Revival – We Need It, But Do We Want It?

I suppose if we had asked around our churches regarding what we would most like to see in 2015 one prominent answer would be a national revival of true religion. Of course, many definitions could be given of revival, although most of them would be related to historical records, which means that there is the fact of revival. There are so many records of such spiritual occasions that only a perverse person would deny they occurred.

Further, many factors related to revival can be assessed biblically, which means that there is a theology of revival. A theology of revival attempts to explain God’s action in promoting his kingdom through the gospel in a more widespread manner than usual. It looks for biblical doctrines that describe, for example, the involvement of the risen Jesus in revival, the work of the Spirit in revival, the activity of the devil in such periods, and the contribution of prayer made by God’s people for such times and in such times. Coming from a country with a very rich history of revival we should be experts on its theology.

A third aspect of revival are features that are absent from some revivals and present in other revivals, which indicates that these features are not necessary for a revival to occur. Most of these things would come into the category of social consequences, and they may be beneficial or not for the community. For example, some revivals are accompanied by great improvements in the living standards of the poor (the revivals connected to 1859 in Britain and America had that consequence). Other revivals are followed by increased persecution of God’s people, resulting in loss of living standards (this happened throughout the twentieth century in communist countries).

A fourth feature of revival is that we inevitably visualise it through our own understanding of it. There have been frequent revivals in the Highlands, particularly in the Outer Hebrides, during the last two centuries and details of what took place in them have become part of our spiritual heritage – and imagination. The knowledge of what God did then creates within us a longing for him to do it again. As I have listened to these accounts during the last four decades since I was converted, I have sensed that many people assume that, when the next revival comes, it will be a repetition of what occurred previously. But while the gospel message will not change and the response of repentance and faith will be essential, there may be features in the next revival that will be totally different from previous ones.

For example, if a revival began tomorrow, what would be the contribution of modern technology?

Revivals in the eighteenth century occurred within the limitations of the time: information containing points for prayer was conveyed by letter that could take months to reach their destination, preachers travelled on horseback or walked between places, and sometimes places experiencing revival were unaware that communities twenty miles away were also enjoying God’s blessing in a similar way (it also meant that some communities were unaware that a revival was taking place anywhere). Revivals in the nineteenth century utilised the invention of the telegraph and the development of printing of books to help spread the revival. A revival thirty years ago had the means of tape recordings and telephones to help it (we may not be familiar with that because we have not experienced a revival in which they were used).

But if a revival comes tomorrow, it is likely that the Lord would use our current technology as one of the means of bringing people to repentance and assurance. Sometimes, we look at the millions of people in our society and we ask ourselves, ‘How can we reach all these people?’ The question usually expects a negative answer. Whether God will bring a revival or not tomorrow, it is obvious that through modern technology the gospel can be preached to millions of people simultaneously. And there is no reason why it cannot be used to bring or spread revival in the communities round our churches.

And if God poured his Spirit out on our nation, it would not be difficult for the gospel to get prime time slots on TV schedules. The forms of media (newspapers, journals) that existed in times of previous revival were quick to report on revivals, and there is no need to imagine that modern media would ignore a widespread revival.

We know that there is a wrong use of a focus on revivals that is similar to how a collector of soccer programmes rereads repeatedly the accounts of the glory days of his favourite football team and pictures in his mind what life was like when it was sweeping all before it. But his team now languishes in a lower league and shows no sign that recovery is around the corner. I have several books on my shelves that describe periods of revivals and it is always a possibility that I can start rereading them with the aim of daydreaming about a golden age when a perfect church, usually my own denomination, was used by God in the spread of his kingdom.

Of course, if I read the volumes correctly I will discover that such a period did not exist. Indeed, the fact that a revival had to come to a particular place indicates that the church there was not in a healthy state. Perhaps surprisingly, it may be the case that a congregation about to undergo persecution may be healthier in a spiritual sense than one about to experience a revival. So while your church could be better, it does not have to be at the top of the ladder in order to experience a revival.

Yet while there is an escapist form of imagination that is very undesirable, there is an essential form of imagination that indicates we are serious about the prospect of revival. Imagine that every individual in your street turned up at your church next Sunday night crying out to God for mercy. (I am not going to describe them to you, because you should know who they are and what their lives are like, or at least you should.) Wonderful, you say! Yes, but what would you say to them on Monday morning as they begin their lives of Christian discipleship? And do you think (in your imagination) that you and your congregation at present are ready for an influx of such people recently transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Jesus? Because if we are serious about wanting a revival, we will be preparing for it.

One thing that we cannot doubt about a future revival is that it will be preceded by earnest prayer. What is earnest prayer like? Sometimes it may be full of articulate theological clarity, but often it is not. In fact, earnest prayer can often be very inarticulate because phrases and clauses are interrupted by sobs and groans before the petitioner can get to the end of his or her sentence. I include my own failings when I say that I have not heard such praying for a long, long time. Why did people once pray in such a way? Because they realised that Jesus was not getting the glory that he deserved in a community. And is that not what revival is all about?


Lady Glenorchy – A Godly Scottish Woman

Lecture given at meeting of the Inverness branch of the Scottish Reformation Society on 20/10/2014. 
How shall we study Lady Glenorchys life? I shall begin by first giving a brief survey of Scotland and Edinburgh during the decades of her lifetime because she lived in a very different world from us. Sometimes, knowing such details helps us to understand better a person. A more important question is, Why should we study her life? I hope my talk will give several reasons, but I will begin by referring to a far more important authority for looking at her life.
Dr. John Macleod once wrote a series of articles for the Free Church of Scotland Monthly Record and that series is now published by the Banner of Truth as a slim volume with the title Some Favourite Books. It is basically an introduction to what the author regarded as some of the best books connected to Christian spirituality, most of them Scottish. Among them are classics such as The Christians Great Interest by William Guthrie and Samuel Rutherfords Letters. We may be surprised to know that among the list of twenty is one on the life of Lady Glenorchy, put together by her pastor Thomas Jones, and the noted theologian observes that in his opinion this book is one of the abiding treasures of Scotlands religious history. I wonder how many of us have it or even have heard of it.
For those of us who are interested in local aspects of Christianity, they may like to know that Lady Glenorchy was in correspondence with James Calder, the minister of Croy, who experienced a notable revival there in the 1770s. Macleod also mentions Lady Glenorchy several times in his well-known volume, Scottish Theology, and in that volume we can also read about other notable individuals from that period.
The times in which she lived
Lady Glenorchy lived from 1741 to 1786. Her life was not long but she did live through a turbulent period, with many changes taking place within Scottish society. Four years after she was born, the Jacobite rebellion connected to Bonnie Prince Charlie occurred, indicating there were many who were opposed to the Protestant government that then ruled over Great Britain, and indeed opposition to the political union between Scotland and England would last throughout her lifetime. Three years after she died, the French Revolution occurred and, as we know, it was attempt to destroy the old order of society and many of the aristocracy were guillotined. That degree of change did not happen in Britain, but there were movements wanting to change the structure of society here, and she as a member of an aristocratic family must have been aware of them.
Dr. Webster, a minister in Edinburgh and who was a friend of Lady Glenorchys, engaged in a pioneering census in 1755 (it was almost the first in Europe since Roman times) and concluded that Scotland had a population then of 1,265,380. Over the remainder of the century it increased by about 340,000, which is a large increase indicating that life was getting better to some extent, although the figure would have been even higher if there had not been ongoing emigration.
Nevertheless there was a great gulf between the very rich and the poor. Perhaps a quotation from Benjamin Franklin from a report he wrote in 1772 will suffice for this detail: I have lately made a tour through Ireland and Scotland. In these countries a small part of the society are landlords, great noblemen and gentlemen, extremely opulent, living in the highest affluence and magnificence. The bulk of the people tenants, extremely poor, living in the most sordid wretchedness in dirty hovels of mud and straw, and clothed only in rags. How would a Christian aristocrat respond to those conditions?
Intellectually, Scotland was changing. It was the time of the Scottish Enlightenment when men like David Hume, Adam Smith and Frances Hutcheson were promoting the priority of reason, and a rapid departure from the authority of the Bible in the seats of learning was underway. Indeed many observers are of the opinion that Scotland at that time was leading the way in a sceptical approach to intellectual thinking. Lady Glenorchy was well-educated, and while she may not have been an intellectual she would have been able to sense the direction in which society was being directed by those powerful thinkers. Did she see it as necessary to confront them, and if so, how would she do so?
At the start of the century, Sabbath keeping was strictly enforced and accepted in the Lowlands whereas by the end of the century the attitude towards what was permissible behaviour had greatly changed. No doubt, one reason for this was changes in the church but another reason was the effect of increasing contacts with England and elsewhere. Opposition to the stage had decreased as well and other previously banned behaviour had become acceptable, especially to do with sports and shared community events such as dancing and partying. There are several references in her diary to the danger of innovations in worldliness, but what would be the best way for her to do something about it?
Ecclesiastically, the Presbyterian Church in Scotland was divided and dividing. Ebenezer Erskine and others had left the Church of Scotland in the 1730s. They formed the Secession Church in 1733, but it divided into Burghers and Anti-Burghers in 1745, and towards the end of the century both groups divided further. In 1761, Thomas Gillespie and Thomas Boston (the son of the famous father) led another group out of the Church of Scotland, with the new denomination called the Relief Church, with one of its main concerns being an attempt to bring different groups of Christians together. Within the Church of Scotland the majority were those known as the Moderates and they lived according to their name as far as devotion in religion was concerned, although they were very enthusiastic about culture and its concerns. Other groups were also present in Scotland, including Methodists associated with John Wesley.  A few Baptist churches were beginning to appear in the final decades of her life. The Sandemanians were having an influence beyond their small number over their inadequate teaching about the content of faith. Would it be straightforward for an influential Christian aristocratic lady to function in such a situation, and what did she think of a divided church, and was there anything she could do about it?
That is a very brief survey of the country into which Lady Glenorchy was born and in which she lived for forty-five years. We can bear these details in mind as we proceed. What about the city of Edinburgh during her lifetime? Edinburgh, where she would live for most of her life, was changing. Here are some important dates. In 1741, the Royal Infirmary was opened because of the amount of diseases that existed. A theatre was opened in the Canongate in 1747, indicating a desire for dramatic entertainment. A stagecoach service was opened between Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1749. There was a survey in 1751 that revealed the Old Town was in a dreadful state, and in the following year the town council agreed proposals for erecting new public buildings and expanding the city. In 1753, stagecoaches to London commenced, a journey that too two weeks. Dr. Webster’s census in 1755 said the population of Edinburgh and Leith was 57,220. Linen weaving connected to the Industrial Revolution began in 1757. In 1760, Thomas Braidwood opened the first school in Britain for deaf children. A competition to design the New Town was held and the construction began the following year. Between 1768 and 1771, the first edition of Encyclop√¶dia Britannica was printed. By 1775, the population had increased to 70,430 and in the same year such was the scale of the problem that a directory of brothels and prostitutes was published. In 1777, there were eight legal and 400 illegal distilleries in Edinburgh.
What do those dates tell us about the city? The city’s population was increasing rapidly, there was an air of confidence among some regarding the future, the city had become an intellectual centre, the Industrial Revolution was changing methods of employment, interactions with other cities were easier and more regular, there was a growth of interest in the arts, and sin was increasing as well.
Approaching her life
I suppose that brief survey indicates that we could approach the life of Lady Glenorchy from a variety of angles. The title I was given indicates it is her spirituality that is the angle we should consider, so I will try and do so. What I propose to do is approach her life from an historical point of view and note some major moments as we go along. It is important to remember that she was a child of her times just as we are of ours, and no doubt she had blind spots that are easy for us to see. But when we do we should remember the Lords warning about trying to remove such a spot when we have a beam in our own eye.
Before we look a bit closer at her life, it may whet our appetites if I mentioned some sayings that she recorded as they may give samples of the kind of Christian she became. They are not in historical order:
What a dreadful enemy is the world to religion!
A self-righteous spirit is ever present with me, prompting me to rest in duties performed, and expect rewards.
All things appeared as dross and dung, when compared to the love of God shed abroad in the heart.
I find that he [God] is always willing to impart strength for duty when we are willing to perform it.
What joy does it give ones heart to relieve the indigent members of Christ! Surely all that the world calls pleasure is not to be compared to it.
Before her conversion
Willielma Maxwell was born two hundred and seventy three years ago, on the second of September 1741. She was named after her father William, a doctor who had made a fortune, but who sadly died before she was born and after only two years of marriage. Her mother however was a very ambitious woman, both for herself and for her two daughters (the oldest girl was called Mary) and twelve years later she married Lord Alva, a prominent judge in Scotland he was seventy-three years old when he married Mrs. Maxwell. So the daughters, in their teenage years, found themselves living in Edinburgh, in one of the most important homes in the country.
The ambitious mother must have been very satisfied when the elder daughter Mary was married in April 1761 to William, the seventeenth Earl of Sutherland, at that time the premier earl in Scotland. No doubt her delight went into overdrive when John, Lord Viscount Glenorchy, the third son of the Earl of Breadalbane, indicated his wish to marry Willielma, and the wedding took place in September 1761. We can imagine the mothers delight at having her daughters married into the wealthiest families in Scotland, with all the power and prestige connected to them, not to mention her own situation as the wife of a leading judge in the country.
As can be imagined, Willielma lived a life of luxury and pleasure. Through her husband, she found herself able to stay in magnificent properties throughout Britain. Their wealth enabled them immediately to indulge in one of the favourite pastimes of the wealthy at that time, which was to go on a prolonged tour of Europe, which was how they passed the first two years of their married life. Yet despite the constant opportunities for selfish pleasure, she began to sense the shallowness of such living and wondered if a religious lifestyle would be more profitable. Thoughts of this potential change in behaviour were strengthened by periodic periods of illness and she made resolutions to turn to God. As is common, she forgot her resolutions once she recovered and resumed her participation in the social activities of her class.
Yet the Lord of heaven had his eye on Lady Glenorchy and his hand was directing events that would lead her to discover a very different kind of life. Her husband had a home in Staffordshire and nearby lived another wealthy family, that of Sir Rowland Hill. His family was very different from that of the Glenorchys, with several of the younger members being earnest Christians, and one of them was Rowland Hill, who later became a famous preacher. Willielma was drawn towards this family and became friendly with one of the female members of her own age. Throughout the biography of Lady Glenorchy, this woman is known as Miss Hill, and she became a spiritual guide to her new friend.
The conversion of Lady Glenorchy
Lady Glenorchy had another experience of serious illness accompanied by a form of depression. Not surprisingly, she took time to convalesce, and during this period she came under conviction of sin. She was in need of spiritual counsel and she found such a person in her friend, Miss Hill. In a letter she sent to Lady Glenorchy at that time, Miss Hill advised her to make sure that she was really trusting in Christ and not to depend on her own efforts at personal reformation. It could have been the case that Miss Hill had sensed that Lady Glenorchy was prone to a spirit of self-righteousness and therefore stressed very strongly that she should trust in Christ alone. God used this letter to bring spiritual insight into Lady Glenorchys experience and she soon made public her faith in Jesus in 1765.
The biblical passage through which she found peace seems to have been Romans 3. On her birthday in 1768, she reflected in her diary about her conversion three years earlier. After mentioning the letter from Miss Hill and the consequent increase in spiritual interest, she goes on to describe a particular day on which, after a time of earnest prayer, she opened her Bible. It is not clear in her account if she opened it at random or whether she chose to read the chapter. During her reading of it, she records: The eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw wisdom and beauty in the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer. I saw that God could be just, and justify the ungodly. The Lord Jesus now appeared to me as the city of refuge, and I was glad to flee to him as my only hope.
One wealthy Christian once observed that he was glad that the letter m was in one of the phrases Paul used to describe the Christians in Corinth. The apostle wrote that not many mighty, and not many noble were called, and the wealthy believer rejoiced that Paul did not write, not any mighty and not any noble. Among the relatively few mighty and noble that were called by God is Lady Glenorchy, and from the time of her conversion she devoted herself and her resources to the cause of Christ.
The new Christian
Now that she had been converted, Lady Glenorchy had new priorities. Yet her station in life presented several barriers to spiritual growth. In addition to the regular temptations that accompanied the social life of the wealthy, she also had to cope with her inability to understand Gaelic (her husbands estate was near Kenmore in Perthshire and services in the parish church there were predominantly in Gaelic) and with her lack of Christian contacts (the only person she knew to ask for help was Miss Hill). So she faced difficulties connected to public worship and private personal fellowship. Again she turned to her friend for advice. We might find some of the counsel to be rather elementary, yet we should not forget that in addition to being a spiritual infant Lady Glenorchy was ignorant of most of the religious practices normally associated with Christian discipleship.
So what did Miss Hill say to the new Christian? As I mention some of the advice she gave, we should remind ourselves that Miss Hill herself is a young believer. One thing Miss Hill told her to do was to remember that Gods omniscient eye was always on her, whether she was engaged in ordinary activities or in public worship or in personal devotions. Moreover Miss Hill advised her to meditate before she prayed because such meditation could lead to her having a lively sense of the infinite perfections of that God before whose throne we would appear. It was important for her to have a humbling awareness of her sinfulness as she drew near to God, yet, wrote Miss Hill, we must not dishonour God so far as to appear before him with a distrustful dread; but, sensible of our own misery and want, we should with faith and dependence plead the merits of a crucified Jesus, and the riches of his boundless grace.  Further, Miss Hill advised her to ask herself frequently if she was ready to die. In addition, it was a good practice at the end of each day to review what had happened during it, whether it was her activities, her blessings, her moods, her failures or her sins. Miss Hill reminded her to focus on the blessing of justification because of its unchangeable nature and of the fact that it is always a source of spiritual comfort. She also challenged Lady Glenorchy to remain faithful to Jesus when she found herself in her social circle.
Around about this time (1768) Lady Glenorchy began to keep a diary, and in this personal record many details of her life are detailed. It was customary for those able to do so to keep written records of notable events and also to include within the folder other items of correspondence of significance to the individual. Diaries then were not in the common format of today but were designed so that material could be inserted into them.
There are many interesting details in her diary, and only a few can be selected. An early reference to answered prayer for her family members indicates how the God of grace was kind towards her: August 8 [1769]. Great cause have I to bless God for showing mercy to my family. Sixteen of them were communicants last Lords day; and, unknown to me, they have set up worship among themselves. O that I may never cease to pray for them, and for myself, seeing how graciously the Lord has granted the desires of my heart concerning these poor people, who a year ago were wallowing in sin, and now are every one seeking the Lord. O for a tongue to praise him who worketh wonders, and by his great power brings life out of death. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.
Gets involved in Christian endeavours in Edinburgh
Her prayers were not limited to what we could regard as matters of personal relationships. As is always found in the outlook of spiritually-healthy Christians, she was concerned about helping the spread of Gods kingdom and of providing ways for others to come into it. At this time in her life, about 1769 and 1770, she focussed on three projects.
The first was connected to the family home in Edinburgh called Barnton House, which her husband had purchased around that time. She was allowed to oversee its refurbishment, a process that took some time, and she revealed her priorities by arranging for regular services during the week for the workmen. It says a lot about her when one realises that she attended every such service that was held during the refurbishment. Once the work on the house was completed, she arranged for a chapel to be built beside the house. A suitable chaplain was found and he preached every Sunday after the service in the parish church was over as well as at other times. Many a person could trace their spiritual beginnings to those services.
The second project was that of a school in Edinburgh for poor children. After a while, she found a headmaster, or John Wesley found one for her. This connection with John Wesley had come about through her friendship with a Lady Maxwell who was one of the strongest supporters of Methodism in Scotland. She and Lady Glenorchy became close friends and in the years to come they together were involved in gospel initiatives throughout the country. 
The third project that she wanted to provide was a place of worship in which ministers of the gospel of every denomination who held its essential truths might preach. So she hired a building called St Marys Chapel, a hall used by some tradesmen in Edinburgh. Not every church leader agreed with her plan, but she was influenced by the opinions of a Dr. Webster, who was regarded as a staunch Calvinist but who also was a regular attender each Sunday evening at a Wesleyan chapel in the city. Given his involvement, and also the involvement of her friend Lady Maxwell, it is not surprising that the plan for the chapel allowed it to be used by Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Wesleyan preachers. Services were not allowed at the normal times of worship, but Sunday meetings took place early in the morning (7am) before regular worship, and also during the interval between the morning and afternoon services. Other meetings were held on weekday evenings. The chapel was opened on Wednesday, March 7th, 1770. Ministers of every denomination are to be admitted, who have a sincere love to the Lord Jesus Christ and the souls of men, and who preach the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Her new place of worship was not approved of by everyone.  On April 18, just over a month after she had opened the chapel, she recorded in her diary that Many tongues are let loose against me. The godly, in particular, have spoken bitter, and imagined false things of me. She could have been overwhelmed by this opposition because, as she recorded, At first I was greatly hurt at this, lest I should have given any cause for it, and that I was not suffering the reproach of Christ, but bringing reproach on his name. She realised however that her motives, and that of the preachers she used, were concerned about bringing sinners to Jesus. Instead of responding with anger, she resorted to prayer and asked for patience to bear with meekness the strife of tongues, and enable me to return good for evil. Let me not only pray for my enemies, but love them and do them every kind office in my power, for thy names sake. She closes this diary extract with a very powerful desire for heartfelt religion Lord, thy love is all I want!
Why was there such opposition to her commencing a preaching centre? The main concern was the possibility of Arminian teaching being advocated by Methodist preachers that she might invite to preach. This prospect brought her into contact with one of the leading preachers of the eighteenth century, John Wesley.
Dealing with John Wesley and Arminianism
The opening of St Marys chapel had raised the issue of Arminianism because of the involvement of Methodist preachers. It is clear from her diary that she investigated the grounds for this criticism. On the day after the chapel opened, she received a visit from a critic who disliked John Wesley and accused him of stealing in Arminian doctrines into the country, and sapping the foundation of our faith under the pretext of greater sanctity and strictness than others. What did Lady Glenorchy do? That evening she read some of Wesleys sermons on Matthew 5 (did the critic had her a copy of the book and ask her to read them?). She records her assessment and it reveals she possessed a good theological grasp of the issues at stake: I think he carries the doctrine of perfection too far, and I wish he had laid the foundation, even Jesus Christ, before he began to build. He showed me, however, that I cannot make myself a Christian, and sent me to my knees to beseech the Lord to teach me, and to preserve me from being deceived.
It so happened in the Lords providence that Wesley was engaged at that time in a tour of Scotland and had during it reached Inverness. Five weeks after reading his sermons, she met John Wesley in Edinburgh and she records the effects of speaking with him: I met with Mr Wesley, and had much conversation with him. He appears to be a faithful minister of Jesus, and to have a single eye to the glory of God. I believe him to be sound in all essential doctrines.
The issue would not go away, however. Wesley seems to have assumed that her willingness to use some of his preachers could lead to St Marys Chapel joining his Society, as his religious groupings were called. He may also have been motivated by the fact that those attending the Methodist chapel in Edinburgh were few in number. She therefore wanted to have his views explained to her, so a meeting was arranged between her and Wesley, with Dr. Webster also present. It looks as if her sensitivity and her spirituality had made her reluctant to disagree with a man of Wesleys stature, yet she also realised the importance of biblical doctrines. At that meeting in her home, Webster and Wesley had a long conversation together. They agreed on all doctrines on which they spoke, except those of Gods decrees, predestination, and the saints perseverance, which Mr Wesley does not hold. After Wesley had left, Webster explained further why he disapproved of Wesleys opinions.
It is understandable why Webster disagreed with Wesley because the former was theologically trained. Yet Lady Glenorchys reaction to the meeting is interesting: I must (according to the light I now have, and always have had, ever since the Lord was pleased to awaken me) agree with Dr. Webster. Nevertheless I hope that Mr. Wesley is a child of God. He has been an instrument in his hand of saving souls; as such I honour him, and will countenance his preachers. I have heard him preach thrice; and should have been better pleased had he preached more of Christ, and less of himself. I did not find his words came with power to my own soul. I desire to bless God for having enabled me in some measure this day to be faithful to the convictions of his Spirit. O that may daily receive more strength and courage, to be accounted a fool for Christs sake!
I find her assessment of that days meeting with Wesley to reveal many features of her spirituality. First, she had a heart for evangelism and for conversions; second, she wanted to hear about Christ in sermons; third, she knew when God was speaking to her through a sermon and when he was not; fourth, she realised the importance, indeed the necessity, of paying careful attention to matters about which the Spirit was convicting her as she engaged in Christian activities; and fifth, she prayed for divine strength to maintain a courageous Christian witness, even if others regarded her as a fool.
Nevertheless, she still had to make a decision about whether or not Arminian preachers could be allowed to preach in St Marys. I suppose the problem is obvious. Despite her commendable wish that the chapel would express Christian unity it is not possible to do so if two different messages are being preached. And the Arminian understanding of the gospel is not the same as the Calvinistic interpretation.
The distinction became very obvious when a Methodist called Richard De Courcy became the preacher in the Chapel. He was a Calvinistic Methodist and so highly regarded that some wanted him as the successor to George Whitefield in his London chapel (he had died that year, 1770). But De Courcy believed he was called to Edinburgh. His preaching soon showed the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. So it is not surprising to note that in June 1771, Lady Glenorchy brought to an end the involvement of Arminian preachers at the chapel. She and John Wesley never met again on earth.
Rebuked for her religious zeal
It was one of Lady Glenorchys Christian activities to witness to the truth to all and sundry. She often made such contacts a matter of prayer. Sometimes her efforts were successful, at other times those she spoke to were resentful. There is nothing surprising about those responses. Yet her activities in this matter were deemed unwise by some of her ministerial friends and others who concluded that it was unbecoming for her, a rich aristocrat, to speak to the lower classes about the things of God. One ministerial friend advised her in this way: The most ornamental parts of your character as a Christian, and those which are the most demonstrative of the power of godliness, can make no impression at all upon the lower ranks of people. Your condescension may gratify them, your liberality will certainly profit them, and your advices, thus accompanied, may penetrate deeply into their hearts. The minister is basically saying that Christian witness can only be to others of your own class. He is sure that if she spent half the time amongst people of rank and education she would do a lot more. Moreover, he was convinced that God had arranged in providence for her not to be a witness among the lower classes. His concern seems to have been motivated by the rough response she sometimes received from the lower class whereas the higher classes would not respond to her in such a manner.
The letter was sent to her on January 2, 1771. A fortnight later, she wrote in her diary: I went this morning to visit a poor dying woman got power to speak to her, and to encourage her to trust in the Lord. She was in great pain, and had lost clear views of Christ. She complained of not being able to pray, or to attend to prayer, and said, O, it is a great thing to be a Christian. I was much affected with her distress, and could with pleasure have attended her all day. I saw it was a privilege and duty to visit the sick.
She records many instances in her diary about how she helped spiritually and practically many a person and I find it rather puzzling that some evangelical ministers wanted to prevent her from engaging in this form of evangelistic witness. I could not discover what her response to this and another similar letter was, yet it did not stop her from speaking about the gospel to those she met.
Becomes a widow
Her husband Lord Glenorchy died on Tuesday, November 11th, 1771, after ten years of marriage, and when his wife was thirty years of age. He was not a professing Christian in an evangelical sense, although his final hours indicated that he had paid some attention to the witness of his wife during their marriage. As one could expect, she was grieved with the Lords providence at her loss, yet at that moment she had a profound spiritual experience which she recorded. My heart rebelled against God, I inwardly said, It is hard. At that instant, the Lord said unto my soul, Be still, and know that I am God. These words were accompanied with such power, that from that instant an unspeakable calm took place in my mind. Many other Bible verses came her with power that night and the following day.
Not surprisingly, the calm did not last, but it is sad to read in her diary that the cause of her loss of calm was a Christian friend. Lady Glenorchy does not state how she lost her calm, but she goes on to describe her time of distress and how it was relieved by reading Thomas Bostons book, The Crook in the Lot. The outcome was that she devoted herself to the service of Christ in whatever way he saw fit to use her.
She later discovered that her husband had willed to her the estates at Barnton and Cramond as well as a large share in his possessions. Yet she must have been very surprised to hear that he had also stipulated that she could use all or part of it for encouraging the preaching of the gospel, and promoting the knowledge of the Protestant religion, erecting schools, and civilizing the inhabitants in Breadalbane, Glenorchy, and Nether Lorn, and other parts of the Highlands of Scotland, in such a way and manner as she shall judge proper and expedient.
In addition to having those properties, she had a fortune of between two and three thousand pounds a year, which according one estimate would be worth about three or four million pounds in todays value. She was determined that she would use her place in society and her resources for the service of Christs kingdom.
Erects chapels
It became evident fairly quickly that Lady Glenorchy knew how to manage her possessions. Her biographer states that there is no record of her ever suffering from any material loss. Indeed he says that while she had no difficulty in accomplishing the duties connected to her temporal affairs, it was a different story with regard to her spiritual priorities and pursuits. She often found the spiritual duties difficult to sustain and this was compounded by her frequent loss of assurance of her salvation. At times, she would adjust her use of time in order to improve her devotional state and she was very careful about her interaction with others.
Yet she did not allow her fluctuating spiritual state to prevent her using her assets for the kingdom of God. She decided to erect a chapel that would be connected to the Church of Scotland. The foundation of this building was laid in the summer of 1772 and it was opened in May 1774, large enough to hold two thousand people in comfort and many more if crowded (the site is now part of Waverly Station). It took a while before a suitable minister could be identified. One reason was the unusualness of her chapel and how much freedom it could be given by the Presbytery of Edinburgh. Her initial choice was Robert Balfour, and all seemed agreed that he was suitable. Procedure prevented this induction from taking place, and eventually it was decided that the case had to be decided by the General Assembly 0f 1777.
This decision so upset Lady Glenorchy that she contemplated moving from Scotland. She decided to go to England for a few months and during her time there heard a Mr. Jones preaching in Plymouth, and he eventually would become a pastor in Lady Glenorchys Chapel in Edinburgh. She was in London when the General Assembly met in Edinburgh and was encouraged by its decision that the chapel could have a minister of its choice as long as he held to the standards of the church.
One interesting introduction made by Lady Glenorchys Chapel was to introduce more frequent celebrations of the Lords Supper from the usual twice a year to six times a year. The congregation retained the old communions in May and November, but had a shortened communion season in the other four months. Eventually its method became common in the chapels of ease and in the Seceding denominations.
Back in Edinburgh, Lady Glenorchy identified a Mr. Sheriff as a suitable minister and he became the pastor in November 1777. He was not a well man and his ministry came to an end in June 1778. So she had to resume a search for a suitable minister, and after a couple of refusals from other men, the preacher she had met during her trip to England became the minister of her chapel in June 1779, and he was to stay there for a long time. It had taken Lady Glenorchy almost seven years to find the man who would lead her chapel into its future.
Some details about her chapels
One interesting detail that appears in her diary in connection with Lady Glenorchys chapel is the name of Alexander Bonar, and three of his descendants were to be famous ministers in the Free Church of Scotland in the next century. Lady Glenorchy supported the choice of a brother of Alexanders, Archibald by name, to be the minister of her chapel in Cramond.
In the spring of 1773, an opportunity arose for her to help with restoring a chapel at Strathfillan near Killen in Perthshire. This she was glad to do and once ready for use it was given to the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge.  She also arranged for two preachers to work for that Society throughout the Highlands and Islands and agreed to meet all their expenses.
When in the south of England in 1776, she agreed to fund the building of a chapel in Exmouth. Later, in 1781, she funded the restoration of a church in Carlisle, arranged for a minister, and financially helped his congregation support him. Although the congregation became independent in 1816, it is interesting to note that the fourth minister of the congregation, a man called Thomas Woodrow from Glasgow, emigrated to America in 1833. His daughter Janet became the mother of Woodrow Wilson, the future President of the United States.
In 1784, on a tour of England, Lady Glenorchy purchased a building in Matlock that became a chapel holding 300 people. In the following year she went to the hot wells at Bath for her health and arranged for a chapel to be built in Bristol called Hope Chapel (after her friend, Henrietta Hope who had died there and left £2,500 to help with building the chapel). On the way back to Scotland in 1786, Lady Glenorchy arranged for a chapel to be built in Workington.
The end approaches
Her diary reveals that Lady Glenorchy had several periods of severe illness during her life and by the middle of the 1780s it was obvious to her friends that her time on earth was coming to an end. Her final illness commenced after she returned to Edinburgh in 1786. Among her last words were, Well, if this be dying, it is the pleasantest thing imaginable. She died in July 17, 1786, and was buried in St Glenorchys Chapel in Edinburgh. Later on, when the building was demolished in 1844, her remains were removed to the family vault in St Johns Episcopal Church. In her will, she left £5000 for spreading the gospel in Breadalbane and Sutherland and another £5,000 for Jonathan Scott, the pastor in the church in Matlock, to use in spreading the gospel in England. The great day will reveal what was achieved through those legacies.
Perhaps the best comment on her life was given by D. P. Thomson, who authored a book about her churches, when he said that in the long history of the Scottish Church there has been no one quite like her.
Did she have faults?
Did Lady Glenorchy have any negative character traits that stood out among all that was good in her life? One feature that caused her some concern was her tendency to sometimes lose her temper, even when she was engaged in religious discussions.
In her diary dated May 11, 1768, she refers to a heated discussion about the nature of saving faith that she had with the factor of the Breadalbane estates. It seems that the discussion had begun on the previous day. The matter was obviously boiling within her. When she woke in the morning, she found her misdirected spiritual energy prevented her from verbalising praise to God, even although she wanted to do so.
Then at breakfast she continued the argument with the factor and found herself saying what she did not believe, mainly because she wanted to win the argument. She sensed that her motive was wrong, but confesses that she did not do what she should have done, which was to ask the Holy Spirit for his assistance. This wrong behaviour affected her when she then went to her morning devotions as she found it difficult to read the Bible. Yet she discovered that the Lord responded to her cries and she was able to engage in prayer for herself and others.
We might have assumed that the rest of the day would have been more comfortable from a spiritual point of view, yet she tells us that she lost her temper again that evening, and her words caused her many tears as she realised her sin and confessed it to God.
She realised that she had to deal with this feature of her personality. So in her diary, she declares, I this day resolve (with the assistance of the Spirit) to watch over the first risings of passion, and to pray daily for the grace of a meek and quiet spirit, and above all for humility, in which I am greatly deficient. This has been a day of many errors and infirmities. Lord, if thou shouldst mark iniquity, who could stand before thee? But with thee there is mercy, and plenteous redemption.
 Does the way Lady Glenorchy handled this spiritual problem give guidance to us when facing something similar in our path of Christian discipleship? I think there is.
First, we can see that she is honest about her wrong contribution, which is striking given that someone of her social class would usually assume that they were always right in any discussion with someone from a lower level.
Second, although she knew that something was wrong with her spiritual temperature, she persisted in her use of spiritual disciplines and discovered that divine help could be given, even while she was still feeling the inner consequences of her wrong behaviour.
Third, she prayed intelligently about the matter, with her petitions being specific in the sense that she requested the graces that were the opposite of her flaws she prayed for meekness and humility because she had displayed assertion and pride.
Fourth, she realised that the best time to deal with sinful attitudes was when they commenced it is spiritual folly to give them any room, even an inch.
Lessons from her life
The first lesson to take from Lady Glenorchys life is from Gods providential overruling that arranged for individuals to be in place in order for them to be used by him in the spiritual recovery of the nation at that period. He overruled the ambition of her mother for her daughter and used it to have among the upper class a woman of remarkable spiritual abilities.
A second lesson from her life is the importance of keeping a diary or an account of her spiritual experiences. We are familiar with well-known ministerial diaries such as those by Robert Murray McCheyne and Andrew Bonar and we tend to view them from the help they have been to others who have read them. Yet it was also a common practice for individuals to have personal diaries in which they recorded moments of significance in their Christian pathway and thus were able to engage in realistic self-examination over a period of time. Several times in her diary Lady Glenorchy laments her failure to keep a record because of distractions and it was her assessment that such failures were problematic in her growth in grace.
She often used her birthday to reflect on her spiritual state. On her twenty-ninth birthday (2 September, 1770), she noted this about herself: The anniversary of the day on which I came into the world. Upon reviewing last years experience, I find the desire of my heart to be the same as on this day twelvemonth. Thou knowest, Lord, that my soul is now hungering and thirsting after thee, and longing to be conformed to thy will. It is with shame and confusion of face, that I look back on my past like, in which I can see little else but sin and folly. Even my best duties have been tainted with sin. I would adore the grace and long suffering mercy which has spared me to this day, notwithstanding my numberless sins and iniquities. O God, enable me this day, by thy strengthening grace, to begin a life of entire devotedness to thee; and come, O blessed Jesus, into my heart, and reign there king for ever; subdue thine enemies, and establish thy kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
We might assume from that awareness of personal sin and desire to begin a life of devotedness that she would have lacked any assurance of salvation. Yet that was not the case. I find the light I now have to be of the same nature it was last year; but, blessed be God, it is now clearer and stronger, and my soul is more established in the doctrines of the gospel, and my heart more dead to the world, than at that time.  I have through grace been enabled this year to give up my name, and most of my worldly acquaintances, for Christs sake. I have been employed at times in the Lords work. He has answered numberless prayers, and has enabled me to begin several plans for the advancement of his kingdom upon earth to open a chapel, and to set up a school, etc, for which I desire to bless his name.
What kind of assurance did she have that could lead her to write such statements? It was not rapturous at that moment, because she writes: and although I have not had much comfort in my soul, yet I have this day a comfortable persuasion that the Lord is near, and that he that shall come will come, and will not tarry; and although my own soul were to perish, yet I will bless him for all the benefits already conferred upon me, and that he counted me worthy to suffer reproach for his name, and employed me in awakening others. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and magnify his name!
With regard to her views on assurance, and the debates with which some may be familiar as to whether or not assurance belongs to the essence of faith, she seems to have come to the view that some degree was necessary. She observes on one occasion: I find Calvin, John Knox, Rous, all mention faith as a sure trust and knowledge of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. Calvin makes this knowledge of pardon of the essence of faith, and the motive to love and obedience. We might find it surprising that she was aware of the opinions of those prominent theologians (it may be that the matter was of concern because of the influence of Sandemanianism). Yet her affirmation indicates the stress she placed on holding to correct doctrinal understanding because, no doubt, her conviction on this matter must have led her to times of distress because there were occasions when she lamented her weak faith and sinfulness.
A third lesson from her life is her strong desire to speak to others about their need of Jesus, even although some criticized her for this burden. She often made this a matter of prayer. She records that on one occasion she rose early, and besought the Lord to enable me to live this day as if it were the last day of my life, and to make me useful to others. I found much desire after Christ, and some liberty in prayer; and surely my prayers have been heard and answered, for I have had an opportunity of speaking to nine or ten people with some degree of earnestness, and a clear conviction of the truth of what I said. May the Lord bless it to their souls! Without this, it will be water spilt upon the ground. That kind of prayerful witness is found many times in the story of her life.
A fourth lesson from her life is the fact that she took her spiritual life seriously. Often she complains about her sense of sin, her sense of spiritual deadness and the power of temptations. They drove her to prayer. And because she prayed, she also experienced times of spiritual comfort and delight in her God and Saviour. She loved the Lords Supper and her diary contains frequent references to her participating in the feast of love divine. As we read her comments, we feel like a pygmy before a spiritual giant.
A fifth lesson is the benefit of religious correspondence. She engaged in frequent contact with Christian friends in which they discussed important areas of the Christian life. In her letters she writes about the doctrine of justification, holiness, dealing with inner sinfulness and so on. She sought advice at times and on other occasions gave advice. In our age of emails and other aspects of social media we have a far greater opportunity for this kind of Christian interaction. She benefitted from this expression of brotherly or sisterly love, and so can we.
We could ask many questions about her life? Why did she take her spiritual life so seriously? The answer to that question is obvious she walked with God. Why did she care about others physically and spiritually? Again the answer is obvious she was like her Master. The question I would like to ask is, how many came to know Jesus through her influence? She was responsible for erecting places of worship where thousands heard the gospel and she spoke to hundreds personally about their need for salvation. Although she was not a preacher, on the great day Lady Glenorchy will have many stars in her crown. And that will be a fitting way for us to see a real aristocrat.