Yell - Shetlands (1863)

There was a large attendance upon the morning services in the Independent chapel and upon the evening services in the United Presbyterian Church on Monday. These services are chiefly devotional, yet the number of enquiries was not diminished. These enquiries are of all ages and from the state of the population are generally females. We observed three cases of great spiritual distress, while a good many other cases disclosed the deepest contrition. Some were present to offer thanks to God for their deliverance from the power of sin and to bless their dear Saviour for the peace they enjoyed.

The Tuesday morning meeting was well attended and several enquirers remained for conversation with the Brethren. The Wednesday morning meeting was about the average and several young persons remained with Dr Craig at the close of the public exercises. The evening meeting was all that could be desired for numbers and solemnity. A good many persons waited after the public services for special prayer and the list of enquiriers at the close was considerable. It is exceedingly pleasing to see the young taking a deep interest in these sacred services, especially since one pastor has thought fit to warn them against attending such meetings. It is certainly deplorable to find Christian men and ministers of religion speaking lightly of and acting coldly towards a movement so obviously of God and glorifying to God.

The number of requests for prayer which are continuing to be presented at the meetings is great and present in a strong light the conviction felt of the power with which prayer is accompanied. It has prevailed in time past and is prevailing beyond all question here now.

The morning meeting for special prayer on Thursday was well attended. The open-air meeting at the Market Cross at 3 o'clock, not withstanding the high wind and cold, was very large and the demand for tracts at the close was such as to make anything like an orderly distribution impossible. The private meeting in Barnet Lane was crammed to the door and the evening meeting at the church was about the same as former occasions. There seemed to be more than the usual average of men present and a few from country District's formed part of the large audience. The interest in these divine meetings remains unabated. The presence of the Divine Spirit is felt to be near. Saints are refreshed ad animated and sinners are melted and humbled low at the cross.

Among the layman, there is a move for continuing these solemn meetings after the departure of Our disinterested and devoted friends. No cordial cooperation is to be looked for, however, among the teaching elders of the church and it will be impracticable for the two ministers, whose entire sympathy is with the movement and whose aid has been given to the leaders of it in a variety of ways, to carry it on alone. Therefore, the move made by the laymen of the Presbyterians and independent connections is one which cannot fail to enjoy the blessings of heaven. For their direction the friends of Jesus here, and we trust elsewhere, will not cease to pray and the prayer of faith will be heard and answered. Still, the visit of some other friends from the south is anxiously to be wished, to consolidate the movement and confirm the faith of those who may require the help and influence of the living voice, while a more extensive tour through the islands would not fail to be stimulating and blessed to all classes of our people. 

On Friday the meeting is continued with unabated interest. In the evening Mr Fraser gave one of the most searching address we have ever listened to. At the close, a goodly number of persons, young and old, waited for a conversation. 

From, 'The Revivalist', Volume via, December 4th 1862.

This work (as mentioned above) continued for many months until the spring of 1863, spreading from the town to the rural district. There was some extravagance at first, but this slowly gave way to more profitable procedure. 

in March 1863 the interest in the great and good work was increasing every week and extending more widely in every direction. Whatever doubts existed regarding the character of the awakening when it began were entirely removed after its extensive diffusion through Mainland. By the summer of 1863 the other islands of Unst, Fetlar and Yell were affected and in the tiny island of Foula more than half the population of 280 was converted. With regard to the perseverance of Shetland converts, in three parishes under observation, "not one of them whom we regard as the children of God had fallen into sin or turned to their former ways".

From, "The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain" by J Edwin Orr, page 69. "The Revival", 12 February 1863.

July 1 - Since I last wrote a great and glorious work has been and is going on in this island (Unst). Revival is going on east and west, north and south. Three or four times the large Presbyterian Church has been occupied to contain the people. A minister from the south came here, and the Lord has blessed his labour; he has paid no respect to sects and has preached in every church. Last night three ministers are in a chapel (Haroldswick), but soon both chapels had to be taken to hold the people. I have no hesitation to say that very many sound conversions have been on the island in a few weeks. Glory be to God. Last Sabbath night in a chapel here, strong men were broken down, and on their knees before the Lord with streaming eyes were seeking Jesus. One minister was at Yell, but “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” I have been much worn out as most nights, the natural daylight had come in before we parted and then the day's toil.

July 22 - Since I last wrote, I have been very ill. Repeated changes from hot to cold at last took effect on my system for about two weeks I have been laid aside. The work of the Lord is still going on gloriously. Fetlar also, and Yell have caught the flame. Our minister was at Fetlar last Sabbath and I made an effort to get to chapel on Sunday evening. What a precious time – many anxious ones, men and women; but to hear the power and liberty with which some young men prayed in public quite made me weep for Joy. Those I refer to are converts.  I always write of a revival with trembling lest I give not God the glory, but He knows it is in my heart to do this. Praise His name!

"The Revival," August 13th, 1863.

It is matter for continued prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God that these distant islands of the sea continue to be the theatre where the Spirit of the Lord is plying his great power in the convincing and converting of many a precious soul.

In many districts and parishes of these islands the Lord is evidently making bare his holy arm and saving, not one here and there, but entire households. Truly the solitary place is being made glad, and the desert of man's depraved nature is blossoming like the rose. The blessed Jesus is indeed seeing in the sons and daughters of those interesting isles of the sea of the travail of his soul, and being satisfied. For the peace of believing is flowing in many a soul like a river, and the assured imputed righteousness of Jesus like the waves of the sea.

Shetland owes much to the Lord for this heavenly state of affairs, and to pious labourers in her own midst, but much also to those devoted servants of God from the south who, from time to time, have visited her shores - men with burning zeal for God's glory and the happiness of immortal souls - servants of the Lord of the primitive stamp, careless of fatigue and bodily comfort seeking no man's silver and gold, prompted by no selfish motive, desiring no personal aggrandisement nor sectarian extension, seeking to know nothing among the people save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; from island to island, from mansion to hovel, calling upon all men everywhere to repent, to cling for salvation to the Cross of Christ, or perish, looking for salvation away from every deadly doing to the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners of all conditions. No wonder that the labours of these men were and are blessed, and so many souls saved, especially when the seed of the kingdom they are sowing in such purity is watered by the prayers of thousands at home and abroad. What should prevent refreshing seasons from the presence of the Lord to come on Shetland even to a greater extent? It is infidelity not to look for it, sinful not to expect it.

It would have been a more blessed time for Shetland had all the ministers received these good men with open arms, thrown open their churches, and so helped on the cause. Such is the case in several parishes, and the happy fruits have followed. The church has been revived and built up. Ministers' and people's hearts have been more and more knit together in love, and Christ has been honoured. But in other parishes ministers, with a blind delusion, have discountenanced the heavenly movement; churches are kept shut against its promoters, and the noted hospitality of the Manse has been withheld. The
natural consequence follows: the church suffers, and religion languishes; for as in the days of Jeremiah, so now, pastors are to be found who scatter the sheep, visit and feed them not, and thus drive them away. The woe is even begun. Empty pews, cold and heartless worship, already declare it. 

It is difficult, without memoranda, to mention the several evangelists and ministers who have visited Shetland for the past several years, as promoters of the Revival movement; and as to the amount of good that has been done by each and by all, the judgement day will only declare and a glorious revelation it will be. But amongst those whose labours more evidently appeared blessed are Messrs Fraser and M'Intosh, Dr Craig, and Mr Adam of Edinburgh. These entered fully into the work, and were for some time labouring. The colporteur, Mr Sloan, did much good, especially the first year of his labours and not a few souls were blessed through him. The Rev. Mr Reid and his co-labourer, Mr M'Kay, did not visit Shetland in vain and had they not continued their stay a week or two longer, the Lord's work would have prospered to a greater extent. And last but not least, the Rev Professor Martin of Aberdeen; his visit was a blessing to many, even to some who heard him not, by strengthening the weak hands and confirming the feeble knees of many, even belonging to his own church, who had given their hearts to the Lord, but were receiving little sympathy from those above them, who ought to have been the foremost in blessing God for the great change evidently wrought. This learned servant of God, by his piety, zeal for the good cause, humility and Christian liberality, has endeared himself to every child of God in Shetland coming in contact with him, regardless of church or creed. May he soon visit these shores again in all the fullness of the blessings of the gospel of Christ.

The work of the Lord seems to be receiving a fresh impetus by the labours of good Mr Adam, evangelist from Aberdeen. Nothing short of a general revival has taken place in several parishes. Since his visit to Shetland on this occasion, he has laboured in Whalsay, Skerries, Fetlar, Yell, Lunnasting: Delting, Whitness, and Weesdale, and Nesting, and his labours have been more or less blessed.

But Yell, Whitness, Weesdale and Nesting, are the parishes more remarkably blessed, where every place was crowded to excess with souls thirsting for the word of life. In Yell the work was greatly promoted by the noble examples of the parish ministers giving freely their churches and setting every good example. Glorious fruits followed; souls were brought to the Lord not a few. At one place the people met in a little chapel, which was densely crowded. The Established church was near but had not been offered. A young man went and asked it: the good minister at once granted it, and showed every kindness to the evangelist. The church was crowded, and many souls brought to the Saviour. The front pews were filled with anxious ones seeking for peace.

At Whitness and Weesdale, the Established and Free Kirks were at one thrown open, a great work was done in both districts. As many as eighty souls were in one evening anxiously thirsting for salvation. The front pews were cleared for the anxious, so that they might be spoken to individually; and it was a soul-stirring sight to see converted fathers leading forth anxious children, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, brothers their sisters, and sisters their brothers. The Spirit of the Lord was moving noiselessly but mightily that night, and few stout hearts could withstand. A stirring event transpired. A man about fifty years, and the respectable head of a numerous family, feeling the Spirits power, got to his feet and craved permission to speak, which was readily granted. Waving his hat he said, "Men, and women, and neighbours, you all know me; I am a sinner, but I shall be so no longer. Follow me, come to the Cross with me this night, for I am going.' The humble but earnest appeal told very much; stout hearts gave way, and not a few came forward. Soon a number, with the stamp of heaven's peace on their countenances, were enabled to declare before all, the good their souls had received, the peace they enjoyed.

In Nesting the work was equally great and interesting. A remarkable circumstance occurred, showing the strange working of the Spirit. A meeting one day was held in a dwelling-house, of which a young man, dumb and deaf, was a member. He had been present at the meeting, where a number were anxious. No change was noticed on the dumb lad - such a thing was not thought of, but after the meeting was over, in evident agitation of soul, he came forward and threw himself down at the side of
the speaker. Mr Adam began to speak to him, thinking he could hear him, and not knowing his physical incapacity. Seeing this, he took him to his bosom, and all joined in prayer for the poor anxious lad. The Lord was indeed gracious. He rose from his knees, pointed to the skies and with a countenance beaming with joy he gave signs of the joy he felt. He attended the meetings and strangely, on one occasion, when the people were much stirred by the fervent and earnest preaching of the word, tears coursed over this dumb and deaf Christian lad's face as if the Spirit was holding intercourse with his soul. May we  look on and adore!

 A happy, characteristic of this movement is the entire absence of undue excitement, not one case of screaming or falling down, but many tears are seen at every meeting. Most interesting it is to see wherever the movement is, such a large proportion of men and lads among the anxious. It seems as if the Spirit of the Lord was acting like fire and a hammer; stout hearts are subdued and hard ones melted. Where the word of God fell without effect before, now it is received with gladness, and tearful eyes are seen on every side. It is cheering in the extreme to see stout fishermen and sailors, old men and old women, and young women and children earnestly seeking the way to Zion and careless of all wicked comments, thronging the seats of the anxious. Oh! may the knowledge of the Lord increase till these distant isles of the sea be as the garden of the Lord.

Mr Adam goes to labour in an island on the west coast of Shetland, called Papa Stour. May the Spirit's presence go before him and work very mightily there. It would be wise in the good Christians who have sent him to Shetland to continue him some time; and while the Spirit of the Lord is moving so remarkably on the hearts of the people, more labourers should come into the field. Come over and help us, is the cry from Shetland just now. Lord, strengthen those who come. Use the many whom the Lord has stirred up so much; may they be enabled to go onward.

"The Revival," January 12th, 1865.

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