This is a selection from New England Revivals As They Existed at the Close of the Eighteenth, and the Beginning of the Nineteenth Centuries, compiled by Bennet Tyler in 1846. This relates various instances from the Second Great Awakening, recorded in the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine.
Towards the end of the year 1798, there was an appearance of more attention to religion than had been common among us, although it was not noticed at the time. Our assemblies on the Sabbath were more full, and the attention of the congregation to the Word preached, and other parts of social worship, more fixed than had been usual. Nothing farther very specially appeared, until the month of February, 1799, when the Spirit came like a mighty rushing wind, and seemed to breathe on many at one and the same time.
The first visible indication of this, was on a lecture day, previous to the Lord’s Supper. These lectures had heretofore usually been attended but by few, besides professors, and too many of these were negligent in their attendance. But at this time there were, probably, three, if not four times the number which had ordinarily attended on such occasions, especially of the young people, and the countenances of many indicated sadness of heart. Indeed the whole congregation appeared solemn; but some in different parts of the house, by their tears which they could not conceal, manifested that their minds were tenderly, impressed.
At the close of this meeting in the daytime, an evening lecture was appointed, which, it is believed, was the first evening religious meeting which had ever been publicly notified, or attended, in the town. At this meeting, a much greater number attended than in the daytime. A brother in the ministry being present, preached from these words—“He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.” The assembly was solemn, the hearers attentive, and the Word preached seemed to be accompanied with divine power.
A religious meeting was now appointed on the Wednesday evening of the next week; and although the season, and the traveling, were both uncomfortable, many came from almost every quarter; and it seemed as if God was present of a truth, speaking to sinners in a still small voice, and saying what have you been doing? And where are you going? Consider what you do, and what your end is like to be. After praying and singing, the people were addressed from these words—“Escape for thy life; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” A solemn silence reigned among the hearers, who appeared to hear as for their lives; and many were to be seen in various parts of the house, weeping and trembling under a sense of their guilt and danger; and saying to themselves, “What must I do to be saved?” For at this time, but few spake out the feelings and exercises of their hearts; but at the close of the meeting, they returned to their homes, in pensive sadness.
From that time to the present, there have been almost every week from two to five, and sometimes six religious meetings, beside the two upon the Sabbath; as I have invariably attended them myself, I can witness to the order and decency, the silence and solemnity, with which, and the numbers by which, these meetings have been attended. The silence observed among those who were going to, or returning from these meetings, was very impressive, and frequently noticed with surprise and pleasure. Little or no tumult or noise, and the appearance of most, much as if they had been going to, or were returning from the funeral of some near relative or friend. And while in the house, nothing was said but by the minister; for so little disposed were the people to take an active part in any religious exercise, except singing, that it was difficult to get one publicly to propose or ask a question. Many were swift to hear, but all slow to speak.
In this time of God’s pouring out of his Spirit and reviving his work among us, sixty-one have been added to the church, and baptism administered to about one hundred. Among the baptized are sixteen households or families.
At one time, a number of households, containing about twenty souls, were baptized.
Those who have, in this time of awakening, joined the church, are most, if not all of them, between fourteen and forty years of age. The greatest number have been from the class of married people. Of the unmarried, twenty-one are females.
I shall now give some further particulars relating to this revival of religion.
About four or five months after the attention began, two lads or young men, who lived near each other, having finished their daily labor in the field, met in a school-house nearby, and spent the evening in religious conversation. They had not spent more than two evenings in this manner, before their being together, and the design thereof, was known to some in the neighborhood, who, the next time they met, joined their company.
About this time I heard of their meeting, although it was not generally known. A doubt, at once, arose with respect to the propriety of encouraging so young a class, of the different sexes, meeting by themselves, for religious purposes, without some one of more age and experience, to superintend their meetings, and preserve regularity among them, as also to instruct them in things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and their own salvation.
At their next meeting, I went among them, and found nearly forty males and females, from about eight to eighteen years of age, convened for the purpose of praying together, reading, singing psalms, and talking upon religious subjects. Being now desired by them, I met with them weekly for several months. The second time I met with them, there were about double the number there were the first time; and the third time, there were, I judged, about one hundred and forty. Although it was now the busiest season of the year with farmers, being about harvest time, and the evenings short, young men and women and children came from a distance of several miles; and much the greatest part appeared to have their minds impressed with seriousness; for in every part of the house, tears were seen, and sighs and sobs heard; although endeavors were used to suppress the one, and to conceal the other.
These meetings of young people and children were kept up for several months, and until more elderly people, who wished to participate with them in their devotional exercises, came in among them, and so rendered them common for those of every age. But it is hoped that the religious impressions made, at this time, upon the young and tender minds of a number, will never be wholly effaced, but will remain through time, and be like a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.