Helen S. Dyer
Revival in India
CHAPTER XII The Sialkot Convention and the Panjab
“I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.”-Psalm xxii. 22.
THE chief Revival centre in the Panjab has been Sialkot, a frontier station of the North-West. Missionary work here was commenced in 1856 by Rev. Thos. Hunter of the Church of Scotland, mentioned in Chapter I.
A Convention for the deepening of spiritual life was held at Sialkot in August 1905. Three hundred Panjabi Christians assembled, with a few missionaries. Much prayer had been made beforehand, and an atmosphere of prayer was maintained throughout the Convention. A room set apart for prayer was occupied practically all the time. At ﬁrst a few only spent the night there; but towards the close it was ﬁlled from night till morning with those who were singing, praying, and praising, as the Lord led. Two or three did not retire for rest for over a week. They did sleep, a little at a time, while others were maintaining the vigil. One old saint whose years number nearly ninety, spent at least three nights there. And the prayer was not of a morbid or despairing nature. It was the shout of those who were being always led in triumph. Praise abounded; one who was called an “apostle of praise” demonstrated the place that praise ought to occupy in the life of the Christian.
A very manifest feature of the Convention was the leadership of the Holy Spirit. The programme prepared by the Committee was set aside to a great extent. A series of ten Bible studies was to have been given morning by morning about the Holy Spirit. Two only were given in a modiﬁed form. Instead, the Spirit came in power and taught the people directly. Missionaries and Indian pastors, evangelists and village Christians, men and women, boys and girls, all were brought under deep conviction, and a great many lives were brought into more vital touch with the Cross than they had ever been before. Secret sins, that had never been owned as sins, even to God, were laid open before the face of men. The Lord wonderfully used these confessions. The peace and joy that came into many hearts, and were apparent in faces, were worth going a long distance to see.
In the following October a Students’ Camp was arranged by the Panjab Y.M.C.A. at Kathala, near Gujerat, another station of the Church of Scotland Mission in the Panjab. Only thirty-ﬁve were expected to join, but 140 came. The story of the Sialkot Convention was repeated here. The prayer room was the centre of the camp, rather than the meetings. The programme was set aside, and the Holy Spirit dominated the proceedings.
The spirit of prayer was exempliﬁed by one Golu, an Indian Christian, called of God to His service. A light appeared to him as he prayed in his village home; he became conscious it was a message from God. It was the means of the conversion of three families in that village, of much persecution to Golu, and ﬁnally of his conviction that he was called to serve God. His gift of faith and spirit of prayer were a great blessing in the camp.
The spirit of praise pervaded the encampment. Men sang the Panjabi zaburs and bhajans. Transformed faces and a natural communion in spiritual things possessed all. Men freely witnessed to each other what God had done for them; groups went to the village every day and preached the Gospel. A new desire was shown for Bible study. All attended the Bible circles and went away with the knowledge that Bible study was essential to life in the Spirit. It was felt that the whole camp was a direct answer to prayer for Revival in the Panjab.
The Sialkot Convention of 1906 was similar in type to that of the previous year, but increased faith and prayer brought together a much larger assembly. Instead of 300, there were 1,300, beside about seventy missionaries. Many had come long distances; others had brought bands of workers; all longing to take a blessing back with them. Instead of a prayer room, the church of the Scotch Mission was set aside for prayer, beside a tent specially for women. The same earnest spirit of sleepless day-and-night supplication prevailed. The very atmosphere of the prayer room seemed to be full of the presence of Christ.
Many noticed how the Lord specially attacked those who came to mock and criticise. Some openly boasted of their purpose. But they were met and humbled, realised in severe agony what a terrible sin they were committing, and returned home in a different spirit. A missionary went about depressed for some days; the men he had brought were not getting the blessing. Very special prayer was made; God met this band, and nearly all were changed and blessed, and the missionary’s faith and hope revived.
Many at this Convention were shown that the way to Pentecost is through Gethsemane and Calvary, and a burden for souls came upon them. Wonderful revelations of the Saviour were given. One man said he had such a vision of Christ that he forgot everything else, and the description he gave showed that he had indeed come from the presence of God. Every word seemed illuminated by the Spirit. Another man saw millions of angels praising Christ, and he was told to tell the people to praise more and speak less. He felt himself so unworthy that he could not deliver the message; he then received permission to get some one else to tell it. His agony of mind as he refused was marked, and the moment he tried to tell what he had seen, he burst into tears. The closing address of the Convention was on the same line: “Let us praise before the victory; let the anticipation of victory tune our hearts to sing His praise!”
A poor sweeper who had a burden for souls at the previous Convention was again present, just as humble as a man could be. He is a monument of, and a living testimony to, the grace and power of God. Though humanly speaking an ignorant man, yet his words were full of wisdom and power. It was an object lesson to see that a poor sweeper, clothed with the Spirit of Christ, can In Him command the utmost respect of all men.
A converted beggar, who had spent eleven years of his life in the severest Hindu austerities before he became a Christian, was brought to the Convention in answer to prayer, and his testimony to the Saviour caused all to praise God.
Satan made several attempts to injure the work. He not only failed, but his efforts were overruled for blessing. He tried to cause dissension over the confessions of sin that were made; and because some, were so awful, to try and get the Committee to intervene. But the brethren agreed to pray over this, and then one was led to give his opinion from the Word of God, that confession should be made to God, and to any brother who had been wronged. If the Spirit of God commanded anyone to confess his sin publicly he must do it; but it must be done by the Spirit of God, and not under pressure from others. Thus it was felt that God had guided, and the brethren were drawn into full unity and fellowship.
A former pupil of the Christian Boys’ School at Ludhiana, Panjab, was much blessed at the Sialkot Convention in 1905. He went back and told about it. Several of the boys at once caught the ﬁre, and prayer and praise went on till the boys feared to trespass longer on the school hours. One of the older boys in trouble of mind was led to confess his sins publicly. From lads of twenty years down to those of six, one after another was taken hold of by the Holy Spirit and broken down. One who made the ﬁrst and most humiliating confession appeared to get the deepest and most thorough blessing. Some older boys did all they could to upset the meetings, but the Holy Spirit went on with the work unhindered. A leading teacher of the school came in and confessed that this work was the hand of God.
At Dehra Dun, Landour, and Jummu (Kashmir) the Spirit of God has come in Pentecostal power, convicting, cleansing, and ﬁlling with joy. In Dehra it began with the overﬂow from the Sialkot Conventions. In Landour the leadership humanly speaking has been in the hands of Indian young men, and the breaking down of opposition to Revival methods has been remarkable. “In Jummu,” writes Rev. J. N. Hyde, “there had gone on a hidden iniquity of liquor drinking among the workers, and other grievous sins. At times quarrels would lead to charges of these things against each other, which would be denied and ascribed to enmity, and the real trouble had thus escaped detection. But who can stand when the Lord appeareth? We had no knowledge of any such trouble. But one morning the Lord hinted to us through the Word in our private communion that there was some serious trouble connected with liquor in the church. That night in one prayer after another, without any reference to it on our part, all was confessed and laid bare with much contrition. In this wonderful way the Lord took away the hindrance from His work in Jummu, and gave His people one heart and one spirit. Praise be to His Holy name!”
Helen S. Dyer, Revival in India: “Years of the right hand of the most high,” Ch. XII The Sialkot Convention and the Panjab, (London: Morgan and Scott, 1907), pp.