« AnteriorContinuar »
greater power. Great fear and quaking came upon some as they thought of their sinfulness, and the wrath of God abiding upon them. The Spirit was now a fire melting them, and again a tempest bowing them down to the earth. On Sunday, the 16th May, there came witnesses of the Spirit's power that could no longer be gainsaid. After the preaching of the Word, "there was a great moaning in the congregation, as for the loss of an only son," not only women, but strong young men, and older people cried out as they awakened to the distressing sight of their sinful and lost estate. After the service, Mr. Robe sung a psalm and attempted to pray with them. When, however, he tried to speak he could not be heard on account of the bitter cries and groans, blended with the voices of sobbing and weeping. That there might be no occasion either for reproach or calumny, Mr. Robe acted in the circumstances with the utmost caution. He sent at once for Mr. Oughterson, minister of Cumbernauld, got some of the elders to pray with the people, and dealt with the distressed individually in his own study. It being a matter of regret that no record was kept of the Stewarton revival, Mr. Robe profited by the mistake then committed, and entered each case dealt with in a journal. By this means he was able not only the better to deal with those in distress, but also to calculate the extent and permanency of the movement. On that, the first great day of the revival, he dealt with thirty cases, but a far larger number were deeply impressed, and dated their awakening from that Sunday. "It was pleasant," writes Robe, "to hear those who were in a state of enmity against God, despisers of Jesus Christ, and Satan's contented slaves, some of them crying out for mercy, some that they were lost and undone, others, What shall we do to be saved? others praising God for this day, and for awakening them, and others not only crying and weeping for themselves, but for their relations.
Seeing his opportunity had come, Robe determined to turn it to the utmost spiritual profit of the parishioners. When he lifted up his eyes, he saw what he had never seen before, the fields ripe unto the harvest. He heard also the Lord of the harvest commanding him to put in his sickle and reap. Instruction, consolation, and guidance being much needed by the awakened, he appointed Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays for meeting with them. They came so continuously and in such large numbers that he was occupied from morning till night. He found the task hard at first, and was greatly tempted to slacken his hand, but resolving not to spare himself, he says, I soon found it the pleasantest work I ever was engaged in. The doctrines he preached at this time were identical with the doctrines he had preached since he had entered on his ministry. He mixed the law and the Gospel in every sermon, and in setting forth the latter, the congregations were often in tears. He marked with interest that sermons he had preached on former occasions with little success, when preached again and with less force on his part were attended with an abundance of blessing.
In the midst of the falling showers of blessing, the people expressed a desire that the sacrament of the Lord's Supper should be dispensed. Up till this time there had only been one communion a year in the parish, but the elders and people showed their earnestness by resolving to meet the necessary expenses, and down to the present time the minister still receives a small sum for the dispensation of the winter sacrament. After all arrangements had been made, twelve ministers came to Mr. Robe's assistance. The services were held in the fields, and on the Sunday fifteen hundred people partook of the communion. On Monday the services were again held in the fields on account of the crowds, and the church was set apart for dealing with those in distress. Great blessing was vouchsafed to those who had come from a distance. It was a gracious time. The love of God was freely shed abroad in the hearts of multitudes by the Holy Ghost given unto them.
These desirable days of the Son of Man extended from the end of April 1742, into the middle of 1743. The visitation of the Holy Spirit was consequently neither of a brief nor of a fitful character. Men who at first were taken by surprise got time to collect their thoughts, and look quietly at what they saw passing before their eyes. The results and effects were in every way salutary. There was a marked rise in moral feeling, and an unmistakable deepening of the spiritual life. The manners of the people were purified and elevated. Parishioners took a warm interest in matters pertaining to religion, and an increased delight in the services of the sanctuary. There was a larger church attendance, and throwing aside all wrath and bitterness, the people became kindlier spoken. The societies for prayer were reconstituted. Family feuds of long standing came to an end. Swearing was abandoned. Family worship was established. The work done by labourers in the fields and workshops was better done than formerly. With the quickened religious feeling there was an increased sense of duty. The whole of the people were more or less influenced for good. Robe dealt personally with three hundred persons in unwonted spiritual trouble about the salvation of their souls.
There is a sorrow of the Winter, but there is also a sorrow of the Spring. Of the buds which the tree produces, how many survive to bear fruit and flowers? Only the smallest proportion. But no one will venture to say, because of the innumerable buds that perish, Spring is a failure. The fulness of Autumn will not permit of the statement. Mr. Robe regretted that many who were wakened lost their impressions, and the cares of life choked the Word and they became unfruitful. He regretted that many through ignorance, evil company, and the repeated reiterations of the Seceders that they were under delusions, resisted the operation of the Divine Spirit, and so provoked Him to withdraw His influence before they came to a saving issue. But after the fullest deductions that could be made, there was still an abundant and satisfactory result. Knowing that time would be the best test of the work, Robe took careful note of all upon whom the work of the Spirit had been most apparent. The result was that in March 19th, 1751, he brought before a meeting of session a list of above one hundred persons who had been "under notour spiritual concern in the years 1742, and 1743." After these nine years the session was able to testify, everyone of them had maintained a walk and conversation befitting the Gospel. A declaration to this effect was signed by the members, John Lapslie, Alexander Patrick, Henry Ure, James Miller, John Rankine, Robert Graham, Andrew Provan, Henry Marshall, David Auchinvole, Walter Kirkwood, William Shaw, David Shaw, James Rankin, James Zuill, Mark Scott. A declaration to a similar effect was also signed by certain heritors, and by Alexander Forrester, "Bailie Depute of Kilsyth." One hundred souls still following Christ after the lapse of nine years, was something to be proud of, and Mr. Robe had a pastor's joy in their continued perseverance and growth in grace.
It was well that this venerable minister had resolved to proceed in all things with the utmost caution. His surmise was that the more the work prospered, the greater would be the opposition made to it, and " the more Christ triumphed the more Satan would rage." And he was right. Strong opposition sprang up in various quarters, and anonymous pamphlets were circulated in every direction. The strongest opposition came from a direction from which other things might have been expected. On the 15th July, 1742, the Associate Presbytery promulgated at Dunfermline an Act appointing a public Fast on account of the work of the Spirit then going forward in the Church of Scotland. They pronounced it a delusion, and the work of the Grand Deceiver. They went to blasphemous lengths, one Adam Gib excelling all the others. To their famous declaration Mr. Robe offered at once a dignified and convincing reply. He answered their objections one by one. He showed how the bodily distresses which marked the awakening of some could not be held inconsistent with the operation of the Holy Spirit. The work of the devil it could not be, for Satan's work never yet produced godly sorrow for sin and the hatred of it, it never produced reformation of life and manners, love to man and the embracing the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The Seceders said many through this work had been led to pay no heed to their testimony. Robe correctly replied that a stickling on a point of Church government was no mark of saving grace. "Can you find it in your hearts," asked Robe, "to be like the Jews who prayed and longed for the coming Messias, and, when he came, rejected and crucified him? Can you be so unaffected with the glory of Sovereign grace appearing towards a judgment-deserving generation, as