Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The lasting fruit from Ulster

In concluding his account of the Ulster Revival, Ian Paisley gives 10 areas in which he believes the Province was left with lasting fruit. They remain noteworthy 150 years on, I shall list them below with some comment.

1/ Deep conviction
This was a revival of salvation through the preaching of the gospel. Conservative estimates are that over 100,000 were converted during the first year of the revival alone. In Ulster, it was common for the conversion process to involve a measure of agony over past sins, a growing horror at the judgement to come, & ultimately real joy as freedom is found. This was all usually accompanied by loud shouts & groanings. However, records show that inspite of this outward show, very few returned to their old ways, even years after the revival fires had abated.

2/ Severe spiritual conflict
A very real awareness of the battle involved in bringing the lost through to salvation. A very real awareness of the identity of the enemy, & a very real desire to engage him in that battle.

3/ A delight in the Word
Many were saved through reading the bible, many learned to read for the first time after conversion - literacy rates in the province rising markedly in revival areas. There was a surge in demand for copies of the bible, printers struggled to keep up, & what copies there were, were put to the greatest possible use, often being passed between families or onto new converts.

4/ A release of Praise
It is said that the 1903 Welsh Revival was a singing revival, but that is also true of Ulster. These staid Presbytarians were liberated from the religious singing of the Psalms & into a new freedom. Psalms which expressed joy in salvation were reworked & revival hymns which caught the flavour of the movement were sung at every meeting over & over.

5/ Impassioned Prayer
We have already heard that this was a movement birthed in prayer expectation. It was no surprise that wherever the flames spread, prayer meetings emerged as the engine room.

6/ Unspeakable Joy
No meeting would go by without shouts of joy & similar exclaimations bursting forth from the crowds.

7/ Increased Holiness
Paisley reports 'Drunkeness & profane behaviour were given up, dishonesty in business & long standing family feuds were healed.' Again, statistics show publicans closing down their businesses for lack of trade.

8/ Increased numbers gathering
Churches were packed, new churches were built rapidly which stand today as monuments to the pace of the revival. Homes & school halls were filled, streets & parks were overflowing with crowds - day & night, rain or shine. One Pastor in Ballymena sums it up well -
'Our weekly prayer meeting was attended by 50 persons normally. During the three months past we have held between 4-7 such prayer meetings a week & each is attended by more than 20 times that number! The difficulty used to be to get them to church, quickly, the difficulty has become how to get them all in!'


9/ Intense love
Families reunited, old scores set aside, divisions broken down, communities transformed. Particularly so in the areas know for their sectarian divides & bigotry.

10/ Passion for souls
Most who were transformed seemed to throw themselves back into the fray in order to win their unsaved friends & colleagues. Most seemed to be equipped with a boldness & an urgency which they had never before known. Only this can explain the rapid overflowing of local & national boundaries which this revival saw.

150 years have passed & the nation again needs men & women who will respond to God with this hunger & urgency.

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