Sunday, 5 November 2017

Genuine Revival: Learning from History.

There’s some talk of impending revival in the West Coast of Scotland these days. It is good to see some folk pray for revival. However, those who feel the need to ‘work up’ revival by their own efforts are on the wrong track.

It must be remembered, that a key characteristic of the Living God is his sovereignty. He alone chooses the time, place and the servants through whom he will act.

Nevertheless, we can learn from history. My great grandfather, Charles Morrison (1839-1916), was a master shoemaker who owned a boot, shoe making and retail business in the picturesque village of Aberlour on Speyside. It is to him that five generations of Morrisons owe much of their Christian heritage.

In 1869, revival came to Aberlour. Two evangelists came to the village in response to the faithful prayer of two ladies over many years. As a result, my great grandfather received and confessed Christ as his personal Saviour, and with twenty-one others, was baptised in the river Spey the following year. This was the beginning of his spiritual life.

One on these evangelists chosen by the Living God to bring the good news to the North East of Scotland was Donald Ross. The following extract comes from a short monograph published by the conveners of The Aberdeen Christian Conference to celebrate its centenary in 1974.

“One instrument, specially chosen of God a century ago was Donald Ross, a man mighty in word and in deed, as he moved throughout the North-East. He was a man of great native talent, a shrewd judge of character, an upholder of Scriptural doctrine, uncompromising in his preaching, blunt and fearless in his expression. Well known throughout a wide area, his quaint and pithy sayings were often referred to and indeed are often quoted today. In almost every town and village that he touched, there were Christians long after he had gone who blessed this man from whose lips they first heard the Gospel.

Greatly persecuted and despised, he was nevertheless greatly used in the advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on earth. During the meetings, he and his associates were frequently interrupted and were often subjected to a barrage of stones, turf and eggs from those who were so incensed at the preaching.

At Inverurie, a crowd of ruffians attempted to crush the preachers as they left the Town Hall at the end of the meetings; at Kintore, some of his friends arrived to find Donald Ross preaching in a barn to a crowd of young men who scoffed and jeered as he and an aged widow, the only Christian he found in the little town, sang the opening hymn.

‘The foxes found rest and the birds had their nest,

In the shade of the forest tree;

But thy couch was the sod, O Thou dear Son of God,

In the deserts of Galilee.’

Six young fellows from Auchterless, farm servants, found themselves the Sheriff at Aberdeen and were fined ten shillings each ‘or suffer seven days imprisonment’, when someone observed their behaviour and reported them ‘for using bad language, knocking on the doors and windows of a house while a revival meeting was in progress’.

At Huntly there was an attempt to throw the preacher over the bridge into the River Bogie.

Just as the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church, so out of these buffetings came blessing as the Word of the Lord grew and the number of converts multiplied.”

When real revival comes it will be a clear sovereign act of God. The evidence will be many conversions, accompanied by opposition. Revival won’t be ‘worked up’, but will come through those who are obviously chosen by the Lord, humble and genuine, evidenced in the scars they bear.

Laudable though it is, talk of revival in the west may perhaps be a little premature, given the absence of fearless characters like Donald Ross and his colleagues: individuals who were without doubt 'specially chosen of God'.