150 years have passed since the Ulster Revival of 1859. This significant revival had connections with the awakening the previous year in the US. There is little of the story in print right now, with most concerning themselves with the more recent centenery celebrations from Wales,then Asuza Street & the birth of Pentecostalism.
What we see in Ulster is a genuine pentecost 40 years before Asuza. Over the next few posts I shall give you some excerpts, most of which come from the unlikely source of the Rev Ian Paisley. Better known to English readers as the florid faced Presbyterian ranter who always seemed to get on the news in the 1980's with something bad to say about the Catholics. Whatever his political leanings, Paisley has written a long out of print account of the '59 revival which remains stirring to this day.
It all started with four new young converts - James McQuilkin, Jeremiah Meneely, Robert Carlisle & John Wallace. They agreed to meet weekly on a Friday night to pray through the long winter of 1857-1858 in the Old Schoolhouse near Kells.
They took armfuls of peat for the fire in with them & in Paisley's words 'The peats made a fire in the schoolhouse grate & warmed their bodies from the winter chill, but their prayers brought down unquenchable fire from heaven which set all Ulster ablaze for God, & warmed with saving rays at least 100,000.'
Jeremiah Meneely described their meetings as follows: 'The prayer meeting was started in the autumn of 1857 & continued for 3 months before there were any visible results.' Only 2 more men joined them during that time, but on New Years Day 1858 their first conversion took place. After that, their records show they saw salvation each friday night through the year. By the end of 1858 there were 50 young men taking part.
Meneely continues: 'Women were not allowed in the meeting during the first year & after that they had a prayer meeting of their own. We had so much opposition & persecution to encounter that we did not think it advisable to allow women in. The world would have said that the meetings were held only for the purpose of flirtation.'
There was clearly a remarkable momentum building. We'll see next time how this overflowed into the nearby towns around the province. Meneely put it this way: 'Our one great object at the meetings was to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon ourselves & upon the surrounding country. This was the one great object & burden of our prayers. We held right to the one thing & did not run off to anything else.'
Many people ridiculed their stance, telling them that God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost already. Meneely retorted, 'The Lord knows what we want & we kept right on praying until the power came!'