Roberts, Richard Owen, editor, Scotland Saw His Glory. Wheaton, Illinois: International Awakening Press, 1995. 351 pages.
Richard Owen Roberts, President of International Awakening Ministries, has taken out-of-print sources to compile this book. One source was issued in a limited edition of only thirteen copies; the earliest source is dated 1743. No information is given on the lives of the authors. He claims no originality; the works he uses are fully incorporated, with almost no quoting. He mixes and complements the six primary sources to accomplish his purposes.
It is of note to mention that Robert’s own personal library on revival is one of the largest in the country, and that he also helped build Wheaton’s revival collection into the thousands of volumes. Mr. Roberts is known throughout the United Kingdom and the United States for his work in historic revival.
The book is a chronology of major revival events and personalities in Scotland from the reformation days of the fiery John Knox in the 1500’s to the visit of the evangelists Moody and Sankey in the 1800’s. The survey stops in the nineteenth century due to the sources chosen, all of which were written before the stirrings of revival in the 50’s on the Isle of Lewis.
Scotland has seen the glory of God! The recurring revival waves built what was at one time a mighty witness in Scotland. The beginning wave was Reformation itself, a movement of life and spiritual verve and associated with Knox the Reformer. There were, of course, other men, such as Patrick Hamilton, George Wishart, William Cooper, and the larger-than-life John Welsh, who were sixteenth century men of note. But all revivals cool at some point and another shower must refresh the soil. This first happened when the participants of the Reformation were now up in years, through the ministry of John Davidson. In 1596 at St. Giles in Edinbugh the pastors of the nation met in a solemn assembly under his spiritual leadership, until a great breaking took place, the effects of which rippled throughout the land through the various synods.
Some thirty years later (1625) in the sleepy town of Stewarton God came again. The town certainly “has little or nothing otherwise to commend it” 1 than the revival which goes by its name. According to Fleming, one of the sources, “This great spring time of the gospel did not last for a short time merely, but continued many years.”2
One of best known of revival experiences followed at Kirk of Shotts in 1630 when the young preacher John Livingstone took the last service of the communion period. Over 500 were converted as they listened standing in the rain. This same man preached one other occasion and a thousand were converted3 . On both occasions he had been up all night in prayer and had minimal preparation time.
The Cambuslang revival under the leadership of a very mild and quiet spoken preacher named William M’Cullough, also has become a standard. Though sometimes associated with Whitefield, it commenced four months before his first visit.4 The crowds associated with this season of revival sometimes reached thirty thousand, especially during the two communion periods. This great work about which so much has been written began in a church that was spiritually stagnant, and through a pastor who was so average in his preaching skill that he was called, a “yill minister.”5 This term was used at the time to mean that “his rising to speak during field preaching [before the revival] at communions was taken by many as the signal to seek refreshment.” But revival changes a man and on his tombstone was written, “He was eminently successful in preaching the gospel.”6
The author continues his sketch by a survey of several other lesser movements such as Moulin in 1799, Arran in 1812, Skye in 1812, Breadalbane in 1816-17, Lewis in 1824-33, and Kilsyth in 1839. The revival of 1859-60 is well known transatlantically for the very reason of its connection with America and the Prayer Revival of 1857-8. In fact, the 1859 effected all of the British Isles, especially Wales, Ireland and Scotland, under such men as Brownlow North and Edward Payson Hammond and others. Roberts ends his survey with the visit of Moody and Sankey. A notable characteristic of the 1859 was the emphasis on the Spirit and Moody’s own “baptism with the Holy Ghost”7 added to that emphasis.
Roberts has done a yeoman’s work in compiling the data and in making the book read as if it were authored by one individual. The use of language is even throughout. The flow of the work is agreeable and covers the salient history. For many this will be an excellent introduction to the work of God in Scotland, without overbearing detail. The book reads well, though the American reader will continually struggle with getting the “feel” of the country geographically. It does move me. I have already recommended that others buy the book for its ability to stir the emotions and to excite the vision for revival.
At first I was disappointed that Moody and Sankey were included. They certainly do add a very different tone to the book, being more akin to the mass evangelists of today. Indeed, it is commonly known that they are the first of the truly organized of the mass evangelists. They put the “city-wide” into crusade evangelism. Though evangelism is in the center stage of revival, one almost never thinks of revival as an organized evangelistic effort. Perhaps I could say, in defense of Mr. Robert’s choice, that the contrast was important and the shift we see in Moody has been more or less permanent. For this reason we need to engage these two men. Roberts did include a revealing footnote from one of his sources, noting that their success “arose and was maintained in connection with the preaching of the theology of the Westminster Confession.”8
What this means is that the previously sound theology, even though Moody did not fully espouse it, was instrumental in the effect which their message had. I have seen this phenomenon in other revival literature. It is not uncommon for American Finney-styled theology (Moody was a direct descendant of Finney methodologically though less catastrophic theologically) to have an immediate effect in reaping what years of better theology has prepared. By that admission I still personally do not espouse the Moody way of conducting business, even if he is a powerful and engaging figure. I do think that he was a godly man, but his ways were too manipulative and set a problematic precedent.
I was again struck with the place of preaching on regeneration which is seen in Scottish revival history. Let me develop this by quoting Mr. Roberts in three places:
“The minister [William M’Culloch, prior to the Cambuslang revival] in his ordinary course of sermon for nearly a twelve-month before the work began had been preaching on those subjects which tend most directly to explain the nature, and prove the necessity, of regeneration according to the different lights in which that important matter is represented in Holy Scripture.”9
“Robe [of Kilsyth in the 1742 revival] traces the preparation made for the revival back to a series of discourses on regeneration which, like his friend M’Culloch of Cambuslang, he preached to his people. ‘It is probable that both ministers were influenced by Doddridge’s Letters on Regeneration, which were at that time in the enjoyment of a considerable popularity.’10
“In that month [March, 1799 at the inauguration of the Moulin revival] Stewart…began a series of discourses on regeneration, founded on the story of Nicodemus.”
The significance of this information is that of correcting common misconceptions about revival. In our day, we think of revival in terms of the Christian life. Questions such as how one can live effectively and handle stress and cope with family problems, loom large in our thinking. We must address these. But historically revival was more centered on the foundational doctrines of salvation. It really was gospel work, in that larger and more doctrinal sense. And at the heart of it all was the repeated call to regeneration. The doctrine was tuned to the sin of the day in this way. Since regeneration, or the giving of life to dead souls, is knowable in the true Christian’s life (“by their fruits you shall know them”), a professed believer can be challenged to examine himself to see the evidence of it. This kind of preaching made regeneration a searching doctrine. Many souls were brought under conviction by the preaching of this truth. I am convinced through this further evidence that we must preach regeneration again today. No doctrine fits our day quite like it.