Stewarton Parish Church (1860)

It has often been a matter of remark in Stewarton that, while religious revivals were frequently taking place of many of the towns of Ayrshire, we would have none of them here. This state of matters, however, is now at an end in Stewarton, and more especially in the village of Dunlop and its immediate vicinity. For some time past we have heard of religious awakenings in the latter place being of frequent occurrence, and in considerable numbers; and being anxious to see for ourselves how the revival prayer meetings were conducted in Dunlop, we went over on Monday night—a distance of two miles and we stayed there from 7:00 pm until midnight. Entering the Parish Church at the hour mentioned we found it filled in every part with a well-dressed and that time a well-conducted audience.

The services were conducted by the Rev. Mr Gebbie, the parish minister, assisted by the Rev. Mr M'Leish of the Free Church, and were commenced with praise and prayer. There were no cases of prostration for some considerable time; and the first that took place was that of a young man belonging to Stewarton, who was standing near the platform, and was seized instantaneously with the mysterious visitation; and while being assisted to the vestry a number of the congregation sung a hymn appropriate to the occasion. And now commences a scene among the "converts" which almost baffles description. They were mostly supplied with a hymn book compiled by Richard Weaver, the revivalist; and gathering in circles, they sang portions of its contents, with frantic gestures, and in every variety of time and tune... To persons unaccustomed to such scenes the spectacle of young men, women, boys and girls, embracing each other in transports of religious delirium - swaying their bodies backwards and forwards - standing on the seats and stamping time with their feet to the tune, and howling forth at the pitch of their voices "Christ for me," must have been anything but pleasant to their feelings.

Rather before this stage of the business intimation was given to the meeting that the Free Church and schoolroom would be open for those who could not obtain accommodation in the Parish Church, and a considerable number went away to these places along with Mr M'Leish, who was to superintend the revivalism there. This arrangement left more space to those who remained, and the manifestations continued with greater force than before. Some were weeping and some praying, while numbers of the converts, male and female, were going amongst them trying to console them and bring them to the blissful state in which they themselves rejoiced. Others of the converted ones were acting as catechists.

We observed while standing near the platform, one of the many cases of conversion which occurred that night. The fair missionary who accomplished it was gifted with no ordinary portion of female charms. She had an intellectual appearance and winning manner, while her language was of the most persuasive kind and well calculated to effect the object she had in view. We saw her going up to a young man near her, and ply him with questions about the state of his soul, to which he replied with seeming indifference. She told him of the unspeakable bliss of which she had become the recipient and lavished on him her most engaging glances. Still there seemed to be no effect. She then placed her hand on his shoulders, and enfolded him in a half embrace, sunk her dulcet tones to whispering accents, and her purpose was not long in being accomplished. In a few minutes he was standing on the seat, with one of her hands clasped in his, whilst with the other he swung the Bible round his head, and cried aloud "Christ for me! Christ for me!"

Whilst witnessing the foregoing case, we heard singing outside the church, and going out we found a group of young persons of both sexes, some of whom were in each other's arms, swaying their bodies with frantic energy and still on the calm silence of the night in a frenzied accents fell the words, "Christ for me! Christ for me!" This state of things continued till three o'clock on Tuesday morning and was encouraged by the minister, who waited with them to the close and asked the blessing of God on their conduct. In the Free Church matters were conducted with a little more propriety, and less noisy manifestations of their feelings, but it was far on in Tuesday morning before the proceedings were ended, and the wearied converts dismissed to their homes. The conduct described above has been repeated every night since with little variation...

In Stewartong on Tuesday night there was a prayer meeting in the Free Church, which was well attended, and numbers of the audience remained after the blessing was given to converse about the state of their souls with the clergymen who assisted at the meeting. In the Parish Church on Wednesday evening a still larger meeting was held, and about 40 persons remained after the services were over for the same purpose as on Tuesday night. We are glad to have it in our power to state that a considerable number of persons seem disposed to forego their evil ways and to begin a new and a better life. This surely can be done in a calm, religious manner, and without the delirious excitement which so much prevails in the parish of Dunlop.

Another correspondent writes:—

Nothing could exceed the excitement that has prevailed here during the past week, on account of the religious awakenings and meetings which have taken place at the village of Dunlop, about two miles distant. In the latter end of last week the religious ferment was great in the extreme, and this week it seems to be on the increase. Hundreds left Stewarton for Dunlop on Sunday and on Monday the number who left on foot and in omnibuses was even greater. A gentleman who was at Dunlop on Monday evening informs us that the Parish Church was crowded to excess, while the churchyard and village was thronged with people eager to get into some place of worship. The Free Church was opened and immediately filled. Nothing like it has taken place yet in this part of the country, and the singing sounded like the anthems of thousands - it was so loud and earnest. A complete stop has been put to the liquor traffic of the district, as the only innkeeper in the place and all his family have been turned from the error of their ways.

"The Scottish Guardian," October 30th, 1860.

Related Wells