The 1949 Island of Lewis Revival – How the revival spread - by Duncan Campbell
by David Leach
The Scottish Hebrides
The 1949 Island of Lewis Revival – How the revival spread - by Duncan Campbell
First, let me tell you what I mean by revival. An evangelistic campaign or special meeting is not revival. In a successful evangelistic campaign or crusade, there will be hundreds or even thousands of people making decisions for Jesus Christ, but the community remains untouched, and the churches continue much the same as before the outreach.
In revival, God moves in the district. Suddenly, the community becomes God conscious. The Spirit of God grips men and women in such a way that even work is given up as people give themselves to waiting upon God. In the midst of the Lewis Awakening, the parish minister at Barvas wrote, "The Spirit of the Lord was resting wonderfully on the different townships of the region. His Presence was in the homes of the people, on meadow and moorland, and even on the public roads."
This presence of God is the supreme characteristic of a God-sent revival. Of the hundreds who found Jesus Christ during this time fully seventy-five per cent were saved before they came near a meeting or heard a sermon by myself or any other ministers in the parish. The power of God, the Spirit of God, was moving in operation, and the fear of God gripped the souls of men - this is God-sent revival as distinct from special efforts in the field of evangelism.
A FOUNDATION OF INTERCESSION AND VISION
How did this gracious movement begin? In 1949, the local presbytery issued a proclamation to be read on a certain Sunday in all the Free Churches on the island of Lewis. This proclamation called the people to consider the "low state of vital religion . . . throughout the land . . . and the present dispensation of Divine displeasure . . . due to growing carelessness toward public worship . . . and the growing influence of the spirit of pleasure which has taken growing hold of the younger generation."
I am not prepared to say what effect the reading of this declaration had upon the ministers or people of the island in general, but I do know that in the parish of Barvas a number of men and women took it to heart, especially two old women. I am ashamed to think of it - two sisters, one eighty-two and one eight-four, the latter blind. These two women developed a great heart concern for God to do something in the parish and gave themselves to waiting upon God in prayer at their little cottage….During this time they plead one promise:
Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your seed, And My blessing on your offspring;
Now, I wasn't on the island at the time. I was in another area when word came asking me to come to Lewis for ten days…Arriving by boat, I was met by the minister of the church and one of his office bearers. As I stepped ashore, the office bearer came to me and said, "Mr. Campbell, may I ask you a question? Are you walking with God?" I was happy to be able to respond, "I can say this at any rate, I fear God."
IN CHURCH, MEADOW AND MOORLAND
From Barvas, the move of God spread to the neighboring districts…There was one area of the islands which wanted me to come but I didn't feel any leading to accept the invitation. The blind sister encouraged me to go and told me, "If you were living as near to God as you ought to be, He would reveal His secrets to you."
Ps 25:14-15 The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him…My eyes are ever toward the LORD, For He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
I agreed to spend a morning in prayer with her in the cottage. As we prayed, the sister said, "Lord, you remember what you told me today that you were going to save seven men in this church. I just gave your message to Mr. Campbell and please give him wisdom because he badly needs it." She told me if I would go to the village, God would provide a congregation. I agreed to go, and when I arrived at seven o'clock, there were approximately 400 people at the church.
The people could not tell what it was that had brought them; it had been directed by the Spirit of God. I spoke for a few minutes on the text "Truly these times of ignorance God overlooked; but now commands all men everywhere to repent' (Acts 17:30). One of the ministers stopped me and said, "Come see this." At one end of the meeting house, the most notorious characters in the community were on their faces crying out to God.
On a trip to a neighboring island I found the people were very cold and stiff. Calling for some men to come over and pray, in particular I requested that a young man named Donald accompany them. Donald, who was seventeen years old, had been recently saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit about two weeks later on a hillside. As we were in the church that night, Donald was sitting toward the front with tears falling off his face onto the floor. I knew Donald was in touch with God in a way that I was not. So I stopped preaching and asked him to pray.
Donald rose to his feet and prayed, "I seem to be gazing into an open door and see the Lamb in the midst of the throne and the keys of death and hell on his waist." Then he stopped and began to sob. After he composed himself, he lifted his eyes toward heaven, raised his hands, and said, "God, there is power there. Let it loose!" And at that moment the power of God fell upon the congregation.
On one side of the room, the people threw up their hands, put their heads back and kept them in that position for two hours. It is hard to do this for ten minutes, much less two hours. On the other side, the people were slumped over, crying out for mercy. In a village five miles away, the power of God swept through the town and there was hardly a house in that village that didn't have someone saved in it that night.
In one area of the district there was bitter opposition to the movement because I preached the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate and distinct occurrence following conversion. Those who opposed me were so successful in their opposition that very few people came to the meetings. One night, the session clerk came to me and said, "There is only one thing we can do to correct the situation which now prevails. We must give ourselves to waiting upon God in prayer.
I have been told there is a farmer who said we could meet in his home. He is not a Christian and his wife isn't saved, but they are God-fearing people." About thirty of us, ministers and elders from the district, met in this farmer's house. I felt the going very, very hard. I prayed. All the ministers prayed. One felt that the very powers of hell were unleashed.
About midnight I turned to one of the elders and told him I thought the time had come for him to lay hold of God. This man rose to his feet and prayed for about half and hour. (Of course, you must remember that we were in revival, and in revival time doesn't exist. Nobody was looking at the clock.) The man paused, lifted his hand toward heaven and said, "God, did You know that your honor is a stake? You gave the promise that You would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and You are not doing it."
I wonder how many of us could approach God with words like that on our lips? Then he said, "There are five ministers in this meeting, including Mr. Campbell, and I don't know where a one of them stands in Your Presence. But if I know anything about my own heart, I think I can say that I am thirsty for a manifestation of Your power." He paused again, then cried out in a loud voice, "God, Your honor is at stake and I now challenge You to pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground." And in that moment the stone-built house literally shook like a leaf. I immediately went to the Acts of the Apostles where it is recorded that they prayed and the place where they were assembled was shaken.
As soon as this dear man stopped praying, I pronounced the benediction a little after two o'clock in the morning and went out to find the whole village ablaze with God. I went into one house and found nine women on their knees in the kitchen crying out to God. One woman saved that night has written some of the finest Gaelic hymns in our Gaelic hymnal. On the following Sunday, the road was black with the people walking two miles to the church. The drinking house in that particular village closed that night and has never reopened since. This is God at work. A God sent revival is always a revival of holiness.
Ps 24:3-4 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully.
It takes the supernatural to break the bonds of the natural. You can make a community mission-conscious. You can make a community crusade-conscious. But only God can make a community God-conscious. Just think about what would happen if God came to any community in power. I believe that day is coming. May God prepare us all for it. Amen.