Several things over the past few days have led me to reflect on the great Ulster Revival of 1859. On Thursday I purchased a DVD about the revival featuring Rev Stanley Barns and Rev william McCrea. On Friday I visited 1st Derry Presbyterian Church in Londonderry and saw in the vestibule a memorial to a former minister Rev William McClure. There had been a revival in America in 1858 and McClure was one of two Presbyterian ministers sent to America by the General Assembly to find out more about that revival. Then this morning in church we sang the old Fanny Crosby hymn Revive us again.
This year is the 150th anniversary of the revial and it has been marked with special services and lectures, the publication of books and booklets, articles in newspapers and magazines and the production of commemorative DVDs.
There was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the revival transformed the spiritual life of Ulster with tens of thousands of people coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The revival touched most of the Protestant denominations but it started amongst Presbyterians in mid-Antrim and its impact was greatest among the Presbyterians and other dissenters. There were great revival meetings, which in some cases continued throughout the night, and great open-air meetings where thousand gathered to worship and pray. The largest meeting was in Botanic Gardens in Belfast where around 40,000 people gathered on 29 June 1859
The revial strengthened evangelical faith in Ulster, both in terms of belief and behaviour. There was a significant increase in church attendance and a decrease in crime and immorality. Many new churches were built to accommodate the new worshippers.
Among the significant features of the revival were the power of prayer, a passion for evangelism, the prominent role of laymen and a breaking down of barriers between Protestant denominations.
God had already blessed Ulster with revival, especially in the Sixmilewater Revival in the 17th century, which really established Presbyterianism in the Ulster-Scots heartland in the valley of Sixmilewater of county Antrim.