Though we with Giants Fight
Lives and Testimonies from the Battlefield
3rd in the series
Duncan Campbell’s Personal Testimony: From the Trenches to the Pulpit (1898 – 1972)
Duncan Campbell is best known for the mighty work that God performed through him in the Revival on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland from 1949 - 1952. It was perhaps the last great revival that Britain has known.
However, Duncan Campbell’s first profession after his conversion was as an infantry soldier in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders a unit of the British Army. This article, abridged and adapted from his own words, recounts how the Revival Preacher of the Isle of Lewis came to a personal knowledge of Christ, was preserved spiritually and physically through the horrors of the trenches of World War One and then called into Christian service.
The Greatest Discovery and Enlistment
I am here to tell you of three outstanding experiences in my life story; first of all the night that God in His mercy saved me. I was a piper, playing and dancing at a concert in 1913 when suddenly God spoke to me. I had a praying mother and a praying father and I believe that they were deeply burdened that night because I had gone to the dance. While I was playing a Scottish tune called The Green Hills of Tyrol, God spoke to me. My fingers were busy, but my soul was frightfully disturbed, and I found myself not dwelling on the Green Hills of Tyrone, but on the Green Hill of Calvary. I was so disturbed that when I had finished playing the song, I stepped off the stage, went to the chairman and said that I would be leaving the concert. He looked at me and asked, “are you well?” I said,
yes, very well in body, but fearfully disturbed in my mind. I have just made a discovery that I am on the way to hell.
The chairman was a minister (I regret having to say that) and looked at me and said, “you’ll soon get over that.” I am thankful to God that I have not ‘got over it’ to this day.
On my way home I passed a church and to my amazement I found it still lit at 11 o’clock at night. I could not understand it. Of course, I had been away from home on business and I did not know that two pilgrims from the Faith Mission were conducting a mission in the parish and here they were still in the church at 11 o’clock. I listened at the door and heard someone praying. Who should it be but my own father, pouring out his heart for the parish and for his own family? Oh God bless such fathers! Horses could not have dragged me past that meeting. I went in, still dressed in my piper’s regalia, carrying a set of bagpipes and two swords, which I had been using to demonstrate sword dancing. I left the bagpipes and the swords on the back seat of the church and walked up the aisle and sat down beside my father. He looked at me and said,
I am glad to see you here boy. I am glad to see you here.
After a few minutes one of the sisters who spoke our language rose and read a text of Scripture.
God speaketh once, yea twice yet man perceiveth not – Job 33:14.
I knew that God was speaking to me, but I was so afraid that I would disturb the meeting that I rose to leave. However, as I walked out I fell on my knees not once, but half a dozen times. I was so distressed in my soul; I was afraid that the very ground would open and I would fall into hell as I came under conviction of the Holy Ghost.
When I did leave I remained deeply troubled and must have fallen on my knees and prayed six more times on my way home. I did not arrive home until after two o’clock in the morning and found my dear mother on her knees by the kitchen fire. She had not been able to attend the prayer meeting that night, as she had to look after some members of the family who had come to stay. I told her what had happened to me and my distress. She looked at me and said,
your cousins are in your bedroom but I shall soon get a bed ready for you. But I would say this to you, my boy; (I was just in my teens) go out to the barn and tell God what you have just told me.
I can still see the straw prepared for the horses in the morning and I fell on my knees on the straw. To this day I remember the prayer that I offered;
God, I know not how to come, I know not what to do, but my God I am coming now. Oh, have mercy upon me.
In less time than it takes me to recount the story, God had swept into my life and I was gloriously born again. A miracle had taken place. After all, is it not true that a born again Christian is a supernatural being; a supernatural being who has had a supernatural experience? Blessed be God! Since that day I have not had one occasion to doubt the work that God performed in my heart. It was real, it was definite and blessed be God it was supernatural. Shortly afterwards I enlisted into the Army at the outbreak of World War One.
Battles Within and Without
I had not been in the Forces for very long when I discovered that there were dangers living within me which were more than a match for me. I am thankful to God that He kept me from open sin. Oh how I praise Him for that! I also had a sense of His gracious presence in the trenches and I knew Him there; but I was also troubled by indwelt sin. It was an enemy in the garrison of my soul fighting against God. Again and again it brought me into bondage. I often fell on my knees in the trenches and asked God to forgive me for the thoughts of my heart, which sometimes were not too clean. I was terribly conscious of the truth that,
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” Jeremiah 17:9.
Then a remarkable thing happened; the second outstanding experience of my life.
Somehow, someone in authority found out that I was a farmer’s son and consequently I knew something about horses. I was immediately transferred out of the infantry into the Cavalry Corps. Oh God’s ways are wonderful! It was because I was transferred to the cavalry that God met with me for the second time.
While taking part in the last major charge of the British Cavalry at Amiens on 12 April 1918 I was severely wounded and was thrown onto the ground where I lay next to a dead horse. My own horse rolled onto me injuring my spine. I was bleeding heavily from other wounds. As I lay there the blood flowed out of me and I was convinced that I was dying. As these thoughts coursed through my mind suddenly a verse of Scripture came to me,
…and holiness, without which no man can see God – Hebrews 12:14.
Even in the deep and glorious knowledge that I was born again, I felt very unworthy and unfit to meet God. Then in the providence of God another remarkable thing happened.
The Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), known as the Canadian Horse, were ordered to continue the advance. As they charged over the bloody battlefield, covered with hundreds of wounded and dying men, a hoof struck me in the spine. I must have groaned in pain, and that groan registered in the mind of the rider. When the charge was over he was one of the few that came back; and I tell you that there were very few. It was a dreadful day. But he came right back to where I lay, dismounted, lifted me up and threw me across his horse’s back and galloped to the nearest casualty clearing station. Now it was on that horse’s back that the glorious miracle happened.
I remembered a prayer of Murray M’Cheyne which my father used to pray, and I cried to God;
God, oh God make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.
God did it! God swept into my life and I knew in a matter of minutes an experience that I did not think was possible this side of heaven. His waters flowed throughout my soul and inner being and I was healed – not physically, but spiritually. A sense of God flowed through me and at that moment I felt as pure as an angel. Do not misunderstand me; only God knows my true state, but that was how I felt.
At that time I could barely speak a word of English. I spoke Gaelic, the language of the Highlands of Scotland. I could not praise God in English; I could not pray in English; I read and sang in Gaelic. However, I was too weak through loss of blood to sing that afternoon, but I could repeat the Psalms. As I lay in the station in I repeated over and over in Gaelic the Scottish Psalm,
O thou my soul, bless God the Lord and all that in me is, be stirred up His Holy Name to magnify and to bless.
Not one person in that casualty clearing station could understand a single word of what I said. But God came in convicting power and within an hour seven Canadians had been saved. It was my first experience of Holy Ghost revival.
I had not been there for very long when I was evacuated back to Scotland for further treatment. I remained in hospital for a further eleven months and there experienced the gracious moving of God. There was nothing more wonderful than to see God working and to see men and women being saved. I could not preach much, but just a word about the Lord Jesus Christ did it! After a year and one month I was sent back home to the farm and demobilised
From Military to Christian Service
I was now more or less fully recovered from my injuries and my parents were very keen for me to enter Christian ministry. However, what university or college would accept me with my very limited English? I immediately came to the conclusion that it was not necessary. Why should I spend 5 to 7 years in training when God in a matter of minutes could send revival? Therefore, with the permission of my parents, I just went out to the villages of Argyll in Scotland and preached. In a matter of days I saw what is commonly referred to as the Mid-Argyll Revival. The burden of my message was simple, ‘He saved me and because He saved a sinner like me, He can save you.’ For five years a young brother from Ireland and I saw the hand of God in revival. I think I could trace it back to that experience on the horse’s back when God blessed me again.
In 1949, shortly after the end of World War 2, Duncan Campbell was invited by a local minister to visit the Isle of Lewis to take part in a mission. Many of the young men who had served in the Second World War had returned to a spiritual vacuum, confused and troubled by what they had experienced. Most had turned away from their Christian upbringing. With his own experience of the trenches, and real experience of God, Campbell was an instrument prepared by God. He went for 10 days and remained for 3 years, leading a work that shook the whole of Lewis.
NEXT - DL Moody: a Willing Offering
From the Official Biography by WR Moody, Edited by Michael Claydon
About The Author
Philip Bray Since his conversion in 1995, Philip Bray has served the Lord at Stroud Green Christian Assembly, London, most recently as an elder and in the work of Christian Alliance Ministries. He is employed as an infantry officer in the British Army and has served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and most recently in Afghanistan. He is a member of the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Scripture Readers Association, whose object is to encourage personal evangelism in the Army and Royal Air Force.