The Great Revival: 1859 – 1861

In 1859 Christians were stirred to pour out their hearts in united prayer across the city, and God answered them with a deep revival:

A spirit of fervent prayer and of earnest ‘waiting for the promise of the Spirit’, has of late years pervaded, in a remarkable manner, many of the churches in town, and has found the means at once of its expression and its maintenance, in the Union Prayer Meeting, held in Queen St. Hall, and in similar devotional services conducted elsewhere [such as the Tron Kirk].Annual Report: 1859: p.18

An outbreak of God’s Spirit in Pilrig School, Leith, led to a deep conviction of sin and salvation to many of the pupils there. This resulted in a movement which spread throughout the city, particularly in the Old Town and Newhaven, and which centred around Carrubbers Close Mission on the High Street. This had formerly been called the Whitefield Chapel, but had become run down, and had ended up having the infamous Celebrated Cathedral of the Prince of Darkness, an atheist society, running there, before Christians re-consecrated it and renamed it Carrubbers Close Mission. Indeed, ECM worked “in unison with that of those friends, chiefly from Carrubbers Close, who have of late years conducted so many devotional and evangelistic meetings in and around Edinburgh, and in whose success they have shared.Annual Report: 1861: p.15)

We read in the ECM reports about the revival that centred on this (non-ECM) building, sweeping into the missionaries’ work:

….Multitudes who would formerly have resented any direct inquiry respecting their state before God, began eagerly to court opportunities of being conversed with on this topic, and some would follow the missionary to his house, or accompany him in a walk to the country, pressing, in various forms, the momentous inquiry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’Ibid

Another missionary wrote:

There has been a great stir among the young people of the district, some of whom are wonderfully changed in spirit and deportment. Every evening they come to the meeting, or the class, seeking for Jesus.Ibid., p.19

In this time of abundant harvest we are told: “Many institutions are happily in operation, all more or less directly subsidiary to the great objects of the gospel ministry: the Bible Society; the Religious Tract and Book Society; the “Monthly Visitor” Society; City, Country and Coast Missions; Sabbath Schools; Industrial Schools, Temperance Societies and Savings Banks; Refuges, Reformatories, and Hospitals; the Destitute Sick Society; the Societies for supplying the poor with cheap coals, clothing, meal, and bread; and to these may now be added the Society for teaching the Blind to read.Ibid., p.24

The huge harvest of seeking souls was caught in this unified evangelical network and the 1860 Report joyously recounts it:

In the words of the recent ‘Call to United Prayer’, ‘There is a visible moving of the dry bones in this great valley of the dead….one reaper after another has been sent to us, and each has found his own field white for the harvest. As the fruit of a manifold agency, coarse and reckless men have become as little children entering the Kingdom; harlots have returned into the bosom of their wondering families, testifying of Jesus; the self-righteous and the secure are asking with burdened hearts, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’p.14


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.