Fire is often used to describe the growth of a revival. This is nowhere more true than the rapid spread of the flame in 1859. From sparks in the lives of 4 men to the whole of Ulster & beyond in less than a year!
One story from early on in the revival shows this better than anything else. Samuel Campbell from Connor attended a meeting led by the instigators, McQuilken & Meneely. It is reported that he was so overwhelmed by an awareness of his sin during the meeting that he fell onto his knees & cried out for mercy. The following morning he was led to Christ whilst reading his bible.
This is wonderful, but what happened next is characteristic of story after story in Ulster. It is the catalyst factor which turned a time of blessing into a full blown revival.
Having found his own peace with God, Campbell became increasingly distressed about his relatives in the nearby town of Ahogill. Just 3 weeks later, after praying with others, Campbell visited his family home to plead with his mother & sister to 'flee from the wrath to come.' He went out to find his brother John at a shooting match & told him, 'I have a message for you from the Lord Jesus!'
John decided to accompany his brother back home to Connor that evening (probably to make sure that he went & to talk some sense into him!)However, Campbell would not stop praying out loud for his brother who walked alongside him, & after a while, John began to feel an incredible power & terror sweeping over him. In his own words, 'I saw heaven on the one side & hell on the other. The conviction flashed upon me with overwhelming power that I deserved hell & such horror did the thought produce that every joint in my body quaked.'
John managed to struggle home, now crying out loud for mercy all the way. During the same night, his mother awoke, also crying out in terror, suddenly aware of her sin for the first time. The sister was aroused, & she too came under the same conviction. Mother & daughter prayed together until God brought them peace & salvation.
The next day, brother John was still in turmoil, in fact, he continued for 3 weeks in agony over his sin. Then, whilst working at his loom his heart was 'suddenly filled to overflowing' Paisley comments, 'So powerful were the waves of love which overwhelmed his whole being that he was forced to stop his work & fall on his knees before the throne of grace.'
At the same time, a son in law of Mrs Campbell also visited the house. Anthony Huston heard the account of his mother in law, & he too was overcome, bursting into tears & weeping bitterly for his sinful past. Soon Huston's wife was also converted.
The remarkable & rapid change in these 2 families became the talk of the town. People that knew them, could see the immense change which had taken place. It was decided to hold a revival meeting in Ahogill to see what may happen.
An enormous crowd gathered, too big for the largest hall in town. As people pushed to the front under conviction of their sin they were directed out into the streets for fear that the gallery in the hall would collapse!
Over 3000 now stood in the rain as Meneely exhorted them to 'receive Christ & the Holy Ghost.' Eye witnesses say it was as though the entire crowd became paralysed. On streets covered in mud, converts began to fall on their knees in prayer. From that night on, the revival wave which started with Campbell's burden for his family, swept over the entire district.