I believe anyone who is both concerned and burdened about the state of Christianity in Scotland today ought to be reading and studying Scottish revival history. Because acquaintance with the Holy Spirit work’s in the past will awaken us to the realities of what God can do in the present.
Scotland Ablaze: The Twenty–Year Fire of Revival that Swept Scotland 1858 – 79 (2018) by Tom Lennie is an ideal book to introduce Scottish Christians to the Holy Spirit’s work in the past.
This work is the third comprehensive contribution that Lennie has made to the area of Scottish revival history – Glory in the Glen (2009) and Land of Many Revivals (2015). Each of his works provide extensive and well-documented accounts of some of the most exciting revivals which have occurred in our country.
In his latest volume, Scotland Ablaze, Lennie re-tells the story of the revival movements which swept all across Scotland over a twenty-year period in the second half of the nineteenth century. This volume provides a great deal of evidence which supports the claim that the 1859 revival was arguably the most extensive and enduring of all revival movements to take place in Scotland.
The book is divided into four sections. In sections one and two, the author presents largely descriptive accounts of the 1859-1861 revival movements. Each chapter is organised according to the various geographical areas in which the revivals took place. They are heart-warming and soul-stirring chapters; in which the reader discovers that nearly every city, town, and village in Scotland was impacted by the work of the Spirit.
In the final two sections of the book, he looks at further waves of revival movements which swept across Scotland for the next two decades. For instance, in section three, he looks at some of the lesser-known revivals to follow those of 1859-61. In section four, Lennie devotes space to the well-known Moody revivals of 1873-1875, and follows this section up by looking at some of the post-Moody awakenings. At the end of each section Lennie does a fair job of appraising each revival movement and the impact they had upon Scottish church and culture.
There are many excellent qualities to the book: it is thoroughly researched and it relies largely on eye witness accounts and contemporary reports. Lennie also aides the reader by providing maps of various regions, as well as photographs of places impacted by the revivals and certain key people that were used in the revival times. He also does a great job explaining various aspects of Scottish culture (ecclesiastical traditions, customs, and local terms etc.). Lennie ought to be commended for presenting a rich and colourful picture of our revival heritage in such an accessible way.
One feature, which is hard to avoid in a work of this nature, is that comprehensive descriptions of the various revival movements given can feel repetitive. This reader felt on some occasions it stifled the momentum of the overall narrative. However, this ought not to discourage anyone from reading this work.
This book is a very valuable resource on a key era in Scottish church history. It ought to be read by every Christian who longs to see revival. Whether you read this book cover to cover, or “dip in” to find out what God has done in an area of interest to you, the contents of this book will have you crying out: “O that you would rend the heavens and come down once again Lord!”
Andrew Longwe, Cumbernauld Free Church