BY THE REV. A. GRAY, A.M.
THE first token for good among my people was the unusually large attendance at our May communion and the deep earnestness of the audience. God was evidently near. On the Monday following nearly all were in tears, under an address given by a brother minister, in which he gave an account of the revival at Ballymena. A number of the recent converts from a distance also addressed a neighbouring congregation, and not a few were greatly awakened.
The first of these I met was an intelligent Sabbath-school teacher. He was rejoicing in Christ, and with a joy so exuberant that he rushed into my arms, and clasped me to his bosom, exclaiming, "Happy, happy, happy! Oh, I have found the Lord!" One and another of the converts hastened to see me. Accompanied by these rejoicing ones, I went to visit a girl labouring under conviction. She was stretched upon a bed—her chest heaving—her heart palpitating, and her eyes closed. Her lips were moving. I stooped down to listen, and her constant, feeble, and scarcely- audible utterance was, "Save me, Lord Jesus! save me! Come, Saviour! dear Saviour, come ! Come quickly; why tarriest Thou?" Again and again was this prayer repeated, as it had been for some thirty-six hours previous to my visit.
I asked her, before leaving, had she not found peace? "Not yet, not yet," was her reply. "Do you despair of your salvation?" Oh, no oh, no! I know He will come" was her quick response; and then again, piteously, she cried out, "Come, dear Saviour! only Saviour, come ! and take away this heavy load of sin !" About the beginning of June, I visited a scene of striking awakening in a village called Bellaghy, in the county of Derry, where I began my own ministry. I knew the place well. It formerly was degraded and godless. A complete change had taken place in its moral and religious aspect.
I visited its nightly prayer-meeting and was much affected. Under a simple message of gospel truth, I heard the loud shriek from every part of the church, proceeding from those pierced by arrows of conviction. The cries for mercy were loud, piercing, and earnest. I heard a boy— almost a lisping child—pray as I never heard boy pray before. He made me the subject of his burning petitions in the following language: —" 0 Lord, I thank Thee that Thou hast guided the feet of Thy servant, the strange minister present, to this neighbourhood, that he may see Thy mighty doings in our midst. Baptize him, 0 loving and blessed Saviour, this night with Thy Spirit; or if already Thine by regeneration and adoption, oh, baptize him afresh, and send him home to his people, to pray and labour for their souls as he never did before."
The result of this visit to my own soul I forbear to mention. Suffice to say, that I was prepared as readily to deny my own existence, as to deny that the work was of God. Before leaving, I expressed myself to the minister of the place in the following language:—" I have never breathed so pure, so holy an atmosphere as that of this village. Bellaghy, an angel has been here since last I walked your streets—the Angel of the everlasting covenant, slaying with the sword of conviction some in almost every dwelling."
No language could express my impatience till I got home and announced our first regular revival service. I felt confident the blessing would now descend in plenteous drops upon my flock. At our first meeting, the church was crowded. A Roman Catholic boy was stricken at this service. As he was carried out of the church, his cries seemed to reach every heart. That night was a night of much prayer throughout our bounds.
At our next meeting, nine souls were visited. Then, as many as thirty in a night. Once and again the spring-tide of heavenly influence seemed to have ebbed, but only, as it were, to gather fresh force. In the church, in the fields, by their own firesides, on their beds, in the market-place, around the family altar, arrows of conviction found a lodgment in the hearts of multitudes. The child of seven years old, the hoary-headed sinner, the robust youth, the maid-servant with her mistress, the master and his man, have been alike the subjects of the Spirit's power. I have seen nine souls in one dwelling crying to the Lord for pardoning grace. Often have we had to stop the service, the wail of distressed souls being so great that the speaker could not be heard. Night after night the floor of the schoolroom attached to our church has been strewn with" stricken " ones, like so many corpses. Groups of men and women scattered over the graveyard and, in the centre of each, a soul either rejoicing or crying for mercy, has been a happy sight I have often witnessed. Our burial-ground has often resembled a battle-field covered with bodies, cut down by the sword of the Spirit and, truly, it was affecting to hear them in the darkness of night, crying out of the depths of still greater darkness for the day-spring from on high to visit them.
I shall give a few details of my pastoral work during this striking time.
One night. after witnessing the birth-pangs of a young and respectable female in the graveyard of my church, when the sun had arisen upon the dark world before the Sun of righteousness shone in upon her dark soul, I retired to rest, but had not got asleep when a knock was heard at the manse door. It was another soul in distress. I left immediately on my mission of consolation; on a bed, in an adjacent farmhouse, a strong young man was lying powerless as an infant. I durst not disturb the close intercourse of his soul with its Maker by uttering a word. He prayed—" 0 celestial Spirit, alight upon my troubled soul! 0 Jesus, only Saviour of sinners, drop one drop of Thy precious blood upon my guilty stains, and wash them all away? But why should I fear? the Lord is my strong tower and place of defence; I shall not be moved though a thousand times ten thousand enemies encompass my head and my pillow."
I next entered the house of' a respectable married female who had been stricken. Whilst praying with her, her husband fell by my side, as if pierced by a gunshot, exclaiming, "0 blessed Saviour of the world, this day is salvation brought to my house!" Calling upon a member of the Society of Friends, I found that all the family, with one exception, had been visited by the gracious Spirit, and were happy in the consciousness of a Saviour's love.
Another, a Roman Catholic woman, was crying out with inexpressible agony, " Oh, this heavy, heavy burden of sin; it is too great for me to ear! Lord Jesus, remove it! It is sinking me down, clown! Oh, remove it, blessed Saviour —remove it speedily, or I perish! Oh, this mountain load of guilt! Oh, guilty, guilty sinner that I am!"
I found another awakened one upon his bed, his burden quite gone, and his soul filled with joy. After clasping me in his arms he held up the Bible, exclaiming, "Oh, precious, precious Book! I have found you sweeter to my taste than honey from the honeycomb. I now know that God is a faithful promiser. He has here promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. I asked and I received; blessed, blessed be His holy name." Thus was many a laborious but happy day spent—days which I will ever regard as "days of heaven upon earth."
There were many very striking cases of conversion. One thus gave his experience:—" I never spoke one word in a religious meeting in my life, but the Lord Jesus Christ has done much for me, and if anything I can say will serve His cause, I am bound to say it. I am no scholar; I cannot read a word. I have been a very wild-living man — a cardplayer, a whisky-drinker, a profane swearer, and even worse. On Monday night last I was sitting up for my wife, awaiting her return from the prayer-meeting. A strange feeling of sinfulness came over me; I felt I should pray—a thing which I seldom or never did. While engaged in prayer, the earth seemed to open its mouth to swallow me up. I saw the flames and smoke of the pit as if rising up around me. I prayed the Lord to have mercy upon my poor soul. I did not find peace at the time, having no clear idea of the plan of salvation even in theory. So soon, however, as I recovered my bodily strength, I ran out and awoke my neighbours, calling upon them to flee from the wrath to come.' I hope I can now say with well-grounded confidence, that I have taken Jesus to be my Saviour, and in Him only do I trust." This man has been admitted to church-fellowship. Lately a proverb in the neighbourhood for profane swearing, he is now taking an active part in the local prayer-meeting of his district, to the wonder and astonishment of all who knew him, and to none more so than himself.
Another said,—" I am now upwards of seventy years of age. Up till June last, I had not been in a house of worship for eleven years. I had grown completely careless, living without God and without hope in the world. I attended one or two of the prayer-meetings, but did not feel at all impressed; I was rather more hardened and ceased to attend. On Tuesday last, in my own field, an overwhelming sense of sinfulness came over me. I thought the entire valley around was covered with herds of cattle. The Lord stood, as it were, in my path, and, pointing to them, said, All these are mine; why will you .rebel against the Lord of the whole earth?' I was carried into my house, and there remained calling upon God for twenty-four hours unceasingly, before I could cast myself upon the sufficiency of the atonement."'
Another of these cases was very striking. "I was," said she, "a Roman Catholic, and so bigoted, that I looked to the other side of the road when passing a Protestant house of worship. I would have put on the fire with my own hands, in which I would have suffered myself to be burnt to death for my Church. Up till the time I was visited by the Holy Spirit, I had not been at a prayer- meeting or preaching of any kind; I never spoke to any of the converts, nor had I any conversation about the revival.'
"I was weeding in .the fields in July last, when a load of guilt pressed so heavy upon me as to crush me to the earth. I saw Satan coming to bind me with a massive iron chain; but the Lord Jesus Christ came and delivered me out of his hands. My master, attracted by my cries, came and carried me into the house. When I recovered my strength, I resolved on going to the priest to tell him what had occurred, believing that he could explain the mystery; my faith in the priest was still very strong. Immediately I was stricken a second time, and then all my sins rose up like a mountain before me, and, to my great astonishment, the sins I had confessed to the priest, and which I thought were forgiven, rose up with all the others. When I got a little better, I again determined on going to the priest to ask his counsel. Again was I prostrated. This time I fancied I was on my way to the chapel, when suddenly the road began to expand till it became as broad as a field, and I heard a voice saying, 'Broad is the road that leadeth to destruction.' Nothing intimidated by the voice, I proceeded towards the chapel, and when I got in sight of it, I wept tears of joy. But, alas! a mighty flood rose up and cut the road in two, I looked to see if there was any bridge or ford by which I might cross. There was none. The waves rolled mountains high. A tall angel sat against them, beckoning me to look in a certain direction. I looked, and lo! a narrow way, all uphill, lined with angels on either side; and the same voice that cried, Broad is the road that leadeth to destruction,' now cried out, That is the way; walk you in it.
This girl was lately admitted to the Lord's table. We ascertained that the object of her faith was the Lord Jesus Christ alone and that she was trusting only to the efficacy of His blood for the pardon of her sins. Christ, not the vision, broad is the road that leadeth to destruction," narrow is the way that leadeth to life everlasting," and these scriptures, long since forgotten, were now so stamped upon her mind, that they became converted into, as it were a tangible reality and that, " was the ground of her confidence. It appears to me a very simple thing to account for this girl's vision. Doubtless, she had at some time or other heard that, "
In conclusion. A great and glorious change has passed over this locality. Prayer-meetings are held nightly throughout our bounds. In many of the townlands, without any suggestion from me, young and old meet together, before proceeding to the sanctuary on the Sabbath, to plead for a blessing on the services of the day. Throughout the entire harvest season our attendance suffered no diminution, nor did the interest in the least seem to abate. While the reapers were cutting down the golden grain, the Lord Jesus Christ was securing a still richer harvest, gathering sheaves into the Church on earth that will, I am persuaded, be one day gathered into the granary of heaven. Almost the entire population seemed to be making the care of the soul, what God has designed it to be, the great business of their existence here. I have not seen a person under the influence of drink since the month of June. I have not heard a profane word, or even an idle jest uttered. The Orange lodges have been converted into prayer-meetings, and a cup of tea is their only beverage.
Such is my testimony in favour of the great movement. I lay it as a tribute of grateful acknowledgement at the feet of Jesus. May the Spirit bless it! Amen.