Dragoons quartered in the town after the Disarming Act of 1746 began daily prayer meetings; the first society was formed and in 1752 Andrew Affleck, a baker, became its leader for over 50 years. His property in the Sea Port (now Victoria Street), rebuilt in 1761, was given over to the use of the society, probably in 1764. On this site and adjoining land given by Affleck a new chapel was built, spoken of by John Wesley in 1770 as 'the cheerfullest in the kingdom' and now the oldest church building still in use in the town. Thomas Rankin and Dr James Hamilton were among its trustees. It was extended in 1857 and renovated in 1890, when an oak pulpit and stained glass window from the High Kirk of St Giles, Edinburgh, were installed.
John Wesley's Journal:
June 1757: 'Here also I found a little society, most of them rejoicing in God their Saviour. At eleven I went out into the main street, and began speaking to a congregation of two men and two women. These were soon joined by about twenty little children, and not long after by a large number of young and old.'
May 1759: 'I rode on to Dunbar, and at six in the evening preached in a large, open space. (As also the next day.) Both poor and rich quietly attended, though most of them shivering with cold; for the weather was so changed within a few days that it seemed more like December than May.'
May 1761: 'I preached … at seven in the evening (the rain continuing) In the house at Dunbar.
[Next day] 'It being a fair, mild evening, I preached near the quay to most of the inhabitants of the town, and spoke full as plain as the evening before. Every one seemed to receive it in love; probably if there was regular preaching here much good might be done.'
May 1763: 'In the evening it was very cold, and the wind was exceeding high; nevrtheless, I would not pen myself up in the room, but resolved to preach in the open air. We saw the fruit; many attended, notwithstanding the cold, who never set foot in the room; and I am still persuaded much good will be done here, if we have zeal and patience.'
May 1766: 'I had designed to preach abroad at Dunbar in the evening, but the rain drove us into the house. It was for good. I now had a full stroke at their hearts, and I think some felt themselves sinners.'
August 1767: 'I rode to Dunbar, and endeavoured, if possible, to rouse some of the sleepers, by strongly, yea, roughly, enforcing those words, "Lord, are there few that be saved?" '
May 1770: 'In the evening I preached in the new house at Dunbar, the cheerfullest in the kingdom.
[Nextday] 'In the evening I trust God broke some of the stony hearts of Dunbar. A little increase here is in the society likewise; and all the members walk unblameably.'
May 1779: 'We had such a congregation at Dunbar as I have not seen there for many years.'
May 1780: 'I have seldom seen such a congregation here before. Indeed, some of them seemed at first disposed to mirth, but they were soon as serious as death. And truly the power of the Lord was present to heal those that were willing to come to the throne of grace.'
May 1782: 'The weather was exceeding rough and stormy, yet we had a large and serious congregation.'
May 1788: 'In the evening I preached in the house at Dunbar, tolerably well filled, on Job xxii.21, I believe with "The spirit of convincing speech". But much more at five in the morning… And will God manifest His power among these dry bones also?'
Entry written by: MB
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