Rothesay (1858-1860)

A letter referring to the work of Brownlow North.

"ROTHESAY, Feb. 7th, 1878.

"MY DEAR FRIEND,-I have too long delayed writing to you; but I was anxious before writing to see a few of those who were impressed at the time referred to, and who have maintained a consistent profession, and to get some informa­tion regarding others who have dropped out of my view. One of those referred to in my old letter died several years ago in great hope, indeed I may say in ' the full assurance of hope,' and her sister has held fast her profession, and is still one of our most earnest and consistent Christian workers.

"Mr North's visit to this place was at a very early stage of his evangelistic work; he had then no ' inquiry meetings ' in the now ordinary sense of that expression, nor did he separ­ate those whom he counted ' converts ' from the rest. He was here only for four or five days, and on the second occasion of his addressing the people, seeing some apparently impressed, he asked if I would give him leave to ask any who might wish to speak with him to come next day to my house, where he stayed. I think twenty-four came, and after conversing with them, he gave me their names. Both in private and in his public addresses he very earnestly urged all who felt concern to wait on the regular ministrations of their pastors, and to attend the Bible-classes,

"I remember that a great many came immediately after to my own class, and I believe to classes of the other congre­gations interested. There were also several fellowship and prayer-meetings kept up for a considerable time, especially among the young women, one of these having been in exist­ence before Mr North's visit, but having a larger attendance afterwards.

"Referring to my notes of that period, an interesting and instructive fact has been recalled to my mind. Our Com­munion came on in June, about four months after Mr. North was here, and while I was frequently conversing with those under concern. The great proportion of those impressed pre­ferred to remain back, and comparatively few on that occasion became communicants, although I would have had great pleasure in admitting them. I found that the best of them, after a good deal of emotion and warm feeling, were led after a time to far deeper views of sin and helplessness and a lost condition than they had at first, and were afraid to make a profession of their faith. But the next occasion, in January following, I had, I think, the largest number of young com­municants I have ever had here, and many of these I ad­mitted with the greatest comfort. In June of the following year also I had the same experience. I have kept short notes regarding sixty-two persons who conversed with me in 1858, 1859, under more or less concern. Of many of these I can now find no trace. A considerable number, I grieve to say, went back from their impressions, and some lapsed into open wickedness. But a large proportion turned out well, giving hopeful evidence of a saving change. A few I have attended on their death-beds, and have been cheered by the hope that they have gone to be with Christ. A good many are away from this place, and settled elsewhere; but many are still living here, and are earnest and consistent members of my congregation, some of them being active and earnest workers on the Lord's side.

"I remain, yours affectionately, ROBERT ELDER."

The revival movement in Rothesay continues steadily to advance, and is daily exciting increased interest among all classes of the community.

During the past week a prayer-meeting has been held daily, at half-past two o'clock, lasting for half an hour. This meeting is held on fine days in the open-air, and is attended chiefly by workers in the factories, who give up half of their dinner hour to enable them to be present. On the wet days the meeting has been held in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, the Rev Mr Nelson's. The attendance averages between 300 and 100 and has been daily increasing.

On Monday evening, a very large meeting was held in the Victoria Hall, for the benefit of those especially who had been brought under concern on the previous Sabbath evening. Nearly 1,000 persons were present, the platform and passages of the hall being crowded. The Rev Mr. Webster, town missionary, pre-sided; and the meeting was addressed by the Rev. Mr M'Leish of Methven (officiating here for the Rev. Mr. Balfour), and by Mr Gullan. The services throughout were of the most impressive character, and a deep solemn feeling pervaded the meeting, many of the audience being moved to tears. There were, however, no cases of wild distress, as on Sabbath. The meeting was dismissed at half-past nine, but numbers remained behind, desirous of being spoken to on the subject of their eternal interests.

On the evening of Wednesday, another large meeting was held in the same place, as numerously attended. The Rev. Mr M'Leish presided. The meeting was addressed, among others, by the Kev. Mr. Wilson of Irvine, and by the Rev. Mr. Balfour, who had returned home from a distance on hearing of the work in progress. He adverted to the singular aspect of the movement, which had begun while both he and the Rev. Mr Elder were absent, as if the Lord were saying, "Stand by, and see the salvation of God." After the meeting was dismissed, and while the last of the audience were passing out, a young girl suddenly began to cry out most piercingly. She was taken into the anteroom, and about 50 others in as deep distress immediately came back, several of them young men and lads, and another such scene took place as on Sabbath night. Ministers and laymen, and many young women, were long engaged going about among those affected, administering comfort, and many, it is believed, were brought to thevknowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Towards the close, a gentleman from Glasgow addressed a few kindly words to the distressed.

On Thursday another meeting was held, which was even more crowded. The Rev Mr Webster presided, and the Rev. M Elder, who had returned whenever the news of the movement had reached him, addressed the meeting. The proceedings on this occasion were pre-arranged, and the addresses were particularly directed to converts, and were of the most unexciting character— one cautioning them against all extravagance of conduct, another directing them to the true source of all grace and wisdom, and another to the fruits of the Spirit which must be looked for in every real work of grace. At this meeting, nevertheless, the distress was much wilder than on any previous occasion. Many were stricken down, among others a strong man, and a young woman, who swooned repeatedly. Great difficulty was experienced in inducing those assembled to separate, and the hall was not emptied till past eleven o'clock.

On Saturday evening a meeting was held exclusively for prayer, and was the largest prayer meeting ever held in Rothesay, nearly 800 being present. Several laymen took part in the proceedings, as also the Rev. Mr Smith of Dumbarton. The meeting lasted for only one hour. At the close, upwards of 40 young men remained for the purpose of enrolling themselves as a class for religious instruction.

By spontaneous request, a prayer meeting was held in the mission house on Sabbath morning, from 7 to 8 o'clock. Notwithstanding the early hour the house was filled.

On the evening of Sabbath, an open-air service was held in the Mill Park, where, perhaps, the largest audience that ever assembled in Rothesay was congregated, between 2,000 and 3,000 persons being present. The Rev Mr McGregor of Kirkurd presided and commenced the services by prayer and a short address. Mr Gullan then preached on the parable of the Pharisee and Publican for upwards of an hour, the vast multitude listening attentively to the end.

Meetings are also being held in various parts of the island. On Friday the Rev. Mr M'Gregor, the Rev. Mr Webster, and Mr Gullan addressed a meeting at Port-Bannatyne; and on Sabbath evening a meeting was held at Birgidale, in the interior of the island. 

"The Scottish Guardian," August 1859.

We have received the following account from one who is taking a prominent part in the religious movement at Rothesay:

The Lord's work in Rothesay is, to all appearances, steadily advancing. The great excitement which prevailed the first week is gone, and now the chief feature in all the meetings is a deep solemnity, with marked earnestness and thirsting for the Word.

The daily open-air prayer meeting is increasing in numbers, the largest attendance being 433 on Friday last. Being begun for the special benefit of the working classes, the meeting is not more than twenty to twenty-five minutes in length. It is attended chiefly by factory workers, and as these people do not generally make dinner a regular meal, they can afford to spend twenty minutes, which otherwise could only be done at considerable inconvenience. Some of the young women have remarked, "that they enjoy that meeting so much that they don't feel the afternoons pass now."

Women who hitherto were seldom or never in the habit of attending church, and who had no clothes and no inclination to go anywhere, are now able to muster clean caps, &c., for the occasion, and there they are every day listening with apparently intense interest; and as the song of praise ascends like sweet incense to the Eternal, the windows of the houses surrounding the field are all thrown up, and eager heads put out to listen.


The general prayer meeting held every evening has been changed this week from the Victoria Hall to the East Free Church. At this meeting, too, the interest and earnestness is manifestly increasing. The average attendance is nine hundred. The chair is occupied alternately by ministers and laymen. Singing, prayer, reading the Word, and exhortation form the services, which are all very short, ten minutes being allowed for exhortation and five minutes for each of the other duties. After the meeting (which does not occupy more than an hour) is dismissed, an opportunity is given to anxious souls to be conversed with, and a considerable number generally remain behind.

In many instances the work is very deep. Some, unable to restrain themselves, give vent to their agony in a loud and startling cry for mercy. In the case of others, it is a sad, plaintive, inconsolable wail. In illustration of the above:— At the close of one of the meetings, after all were dispersed, a young woman, in great distress, bemoaning herself, like Ephraim of old, was brought back just as she was leaving the hall. Unable to stand, she sat down on the floor, leaning her head on the lap of a young woman who was pointing her to Him, who gives the weary and heavy-laden rest, she says, "Isn't Jesus able to save you?" "Yes." "Isn't He willing to save you?" " Oh! yes, yes." "Then just look to Jesus." The only answer was the same sad wail. Presently a Christian friend came forward and engaged in prayer for He had but begun when a young woman, standing near, wildly threw her arms in the air, uttering at the same time the most piercing cry for mercy, and fell in a fainting state into the arms of those around. She was soothed by degrees, and both professed to find peace before they left. The simple trust exercised by these young people is beautiful. One young woman, on being spoken to replied—" Oh, yes, I've been an awful sinner; I've been the worst of sinners; I've been a hell-deserving sinner; but i know Jesus died for the chief of sinners and i just trusted Him, and I am very happy." "But are you not afraid lest you should go away back again to the world and your old ways?" "Yes," she answered "but Jesus can keep me. Oh that I could love Him more. I don't love Him half enough."

At the close of the evening prayer meeting on Thursday last, an Irish labourer stood up to tell what the Lord had done for him. He said that before he came over here he went to some of the revival meetings in Ireland, where he became impressed, and after he came here he heard a sermon at the Mill Park that went right to his heart. He could get no rest that night, and went out to a field to pray. He said he found the great load he felt at his heart taken away at one of the meetings since then, and now he thinks he could do anything or give up anything for Jesus. This plain statement made a deep impression on the audience. One person remarked afterwards it made more impression than all the sermons she had heard for some time.

One very cheering feature of the work is the change wrought in young men. A Bible class for young men met last week for the first time and numbered more than sixty, one of whom, when spoken to as they were dismissing, burst into tears, exclaiming, "Oh! I am anxious about my soul, for I have pierced Jesus, I have pierced Jesus!"

Some of these young men who have lately found Christ have commenced a prayer meeting among themselves. The last time they met twelve were present, but we hope this is but the beginning of a great movement among that interesting class of the community.

The decision a number of them have manifested is such as only the Spirit of God could give. They have much ridicule and scorn to bear, but this is just the lot, more or less, of all who truly name the name of Jesus. One young man, after he had given up his heart to Jesus, went home and commenced family worship. Part of the family joined him, but on asking his father to do the same he cursed and swore at him; still he perseveres. another interesting case is that of a little girl, eleven years of age, who, on getting home deeply impressed exclaimed, "O mother, we must have worship!" "But who'll raise the tune?" said the mother. "Oh, you can, mother." The father, who laughed at the whole thing, said, "But who'll pray?" The poor child, silent for a little, but replied at length through her sobs, "I'll try."  

The working men's prayer meeting, held for twenty minutes every morning, beginning at 9.30, is attended, on an average, by 40 to 50 men, who seem, from the evident attention they exhibit, to be much interested in the services, and we look for great good, by the blessing of God, to result from this meeting.

Another pleasing feature of the work is the number of touching petitions handed in for prayer at all our meetings. Sisters for brothers, and brothers for sisters, sons and daughters for their parents, and many anxious ones in darkness, doubt, and distress of mind. One petition on Sabbath evening ran as follows: — "Seven young men anxiously seeking Christ, but who have not found Him, seek to be remembered in prayer." We have also thanksgivings to offer for answers to prayer. On Sabbath morning - a prayer meeting for the outpouring of the Spirit on the services of the day was held in the mission house from seven to eight o'clock, which was quite full, those who came being people of prayer and faith.

In the evening fully three thousand people gathered in the Mill Park, where Mr Gullen preached from John xi. 43,— "Lazarus, come forth," when a deep impression was produced.

"The Scottish Guardian," 9th September 1859.

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