Cockenzie (1860)

A Correspondent of Things New and Old gives the following interesting account of a visit to the east coast:

When we arrived in Glasgow, letters were waiting urging us to come through to the east country, assuring us that there was a great and blessed work of God on the east coast. We went on Thursday and returned again on Saturday. So I must give you a brief account of those two evenings. They will be long remembered by many.

As some of our relations were staying at a place called Cockenzie, for the benefit of the sea-bathing, which is about eight miles south-east of Edinburgh, some arrangement was made with the coast missionary about my taking part in the meeting on Thursday evening. It was his regular week- evening meeting in that place. He is evidently an earnest hearty man, and well fitted to labour amongst the fishing villages along the coast, which, in many places, have been the scene of a most blessed awakening. He has been much used of God in conversion. The meeting was held. in the village school-house. It may hold about 120 people. It was well packed, and almost entirely by the fishing population: a class hitherto extremely careless about spiritual things. But the Lord has been doing a great work amongst them ever since the spring of this year.

I addressed them from Christ's own question to the pharisees, "What think ye of Christ?" and pressed the immediate and eternal importance of this question of questions. There was great attention, and here and there some were weeping. I felt the atmosphere to be good. It was genial, causing the heart to expand. I felt assured there would be the manifesta­tion of the power of God. During the prayer-meeting many were affected, but I observed two women sitting closely to­gether, looking very distressed, yet shedding no tears. They looked like mother and daughter, which I afterwards learnt they were. My heart was drawn towards them. I first asked the younger, if she was happy in Jesus? "Oh, no, sir!" she replied, "I am not happy; I am very unhappy." "But there is enough in Jesus to make you happy, if you receive Him." "I know that, and I have been trying a long time; but I don't seem to understand the way." After saying a few words about God's way of salvation, I spoke to the mother, when something like the following conversation took place: "Well, and has God's grace visited your heart in these blessed times?" "Oh no sir! Mercy seems to come to everybody's door but mine." This was said rather despairingly. "Well, now, tell me, do you believe that Jesus died for you a sinner?" "Yes, I believe that He died for us sinners." "And can you believe that Jesus died for you as a poor lost sinner, and, yet say, No mercy has come to my door?'" "I know that, but it has not come to me yet; everybody seems to get blessing but me." "Well, if it has not yet come to you, it has come for you, if you will only believe it, and receive it. Can you think of God giving his beloved Son to die for you on the cross, and say there is no mercy in Christ for you? But tell me this, what did Christ shed on the cross?" "He shed his blood." "For what purpose?" "That our sins might be washed. away." "And is there power in it to wash all our sins away, if we depend on it?" "Oh, yes, sir! I do believe that." Well, then, can you trust it? If you do, your sins are all forgiven; mercy has come to you; only believe it. Surely, if Jesus so loved us as to lay down his life for us, and shed his precious blood that our sins might be put away, we should love that blessed Jesus, and put all our trust in Him. Oh, do believe that He loves you now, and died on the cross for you; and give your whole heart to Him."

The room was very full still, comparatively few had gone away, and conversation was going on in different parts, but the Spirit of God was causing his own blessed truth to burn in the heart of this mother. After a few moments' silence, when she could no longer suppress her deep emotion, she fell on her knees, raised her hands, and, with a loud touching voice, prayed to God for mercy. Then she addressed Jesus, as the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb of Calvary. Her appeals to Jesus were enough to melt a heart of stone. Over and over again she exclaimed, with an earnestness of tone and manner that told of a heart within being broken to pieces, "Oh! thou precious Lamb of God and didst thou bleed and die on that accursed tree for me, a poor sinful creature? Oh! Lamb of God! Oh! thou precious Lamb of God! Come to me this night! Oh! come to me this very night! Put all my sins away, and save my soul." Such was the burden of her prayer, and she continued for some time. The daughter, as you may imagine, was thoroughly broken, and weeping at the feet of Jesus, and so were many others. But, all praise to God, both mother and daughter rose from their knees, confessing they were now happy in Jesus. They believed that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, had cleansed them from all sin. Other three or four made the same con­fession. Joy filled our hearts. The missionary then gave out two verses of a hymn in praise to God. It was now near eleven o'clock, and he thought he should send the people away home. He said he had been found fault with for late meetings. So I agreed, and we proposed to separate, but the people were un­willing to go. They then asked me to come back the following evening, which I agreed to do. It was altogether a heart-stirring scene. To see those poor, and hitherto utterly careless, people in such deep concern about their souls, was worth a long journey to witness. And so many of them are happy now, both the fishermen, their wives, and children, are rejoicing in God's great salvation. We were told that the men hold prayer- meetings on board their boats when out at sea. The work here has been much helped on by means of hymns. We were told that the women going about their work, and the children on the streets, may be heard throughout the day singing their favourite hymns. What a change! God has wrought it. The praise alone be His.

On Friday evening, the school-house being engaged until nine o'clock with a Bible-class of young men, I preached in the open air. The evening was fine, and there was a much larger congregation than we could have had in the school. Many of the sea-bathers were present, who would not have gone into the school-house. But who, think you, were the first to catch my eye, seated on the green? The mother and her daughter, seated in the front row, with the Bible in their hands. I thought they were happy. I spoke to them imme­diately after the preaching and found it was so. They assured. me that not a doubt remained on their minds as to their for­giveness and acceptance. At this moment, an old woman stepped forward, and said, "I wish I could say so.” The daughter then began to explain to her the gospel, which she herself, through grace, had believed the previous evening. I could only praise God for the wondrous change and the new evangelist.

We reached the school-house a little before it was ready for us. However, the people stood in groups about the door waiting until it would be opened. I then had an opportunity of speaking with several about their souls, and the previous evening I found there were great expectations in some minds as to the blessing we would have that evening. An earnest, intelligent Christian said to me, "I have seen six to-day who found peace last evening, and a great many were deeply impressed. We are counting upon a great blessing to-night." "That's right," I replied; but I questioned if my own heart was up to such expectations. I felt strengthened, however, and lifted up too. No sooner was the door open than the people rushed in, and filled the place.

The prayer-meeting commenced immediately. Several godly, earnest men of the place, and some warm-hearted young con­verts were present and took part. One young man prayed with peculiar fervour and unction, many were weeping, another and another prayed, with a word of exhortation and a hymn coming in between. Near ten o'clock, while one was praying, a remarkable wave of Divine power seemed to roll over the meeting. It was indeed a wave of richest grace, from the shoreless ocean of eternal love, and which carried back to its source the happy fruits of its gracious mission. All hearts were touched. Boys and girls, old and young, began to pray aloud for mercy. The praying brothers, and all around the desk where I stood, were weeping and sobbing heavily. At one moment nearly all that were in the room were overcome. Indeed, I would have pitied the one who was not. Still, it was quite different from the striking and screaming in the north of Ireland. There was no physical prostration. They wept much and prayed above their breath, some aloud. So you may imagine the thrilling effect of such a scene. I believe it would have awed and silenced the boldest infidel.

After a little while, when the people began to quiet down, and the workmen were able to resume their work, we com­menced individual conversation with them. The Lord had indeed been working in hearts, and He soon gave us the joy of gathering fruit into his garner. 'Upwards of a dozen boys and girls confessed, without a seeming doubt that they had been brought to God. But the day alone will declare the blessed fruits of that evening. And that will be the best and safest time to know it all.

It was now half-past eleven, and, however unwillingly, it was high time to separate. You must imagine the affectionate good-byes. Some of 'the poor women had all their children with them, having no servant to leave them in charge of, and we had about a six-mile drive to my brother-in-law's, which, by the good hand of our God upon us, we reached safely, and, I may add, filled with praise and thanksgiving to Him from whom all blessings flow.


At COCKENZIE there has also been a very remarkable and blessed revival. Cockenzie is a large fishing village on the Forth, a mile to the east of Prestonpans, and containing about nine hundred inhabitants. About the end of January last, there was a very decided awakening at this place. Meetings for prayer and other spiritual exercises were held in a school-room and in the Free Church. These meetings were attended by great numbers of people, who manifested a new anxiety to hear the word, and were deeply impressed with the services. Many soon shewed the greatest spiritual concern and began to pass through the agonies of the new birth. First the usual signs and symptoms, and then the usual results and fruits of a real and precious revival were witnessed in Cockenzie, to the great joy and comfort of those who had long prayed and laboured for the welfare of its people. A very decided moral reform was soon visible in the village. Such gross and flagrant sins as drunkenness, pro­fane swearing, and Sabbath-breaking, soon almost ceased to exist. Family worship was commenced in many houses for the first time. Men and women, young persons and old per­sons, began to pray with a fervour and an earnestness they had never felt before. The services of God's enjoyed with a new and strange relish. On the Sabbath, the church was much better attended than it had pre­viously been, and with new attention and life the people listened to the Word of God.

The Rev. A. Lorimer, Free Church minister of Cockenzie, who has laboured zealously and efficiently at his post for upwards of twenty years, flung himself heartily into the movement and endeavoured to guide it with all due care and judgment. Assisted by the coast missionary, by his own office-bearers, and by a number of neighbouring ministers, he succeeded in meeting, to a very large extent, the new calls for pastoral labour and spiritual ministrations. The anxious inquirers, and all who showed any spiritual concern, were visited at their own houses, affectionately and firmly dealt with, and guided towards the way of peace. Mr Lorimer, going about the village from house to house, a spiritual physician visiting his numerous and promising patients, had soon reason to say that he had just seen more visible and tangible spiritual fruit among his people than during all the preceding years of his ministry. He had not by any means laboured in vain before, he had sown much precious seed which to his knowledge had borne fruit, but now, when the season of refreshing had come, he was called to rejoice over a com­paratively large and blessed harvest.

About the middle of February last, I visited Cockenzie and had the privilege of preaching to the people. The church was filled with a large and solemnized audience. It was not difficult to discern the tokens of awakening and revival in the aspect f the people. In the liveliness of the singing, in the stillness during prayer, in the earnest attention with which the word was heard, might be traced the working f the Spirit of God. 1 learned that a number of young men agreed that night to commence a prayer- meeting among themselves. That resolution they acted upon, and meetings for social prayer have since become very common in Cockenzie.

So numerous and remarkable were the accessions to the Church of Christ, that it was deemed advisable to have an extraordinary Communion for the special benefit of the new converts. After being duly examined, and having given credible proofs of their new spiritual life, a considerable number of believers were admitted to the Lord's table for the first time. They have since given evidence of their steadfastness, and are, without one known exception, con­tinuing to rejoice in God their Saviour.

Mr Lorimer, in a letter of date 11th May 1860, says, "The work is still going on, and, week after week, is wit­nessing additions to the numbers of those who, we trust, have been turned to the Lord. Altogether matters are such as to call aloud for thanksgiving and praise to the God of all grace. None can witness the earnestness manifested by this people in regard to the things that concern their ever­lasting peace, without being convinced that the Lord, of a truth, is in the midst of us. I am not aware of a single in­stance of backsliding. On the contrary, all, so far as I can see, retain the freshness and the fervour of their first love and set an example f zeal and devotedness well worthy the imitation of those who have longer borne the Christian name.

" I meet both with the young men and the young women once a week, partly for devotional exercises, and partly for instructing them in the way of God more perfectly, and on almost every occasion they bring along with them some fruit f their missionary enterprise. They are, indeed, the most effective missionaries I have ever seen engaged in the work. They have succeeded in inducing persons to attend public ordinances who had hitherto withstood all the influ­ence I could bring to bear upon them for that end. I have had two interesting cases within these two days. One was the case of a young man inquiring about the way of salva­tion, the other, that of a young woman, who told me that, after waiting upon Christ for a long season, He had now re­vealed Himself to her as all her salvation and all her de­sire."

The movement at Cockenzie has indeed been as solid as it has been striking and decided. The fruit of it has been abundant, and it promises to be enduring. A little degree of extravagance that appeared at first, being gently yet firmly checked, soon vanished; and the sober power of the truth prevailed over everything like mere human excitement. It has been stated in various quarters, that the fishing popu­lation of the east coast are a comparatively rude and igno­rant portion of the Scottish people, and that therefore the revival movement has among them made peculiar progress. I doubt very much both the accuracy of this statement and the fairness of the inference drawn from it. The fishermen of Cockenzie are intelligent as well as a hardy class of men. They were by no means beneath the ordinary level either of education or character when this revival began; and now their religious convictions and attainments are as enlightened and promising as can easily be found among our working classes, either in town or country.

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.

Additional Information

The meetings took place in the School House, which was probably in School Lane, and the Free Church.

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