The Spring Conference of the Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) was held in its Westhill Church, Inverness, on Friday, 15th April. The theme of the Conference was ‘Revival’. There is an awareness in the Church for the need of Revival and Reformation in the Churches today in Scotland and beyond, affecting all Churches. The Publications Committee had arranged for two lectures to be given at the Conference, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. There was also a separate teaching programme for Primary School age children.
A gathering of around 50 adults (attendances were limited by the accommodation available at Westhill) listened attentively to Rev. William Macleod’s lecture in the morning on ‘The Principles and Necessity of Revival’. Mr Macleod recently retired as minister of the Knightswood congregation in Glasgow. The fear of God (he said) descends upon the Church during revivals, the Spirit convicts of sin, and the burden for prayer is evident in such a work.
It is interesting that revival often comes when deadness prevails in the church. Mr Macleod dealt with revivals in the Bible, focussing on the experience described in Ezekiel 37. He ranged over Biblical accounts in the Old Testament and the New, not least the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 and its aftermath. Revivals in history were highlighted, including the 16th century Reformation, and movements down to the beginning of the 20th century.
Six principles by which revivals are recognised were outlined: (1) man cannot produce revivals, they must come from God; (2) there is a duty to pray for revival in the churches, especially invoking the work of the Holy Spirit; (3) there is a duty to humble ourselves and repent of sins and backslidings; (4) the gospel must be preached clearly and unashamedly; (5) revival will change Christians from being lukewarm and lifeless to being full of zeal for Christ and truth; (6) genuine revival will impact churches profoundly, and society consequently.
Mr Macleod ended with the Scriptural plea: “Let God arise. Let his enemies be scattered” (Ps. 68:1). Pray earnestly for revival; give the Lord no rest till he comes to revive us again in the midst of the years (Isa. 62:6,7; Hab. 3:1).
The speakers at the Conference: (L) Rev. Murdo A.N. Macleod; (R) Rev. William Macleod (photo courtesy of Rev. John Keddie)
In the afternoon Rev. Murdo Angus Macleod, minister in the congregation at Snizort on the Isle of Skye, treated the Conference to an account of ‘Twentieth Century Revivals in the Western Isles’, covering the various revivals that have affected the Western Isles, and especially Lewis, his native Isle. Revival had first come to Lewis in the 1820s. It had a widespread spiritual impact in Lewis and Harris and had set the tone for Christianity in the Islands.
Mr Macleod provided an effective overview of the various locations in the Islands which were touched by awakenings in the 20th century, under three heads: (1) Facts; (2) Features; and (3) Fruits. Under ‘facts’ he dealt decade by decade with periods of blessing in the Churches (mainly affecting the Free Church). This was reflected by the numbers professing faith during Communion seasons. As to the ‘features’ of the revivals, there was a new hunger for the Word and worship of God. Prayer meetings and house fellowship meetings became common. Preaching took on a new power. The Lord’s day was more carefully observed. There was also a decline in crime and a noticeable love for the lost. There were notable ‘fruits’ evident: the building up of congregations, and a marked change in the lives of those formerly careless about spiritual things. In the past 50 years the impact of revivals had declined in the Western Isles with increasing secularism in society, though respect for Christian things still lingers to some extent.
The Conference was left with a challenge to seek the Lord for times of refreshing and awakening from Him, so needed in our day of rampant disregard for the Word and work of the Lord in society. It was of encouragement that a BBC Alba reporter was present to film some parts of the Conference and conduct interviews (in Gaelic), all very sympathetically.