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to their religious fervour. Just as the spring showers cause the grass to grow, so the blood of the Scottish martyrs, poured out on Scottish soil, caused a widespread germination and growth of a sweet and rich religious feeling. The historical revivals of Scotland are so inwoven with the history of Kilsyth and the men who have been born and bred and laboured there, that at this point it is full of interest to turn the eyes back and survey the scenes and circumstances of the first revival times.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Stewarton continued from 1625 to 1630. The date of the termination of the revival at Stewarton marks the beginning of the revival at Shotts. The part played by John Livingston in the latter awakening was of a memorable character. A carriage containing some ladies of rank having broken down in Shotts parish, the travellers were entertained by Mr. Hance, the minister, at the manse, till the chaise was repaired. In return for his hospitality the ladies got a new manse erected for the clergyman. It was a magnificent return for the hospitality that had been extended to them, even although the ladies were all attached members of the Church and greatly interested in her persecuted pastors. Out of gratitude, Mr. Hance resolved to ask to his next coinmunion such clergymen as they might be pleased to name. One of the names mentioned was that of John Livingston, then residing at Cumbernauld. The breaking down of the carriage, the proposals about the manse, the coming of the ministers, became matter of public notoriety, with the result that when the communion arrived there had gathered in Shotts an immense concourse of people. Amongst the other ministers present was Robert Bruce of Kinnaird. When the sacrament had been dispensed, the people had such a peaceful and joyous feeling, that instead of retiring to rest, they formed themselves into groups and spent the whole night-the 21st June—in prayer and the giving of thanks unto God. Livingston was a member of one of these companies. He had often preached at Shotts with much acceptance. It having been arranged that he was to conduct divine service at nine o'clock, early in the morning he left the company with which he had spent the night and walked out into the fields that he might be alone. In the solitude of his walk there fell upon him great misgiving of spirit, a poignant sense of his unworthiness and weakness in the face of the great expectations of the people. Possessed of this feeling, he determined not to return to the church, but to steal away from the meeting. When he was about to lose sight of the church it occurred to him that his action was cowardly and mistrustful of God. At the same time there came upon him with overwhelming force the accusation contained in Jeremiah ii. 31-.“O generation, see ye the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness unto Israel ? a land of darkness ?” Turning, he found his way back to the church, where the people were thronging to hear him. Choosing for his text Ezekiel xxxvi. 25, 26—“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean : from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you : and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” The sermon was two hours and a half in length. In the first hour and a half he exhausted the points he had previously pondered, and he says, “I was led on about an hour's time in a strain of exhortation and warning, with such liberty and melting of heart as I never had the like in public.” Just as the great effort was being
brought to a close a heavy shower beginning to fallfor the service was held in the graveyard-he thus turned the circumstance to spiritual account. “If a few drops of rain from the clouds so discomposed them, how discomposed would they be, how full of horror and despair, if God should deal with them as they deserved ; and thus he will deal with all the finally impenitent. That God might justly rain fire and brimstone upon them as upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other cities of the plain; that the Son of God by tabernacling in our nature, and obeying and suffering in it, is the only refuge and covert from the storm of divine wrath due to us for sin ; that his merits and meditation are the alone screen from that storm, and none but penitent believers will have the advantage of that shelter.”
The effect of the sermon was extraordinary. It was like water to the thirsting. It was accompanied by a great downpouring of the Holy Ghost and by a strange and unusual commotion among the hearers. On five hundred of the audience there was wrought a change for the good, not transitory but permanent. It was the day in his life, the preacher confessed, when he had the richest presence of God. On account of the influence of this discourse, the preacher has been styled “Single Sermon Livingston.” The title is inappropriate. At Holyrood in Ireland, in 1641, he preached another sermon with much greater results for good. By the sermon at Holyrood it was estimated that not less than one thousand souls were begotten anew in Christ Jesus. Wodrow says, that since the days of the apostles few ministers were more abundantly countenanced in their work than Mr. Livingston. Apart from the general effect of this sermon there were striking instances of its power in the lives of particular individuals. Three young men of
Glasgow being on their way to spend some days in diversion and pleasure in Edinburgh, alighted in the morning at Shotts to breakfast. Hearing of the stir, they thought they would attend the Monday morning service and gratify their curiosity. Intending only to remain for a little, they became so powerfully influenced that they stayed until the service was done. When they pursued their journey they were more staid than they had been before, but each kept his deep concern entirely to himself. When they arrived in Edinburgh, they kept wholly to their rooms during their visit. Returning again to Glasgow in each other's company, they arrived there without having once disclosed their thoughts to each other. At last one of them went to one of the others and opened up to him the whole state of his mind since he had heard Livingston at Shotts. The other frankly owned the serious concern he had also experienced concerning his salvation. The two repairing to the house of the third, found him in a similar state of mind. They then began fellowship meetings together, and the three young men became exemplary citizens of Glasgow, and continued to lead to the end of their days lives of the highest Christian practice and profession.
Livingston began life by writing his sermons, but eventually he merely wrote out notes and trusted to enlargement at the time of delivery. The expectancy of his hearers helped him more than his own preparation. His chief difficulty was the getting of his heart into a right spiritual disposition. He always remembered that his two best and most fruitful discourses were preached after he had spent the previous night in prayer and Christian conference. While he considered his gift more suited to simple and commonplace people than to learned and judicious audiences, he at the same time was a diligent student of the art of effective address. He was in favour of short sermons. “Ordinarily," he says, “goe not be. yond the hour." As to subject matter : “A mediocrity should be kept, so that there be not too much matter in one sermon, which but overburdens the memory of hearers, and smells of ostentation; nor, again, should there be too little which hungers an audience and argues an empty gift.” He held that the subject matter should not be too exquisite and fine, with abstruse learning and quaint notions, which go beyond the capacity of the vulgar; nor yet too common, for this procured careless hearing and despising of the gift. All his rules as to the use of the voice are good. The preacher should remember he is preaching, not singing. He should not use longdrawn words. He should not affect a weeping-like voice. He should neither be too loud nor too low. He should neither speak too fast nor too slow. He should not interrupt his discourse with oft sighing. Throughout Scotland a Monday service was instituted after the Communion in imitation and commemoration of the Monday service at Shotts, and in many parishes it is still held.
The work of the preacher is not mechanical. In the ministry of the Word certain efforts are not to be depended upon as the means of achieving certain results. After his great sermon at Shotts, Livingston experienced a spiritual and oratorical reaction. Before a week was gone he had to lament a sense of desertion and an incapability of applying to the souls of his auditory the thoughts on which he had carefully meditated. By such means, he considered, the Lord counterbalanced his dealings with him and humbled his pride. His friends having persuaded him to stay at Irvine till the depression had passed, he was able to preach to them before he left “with tolerable freedom.”