BY H. W. CARSON, D.D.
THE Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. Many who have been edified, now walk in the fear of the Lord and comfort of the Holy Ghost.
About the time of the quarterly communion, in August 1859, a brokenness of heart and tenderness of conscience gave unmistakable evidence of an unseen power at work to which we were hitherto strangers. Then did our hearts burn within us, and many, with the life and love of a heaven- born spirit, exclaimed, " Of a truth, God is in this place, and I knew it not." In the house and by the way-side people ceased not to speak one to another. Prayer-meetings spontaneously sprang up. In a distance of three square miles, no less than nine were originated by the people themselves, and have been conducted by them to the present time, with, if possible, increasing energy, and a lively manifestation of spiritual life and love truly refreshing to every child of God. The house of God was honoured. However protracted the services, the attention never flagged. Nay, the appetite for Divine things seemed still unsatisfied—wondrous change ! We felt ourselves, as we never felt before, filled with a lightness, and fervour, and fluency. His service was indeed our delight, and preacher and people alike enjoyed their truest happiness.
Instances of strong mental excitement, with its corresponding influence on the body, occasionally occurred, and, however lamented by the sentimentalist, or laughed at by the profane, sooner or later ended in that troubled soul " resting on the Rock of ages." Would that heartless ones could, but for one moment, know the love of God, as these, in time, enjoyed it. "Blessed times," said a quiet, sober-minded, middle-aged farmer to me; "I never had, or expected such content on earth. I have plenty of stock, and a farm for each of my children, Yet none of us were thankful. Now the house wears another look. My children are modest—gentle to me, and one another, and kindly. I get everything done cheerfully." A grown-up young man had been stricken. Having received the testimony of God's Word respecting Jesus, he felt he was saved from his sins, and was full of peace. He was blessed with a most edifying gift of prayer, and was distinguished by a meek and quiet spirit. When he walked along the road he was pointed at and jeered. His case was singular, and his trials became severe. "Are you intimidated?" said I. " Oh, dear, no. One glimpse of Jesus, one taste of His love, more than compensates for all the crosses and reproaches of the longest life."
My attention had for some time been turned to the case of a young woman who was very anxious and distressed. I had not an opportunity of talking with her in private, till a messenger came to tell me that she was in deep distress, and wished me to go and pray with her. I was just about to enter the pulpit for the Sabbath-day services, and had not time to reply, before her cries for mercy were heard, and attracted the congregation—looking out of the window, she was there, indeed, on bended knees, with clasped hands and uplifted eyes, by her mother's grave. As I approached, never did I hear such heart-rending supplications, never so fully feel my own utter helplessness and the fearful responsibility of my mission. "God be merciful unto us, and bless us, and shew us thy way," I involuntarily breathed. "Sing for me," she said, "the 40th Psalm, and let all join." In that open graveyard, we sung with a fervour and a feeling I cannot now describe. After a little, she said, "This is no sudden sorrow. For months a heavy crushing load has pressed on me. I had no heart for anything. I felt my sin and loathed it. My soul was awakened, and I lived in continual terror. I could neither cry nor pray. My only hope was, My times are in God's hands.' Coming here this morning, as usual, waiting," expecting,' I felt an irresistible impulse to fall on my knees on the roadside. I asked strength to reach this spot. God has heard me. I begin to feel my burthen lessened, to live in light. To what do I owe it? that one line brought to my soul as it never was before, The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.' 0 precious Sin-bearer, Thou art, indeed, peace for the troubled, rest for the weary, life for the dead! "For a time her soul vibrated between hope and fear; at length it firmly rested on the Rock of her salvation, and she told me, "All is peace," and so her quiet, happy spirit lives and loves, kept day by day in the love of God and the patient waiting for Christ.
A meeting for prayer had been announced in a district proverbial for Sabbath desecration, worldly heartlessness, and utter forgetfulness of God. Contrary to expectations many came. The individual in whose house we met, though long absent from the means of grace, seemed thoughtful ; from the first a good spirit pervaded all, and we soon enjoyed a felt sense of God's nearness. A subdued seriousness, softening, brokenness of heart, followed by individual wrestlings, agonising with God in prayer, took hold of the people, whose case I supposed, in my unbelief, was hopeless. And now, at this very day, over that district of sixteen or seventeen houses, there is not one it — it strengthens me to read it."without daily prayer and praise, and souls more or less renovated by Divine grace and refreshed by Divine love. "I like the Bible now," said one; " because I understand it--- it strengthens me to read it."
"I can't tell how it is," said another; "but there is even a change in the people's looks; we all love one another, and never tire of praying together."
One evening our weekly prayer-meeting in the church was prolonged beyond the usual time by the case of a young woman brought under conviction of sin and anxiety for her soul. Her bodily strength seemed so paralysed, and her soul so wrapt up in spiritual exercises, that she could not be removed without assistance. Her father was sent for to conduct her home. A tall, robust man, of great muscular strength, in the vigour of life, travelling alone in his conveyance in the silence of the night, lie was impressed. In deep alarm, he seemed to hang over a deep, yawning, bottomless pit. "Lord have mercy on my poor soul!" he cried out on the public road. Far and near the words were carried on the stillness of the summer night. Again and again the same cry was heard, in piercing and piteous tones. Had a thunderbolt from heaven fallen, it could not more powerfully have heralded the work of God. A bigoted Romanist said to myself a few days after, "I now know what you are about. It's good. Nobody will ever hear me or mine meddle with it. In my bed I listened, and heard, whether I would or not; and, God help us! sure that's what everyone ought to be at." Truly, God works in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform!
A. man of quiet, unobtrusive habits, but industrious and energetic in his calling, well-known and highly esteemed for integrity and truth, attended the market of a neighbouring town. Under his accustomed calm exterior he transacted his business with a troubled, weary spirit. Conscience had been at work. Sin was loathed, and the mercy of God in Christ seen in surpassing grandeur and attractiveness. Returning on a public car, he could no longer conceal the pent-up feelings of his soul. The levity of his fellow-travellers was hushed. The attention of this house and the other by the way-side was riveted. The man was known, esteemed, beloved. "God help me I" said one, "when such a well-to-do man is crying for mercy." One and another called to see him. He passed a weary, troubled night, and still sin hung heavy. The great part of the next day was cheerless. The first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans was read; the method of a sinner's justification was dwelt on and appropriated. The wound was healed. All was peace now—the peace of God, that passeth understanding. In a few days the Saviour revealed Himself in equal tenderness to his wife, then to his servant; and her father, who was sent for, was led also to cry out," What must I do to be saved?” The man was liked before, but he was doubly attractive now. The effect upon all around was very great. There was now a church in their house. I was asked to come and address them; and never did I meet with a happier company, men, women, and children, all filled with the ardour of their first love to Jesus, and tenderest feeling for one another. Eternity alone can tell what good this one man, a single instance of the great revival, hath done.
Society generally wears a new look. Our people have, almost without exception, escaped the humiliating slavery of old drinking habits; and this change in them is the more striking when placed in contrast with the conduct of those who have superstitiously stood aloof from our meetings. We have lived to witness the "treat" remembered with a feeling of honest shame, and again and again have heard the social glass and pleasures of the whisky-table spoken of with positive disgust. A whisky-trader told me he used to " take £5 on a fair-day," and latterly had only a few shillings, and has since renounced the trade; another house, in which whisky has been sold for one hundred and fifty years, surrendered its licence some weeks ago, and, hard by the place, a hi-weekly prayer-meeting, convening upwards of one hundred of attendance, is zealously and lovingly conducted by the young men of the locality.
Party spirit, so much at variance with the genius of our holy religion, and yet so difficult and often dangerous for the minister of the gospel to interfere with, has happily given way to a tenderness and loving fear of giving offence, that has done more to subdue old prejudices and surrender old birthrights, than years of edicts and folios of enactments. There is now a holy brotherhood in Jesus found closer and more enduring, because holier than anything of earth and men seem anxious to know nothing, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. This is not the spirit of Antichrist,—" by their fruits ye shall know them." Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Blessed be God! our hearts no longer faint, our hands no longer hang down. We speak what we have seen and gladly testify to the power of Divine grace, and the glorious gospel of our living Lord. Were we to hold our peace, the very houses of our people, the fields and wayside would testify against us. Yet we look only on the earnest of the future. We have seen great things—still greater are at hand. The angel whom John saw fly through heaven, having the everlasting gospel to reveal to them that dwell on earth, has evidently begun his flight. "Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!"
From ‘Authentic Records of Revival, now in progress in the United Kingdom, published in 1860, re-printed and edited in 1980 by Richard Owen Roberts.
Steadily and savingly the work of God progresses. Never before have we realised the force of the Scripture truth, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." For some time past, the weekly prayer-meetings in this neighbourhood have been largely attended, and a marked seriousness manifested. The late visit of Mr Moore, of Ballymena, had Mrproduced a solemn thoughtfulness and anxiety to hear, Finch as we never before witnessed, reaching even very many of other religious denominations. Praise be to God, we have now to record tokens of Almighty power in blessings, whose magnitude eternity alone can make known. Last Thursday was the usual day of humiliation before the quarterly communion in the First Presbyterian Congregation, Keady, when the Rev. Jackson Smyth, of Armagh, preached with great power and feeling on the “Great Salvation." The people heard as for eternity, and when the services were over seemed as loath to leave. A public meeting had been announced for six o'clock the same evening. Long before the appointed time, multitudes were thronging to the house of prayer, and at the hour of meeting every available portion of the large church was filled; upwards of a thousand people within and around the doors. The services were opened with prayer and praise by Dr Carson. The Rev. Wm. Henderson, of Armagh, then addressed the people from the words. "God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope," earnestly dwelling on the experimental religion of the great apostle, and urging everyone to know the Lord Jesus Christ, which is "our hope." As he spoke we felt to be more and more "of one mind." Real faith was at work; an unseen Hand directed the arrows of conviction, and at once several, in the most piteous and piercing cries, gave vent to their overburdened hearts. "My sins; my sins!" "My heart!" "Oh, how hateful!" "Oh, mercy, mercy!" We felt as we never felt before. Of a truth, we said, God is in this place— Spirit of the Living God! One such visit leads more into the knowledge of "all truth" than the most laboured productions of the most accomplished minds. "We thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou Last hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." Jehovah was in our midst; and as we heard the minister of the place express his solemn feelings, we are persuaded he then reaped a richer reward for twenty years' ministerial life, than if he had been presented with an earthly crown. The regular order of proceedings was discontinued, and in groups here and there Christian friends, by reading the Scriptures, prayer, and praise, ministered to sin-sick souls. Several others were removed to houses around, with salvation on their lips; and next morning we heard of many more who had passed a sleepless night still in agony, enduring all the bitterness of a sense of unforgiven sin. We cannot omit mentioning the case of one young man, whose cries were loud and long-continued, having through the night found peace, on hearing in the morning of an acquaintance brought under conviction, stealing away to offer his sympathy and speak of Jesus. Surely, in such amongst us, Jesus sees the travail of his soul and is satisfied. To sovereign grace be all the praise. As the wind comes and goes, and no one can tell whence or where, so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Let us cease from man, and, in child-like weakness, learn, at last, to hang on the Saviour, constant in prayer, giving the God of Israel no rest, till He arise and make Jerusalem a praise and a joy in the whole earth.
From ‘The Revival Newspaper,’ Volume i, p27 Aug 20th 1859.
This was called the First Presbyterian Church.