The Cambuslang Revival Comes in Response to Prayer

The Cambuslang Revival commenced on the outskirts of Glasgow, February 15, in the year 1742.

“On Monday, 15 February, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday, a band of intercessors gathered at the manse,” writes John Shearer in his exciting book Old Time Revivals (page 33). The minister of the Parish Church was Rev William McCulloch. There had already been a touch of revival in the area the year previous, when George Whitefield came a-preaching in Glasgow. But now it broke out afresh under this humble, godly minister.

“For 12 weeks he preached daily to stricken people. The life of the community was transformed. Drunkenness and blasphemy ceased. Faults were confessed … restitution was eagerly made. Family worship was revived” (page 34).

And it all began with “a band of intercessors …”

“If My people, which are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray…” (II Chronicles 7:14).

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In the 1740’s Cambuslang was a farming, mining and weaving community 5 miles south west of Glasgow. The faithful parish minister, William McCulloch, was of no special quality, but he earnestly desired to see his people come to genuine faith. Upon hearing of the George Whitefield revivals in America he began to preach gospel messages about what it is to be saved. This awakened the congregation to spiritual concerns.

A prayer movement of sorts was spreading through Britain and McCulloch authorised special prayer meetings in the parish, but only for those who were approved by the sincerity and consistency of their commitment. He was afraid of emotion and sensationalism, teaching his congregation to maintain decency in all matters, especially within the church.

As the fervour of the congregation rose, so too did the fervour of McCulloch’s preaching, until on Sunday February 14, 1742 a woman came under extreme conviction in the morning meeting. She was carried to the parsonage and there McCulloch answered her anguished cries of despair with promises from the Bible. McCulloch kept the event as orderly as possible by having those gathered at the parsonage sing psalms from time to time to settle the atmosphere. Note that psalms were the only approved songs for singing in Presbyterian churches. At the end of an extended and exhausting time of despair, exhortation and response the woman came to a glorious conviction of salvation.

That woman’s conversion popped the cork on the revival that had been brewing for many months and which had been bathed in earnest prayer. Word spread like wild-fire and crowds were drawn from far and wide. Ministers were called in to meet the needs of the ever growing crowds. Tents were erected near a spacious natural amphitheatre close to the church, as well as in the church yard and a nearby field.

McCulloch called upon George Whitefield to come and preach and when he arrived Whitefield declared that this was the most profound expression of revival he had seen anywhere in the world.

Over the previous century a tradition of special outdoor meetings focused on the Lord’s Table had been built up. Sacramental gatherings would run for four days or so and culminate in the serving of communion to the believers. Revivals had previously been associated with such events. McCulloch called for two such sacramental events in the months that followed. The second such gathering brought together over 30,000 people, some say as many as 50,000.

Hundreds were saved, piety and transformation was abundantly evident and uncontrolled weeping was widespread, despite the calls for decorum. This was the highlight of Scottish revivalism.

Opponents, mostly those of Deist persuasion, who did not believe in a present God who touched the hearts and lives of men, accused the revival of shallow emotionalism and ignorant sentimentality. And though the revival fires and the sacramental gatherings spread to other communities and touched many more lives, the revival was effectively doused by its opposition. Shortly thereafter the rising tide of reformed thinking extinguished the revivalist elements within the Scottish Presbyterian church.

But Cambuslang still stands as testimony to what can happen when humble souls preach the true gospel and willing hearts pray for revival.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

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