Westray Baptist Church - Orkney (1860-1861)

An account rm the minister at Eday 

At the request of a number of friends including two of the ministers of Westray, I send you a short account of the revival of religion begun in the island.

The first union prayer meeting for the revival of religion was held in the UP church on Friday, 21st December, at 6:00 pm. Upwards of 400 were present, belonging to all the denominations in the island, though Mr Reis's people were the majority.

The opening services consisted of praise and prayer, with the reading and exposition of passages of scripture appropriate to the object of our meeting, in all which the Reverend H Harcus ably assisted, breathing the true spirit of brotherly love and earnestly seeking the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. I then proceeded to state what the Lord has been doing in Eday and Pharay for these few weeks past, with the truly wonderful and blessed results which are already manifest. Among true Christians religion has been greatly revived. The growth in Grace is evident, not only faith, hope, and love but deep humility, zeal and activity with heartfelt joy are abounding. The careless and profane have been remarkably convinced of sin and led to cry for mercy; while there are many hopeful cases of true conversion, especially among the young. There are also a large number of district prayer meetings, with crowded attendance where the people assemble, without regard to denominational distinction and many young men who have never attended before are now conducting the exercises with deep earnestness and solemnity.

I then referred to Sanday, where the revival began in Orkney and where the results are still more remarkable; and having urged the necessity of earnest prayer for the influence of the Holy Spirit, in order to realise the same blest revival of religion in Westray, requested three persons to pray in turn – being one of each denomination present. This was done most fervently and each prayer was followed by a psalm or hymn.

There was marked attention during the whole time of the meeting, many appeared to be under deep convictions, and many tears were shed; but none of the characteristic tokens of this great revival were witnessed till sabbath evening at the Baptist chapel at Pierowall, when about 50 persons adherence of all the churches in the island, were deeply affected under the conviction of sin as any I have seen before. Some, especially the young men, trembled violently, readily acknowledge their guilt and cried for pardon; others were eanest but less demonstrative, but considerable numbers gave expression to their feelings in loud weeping and lamentations.

Another account - 

On the evening of the day Mr Ingram left Westray a meeting was held in the Baptist Church at Pierowall and before the hour of meeting the church was crowded. After Mr Harcus, the Baptist minister, had begun the exercises, Mr Reid, who, we regret to state, is in very delicate health, came to the meeting, and was no sooner recognised by the Baptist bretheren than he was conducted to the pulpit. He then gave an impressive and solemn address on conviction and conversion which drew Silent tears from men in the audience. He was obliged to leave the church immediately owing to his infirm health and Mr Harcus then gave a suitable and impressive address which was listened to with profound attention. Before the blessing was pronounced he intimated that a prayer meeting would be held immediately, but those who required or wished to go home would have an opportunity of doing so. Very few left. The exercises of the prayer meeting were conducted by members of both denominations and a reverential awe seemed to pervade the meeting, no sound being heard but those of praise and prayer. When the prayer meeting ended those who wished were invited to stay for conversation and advice, when a great number remained. At first they only sobbed, but their pent-up feelings soon found vent and cries, not loud, but deep toned, and unmistakably expressing deep sorrow of heart. Mr Harkus and others endeavoured to speak comfort to them; but this only appeared to deepen their distress. More than one prayed with them, but still their tears continued; and when two verses of a hymn was sung there appeared a striking contrast, some singing strains of gracious invitation and others giving vent to bitter feelings expressing their consciousness of guilt. A more solemn scene could hardly be witnessed. They were unwilling to go away, but after much entreaty they were prevailed on to Separate at a late hour.

On Tuesday evening another meeting was held in the same place, when Mr Reid again addressed them and retired as on the previous evening and Mr Hercus conducted the remaining exercises. A prayer meeting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was again held after the blessing had been pronounced, after which some departed, but perhaps a half of the audience remained, some to weep, some to rejoice and others to wonder. A few seemed to be in deep anguish of soul, refusing to be comforted, yet they were unwilling to leave, but after prayer and praise they separated about 11 o'clock. It is a very solemn striking time. Formerly there were many who could not find time to attend Prayer meetings. One was busy at his farm, another at his merchandise, while the anxious mother had to look after the affairs of her family and therefore could not come. But the chains which bound them to the world seem now broken; for all these classes attend the meetings and it is their duty to watch and pray less they again be enslaved and continue so till death overtake them.

On Thursday evening December 27, a meeting was held in the UP church, and though the ground was covered with snow and the frost keen and severe upon weak constitutions, and the roads are also very bad, the church was crowded at an early hour and by the time of meeting the audience was larger than it usually is on a fine day in summer. It was one advantage for those who came from a distance that the moon was shining brightly. Owing to Mr Reid's enfeebled health it was a great effort for him to get up, especially as he could not ride owing to the state of the roads. Still, anxious to do his Masters work he was present at the meeting. Mr Harcus commenced with the usual exercises and then he addressed the people with much earnestness; after which Mr Reid, having somewhat recovered from his exhaustion, also gave an address. Prayer was then offered by persons belonging to both drnominations for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; and while the Meeting was thus engaged sounds of sobbing were heard all through the house in a subdued but mournful tone, expressive of deep mental agony. As on former occasions those who wished were invited to remain at the close and this time very few left. The scene was now somewhat changed, for some who had been in agony previously were now rejoicing in the God of their salvation. A few collected together and to the surprise of many began to express their happiness in songs of praise. Others, who were still morning in apparently hopeless distress, were startled with sounds of melody so alien to their own feelings and uttered piercing cries indicating the unhappiness of mind. It was nearly 11 o'clock before the meeting separated and then the people had apparently not much desire to go. Considering that many had to travel for miles through the snow, that unwillingness to leave the house of God may be taken as a strong proof how anxious they are about the salvation of their souls. Private meetings for prayer are being held and nothing seems now to satisfy the people that are meeting every night and it appears God is blessing these meetings to many souls.

'Orkney Herald', 8/1/1861

The effects produced on our island during the past four weeks have made it evident to the most incredulous spectators that the revival is the work of God's Spirit. A degree of solemnity pervades the island in general which was never known to exist here before. Meetings are held every night in the week and are crowded by all classes of the communities; the services, which are conducted with deep earnestness are often continued till a very late hour; while they are fraught with such interest and productive of such delight that the time seems to pass quite unnoticed. Towards the close of the services is often observable a remarkable mingling of different feelings; some being engaged in devout earnest prayer, others mourning aloud for their sins, others again of a more reserved nature uttering suppressed sobs and all ths sweetly blended with the sacred songs of others apparently exulting in the belief that they have found the Saviour. Our island has during the past four weeks been visited by no less than 11 ministers, who have all been more or less said zealously engaged in addressing very numerous and attentive audiences. The ministers of all denominations discharge their duties in the most loving and brotherly manner. The sweetest unity and Concord exists also among the people.

The following communication has been received from one of the teachers who has laboured among the young between 20 and 30 years –

I have for some time kept a Sabbath school in the classroom on sabbath evenings and in it there are four large classes. My class consists chiefly of young women from 14 to 18 years of age. I believe that nearly all my class, which is a large one, have become serious. Some of my class have received Christ before this. Several have had very powerful convictions and have had great anguish of soul for some time. I feel it pleasant now to speak to them about the way of salvation; every ear is attentive and their countenances beam with Joy while we speak of that Saviour in whom they have found peace. A number of females had been exceedingly useful since the revival began. They commened a prayer meeting and this became a centre around which others collected. They are ever ready to pour the balm of consolation into wounded hearts and these are numerous. Several young men in our sabbath school, who attended with us several years ago, have evidently undergone a saving change and are uniting with others in prayer meetings. To my delight I have had several of them pouring out this supplications with all the further of first love.

The revival has extended to every society into every class of persons, especially to the young. The most respectable of among us and those reared in religious families have been brought low under the Conviction of sin; while the careless and profane have been arrested in their career of sin and it is believed that God is worshipped in many families where the voice of praise and prayer was never heard before.

For some time passed I felt as if God was converting sinners all around and was passing by the children of the school. After the Christmas recess, a boy who had appeared to be proof against religious impressions, returned, to all appearance, a changed character; shortly afterwards a few young girls were brought under the conviction of sin and earestly sought refuge in Christ. We had also in the school some more advanced females who had evidently tasted that God is gracious. All these clung together in a little band and had become the object of scorn to others. Two small prayer meetings were voluntarily and quietly formed, one for boys and the other for girls. On the 24th of January about 1:00 pm, I observed an unusual appearance of silent weeping among a number of boys who had previously been careless. There had seen symptoms of seriousness in the early part of the day, I had paid no attention to it until now and I could no longer conceal that I was aware of their state of mind and I began to tell them so. Then almost all instantly gave vent to the anguish of soul. Tears flowed freely over the young blooming faces, while they deep toned cries revealed the agony of soul. Now a scene exceedingly affecting and one that cannot be described took place. The little band at once found work congenial to their nature. With tears of sympathy flowing freely they ran to the afflicted school fellows with their bibles in their hands, entwining their arms around their neck's and whispering into their ears the invitations of the gospel – the very words which gave themselves comfort. I felt the scene before me uncommonly affecting. I tried to pray with them, but from my deep emotion I could hardly utter a word. I sent for Mr Reid, who came into witness solemn scene. He was also deeply affected. He spoke to them and prayed with them. We spent the rest of our time in directing them to suitable passages of scripture and when they hour of dismission came they asked leave to remain to hold a prayer meeting. On this occasion two boys were absent and to my surprise next morning they were both struck with deep conviction of sin, which being observe, they ran to them and embrace them.

'Orkney Herald', 5/2/1861

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