The First Revival: 1841 – 1843

The first wave of revival and awakening hit Edinburgh in 1841. The Shelter, in the Grassmarket, had been set up by some Christian ladies in 1840, for the purpose of providing a rehab house for young women who had been involved in crime and prostitution. ECM missionaries were invited to preach there on a rota basis. One of them reported:

As I formerly stated, there has been for some time past a considerable awakening among the inmates of this institution with regard to their souls. I held a meeting with them this evening and addressed them from Matthew xiii. 45, 46, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ Not only did an extraordinary deep feeling pervade the meeting, but it might be termed what Scripture calls a Bochim, a place of weeping; many of them wept nearly all the time of the address, and a number of them cried aloud; however I was enabled to get through without my mind being much embarrassed, and I scarcely ever felt more liberty and enlargement of heart. After the exercises were over, a young girl, apparently about fourteen years of age, came to me weeping, and earnestly desired me to go and visit her parents – I said, “My young friend, what must I say to them?” She replied, “They are not religious, and I wish you to speak to them about their souls, and about Christ,” but she had much difficulty in telling me this for weeping.”

Annual Report: 1842 – 1843: p.10

Another wrote:

In the evening, the place is generally crowded with the poor, the ragged, the unwashed, and the miserable, who listen with deep attention and tearful eyes to the truths presented before them.

Annual Report: 1844 – 1845: p.19

By 1848, 19 of the 30 districts in Edinburgh were covered by 25 ECM missionaries. Five of them worked in the High St. and Canongate; four in the southern part of the city; one in the western; one in Stockbridge; one in Greenside; one in Catherine St.; one in Joppa and Portobello, and others elsewhere. Some of the missionaries were financed by ECM; others were supported privately, but Nasmith’s vision to spearhead a united evangelical city-wide mission was becoming a reality.

The 1853 Annual Report mentions ministries that had emerged, apart from the main district work. Mother’s Meetings had been set up, as had Subsaving Banks to help the poor to budget effectively. A missionary was also appointed to the City Police. By 1856 Open Air outreaches were underway and Church ministers joined the ECM missionaries in preaching the Gospel in the Meadows, Queens Park, the Pleasance and in other places:

…..the audiences were usually very large and exceedingly attentive. From 10,000 to 12,000 tracts were distributed on these occasions.

Annual Report: 1856: p. 21

A smaller ECM open air outreach in one of the closes on the Royal Mile

ECM ran outreach meetings in the Victoria Lodge in the Cowgate and Merchant St., in the Metropolitan Lodging House in the Grassmarket, in the Female Industrial Home in Corstorphine, and in the Shelter (Grassmarket).

Besides this, loan libraries were set up by ECM in all 30 of the districts, which greatly helped the process of educating the masses and hundreds of children were encouraged to attend day schools, as well as Sabbath Schools.

Some missionaries, to combat the influence of atheism on the men, set up public lectures on science related subjects, in order to educate people, with a view to eventually bringing them to Christ:

Sometimes a Missionary finds it useful to invite the more intelligent working men in his district to explore with him the volume of nature, as well as the volume of revelation, by the aid of the telescope; microscope, or other scientific instruments, and especially by lectures and conversational meetings on interesting and important subjects of general information, which are treated as naturally to present the truth as it is in Jesus in all its grandeur and attractiveness………Short lectures on Geology, Astronomy, Zoology, and History have been delivered by the Missionary….the object of these meetings was to combine science and religion.

Annual Report 1856: p.20, and 1857: p.23


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