BY THE REV. W. B. BORWICK.
IN giving a short account of the work of God here, so far as it has come under my immediate observation, I may simply premise that it began here as elsewhere, with a few devout praying men, who commenced two united daily prayer-meetings. From these two small meetings many other meetings for prayer and exhortation have sprung, and a large measure of blessing has been granted. The following are among the more obvious results:
1. There is a great spirit of Christian union among Christians of different evangelical denominations. Ministers and elders, and others that had never associated together at a throne of grace, have been drawn together into the bonds of Christian love, have prayed together, co-operated, and felt their own souls refreshed, and now yearn more for the salvation of the perishing around them. There has never been during my ministry so much of the spirit of Christian union in the town as during the last twelve months. Christians and earnest inquirers, though they have very properly as much denominational attachment as ever, will now speak freely to one another in the streets or social meetings about the concerns of their souls. A young man, for instance, that I never saw before, several months ago came up to me on the street in concern, and said, " I would like to go to Ireland to see with my own eyes some of the works of God's mercy," and he asked some questions about the best way to improve his time to advantage. After giving him a few counsels, I saw him no more till about two or three weeks since, when he hailed me again on the street, and said, "I could not allow you to pass without telling you that I have found the Saviour to the salvation of my soul." I asked him if he had been to Ireland. "No," he said; " I fell back after I saw you, and relapsed into my former ways: but one evening I was coming home the worse of drink, near midnight, when a Christian man accosted me, and uttered words to this effect—' How many young men are in hell this night that would be very glad of the few minutes that remain of it in this world of mercy!' "It struck in with convictions that he had received in church, at home, and elsewhere; and that night he agonised with God, and, as it appeared to me, had obtained what he sought. He was full of the love of the Saviour and thirsted to tell what he felt and experienced to others. I have since heard, as was suggested to him, that he has been pouring out the overflowings of his heart in prayer-meetings and other such gatherings. I have strong hope the fruit will be unto holiness and the end everlasting life.
2. While the weather was favourable last summer and autumn, there was more open-air preaching in our streets and squares, and other available places, than at any former period. Short pointed addresses were delivered, and all the town more or less had their attention drawn to the certainty and importance of eternal things. Towards the close of the season, there was a united open-air service held. This assembly was so large that it had to be divided into two great gatherings, the services at which were carried on simultaneously. At the united meetings in the churches, when inquirers were invited to remain, some of the most solemn scenes were witnessed that I ever saw. There was the delightful sense of a present Saviour on the one hand, and of the omnipotent power of the Great Convincer on the other. On one such occasion, when a great many remained, my attention was drawn to an old man, and on asking him if it were thoughts of his soul and Saviour that led him to be among the inquirers, he sat for a while, Job-like, unable to speak. At length it appears, that though having had a profession for many years, he felt he had been Christless. Some words from Mr Radcliffe or Mr Grant, about an old person that had received fifty "tokens" to admit to the communion table, and was yet not converted, had pierced his heart as but a representation of himself. This individual gives all the marks of having unreservedly yielded himself to Jesus, and of walking in the fear of God and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.
3. It has been my own experience, and the experience of others with whom I have conversed, that more individuals concerned about their souls have called upon ministers for direction during the last twelve months than during as many years previously. Ministers have thus acquired more enlarged acquaintance with the self-deception and self-righteous subterfuges of the unrenewed heart, and -with the doubts, and darkness, and difficulties of the anxious, than could be obtained by many years' study otherwise—and they have had more distinct evidence of the Spirit's work in the hearts of applicants for church-fellowship than they have had before; and the result has been, speaking generally, that during recent communions the accessions to several churches have not only been more manifestly converted individuals, but double in number, and these last accessions have been among the first and most zealous in every work that has for its object the advancement of the Redeemer's cause. In looking over the notes of undoubted cases of conversion that have stood the test of time and temptation, there are endless diversities in the circumstances, with remarkable sameness in what is essential. The following is one of a class:—I asked one that had been a very frivolous girl, but who is now, in her sphere, first in every good work, and a devoted Christian, What brought you first to think of your soul? She replied, "Amid all my folly I often thought seriously of my soul and of judgment, and often had partial amendments of my life; but as often, in the time of temptation, I fell back, and my convictions were lost. When I recovered them I felt very uneasy, because I knew that with my vain heart I could not appear before God. I tried once very seriously to work out a righteousness of my own, but it was all in vain. I tried it a second time, with the same result, till at last my mind was fixed on the righteousness of the Surety, and I saw a glory and a perfection in it that I wondered I had never seen before. With my whole heart I trusted in the merits of Christ, and I feel my peace growing, and my love to God growing, and I think I could not only live for Christ but die for Christ."
4. It was feared by some, and predicted by others, that the sudden and wonderful change that many of the young especially have undergone, would be evanescent; but though it is to be expected now, as in former times, that the root with some is rottenness, and therefore that the blossom will go up as dust, yet there has not come within my knowledge a single case of an individual that gave evidence of having been joined to the Lord in the perpetual covenant that has drawn back. They have gone safely through all the tests of their new circumstances, and cheerfully borne the cross. The persecutors, in many cases, have left their ranks—the persecuted Christian never. A few days ago, two girls had been cruel mockers of their companions that had attended the prayer-meetings; but they had been induced to attend an evening meeting for prayer, and were brought under a deep sense of their sin. At the following morning prayer-meeting, they requested the prayers of God's people for themselves, as not only anxious but in a despairing state of mind, and feeling as if their sin was too great to be forgiven.
5. I do not know, perhaps, of a tithe of the more private prayer-meetings held in the town; but from what has come within my knowledge, it is my persuasion that they are more numerous at present than at any former period. During the ministry of Mr M‘Cheyne and Mr W. Burns, they were certainly more numerous over a portion of the town; but now they are over the whole town, and connected more or less with all Christian communions. Indeed, I know that there are some of the converts that are engaged in prayer-meetings in one quarter or another almost every night. There are some large public works in connexion with which there are prayer-meetings four or five times a-week and in some a portion of the dinner-hour is devoted to this purpose. In these fellowship-meetings, the praying part of the workers maintain the life of God in their souls amid their many discouragements, and the thoughtless are drawn in and arrested. This is a new thing in Dundee. Conversion work is constantly going on in them. I have seen very tender scenes elsewhere; but a few days ago, I had occasion to go to one of these meetings, at the request of the respected employer, and towards the close I witnessed as affecting instances of the spiritual interest that they take in one another as I ever expect to see again. There were before me two sisters—the one was rejoicing in Jesus, and the other, seeing the happy and holy change, sunk into despairing views of her condition.
Her soul shunned all the consolations of the gospel. I was called away to a different case in another part of the room, when the afflicted one vainly endeavoured to suppress her despondency any longer, and the agonising cry for mercy burst out uncontrollably. One of the young workers drew near her, and out of a heart burning with compassion, poured into her ear the warm words of Christ's worth and willingness; but it was all in vain. The girl then kneeled down as close as possible to the sin-sick soul and bore it on her heart up to the throne, and for the space of five or ten minutes pled for it with an earnestness and a freedom I have never heard surpassed. I felt that my warmest utterances were cold, and that, if this were not wrestling with the Angel, I despair of ever knowing what it is. It is pleasing to know that the girl has been taken from the fearful pit and that she is now on the Rock.
6. From the first, the awakening has pre-eminently been among the young. No special efforts have been made, by way of sermons exclusively preached to the young, except very occasionally. They have been impressed or drawn to the Saviour at the ordinary services, at their schools, or at their little prayer-meetings. Whether thought right or wrong, little children, when their hearts are touched, will pray and will pray together. Little children, of even eight and ten and twelve years of age, have prayer-meetings, and "take heed that you offend not one of these little ones that believe in me," says Christ; and these meetings are still more common among those more advanced. I had occasion to leave my Bible-class two weeks ago, and to see what they would suggest, I said, I did not like to dismiss the class, nor yet get a substitute, as he might not know the usual way of going through with the exercises. Immediately they whispered one to another, and it was at once suggested to me that they would hold a prayer-meeting among themselves. Two prayer-meetings were the result—the one for the boys, and the other for the girls, and it has since been their request that both meetings be kept up in connexion with the Bible-class. A little girl that was long in great darkness and distress about her sou], and that frequently spoke to me about her distress, was repeatedly and affectionately counselled to look to the love and welcome of Jesus. After a season her mind was completely turned, the loving Spirit had led her His own way, and she came up with a countenance beaming with joy, and taking hold of my hand, said, "I can now say, Jesus loved me, and gave Himself for me." "How do you know?" I asked. "I feel I can say to Christ, Lord, Thou that knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.' "I said, "Speak a good word for Christ." After a while, she told me that two of her sisters also had found Christ precious. When a month or two elapsed, I asked her if Christ was as precious to her as before. She replied, "More precious than ever." This little girl has been an active little missionary of Christ. One of the most thoughtless boys, and most unimpressible that has come under my notice, was one that could never be induced to attend a class, if Bible instruction was communicated in it. If there was a day of preaching, when he was released from work, his heart was in his sports on the river. One Sabbath he fell out of the boat into the water, and narrowly escaped death, but he never thought of what was beyond. A brother of his died, and this seems to have produced the first solemn impression; and breaking from his companions one evening, he entered into a prayer-meeting held in the chapel. There he was arrested, and at length yielded himself up to His Saviour. His tongue is loosed on Divine things, and he could talk of God's salvation before his companions all the day. He is one of the most zealous in directing those who are younger to the Saviour, and in bringing the thoughtless and unconcerned to meetings for prayer. There is a remarkable clause in Jer. iii., " One of a city, two of a family." We would have expected that the enumeration would have been the other way, but it is true to grace. Place a Christian isolated from his friends in a city; he may stand long alone: place him in his family, and it will not be long that he travels the road singly. He is fond of a kindred companion. This boy came up to me at the close of a prayer-meeting, and, with characteristic ardour, said, "My brother has found Christ." Some sufficiently cold professors are apt to think that the unsophisticated outbursts of the young heart are inconsistent with Christian humility; but if humility is destroyed by the light of day, it has none of the nature of Christianity; it is worth nothing. A few years ago, an attempt was made by the young people of the congregation to which I minister, to gather the more neglected children of a very destitute neighbourhood into a Sabbath-evening school; but after a little while it utterly failed, partly through the ungovernable nature of the children, and partly through their inability to read. Last year, when a greater interest was awakened in the spiritual condition of the outcast, another attempt was made, conjoined with week-night efforts to teach them to read. It was made in greater faith and prayer, and it has proved a great success. The school-room is filled. They can now generally read the Bible with ease. The visible change that has taken place has attracted the interest and attendance of better conditioned children that are concerned about their souls. Lately, one of themselves wished to say a few words to his fellows, when he urged them to come to the Saviour with an earnestness that delighted the teachers; and he concluded with an earnest prayer for the teachers and his fellow-scholars. On a subsequent evening, another addressed them to the following effect:—During the sum¬mer, when he spent his time and Sabbaths in bird-nesting, he came to a tree, beautiful in its bark and in its outside, but when he climbed to where the branches parted, he looked down, and saw it all hollow and rotten within; and such was the picture of many unconverted sinners, and none could give them a new heart but God. Another illustration was drawn from a vessel that was going down, when the passengers forsook all, and betook themselves to the life-buoys ; but there was one woman that gathered up the gold, and she went to the bottom: applying the simile to those that will not cling to Christ alone, but give their heart to the world ; urging them to renounce everything inconsistent with laying hold of Christ ; and solemnly remonstrated with those that scoffed at converted boys, by reminding them of those boys that mocked at Elisha. The change even externally on the school, is more striking than any¬thing of this nature that has come within my knowledge. They have a regular prayer-meeting among themselves when the Sabbath-school instruction is over. The greater number of them till recently were absolutely regardless— some of them so ungovernable and annoying as to have been once and again dismissed from school—but are now docile, attentive, and exemplary, and give evidence, at least in the case of individuals, that they are at the feet of Christ, clothed and in their right mind.
7, I have not seen more than seven or eight cases of conviction so overpowering as to end in bodily prostration. Some of those cases have been sufficiently overawing. They have occurred in the church, in their prayer-meetings, and in their own dwellings. However mysterious, they have served as an alarum-bell to many in the town, and an intimation that the Spirit was present to convince or convert. The cases, so far as they have come under my observation, are very similar to like cases in other places. They are too detailed to be reported. They have generally issued in peace in Jesus.
While the work of spiritual awakening is not so public and prominent in Dundee as in some other places, and while there are many thousands in this large city still trusting in creature mediators, or in some other resting-place short of Christ, still the good work of God is going forward; and I trust the past year is but the earnest of better days. It is certainly an encouragement to continue giving God no rest until His Spirit be more abundantly poured out from on high.
ADDITIONAL NOTICE FROM DUNDEE.
There are various meetings in different parts of the town for prayer or Christian instruction in connexion, more or less, with some of the public works. The following are notes of one of these stated meetings, furnished by the employer and superintendent.
Early in October 1858, at the suggestion of a friend from England, a large school-room was opened on Sabbath evening for prayer and exhortation, and another on a week evening. No cases of conversion were known to have taken place, nor even of conviction or serious spiritual concern, until one week-day evening in the beginning of June, when Mr Grant of Arndilly gave a short open-air address to three or four hundred, at the close of which twenty remained in anxiety to converse with him. One or two cases resulted in conversion and have been steadfast ever since; the others became careless and fell away. Some, however, months afterwards, were again seriously impressed, and have given evidence of an abiding change.
The attendance increased during July, August, and September, and in the month of October very general awakenings took place in the meetings. Many Christians that had been in a languid state were revived and strengthened, and many that had been living in utter forgetfulness of God were awakened, and brought to rely on Jesus for their salvation, and have since given proof of a change of heart and life. Both these classes now look back to the October meetings as remarkable seasons of refreshing from God's presence, such as they had never before experienced. These meetings were largely conducted by laymen, but several ministers felt great pleasure and readiness in yielding assistance. There were seldom fewer than forty that remained after the general meeting, more or less in deep distress and seeking direction to the Saviour.
The workers are chiefly young females, but these meetings have proved saving blessings to persons of both sexes and of different ages. One man remained in the deepest distress and despondency. He felt conviction of his sin and danger so strong in the middle of the address, which was on "the man without the wedding garment," that he was ready to rise and go out, but had not courage, and remained among the other inquirers. He had been living in total unconcern and had not been in any church for six months. He continued in great distress about his state during the week, and particularly on Saturday afternoon, when he secluded himself from everyone, locked himself up in his house, gave himself to prayer and meditation, and just when, in the extremity of despair, he had laid. himself down on the floor, the passage, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,"
It came before his mind with an impression and power unexperienced before, and gave light and hope to his soul. He was enabled to trust in the merits of Jesus for his salvation. He rose to his feet immediately and prayed with thanks. He felt rest in his Saviour, as he was able now to see that God had been all the while waiting to be gracious to him as a sinner. He has been growing in the graces of the Christian ever since. Last Sabbath evening he remained, desirous to know if any department of usefulness could be suggested in which he could be engaged. He felt constrained to do all he could for the Saviour's glory. He has been taking an active part in prayer-meetings and seeking to bring others to the Lord.
At these meetings there have been all the variety of the operations of the good Spirit. Some individuals have been more gradually awakened, and have been in anxiety for weeks or months before being drawn to close with Christ. Others again, equally thoughtless, have been suddenly arrested, and were enabled to give themselves very quickly to Christ, and have given subsequently as satisfactory evidences of the great spiritual change as the former. The numbers of the awakened that remain after the general meeting is over have varied from ten to eighty. One evening, when there happened to be the smallest number of inquirers present, there were two new cases of persons who had not been at any of the regular meetings and were from the opposite extremity of the town. The one was in deep distress, the other less so. On inquiring at a girl who had lately, through long and much tribulation, found joy and peace in believing, if she knew about the two strangers, she replied, "Yes; I have suffered more mockery and ridicule from these two than from any other." Yet one of these, after a week or two, gave satisfactory evidence of true repentance, and of having given herself to the Saviour; and the other, after fluctuating a good deal for three months, and after having to bear the same mockings which she poured on others, has become, there is reason to hope, decided to be on the Lord's side.
For various reasons it might not be wise to be minute in details. We may say, generally, some trace the commencement of their spiritual concern to a tract, a small book, or conversation with a Christian companion—some trace it to a church service. A daily prayer-meeting of work-people has been held for some months back during half of the dinner hour, at which individuals from different neighbouring works occasionally attend; the attendance is about one hundred and fifty. Some trace their first awakening to this interesting meeting.
The Rev. Mr Simpson, of Portrush, when in Dundee two months ago, was blessed to awaken many. A prayer-meeting held by him in a large lodging-house, containing upwards of two hundred lodgers, led to a prayer-meeting being commenced in the house that evening, which has continued every evening since. Several very decided cases of conversion have resulted, and at the present time there are twenty or more under deep concern. Previously it was thought that there were scarcely any Christians in the house, and it was reckoned a very hopeless thing to institute anything like a religious service among the lodgers. Besides the fellowship-meeting, conducted by a number of themselves, there are now closets for secret prayer in the building, of which individuals take advantage who were never known to have bowed the knee to the God of grace; and there are both week-evening and Sabbath-evening exercises and instruction conducted by various ministers and Christian friends. There are a few very remarkable trophies of Divine grace in the house, and they bear the reproach of Christ with meekness and cheerfulness.
In connexion with the factory workers' prayer-meetings, the manifestation of gospel truth has come home to the conscience sometimes with all the effect of a new discovery, and has ended occasionally in complete bodily prostration; in every case hitherto, under some tender prayer, or psalm, or appeal. Sometimes it has been connected with personal concern, sometimes with great concern for the state of relatives. One evening during prayer, or shortly afterwards, three prostrations took place; two of these were overpowered with an overwhelming anxiety about relatives. Their prayers for their friends were incessant and affecting. The other was a case of deep personal concern, which has ended hopefully. Next day a very ignorant and careless person came to the dinner-hour prayer-meeting from mere curiosity and was arrested during the last short prayer. She continued in distress for a day or two, but thereafter, at her work, she all at once dropped down quite prostrate, and one of her companions also became affected while waiting on her. These affections have lasted, in some cases, for several days, and in general end more hopefully in proportion to the measure of Christian knowledge that had been lodged in the understanding by previous instruction.
The meetings held in the factory school-room are not confined to individuals connected with anyone public work. A few days ago an anxious inquirer came to seek direction. She had never been at any of the meetings, but she had been concerned about her state and prospects for two or three years and had not had the opportunity or courage to speak to anyone about her soul. Upon being asked if any Christian friends had told her to call, she said, "No." Or had any of her neighbours? She said all her neighbours were quite thoughtless about eternal things, and some of them were scoffers, and it was hearing them mocking at prayer-meetings among working people that first made her aware of opportunities being afforded to inquirers to obtain direction in the way to heaven. "The wrath of man made to praise God!" She was, by the Divine guidance, led into more light and confidence towards God and the Saviour, and she is, it is hoped, more confidently treading the way about which she was in darkness, leaning on the Saviour.
It would be premature to pronounce decision in regard to all hopeful cases, but we have given what is believed to be a gracious work among a class, many of whom, a year or two ago, were living, to say the least, without God and without hope. Christians in great deadness have been quickened by these prayer-meetings. The thoughtless have been aroused, and out of hearts and lips lately dedicated to the song and service of the wicked one, now proceed the feelings and language of fervent gratitude and praise to God. There are some that were living after the lusts of the flesh, that are washed, and sanctified, and justified; and other established evidences of the lasting change are manifest, such as fervent and unceasing prayer for, and pleading with, ungodly companions and relatives. Such a passage of Scripture is also often illustrated as Matt. x. 34-36. Some of the children belonging to the Sabbath school also, where no apparent conversion work was known before, are now, out of a full heart, proclaiming Christ's praises in their families and before their companions.
One additional proof, in connexion with this prayer- meeting, of the reality and extent of the spirit of inquiry and love to God's word and ways, is, that since these meetings among the workers commenced, nearly six hundred Bibles and New Testaments have been purchased by them from a store kept for the purpose.
These details, which might be easily extended, shew that Christian employers and managers, by their position, have more influence spiritually and morally over their workers than has been hitherto imagined by them, and which has been allowed in too many instances to run to waste. Much good would come of encouraging special Christian efforts, and no evil could accrue. The workers would be better husbands and wives, better brothers and sisters, better parents and children, and, in a word, better workers. For to be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, is not only con¬sistent with, but promotive of being diligent in business.
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.