BY THE REV. JOHN M'EWAN.
Ancrum must ever be a place of interest, as the scene of the labours of the godly John Livingston. He was minister of the parish when, in 1662, he was banished to Holland for his faithful adherence to Christ's cause. He tells us, in his Life, that when he came to Ancrum, the people had not for some time so much knowledge of the gospel as to learn to despise it, and that " it was a long time before any competent number of them was brought to such a condition, as we might adventure to celebrate the ordinance of the Lord's Supper."
But under his ministry, as we might have expected, many began to "lay religion to heart," and "some were brought in by the ministry of the Word."
The name of Livingston is much associated with revivals in Scotland; and it is well known that the Lord so blessed a sermon preached by him at the Kirk of Shotts, that five hundred are said to have been savingly converted.
It is interesting to know that at Killinchy, in the north of Ireland, where Livingston laboured for some years, and where his name is yet savoury, the Lord has of late been working graciously. The Presbyterian minister there tells me, that to his knowledge, not fewer than three hundred have been awakened in his parish since June last.
About twenty years ago, Ancrum was visited with a season of refreshing, and many souls were then gathered into the Saviour's fold. The fruits of that time of awakening are still manifest. I shall now endeavour to narrate, as briefly as possible, what of the Lord's gracious doings I have witnessed in this district during the last few months. It was my privilege to visit the north of Ireland in the course of last summer. The effect of what I there saw and heard of God's doing was most refreshing to my own spirit; and I returned to my flock with the earnest prayer, that it might please our gracious Father to grant us a like merciful visitation.
The attention of our people had been frequently directed to the Lord's doings, both in America and Ireland, and often were they exhorted to supplicate the throne of grace for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And although no visible effects immediately followed, yet we doubt not that even then the Lord was preparing us for a more special blessing.
On the last Sabbath of September, it was announced from the pulpit, that a series of meetings would be held in the church for prayer, and for directing attention to the one thing needful.
Immediately on the commencement of these meetings, it became manifest that the Lord had purposes of mercy towards us. From the number that attended, the attention exhibited, and the conscious help afforded to the speaker in proclaiming the truths of the gospel, we could not help believing that God's Spirit was at work and that we might soon expect to see tangible fruits, to the praise of His grace. We were not disappointed. First one, then another, and another, were found to be in a state of intense anxiety about salvation, and ere long were enabled to rejoice in Christ. We thanked God and took courage. Soon after the meetings commenced, a few Christian men, deeply interested in the cause of Christ, resolved to meet together, for half-an-hour before the meeting in the church, to supplicate God's blessing on the meeting. From the commencement of this meeting, a marked impetus was given to the work. There was also commenced at the same time a fellowship meeting, early on the Sabbath mornings, to ask God's blessing on the services of the sanctuary.
The existence of such meetings as these was at once an evidence that God's Spirit was graciously at work and a pledge of greater blessings yet to come. Our hopes were well-founded. Week after week our hearts were gladdened by hearing of souls being led to seek the Saviour, and ultimately rejoicing in Him.
It is rather premature to condescend to a specific statement as to the number of those who seem to have passed from death unto life since the movement commenced in this place. But to our personal knowledge there are at least thirty who profess to have experienced a saving change of heart, and whose conduct hitherto does not belie the profession they have made. Many, besides, have been impressed with the power of the world to come, but in regard to them the issue is yet uncertain.
The conversions are marked by great diversity both in character and circumstances. Several of those turned to Christ had for years been living in the neglect of ordinances. Others, again, were formerly regular in their attendance at the house of God and doubtless considered themselves good Christians, till the Lord, in mercy, gave them a sight of their lost condition, and led them truly to Christ. Above all, it was cheering to see several of the young, of both sexes, brought to feel their need of Christ, and to seek after Him as for hidden treasure. It is pleasing now to see these young persons walking in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, and to know that they meet frequently together for prayer, and to encourage each other in the good way of the Lord. The effect of the movement on the district has been very marked. We are assured, on the best authority, that a marked decrease has taken place in the consumption of intoxicating liquors, and that a change for the better, in many respects, is visible. There has been considerable increase in the attendance on the means of grace, as well as of attention when present in the sanctuary.
Previous to this movement there were only two weekly meetings in the village; now, besides the ordinary Sabbath services in the two churches, there are, at least, ten prayer meetings weekly.
Three of these are conducted by the one minister, and two by the other, while the private meetings are conducted by a few Christian men, who confine themselves to the reading of the Scriptures, prayer, and praise. Such are some of the fruits of this time of merciful visitation.
Four months have passed since the work began, and though the external excitement has, in a great measure, subsided, we have yet evidence of the gracious presence of the Spirit.
Time may show that some of those who now profess faith in Christ have not been truly engrafted into Him; yet, we doubt not that many have passed from death unto life, and that, after life's warfare is over, they will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars forever. May the Christian reader pray that many more in this district may be brought to Christ; and that those who have come to Him may be kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation.
The Free Church was where the marker is.