by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A message published by the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
June 29, 2003

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

You are about to read excerpts from an account of the last great regional revival in the English-speaking world. I think you will find it marvelously uplifting. It happened in my own lifetime, not centuries ago, and so it is a clear example of what God can still do in our time. The revival occurred on the Island of Lewis between 1949 and 1953. Lewis is an island located about 760 miles north of London, off of the coast of Scotland. The island is of 891 square miles, with a population of about 25,000. Some 3,700 of these people live in the city of Stornoway, which is the only large town. Most of the other 21,000 people live in smaller villages. P. S. Bristow said, "Many live in picturesque thatched cottages, and Gaelic is universally spoken [English is the second language used by them]. The people are instinctively and traditionally religious, with the old-time reverence for God, His Word and the ordinances of His church."

It was the week night prayer meeting. There had been bitter opposition to the gospel in the village, and although many attended the meetings from other areas, very few locals attended. A church leader suggested they should go to prayer, and thirty or so moved into the home of a friendly farmer. Prayer was hard, and about midnight Duncan Campbell turned to the local blacksmith, who had been silent so far, and said, "I feel that time has come when you ought to pray." The man prayed for about half an hour, and then drew his prayer to a closeAt that moment, Duncan Campbell recalls, "That whole granite house shook like a leaf," and whilst one [church leader] thought of an earth tremor, Duncan Campbell was reminded of Acts 4:31: "And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together." Duncan Campbell pronounced the benediction and they went outside. It was about two o'clock in the morning and they found "the whole village alive, ablaze with God." Men and women were carrying chairs and asking if there was room in the church for them (Brian H. Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God, back jacket).

Before I give a full report of this astonishing revival, I feel I must make a few comments. First, the revival at Lewis was not an evangelistic meeting as we know them. It is important to understand that the Finney-style meetings we have come to call "revivals" are a new phenomenon. What happened at Lewis was an old-fashioned outpouring of God's grace, something that is very rarely seen in our churches today.

Second, I personally think that the location of Lewis had something to do, in the providence of God, with the old-time awakening that occurred. I looked on a map of the world, and Lewis is about the farthest point away, in the English-speaking world, from the section of New York where Charles G. Finney ministered. I think this is important. The Lewis Awakening occurred just a little over 100 years after Finney's "decisionist" emphasis began. I believe that the doctrines and practices of "decisionism" are among the greatest enemies of true revival. But these doctrines and practices had not yet come to Lewis in 1949. It was too isolated. The older ideas of conversion and revival still prevailed there.

Third, I should give a few comments on the preaching of Rev. Duncan Campbell, the leading figure God used in this revival. Brian Edwards says,

The men who preach in revival are always unafraid and urgent, and the description of Duncan Campbell as a preacher shows how seriously they took their task. There was nothing complicated about Duncan's preaching. It was fearless and uncompromising. He exposed sin in its ugliness and dwelt at length on the consequences of living and dying without Christ. With a penetrating gaze on the congregation, and perspiration streaming down his face, he set before men and women the way of life and the way of death. It was a solemn thought to him that the eternity of his hearers might turn upon his faithfulness. He was standing before his fellow men in Christ's stead [in Christ's place] and could not be perfunctory [careless] nor formalHe gave the impression of preaching with his entire personality, not merely with his voice (Brian Edwards, Revival! A People Saturated With God, Evangelical Press, 1991, p. 103, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

Again, Edwards writes,

Duncan Campbell was often criticized for declaring the wrath of God night after night, but he saw this only as a backcloth to the gospel (ibid., p. 108, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

And again, Edwards tells us,

Duncan Campbell's method was to preach on sin, condemnation and hell during the services, but to reserve the way of salvation for the after meeting attended only by those who were genuinely seeking salvation. He did not preach the gospel to those who were uninterested until they were under conviction (ibid., p. 254, emphasis by Dr. Hymers).

Thus, Campbell's preaching was like that of the men who saw revival earlier, in the three Great Awakenings. He preached like great Whitefield, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Asahel Nettleton. He did not give soothing gospel sermons in the open meetings. He preached until he sweat, declaring in urgent tones the wrath of God, sin, condemnation and Hell. Needless to say, there are few men who preach convicting sermons like that today. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons we have not seen revival. "Expository" sermons are not given in times of revival!

Fourth, a majority of the ministers of Lewis backed up the strong preaching of Campbell. These pastors wanted revival more than they wanted to keep a few disgruntled church members from being angry. These pastors were more concerned with their members coming under conviction of sin and experiencing true conversion than they were about losing a few carnal members. This is critical, in my thinking. You can't have real revival where the pastors are afraid of upsetting the people by strong preaching. "The fear of man bringeth a snare."

Fifth, people often cried out and fell on the floor, or on the earth, overpowered by the conviction of sin. It must be stressed to a more modern audience what separated these manifestations from those in charismatic circles today. The cries and prostrations came from those who were under deep conviction of sin, people who realized that they were lost and going to Hell because of their sin. This emphasis is not found in Pentecostal and charismatic meetings in our time. People may fall down and scream in charismatic services today, but it is very rare for them to do so out of deep, heartrending conviction of sin, that makes them feel that they deserve Hell, and that they are depraved sinners under the hand of a Holy God!

Sixth, I should comment on the prayers of the Lewis revival. They were prayers centered on the glory of God in the conversion of lost sinners. Conversions were at the very heart of their prayer meetings, which often went on all night, and seldom ended before midnight. There was deep, agonizing prayer for the conversion of lost sinners in their prayer meetings, which were held nearly every night.

Revival came to Lewis in 1949 as groups of Christians, here and there throughout the island, set themselves to pray. Peggy and Christine Smith prayed, alone in their cottage. Peggy was eighty-four and blind; Christine was eighty-two and crippled with arthritis. They prayed until they knew that God was going to send revival. For months James Murray MacKay and his church leaders prayed [before the revival came] (Edwards, ibid,. p. 83).

Seventh, the Holy Spirit came down to make men and women fear God. Again this is a crucial difference from what we see in modern charismatic circles. It was the fear of God, and the conviction of sin, that made the meetings at Lewis so striking, so important, and so much more like the old-time revivals of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries than anything we see today.

Eighth, Campbell did not give a modern invitation, with the man-centered emphasis on "deciding for Christ" that we see today. Instead he preached the wrath and judgment of God, and then simply told people that there was another meeting to follow if they felt convicted and undone, in a state of sin. Campbell himself said,

I would first like to state what I mean by revival as witnessed in [Lewis]. I do not mean a time of religious entertainment, with crowds gathering to enjoy an evening of bright gospel singing; I do not mean sensational or spectacular advertising - in a God-sent revival you do not need to spend money on advertising. I do not mean high-pressure methods to get men into an inquiry room [manipulative techniques to get people to "come forward"] - in revival every service is an inquiry roomRevival is a going of God among His people, and an awareness of God laying hold of the community. Here is the difference between a successful [evangelistic] campaign and revival in revival the fear of God lays hold upon a community, moving men and women, who until then had no concern for spiritual things, to seek God (Duncan Campbell, The Lewis Awakening, Rare Christian Books, fax (573)336-7316 to obtain a copy. The number is for the United States. The address is Rare Christian Books, 19275 Highway 28, Dixon, Missouri 65459, USA. The price is $15.00).

On the other hand, I do not think that giving up the public invitation cures the errors of decisionism. There are many churches today that do not use an invitation, and yet have many members who are unsaved. A brief, non-emotional invitation to see the pastor in his office for counsel after a strong sermon does not promote decisionism, in my opinion. It is the preaching itself that makes the difference. I think that the preaching itself is critical if we are to have many conversions. A mere Bible exposition, followed by a show of hands, or a verbal invitation to attend a "new members" class, will not produce any more true converts than a Bible exposition followed by a public invitation. The element of dynamic, pointed preaching is a determining factor used by God in revival. Edwards says,

Revival preaching has a power and an authority that bring the Word of God like a hammer to the heart and conscience. This is exactly what is absent from most of our preaching today. The men who preach in revival are always unafraid and urgent, and the description of Duncan Campbell as a preacher shows how seriously they took their task: there was nothing complicated about Duncan's preaching. It was fearless and uncompromising. It exposed sin in its ugliness and dwelt on the consequences of living and dying without Christ. With a penetrating gaze on the congregation, and perspiration streaming down his face, he set before men and women the way of life and the way of death. It was a solemn thought to him that the eternity of his hearers might turn upon his faithfulnessPreaching in revival is not dry theory, but a living and powerful force. Few people are able to leave the sermon unmoved; they may be furious, or converted, and even those who are neither are impressed by the power of God (Edwards, ibid., pp. 103-105).

Now I will give several paragraphs describing the revival itself, written by Duncan Campbell, and taken from his book, The Lewis Awakening, 1949-1953. The entire book is available from Rare Christian Books, 19275 Highway 28, Dixon, Missouri 65459. Phone/fax (573)336-7316. The e-mail is at Here are several paragraphs by Duncan Campbell describing the revival:

One will never forget the hush of the awful presence of God as we sat waiting for the opening [hymn] to be announced; one could truly say,

And Heaven came down our souls to meet,
And glory crowned the mercy seat.

Here is a scene witnessed during the first days of the movement. A crowded church, the service is over: the congregation, reluctant to disperse, stand outside the church in a silence that is tense. Suddenly a cry is heard within: a young man, burdened for the souls of his fellow men, is pouring out his soul in intercession. He prays until he falls into a trance and lies prostrate on the floor of the church. But Heaven had heard, and the congregation, moved by a power that they could not resist, came back into the church, and a wave of conviction of sin swept over the gathering, moving strong men to cry to God for mercy. This service continued until the small hours of the morning, but so great was the distress and so deep the hunger which gripped men and women, that they refused to go home, and already were assembling in another part of the [district]. An interesting and amazing feature of this early morning visitation, was the number who made their way to the church, moved by a power they had not experienced before: others were deeply convicted of their sin and crying for mercy, in their homes, before ever coming near the church.

None of those present will forget that morning meeting as the assembled company sang:

"I will not come within my house,
    Nor rest in bed at all;
Nor shall mine eyes take any sleep,
    Nor eyelids slumber shall;

Till for the Lord a place I find,
    Where He may make abode;
A place of habitation
    For Jacob's mighty God."

There was a moving scene, some weeping in sorrow and distress, others, with joy and love filling their hearts, falling upon their knees, conscious only of the presence and power of God who had come in revival blessing. Within a matter of days the whole [district] was in the grip of a spiritual awakening. Churches became crowded, with services continuing until three o'clock in the morning. Work was largely put aside, as young and old were made to face eternal realities. Soon the fire of blessing spread to the neighbouring [regions]. Carloway witnessed a gracious manifestation of the power of God that will surely live in the annals of Lewis revivals. The minister of that [district] was assisting with the meetings at Barvas: God was mighty at work, and a number of men were in great distress of soul. Two of these were pipers who were to have played at a concert and dance at Carloway. The minister of Carloway had had a concern to witness at this dance. Leaving the meetings at Barvas, he arrived at the dance at about 3:30 a.m. Almost immediately after he entered the hall the dancing ceased, and he thereupon proposed that they should sing two verses of a Gaelic Psalm. Not all were immediately favourable to this, but after a special appeal Psalm 139, verse 7, was sung, some present joining in: -

"From thy Spirit whither shall I go?
   Or from thy presence fly?
Ascend I heaven, lo, thou art there;
   There, if in hell I lie."

He then engaged in prayer and followed with a few words of exhortation, and suddenly the power of God swept through the company and, almost immediately, the music of the dance gave place to the cry of the penitent. Opposition broke down under conviction of sin and distress of soul. This applies especially to a schoolmaster's son who was acting M.C. Before leaving the hall the minister related the news that the pipers and others who were to have been at the dance had decided for Christ in the kitchen meeting at Barvas two hours before. Soon the whole proceedings came to an end and those present dispersed to their homes bewildered and amazed. That same night, in his own home, the schoolmaster came under deep conviction and the following Monday his wife also completely broke down. They now blaze a trail for God in their [area], and Ness becomes the scene of a most gracious movement.

At Ness meetings were held in the afternoon and evening, and frequently on into the morning. Churches, halls, private houses, and even furniture and meal stores were used to accommodate men and women seeking for God.

Perhaps the greatest miracle of all was in the village of Arnol. Here, indifference to the things of God held the field and a good deal of opposition was experienced but prayer, the mighty weapon of the revival, was resorted to and an evening given to waiting upon God. Before midnight God came down, the mountains flowed down at His presence, and a wave of revival swept the village: opposition and spiritual death fled before the presence of the Lord of life. Here was demonstrated the power of prevailing prayer, and that nothing lies beyond the reach of prayer except that which lies outside the will of God. There are those in Arnol to-day who will bear witness to the fact that, while a brother prayed, the very house shook. I could only stand in silence as wave after wave of Divine power swept through the house, and in a matter of minutes following this heaven-sent visitation, men and women were on their faces in distress of soul. It is true that in this village God had His "watchmen." Thank God there are many such in Lewis and Harris; it is one of such men who, when he witnessed the mighty power of God in this village, asked that we might sing the 126th Psalm: -

"When Zion's bondage God turned back,
    As men that dreamed were we,
Then filled with laughter was our mouth,
    Our tongue with melody."

Some time ago, while passing through this village, I was met by an old man whose salutation was in the following words, "I am glad to be alive to witness this day." Then, pointing to a particular house, he said, "Do you see that house? That was the 'drinking house' of this village, where our young men met in utter disregard of God, His Word, or His day. To-day it is closed and the men who frequented it are praying in our prayer meetings." What a joy it is now to see such numbers going to the house of God on the Sabbath, or looking forward with joyful anticipation to the weekly prayer meetings. Some time ago I remarked to a friend: "That is surely a wonderful sight," referring to the large numbers of people going to church. "Yes," he replied, "but before the revival one seldom saw more than four from this village going to church on Sabbath morning." One young man, speaking for the youth of the district said, "We did not know what church going meant until the revival came, now the prayer meeting is the weekly attraction, and the worship of God in His house on the Sabbath our chief delight."

From north, south, east and west the people came in buses, vans, cars and lorries, to witness the mighty movings of God and then to return to their respective [districts] to bear testimony to the fact that they had met with the Saviour. A gamekeeper, whose home was twenty-four miles from Barvas, was so wrought upon and burdened for the souls of others, that his van was seldom off the road and for two years, night after night, brought its load of men and women who were seeking for Jesus. He was rewarded by seeing many coming to the Saviour, including members of his own family. It is therefore not surprising that in the [area] of Lochs, where the gentleman referred to had his home, a gracious movement should break out. Here the ground was well prepared by a faithful ministry, and great was the rejoicing when sower and reaper saw the fruit of their labour in a harvest of precious souls. As in Barvas, meetings here continued until two and three o'clock in the morning and some remarkable scenes were witnessed as the Spirit of God moved among the people.

So great was the hunger for the Gospel that, long before the hour of service, buses and vans from a neighbouring [district] brought a crowd that filled the little church of Habost, and the regular congregation were content to sit in the vehicles that the strangers had vacated. "This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes."

The influence of the Lewis awakening was felt in Harris. Soon in both Tarbert and Leverburgh a gracious movement broke out, and one interesting feature of this blessed visitation was the place that singing had in the meetings. Again and again a wave of deep conviction of sin would sweep over the congregation, and men and women would be seen bending before the mighty impact of the Spirit, as the heart-cry of the penitent found expression in the words of Psalm 130: -

"Lord, from the depths to thee I cry'd.
    My voice, Lord, do thou hear:
Unto my supplication's voice
    Give an attentive ear.

"Lord, who shall stand, if thou, O Lord,
    should'st mark iniquity?
But yet with thee forgiveness is
    That fear'd thou mayest be."

Soon the whole island [of Bernera, a small island off the coast] was in the grip of a mighty movement of the Spirit, bringing deep conviction of sin and a hunger for God. This movement was different from that in Lewis in this respect, that while in Lewis there were physical manifestations and prostrations, such were not witnessed here; but the work was as deep and the result as enduring, as in any other part touched by the revival.

Perhaps the most outstanding feature in [Bernera] was the awe-inspiring sense of the presence of God that came over the island. The people just gave themselves to seeking the Way of Life. Meetings were held during the day and through the night in church, in the homes of the people and in the open. Every gathering was made a means of grace.

After spending some time together in prayer, we went to the church to find the place crowded, but seldom did I experience such bondage of spirit, and preaching was most difficult; so much so, that when only half-way through my address I stopped preaching. Just then my eye caught sight of this young lad, who was visibly moved and appeared to be deeply burdened: leaning over the pulpit I said, "Donald, will you lead us in prayer?" There was an immediate response, and in that moment the flood gates of heaven opened, the congregation was struck by a hurricane, and many cried out for mercy.

But the most remarkable feature of this gracious visitation was not what happened in the church, but the spiritual impact made upon the island: men who until then had no thought of seeking after God, were suddenly arrested and became deeply concerned about their souls' salvation. One worthy elder of the Free Church into whose home salvation came, referring to his native village, said: "This is the Lord's doing, His great name be praised." A contributor to the local paper in an article referring to this movement wrote, "More are attending the weekly prayer meetings than attended public worship on the Sabbath, before the revival." It was my privilege to pay a return visit to this island, and what a joy it was to find the young converts growing in grace, and witnessing in church and community a good confession: to listen to their words of testimony or to hear them engage in prayer was "as cold waters to a thirsty soul."

So they came across the moors and over the hills, young men and maidens, their torches flashing in the darkness, intent upon one thing, to get peace from a guilty conscience, and refuge from the storm in their bosom, in the shelter of the Rock of Ages.

Today, in this [area], the churches are throbbing with young life and the work and witness of the respective congregations made so much easier, through the new influx of men and women ready and willing to serve their Master and the church of their fathers.


What have been the outstanding features of this movement? Three stand out clearly. First an awareness of God. To be fully realized this has to be felt. A Rector of the Church of England, referring to his visit to Lewis, said, "What I felt, apart from what I saw, convinced me at once that this was no ordinary movement." I have known men out on the fields, others at their weaving looms, so overcome by this sense of God that they were found prostrate on the ground. Here are the words of one who felt the hand of God upon him: "The grass beneath my feet and the rocks around me seemed to cry, 'Flee to Christ for refuge.'" This supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit led many in this revival to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ before they came near to any meeting connected with the movement. I have no hesitation in saying that this awareness of God is the crying need of the Church to-day; "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"; but this cannot be worked up by any human effort, it must come down.

The second main feature has been deep conviction of sin - at times leading almost to despair. I have known occasions when it was necessary to stop preaching because of the distress manifested by the anxious, and many would find expression for the feeling in their hearts and the burden of their guilty conscience, in the words of John Newton: -

"My conscience felt and owned its guilt,
    And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
    And helped to nail Him there."

Physical manifestations and prostrations have been a further feature. I find it somewhat difficult to explain this aspect, indeed I cannot; but this I will say, that the person who would associate this with satanic influence is coming perilously near committing the unpardonable sin. Lady Huntingdon on one occasion wrote to George Whitefield [during the First Great Awakening in the eighteenth century] representing cases of crying out and falling down in meetings, and advised him not to remove them from the meetings, as had been done. When this was done it seemed to bring a damper on the meeting. She said, "You are making a great mistake. Don't be wiser than God. Let them cry out; it will do a great deal more good than your preaching."

Much has been said and written about the revival. Like all such movements of the past, many have praised God for it, others have made it the occasion of bitter press and pulpit attacks. "Men have praised or blamed as it suited them."

One very much regrets that, from the beginning, there were those who opposed the movement. Almost from the very first, the scare was raised - "Arminianism." Here, I would quote from one who, though mightily used of God, did not escape the bitter opposition of leaders in the church: "I verily believe revival would have come toat that time if prayerful sympathy, instead of carnal criticism, had been shown." As in this case, so also in Lewis, criticism was based on hearsay - never a wise procedure. If only those who opposed had gone to hear for themselves, how different the story might have been today! But facts are powerful things and we can leave the facts of the Lewis Revival to speak for themselves.

Dr. Hymers' closing comments

You have read extracts from Duncan Campbell's account of the last great regional revival in the English-speaking world. It should be remembered that these people were not Pentecostals or charismatics! They were very straitlaced and proper old-time Protestants. Today, especially in America, the idea of revival has been discredited by various Pentecostal movements, particularly the "laughing 'revival'" and the "Brownsville 'awakening.'" My family and I personally attended a Brownsville meeting in Pensacola, Florida. I can assure you that it did not resemble the true revival on the Island of Lewis. Dr. Arthur Houk and I attended a "laughing 'revival'" meeting in Pasadena, California. Again, this in no central way resembled the true awakening in Lewis. The main feature which is absent in these counterfeit "revivals" is the strong conviction of sin. As Rev. Campbell put it,

The second main feature has been deep conviction of sin - at times leading almost to despair. I have known occasions when it was necessary to stop preaching because of the distress manifested by the anxious, and many would find expression for the feeling in their hearts and the burden of their guilty conscience, in the words of John Newton:

"My conscience felt and owned its guilt,
    And plunged me in despair:
I saw my sins His blood had spilt
    And helped to nail Him there."

And then, the other distinguishing trait (which is not a central feature in modern charismatic meetings), was the centrality of the gospel of Christ, and the centrality of the Blood of Christ. As Jesus said,

"But when the Comforter is comehe shall testify of me"
    (John 15:26).

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

"He shall not speak of himself He shall glorify me"
    (John 16:13-14).

These verses mark the character of true revival - which I believe to be our greatest need today.

I have personally seen God send revival in two Baptist churches. Many of the features that accompanied the great regional revival on the Island of Lewis were present when God sent revival to these Baptist churches. One of these churches quickly grew from less than two hundred members to nearly three thousand. The second church saw about 500 conversions. As an eye-witness, I know that God can do this again.

"Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence" (Isaiah 64:1-3).


1. When did the Lewis revival take place? ___________________________________________.

2. Was the revival at Lewis a typical evangelistic meeting? _____________________(yes or no).

3. How was it different? _________________________________________________________

(give a one-sentence answer).

4. What did Duncan Campbell preach in the first service each night? ______________________

_______________________________________________________________ (a few words).

5. What was the main difference between the Lewis Awakening and a modern charismatic

meeting? _______________________________________________________ (a few words).

6. What happened after a young man prayed and fell on the floor? _______________________

_______________________________________________________________ (a few words).

7. Were some people against the revival? __________________________ (yes or no).

8. How were the meetings at Tarbert and Leverburgh different from those at Lewis?

_______________________________________________________________ (a few words).

9. List the three characteristics of the revival given by Duncan Campbell.



(Copy them. They are in dark italics in the message.)

10. Write out Dr. Hymers' statement regarding the main difference between a charismatic

meeting and the Lewis revival. _________________________________________________



11. Did you read Isaiah 64:1-3 at the end of the message? _____________ (yes or no).


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