The 1879 Revival in the Margaree Valley Baptist Church (Part 2)
The following is part 2 of our series on the 1879 revival at Margaree Valley Baptist Church and is written by G. W. McPherson, A Parson’s Adventures, (Yonkers, New York: Yonkers Book Company, 1925), 37ff. The headings were created by Pastor Ross Morrison of Alberton Baptist Church. Ross & his wife Wendy were brought up in Margaree Valley, Cape Breton.
- THE GROWING INTEREST IN THE SERVICES
On the following day, throughout the entire valley and glens far beyond, flashed the news regarding the wonderful preacher in the Baptist Church. On Tuesday evening many of the farmers left their grain in the fields and the chores undone in order to get to the church by seven o'clock to hear the new strange preacher who came uninvited. The church was crowded and curiosity was on tip toe. Again the impression made was powerful. On Wednesday night many persons were unable to gain admission, and thus it continued for some weeks until the close of the revival.
Mr. Foster was not in any sense a sensational preacher. His sermons were plain, Scriptural, evangelical and delivered in a passion for souls. Christ was the substance of every message. No one needed to advise him, as an old saint once counselled the
writer, after hearing him preach when a student, "Brother, preach Jesus." Nothing I received in the seminary was more valuable than that pointed rebuke. It stuck and from that hour I resolved to make Christ the substance of my ministry, and this has been the secret of any success I may have had.
On Thursday night, for the first time, an invitation was given to men and women to confess Jesus Christ by simply standing and speaking that which their hearts prompted. There was no mourner's bench nor after service, but there in the audience the people were asked to make their confessions. No such sight had ever before been seen in Margaree. There was, apparently, no excitement; the service was quiet and dignified; but it was evident that the power of God had laid hold on men's minds and hearts most marvelously. Many arose among whom were not a few of the most outstanding sinners in the community, and men of the greatest physical strength. The families were large in
Cape Breton and in not a few cases whole households sons and daughters gave themselves to Jesus Christ.
- THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONVICTION
There was manifest in this and in one or two subsequent services a remarkable phenomenon. It was seen that about a dozen strong men, when they arose to ask for prayer completely lost their motive power and in some cases fell helplessly over the
pews where they were sitting. A number of these at the close of the service had to be carried bodily out of the church and assisted to their homes. Moreover others, who when in the church did not thus manifest a lack of physical control, did lose their motive power when they reached the main road and had to be assisted to their destinations.
In these cases the sense of sin was overmastering and they fell to the earth almost as helpless as dead.
And during all this glorious operation of the Spirit of God there was a silence that was profound and glorious. Neither before nor after the service were men and women seen visiting or conversing in the usual manner. Not a few of the "seekers" were so dead in earnest over their salvation that for days they abandoned their work on the farms and, with Bible in hand, betook themselves to the woods or quiet pasture lands to meditate and pray. And nightly in the services some of these would announce the glad tidings, that they had "found Christ," or had "come into the light." The latter was the common phrase used to express conversion, and was quite expressive and true to the facts.
There was heard at every service these words: "I have come into the light."
But the "Foster revival," as it was called, was not confined to Margaree. Several male school teachers, natives of the valley, who had been teaching in neighboring settlements, some twelve miles distant, on hearing of the revival came under conviction
of sin and were converted without the aid of any preacher, but as a result of prayer and reading the Bible. These new converts held services in their own communities and thus the glad tidings of salvation spread far and wide.
Mr. Foster served in the Baptist Church, then in the Congregational Church, then in several other communities in Big Baddeck, Whycocomagh, some twenty-five and forty miles distant, and everywhere he labored many were led to Jesus Christ.
From among the converts in Margaree alone it has been said that seventeen young men went forth to study for the ministry.
The Baptist Church gave a unanimous call to Mr. Foster to become their pastor and he accepted and remained with us for four years. That was the happiest and most prosperous period in the history of the Church.
- THE CONVERSION OF DR. G. W. MCPHERSON
It was during these meetings that I made the great discovery of God in Christ as my personal Saviour. I shall attempt to describe it without exaggeration.
In my early life, while I did not talk it, yet I was inclined to be skeptical, though at times I had a feeling that I should like to become a preacher. Prompted by this strange desire, I used to "play church" with my sisters and brothers on Sabbath afternoons, standing on a high chair with the family gathered around me for a congregation. I would announce a hymn, read a Scripture and then make a pretence at preaching. The performance
was quite amusing to my audience, yet I did not think of it as funny, nor did I "play church" to make sport. I felt inclined to do this because of a strange desire to preach. Nevertheless I was inclined to be skeptical. What is the significance of this conduct before I was thirteen years old? Did it show that God was shaping my life for future service as a minister in His Kingdom?
"There is a Divinity that shapes our lives
Rough hew them as we will."
I knew nothing about religion, was not interested in family worship, often played "killing pig" behind the stove when father was praying, for which conduct he frequently administered a well deserved flogging... Swearing was my great sin, and during quarrels with my school chums I used to chase them through the woods cursing all the way. During one of these school wars I literally swore for a mile and thought nothing of it. And passing strange, mingled with all this deviltry I had a secret feeling that perhaps some day I would be a preacher. I was christened in my father's church before I experienced consciousness, and so far as I knew, or any one could see, this solemn service did not effect in any way a change in my young life. I was, however, like most of the boys I knew, irreligious, with my good and bad points always in evidence. And this was my state of mind during the first week of the revival. At one of those services, when unable to gain admission because of the crowd, I looked through the church window and made faces at some of the girls I saw inside, for which I was called before the preacher the next day and severely reprimanded. No, I was not religious. As father told me, and rightly, that I was "in my natural state," and, withal, was strongly inclined to be skeptical.
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