Revival! A story of conversions and the “fencing of the tables”

More than two hundred and seventy years ago…

…in the year 1742, there was an extraordinary religious awakening in the West of Scotland. It began in Cambuslang, a parish on the Clyde, near Glasgow, There were not over nine hundred souls in the parish, yet out of that number about five hundred were, it was believed, converted.

(c) National Galleries of Scotland; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationThe awakening in Cambuslang was preceded by a year’s faithful preaching of regeneration and the atonement by the pastor, Rev. John M’Culloch. Who then for twelve weeks came daily preaching –generally out-door or in tents. Whitefield (then in the zenith of his power and popularity) came to Cambuslang, and delivered a dozen discourses. This “Son of Thunder” never stayed long in one spot; as he used to say, ” More than two weeks in one place kills me as dead as a door-nail.” But his two visits to the rural parish near Glasgow were inundations of blessings to the thirsting multitudes. Mighty audiences from Glasgow and Western Scotland thronged to hear him.

Whitefield frequently addressed 20,000 souls in a day!

At the first communion season after his visit, no less than seventeen hundred persons sat down to the tables, which were spread under tents. A few weeks after, the Lord’s Supper was dispensed again; and probably it was the most extraordinary communion service ever witnessed on earth. No less than forty thousand people gathered to witness the solemnities. Preaching went on for several days previous under Whitefield and others; but on the second Sabbath in August, the Pentecostal scene culminated.

The day was mild and genial, the air fragrant with the breath of new mowed hay, and the fields yellow with the wheat-harvest. At half-past eight on that memorable Sabbath morning, the “action sermon” was preached. Then came the “fencing the tables;” *  then, immediately after this, the table was spread, and the first company passed into the Lord’s Supper. During the whole day the sacred service went forward; no less than twenty-four companies of over one hundred, each sitting down in rotation! The whole number who partook of the sacred emblems was about three thousand.

The soft twilight was stealing over the “braes” when the last group left the communion tent, and there was only light enough left to read four lines of a psalm as a doxology. A grey haired pastor turning homeward from the hallowed place, exclaimed, in the fulness of his grateful heart,” Lord! now let Thou, Thy servant, depart in peace; for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

Such a revival could not be without abiding fruits. Accordingly, we are told that after the close of the extraordinary meetings, the morals of the whole neighborhood were changed. Profanity became almost unknown. God’s day was honoured in every dwelling. Nearly every house became a house of prayer. Evil speaking ceased. Old enmities and family feuds were forgotten. Every father was a kinder parent; every child more dutiful. Religion went into men’s daily business as a controlling principle; skeptics owned its power, and scoffers were silenced before the beauty and majesty of daily godliness. May He who holds the seven stars in His right hand renew such a period!

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*  “fencing the tables” means the special address in the ministration of the Lord’s Supper. This was a term often used among the Scotch Presbyterians. It is a lecture from the minister just before the distribution of the elements, pointing out the character of those who have and of those who have not a right to come to the Lord’s table. It was formerly called “debarrings,” because in it the ministry debarred from the sacrament those who were not supposed to be worthy.

Taken from “The Religious Anecdotes of Scotland.”