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. It is shared to encourage believers to pray for a similar great work of God’s grace, to learn what characterized genuine conversions, and how pastors guided such individuals.
This account was written by the Rev. Asahel Hooker.
Sundry persons, whose knowledge of the subject is correct, have informed me, that previous to my settlement in this place, there never was any remarkable and extensive revival of religion among the people. There were, however, some signal instances of the power of divine grace. Since my fixed residence here, which is almost nine years, things have remained in the most unpromising state, as to the interests of religion, with a little exception, till about the middle of February, 1799. That period, however, was rendered memorable by the commencement of a work, the happy traits of which are still apparent, and which I trust will be lasting as eternity. From small beginnings, it made such progress in a few weeks, as to have arrested general attention; while great numbers were under the most serious and impressive sense of their forlorn state as sinners. Public worship on the Sabbath, and all other meetings appointed for religious purposes, were unusually attended, both as to numbers and seriousness. Many seemed anxious, and in great earnest to know what they should do to be saved. It was not long before sundry persons manifested a hope of having passed from death unto life. In the compass of a few months their number became considerable, and continued still increasing. In the month of September, twenty-five persons were admitted to the church; in November, forty-eight; and in January, four; making in the whole seventy-seven. A considerable number remain still, who exhibit the usual evidence of a new heart, who have not made a public profession of their faith. The visible change which has been wrought in many, is great and wonderful. Those who gave precious evidence of friendship to the Redeemer and his cause, seemed to say, with one voice and ineffable joy,—“This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
After this brief statement, the following remarks will exhibit the distinguishing features of this work, and enable the candid and impartial to judge for themselves, whether it be indeed the Lord’s work, and worthy of its reputed author.
1. It is worthy of notice, that numbers were deeply impressed before they were apprised that any others were in like circumstances. Impressions did not seem to be generally imparted from one to another. Frequently, without the intervention of any means which could be distinctly recollected, the truth and reality of eternal things, were brought home and fastened on their minds with a sort of irresistible and impressive weight, pointing them to the vast importance of fleeing from the wrath to come. This evidently was not the work of enthusiasm, nor but slightly, if at all, tinctured with it.
2. The first impressions on the minds of those who were the subjects of the work, did not, in common, consist chiefly of fears, excited by the dreadful forebodings of future punishment. It was apparent that their most deep and painful impressions arose especially from convictions of sin, by which they were set at variance with themselves, and their past conduct as sinners; and by which it was awfully realized to them that “there is no peace to the wicked.” It is worthy of particular mention, that those who became eventually reconciled to the truth, and found a comfortable hope of their good estate, were led to such an acquaintance with the plague of their own hearts, as served to subvert all hope, arising from themselves and their own doings. They were thence shown that if saved, it must be, not by works of righteousness which they had done, or could do, but “by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.”
3. Where the foregoing convictions were brought to a happy issue, relief and comfort were found, in some sort, very differently from what was expected. The comfort and joy of the subjects seemed not to arise primarily from an apprehension that they were brought into a safe and happy state, but from new and delightful views of God, of the Redeemer, and the great truths which pertain to his kingdom. It is hence remarkable, that frequently the subjects of the work seemed to be brought out of darkness into marvelous light, and to experience the sublime joys of religion, before they conceived any distinct hope of having become new creatures. It was hence rendered hopeful, that this joy was not selfish and delusive, as it could not have arisen primarily or chiefly from an apprehension of their own good estate. They, therefore, seemed frequently to lose sight of themselves, and their own particular interest, while contemplating the glory of God, as exhibited in the face of Jesus Christ. It is worthy of particular notice, as a distinguishing feature of the late work in this place, that those who have been the hopeful subjects of it in its saving effects, notwithstanding their foregoing prejudices and opposition, have come uniformly and with one consent, into the scheme of doctrines understood by the general term Calvinism. These are the doctrines which seem to have been specially owned and blessed by the Holy Spirit, and thence made the wisdom of God and the power of God, to the salvation of sinners.
4. The subjects of this work were, in some respects, exceedingly various, as to their previous character and circumstances. A large proportion of the whole number were those who had been educated in habits of general respect for religion, for the Sabbath, and public worship. Of these, some were evidently going about to establish their own righteousness, not regarding the necessity of a new heart, and of being clothed with the righteousness which is of God, by faith. In a few instances, those who had made a public profession of religion, were convinced that they were still in the gall of bitterness, and in the event, hopefully established in holiness. Others had been, for several years, if not always, in the habit of paying little respect to religion in any form. A considerable number, were more or less immoral and irreligious in their visible conduct. Several, who were scoffers at the serious and universal strictness of true religion, and who made light of the attention on its first appearance, were afterwards among the hopeful subjects of genuine conviction, and of saving mercy. A few, who had endeavored to fortify themselves against the fears of the wrath to come, in the belief of universal salvation, were convinced that they had made lies their refuge. Several, on whom the work was productive of the most evident, and apparently, most salutary and abiding effects, had been skeptical, and much inclined to infidelity. If we take for granted, that the work which has been so far described, is a work of the Holy- Spirit, one remark which naturally occurs, is the evident design of Providence to confound all attempts which should be made by philosophy and human reason, at accounting for the effects wrought, without ascribing them to God, as the marvelous work of his Spirit and grace.
5. It is not common for those who manifest a hope for themselves, to be very confident of their title to salvation. There are few, if any, but seem at times in much doubt whether their names are written in heaven. One reason of this, is plain. It is not usual for those who are hopeful subjects of mercy, to seem wise in their own conceits, or to have high thoughts of their own experiences, and attainments in religion; but in lowliness of mind, to esteem others better than themselves.
6. The subjects of this work are apparently disposed to persevere,—to run with patience the race set before them, and to give evidence of their union to Christ, by keeping his commandments.
How the things above stated will appear, when examined by the light and evidence of future days, and whether the hopes of Christians wall be fully realized in the precious and abiding fruits of the wonderful things which they have seen and heard, must be left to future decision. Whether all those who appear to have set out, and to run well for the present, will hold on their way, and obtain the prize of their high calling, must be finally known by the event. The idea is cherished, with animated hope, that they will be to His praise in the earth, and the happy instruments of extending His kingdom among men. Of him, and through him, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.