By the Rev. Rufus Hawley.
On the eighth of March, 1799, some young people sent to me, requesting that I would attend a conference the ensuing evening. I attended, and found a considerable number of people collected, of various ages. We prayed, and attended to the important truths of the gospel. It was evident that some minds were impressed. The Sabbath evening following, there was a conference attended. Many people were present. The meeting was solemn.
The next Tuesday, a number of ministers came, and a lecture was attended at the meeting-house, and in the evening another, at my house. The people appeared anxious to hear the Word. The day following, a sermon was delivered at another house, when a large number of people were gathered together, and appeared more attentive than usual. It began to be evident about this time that the Lord was with us of a truth. Some began to be alarmed, and to inquire what they should do to be saved. The next Monday, (March 20,) a neighboring minister preached in the day-time, and another in the evening, to a crowded and listening assembly. In April, the religious attention increased greatly. New instances of conviction were frequent, and some began to obtain comfort and hope. In some instances, the people attended six or seven sermons a week. Old, middle aged, and young people, were the subjects of God’s work. There was now a great shaking among the dry bones. Conferences were set up in every part of the parish. Balls, all merry meetings and public diversions were laid aside, and the people were more engaged to attend religious meetings, than they had been heretofore for carnal diversions. People of all ages, from fifteen to upwards of sixty, were deeply impressed. The distress of some was so great, that it deprived them in a great measure of their food and sleep, for a season. Many confessed their sins, complained of the hardness of their hearts, the abounding wickedness of their lives, and appeared very sensibly to feel that it would be just in God to cast them off forever. And every person who, in a judgment of charity, is a subject of the regenerating power of the divine Spirit, appears full in the belief of the divine sovereignty, decrees, election, and all the essential doctrines of the gospel.
A young man who had obtained a hope that he was a subject of the new birth, said he might be deceived with regard to the state of his soul, and perish at last; but he believed God would do right, and he was willing to be at his disposal. Others have expressed themselves in much the same manner. Free grace, and the atonement and merits of Christ, are extolled by those who are the subjects of a change of heart. Numbers, at times, have such nearness to, and communion with God, that they have great foretastes of heaven, and joy unspeakable.
At a conference one evening, a man being asked if he found any happiness in religion, replied, “Yes; since I have been attending the present meeting, and uniting with the people of God, in worshiping him, I have enjoyed more real happiness in religion, than ever I enjoyed in all other things, through my whole past life.” All the mirth and carnal pleasures in the world, he said, were nothing, compared with the sweets of true religion. Some others were asked the same question, who said that what had been observed, corresponded with their real feelings. They now found by their own experience, that “wisdom’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
A considerable number who, in times past, did not pray in their families, have now set up family religion, and are constant, and to appearance devout, in their performance of this duty. And those who heretofore did not worship God in their houses, now plead fervently with God, that there may be no prayerless families. In this small society, there are thirty or forty men who pray at conferences, not only in my absence, but most of them, (upon being requested,) when I am present. Some, who years ago had openly violated the laws of Christ, and purposed never to confess their faults, have freely made a public confession of their sins against the Most High; and have said, that although it was what their hearts once totally opposed, yet now they could do it, as freely as ever they did anything in their lives. Now they see and feel the past stubbornness of their wills, and the hardness of their hearts. And their sins being set in order before their eyes, and their wills bowed, they acknowledge with the penitent psalmist, “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” And they plead, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out our transgressions. Wash us thoroughly from our iniquity, and cleanse us from our sins.”
Some persons, when they have come to converse upon entering into covenant, and joining with the church, have said they did not think, in time past, they should ever have any desire to join with the church, and partake of the Lord’s Supper—they did not think they should desire to have so much concern with religion; but now they wished to be joined to the visible family of God, and had earnest longings of mind to commemorate the dying love of the dear Redeemer.
The work of God, in this parish, has not been so great as in some other places; yet considering the smallness of the society, which consists of but little more than one hundred families, it must be confessed the work is truly glorious. There is reason to hope and believe many persons will remember this happy day, with joy and praise, not only whilst they live, but through eternity.
Through the whole awakening, it has been most evident that the work was the effect of the divine Spirit. It has been peculiarly free from noisy, blind zeal and frenzy. The convictions of sinners have been solemn and pungent; and there is reason to hope that a considerable number have been born of the Spirit.
Since the awakening began among my people, between forty and fifty have made a profession of religion, and joined the church. Those who have long been in Christ, appear to have had fresh anointings of the divine Spirit, and to have been stirred up to pray more fervently than usual for themselves and for the prosperity of Zion. Those who were in Christ before, and likewise those who have lately professed faith in him, have, in general, exhibited a good degree of evidence that they are joined to the Lord, and have his Spirit. They delight in the duties of religion. The service of God is now sweet and pleasant to them, in all its branches. They love to read God’s Word. Many have said the Bible is entirely a new book to them. The perusal of it, which afforded them no satisfaction before, now yields them the highest delight. Now they search the Scriptures daily and say with the psalmist, “how love I thy law; it is daily my delight.” Those that rarely came to the house of God, are constant attendants. They love the sanctuary of God, the place where his honor dwelleth, and delight in the ordinances of the gospel. Their soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and they praise God with joyful lips.
But we fear that some who profess to hope that they have now made their peace with God, will so apostatize from their profession, that it will appear that their religion is like the morning cloud and the early dew, which soon goeth away; though we are ready to hope better things of them, and things that accompany salvation. And notwithstanding the prospects have been so promising, and the minds of nearly all the people were turned upon religious subjects, yet at present we have reason to fear that the attention of many has declined, and that many are still dead in trespasses and sins. We fear they will finally perish, and their condemnation, in that case, will be awfully aggravated by the uncommon and powerful means which God has now been using with them. How dreadful, after having been exalted to heaven, to be thrust down to hell!