Revival in Scotland 1859-61

Revival in Scotland 1859

It is my intention to give a brief outline of the substantial 1859 revival in Scotland.

This revival was not as big as in Ireland and Wales, but it was still substantial in Scotland. Sadly the revival never really got going in England. You can read more about the revival under the biographies of Brownlow North, Reginald Radcliffe and Richard Weaver; also I have attached to the relevant towns the reports written up in the ‘Revival’ newspaper. This newspaper published letters from ministers and individuals all over the UK on the revival in their area.

In 1857 Jeremiah Lamphier was about forty years old and acting as a missionary for the North Dutch Church in New York City. He had a passion to see people get converted and he used to hand out pamphlets and preach to this end, without much success. While walking the streets of New York the idea came to him to start a prayer meeting between mid-day and one o’clock at the North Dutch Church in Fulton Street, as that was the time that businessmen had off for lunch. The idea was to sing, pray, testify or do whatever was appropriate in that time, people being free to come and go as they pleased within that time period. The activities within the meeting were to be short and to the point; no one was allowed to speak for more than five minutes.

The first meeting was on September 23rd however, nobody showed up for the first half hour, so Lamphier prayed on his own. Then one or two people arrived. At the second meeting twenty people were present. Lamphier was praying for more people and would tell people about the meeting as he went about his mission in the streets. The following week there were between thirty and forty and the meeting went so well that he decided to meet the following day. Because of the increasing numbers attending the meeting was moved to a larger room in the church. Lamphier’s diary records, “Attended the prayer-meeting at noon. A larger number present, and there was a spirit of re-consecration to the service of Christ, and a manifest desire to live near his cross.” The following day there were large numbers present and Lamphier reported that they were at “the very gate of heaven.” By October 13th he is writing in his diary that, “God’s Spirit was manifestly in our midst.” Numbers grew, the meetings multiplied and soon a great revival was spreading across the country.

A powerful revival began in Ireland in the early months of 1858. Many ministers from Scotland went to Ireland to see what was happening, and they brought back a hunger to see the revival spread to Scotland. The revival spread to Wales in July 1858 when Humphrey Jones came back home from America, bringing the anointing of the revival with him. You can read about this in the biography of Humphrey Jones and David Morgan elsewhere on this website.

The revival in Scotland began in Aberdeen, and Aberdeenshire was the area which was to be most greatly affected in the coming months, but the revival fires also spread to many other parts of the country.

Accounts of the revival in America were reported in several newspapers, and this stirred up considerable interest in Aberdeen. Many people became expectant of the revival coming to the city, and this lead to prayer meetings being formed in September 1858, to ask God to bless Aberdeen and Scotland with the revival. At the same time, some began evangelistic campaigns in the city.

Following the success of these campaigns, Grattan Guiness was invited to the city, and he spoke in several churches to packed congregations. After Guiness came Brownlow North who held unprecedented meetings. The Lord used these meetings to prepare the way for what He was about to do.

In November 1858 Reginald Radcliffe was invited to the city, and it was he who ignited the fire which had been prepared by others. Kenneth Jeffrey makes an in-depth study of the revival in Aberdeenshire in his book, ‘When the Lord Walked the Land.’ He points out that the revival had different characteristics in Aberdeen, the farming interior and the ports in the north of the county. As an example, the congregations in the fishing villages were filled with emotions when the Holy Spirit visited their meetings, while meetings elsewhere were noted for their orderliness. The main reason for this difference was probably because the fishing villages held their own services away from the established churches, whereas elsewhere the denominational churches held the meetings, with the ministers ensuring that any ‘emotionalism’ was stamped out.

Here are some general characteristics of the revival. The reading of reports of the revival in America and Ireland and the visits to Ireland by ministers resulted in many prayer meetings across the country. This was the first time that lay evangelists were used in such a widespread manner. The first lay evangelist in Scotland was probably James Haldane at the turn of the eighteenth century, and he was also one of the first to hand out tracts. Reginald Radcliffe organised tracts to be given out all over the country and he was used as a spark to ignite revival in many places. The spread of the revival was helped substantially by the new railways which had sprung up in recent years. By this means evangelists were able to travel the country, taking the revival anointing to many parts very quickly. Radcliffe and Weaver, while concentrating their efforts on Aberdeenshire, were able to travel to London for meetings. They were also able to open up the inland areas of Aberdeenshire where railway lines had recently been laid. It has already been seen how the growth of the newspaper industry enabled the spread of revival news. The ‘Revival’ newspaper was read by many, encouraging them to seek the Lord for a similar move of God in their area. The evangelists worked very hard, carried away by their successes. There must be nothing more addictive than to see the Lord moving so powerfully through your own ministrations. One can see examples of this throughout the last two hundred years, with many dying before their time through overwork. There are repeated reports of the evangelists having to take time out to rest, because their bodies were beginning to break down under the stress they were being put under.

One of the limiting factors of the revival was the number of evangelists. Many of the clergy in England and Scotland did not embrace the revival, so revival would not come to an area unless an evangelist was able to visit. From the accounts in the ‘Revival’ there were not many more than twenty evangelists travelling around the two countries at the time, and Radcliffe would often cry out for more helpers. These evangelists were noted for their earnestness in preaching and for their closeness to God. This was the first time a message was preached when one could find instant salvation; that depended on an immediate act of the will. Up to now the message had been that first of all you must understand that you have sin in your life and a recognition that Christ could forgive you. This realisation often took hours, days or even weeks of soul searching and emotional distress until relief was found in an understanding that one was truly forgiven. This was also one of the first times that an inquiry room was used for those who were ‘anxious’ after hearing the sermon. Inquiry room helpers would talk to them about their spiritual condition in an attempt to lead them to salvation. D L Moody was to use this to great effect in his meetings 15 years later. The revival services had the novelty of popular songs sung in them. Richard Weaver composed several, putting them in a book which sold extensively. This is also the first time that evangelists targeted different groups at their meetings. There were special meetings for school teachers, the wealthy, the poor, students etc.

The opposition to the revival by many ministers was mainly because they were jealous of the success of the lay evangelists. There was very little understanding of the ‘priesthood of all believers,’ with many ministers believing that only a properly trained and ordained man could/should be involved in this sort of work.They also were put off by all the novelties that went with the revival, particularly the new teaching on salvation, the inquiry rooms and the songs being sung. Without the full support of the clergy the revival would never be country wide. Nevertheless, this was probably the most extensive revival that Scotland has ever been blessed with.

There are many books that can be read on the 1859 revival, and as mentioned above, Kenneth Jeffrey’s, ‘When God walked the Land’ gives an excellent analysis of the revival in the North East of Scotland.

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