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An account of a Revival of Religion in Bristol, Conn., in the year 1799 Part 3

Part one and part two

It may be useful here to give some particular account of a remarkable display of the sovereign power and mercy of God in awakening a certain person. He was a young married man who was inclining to infidelity, and who made very light of the revival when it began, calling it delusion, enthusiasm and priestcraft. As his wife was among the first who became seriously impressed, he endeavored to divert and hinder her attention, and to ridicule her out of her seriousness. He was highly displeased because she was affected and shed tears at hearing a sermon, and he said he was ashamed of her folly, and that no preaching or minister could ever fetch a tear from his eye. Sometime after his wife was apparently reconciled to God, she was about to go with a number of others to be examined for admission into the church. He endeavored to dissuade her from it, saying that it was unnecessary, and that she could as well live religion without making a public profession, as with. But as she, thinking it to be her duty, went to be examined, he was greatly displeased—would hardly speak to her, and scarcely take his food for several days. He told her brother, that he designed to go to sea, and swore that he would never go into the meetinghouse with her again. But that very day, there was a lecture appointed at the meetinghouse, and as the family were getting ready to go, her father with whom he lived, proposed that he should go with them in the wagon. Forgetting his promise, he went, and as he entered the meeting-house, he was first of all powerfully struck with the recollection that he had sworn never to go there with his wife again. He was greatly shocked at the thought of his rash and wicked oath. The sermons which were delivered made a deep and powerful impression on his mind. It seemed, he observed, as if the discourses were addressed directly to him, and he was greatly affected, and in tears, during a considerable part of the religious exercises. He was apparently in great distress of mind for some time, and seemed deeply sensible of the madness and wickedness of his former conduct, in opposing and making light of divine things. After a while he was relieved from his distress of mind, and obtained a hope that he was reconciled to God. He has since, with his wife, made a public profession of that religion, which he once opposed and despised. It is to be hoped that his life may be such as to adorn his Christian profession, and be evidential of a real change of heart. But whether it should be so or not, still it appears to have been a remarkable display of the power of God in favor of divine truth.

Such remarkable revivals of religion afford strong evidence that the Scriptures are from God, since the truths contained in them, are attended with such a divine power in awakening, reforming, and renewing sinners. No other doctrines, or schemes of religion have such powerful effects. The Bible informs us that the preaching of the gospel produced such happy and glorious effects, when it was first propagated by the apostles. Great multitudes both of Jews and Gentiles were then awakened, turned from sin to holiness, called out of darkness into marvelous light, and added to the church of Christ. When, therefore, we see the gospel now producing such effects, they greatly confirm its truth and divine origin.

Such seasons of peculiar attention to divine things plainly manifest that the power which renders the gospel successful, is of God, and not of man, and that agreeably to the declaration of the apostle, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” We see from facts, that at one time, the preaching of the gospel has little or no effect. Few or none are awakened and renewed. At another time, these same truths, which have been heard year after year with no apparent effect, are clothed with power, arrest the attention of numbers, and are the means of producing a wonderful change in their feelings and sentiments; so that many now cordially believe and embrace those truths, which a few weeks before, they bitterly opposed and denied; and now take pleasure in prayer, reading the Scriptures, serious conversation, and the other duties of religion, which but a short time since, they perhaps ridiculed and despised, or at least neglected and considered as very tedious and irksome. Such facts fully evince, that the power which produces these remarkable effects, is not of man, nor in the gospel itself, but of God.

The Sovereignty of God in the dispensations of his grace, is clearly displayed in such revivals; for it is then evident from facts that God has mercy on whom he will have mercy—awakens and renews one, and not another, as he, in infinite wisdom, sees fit. Although, as before noticed, the hopeful converts are chiefly from families, where the Sabbath, public worship, and divine things have been regarded and reverenced; yet some have been under powerful impressions and convictions, who to human appearance, were as unlikely to be impressed, as almost any in the society. From the same family, some have been taken, and others have been left.

Persons who oppose, and make light of such peculiar revivals of religion, give the strongest evidence that they have never experienced the renewing influences of the divine Spirit.

Finally—in such seasons of uncommon attention to divine things, and among such a number of apparent converts, it is to be feared and expected that some are deceived, and will prove stony ground hearers, whose religion will endure but for a time; and that after a while they will fall away, and manifest by their conduct that they were building upon a foundation of sand. Should this be the case, although it would be very painful to the friends of religion, yet it would be no more, than what from Scripture and past experience, we have reason to fear; and therefore would afford no just objection against its being in general the work of the Lord. Since there is danger that some may turn back, and fall short of salvation, the apostolic directions appear very necessary, and applicable to those who now hope that they are the heirs of salvation. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.” “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.” As they regard the honor of religion, and their own eternal safety, it behooveth them to give all diligence to grow in grace, and make their calling and election sure. And we pray God that they may, in all things, adorn the doctrine of God, their Savior, by a holy life—be found faithful in the cause of God until death, and then receive a crown of life.

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