The presence was almost tangible as I stood there with other men passionate for the gospel of Christ. Smoke from the fireplace filled the room, apparently we weren’t that great at venting the place, but we had our minds set on other things. We were gathering to pray for those places we would visit and those people we would see as we broke fellowship and headed back to our lives as normal. As great as that meeting was it is a far cry from the miraculous testimony Tom Lennie brings us in his newest volume, Land of Many Revivals: Scotland’s Extraordinary Legacy of Christian Revivals over Four Centuries (1527–1857).
Revival today has often lost its intended meaning. We have Wednesday night revivals and weekend revivals all meant to bring the numbers in and send the numbers out. We play with revival as if it depends on the right marketing strategy or the correct formulation of words to invoke the Spirit to move among his people. The Spirit isn’t some specter to be trifled with. He is the third person in the Trinity and moves and does as He pleases, not as we wish.
That’s where Tom Lennie steps in and completely turns the idea of revival on its head. Here in a good amount of pages, 523 to be exact, we have an incredible amount of testimony of what God has done in the land of Scotland over the centuries. Through famine, pestilence, war, death and threat of life, the Scottish people have had an incredible move of the Spirit within their borders. Tom Lennie has done a mind-boggling amount of research and sorting to bring us the best of the accounts, and if I’m honest, the not so good accounts.
The most thought-invoking words Lennie pens has to be the images of the Scottish people among the moors worshiping and praising God while an armed guard stands ready to defend their religious liberties. How fitting is that description to the church today? While we sit in our multi-million dollar buildings meant to impress and impose the latest trends in church growth, we are largely unaware of the work God is doing just outside the walls of those hollow structures.
Included in this volume is unending commentary from those who lived through the fires of revival. In one place it is noted that upon the signing of the Covenant, John Fleming a local Session clerk mentioned that “sealing the renewing of our Covenant with strange and sensible motions of his spirit in the hearts of all people universaillie throwh the land. And pouring upon us blessings of all sorts from that day forward….being a day of solemne assemblie for that worke and docterin, with the wonderfull applause of all the congregatioun without exception, shewing that rediness of mynde by the evaluatioun of heart and hand, cheirfulness of countenance, tears, and all expressioun of joy that the gravitie of the meitting could admit…” (68)
The people who lived during those times get it. They tasted of the sweetness of God and they turned to Him. They corrected their doctrine, rebelled when necessary, and held the Word of God up as the ultimate authority opposed to the state church which tried to tell them what and how the must worship. Certainly this type of thinking is growing among certain circles today but the awareness of God is largely ignored as one surveys the culture of the church today.
Today we are seeing another type of revival in Scotland. The growth of Protestant churches across the land is a good report to be sure. There are also orthodox educational options like the Edinburgh Theological Seminary among others cropping up here and there. We should be standing with our Scottish brothers and sisters in exuberant praise that God is renewing his work among that land in our day. Could we ask for any more than the grace of God upon this thirsty land? I think not.