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The Lewis Revival (1950)

By Mary Peckham

When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bring his sheaves with him. Psalm 126

I was born and reared in the Hebrides Islands, on the Island of Lewis. The most north-westerly point of Scotland is called Cape Wrath, and forty miles to the west lies a string of islands; the topmost of these is the Island of Lewis. My home, in a fishing village, was two miles from the lighthouse, at the very tip of the island.

As a child I was accustomed to family worship each morning, not only in our home, but sometimes in the home of friends, or my grandparents. It was the normal thing in the homes of our villages, as far as I knew, to have morning daily worship. That doesn't mean that all the people in the village were Christians, but they had promised in the church to bring up their children in the nurture and fear and admonition of the Lord, and they felt that this was part and parcel of fulfilling that promise. So many unconverted parents in that village-including my own-thought it was right to read the Word of God to their family, and to pray. I can't say that I listened very carefully to the reading of the Word. I really wasn't at all attentive, it was just part of life.

The Island of Lewis In school we would start out each day with the Lord's prayer, and then went on to Bible stories and the Presbyterian Shorter Catechism. On most days, we would come home from school with a verse from the Psalms to learn.

So you can see that our people were well-versed in the Scriptures. We knew the Ten Commandments by heart. We also knew Isaiah 53 and 55, the Beatitudes, I Corinthians 13, and many others. Even though an unconverted people, we were not strangers to the Word of God. When the Spirit of God fell on our island, there was fuel there to burn.

There were also those among the people of God there who were dissatisfied, and who were craving and longing for a moving of God on the island. The people of God were hungry.

I was on the mainland of Scotland when revival broke out on the Island of Lewis. At that time, I wasn't particularly interested in church. I only went once to Sunday School in Scotland, and the elder prayed too long for my liking, so I didn't go back again. When I learned of the revival on my island, my immediate reaction was. 'I am not going back to Lewis until this revival is over. They were religious enough already, and I don't want to be involved.' I had my own life and my own ambition-singing at Gaelic concerts. My world was full of pleasure, and it didn't include God or the church. I knew that I was going to hell, but there were so many people going to hell with me that it didn't concern me too much. If God wanted to come at some time or another into my life and save me, that was His business. But as far as I was concerned I had no desire for the things of God.

A phone call changed all that. I was informed that my parents were ill and that I must return immediately to Lewis. So I went out of concern for them.

They were soon better and began going to church. It seemed that the whole conversation of the village revolved around what was happening in these revival meetings. I hated it. I didn't want anything to do with it. I felt inwardly disturbed when talk turned to the meetings, and to the conversions of people who had been drunkards, and who were now joining in the prayer meetings. I resisted and I resented because I was afraid.

So there I was, afraid that God would come to my life, that He would speak to me. I didn't want to have anything to do with the things of God. I hoped that maybe at the end of life I might be saved, but not now. I had too much going on.

My parents found me out, and one evening they told me they weren't going to the meeting unless I would go too. So I went - in a rage.

The church was crowded, and the atmosphere was indescribable. One sensed as one came in the drive toward the church that a silence was falling upon people. And as they went into the church, they moved slowly to their pews, and they sat. Before the service had begun, the tears were flowing. For a person who is unconverted to be in such a situation was not a very comfortable thing!

But as I listened to the singing of the Psalms-that was all they sang-the people sang the Word of God as if their hearts would burst. Such singing sent shivers down my spine. I felt I was being, as it were, hounded into a corner. When the preacher got up-the late Duncan Campbell-I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this man was in earnest. he didn't preach a soft gospel. hell was made real to us, and sin was made a reality. Our condition out of Christ was such a thought to make us fear. And we did fear.

I went home that evening in a daze. When we returned home, my father asked, 'Well May, how did you enjoy that?' And I replied, 'I didn't enjoy it at all.'

Now that was true, I didn't enjoy it. I found no delight at all in what happened in that meeting. But strangely, the following night I was there again. They didn't have to ask me to go anymore; I went again and again and again. It seemed, in a way, that I was going against my own will. But my feet were taking them there, even though it was a walk of two and a half miles.

One night in the meeting, I kept my eyes on my mother. I thought, 'well, if this new birth doesn't come to our home, it won't be so bad. I can put up with it.' That night, as I looked at my mother, I saw her take out her handkerchief, and tears coursed down her cheeks. Our house was very quiet that night. We moved around as if in a dream. Nobody wanted to talk. you know, sometimes that awareness of the presence of God comes to us in church, but this was in our home. It was in our neighbourhood. It seemed as if God was everywhere. later, I listened at the door of my father's bedroom, and I could hear that hardened sailor crying aloud the prayer of the publican in the Bible, 'O God', and praying for the young people of the community, the tears coursing down his cheeks. And there I am, sitting, holding onto my seat with the fear of God in my heart, seeing myself as he described us on this slippery path of darkness, slipping down, slipping down, slipping down to an endless hell. In the midst of revival, one is so concerned about one's self that one doesn't observe very much what is happening in other people's lives. But one night I did observe, and I saw what it meant to be saved. I saw what happened when Christ saved a life.

For the first time, I went to one of the cottage meetings which were conducted after the services in the church were over. These cottage meetings went on into the night, people didn't want to part from one another. The presence of God was so wonderful, but so fearful, so fearful to me. this particular night, they made some kind of appeal for those who were exercised about their souls, that they should come to a certain room and the preacher would pray with them. In my ignorance I thought, 'Its another meeting, and I now want to go to meetings', so I went. Two of my childhood friends were there, and they sat and wept their hearts out. I didn't feel quite like that yet. Duncan Campbell asked one, 'Are you really in earnest about seeking Christ as your Saviour?' And I thought, 'He's going to ask me that. What shall I say? I can't say to the good man, 'No', because then he would ask why I am here.' So I said, 'Yes', but, oh, I felt so convicted. I felt like such a hypocrite. But God knew my heart, and He knew that in my ignorance I did desire something, but I didn't know what. I was being drawn irresistibly to God. After he had prayed with us and for us, I thought, 'Well, its wonderful to hear someone praying for me. I've never heard anyone pray for me personally like this before.' And my heart responded to it, but I knew Duncan Campbell couldn't save me.

After he had prayed with us, we went out into the street, and that night I saw what God had done to my teenage friends. There they were at two o'clock in the morning, arms lined, singing:

Take the world, but give me Jesus-all it's joys are but a name.
But His love abideth ever-through eternal years the same.

I looked at one girl in particular, and I saw something that I desired more than anything in my life. I felt, 'You've got something that I haven't got and I can never be at rest until I find it'. I saw the beauty of the Lord in the face of that young girl. Three o'clock that morning, I was on my knees by the old stove in the kitchen praying, 'Oh God, (and I meant it) be merciful to me, the sinner', as if there were no other sinner in the world. the sinner. I didn't feel that anything happened. I went up to my bed and wept myself to sleep. I was lost, lost, lost. I didn't know how to get saved, and I didn't feel that God was under any obligation to save me. I had left Him out of my life all my days. How could I now ask God to give me a ticket to heaven, to save my soul?

For three months I struggled. I saw some wonderful sights. I heard some wonderful prayers. I met some wonderful people, the people of God. Still I had no assurance of salvation. I believed that anybody and everybody could get saved, but there was some kind of something in me whereby I couldn't get the assurance of salvation. But one night, at the end of my tether, on the 24th of August, 1950, I was sitting as usual in the prayer meeting, and the men were praying one after the other, and the minister got up to close in prayer. I prayed in my heart, 'O God, I love Your people, I can't explain it, but I love Your people, and I want to be in their company. And, Lord, I want to stay in their company for the rest of my life, and then send me to Hell, for that's what I deserve.'

The conviction of sin in a season of revival is too terrible for words. Here I was, brought up in a society that was moral and religious, and yet I felt such a sinner in the sight of God that I couldn't see how He could save me. But that night, after the minister closed in a prayer, he quoted a verse, Isaiah 53:5. Suddenly it seemed as if I were transported from that prayer meeting to that place called Calvary, and I was there alone:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

And I felt healed. Nobody needed to tell me. The Spirit of God through His Word witnessed with my spirit that, miracle of miracles, I was a child of God!

I couldn't go to bed that night. A crowd of us walked the shore, singing above the noise of the waves:

Now none but Christ can satisfy.
None other name for me.
There's love and life and joy,
Lord Jesus, found in Thee.

There was a blacksmith in Lewis named John Smith. He was very involved in the revival. In fact, before the revival, he and other elders prayed right through. They took Psalm 24, 'Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD or who shall stand in His holy place? He that that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.' John Smith once turned to the other elders and said, 'It's absolute humbug for us to be praying like this unless our hands are clean, and our hearts are pure.' And so they united together. They confessed before God. They got right with God and prayed on. I am so glad that when I was away in the world, not interested in the things of God, there were men like these who prayed, and who prayed through.

Does it not give us a hunger in our hearts to see what God can do? 'I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground.' How many of us are thirsty? Or, are we like the Laodicean church, neither cold nor hot? I'm here to testify that God is a convenient keeping God, and that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd that gave His life for the sheep. The Son of Man who came to seek and to save that which is lost and saved me!

He knew the victorious life to be a fact, he had once lived it! But how to get back was the problem which was breaking his heart.