Part 1: Glory Filled The Land

Chapter 4: Pre-War Ingathering 1908-1914

Revival in the Salvation Army 1908
- The Big One – Ayr
- Beith
Dunrossness, Shetland 1912
The War Years 1914-19

 

Revival in the Salvation Army 1908

The Big One – Ayr (additional stories to those in Chapter 4 of book)

  One visitor vividly described a typical meeting. ‘Imagine the Officer of the Corps, with his congregation, upstairs and down, literally wedged together, having to ask the crowd hopelessly shut out to oblige him by opening out sufficiently to allow of the Treasurer squeezing in at the back door to see to the collection! So it was a night or two ago. Imagine the Officer, accustomed to march ten or twelve Soldiers from the open-air to an inside week-night congregation of forty or fifty people, marching 150 converts to the Hall, only to find there was not even standing room in the Hall for them!

  ‘And what are the congregations like? Just the class the Army delights to see in its Halls. Blear-eyed men, with drink sodden features, across which criminal instincts have written themselves large, and against whom conviction after conviction is recorded in the police-books near-by. Ragged men, unwanted men, evil men, whose very presence is a pain, and whose inner natures are, by long abandon to sinful lusts, infinitely worse than outside stains indicate. Others are regular workers, but unable to pass a pub with a penny in their possession, and, consequently, very poor. Yet, again, there are others, well clad, thrifty people, but hardened in the ways of the world, and not easy to move in ordinary meetings…..Scores of men of each of these, as well as other types, have knelt side by side at the mercy-seat, where God has saved them, and not only is there now the little bit of Army ribbon on their coats, but there is a new look in their eyes, happiness is not conspicuous by its absence from their tread, a stirring testimony on their tongues, and an open-mouthed wonder on the part of their old associates.

  ‘Equally striking are the changes wrought among the women, a large number of whom are included in the converts, though men predominate. Bareheaded factory lasses, hard-headed housewives, ragged drunkards, and well-clothed respectable mothers, smartly-dressed young women, and small girls with bare feet have been so anxious to find mercy as to throw themselves down at the penitent-form, without regard to reprobate at one side or respectability at the other’. 1

  Another man testified that the night he got saved, he had in fact intended to attend some public entertainment at the Unionist Hall, situated right next to the Army Citadel. However, already under the influence of alcohol, he mistakenly walked into the Salvation Army Hall instead! ‘God got me sober and saved me that very night, and I am proud to be a Salvation Army Soldier’, he exclaimed.2

  The first ‘promotion to Glory’ of a convert took place at 5 o’clock one morning in early February when a notorious character, named Graham, one of three brothers, and converted only a few weeks previously, was called to his ‘Heavenly Home’. Meanwhile, in June a wedding took place of two of the revival converts. The bridegroom was a nephew of a Brigadier in the Salvation Army, while the bride was one of a whole family of revival converts.

  ‘Describe the drunk-and-sober meeting, who could?’ wrote one correspondent who attended services. ‘Bottles of whiskey, given up at the penitent-form, are held up, and immediately out go a number of hands from the unsaved drunks in the meeting. “Give it here!” they cry. “No”, responds the Adjutant; ‘”you must come and give up yours”. Up jumps a man, a Catholic, and waves above his head a still larger bottle. A few moments later he is at the penitent-form weeping and praying, and saying, “Smash the bottle! I’ve done with the drink for ever”. A big cheer goes up from the crowd, and when a wave-offering is suggested, a man with no handkerchief to flourish, takes off his coat and, with tremulous energy, waves that above his head!’. 3

  Into March, and rather than signs of the movement abating, it seemed instead to take a new lease of life. It was said of particular meetings in this month that, ‘there has been nothing like it since the revival began. Tremendous crowds have attended open-airs and marches, and the Citadel has been thronged nightly. In every meeting souls have sought mercy, among them being some remarkable trophies. One, a sister, saved since the last report, got up in the Town Hall on Sunday night before a thousand people and sang her experience. This caused a great sensation. The people looked, listened and wondered. Was it her whom they thought it to be? Yes! And when the Adjutant announced her name a storm of applause broke forth in token of approval. “Thank God”, they were heard to remark, “Maggie saved at last!”’ Several others, deeply impressed by her testimony, made commitments of faith. ‘The War Cry’ urged readers to ‘pray for Maggie, for the eyes of the whole town are watching her’.4

  A reporter for the ‘Ayrshire Post’ witnessed ‘One of the most remarkable meetings since the revival began’ following the drunk parade one Saturday night in March. ‘The place was packed to its utmost capacity’, and around 100 of the 600 present appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. On the platform alone were around 200 recent converts and Salvationists. ‘Pandemonium prevailed for the greater part of the time…At different times during the proceedings a few of the more adventuresome of the drunks clambered on to the platform, where gently but firmly they were made to sit down…The Adjutant is not the last man to appreciate a witty interruption. In fact, it is his sense of humour which enables him in no small measure to command the attention of a vast audience’. One convert testified that he used to ardently believe ‘that the human race was descended from the blue-tailed, green-backed monkey, or words to that effect. This sally, of course, evoked great merriment, and the audience were only silenced by the Adjutant blowing his whistle, which is a signal for quietness…One of the most pathetic sights witnessed’, continued the journalist, ‘was a mother, with her three children, the oldest of whom would not be more than three years, kneeling at the penitent form, and following the usual custom, their names and addresses were taken by the Captain and his assistants, and it is almost certain that they would be induced to attend the divine services on the Sunday’.5

  It appears that the degree of inter-denominational co-operation in the revival was very limited. Indirect confirmation of this comes from a moving testimonial written by Baptist minister Edward Last of his pious daughter, Olive, who died in November 1908, aged just eleven. Last moved from London to Ayr in June 1906 to build up a new Baptist cause in the town. Though he makes reference to numerous events during the period that revival was flourishing elsewhere in Ayr, Last makes no mention whatever of this movement. He speaks of the two months of children’s sand services conducted with great zest on the beach, and of the large crowd of children and adults that gathered round to hear the gospel. He also records that weekly meetings for boys and girls were also held during the summer in his own home, where many made a ‘clear decision for Christ’. (Last’s daughter, Olive also led several friends to the Lord during this period). But all these efforts appear to have been carried on quite independently of the Salvation Army’s own gospel work.6

  One man, known as ‘The Converted Comedian’, testified at a meeting that ‘Just before my conversion, while on a drinking bout, I woke one morning to find myself disabled in my right arm and suffering much pain. I said to my wife, “Mary, can you tell how I did this?” She said, “You came home last night mad with drink, and in a fit of passion took a knife. Then, picking up the child, you laid it across your knee, and, but for the fact of me bringing the poker across your arm and the lamp, which caused the knife to drop, today you would have been charged with murder’”. This comrade confessed with shame that he was a desperate drunkard, but he had been converted five months and is wearing full uniform’.7

Beith 1908

  From Ayr the revival also spread to Beith, a small manufacturing town twenty miles to the north, with a population of around 5,000. It was recorded that during 24 days from mid-April, ‘40 souls have been recorded at the mercy-seat, 34 for salvation and six for holiness. The open-airs and indoor attendances have steadily increased….Among the converts is a man who went through the South Africa war, and came home a perfect wreck through drink. He came to the Hall drunk, while his child was at home dying and the rest of the family on the verge of starvation. He got soundly converted and is showing much promise. His wife is also saved’. In addition, ‘Arthur B, who had only been to church three times in his life, a young drunkard and gambler, came straight from the card table and got saved. He is now soloing for Jesus’.8 At this point, the town was said to have been ‘on the eve of a revival’. While further encouraging reports of blessing were published in ‘The War Cry’ for several weeks,9 it appears that the anticipated full-blown revival did not materialise.

 

Dunrossness, Shetland 1912

  Dunrossness, 10 on the southern tip of the Shetland mainland, was considered a spiritually favoured parish since the days of Sinclair Thomson in the early 1800’s.11 Gavin Mouat was another local fisherman who, being supported financially by his converts to the sum of sixpence a week, gave up his occupation to share the gospel from house to house and to publicly read some of C. H. Spurgeon’s published sermons in a barn. Through his labours and those of Robert Henderson, one of his converts, many were converted.12 More recently, James McKendrick conducted fruitful missions in the parish in 1888, 1889 and 1891.13

  Meanwhile, it was reported in 1894 that ‘In connection with the opening of a new Wesleyan Church at Dunrossness, there commenced a work of grace, which resulted in a real, old-fashioned revival. Every night the premises, including porch and vestry, were filled with the people. The whole neighbourhood was stirred’.14 Yet again, the large numbers attending (and professing) during an extended campaign in the parish in 1908 necessitated a move from the Baptist Church to the larger United Free Church premises, and again to the Parish Church, the largest in the district.15

  Just four years later, in 1912, further showers of blessing fell on Dunrossness. One year previously a new minister was appointed to the Parish Church in answer to much earnest prayer. This pastor, the Rev. Robert Logan, arranged with the other ministers in the area to hold a monthly prayer meeting in the manse, in addition to existing prayer meetings. Some walked for a distance of three or four miles to pray that saints might be quickened and sinners saved. The Spirit of God was felt in power at the meetings, and hearts grew more expectant for an abundant answer.

  Hearing of the successful ministry of Welsh revivalist Fred Clarke and others at the Tent Hall in Glasgow, it was agreed to invite this Welshman for a united mission. The meetings began on February 18th in the Parish Church, and were crowded from the start. It appeared that a seal was immediately set on the work after a young fisherman came out to the penitent form and surrendered to Christ. This practise had never been used in the area before, so people were rather slow to respond; yet soon, night after night, with continued prayer, seekers came forward. A day of prayer and fasting was also held in the church, to which many came; while afternoon cottage meetings, too, were held in several villages. At the end of four weeks, a large number of souls had professed to accept Christ, and a great quickening came to the Christians of all churches.

  After a few days rest Clarke moved on to Bigton Mission Church, five miles to the north, a district known for its spiritual barrenness. There an even more wonderful outpouring of grace was experienced. Although the crofters were busy with ploughing and sowing crop seeds and could scarcely be expected to attend week-night meetings in big numbers, night after night they flocked both to prayer meetings and to services in the church. Women also left their knitting, on which they depended for a livelihood, to attend. At the end of four weeks an even larger number than in the Parish Church had decided for Christ. Many families, parents and children were brought in, a feature too of the work elsewhere in the area. Then on to Scholland, three miles south from the Parish Church, where a wonderful work of grace also began, meetings being held in the beautiful new memorial hall.

  One result of the revival was that many believers received a definite blessing. Some who for years had been longing for a fuller life were brought to the Cross in deeper surrender, and, by trusting Him, were filled with the Spirit. A spirit of prayer also accompanied the blessing, and Christians were drawn together on Saturday nights to intercede both for God's work and His workers. Another result of the awakening was the sense of the presence of God that pervaded the services and indeed virtually the whole parish, making many fear to speak and act as before. Even some desperate cases who seemed beyond all hope yielded to the pleadings and deeds of love, ‘and were clothed in their right minds at the feet of Jesus’.16

  An increased interest in Foreign Missions also became evident, while, nearer to home, much effort was made to visit every home in the district with Christian literature. With the Baptist Church sharing in the blessing, a beautiful new sanctuary was built later that year so that larger numbers could be accommodated. Meanwhile, Fred Clarke returned to Shetland the following year and spent time evangelising in Burra Isle, near Lerwick, where more good fruit was reaped.17

 

The War Years 1914-19

  One unusual episode with a strong Scottish connection that occurred during this time is well worth noting, although it took place, not in Scotland, but outside Amiens, in France. Twenty-year-old Duncan Campbell (later of Lewis revival fame) was serving in the army, and had been persuaded to attach himself to the Cavalry Corps, where, in April 1918, he was to take part in one of the last major cavalry charges of the British Army. As he plunged into the fray, his horse was shot from under him, and he fell, severely wounded. Quickly a second charge was ordered and men of the Canadian Horse pressed in. One trooper, whose horse struck Duncan in the spine, causing him to groan aloud, returned to pick up the wounded Scotsman and take him to the Casualty Clearing Station. Campbell, though a Christian, had been appalled for months at the depravity of his own heart. Now, thinking his end had come and that he wasn’t in a fit state to meet his Lord, he cried out as Robert Murray McCheyne had done some decades previously, ‘Lord, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be’. Instantly he felt the Holy Spirit coursing through his entire being, bringing deep cleansing, a new spiritual power and a profound joy. It was a baptism in the Spirit to which he often referred in later days. His biographer continues, ‘The sequel to this Divine visitation gave him his first taste of the supernatural work that can accompany the reviving touch of the Spirit of God upon His people. From that moment revival became a glorious possibility; something to live for, to work for, and to pray for’. In the makeshift ‘hospital’ a Highland nurse came over to Campbell and sang in Gaelic the opening words of a popular hymn. ‘Already in an ecstasy of joy, his heart bubbled over with praise to God. He began to quote, also in Gaelic, the Scottish metrical version of the 103rd Psalm. It is doubtful if any of the men around understood a word of the language he was speaking, but a stillness came over the ward and the awareness of God captured the consciousness of each one. Within minutes conviction of sin laid hold of them and at least seven Canadians trusted Christ. Before being lifted from the Station Duncan heard these men testify to what happened in that moment of miracle. The reality of God’s presence, through the praise of His servant, had so charged the atmosphere with the fear of God that these men were convinced of their sin and gloriously converted’.18 Campbell was taken back to Scotland and spent the next thirteen months in hospital in Perth. He is said to have referred to this time as ‘months of revival. He saw the gracious movings of God in the hospital. He said that he would just speak a word about Jesus and that would do it, people would be saved’.19

  Another little-publicised and largely unknown movement occurred among soldiers on the vast training grounds of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. Tens of thousands of servicemen, from units of practically every arm of the British Army, including many Scots, were encamped on sprawling canvas cities on this windswept moor during the war. It was widely recognised that there was no harder place anywhere than the Army in which to confess and serve Christ, and initially, workers from the Pocket Testament League encountered nothing but disinterest and scoffing. Then Charles M. Alexander, famed American gospel singer who accompanied both R. A. Torrey and Wilbur Chapman on their worldwide crusades, arrived for a five-day evangelistic tour of the camps, accompanied by several helpers. Men crowded to the meetings, sometimes over a thousand on a single occasion. Many of them were there no doubt out of curiosity. But in no time the mood at the meetings changed, as the men hung on every word proclaimed, while the singing was loud, joyous and heartfelt. The Spirit appeared to be powerfully at work and all through the tent men were visibly affected. Following an appeal, numbers of men, including officers, would walk to the front of the platform and audibly confess their Saviour in front of peers. Copies of the New Testament were offered freely to all who agreed by signature both to carry the Scriptures with them and to read at least one chapter a day. It was later reported - from the six camps visited by Alexander alone - that in two months 9,708 soldiers joined the P.T.L., each receiving a New Testament, and that over 2,600 men declared their acceptance of Christ as personal Saviour. MacLean, amazed at the movement which he, too, personally witnessed, termed it ‘a real Bible-revival, rooted in the convicting and converting power of God’s Word20 ’ Lionel Fletcher was another evangelist who spoke to thousands of men from all parts of the British Empire on Salisbury Plain during the Great War. One night during the terrible winter of 1916-17, when many soldiers were suffering from pneumonia and laryngitis, the meeting place was nevertheless crowded to capacity, and when Fletcher made an uncompromising appeal to submit to God, ‘about seventy men came to the front and stood shoulder to shoulder for Christ’, many of whom, just a few months later were to become casualties in the Front Line.21

1 War Cry’ 1/02/08 p11

2 War Cry’ 16/05/08 p11

3 War Cry’ 22/02/08 p11

4 Ibid. 14/03/08 p11

5 Ibid.

6 Edward Last ‘Olive: The Story of a Brief but Beautiful Life’, Glasgow c1911 pp19, 30-33

7 Ibid.

8 The War Cry’ 16/05/08 p11

9 Ibid. 30/05/08 p11; 6/06/08 p11

10 Details of this movement are recorded in an article written by the Rev Robert Logan in ‘The Revival’ 29/08/1912 p26

11 See Rev. J. A. Smith ‘Sinclair Thomson: The Shetland Apostle, Lerwick 1969

12 McKendrick ‘Seen & Heard’ pp166-167

13 Bebbington ‘Baptists in Scotland’ p330. This tireless evangelist paid six visits altogether to these northern isles. He mentions one woman of 70 and her 50-year-old daughter tramping 15 miles each way to his services. (McKendrick ‘Seen & Heard’ p166, 168)

14 Wesleyan Methodist ‘Spectator’, Melbourne, Australia, 16/11/1894 p747

15 The Revival’ 12/04/1908 p24. A campaign led by A. Y. McGregor in Shetland’s main town, Lerwick, two years later apparently changed from “mission to movement’ as many came under the deepest conviction; some who attended meetings being unable to sleep because of the burden of their sins, and others refusing to go and hear the evangelist for fear of getting converted! The campaign continued for two months and five meetings were held on the closing Sunday (‘The Christian’ 1/12/10)

16 ‘The Revival’ 29/08/1912 p26

17 The three churches on the island benefited from this mission with an increase in membership and a higher spiritual tone’ (Anonymous ‘A History of Burra Isle Baptist Church 1816-1990’, p13)

18 Andrew A. Woolsey ‘Channel of Revival: A Biography of Duncan Campbell’ Edinburgh 1974 [reprinted 1982] pp48-53

19 Brad Allen ‘Catch the Wind: The Story of Spiritual Awakening on the Hebrides Islands’, Tarentum, Pennsylvania 2002 p35.

20 J. Kennedy MacLean ‘A Revival Among Soldiers’, London c1915

21 Lionel B. Fletcher ‘Mighty Moments’, London 1931 pp64-69

 

 

 

 
Website construction & design: Paul J Kenyon 2009