“Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6)
We are thrilled to begin sharing several brief accounts of how some of the great hymns of our faith were written. Each synopsis has been compiled through the research of Jerry Vargo and is shared by permission. It is our hope that these stories will be a help and encouragement to your Christian walk. In the first article in this series we examine the amazing story of the well known revival hymn, “Revive Us Again.”
“Revive Us Again” was written by Scottish physician, Dr. William MacKay. He was born in 1839 and at the age of seventeen, left his humble Scottish home to attend the University of Edinburgh to study medicine. His godly mother gave him a Bible in which she wrote his name and a verse of Scripture. Away from home, he began his studies well. But as time went by he drifted further and further from the way he had been raised. He began drinking heavily. At a particularly low point in his life, to satisfy his thirst for whiskey, MacKay even pawned the Bible his mother had given him.
Upon graduating from medical school, his first assignment was to work in a hospital emergency room. It was while working in the emergency room, Dr. MacKay became acquainted with human suffering. Occasionally, MacKay would witness the remarkable difference in the life of a person who had faith in Jesus Christ. Dr. MacKay said that it was not strange for him to see the difference in a Christian because he had been raised in a Christian home by godly parents. His own mother had led him to Christ as a young man and prayed often for her son.
Yet the older MacKay grew, the more wicked he became. He believed he was in danger of becoming a thorough infidel.
One day a young man, a mason’s helper, was brought into the emergency room. He had fallen off a very tall scaffold and was in serious condition. William was assigned to attend to the young man. It was soon determined that because of his serious injuries, his case was hopeless. All William could do was relieve the young man’s pain as much as possible.
Dr. MacKay asked the young man, “Do you have any relatives that we can notify of your injuries?”
The young man replied, “No sir. I live alone in this world. However, would you please notify my landlady and ask her to come visit me. I owe her some money and want to pay her. Also when she comes, ask her to bring me my book”.
“What book?” Dr. MacKay asked.
“Oh just tell her to bring the book. She will know what book I am talking about,” the young man responded.
Dr. MacKay saw the young man several times a day while he was in the emergency room. He noticed a calm expression on the young man’s face when he talked with him. Dr. MacKay guessed that the young man was a Christian, but he did not want to talk about that with him or anyone else.
The landlady brought the young man his Bible, and the young man read it constantly. When he could not read it any longer he just laid his Bible on his chest and hugged it.
After one week the young man died. Afterwards, Dr. MacKay was called to his room by the nurses to fill out the necessary paperwork when one of the nurses asked Dr. MacKay, “What should I do with this Bible?” Dr. MacKay told the nurse that the young man had no relatives, and that she could just give him the Bible and he will dispose of it. While the nurses tended to the body of the young man, Dr. Mackay opened up the front of the Bible and curiously looked at the first few pages. Suddenly, he slammed the Bible closed with a strange look on his face. A nurse noticed Dr. MacKay’s countenance and asked, “Are you alright?”
Dr. MacKay answered, “Yes, I am going to my office if you need me you can call me there.”
When Dr. MacKay arrived at his office he shut the door, sat at his desk, and opened the Bible once again. There it was – his mother’s handwriting. The Bible was inscribed by his mother and was the very Bible that Dr. MacKay’s mother had given him as he left home for medical school. The young man must have bought the Bible from the pawn shop where Dr. MacKay pawned it for drinking money. All the pages were well worn and some pages were loose. Many verses had been underlined.
Dr. MacKay thought about how this Bible brought comfort to this dying young man. It was the book that enabled him to die in peace and happiness.
With a sense of shame, Dr. MacKay began to read some of the Bible verses that were underlined. He recounts, “Many verses I had heard in my younger years came back to me. The voice in my conscience could not be silenced any longer. With tears in my eyes, I prayed for God to forgive me and restore to me the joy of my salvation”.
It was not long after Dr. MacKay’s Bible was miraculously returned to him that he wrote the words for the hymn “Revive Us Again.”
We clearly see that he was thinking about this incident as he penned the words, “may each soul be rekindled with fire from above”.
It was the return of his Bible that brought revival to his heart. He quit the medical profession, entered theological college and became a pastor of a church in Scotland. He wrote 17 other hymns, but this is the only one still in use today.
1. We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love,
For Jesus who died and is now gone above.
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Hallelujah, thine the glory!
Revive us again.
2. We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light,
Who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night.
3. All glory and praise to the Lamb that was slain,
Who has borne all our sins and has cleansed ev’ry stain.
4. Revive us again – fill each heart with thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.