mammon worshippers - but this persecution did them a world of good - it made them cleave unto the Lord, and so became a distinct and peculiar people of the Lord in Portgordon. 

Still they held on, and still they prayed, and aye desired a place of worship nearer their homes where they could serve him more faithfully and fully, and most certainly our God has not disappointed them, but has fully given them their hearts' desires.

They formed themselves into a society in connection with the Wesleyan Methodists, and I had the high honour and precious privilege of conducting their first service, and never shall I forget the power of God felt in that meeting in an upper room, belonging to another man was also converted through the instrumentality of "dear Turner". 

This man cannot read, yet in prayer and conversation quotes Scripture most accurately; his prayers are something wonderful; their straight face-to-face dealing with God; his strong faith, and his very consistent walk and conversation, along with his faithful dealings with the souls of men, have a power in Portgordon, and wherever he goes to pursue his daily calling, - and will have, so long as he keeps humble at the feet of Jesus.

Many a happy meeting we had in this man's upper room; but although large enough to hold them all, and comfortable enough to worship in, it did not fulfil their desires, nor satisfy their strong faith - they must have a chapel of their own, now that they had a minister, and with a stout heart set their faces towards this up-hill work, and now they have a most beautiful little chapel - I know none better on the coast, it holds, I think, about four hundred, and though, of course, not quite full, is fast filling up.

The first Sabbath of this chapel was a day I shall forever give God glory for, in that He allowed me to witness so much of His power and glory. The dear man of God, who was pastor to this people at this time, was a man of strong faith, undaunted zeal, and a holy man with much spiritual discrimination, which was very much in requisition at such a stage of this Society's history. 

His first sermon in the chapel was really one delivered with much power, but not up to the desires of this man of God, for he expected to see results, and at the end of the sermon, seeing none of these, he was humbled in the dust, and could scarce conclude the service, he wept so. "He who humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he who exalteth himself shall be abased." It was really so in this servant's case, as I shall presently show.

In the afternoon we had a love feast at 3 p.m., and so manifest was the power of God, and so overflowing, that the one half could not get their experience told before 5 o'clock, the usual hour of dismissal. We separated, each one blessed, and desiring to be more blessed still. 

Evening service was commenced at 6.30 p.m., in which the Lord made his arm bare to save, every soul seemed as if face-to-face with God, each seemed seeking after God.

The prayer meeting commenced about half-past eight o'clock, and now was the time for this pastor to rejoice, and for his people to clap their hands with joy; for there was such power in the prayers of each child of God as proved the downfall of the devil's kingdom in many hearts, hitherto unmoved by all the previous seasons of revival that had passed over Portgordon. Never had I witnessed anything like it except the night (of the right hand of God) in Buckie, already referred to.

One woman (a spiritual child of James Turner, and converted when quite young) I saw go very gently up to a stout weather-beaten captain; she shook hands with him and whispered something into his ear. I know not what, nor do I know what reply she got; but this I know, she stood by his side, with her face towards heaven still retaining his hand in hers, and there she prayed with such eloquence and living power as I never heard coming from the lips of male or female, it was truly pleading in the Holy Ghost.

It was much too powerful for the anxious soul at her feet, and up he got in the middle of her prayer and cried for mercy, weeping like a child; his prayer was very short, but it entered into the ear of a loving and gracious God, for he sat down at peace with God. His rising up and praying thus abruptly did not in the least disturb this princess in Israel, but it certainly altered the features of her countenance from those of anxious pleading to those of joythanksgiving, and praise to her "dear Lord" for thus answering prayer on the spot.

The face of this woman beamed so with the heavenly joy over this newborn son, that it appeared to me the most beautiful countenance I ever beheld. This ship captain still follows on to know the Lord, and, if I mistake not, is an office-bearer in the church. To give an account of this meeting after this is simply impossible; souls were seeking God in every corner throughout the chapel; suffice it to say, this sort of work went on till about 12.30 a.m.

About this time a girl, I should suppose about twenty years of age, was struck down and became quite prostrate, this was the first case I ever saw of prostration, and I will give you my opinion freely what I think is the cause. I know it has been said by many that it is "a faint", produced by overcrowded meetings and bad ventilation; this case happened in the chapel where there was neither the one nor the other. 

She became anxious in the early part of the evening, and was spoken to very gently and beseechingly by several of the people of God to do as others had done; seek mercy if she really wanted it, that what was worth having was worth asking. She was naturally of a very shy, timid nature, and the enemy on one hand telling her not to pray; and her sins, her conscience, the people of God, and the Holy Spirit on the other hand, urging her to ask it, there she remained on her knees for hours, sobbing and weeping freely. But not a word would she answer those who spoke to her, nor would she address one petition to her God to be merciful to her soul; thus she would do neither the one or the other, and she was prostrated between the two powers, heaven and hell.

She was carried home at six o'clock in the morning and remained in this state for eight days. Turner's converts, if I may style them, have had many such cases in their hands during the last fourteen years of their experience, and so have been taught of God how to deal with them. Some of those who had been prostrated in the early part of their experience went back to the beggarly elements of the world, which proved a source of great grief to them, and gave the world cause to blaspheme; and the reason they attach to this is, that when these people came out of this prostrated condition, they were allowed to go away with the impression that because prostrated, as a matter of course converted. Thus self-deceived their back-going was merely a question of time, because they trusted more to prostration than they did in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

But this case was very differently dealt with, I think, to any other case that had previously been in the place. I heard the woman (who prayed so eloquently in the first part of the night) say to the minister, "When the girl comes out of this state, be sure and press Jesus upon her, and let her not trust to her prostration. Not only so, but point out to her that she was prostrated on account of her disobedience, and that her continued resistance to the command of God to believe and ask mercy, was the reason why she was prostrated." 

This advice was acted upon, and she had to accept the salvation offered by Jesus after a much greater amount of exposure than if she had got up and asked it in the meeting before us all. She has turned out a most splendid case. She is timid, shy, and very gentle naturally, and one would be apt to think she would not make a bright Christian, but the very reverse is the case; she is a very bright one, and mighty in prayer. 

A great many were added to the church - people more powerful in prayer it would be most difficult to find in any church. A united loving people they are, and if there be such a thing as our friends in the glory seeing us down here below, it must give Brother Turner very much joy to see so many of his children in the faith, living up to the mark, and working so faithfully in his Lord's service. 

I delight to worship amongst them, for I know of no better or truer followers of the Lord Jesus, and our frequent class meetings is just heaven below.

"James Turner or how to reach the masses," by E McHardie, pages 239-42.

Well, the work thus begun went on, and many, very many were the slain of the Lord. At last came the sifting time, and in this way. The place of meeting was to be taken from the town if the "revival meetings" were not stopped. Imagine the consternation of the people when this was announced. However, they were ready to take the hill-side with their services, rather than give them up. 

A meeting was called, and a deputy appointed to wait on the proprietor to see if he really meant to do as he said. He did. So another meeting was called when the people proposed to build a town's hall for themselves for general use. The Free Church interfered, and sad to say, the people were split into two parties. Those who met in the garret of Portessie, and some of the converts who had joined the Methodists there - and who were the people who kept the fire of the revival burning, and had been the means of all the revivals along the coast beginning with James Turner - they formed one party, while the Free Church people were the other party, and they wanted the place to be a Free Church hall, and keep out the Methodists altogether. 

Now this was not right, as the few Methodists in Portgordon had been the means of the work, and they wanted no honour, but simply to have a part of the hall, and a good part of the Free Church people wanted the same, and stood up for the Methodists. Thus the people were divided, and the work of God marred for a time, and fires of a different kind began to burn, which tried the graces of both new and old converts.

On these things I do not wish to dwell, nor would I mention them but for what followed. The place was granted to the Free Church people - I mean the site - and they built upon it. What now were the "poor Revivals" to do, and the people who had joined them, with no place of meeting? Well, the Lord was on their side, and became their helper in this time of need. John Hendry, fisherman, Portgordon, opened his garret, and those who had been thrown out of the synagogue met there and God met with them.

They had a good deal to endure for a time, but by-and-bye the spirit in which they suffered began to tell on the opposing party, and many among them began to feel that they had separated from their brothers and sisters, and began to drop in to their night meetings; then going away blest, they came back again, and thus the breaches began to be healed, and all who met in the garret were called Methodists, although there were many Free Church people came to it.

Having thus met for a while, and found it good to do so, it was proposed that they should separate themselves from the world, and form themselves into a church. The proposal being acceptable, the thing was done, and a Methodist Church formed in the garret; the order of it being that each male member take the chair every Sabbath in rotation, with power to call upon any other one present if he had not much to say himself. In this "one accord" they met, and very soon the place was filled. Then the wish of our spiritual father, James Turner, was carried out, and proper classes were formed, and the Lord blessed and prospered greatly.

In little more than a year we were in a position to call a minister. Our call was responded to. Then the church was properly formed, and the place filled to overflowing. But another time of trial came. Our minister left us before the time. Then the hue-and-cry got up against us. But praise God, - He was on our side, and sent help in one of our own members, who came home just at that time, who was a "local preacher," belonging to Portessie Church, one of the 'nine' which formed it; at the same time he was one of our little band, and a convert of Turner's in 1860.

He at once stepped into the gap, and took the place of our minister, who had deserted us, and mighty power was granted him to win souls to Jesus until we got another minister, Mr. Purves from Newcastle - a dear man of God, who nourished our little society, and "built us up in our most holy faith".

Our motto was progress, and the next step in advance was a meeting being called by Mr. Reid, one of our members, at which it was proposed that a chapel should be built. This was agreed to, and in a wonderfully short time the thing was done - for as in times of old, the people wrought and gave willingly when the Lord required a house to be built.

Mr. Reid with his ships, and the fishermen with their boats, brought the stones, every one of which was prayed over and put into its place in the name of the Lord; and the burden of our cry was, "Lord, crown the labours of our hands with Thy blessing, and make the house which we are now building to Thy glory the birth-place of many souls."

Before giving you the opening of the chapel, I will give you some idea of the work done in the garret -  just a slight sketch of one day's work:-

Mr. Reid was chairman, and spoke on the subject of the halt and maimed being offered to the Lord in sacrifice - forbidden in Leviticus 22v22-25, and the practice reproved and punishment threatened for in Malachi 1v8-24. Among the worshippers that day was a young lady from Edinburgh, who had come to see the garret and the meeting, etc.

Well, after the service, in the prayer meeting that followed, the mighty power of the living God came down on us and filled every soul. The effect was the same as in the early days; we all praised God. As we were doing so, one of our members, a widow, who had been mourning sorely for her husband, and refusing to be comforted, rose up, and such a clearance she got - it was marvellous! I will not attempt to tell you how our spirits were thrilled as God spoke to us through this weak instrument, but by-and-bye all were on their knees before Him but the young lady referred to and my sister, who sat beside her, and tried to restrain herself for her friend's sake. Unable at length to do so longer, she also knelt before the Lord, and in substance her cry was—

'Shall I for fear of feeble man

The Spirit's course in me restrain?'

Then pleaded with the Lord mightily to save her friend.

It was not long ere her friend also was on her knees beside her, trying to cry to God for herself. But strange to say she could scarcely say a word. At length she got out—

"My God! - My GOD! - Will - you - not - help - me – to - - pr - ay! - My - God! - take - away - PRIDE! Lord! - give - me - the - blessing! etc"

Seeing the agony of soul she was in, we all began to pray for her, and at last she got liberty. She rose and praised the Lord as heartily as any of us. And the amusing, or rather pleasing, bit of it was, that up to this time she was very much against "making such a noise about prayer".

In speaking of this circumstance afterwards this young lady, who, I may say, was at the time governess in a family of rank, said - 

"I have passed all the Government examinations almost without a wince, but down in that garret, among a few women and two or three men (being the fishing season the people were away), I could not get one word to say but to cry for my sins. It was truly the mighty power of God alone, and I bless God for the garret at Portgordon, it has been a blessed garret to my soul!"

Time would fail me to tell you all that has been done in that garret, but the Lord knows. Blessed be his name! So I will go on to tell you about the opening of our chapel.

On Wednesday the 4th of June, 1872, the foundation stone was laid (a blessed day - a slip of the proceedings of it I enclose you), then on Feb.1873, the chapel was opened. 

That night the God that hears prayer remembered the many petitions that lay before him from that garret, and the many tears that he had bottled up from it, and said -

"Let the blessing fall," and glory be to His name! it did fall, and that at least ten souls found the Saviour, and a good few who left us at the time of the division came back and joined our little band - of 56 - saying that they could not longer stay away.

It had been resolved to hold a week of special services, and Sunday (the opening day) was the first of them, with results as stated. But by the end of the week, such a blessed revival had broken out that it was thought advisable to leave the chapel open night and day, and the place was continuously filled with seeking souls, four and six being every night brought to the feet of Jesus, many of them those who had stood out against the former works of grace.

A great work was also done among the young, many of whom received the grace of God in truth. We have a class of these young converts on trial, till they come of age to be received unto full membership. This class you saw for yourself, and heard them tell their experience, so I need not say more about them but that their walk and conversation become their profession.

Dear Mr. Purves had gone to America before the opening of the chapel, and our present minister, a noble soldier of the cross, was with us at that time, and laboured hard in his Master's service. When our meetings were brought to a close we had sacrament, and during that week our roll of membership had risen from 56 to 103 full members, and what is more, there is only one or two out of that number who cannot take part in a meeting, all of them converted men, and it, can be humbly testified - ascribing all the glory to God - that they are burning and shining lights, and the one that was employed to kindle them was that dear man of God, James Turner; and often yet in our class-meetings is his name mentioned, and the blessed year 1860 referred to, as the time when the work of God, the reign of grace, was inaugurated in the soul, and thanks given to the God of all grace for what He has wrought in individual hearts, and also in our little town since that time.

"James Turner or how to reach the masses," by E McHardie, pages 244-49.

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