A WEE PEEK – “…A most remarkable feature of our mission in that place was the number of married people and aged people that were saved. One man was over eighty years of age, and one night, while others were giving their testimony, he stood up and repeated the Lord’s prayer. It was a most touching sight to see the old man, with tears on his weather-beaten face, pleading with all, to accept Christ, and not delay as he had done…”
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The Rosehearty Revival
THE REVIVAL RIDE SERIES #6
The ‘Seen and Heard’ eBook
Author Rev. James M’Kendrick
The demands upon our time were now so numerous that we found it impossible to respond to all the calls unless we separated, and this we decided to do. The first place I went to was Rosehearty, a fishing village about six miles from Fraserburgh. I had held a few meetings at the place during our visit to Fraserburgh and found the religious life very low. On one of these occasions, I promised the Free Church Minster that I would endeavour to come the following year, but an incident occurred during that brief visit which I must narrate.
The annual soiree was to be held in the Free Church, and only those who have lived in a small fishing village can fully understand all that such an event means for the church and people. The object is generally to raise funds for the church, and tickets for the occasion are sold at 1s.each. Tea is provided, but all understand there will be a considerable margin of profit, and on the principle that one good turn deserves another, the members of the other kirks (churches) also attend. As to the character of such gatherings, as a rule, they are anything but serious, and are fairly described in the words of one boy to another when he said, “A soiree is a meeting where you get tea and cookies and other things, and the ministers tells lies and funny stories and all the folk laugh.” I am sorry the boy’s description was so accurate.
Mr Paterson the minister was anxious that I should give an address at the soiree. I begged to be excused, on the plea that such occasions were not in my line. But he would take no refusal, at last, I consented. I earnestly prayed to God that I might have a suitable message, but the only subject that came to me was, “Ye must be born again.” This I dismissed, knowing that such a text would not be in harmony with the occasion. But again and again, this message returned. I consulted my wife, and she also thought such an address would not suit the soiree. When the evening arrived, I happily found that I was the fourth speaker on the programme and that after my address there was an interval of fifteen minutes. I hoped the speakers who preceded me would exceed their time, and that little would be left for me, for “ye must be born again,” still stood before me.
A landed proprietor, Mr Ferguson of Kimundy, spoke first, and gave an excellent address, showing what all should do, from the pulpit to the pew, to make it a successful church; but instead of his address suggesting something for me away from my theme, it only confirmed it. “Here is a grand idea for your address. He has been showing what all should do; you show what all must be. Ye must be born again.” When he finished, 1 began, and from a popular point of view he was a success, for he kept the people in screams of laughter from start to finish, and the clapping of hands as he closed was deafening.
The incongruity between his behaviour and my text seemed more awful than ever, and to my disappointment, none of the speakers so far had exceeded their time; so that unless the next speaker transgressed, it was clear that I was to have the full thirty minutes that had been allotted me. I hoped that no.3 might turn the tide and change the tone; but alas! He seemed determined to out-do and out-shine the other with his buffoonery and in this, he succeeded. As he proceeded my misery was turned into anguish. “Ye must be born again.” And that alone, stood out before my mind. The perspiration began to roll down my face in anticipation of standing in the pulpit under such circumstances. I could see that the local minister was equally unhappy.
At my left hand sat another minister whose head was bowed on the book board. He raised his head for a moment, shortly before the funny man finished, and read distress in my face. His was a look of pity, and mine of despair, but there was clearly affinity between us, and I said, “Oh, what shall I do? I can’t play the fool like that.” Looking me in the eyes he said, “My brother, deliver the message God gives you.” That settled the matter. Sink or swim, succeed or fail, “Ye must be born again”, was to be my text.
Amidst cheers and a terrific clapping of hands no.3 came down, and I walked up. I was in God’s hands, and how I prayed for His guidance. Results were God’s part, obedience mine. When the cheering had subsided, I said, “The first speaker who addressed you showed what all should do from the pulpit to the pew. I propose to take the same line, with this difference, I shall show what all ‘must be’. ‘Ye must be born again”. I then used an illustration I need not here relate which secured their attention. At once it was made plain that the text was the words of the sinner’s dearest Friend. I hid behind this fact: the words were His, not mine.
Beginning with the six ministers that were there, I showed how they could go to college without being born again, but not to heaven. They could graduate and take degrees without being born again; receive a call from a congregation, be ordained, and wag their finger in a pulpit without being born again. All this and much more they might do without being born again, but, reiterating my text, I repeated, “Except a man be born again he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” This statement I made with all the solemnity possible and expressing the hope that all of the six ministers present were in this position, I left the words with them to ponder. It was evident I had my doubts about some of them.
I then turned to the elders and deacons, and taking them, in turn, I detailed the duties they did and could do without being born again. I pointed out what solemn mockery it was for men to occupy a prominent place in a church who were not born again. By this time the silence of death filled the place, and the concern pictured on many faces plainly told that God’s Holy Spirit was at work. I then gave a few minutes to the church members, showing that they might eat of the bread, the symbol of His body given, and drink of the cup, the symbol of His blood once shed without being born again, but back again to my text, without the new birth, there could be no admission to heaven.
I still had five minutes left for the choir, which sat immediately below me. They evidently knew their turn as coming, for immediately I said, “You can sing in the choir without being born again,” they looked up and our eyes met. If ever I preached to a people with love in my heart and tears in my eyes, it was that night, and they could see and feel that it was no fanatical tirade or excited denunciation of their condition, but that it was a loving, faithful message out of a burdened heart. Some said to me afterwards that they thought my remarks out of season. My reply was that I held a warrant for only two occasions the one was to “preach in season” and the other “out of season”.
I could see that choir in my mind still, all dressed for the occasion with flowers and ribbons. It is the one event of the year when the ladies may sing in the choir without their hats on, and they were dressed as if for a ball. When I finished there was not a sound, no applause or manifestation of any kind. But Mr Paterson, their godly minister, stood up and said “Thank you Mr M’Kendrick, for your excellent address,” and adding, “There will now be an interval of fifteen minutes.” He named the remaining speakers and singers and assured them that a treat was still in store for them. Out of about 600 people, not more than 200 returned after the interval. Some went home in a rage; others in a state of terror and anxiety, and the funny stories were largely forgotten in the solemn words “Ye must be born again.”
The first speaker after the interval was the minister who sat at my side and seemed so grieved at the levity of the first speakers. (I learned afterwards that he was the Rev A Moir of Strichen). He began by saying: “I thank God for the bold, out-spoken speech of Mr M’Kendrick. Some here may have thought him extreme, but I did not, for he described my own experiences. I went to college without being born again. I graduated too, my degrees, was called, ordained as an assistant to Dr Whyte, Free St Georges, Edinburgh, for four years before I was born again. Therefore my own experience fully confirms all that he said.”
I learned afterwards that Mr Moir had spent the previous night in discussion with one of the ministers on the new birth, and that the expressions quoted were some of the retorts he had received. But I am glad to relate that this very minister was truly born again shortly after, and became, and is to this day, one of the most earnest ministers in the North of Scotland. About ten years later I met Mr Moir in Dundee. Amongst his first words were, “oh you’re the man that preached ‘Ye must be born again’ at the soiree in Rosehearty. I will never forget that night while I live.” Having returned to Rosehearty according to promise, we preached in the public hall with but small attendances; besides being met with a good deal of opposition from the youths of the village, who made all manner of noise outside. I got a fisherman’s boat bell and went through the village sounding the ponderous bell as loudly as I could. I halted at different places, and spoke from five to fifteen minutes, according to circumstances, at the close inviting the people to the service.
I spent about three hours doing this and that night there was a decided increase in the number present at the Rosehearty Revival. The youths outside, however, threw large stones on the roof of the hall, and as they rolled down they caused much distraction. As the people were leaving the hall that night I asked a serious-looking man if he would read John 6, 47 which he did. I said, “That is the way of salvation.” He inquired, “Can I be saved by just believing?” I asked him to read the verse again, which he did, and added, “if that is how people are saved, I can be saved now.” I tried to help him all I could, and there the man truly trusted Christ as his Saviour and went home to let his wife know of the great change. Instead of going to bed, he went through the village to tell all his relatives he was saved urging all to come to the service the following night, and this many did. In the course of the service, he asked for the opportunity to tell what God had done for him, and he did it with power and sincerity, and others were saved also.
They likewise, in turn earnestly sought the salvation of their friends and acquaintances, with the result that in a short time the soul’s salvation was the prevailing subject of conversation in Rosehearty, and so increased that neither church nor hall could accommodate them. In the course of the week, Mr Paterson asked me to take his service in the afternoon. The church was packed to its utmost capacity, many being unable to find seats. I had spent much time in preparing what I thought a most suitable address. My wife said she never knew me to spend so much time preparing. But on Sunday morning what I had thought over began to recede from my vision, and as the afternoon drew near, confusion seemed to gather.
Still, I clung to my text and sermon, hoping that as I proceeded, my subject would return to my memory in a clear and orderly manner. As I stood up in the pulpit, however, the sermon seemed impossible, and during the singing, I tried to think of some old one suitable for the occasion. But all seemed dark, so I read repeatedly, sang four times, and feeling ashamed to sing or read again, I asked if two Christian brethren would lead in prayer. One prayed but with no relief for me. The other prayed that God would give a suitable message to him who was to speak. I too cried: “O God do, and don’t let me stand like a fool in this pulpit with no message for this great crowd.”
Quick as a flash, a text from which I had never preached stood out before me, and I proceeded it unfolded itself as orderly as if I had studied it for days. It was the barren tree of Luke 13, condemned to destruction, not because it bore bad fruit, but because it bore no fruit. I had only about ten minutes left to speak, but I extended it to fifteen minutes delivering my message like a red-hot shot as it stood out before my mind. I pointed out that the absence of evil in a person’s life was not Christianity, but only respectability; that Christianity was not negative, but positive; that faith in Christ, love to God, zeal for His cause, compassion for the lost and other Christian graces were the things He desired and required of all.
I closed without singing or prayer, and simply pronounced the benediction. A prominent elder from the U.P Church was present that afternoon was saved. A leading character in the village named J.D. was saved the next morning between his home and the harbour. Instead of going to sea, he came back to tell his wife he was saved and spent the day making his conversion known to others. Being possessed of considerable ability, he became a most useful man in carrying of the good work. A most remarkable feature of our mission in that place was the number of married people and aged people that were saved. One man was over eighty years of age, and one night, while others were giving their testimony, he stood up and repeated the Lord’s prayer. It was a most touching sight to see the old man, with tears on his weather-beaten face, pleading with all, to accept Christ, and not delay as he had done. The meetings were continued till one and two am, and then we had to ask them to leave the hall. In many cases the meetings were continued in their own homes, those who were saved trying to help those who were anxious, and the song of praise and the voice of prayer could be heard from many houses at all hours.
Passing out of the hall about midnight, an aged woman said to me, “Come and see me before you go home; I can’t sleep till I’m saved.” When we arrived about two am, it was to find her and her husband with the large family Bible open before them, trying to find peace to their soul, which thank God, they did before we left. These people were both about eighty years of age. On our homeward way, a man stood at an open door and saluted me by name as we passed. I went to speak with him, recognising him as one of the converts. As we talked, his wife came to the door. I was congratulating her on her husband’s conversion, when she said, “But I’m not saved.” I replied, “Why don’t you trust in Christ and be saved too?” She replied, “I do trust in the Lord, but I am not saved.” I quoted the verse, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” I then asked, “If the Lord has blessed all who trust in Him, what has He done with you?” In a moment she shouted, “Why, He has blessed me too. I’m saved. O thank God.”
These cases will suffice to show how easy the work of God is when the Holy Spirit is working when He has convinced people of their lost condition He quickly enables them to accept salvation. This is already a long chapter, but I must mention another case as I close. W.D who was perhaps a man without an equal in the place for respectability and true uprightness of character. He was the leading elder in the Free Church. Meeting me one day, he said, “I am glad you are having such successful meetings and doing so much good in Rosehearty. I had hoped to be able to give you a look in some night, but have been busy. However, I hope to come soon.”
All this was said in a patronising kind of way, and manifestly in a very self-righteous spirit. According to promise he came, but only to learn that all his righteousness was as filthy rags and that he was well as others needed the saving change of the second birth. A woman asked me to call and see her the following day. When I called, she said, “Oh, you might go and see Willie, he’s further away than I am, and I’m bad enough. I want to be saved, but Willie’s in an awful state.” She then showed me where he was working at his fishing lines on the beach. When I drew near, it was to find that her Willie was hitherto self-righteous, self-satisfied elder.
I had no soft words for his case. The arrows were deep, but by God’s help, I drove them deeper and left him. The next day the minister called at my lodging about 10 am, but I had already set out on my round of visitation. He said to my wife, “W.D came to the manse about 5 am in great distress of mind. I left him there, and he is no better than when he came, although my wife has played the piano to him all morning.” Now this minister was a really good and Godly man, but here was a proof of his inability to deal with people in concern about their soul. He went on to say, “I fear he may go out of his mind, and that would be awful.” My wife told him I would be in for dinner at about one o’clock. He said, “I will call again before three. Tell him to wait till I come.” When I came in I found my wife greatly alarmed about W.D’s state of mind. I said, “There need be no fear for his mental condition. He has only to get rid of his self-righteousness to become a good Christian.” Later on, I saw the minister and assured him that W.D would be all right shortly and that he need not fear insanity.
That night as I was preaching, the Spirit of God revealed salvation to W.D and jumping up he shouted, “I’m saved. Oh praise God, I’m saved.” Now his joy was greater than his anguish had been, and his enthusiasm knew no bounds. From that time, all his abilities were put to the highest use. Night and day he preached Christ to others, and to hear him give his experience and tell of his conversion was a treat of no ordinary kind. I was there seven weeks, and one night, just before leaving, I heard him say, “Before Mr M’Kendrick came here, I really thought I was the best man in Rosehearty; But now he is going, I wish to say that I do believe I am the worst.” ‘He must increase, and we must decrease,’ is the law of heaven and W.D fully learned that in his experience he became a most useful and fruitful servant of our Lord Jesus in that district.
There is another case I must mention. He also was an elder who had been converted during the mission. He invited my wife and myself to tea. In the course of the conversation, he said, “My wife says you’re the man that preached ‘Ye must be born again’ at our soiree last year.” I replied that I was. “Oh, man,” he remarked, “I was angry at ye that night. I didn’t mind saying much for myself. But to think I had canvassed all the Auld Kirk folk and the U.P’s to buy a shilling ticket for our soiree, and promised them a grand entertainment, and then when they came,’ to get an awful dressing down and be told so often that they needed to be born again. Oh man, I was really angry that night; but now I can see you were right. It was just what we all needed, but none of us liked it.”
Little did my friend know what an effort it was on my part to do it but my wife and I have often said that, had I failed to deliver the message that night at the soiree, God would not have so blessed our efforts the following year. We left Rosehearty after seven happy weeks. Our farewell was warm, as so many old people bade us good-bye with tears of gratitude running down their faces. Over a hundred married people were truly saved, besides about twenty unmarrieds. Most of them were over thirty years of age, while a good number were over fifty. I have never known such an experience before nor since the fruits of that mission were a great joy to that Godly minister, and though a comparatively young man, he only lived about four years to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He has gone home to glory, with many of the others who were then converted.
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