Revival at Banff 1860



J Murker Banff 19th June 1860.

Towards the close of 1858, the friends of the Redeemer of various denominations in Banff and Macduff, deeply anxious for a revival of the Lord’s Work, began to hold union prayer meetings. These meetings continued to be well attended, and were felt to be refreshing. The visits of several lay preachers, such as Mr. North and Mr. Radcliffe were much owned in the locality as a means of quickening Christians and rousing the careless. The ministers of the different congregations became more practical and earnest in their public services. Tidings of the progress of the Lord’s  work in America, and latterly Ireland, stimulated the godly.

Several young men began to feel concerned about their own souls and the souls of others. Three small prayer meetings of these young men spontaneously sprang up. Two lads commenced to pray together, in a wood near the town, after the toils of the day were over. They were joined by a third and fourth. They made a youth of their own age a subject of prayer for some time, and then  spoke to him about his soul, inviting him to their meeting in the wood. If he complied, they began to pray for another. If he did not at first join their ranks, they persevered to pray until they succeeded  – which they always ultimately did. By and bye they increased to a goodly band. By intertwining the branches of adjoining trees, they constructed a comfortable booth where they poured out their souls for a revival of religion in the place.

 The early storms of October, 1859, drove them from this hallowed Bethel. Their meetings were then held for a time in their different lodgings and subsequently in the vestry of the Free Church and of the Congregational alternately. During the winter months their number increased to about forty, all earnest young men, although as yet the greater part of them had not found peace in believing. Tidings of the sound of abundance of rain in the distance stimulated them greatly. For a mighty movement was now heaving the entire population of many a village along the coast to the west of Banff; and the Spirit had begun to descend like a copious shower on parched places.

The instrumentality of Mr. Turner or Peterhead – a laymen full of faith and fervent in spirit – was owned of God to the conversion of souls to a remarkable extent at Buckie and other fishing towns on the coast. He came to Banff, on invitation. in the month of March.  Meetings were held every afternoon and evening in the U. P. Chapel of Banff for weeks. These meetings were generally well attended, frequently the evening meetings were densely crowded. After a discourse from some minister and another from Mr. Turner, protracted prayer meetings were held, continuously sometimes till two or three in the morning.

Multitudes were aroused, and not a few converted.

On the night between Saturday the 10th and Sabbath the 11th March, the meeting lasted from seven in the evening till about six of the following morning. Those who spoke or prayed on that occasion felt unusual freedom and enlargement. About one  o’clock a spiritual power began to move the dense mass which crowded every part of the large chapel. Nine young men prayed in succession with great  power and fervency, before there could be any opportunity for praise or exhortation. In their prayers they touched upon their own personal case, and the cases of their companions who had either found peace or were struggling hard after it. The scene was heart-melting exceedingly. There was weeping in every part of the house. Sobs and subdued shrieks, with a few prostrations imposed a fearful solemnity. Men, women, and children prayed in succession in a manner altogether unusual. Young people wept upon each other’s necks, while they clung together in clusters of six or seven in a group. Yet there was no confusion; all was natural and peculiarly affecting. A spiritual power was grappling with saint and sinner. Still there were some hardened spectators looking on, who tried at the time, and afterwards, to turn the whole into ridicule.  It is, however, believed by all who are qualified to judge, that hundreds got saving good to their souls on that night. Many of the young men and others, who had for months been seeking the Lord, were introduced into liberty, and publicly gave thanks.

 The steadfastness and progress of these converts, during a period now of three months, confirm the conviction of the amount of good accomplished. As yet there has hardly been such a thing as falling away on the part of such as were believed to be converted. Those who had long made a credible profession of religion, on witnessing the mighty power of God, and the marvellous attainments of recent converts, became sadly troubled about their own state before God. After a season of distress, they have started the Christian race anew, and are altogether different from their former selves.

Since then the young men, to the number now of about one hundred, conduct crowded prayer meetings, both in the town and surrounding districts, with the best results. In the town, which does not contain over four thousand of inhabitants, there will be sometimes from ten to sixteen prayer meetings held all at the same hours, in different quarters. The amount of good cannot as yet be accurately estimated; but it is great, and has told extensively on the general face of society. Most of the converts were church-going people before, and they generally adhere to the same place of worship which they had previously attended. A great work is going on among the boys also, who hold prayer meetings of their own, which are exceedingly well conducted.

A number of the youth between the age of twelve and seventeen give evidence of a new birth, and can pray in public with great devotion, modesty, and propriety. They take a decided stand, and labour hard for the conversion of their youthful companions; nor do they labour in vain. The flower of the youth of the town are on the Lord’s side. Their love to each other, their union of co-operation, although belonging to different denominations; their manly decision, excite admiration. Being a powerful and united band, they are able to bear down opposition to a great extent. Who can estimate the effect of such an increasing phalanx of ardent young people so devoted and earnest? Many further advanced in years onward to old age also give evidence of a spiritual change. The converts are characterized by their deep sense of the evil of sin, the value of the Saviour’s work, the necessity of the Spirit’s influences, and the importance of holiness and Christian consistency, with a warm zeal for the welfare of souls. Some of them were for weeks and even months in distress of soul, others on their first awakening were introduced instantaneously into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

But what most of all strikes every observer is their rapid advancement in the knowledge and experience of divine things. Most of them having been well trained in Sabbath schools and Bible classes, derive vast advantage now from their previous knowledge of the Scriptures. Whilst these remarks have reference to the town of Banff somewhat similar and almost equally interesting statements could be furnished respecting Macduff, Portsoy, and other localities along the coast.

There have been many improprieties associated with this great movement ; but the remembrance of these will soon pass away, whilst a vast amount of good will permanently remain. Prostrations of every phase have been numerous, but no evil seems to have arisen from these. People at a distance who never witnessed these prostrations,  profess to be able  to account for them;but those who have seen and considered them candidly confess their inability to say how they are produced or what they are; only one thing is certain, there is always a great amount of good going on where they take place. In this quarter some were struck down their workshops, others in their own houses when alone, as well as, in other cases, in crowded assemblies and more private prayer meetings. Some have remained for hours, others for a shorter period, speechless and motionless. Some were conscious all the time, others were unconscious. Some underwent the great change during the time of prostration, they being conscious of the spiritual change taking place all the while; others have not given evidence of a new life although they had been struck down. In the great majority of cases, the subject, however, gives indications of being renewed by grace, either at the time or subsequently.

The good work is still going on, but with less noise, and fresh life pervades the churches, which are receiving considerable accessions to their membership. Twenty-five additions have been made to the Congregational Church in Banff during the past six months, and there is the prospect of more soon. Some of these recent additions are the fruits of the great movement, but others are not directly so. Lay agency, prayer meetings, and personal conversations have been especially honoured in this work.

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