A WEE PEEK – “…Only a few years ago, David Wood and all his Christian crew perished off the Orkney Islands. Caught in a terrific storm, his boat, the “Evangeline,” foundered, and all hands were drowned. Every man on board was a convert of that mission and the boat in which they sailed was built and called “Evangeline” shortly after the revival of which I have been speaking…”
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The Portnockie Revival
THE REVIVAL RIDE SERIES #4
The ‘Seen and Heard’ eBook
Author: Rev. James M’Kendrick
Portknockie is another of the large and growing fishing villages of the Moray Firth, lying about midway between Findochty and Cullen. During the revival in the latter place, I had promised the Portknockie people that I would visit that place as circumstances would permit. According to the fishing conditions at that time, the only suitable season was from about the middle of November till the middle of January, when all the fisher folks were at home. The Free Church minister at that time was a godly man named Rev. Brown. He had built a hall of his own, and this building he freely offered to me for our own mission services. We arrived towards the end of November and had good and large congregations from the first. During the opening week, God saved an ideal man, named W Mair. He was a man of very considerable gifts and of blameless character. This man had great influence, and he earnestly sought the salvation of his friends and neighbours.
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On the second Sunday, the hall was packed both afternoon and night. While singing the closing hymn at the afternoon service, a tall, handsome young woman drew my attention by her beautifully clear and sweet singing. I stepped off the platform and whispered in her ear “Will that sweet voice sound in heaven or wail in hell?” I stepped back to the platform but she sang no more. At the evening service, she was again present, but she did not sing but sat weeping. In the early hours of Monday morning, she found peace in believing. This was Jeannine F, the prospective sister-in-law of W Mair, our first convert. She proved herself to be specially gifted, and with much ability, she witnessed for Christ from house to house.
Mr. Brown, the godly minister, and the Christian people of Portknockie had been praying much for God’s blessing, and now the answer was at hand. The crowds nightly increased, many had to stand outside, while others could only find standing accommodation inside. I would here mention an incident in connection with Jeannie F, as a warning against the unequal yoke. She was engaged to be married to D. M, brother of W.M. He was in many ways a most desirable husband. About five days after her conversion she came to see me, and told me of her engagement and approaching marriage, which was to take place some five weeks hence, adding, “But I feel before God I dare not marry an unsaved man. I know the Work of God forbids it saying, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers’ (2 Cor. 6,14) No one had spoken to her about the matter, but her instinctive desire to faithfully follow the Scriptural injunction had raised the question, and now she was quite prepared to part company with her betrothed, rather than disobey God’s Word.
I pointed out that it was a righteous agreement that they should marry each other, and that both were in the same state when the agreement was made, and that God’s grace never sets aside any righteous arrangement. While I agreed that it would be wrong for any saved person to become engaged to an unsaved person, her case was altogether different. “But,” I continued, “there are nearly five weeks between now and your marriage; you can earnestly plead with God to save him. My wife and I will join with you in praying to God for his salvation. Come and see us, and we will pray together for him.” Three weeks had passed and D.M was soundly converted to God. God never fails to bless them that honour him. We have seen much sorrow through unequal marriages. We once heard an evangelist say, “If you marry a child of the devil, you may depend upon it that you will have trouble from your father-in-law.” We have seen this only too surely fulfilled in many cases.
The Friday night of the second week in Portnockie stands out as the most memorable in all my evangelistic career. The spirit of conviction was deep throughout the village, and there was an atmosphere of reverent solemnity everywhere that could be felt. That night after the address, I invited all who were anxious to remain, not one left. I spoke again, with the special object of helping the anxious, again giving all who desired it the opportunity to leave, not one left. The godly minister spoke, and a number prayed. Still, none seemed willing to leave; and yet not one would confess Christ as their Saviour. I spoke about ten minutes longer and finished with prayer. It was now ten o’clock, and we had begun at seven. I made a final appeal, adding that I could say no more, and then advised all to go home.
Suddenly, in the centre of the hall, a man dropped on his knees, and cried, “O God, save me; be merciful to me a sinner.” This poor man had a skin disease, and his appearance was to many (myself included) almost repulsive, but the minister assured me that behind that unsightly visage there was one of the brightest intellects in the village. As he moaned, and wept, and prayed for mercy, every eye in that place was dim, and many cheeks were wet with tears. After a few minutes, I drew near to him and repeated what I thought appropriate texts, and then stepped back beside the minister. That hour and scene live before me as I write and I fervently wish that every unbeliever could have witnessed it. Slowly he raised his head, and that hitherto repulsive face was now radiant with the peace and grace of God.
Still continuing upon his knees, he cried, “I’m saved; I’m saved. Oh, happy day! Oh, happy day! The Lord has washed my sins away.” Then rising to his feet, he said “I’m saved, friends, I’m saved.” I can repeat his words, that is all my pen can do, but those who witnessed the scene will never forget it. Addressing the people, he said, “last night I went to the Pierhead, fully determined to jump in. I knew that because of my disease my outward appearance was offensive to you all, even to those who love me; and because of my sins, I felt I was offensive to God. Satan seemed to whisper within me, ‘Neither God nor man wants you; put an end to it.’ These have been the thoughts of my heart for the last two days, and as I stood on the Pierhead last night, in great anguish of spirit, afraid to jump in and too miserable to stay out, I can now see it was the voice of God saying, “Don’t jump in; go to the service tomorrow night again. And here I am, saved. Oh praise God, I’m saved.”
Tears were in his voice as well as in his eyes, and he thus spoke, and the whole company were greatly moved. He paused for a little, and no one seemed disposed to break the silence. He then prayed that now that he was saved, would God just take him home, and relieve him of his suffering? He was ready to go, and had no wish to stay.” God answered his prayer, for, in the course of three months, during which He allowed poor George to witness in a wondrous way to the saving power of his grace, his wish was fulfilled. Feeling un-well one day, he said, “This is my home call. Ask the Rev. Mr. Brown and John Wood to come.” When they came, he said “My Father is calling me home. You two are to conduct my burial service.” He told them what parts of Scripture they were to read in the house and at the grave, and selected the hymns to be sung, and having made all the necessary arrangements, George Pirrie passed away to be with “Christ which is far better.”
When he finished his prayer in the hall, I said, “You have heard this man’s testimony, I have said all I can say and it is now nearly eleven o’clock and we must go.” Many rose to leave, when a man jumped up, and cried out, “Oh praise God, I’m saved! There is no doubt about it, I feel it, I know it. I have been seeking salvation for years but I have got it tonight.” Then, raising his hands above his head, and looking up he cried, “O God save everybody here. Oh Lord, save everybody here” He then stepped on to a seat and with his face shining, appealed to the people to trust in Christ, and be saved; and again he cried, “Lord, save the people.”
The scene that followed can never be described. The facts may be stated, but that will be a poor representation of the scene which followed. The Holy Spirit of God seemed just to mow the people down, and in less than five minutes over fifty people were on their knees upon the floor, crying to God for mercy. Over forty of these were men above thirty years of age. As one after another was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, they literally danced for joy, and there was such a scene of excitement and religious fervour as no words can fitly set forth. I asked every saved person in the place to get outside, form into a procession, and give expression to their newfound joy by singing some hymns and marching through the village. I kept a few of the old and experienced Christians to assist Mr Brown and myself in helping all who were in distress about their soul, and as one after another found peace and forgiveness, they set to and joined the procession.
This continued till 2.30 am, but even then many were too excited to go to rest. I have imperfectly described that night, for it was the night of nights in my career, and in reviewing the extraordinary scenes of which I was an eye-witness on that occasion, I understood as never before how natural it was for ignorant onlookers on the day of Pentecost to imagine that those men on whom the Spirit descended were filled with wine. By 6 am, the boats should have been off to sea, but some had not gone to bed, others only for an hour or two, so that the majority were not anxious for the sea, the more so it was Saturday, and the funeral of a resident was to take place at one o’clock. All turned back, and not a boat went to sea. At 8 am, a gale burst with almost the suddenness of a gun-shot, and had the Portnockie boats been out, most probably not a single one could have escaped.
Because of the position and formation of the harbour, not a boat could have entered in the face of such a gale. This was the unanimous verdict of the men, and it found confirmation in the large number of wrecks and loss of life in other parts of the coast. But for the great spiritual blessing in Portnockie on the previous night, the death toll in the village would have been awful. To tell in detail the story of this revival would be in many ways a repetition of Findochty, Hopeman, and other places. We continued six weeks, and night and day this wave of blessing rolled on. Homes were brightened, hearts gladdened, and about three hundred added to the saved. I will just mention a few incidents. My book is already assuming larger dimensions than I ever intended.
While preparing to leave the hall about 1.30 am, I overheard one say to another, “I think Willie Royal is anxious.” The Holy Spirit said to me, “go and see Willie Royal.” I asked, “can anyone tell me where Willie Royal lives?” One of the company immediately offered to show me the house. I knocked and asked whether I could see him. “Yes”, was the answer, “but he is in bed.” I said, “Just take me to his bedroom. I have a message from God for him.” I had asked God for a message, and I believed I had got it. Going to his bedroom, I asked, “Are you, Willie Royal?” “Yes,” “Give me your hand. I have a message from God for you and you must either receive it or refuse it.” I said, “You are a believer in Christ?” “Yes.” “And you are anxious to be saved?” “Yes” “Well, God says in I John 2,12, to all believers: ‘Your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.” There and then he received the message. He arose, and putting on some clothes, we went to where the parents and others were and all knelt together, and he praised God for saving him and assuring him that his sins were forgiven.
This is only one of many cases, showing how readily the blessing is received when the Spirit of God has prepared the soil for the good seed. The Holy Spirit, in the 8th Book of Acts, prepared the eunuch for Philip, and Philip for the eunuch, so he prepared W.R, to whom I had never spoken, and gave me the message to deliver, which he at once received. Another case occurred a few days later. I heard that a man, named A. Pirie, was anxious to be saved, and as I was praying for him and others in my room one day, the Holy Spirit said, “Go and see A. Pirie.” I cried, “Lord give me the right message to deliver,” and instantly there flashed on my mind the words, “Oh, fools, and slow of heart to believe.” I went and asked him to come outside, as I had a message from God for him. I need not repeat all the interview, but I said, “This is God’s message to you, ‘Oh, fools and slow of heart to believe.” I quoted certain other Scriptures and said, “If you believe these, let us kneel down, and you will thank God for His great gift.”
Thereupon the street, we knelt down together, and he poured out his heart in praise and thanksgiving to God. I followed little caring who saw or heard. It was about 4.30 pm in the dusk of a December evening. I went home with a glad heart, to tell my wife that A.P was saved. About two hours later I went up to the hall, to conduct the meeting. As usual, it was packed to excess and a large crowd outside. They opened up to let me in, and as I drew near the door, I heard a voice speaking. When I got near enough to see the platform, imagine my surprise to find that it was A.P. whom I had just seen converted about two hours before. His text was Isaiah 53,6 and he handled his subject with great power and a natural eloquence that was marvelous.
The crowd were listening in wonder, for none knew of his conversion, the first intimation was when he entered the hall, and went straight to the platform and began to speak. About four years later after my wife and I were conducting a mission in the Baptist Church at Wick. As we went down the streets on Saturday night, we saw a crowd, who were being addressed by a voice that sounded familiar. It was A.P. We kept out of sight, and listened with great delight, as he preached from Exodus. “When I see the blood, I will pass over you.” He developed into an able Gospel preacher and was much appreciated at all the various fishing centres he visited in the course of his calling.
I must devote the remainder of this chapter to D. Wood. It was he who jumped up and said, “I’m saved”, and then prayed, “O Lord, save everybody here.” From that hour of his conversion, he was animated with a holy zeal for the salvation of others, and God greatly used him. His quaint way of putting things always assured him of an attentive hearing. In giving his testimony one night, he said, “I have been learning for thirty years (he had been all that time in more or less concern about his spiritual state) and guess you what it is taken me thirty years to learn. No guess, no you couldn’t guess, less I tell you. It has taken me thirty years to learn to do nothing, but now, praise the Lord, I see that Jesus had done everything.”
On another occasion, he said, “You know what a decent, well-doing man Davie Wood was. But do you know this, for the last thirty years he has been a thief and a robber? I have been trying to enter heaven by some other door than Jesus, and I’ve been trying to climb up some another way, and Jesus said they that do this are thieves and robbers, and I was one of them, and maybe there’s some more of them here. Now all you thieves and robbers that have been trying some other way, come awake to Jesus.” All this was said in such a tender and touching way that made it difficult to resist his pleading. One night, unknown to him, I stood behind and listened while he was earnestly seeking to lead an anxious soul to Christ.
This man, familiarly known to all as “Doddy,” was having the Gospel message pressed upon him with great clearness and power. Tears were on both faces, and they had constantly to wipe their eyes, in order to read the verses from the Bibles in their hands. I heard David Wood say, “Oh Doddy, man don’t you see it? It’s as clear and plain. I’m sure you see it.” After pointing out a verse, and repeating it with great deliberation, he continued, “Oh Doddy, man it’s in your very mouth. Don’t spew it out. Keep eating, and swallow every bit of it.” Praise God, spiritual light at length broke, and Doddy did take it in and kept it. Limited space forbids my saying more.
Many of the converts from the Portnockie Revival have received their home call, some by storms at sea, and others by disease. Only a few years ago David Wood and all his Christian crew perished off the Orkney Islands. Caught in a terrific storm, his boat, the “Evangeline,” foundered, and all hands were drowned. Every man on board was a convert of that mission and the boat in which they sailed was built and called “Evangeline” shortly after the revival of which I have been speaking. Wherever that crew went, they truly carried with them the Evangel of God. Praise God for His grace to The Portnockie Revival.
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