Kirk of Shotts
A considerable company of Christians from many different parts of Scotland gathered at Kirk of Shotts on Sunday 20 June 1630 for the communion service. Several ministers shared the conduct of the proceedings, and much grace was upon all who were there. Indeed, so blessed were they that at the end of the services, instead of retiring to bed, folk continued together in prayer and devotion throughout the night.
The Monday service
Evidently it was not the custom at that time to have a further service on the Monday following the communion. Yet God had so presenced himself with them that they were unable to part without further thanksgiving and praise. A Monday preaching service was therefore arranged, and a young man called John Livingstone, chaplain to the Countess of Wigton, was persuaded to be the preacher.
The preacher’s turmoil
He too had spent the previous night in prayer. Alone in the fields, at eight or nine in the morning, he was so overcome with a sense of his unworthiness (particularly as so many choice ministers and experienced Christians were present) that he thought he would slip away quietly. He had actually gone some way and was almost out of sight of the church when the words ‘Was I ever a barren wilderness or a land of darkness?’ were so impressed upon his heart that he felt bound to return and preach. What was to ensue was a most remarkable demonstration of the power and the grace of God under the preaching of his Word.
Livingstone preached for about an hour and a half upon Ezekiel 36:25-26: ‘Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.’
The heavenly shower
He was about to finish when a heavy shower of rain caused people in the churchyard to cover themselves hastily with their cloaks. This prompted the preacher to continue: ‘If a few drops of rain so discompose you, how discomposed would you be, how full of horror and despair, if God should deal with you as you deserve? And God will deal thus with all the finally impenitent. God might justly rain fire and brimstone upon you, as he did upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain. But, for ever blessed be his name! the door of mercy still stands open for such as you are. The Son of God, by tabernacling in our nature, and obeying and suffering in it, is the only refuge and covert from the storm of divine wrath due to us for sin. His merits and mediation alone are the screen from that storm, and none but those who come to Christ just as they are, empty of everything, and take the offered mercy at his hand, will have the benefit of this shelter.’
In such a manner, Livingstone continued preaching for a further hour, experiencing, in his own words, ‘such liberty and melting of heart, as I never had the like in public all my lifetime’. It is recorded, on sure grounds, that about five hundred people were dealt with by God under that preaching.
The three gentlemen
The following account is recorded and attested of three young gentlemen in Glasgow who had made an appointment to go to Edinburgh for purposes of entertainment, and on their way broke their journey at Shotts for breakfast on that very Monday. This is what happened, to the glory and praise of God.
One of them proposed that they go and hear the young preacher, probably as much out of curiosity as anything else. They planned to leave at the end of the sermon, before the closing prayer. But they so felt the power of God accompanying the sermon that they had to stay right through. They returned to where they were staying and called for some refreshment before continuing their journey. When it was served, they looked at one another and did not dare touch it until a blessing was asked. Then, having taken the refreshment, they could not rise until thanks was returned.
They went on their way, expressing none of their inward concern of soul to each other, but now and again saying things like, ‘Was it not a great sermon we heard?’ and, ‘I never heard the like of it.’ Arriving in Edinburgh they kept to their rooms instead of seeking out the city’s pleasures, and after only about two days set off home. They had been back in Glasgow for some days before one of them visited another and declared what God had done for him at Shotts. The other admitted the same for himself. Both of them went to the third, and his case was the same. They had been humbled before God, convicted of their sinfulness, and had fled to Christ for salvation. Having each been converted, they agreed immediately to begin a fellowship meeting, and continued to live in a manner suitable to their Christian profession for the rest of their lives.