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Revival on the Causeway Coast: The 1859 Revival In and Around Coleraine

By Nicholas M. Railton
March 2010 | Review by Ron Johnstone


Set within a wider socio-political and religious context this book takes a close look at the impact of the 1859 revival on the town of Coleraine on the north coast of Ireland. The salient features of the revival are outlined, the views of supporters as well as critics discussed and analysed. This book is one of the first detailed accounts, based largely upon archival and other primary source material, of the impact of the 1859 revival on a local community in the north of Ireland. This revival is described by Railton as the"most explosive repercussion of the American Revival". (Referring to the Revival which took place in America 1857-1858). In this area there was a real enthusiasm to expect great things from God with people committing themselves to daily prayer meetings. Nick Railton tells the story of how ordinary people communicated a simple message in simple words which led to 100,000 men, women and children being converted.

  • Publisher: Christian Focus Publications
  • ISBN: 978-1845504939
  • Pages: 224
  • Price: £7.99
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Book Review

This is a stimulating book to read, particularly at a time when the church is finding it increasingly difficult to bring the gospel to a culture dominated by man, materialism and secularism.

The relevance of this account is pressed home when one reads that, before the revival began, the influence of the clergy was at a low ebb. Despite many sermons against the evils of alcohol and against notable sins, there was little alteration in the lives of people. It was against such a background that God in his mercy sent the Holy Spirit to bring about revival on the Causeway coast of Ulster in 1859.

The book consists of seven chapters, each looking at the awakening from a different perspective. The author describes the social, economic and spiritual state of the community prior to 1859. A well-documented account of the revival’s effect is given, highlighting the centrality of prayer, and how God used young men ‘who had enjoyed little education and possessed few rhetorical skills’ to address crowds in Coleraine and the surrounding area.

Other subjects addressed are reactions to the revival and the opposition it brought forth in the churches, and more generally. The revival’s outworking, not least on the ‘Twelfth’ celebrations that year, show us that the awakening had a profound influence on society. Crime figures fell; there was a turning from immorality, and an increase in church membership and attendance.

The last chapter deals with the revival’s ending. This makes sober reading, especially when it shows how the church failed to build on the work of God. Such attitudes as ‘lack of compassion’ to the poor, ‘lack of love’ in the churches, and a ‘lack of wisdom’, all contributed to a decline. There are many lessons to be learned here.

This is a book I have no hesitation in recommending. It is spiritually uplifting and should stimulate God’s people to pray that the Lord will revive us again.

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