Brethren Archive

Reminiscences of the Revival of the 1859- 60.

by Dr Robert Mckilliam

"I had graduated in 1858, and had just begun professional life in Old Meldrum, a small Aberdeenshire town, seventeen miles north of the Granite City, my birthplace.  It was God's blessing to me that, as a very young Christian, I was brought into a large circle of kind and devoted Christian friends.  Personally also I was prepared, through much suffering, to receive blessing by the removal of my mother, a very decided Christian, to whom I was greatly attached.  I was humbled and tendered in conscience, and cast more entirely upon the Lord, when tidings of wonderful Revival in various quarters began to reach and stir the hearts of many.  We got together for prayer, and a spirit of great expectancy of coming blessing was given to us.
 “If I remember aright, our little town was visited by Mr. Brownlow North and Mr. Grattan Guinness, before Mr. Radcliffe was invited to preach.  Till his visit, however, there was no real marked break-down.  The soil was prepared, doubtless, and expectation amongst God's people was increased; but somehow or other, our hope was centred in Mr. Radcliffe's visit.
“I shall never forget the night on which he gave his simple message.  The Free Church, of which dear old, kind-hearted Mr. Garioch was at that time pastor, and which was an exceptionally large building, was crowded.   People of every denomination, and from all parts, for many miles round, had flocked to hear him.   I think most of us were disappointed.  We had expected something entirely out of the ordinary in eloquence and learning.  The address was short, and was more simple than we were accustomed to.  At the close, Mr. Radcliffe invited those who were anxious to receive salvation of their souls to remain.   Some of us, I regret to say, did not expect many to stay, after the disappointing sort of address to which we had listened, and we had what we expected—nobody remained.
“Then we had such a rebuke, and such a lesson of simple faith in God, as the writer will never forget.  That man of child-like faith stood up, and said to the handful of workers, who had remained behind looking at him with blank disappointment written in every face: ‘Friends, have faith in God.  Let us ask God to send them back!'  Then he prayed as a child would speak to his father.  While he prayed, one by one, the people began to drop in; by and by in twos and threes, and later on in crowds; until, before the prayer was finished and a hymn sung, the big kirk was again one-third full.
“Then, what a night we had!  There was a wondrous break-down; boys and girls, young men and women, old grey-haired fathers and mothers, wept together like babies.  Dear old Mr. Garioch, long since with his Master, was quite at home in the blessed work of pointing out to burdened souls the way of life.  His face shone like an angel's.  Others of us were rather awkward at first in this new and strange work; but the real need around us in the bitterly sorrowing hearts demanded help, and in some way or other, we were, by God's grace, enabled to give it.  Ministers and elders who had been deeply prejudiced, and had, some of them, consented ungraciously to be present, because of the entreaty of friends, were so greatly stirred and changed, that they arranged immediately with Mr. Radcliffe for a visit to their places.
"Our brother was able to be with us only one night at the time.   Yet, for many, many months, we continued to reap, and the place was literally changed.   For a long time, the ordinary topics of conversation were forgotten and real, serious, spiritual talk; croquet parties, social evenings, etc., were set aside for prayer meetings and Bible-readings, and we never for a long time came together without expecting manifest blessing.   On that first night of the Revival in Old Meldrum, some of us began to learn the secret source of Revival; and blessed be God, for well-nigh fifty years, we have never quite lost the practical results of it from our life and ministry.
"I cannot refrain from saying a little about Huntly, to which, as a sphere of professional work, I was later in my life invited.  In 1859-60, Rev. H. M. Williamson was minister of the Free Church.  He has, doubtless, spoken concerning the widespread and long continued movement there, of the influence of the good Elizabeth, Duchess of Gordon, and her band of earnest helpers, including Duncan Matheson and Hector Macpherson; of the great annual-park meetings, with their many thousands of eager worshippers.  When I went to Huntly, Mr. Williamson had already left for Aberdeen, the Duchess of Gordon had been taken home, and her staff of workers were scattered.
"The results were still there, however, in spirit-filled men and women.  It needed only to get them well together, to have the embers burst forth into fires, which burned up much dross and warmed the hearts of many who had grown cold.  This God did very specially for us about six or seven years after that first Revival of 1859-60, in a manner which turned Huntly upside-down, and continued with more or less blessing for three years.  Mr. Radcliffe visited us, I believe, on this occasion more than once; though at that time, his special work lay, I think, in other directions, and was more in the line of stirring up the missionary enterprise.
"One special feature of Christian life in these Revival days has almost disappeared.  I refer to the simple, homely Bible-readings, when a Bible-hunger was strong within us.  We used to meet night after night in each other's houses, sit around the table with a Book in our hands, with our eyes up to Jesus, our Lord, and talk out to each other our thoughts as He gave them.  Blessed meetings!  How we did hunger and thirst, how we were filled, and what joy we had!"  (Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe," pp. 71-4.)
"Reminiscences of the Revival of 1859 and the Sixties." 1910


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