The word 'revival' is usually considered as a positive thing. Someone close to death is revived and there is rejoicing. A
business or area is revived and it is good news. But when linked with spiritual things then there is sometimes concern or suspicion. Even so, there is something intriguing about
spiritual revivals or religious awakenings. In the Bible, we read in Psalm 85 verses 6 and 7
Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?
Shew us Thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us Thy salvation."
A town or area where revival occurs is also of interest. Why did it happen there? Who was
involved? What brought it about? If some of these questions could be answered then perhaps times, and perhaps more importantly people, could change today - change for the better?
The Kelvin Valley has seen spiritual revival. Not once, not only twice but at least three times in three different centuries. These revivals are all linked with the small town of
Kilsyth which is remarkable and worthy of study.
The first revival occurred
in 1742-43 and followed on from earlier stirrings from 1724 onwards in the Highlands of Scotland. The name of James Robe is linked with the revival though his character is such that he would claim no glory for himself in the matter. He was not a external evangelist imported into the area, but was already serving in the town of Kilsyth as minister from 1713 until the time of revival. As a result of what occurred, both the community and individual people's lives were changed. Some could understand and emphasise with the change, while others couldn't comprehend or wouldn't accept the evidences. This is probably true today. Some say what happened in Kilsyth was some local hysteria, but contemporary accounts confirm that similar events were also witnessed in parts of Glasgow, Dundee, Kirkintillock, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and more than 30 towns and villages.
The second revival is dated in 1839 and William Chalmers Burns is linked with this. His father was a minister but as a teenager he had little interest in spiritual things when he lived
in Edinburgh. At 17, his life was turned upside down as he read a challenging Christian book. His response was to walk back the 36 miles to Kilsyth(!) to tell his family of his
changed life. Some years later he was present when stirrings of revival came to Kilsyth and other places. So personal revival and change preceded any public or widespread revival. As
the effects grew, he preached to crowds in Kilsyth estimated around 10,000, even though Kilsyth was somewhat smaller then than it is now. William Chalmers Burns continued in
Scotland with occasional visits abroad until 1847 when he left to go to China with his good news message. He lived until at 53 and died in 1868. He was an early advocate of a native
Christianity rather than a westernised import and the most well known pictures show him dressed in native Chinese clothes.
The third revival dated from about 1908 onwards and was closely associated with the establishment
of the first 'Pentecostal' church in Scotland. What was established then has continued through to today with many individuals and families in the town having personal involvement and memories.
Today in the town of Kilsyth and the surrounding areas there are many family names that appear in the revival accounts, not only of the 20th century revival, but also in the earlier ones too. Church buildings are still attended by sizeable numbers and people's beliefs often extend beyond the Lord's Day into everyday work and life. But there is also much indifference, some hostility and many reject God or have never even considered a personal faith. But the town has seen all this before. So many of the Christians still ask
Wilt Thou not revive us again; that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?