The friends of vital religion will be gratified with the intelligence that a considerable awakening has taken place in the far north and that in a somewhat unexpected manner. To visit the island of Yell, Craig, of Elgin, and Mr John Fraser, reached Lerwick four weeks ago; but, in consequence of stormy weather, they were compelled to abandon their intention, and commenced a series of meetings in this town. On the Monday and Tuesday after their arrival, the meetings held in the Independent chapel were but thinly attended; but, on being joined by several friends of Jesus, public attention and a steady increase in the attendance at the meetings took place. On the Sabbath evening, the United Presbyterian church Mr, and deep impressions seemed to be made by the searching addresses of the visitors.
On Monday, the feeling was such that the brethren were constrained to remain to prosecute the Lord's work, instead of returning to Aberdeen by the weekly mail steamer as originally designed. The Lord's people were stirred, and office-bearers in several of the churches came forward and countenanced the movement. Throughout the week, meetings for prayer were held morning and evening, and not a few in answer to prayer were brought under the influence of the truth and led to inquire the way to Zion. On Saturday, a striking case came under our notice. It is the case of one of the numerous waifs who are to be found in this frequented seaport. She had not been attending the meetings, yet during the Friday evening she was smitten by the hand of God, made to feel that she was a lost sinner, cast into the lowest depths of despair, and forced to cry out for mercy to the Saviour.
On the Sabbath evening, a meeting was held in the parish church, when about 1200 people were present. On Monday, the brethren again resolved to return to their homes, but the Lord had determined otherwise. The steamer was detained by the storm, and they were led to believe that she would not be able to proceed on her voyage until the next day. They remained ashore, and early in the morning discovered that the steamer had started during an interval in the gale, and left them behind. This was to them a disappointment, but to others it proved a blessing. The hand of the Lord became apparent, and under its manifestation the meetings became more crowded, and the interest in more intense and general. During the day, the meetings in the Independent chapel have been remarkably well attended, but the evening meetings in the United Presbyterian church have been very large. The Wednesday evening meeting prepared the way for a series in that church of a deeply interesting and impressive character. The increase in the requests for prayer on behalf of unconverted relatives and friends was great, and a great increase also took place among inquirers. The Thursday evening meeting was densely crowded, and numbers were compelled to return home without gaining admittance. The utmost solemnity pervaded the audience, and not a few were seen weeping under the influence of the truth plainly spoken and lovingly pressed upon the conscience.
In consequence of the interest excited, the evening services were continued in this same place on Friday and Sabbath. The Sabbath meeting was very large. Every available corner was occupied, and vestry and stairs were crowded. At the close of a deeply-impressive service, the Rev. Mr Macfarlane said: "As it was very obvious that the influences of the Divine Spirit were distilling among us as the dew, he had a special request to make, and it was this, Would the children of God make the subject of Mr Fraser and Dr Craig's future procedure the subject of earnest prayer this night" These gentlemen intended to return home by the steamer next day and he was anxious that God should be asked to direct them as to their remaining or returning."
At the meeting in the chapel on Monday morning, the attendance was numerous, and all were anxious to hear the decision at which the brethren had arrived. That decision was intimated by Mr Fraser when he announced a meeting in the United Presbyterian church an hour after the sailing of the steamer. The smile now rested upon every countenance, and as a consequence, the female portion of the disciples have been assisting most actively in the good work. The Monday evening meeting showed that the brethren had listened to the teaching of God's Spirit. Many were smitten by the truth and remained to make inquiry as to their salvation. The Tuesday morning and evening meetings evinced the unabated interest which was being taken by all classes in the movement, and the list of inquirers was greatly increased. A request to meet in the Free Church on the Wednesday evening was complied with, and a meeting with the children was fixed at six o'clock in the Independent chapel.
During the Tuesday, meetings in private houses took place under the direction of the Rev. Mr Mackinven, and one interesting case came under our notice. It was that of an old woman. She had long neglected divine ordinances, lived in sin, and neglected the interests of her soul; but conviction reached her conscience as Mr Fraser spoke, tears of genuine sorrow streamed from her eyes, and the confession broke her lips that she was a great sinner and undeserving of the mercy of God. At the evening meeting we noticed that the efforts of the female friends of the Saviour to bring out some of the waifs and wanderers of our town had been very successful, and, in some instances, under the touching allusions made to home, early religious training, and a youth of promise blasted by sin, the tear of contrition started in many an eye, and may God grant that apparent contrition may soon issue in genuine conversion.
In point of numbers, the meeting in the Free Church was all that could be wished; but the number of inquirers at the close of the service was limited. A deeply interesting meeting in the Independent chapel was held with the children, of whom about 210 were present. The way to the heavenly Zion was pleasingly pointed out by Mr Fraser. A kind invitation to all to come to Jesus, that they might be prepared for the heavenly Zion, was lovingly given by Dr Craig; and the dream of Dr Doddridge was happily improved by the Rev. Mr Macfarlane, for the purpose of inducing the young to give their hearts at once to Jesus, and to seek God as the guide of their youth.
Incidents of deep interest have come out in connection with the more private meetings. Some aged sinners were seen weeping tears of sorrow over a life of neglect and sin. A young men's prayer-meeting has also sprung out of the movement, and it is whispered that private meetings for prayer are held by the young females. What is of importance in connection with the work is the entire absence of noise and disorder. There is not a circumstance in connection with it at which the most fastidious can object; while many are the instances in which a direct answer to prayer has been given.
The Thursday meetings for special prayer in the Independent chapel and in the United Presbyterian church for exhortation had less of man in them than any former ones, and yet the power of divine grace was never more signally manifested. The inquirers after the evening meeting were numerous, and not a few of them were the subjects of the deepest convictions. Some indeed felt the bitterness of death to be passed, and joyfully accompanied the anxious to the meeting that words of comfort might be poured into their distressed souls. The private meetings too were well attended, and after one of them a few anxious inquirers waited to receive instruction and comfort. A pleasing feature of these meetings is the earnestness of young converts to bring others to the Saviour.
The meetings on Friday were as deeply interesting and impressive. The evening audience filled the church to the door, and the number of inquirers afterwards filled a good many pews in the area.
The morning meeting on Saturday was signalized by devout and cordial thanksgiving for the blessings bestowed in answer to prayer. The afternoon meeting with the children was a pleasant one; Mr Craig, Mr Fraser and Bannatyne, and Rev. Messrs. Mackinven and Macfarlane taking part in the services. The evening meeting for young men was well attended, and a Young Men's Christian Association, headed by our local magistrate Baillie Grierson, was formed.
The Sabbath morning meeting for prayer was well attended. But the evening meeting exceeded all expectation. So great was the rush to get into the United Presbyterian church that it was densely filled long before the time appointed. However, provision had been made for the contingency, and soon the Independent chapel was filled to the door. Service was conducted in both places, and a collection made for behalf of the poor, amounting to £3 5s. 4d. The inquirers' meeting afterwards was large. One case of great physical prostration came under our notice, and many a face was wet with tears of contrition for past impenitence. It is pleasing to see Christians uniting together so heartily in this great work, and to behold particularly the anxious efforts of young converts and experienced female disciples to bring the sinner unsaved under the gospel sound, and, when troubled, within the reach of spiritual consolation. Our two friends have judiciously decided to remain another week among us, and we earnestly pray that their labours, which many, may be increasingly blessed of the Lord.
From 'The Revival Newspaper,' Volume vii, p248/9. There were also revivals in 1903 and 1912. See 'Glory in the Glen,' by Tom Lennie, published by Christian Focus Publications.