Whitness - Shetland (1863)

The great and good work continues to make progress in the far north. To appearance its influence in the town of Lerwick has considerably subsided. Now the public meetings are neither so numerously attended nor so frequently held as they once were. Nevertheless, the public manifestations have only given place to those of a more private and permanent character. Praver-meetings are at present common with the young of both sexes, and several district ones, conducted by experienced Christians, whose hearts have been moved, and whose zeal has been inflamed by the stirring scenes of recent occurrence, have sprung into existence. Still, our public meetings are not destitute of interest, and the one held on the Sabbath evenings has been attended by results of a most pleasing and blessed nature. But what of outward interest is wanting in the town, is abundantly enjoyed in some of the country districts. There the work of conversion steadily progresses, and that, too, generally speaking, in the most satistactory manner. It is only in the district of Conningsburgh that the excitement has gained an ascendancy over both pastor and people and, as a consequence, created some surmises regarding the real character and tendency of the movement. However, of its beneficial influence none need be in doubt, since Sandwick, a place only two miles further south, supplies the sure and certain evidences in the reformed lives and sanctified conversation of not a few recipients of the divine blessing. At a crowded meeting held in the chapel there a short time ago. We saw many a wet cheek, as the Rev Mr Macfarlane pointedly addressed his audience from the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and it was gratifying to see many of the 160 who attended the conversation meeting after the public service, professing to have found peace in believing. The night was dark, windy and wet, yet from distances miles around the people had gathered together to hear the word of God spoken, and it seemed to be with reluctance that they separated about eleven o'clock at night, after remaining for upwards of four hours in the meetings. At this place some very striking answers to fervent, believing prayer have been given. Two persons came under our notice of clear illustrations of this, and certainly their present conduct, when contrasted with their past behaviour, pointedly exhibits the power and the efficacy of divine grace. Besides the meeting in the
chapel, there was one held in the parish church and those present were suitably addressed by the resident minister. Altogether the outpouring of the divine blessing upon this place has been great and manifest, and the fruits of the general awakening will we trust become more and more apparent in the deportment of all in this neighbourhood. Further south evidences of progress are beginning to appear, and in the further north the meetings are numerously attended. Notwithstanding the unfavourable state of the weather, and in thinly-peopled districts, Mr Fraser has had audiences of 400 in one place at the same time, and wherever he has been, signs for good have been disclosing themselves. At Whiteness, in the west, a great movement has pervaded the whole district, and under the judicious management of the Rev Mr M'Kinven, the most satisfactory results have been gained. On a recent visit to this place we had not only the pleasure of seeing the place of worship filled to overflowing, but listening to well-timed addresses by two clergymen who had come from the town to comfort and console the anxious inquirers of the district. At the conversational meeting there were about 140 present and it was with some difficulty that the speakers could free themselves from the earnest seekers after peace and salvation, who
followed them on their way home after a protracted service of about six hours. The Lord has done great things for us of which we are glad.

"The Revival," February 12th, 1863.

It is matter for continued prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God that these distant islands of the sea continue to be the theatre where the Spirit of the Lord is plying his great power in the convincing and converting of many a precious soul.

In many districts and parishes of these islands the Lord is evidently making bare his holy arm and saving, not one here and there, but entire households. Truly the solitary place is being made glad, and the desert of man's depraved nature is blossoming like the rose. The blessed Jesus is indeed seeing in the sons and daughters of those interesting isles of the sea of the travail of his soul, and being satisfied. For the peace of believing is flowing in many a soul like a river, and the assured imputed righteousness of Jesus like the waves of the sea.

Shetland owes much to the Lord for this heavenly state of affairs, and to pious labourers in her own midst, but much also to those devoted servants of God from the south who, from time to time, have visited her shores - men with burning zeal for God's glory and the happiness of immortal souls - servants of the Lord of the primitive stamp, careless of fatigue and bodily comfort seeking no man's silver and gold, prompted by no selfish motive, desiring no personal aggrandisement nor sectarian extension, seeking to know nothing among the people save Jesus Christ and Him crucified; from island to island, from mansion to hovel, calling upon all men everywhere to repent, to cling for salvation to the Cross of Christ, or perish, looking for salvation away from every deadly doing to the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners of all conditions. No wonder that the labours of these men were and are blessed, and so many souls saved, especially when the seed of the kingdom they are sowing in such purity is watered by the prayers of thousands at home and abroad. What should prevent refreshing seasons from the presence of the Lord to come on Shetland even to a greater extent? It is infidelity not to look for it, sinful not to expect it.

It would have been a more blessed time for Shetland had all the ministers received these good men with open arms, thrown open their churches, and so helped on the cause. Such is the case in several parishes, and the happy fruits have followed. The church has been revived and built up. Ministers' and people's hearts have been more and more knit together in love, and Christ has been honoured. But in other parishes ministers, with a blind delusion, have discountenanced the heavenly movement; churches are kept shut against its promoters, and the noted hospitality of the Manse has been withheld. The
natural consequence follows: the church suffers, and religion languishes; for as in the days of Jeremiah, so now, pastors are to be found who scatter the sheep, visit and feed them not, and thus drive them away. The woe is even begun. Empty pews, cold and heartless worship, already declare it. 

It is difficult, without memoranda, to mention the several evangelists and ministers who have visited Shetland for the past several years, as promoters of the Revival movement; and as to the amount of good that has been done by each and by all, the judgement day will only declare and a glorious revelation it will be. But amongst those whose labours more evidently appeared blessed are Messrs Fraser and M'Intosh, Dr Craig, and Mr Adam of Edinburgh. These entered fully into the work, and were for some time labouring. The colporteur, Mr Sloan, did much good, especially the first year of his labours and not a few souls were blessed through him. The Rev. Mr Reid and his co-labourer, Mr M'Kay, did not visit Shetland in vain and had they not continued their stay a week or two longer, the Lord's work would have prospered to a greater extent. And last but not least, the Rev Professor Martin of Aberdeen; his visit was a blessing to many, even to some who heard him not, by strengthening the weak hands and confirming the feeble knees of many, even belonging to his own church, who had given their hearts to the Lord, but were receiving little sympathy from those above them, who ought to have been the foremost in blessing God for the great change evidently wrought. This learned servant of God, by his piety, zeal for the good cause, humility and Christian liberality, has endeared himself to every child of God in Shetland coming in contact with him, regardless of church or creed. May he soon visit these shores again in all the fullness of the blessings of the gospel of Christ.

The work of the Lord seems to be receiving a fresh impetus by the labours of good Mr Adam, evangelist from Aberdeen. Nothing short of a general revival has taken place in several parishes. Since his visit to Shetland on this occasion, he has laboured in Whalsay, Skerries, Fetlar, Yell, Lunnasting: Delting, Whitness, and Weesdale, and Nesting, and his labours have been more or less blessed.

But Yell, Whitness, Weesdale and Nesting, are the parishes more remarkably blessed, where every place was crowded to excess with souls thirsting for the word of life. In Yell the work was greatly promoted by the noble examples of the parish ministers giving freely their churches and setting every good example. Glorious fruits followed; souls were brought to the Lord not a few. At one place the people met in a little chapel, which was densely crowded. The Established church was near but had not been offered. A young man went and asked it: the good minister at once granted it, and showed every kindness to the evangelist. The church was crowded, and many souls brought to the Saviour. The front pews were filled with anxious ones seeking for peace.

At Whitness and Weesdale, the Established and Free Kirks were at one thrown open, a great work was done in both districts. As many as eighty souls were in one evening anxiously thirsting for salvation. The front pews were cleared for the anxious, so that they might be spoken to individually; and it was a soul-stirring sight to see converted fathers leading forth anxious children, husbands their wives, wives their husbands, brothers their sisters, and sisters their brothers. The Spirit of the Lord was moving noiselessly but mightily that night, and few stout hearts could withstand. A stirring event transpired. A man about fifty years, and the respectable head of a numerous family, feeling the Spirits power, got to his feet and craved permission to speak, which was readily granted. Waving his hat he said, "Men, and women, and neighbours, you all know me; I am a sinner, but I shall be so no longer. Follow me, come to the Cross with me this night, for I am going.' The humble but earnest appeal told very much; stout hearts gave way, and not a few came forward. Soon a number, with the stamp of heaven's peace on their countenances, were enabled to declare before all, the good their souls had received, the peace they enjoyed.

In Nesting the work was equally great and interesting. A remarkable circumstance occurred, showing the strange working of the Spirit. A meeting one day was held in a dwelling-house, of which a young man, dumb and deaf, was a member. He had been present at the meeting, where a number were anxious. No change was noticed on the dumb lad - such a thing was not thought of, but after the meeting was over, in evident agitation of soul, he came forward and threw himself down at the side of
the speaker. Mr Adam began to speak to him, thinking he could hear him, and not knowing his physical incapacity. Seeing this, he took him to his bosom, and all joined in prayer for the poor anxious lad. The Lord was indeed gracious. He rose from his knees, pointed to the skies and with a countenance beaming with joy he gave signs of the joy he felt. He attended the meetings and strangely, on one occasion, when the people were much stirred by the fervent and earnest preaching of the word, tears coursed over this dumb and deaf Christian lad's face as if the Spirit was holding intercourse with his soul. May we  look on and adore!

 A happy, characteristic of this movement is the entire absence of undue excitement, not one case of screaming or falling down, but many tears are seen at every meeting. Most interesting it is to see wherever the movement is, such a large proportion of men and lads among the anxious. It seems as if the Spirit of the Lord was acting like fire and a hammer; stout hearts are subdued and hard ones melted. Where the word of God fell without effect before, now it is received with gladness, and tearful eyes are seen on every side. It is cheering in the extreme to see stout fishermen and sailors, old men and old women, and young women and children earnestly seeking the way to Zion and careless of all wicked comments, thronging the seats of the anxious. Oh! may the knowledge of the Lord increase till these distant isles of the sea be as the garden of the Lord.

Mr Adam goes to labour in an island on the west coast of Shetland, called Papa Stour. May the Spirit's presence go before him and work very mightily there. It would be wise in the good Christians who have sent him to Shetland to continue him some time; and while the Spirit of the Lord is moving so remarkably on the hearts of the people, more labourers should come into the field. Come over and help us, is the cry from Shetland just now. Lord, strengthen those who come. Use the many whom the Lord has stirred up so much; may they be enabled to go onward.

"The Revival," January 12th, 1865.

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