St Kilda (1841)

John Macdonald's several visits culminated in the building of a chapel and the appointment of Neil Mackenzie to the island in 1830. There was very little fruit to his ministry, but by 1838 there was a small group of 16 in the church.

They prayed for revival and then in September 1841, 'the minds of his hearers melted into unusual tenderness, the tears gushing like a fountain. A man told fishermen returning home, 'I believe the Spirit of God was formed upon our congregation tonight.' This was the beginning of the revival. 

At the Communion service a few days later, the whole congregation, 'became strongly excited', and the preacher's voice was drowned out by the crying aloud. 'such a sense of unworthiness was experienced by the members that they could scarcely be induced to approach the table'. 

Going forward, 'Every night someone was pricked in the heart and constrained to cry out and sometimes several whom we thought had been already saved were among the most distressed.' The people wanted to go away to s place of solitude to meet with God. They wanted 'to steal away at night to get a retired spot to pray is deemed a luxury; scarcely a wall, old building, a large stone that is not made a place of prayer'. The community was transformed.

Regarding the manifestations of the revival, 'At first one noticed a movement of the hands like of one drowning, while the breathing got quicker and more laborious and if they were women it often ended in their fainting... At times the scene was most distressing. Here there would be a strong man on a seat supported by two friends; there, others rolling in the dust on the floor and perhaps one or two being carried out fainting'. With an almost superhuman voice, they would exclaim, 'I have found Him whom my soul loveth', or similar refrain. Once or twice Mackenzie heard them petitioning the Almighty to take them at once to Himself rather than allow them to remain and sin again. 'To give a realistic or complete view of the scene is beyond my power.' 'Often, when perfectly exhausted I would go home, get something to eat and after an earnest prayer for guidance, return and speak again till I could speak no more and yet fail to satisfy their longing to hear the Word.'

Perhaps the most striking change in the islanders was their confessing openly their former sins. Any injury or deception of their neighbours, even up to forty years before, was now immediately acknowledged and they did not rest till they made restitution, although the offence itself was not known or even suspected by the person against whom it was committed. 'Envy, cunning, theft, uncleaness, Sabbath-breaking, excessive talking, and irritability of temper breaking out on every trifling occasion into violent rage', all disappeared. 

'The feelings - the morals - the habits and the manners of the people seem to have undergone a most complete and happy change. Their sole delight is now in religious exercises and in secret communion with their God - they are more industrious in their habits, more quiet and orderly in their manner and more kindly and affectionate towards each other.' 

Mackenzie left the island abruptly in 1844 - worn out. 

'The Life of Rev Neil Mackenzie', by Mackenzie.

Thanks to Tom Lennie's 'Land of Many Revivals', pages 414-421.



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