As an Ulsterman I have read quite a lot about the 1859 revival in my beloved homeland. So it was good to be given the opportunity to review this book. It was first published in 1860 and carries firsthand accounts of what took place the previous year.
It was written by John Weir, an Irish Presbyterian minister, to defend the revival against a sceptical press. It is skilfully written as the author weaves numerous letters and eyewitness accounts into this astonishing story of God’s work in Ulster. The publishers have done us a great service in making this available.
What makes this book especially fascinating is how the revival was viewed at the time. The book is in three parts. Part one looks at the revival’s early history and progress. It started in Connor, Co. Antrim, but soon spread throughout the north of Ireland.
Four men set themselves to pray that God would bless the preaching of the gospel in the Connor congregation and bless their own work. Their prayer meeting quickly grew and the first convert was seen some three months later. New prayer meetings were started as others found the Saviour.
Part two, the longest section, focuses on personal observations from Mr Weir and the enquiries he made of fellow ministers concerning the revival. Story after story is recounted of how God worked in various towns and villages and how this affected the churches and society generally.
All types of people encountered God, with dramatic effects. Public houses closed and even the law courts had little to do. It is inspiring to read such accounts and it ought to create a desire within our hearts to pray for revival in our own land.
The final section examines such questions as the revival’s physical manifestations. These manifestations were used by opponents to question the revival’s genuineness. I urge you to read here how these manifestations were viewed at the time, both by the church and their opponents.
The final two chapters deal with the fruits of the spiritual awakening and the ‘urgent need of revival in Great Britain’. That need is even more urgent today. I highly recommend this book.