What Brought on the Irish Revival of 1859?


In the 1850s, many prayer meetings began to pray for the Holy Spirit to visit in power in Ireland. It started with the visit of a Christian lady, Mrs. Colville, of Gateshead, England, to the town of Ballymena, Ireland. Mrs. Colville was gifted with courage and faith to lead people to Christ. In the course of visitation and tract distribution, she began sharing Christ with a lady. A young man, Jeremiah McQuilken, overheard the conversation. He heard her graciously say to the woman, "You have never known the Lord Jesus." The words went like an arrow to McQuilken's heart. He was smitten with the thought that, professing Christian as he was, this truth applied to him. For two weeks, he had no peace, day or night. Then, he found it in Christ. His first convert was a friend named Jeremiah Meneely, and these two began to meet for prayer, with two other young men, John Wallace, and Robert Carlisle. These four began to pray for the Spirit to come in an awakening in Ireland. The Revival flame began to kindle. People were crying for mercy in open-air meetings. A singing-class was turned into a prayer meeting, and many met to pray, on occasion, all night.

It was with extraordinary fervor that the movement spread into Ahoghill and other parishes. In barns, schools, and private houses, meetings were conducted and addressed by converts, and multitudes of people attended the gatherings. At Ballymena, the whole town seemed suddenly to arouse. "The difficulty used to be to get the people into the church," wrote a minister, "but the difficulty now is to get them out." The closing prayer would be pronounced again and again, but each time the irrepressible petitions of the praying people would burst forth again. The cry of the penitent, mourning over sin, would break upon the ear, and so the meeting would of necessity be protracted—perhaps into the early hours of the morning.

The extraordinary character of the spiritual revolution that was happening in Ballymena is demonstrated by the testimony of Rev. S. Moore, who said: "On my return, after two days' absence at a Meeting of Synod, I found the town in a state of great excitement. Many families had not gone to bed for two or three nights While passing by dozens of houses, night and day, you would hear, loud cries for mercy from those under conviction, or the voice of prayer by kind visitors, or the sweet, soothing tones of sacred song. Business seemed at a standstill." [1]


I share these accounts to give you an idea of what happens during a time of revival. One thing stands out to me, and that is, when God moves supernaturally during a time of revival, there is no rational explanation for how it happens. At times like this, I am sure that, people outside of the kingdom of God were unable to explain the phenomenon.

When there is a true revival, the fruit is evident in changed lives with many people coming to Christ and turning from sin, repenting, and confessing Christ as their Savior. In my opinion, anything short of that is not a real revival. God is in the business of salvation. He has not come to merely give us a feeling, a spiritual high, or even physical healing, but complete redemption. I love it when God visits us with His presence in a substantial way, i.e., when we see healings and the gifts of the Spirit at work, but primarily God's will is for people to come to know Him. He wants His house to be full, and He will work through us if we make ourselves available.


I want to close our meditation by focusing on what we can do to be part of the move of the Holy Spirit, how we make ourselves available to God to bring change to those around us.

1) Draw near to God. We can do this in prayer and in reading His Word.

2) Confess whatever the Spirit brings to your attention. Do not harbor un-forgiveness or bitterness in your heart, as this is a roadblock to the Spirit of God.

3) Study the Word of God and especially the words of Jesus, which will afford the Holy Spirit the opportunity to use what has been stored in your heart (Psalm 119:11). He brings to remembrance what we have hidden in our hearts at the moment of opportunity, so prepare your heart with the Word of God.

4) Place yourself in fellowship with the body of Christ. When the Spirit moves in power, He comes to where His people are in unity. This does not have to be a large gathering, but wherever His people are coming together in unity, many a revival has started with just a small group of people. Do not think you can experience the Christian life on your own and of your own choosing. Be with the family. Seek unity. Join your hearts in prayer.

5) Do what you know. Obey what is clear in Scripture, and seek God for the rest. One of the things that the Holy Spirit has promised us is that He is our guide, our Teacher.

Today's meditation is taken from a more extended, in-depth study found at the following link: Holy Spirit Revival

[1] http://www.revival-library.org/index.php/catalogues-menu/1857/the-ulster-revival-of-1859