The 1859 Ulster (N. Ireland) Revival (part 2)
by David Leach
These prayer meetings continued with no visible results for three months, but on New Years day 1858 the first convert was brought in. After that others were born from above and now joined the prayer meetings. By the end of the year about 50 men were meeting with them to wrestle and prevail in prayer. The one cry and burden of all their prayers was for an outpouring of the Spirit upon themselves and the surrounding area.
They were hungry and determined to pray through to God. Many of the local church people ridiculed, mocked and opposed this type of praying. They were happy to rest back and do nothing saying 'the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost and so we don't need to pray for the Holy Ghost.' Such stagnant attitudes never bring Revival.
But the small band prayed on determinedly, unmoved by the theories and theologies of man. Soon they were holding cottage meetings until no cottage was big enough. Also they held open-air meetings. And so slowly and quietly the work of God was carried on. James McQuilkin came forth in the midst of the revival as a most powerful preacher, later in 1859 he would travel to other towns to preach in churches and the open-air to great crowds and seeing a beautiful harvest.
Rev. Hamilton Moore who was the minister since 1840 of the local Presbyterian Church in Connor to which most of these men belonged encouraged these prayer meetings. His own preaching was simple, direct, lacking great eloquence but certainly having spiritual power in the conversion of sinners. He preached both the terrors of the Lord against sin as well as the mercy of God towards sinners.
He preached hell as well as heaven, his was not half a message as most today. His grasp of Gods truth was full and solid, his voice loud and clear, his heart soft and warm. He never talked about numbers but only the souls of men. He sought not after ministry or fame but to honor God and reach hearts.
But then came the stirring. The prayer meeting was full, other new ones were started, the people realized a hunger for prayer and the power of prayer as lives were changed. Reports of a stirring in this area began to spread and so that same year at the General Assembly he was asked to bring a report to the other ministers of this work of the Spirit of God.
At the same time reports were being received from America that a great stirring was taking place there. The Assembly appointed two ministers, Dr. William Gibson and Rev. William McClure to go to America and to report back. Amazingly it had also started there in September 1857 with one man - Jeremiah Lamphier, who had been converted to Christ under Charles Finney’s ministry, began a prayer meeting on Fulton Street in Manhattan – the one man became a few men then many praying for revival.
This did not begin with preachers but the normal rank and file of believers most of whom were business men. By this time there were 12,000 men praying in New York City for a move of God. Reports came about ministers who had labored long and hard without results now having packed congregations and prayer meetings. Believers in Ulster did not flood to America for a blessing but turned to God in prayer.
Over into 1859 saw the church in Connor leading the way as a testimony to Gods Mighty Reviving work. Now there were some 100 separate prayer meetings a week, these were held in homes, barns, schoolrooms and work places. These were mostly run by normal church members, one being a butcher who was only saved two years before and was now on fire for God. Another prayer meeting was held in a mill made up of about 500 people with the preachers at it being local farmers. The church was never empty and the 1000 families that made up the church were seeking God, and souls were being saved on every side. The meetings were solemn, the people earnest with many being moved to tears. This was Revival.
The revival spread out across the whole land family by family, village by village, and town by town. Within weeks 10,000 were converted. When this Revival hit Ballymena it was dramatic and sudden. One minister who was away for only two days from the town returned to find a great stir. Many families had not gone to bed for two or three days.
Everything seemed at a standstill and the noise of people crying for mercy or the singing of praise came from many homes night and day. One Minister said that "The difficulty used to be to get the people into the church, but the difficulty now is to get them out." Large open air meetings were held everywhere. God was raising up a humble army of new converts ablaze with His Spirit to witness again to Christ's resurrection.
In Londonderry a daily prayer meeting of 5,000 was held and at least several meetings daily. In Coleraine united meetings of Churchmen, Presbyterians, Methodists, Independents and Baptists were held, working together with one heart and soul. One said of this place "For the last three weeks it has been one continual Pentecost." Almost every street in Belfast brought forth repentant sinners. Large open air meetings of about 25,000 were held.
A couple of the great Evangelists used at this time were H.G. Guinness and Brownlow North of Scotland. One unusual physical manifestation was the prostrations, when men and women, sometimes as great multitudes, would be struck down under the conviction and power of God crying out in agony of soul and would rise up again born of the Spirit, redeemed and forgiven. As well some fell into trances and others had visions. The testimonies of the reaper of souls overtaking the sower of seed in the towns of Ulster
would need a great volume, but this is a partial witness of Gods great visitation in that year of grace to just a few places.
The life changing and society changing results were very evident. A great blow came to the drinking houses of the land as drunkards were convicted and saved. Even whole distilleries were closed. Crime dropped by half within months as the land came under the influences of God's workings. The Catholic Church sold Holy Water to protect their people from this strange work or as they called it a "revival devil...new work of the devil...an alarming contagious disease." But they did warn their people that even this holy water could not protect them if they dared to venture into any of these meetings. Reliable eyewitnesses testified that more Catholics were converted in 1859 than in the previous 50 years.
The Revival of 1859 brought 100,000 converts into the churches across the land. One minister said "It were worth living ten thousand ages in obscurity and reproach to be permitted to…engage in the glorious work of the last six months of 1859." Opposers of the Revival called it "The Year of Delusion" and "a corrupt revival." Wales also saw 100,000 converts added to the church (one tenth of the total population). In Scotland a harvest of 300,000 souls came in. Then in England a greater harvest still. Across Britain God raised up out of this harvest soul winners, evangelists and missionaries to carry forth the Gospel both at home and abroad.
By Keith Malcomson.
2009 will be the 150th Anniversary of this great Revival. Lets pray that the Lord will again be very merciful to our nations.
The Fulton Street Prayer Meeting, New York, 1857-59
Started by Jeremiah Lamphier in the same month and year September 1857 that 4 young men began praying in Northern Ireland.
"Do it Again Lord!"
In the year 1857 the Lord began to move the hearts of His people to pray and to seek His face for another mighty Revival in His Church. In the year 1859 the Lord amswered abundantly as He moved in Revival power in America, Ulster and Britain. This website www.pentecostalpioneers.org tells the story of this great Revival in different nations.