April 13, 2021

The Testimony of Duncan Campbell's 25 Year's of Backsliding & Subsequent Restoration

There is a most moving testimony, almost none like it in recent church history, of a dear man, a Scottish man, a highlander, Duncan Campbell. Who, when he was a young man saw revival, but then for 25 long, cold years thereafter, he was backslidden…

The Testimony of Duncan Campbell's 25 Year's of Backsliding & Subsequent Restoration

There is a most moving testimony, almost none like it in recent church history, of a dear man, a Scottish man, a highlander, Duncan Campbell. Who, when he was a young man saw revival, but then for 25 long, cold years thereafter, he was backslidden…

After being truly converted in his teen years, he subsequently backslid after being drafted into the military during WWI, but upon being, as it would seem, mortally wounded, and bleeding to death with a broken back, suddenly the scripture came to him…

“Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
— Heb. 12:14

He knew that he was unfit to stand before God. But in the providence of God, a man heard his groan on the battlefield, and returned to his aid; and as his dying body was cast over the horse’s back, he cried from the depths that old prayer of M’Cheyne: “O God, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be!” And right there, in that instant the Lord graciously received him, and the waves of glory again washed over his unworthy soul! The text came to him, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases” (Psa. 103:3)… The result: AWAKENING! Souls began to be converted immediately beginning in the casualty clearing station, and over the course of the next year as he recuperated in hospital.

What followed into his early 20’s was what has become known as the Mid-Argyll Revival, in which the Lord was pleased to use him instrumentally as a voice to the backslidden church of Scotland, and to the conversion of many souls.

But all of this came to a tragic halt. As he grew older, and desired to be married,  the question posed itself: “How will you take care of a family?” He was a part of the Faith Mission, and hadn’t a penny to his name! And with this seed of doubt, he (in his language) “went in for the ministry”… and thus committing himself to his professors of theology, according to his own testimony, by the time they were done with him, he didn’t even believe the first three chapters of the Bible anymore!

Thus was the beginning of the sad declension of this good man of God.

For the next quarter of a century, Duncan grew in his influence throughout Scotland, was a well established and respected Presbyterian minister, was a much sought out conference speaker, being known as “Campbell of the ’21 Revival”... and yet he lacked that first love, and was thus powerless to do the first works (Rev. 2:4,5)… Yet he did not leave off preaching of his first works, and being esteemed as a man of revival, though he hadn’t even seen it in 25 years!

But one fateful morning, at 5 a.m., as he was preparing a sermon for that evening’s meeting in the Keswick Convention, he heard what sounded to him as an angel singing through his house, “Coming, coming, yes they are…” — it was his daughter! He wandered out to where she was, and when she finished her song, she came to him, and throwing her arms around his neck, said, “Daddy, isn’t Jesus wonderful?… I just spent an hour with him!” Up at 4 a.m. seeking the face of Jesus, Duncan’s daughter, Sheena, had a question for her father. So they moved back to his study, and there she opened her matter, “For several days, Daddy, I have been battling against facing you with this question, but I must do it… When you were a young pilgrim, before you went in for the ministry, you saw revival… How is it, Daddy, that you’re not seeing revival now? Daddy, you have a large congregation, and many are joining the Church, but Daddy when did you last kneel beside a poor sinner, and lead him to Jesus?...” In his own words,


That would prove to be the beginning of the end.

For many years, he knew that something was not right in his soul, and that it was somehow linked to his departure from the Faith Mission, but the way back was hidden from his eyes, and so for 25 years he moved through a barren wilderness, feeling “out of touch” with God. But that evening after preaching his message, he returned home in great distress of soul, and while on his way, alone in the car, he vowed that if the Lord didn’t bring him back to the experience of personal revival (on the horse’s back), then he would give up the ministry and go back into businessHe would be anything BUT a deceiver!

Upon his arrival, he refused supper, telling his wife and daughter that he was going to have a “session with God”, separating himself with singularity unto God as Jacob of old to wrestle with the angel of the Lord… And, there in his study, he threw himself prostrate before God, praying that He would again forgive him. As he cried unto God, he repeated, “I am marred… I am marred… I am marred…”, feeling as the marred vessel of Jer. 18. After praying thus for an hour, suddenly the Lord came into the room, and revealed to his soul that though he was marred, yet as at conversion, and as at his earlier restoration on the battlefield, he was still in the hands of the Potter! It was then that the old text came rushing back to his conscious awareness,

“Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases.”
— Psa. 103:3

But no sooner had the Lord spoken this word, Duncan was in an agony as he received a vision from the Lord: a vision of hell.

“Multitudes, multitudes streaming over the caverns of death, to be damned and doomed eternally!”

Suddenly his daughter entered the study, and began to pray for him that the Lord would not let him lose his mind!

But at that moment, a voice came to him, “Give up the ministry. Go back to the Faith Mission!” But with it, the old question returned, “How will you take care of a family?” And with this, for a moment, darkness entered his soul! Then Sheena put her hand on her father's body, and spoke, “O Daddy, Daddy, whatever it costs, go through with God!… I believe that you’re facing the question, that if you go back to the mission — because I’m fully persuaded that God is asking you to go back — Daddy, perhaps you’re wondering how you’re going to look after us… I know, Daddy, that you’ve promised to give me a new coat on my birthday, but, Daddy, Mommy will be quite willing to change my old coat, and you needn’t buy me a new coat!…”

In Duncan’s own words, “IT WAS THAT THAT DID IT!… I said ‘Yes’ to God, and the flood tides of glory came over me again! And, O, if I had a vision of hell, I had a vision of the risen Christ: able to save to the uttermost!”

On the following morning he wrote three letters: one to the secretary of his congregation, one to the presbytery clerk, and another to the clerk of assembly: resigning his charge in that town!… Now he was free — free to return to the old battlefield where he had left off with God in childlike faith and sincerity. Thus he returned immediately to the Faith Mission, and within about one year’s time God granted that this man, Duncan Campbell, should be the instrument in His hands to operate revival on the Island of Lewis, in the outer Hebrides.

Thus and thus was this man, Duncan Campbell, “Made again” (Jer. 18:4).