Tuesday, February 24, 2009

1859: Origins

When considering the scale of the 1859 Revival, with over 100,000 people convicted and converted, you may well wonder how it came about. What happened to impact so many people? Given the way we try to organise things today, you might be tempted to imagine there was a committee which sat and planned for revival, with sub-committees and standing committees and sitting committees and such like.

Not a bit of it! To trace the origins of the 1859 outpouring, instead you must turn to a prayer meeting, in a schoolhouse in the tiny village of Kells, County Antrim. There four young men began to pray weekly on Friday nights, and it blossomed and spread, bringing the Holy Spirit's blessing on their endeavours, and awakened many to their utter sinfulness and need of salvation.

The four men were James McQuilkin, Jeremiah Meneely, Robert Carlisle and John Wallace.

Quoting from Ian Paisley's book: These four young converts were naturally closely allied in spirit and they mutually agreed for their own edification and the salvation of precious souls to meet weekly for prayer and Bible study... The place chosen for meetings was the Old Schoolhouse near Kells and the meetings commenced in September 1857. During the long winter of 1857-58 every Friday evening, these young men gathered an armful of peat each, and taking their Bibles made their way to the old schoolhouse. There they read and meditated upon the Scriptures of truth and with hearts aflame with a pure first love, poured out their prayers to the God of heaven. The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate and warmed their bodies from the winter's chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven which set all Ulster ablaze for God, and warmed with saving rays at least 100,000 souls.

For three months, there was just the four of them, but then converts began to be added to their prayer group, so that by the beginning of 1859, there were 50 men gathering each week to pray.

As Jeremiah Meneely said years later: We did not allow the unsaved in the prayer meeting. It was a fellowship meeting of Christians met for the one great object of praying for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves and upon the surrounding country. This was the one great object and burden of our prayers. We held to the one thing and did not run off to anything else. The Presbyterian minister (Rev John H Moore) was favourable toward us all the time but many of the people ridiculed our praying for an outpouring of the Spirit, saying that He had already been poured out on the day of Pentecost. But we replied that the Lord know what we wanted and we kept right on praying until the power came.

Source: The "Fifty Nine" Revival by Ian R K Paisley.

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