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Text Sermons : ~Other Speakers M-R : Old Paths Magazine - Issue 14 : The Hebrides Revival 1949 by Duncan Campbell

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A Gracious Move

How did this gracious movement begin? In 1949, the local presbytery issued a proclamation to be read on a certain Sunday in all the Free Churches on the Island of Lewis. This proclamation called the people to consider the "low state of vital religion . . . throughout the land . . . and the present dispensation of Divine displeasure . . . due to growing carelessness toward public worship . . . and the growing influence of the spirit of pleasure which has taken growing hold of the younger generation."

They called on the churches to "take these matters to heart and to make serious inquiry what must be the end if there be no repentance. We call upon every individual as before God to examine his or her life in light of that responsibility which attends to us all and that happily in divine mercy we may be visited with a spirit of repentance and turn again to the Lord whom we have so grieved."

Two praying sisters

I am not prepared to say what effect the reading of this declaration had upon the ministers or people of the island in general, but I do know that in the parish of Barvas a number of men and women took it to heart, especially two old women. I am ashamed to think of it, two sisters, one eighty-two and one eight-four, the latter blind. These two women developed a great heart concern for God to do something in the parish and gave themselves to waiting upon God in their little cottage.

One night God gave one of the sisters a vision. Now, we have got to understand that in revival remarkable things happen. It is supernatural; you are not moving on human levels; you are moving in divine places. In the vision, she saw the churches crowded with young people and she told her sister, "I believe revival is coming to the parish."

Peggy Smith was 84 years old and blind. Her sister Christine, 2 years younger, was almost doubled-up with arthritis. Yet, in the early hours of a winter's morning in 1949, in their little cottage near Barvas village on the Isle of Lewis in the Scottish Hebrides, they were to be found in earnest prayer. That morning, God visited them in a special way, giving them an unshakeable assurance that the revival they and others had been praying about for months, was near. Peggy, speaking in Gaelic (for they could not speak English) told her sister, "This is what God has promised: 'I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground', and we are dealing with a covenant-keeping God".

Some months previously, Peggy had received a dream from God in which she was shown that revival was coming and the church would be crowded again with young people. At the time, that seemed most unlikely. There had been a definite movement of the Spirit of God just before World War 2, but the war had taken its toll. By 1949, the younger generation was drifting away from God.

After her dream, Peggy sent for her minister, James Murray MacKay, and told him what she believed was a revelation from God. She asked him to call the church leaders to prayer. This man of God responded, and for months he and others met to do business with God 3 nights a week in real prayer. The minister's wife also had a dream in which she saw the church filled with people who were obviously concerned about their souls; and a stranger was in the pulpit.

Revival is coming

The very same day that God gave the two elderly sisters the assurance about the coming revival, there had also been a group praying with the Rev. MacKay at about 10 PM in a barn in Barvas (about 12 miles away from Stornoway). While kneeling on the straw they pleaded with Almighty God. A young deacon from the Free Church stood up and read Ps. 24: "Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false" (ps 24:3,4). He read the passage again and then challenged the praying group, "Brethren, we have been praying for weeks waiting on God, but I would like to ask now, are your hands clean? Are your hearts pure?" As they continued to wait before God, His awesome presence swept into the barn. At 4 AM, they (in the words of Duncan Campbell) "moved out of the realm of the common and the natural into the sphere of the super-natural, and that is revival".

It was Duncan Campbell of the Faith Mission that Rev. MacKay felt led to invite to Barvas for special meetings. The leading was confirmed by Peggy Smith. She told him that "one night, in a vision, the Lord had revealed to her not only that revival was coming, but also the identity of the instrument He had chosen to use: Duncan Campbell".

At first, Duncan Campbell refused the immediate invitation and put it in his diary for the following year. When the two praying sisters heard this, they simply said, "This is what man has said. God said he was coming, and he will be here within the fortnight". And sure enough, he was!

Although there was a great spirit of expectancy at the first meeting, and although there was a freedom in the Spirit, nothing very remarkable happened. After the meeting, it was suggested that about 30 of them retire in a nearby cottage to spend the night in prayer.

God begins to move

Duncan Campbell described what happened, "God was beginning to move; the heavens were opening. We were there on our faces before God. At 3 AM, God swept in! About a dozen men and women lay on the floor, speechless. Something had happened. We knew that the forces of darkness were going to be driven back, and men were going to be delivered. We left the cottage at 3 AM to discover men and women seeking God. They walked on a country road and found 3 men on their faces, crying to God for mercy. There was a light in every home; no-one seemed to think of sleep."

When Duncan and his friends gathered at the church later in the morning, the place was crowded. A stream of busses came from every part of the Island, yet no-one could discover who had told them to come. A butcher in his van brought 7 men from a distance of 17 miles. All 7 were gloriously converted. Now the revival was really under way. The Spirit of God was at work. All over the church, men and women were crying for mercy. That meeting went on until 4 AM the following morning.

Even then, Duncan Campbell was unable to go to bed. As he was leaving the church, a messenger summoned him to go to the local police station. They were in great spiritual distress; under the still, star-lit sky, he found men and women on the road, others by the side of a cottage and some behind a peat stack, all crying to God for mercy. The revival had come.

That went on for 5 weeks with services from early morning till late at night or early in the morning. Then it spread to the neighbouring parishes. What had happened in Barvas was repeated over and over again. The sacred presence of God was everywhere. Sinners found themselves unable to escape it.
Before the revival, Stornoway had one of the highest drinking rates in Scotland, and 'bothans', illegal and unlicensed drinking places, flourished. After the revival, one publican mourned, "The drink trade on the Island is ruined."

Continued blessings

Although the peak of the revival was between 1949 and 1952, the blessing continued to flow for many years. Even in 1957, God again manifested His power, this time, to the great delight of Duncan Campbell, it was on the Island of North Uist. It was a recognised fact that Uist had never known revival. Local ministers testified that the move in Uist was even greater than the previous move in Lewis. Again, the move of the Spirit of God was carried on by believing prayer and through faithful preaching of the Word of God. There was, however, an unusual note, for God chose as His main instrument in Uist, 4 sister pilgrims of the faith mission. Meetings were crowded and night after night, people were found crying to God for salvation.

Many young men from the Hebridian revival heard the call of God and entered the ministry. Others answered the call to the mission field.

Duncan Campbell once wrote: "Those who seek God for revival must be prepared for God to work in His own way and not according to their programme. His sovereignty does not relieve men of responsibility. God is the God of revival, but man is the human agent through whom revival is possible. Desire for revival is one thing, confident anticipation that their desire will be fulfilled is another."
It takes the supernatural to break the bonds of the natural. You can make a community mission-conscious. You can make a community crusade-conscious. But only God can make a community God-conscious. Just think about what would happen if God came to any community in power. I believe that day is coming. May God prepare us all for it.??
?Duncan Campbell (1898-1672) - A fiery Scottish preacher used of God in revival. He is most famous for being involved in the Lewis Awakening in the Hebrides Islands in Scotland.

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