This week's "thought" has to do with an amazing move of God in Ireland between 1857 and 1860. It's a true account of what led to the "Ulster Revival" in 1859. I have taken the majority from a devotional book I use, entitled: "The One Year Book of Christian History," by E. Michael Rusten and Sharon Rusten, but I have also woven in facts from two other sources reformationsa.org and banneroftruth.org). I send it along to encourage you to speak the truth and persist in praying for the church. Enjoy!
"In the spring of 1856 an English lady by the name of Mrs. Colville came to Ulster, Ireland from Gateshead, England. She began a program of house to house visitation with a view to winning souls for Christ. In November she returned to England in low spirits thinking that God had not acknowledged her labors and feeling that her work had been unfruitful. She was wrong."
The following account tells us why....
"In 1856 in Ulster, Ireland, a young man named James McQuilkin was invited to tea with three ladies (a Miss Brown and two others). They were there to hear a visiting woman named Mrs. Colville who skirted the civilities of discussing the weather and spoke openly on a subject McQuilkin found uncomfortable: the condition of the soul (ie: did each have a personal interest in the Lord Jesus and had they received the new birth). After one guest at the tea party described the nature of her Christian experience, Mrs. Colville said: "My dear, I don't believe you have ever known the Lord Jesus." Though not addressed directly to McQuilkin, he would later write: "I knew that she spoke what was true of me. I felt as if the ground were about to open beneath me and let me sink into hell. As soon as I could, I left their company. For two weeks I had no peace day or night. At the end of that time I found peace by trusting the Lord Jesus."
The following year McQuilkin felt burdened to pray for his neighbors. He asked three friends to join him. Once a week the four men gathered at the village schoolhouse to pray for each person in their community by name. The town was Ahogill, County Antrim, Ulster, Ireland. The date: September 1857. They studied the Word and prayed for three months before there were any visible results. Two more men joined their group, and then on New Year's Day, 1858, the first conversion took place as a result of the prayer meeting. By the end of 1858, about 50 young men were taking part in the weekly prayer meeting. Many people ridiculed these young men praying for Revival. Others criticized their determination not to allow women in their prayer meeting. The young men responded that they did not believe it advisable to allow women in their prayer meeting, as the world would have said that the meetings were being held only for the purposes of flirtation. As it happened, young women started their own prayers meeting, which were also greatly blessed.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, God was laying the same burden on many hearts, and similar prayer groups started throughout northern Ireland. Pastors began to preach about revival. In December of 1857 McQuilkin's group rejoiced to see the first conversion in Ahogill. But widespread revival did not come. Still, God's people prayed -- for nineteen more months they prayed. Then in March of 1859, in the city of Ballymena, just six miles from Ahogill, a thirty-year-old man fell prostrate one morning in the crowded marketplace and called out, "Unclean! Unclean! God be merciful to me a sinner!" There was an overpowering conviction that a great Revival had come at last. The night of March 14, 1859, the McQuilkin group responded by inviting Christians to a prayer meeting at Ahogill Presbyterian Church. The church was so crowded that they moved the meeting out into the street. There hundreds of people knelt in the mud and rain, confessing their sins and praising God. They were the first of 100,000 people God called to himself in 1859 in what became known as the Ulster Revival. Men who had been previously unaffected bowed in earnestness and sobbed like children. Churches were crowded. Family worship became almost universal. There was joy unutterable.In Coleraine, in Antrim County, at the local school, a school teacher seeing one young boy clearly under the conviction of sin, advised him to go home and call upon the Lord in private. He sent with him an older boy who had found peace the day before. After these two boys had travailed in prayer for some time, the young boy was blessed with sacred peace and rejoicing he returned to the school, and with beaming face, reported to his teacher; "Oh Sir, I am so happy, I have the Lord Jesus in my heart!" The attention of the whole class was arrested. One boy after another silently slipped out of the classroom and after a while the schoolteacher looked out to see boys on their knees throughout the playground, each one in earnest prayer. He turned to the two boys and asked them; "Do you think you can go and pray with these boys?" They did so and kneeling down with one after another, they began to implore the Lord to forgive their sins for the sake of Him who had borne them all upon the Cross. There was a great spiritual movement among young people. It was not uncommon for teenage boys to hold street meetings to reach their peers for Christ. At one such meeting an Irish clergyman counted forty children and eighty adults listening to the preaching of twelve-year-old boys.
The results were remarkable. In 1860 in County Antrim the police had an empty jail and no crimes to investigate. Judges often had no cases to hear. With their owners converted, pubs closed and alcohol consumption fell so drastically that whiskey distilleries were sold. Gambling at horse races fell of by 95%. A visitor to Ulster reported: Thronged church services, abundant prayer meetings, increased family prayers, unmatched Scripture reading, increased giving, converts remaining steadfast." The Ulster movement touched off similar revivals in England, Scotland and Wales. Edwin Orr wrote of the 1859 Revival: "This Revival which originated in a prayer meeting of four young men in the village school house of Kells made a greater impact spiritually on Ireland, than anything else known since the days of St. Patrick." Or to take it back a step further, God drew hundreds of thousands of people to himself through a movement which all began with a woman unafraid to speak spiritual truth over tea."
Don't ever give up praying or speaking Gospel truth.
God's richest blessings on you and your churches, Pastor Jeff