An account of a Revival of Religion in Middlebury, Conn., in the years 1799 and 1800, Part 4

Previous parts are available here, here, and here.

A young woman addressed me by letter as follows: “My design in this communication, is to inform you what the Lord hath done for my soul. At the time of my first serious impressions, I was sixteen years old, and had, to that time, lived a careless, stupid life; a stranger to God and Christ, and to things sacred and divine. I thought I was not very bad, as I refrained from stealing, lying, swearing, and other open violations of God’s law; not considering that he looks at the heart. I thought I was too young to attend much to religion, and I considered it a sad and melancholy thing, fit for none but those who were just about to leave the world. I depended much on the doctrine of election, as I had perverted it. If I am to be saved, I shall be saved, let me do what I will; and if I am to be lost, I shall be lost, let me do what I will. Here I rested, secure in my sinful neglect of God and his Son Jesus Christ. And I fear that many who are older and wiser than I, rest on the same sandy foundation. I had a great taste for reading, but I read those books only which served to poison my mind, and lead it from God and serious things. When the awakening appeared among us, and one and another of my companions were inquiring what they should do to be saved? I resolved to go on as I was, let the consequences be what they would. I lived from home, and hearing that my aged parents and two of my sisters were under great concern of mind, I could not forbear sighing and saying to myself, are they all fools? I shall never enjoy another moment’s comfort with them as long as I live. It appeared to me that I would not feel as they for the whole world.

“The first serious impression on my mind, was while reading these lines in the ‘Young Child’s Pious Resolutions’—

‘ ‘Tis time to seek to God, and pray
For what I want for every day ;
I have a precious soul to save,
And I a mortal body have.’

I had hitherto thought that there would be time enough for me to attend to religion when I was old; but these words came with such power that I could not rest without seeking an interest in Christ immediately, I was greatly concerned about myself, and felt that I must do something; but what to do, I knew not. I could not pray, and never had prayed in my whole life. I dared not repeat the Lord’s prayer, because I thought it was made for his disciples, and not for me. I resolved that no one should know my feelings, but soon my distress poured in upon me like a flood, and I could not forbear crying to the Savior for mercy. I attended meeting the next Sabbath, expecting to find some relief, when these awful words were the subject of discourse, ‘It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.’ My sins rose in order before me. I was struck dumb before God while these words sounded in my ears, and the sermon described my awful case. Instead of finding comfort, I went home with a heavy heart. I soon began to doubt whether the Bible was the word of God. I thought it might possibly be a forgery, and earnestly hoped it was. I hated the Bible, because it contained my condemnation. I felt that God was partial in showing mercy to others and not to me. The enmity of my heart rose against him; and indeed, I wished there was no God. I attempted to cast the blame upon him, and justify myself; but still could not be satisfied, I longed to be spoken out of existence, for the more I understood of the divine character, the more I hated it; and I could not endure the thought that the Lord reigned, and that all things were at his disposal. When I heard of some who had obtained comfort, and had not been so long in distress as I had, my heart boiled within me. I thought I could not live long in this distress, and that God would not suffer such a wicked wretch to live ; and even death appeared desirable, though it should make me eternally miserable; because while living, I thought I was preparing for a more aggravated punishment. While walking, I sometimes imagined that the earth would open and swallow me up; and that I hung over the bottomless pit by nothing but the brittle thread of life. I slept but little, for if I went to sleep, I was afraid I should awake in hell.

“In this unhappy state of mind I continued from September, 1799, to March, 1800, when I was taken dangerously sick, and for some days deprived of reason. When my reason returned, I supposed I must soon die; but how different were my feelings now from what they had formerly been! God appeared to me perfectly just and righteous in all his dealings with me. It appeared to be right and reasonable that I should love such a holy being. I felt more composed and tranquil than ever before; and I could say with the man restored to sight, ‘whereas I was blind, now I see.’ I saw such a beauty and loveliness in God, and the things which I before hated, that I seemed to be in a new world, where everything spoke the glory of God. He appeared to be so holy, righteous and good in all his works and dispensations, that I could freely submit myself to him, and say with Job, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.’ When I recovered so as to wait on God in his house, I enjoyed more delight in one day, than in all the balls and vain amusements which I had attended in my life. God and his services have ever since appeared glorious to me, and that I may glorify him in life, death, and eternity. My hope depends solely on the rich, free, and sovereign grace of God in Jesus Christ.”

A young married woman gives the following account:

“Near the close of September, 1799, while I enjoyed a comfortable state of health, a religious meeting was attended at our house. I found myself somewhat impressed with a sense of sin, and thought that I wished to be a Christian. A day or two after this meeting my health rapidly declined. I was soon dangerously ill, and to appearance, on the borders of the grave. My great concern was to recover my health, and my hope rested on the physician, and not on Christ. My situation grew more and more alarming, and my friends viewed me as near the end of life. I was in some measure alarmed, and much feared that if I should die, I should be eternally miserable. I endeavored to satisfy myself by reflecting that I was not so guilty as others. Except when people were talking to me of faith, repentance and the new-birth, I always doubted whether the justice of a holy God would send me to hell for the few crimes which I had committed. Alas, how little did I know of the evil nature of sin, and of my own criminality before God ! And all this while I was viewed by others as on the borders of eternity. Indeed, sir, your conversation, at the time of your visits, and the conversation of other religious people, was never sufficient to drive me wholly from this refuge. Neither your prayers, nor the apparent near approach of death, ever excited in my mind any degree of anxious concern for my soul. The idea of leaving my husband and children, appeared the most distressing. But I chose not to hear the subject mentioned, and endeavored to keep it from my mind as much as possible. A beneficent God at length interposed in my behalf, rebuked my painful disorder, and restored me to my family as one ransomed from the grave. But I was as stupid under the mercies of God, as I had been before under his chastening hand. Nothing could make my heart submit. I was stupid when brought to the brink of the grave, with an eternity of woe before me; and I was stupid when marvelously restored to health. The world, with all its delusive charms, now presented itself to my view. As soon as I was able to ride out, I visited an elder brother, who conversed with me freely on my situation, and the mercies which I had received. I observed to him that I really wished to become religious, but I was certain that it was not in my power. He replied, that it was impossible for him to tell for what purpose my life had been so remarkably preserved; but that from my apparent stupidity, there was great reason to fear that it was, that I might have an opportunity of filling up the measure of my iniquities. The idea struck me, and seemed the voice of warning from God to me to answer for my ingratitude. The sins of my past life rose, and were set in order before me. I soon found that I had abused all the mercies of God, that there was a holy law which I had transgressed, and that I was under its just, though awful curse. I rested but little the following night, and my distress continued for several days. I was again about to go back; but the following Sabbath I attended meeting, when a thank-offering was presented for my recovery. Here my conviction and distress revived, and continued through the week.

The next Sabbath I heard a sermon from these words, ‘Ephraim is joined to his idols, let him alone.’ The sermon was applicable, as I thought, to my case, and seemed to be addressed to me in particular. My convictions increased, until I found myself hanging over the pit of everlasting woe, destitute of the least merit, and wounded by reflection on a whole life spent in rebellion against God. Although I was convinced that I had hitherto been kept in existence by the forbearance of God, yet now it appeared to me that I so richly deserved his wrath and curse, that I had nothing else to expect. With these views I again attended meeting, and found the same broken law flaming against me, and bringing my iniquity before my face. I returned home, took my Bible and retired; and while perusing the sacred pages, this thought arose in my mind, ‘Jesus has died for sinners.’ It filled my heart with joy, and although in my agony of mind, I had not very clear views of Christ as Mediator, yet the idea was now sweet and refreshing to my weary and heavy laden soul. After a few weeks, I found myself, as I believed, willing to come to the feet of Jesus, and lie low in the dust before him. My comfort was all built on Christ as the foundation; and I think he then appeared, and still appears lovely as he is in himself, and will be so forever, whatever becomes of me. During my convictions, I had many heart-risings against God and the doctrines of grace; but when this enmity was slain by the Holy Spirit, in a way which I know not, God appeared just and righteous; Christ the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely; and the doctrines of grace the sweet food of my soul, the manna from heaven. Indeed, sir, I have been such an ungrateful, blind, and stupid sinner, that I am sure there can be no hope in my case, unless there is a remnant according to the election of grace. My attainments are so far short of what I should suppose would be in a real Christian, that I am especially at times, doubtful whether I shall ever obtain a seat at the right hand of Christ. But if this should ever be, I shall be less than the least of all saints, and must forever disclaim any merit in myself; lay my crown at the feet of Immanuel, and ascribe all to his meritorious righteousness. Let the praise and the glory be forever to his electing love, to rich, free and sovereign grace.’’