"A leader of the Western Camp Meeting Revival at the beginning of the 19th century, McNemar was suspended from the Synod of Kentucky because of his anti-Calvinistic tendencies. This led to the formation of the Springfield Presbytery. However, of the original group that made this move, Marshall and Thompson returned to the Presbyterians, McNemar and Dunlavy defected to the Shakers, and Barton Warren Stone was left as the leader of the New Lights. In no small way, McNemar contributed to the excessive emotionalism and schismatic qualities of this southern revival movement." Richard Owen Roberts.
A short history of the extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit of God in the Western States of America known as the 'Revival in Ohio and Kentucky,' with a brief account of the beginnings of ‘Shakerism.’
We have included 2 of the 4 chapters in the first of three sections in the original.
I. In the first settlement of this country, no small part of the inhabitants were Christians by profession. Different denominations early began to shine out, and employ their zeal in organizing churches, settling ministers, and propagating their respective doctrines and forms of worship throughout the land. The greatest number of professors might be ranked among the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists. And although these different sects professedly set out to establish and promote the peaceable religion of Jesus, yet in the attempt their usual debates and controversies were brought to life, which, for a number of years, occasioned a hot spiritual war. Notwithstanding these churches acknowledged each other as sisters, descended from the same stock, yet such was the zeal of each for their distinguishing tenets and forms of worship, that they stood entirely separate as to any communion or fellowship, and treated each other with the highest marks of hostility; wounding, captivating and bickering one another, until their attention was called off by the appearance of a common enemy, viz. Deism, or the religion of nature.
II. For many ages the Christian religion, so called, had been incorporated with civil government, and they had mutually supported each other; consequently, when that revolution in politics began, which aimed at the overthrow of monarchy, and the establishment of a republican government, that religion was particularly involved.
Kings, emperors and popes had claimed the Bible as “the only rule to direct them,” in their unnatural wars, dire oppressions, bloody persecutions, and unparalleled cruelties toward mankind ; yea, every class of tyrants, both civil and ecclesiastical, had made their common appeal to the Bible for their authority to lord it over their fellow-creatures; consequently, when the eye of reason began to open upon the rights of man, the tyrant’s Canon must appear in very pernicious colors - no book in the universe so mischievous and hateful. And under this view, the Bible was attacked by the political reformers of the last century, and the dictates of a lawless nature cried up, in opposition to its sacred requirements.
III. I do not suppose, with many, that Deists have had no cause for rejecting the Scriptures; the contrary is certainly true. Not that the cause is in the Scriptures, but in those who profess to take them for their rule of life. It is not the Scriptures that lie open to the view of the Deist, but those churches and people who profess to be governed and influenced by them. And what have those churches exhibited which for ages past have claimed the Bible for their foundation? Little else but division, animosity and confusion. What have been the lives and manners of professors in general? Do they not stand below the modern Deist, even in point of Bible virtue? Now, if Christians, so called, are chargeable with so great wickedness, in the eye of common sense and reason, and at the same time testify that the Bible is their “only rule,” what judgment can the Deist form of that book? The tree is known by its fruit; and if professing Christians acknowledge themselves to be wicked, if they judge and prove one another to be wicked, and claim the Bible as their root and foundation, it is reasonable for the Deist to judge that to be a wicked book.
IV. When Deism first began to overspread Kentucky, and the truth of the Bible to be called in question, the cry was against its pernicious fruits, and the infinite mischief that had been done in the world, by those who supported its doctrines. And while the giddy and thoughtless multitude took it for granted that divine revelation was all a cheat, and nature’s flowery path the only way to happiness, and were crowding into it by hundreds; many of a more serious cast were unwilling to renounce their hope of salvation through Christ, yet dare not vindicate the lives of those professing Christians, on whose account the Bible was condemned. This made it necessary to examine the Scriptures separate, and judge of them according to their internal evidence; and the more they were examined, the greater the contrast appeared between their sacred doctrines and the lives of the professors. Hence, the only ground upon which the truth of the Scriptures could be maintained was to take them according to their own proper sense, and prove that they nowhere countenanced those evils that abounded in the churches; but the contrary.
V. The New Testament appeared to be the proper fruit and product of the Church of Christ, and manifested by its purity that it was a pure church out of which it sprung. And taking the Church as the tree, and the Scripture as the fruit, both seemed to be good. But the fruit, which had been for many generations produced by those churches which bore the same name, was very different. The writings of these churches, instead of uniting the people in righteousness and peace, had kindled up endless controversies and angry disputes; and from the manifest difference in the fruits, it appeared that modern professors could not be the same kind of people with those that had formerly been called Christian. According to the Scriptures, Christians were united, all of one heart and one soul; they laid aside all anger, wrath, clamor, envy, and evil speaking; were kindly affectioned one towards another, and loved one another, with a pure heart, fervently. But daily observations proved that those who now assumed the same name, were full of envy and strife, roiling and backbiting, hateful and bating one another; and in every sense different from those holy men of God who were formerly called by the name of Christ.
VI. This distinction was observed not only in common professors, but even in the ministers. While the New Testament represented the ministers of Christ as meek, humble, honest men, examples to the flock in charity, faith and purity; those who were called the ministers of Christ in the present day, appeared to be proud, aspiring, contentious men, striving who should be the greatest, overlooking common people as an inferior rank of beings, deeply immersed in the cares of the world, eager after the salaries, or posts of profit in civil government, and some even holding their fellow-creatures in perpetual slavery, or selling them for money. These appeared not to be the same kind of men as those whom Christ ordained, nor did it appear that they had the same Holy Ghost dwelling in them, or could be as safely believed or followed as the ministers who wrote the Scriptures. And some of themselves admitted the conviction that they were far sunk from the power and purity of the apostles of Christ, and were preaching about a salvation which they had not in possession.
Another important train of ideas arose from searching the Scriptures. There was a falling away spoken of by Christ and his Apostles, and an Antichrist to rise which appeared according to history, to have taken place a great while ago. And it appeared by many promises, that after the reign of this Antichrist was out, There would be glorious times upon earth and Christ would appear again, and set up his kingdom, and gather the nations into it. Here many inquiries were raised, concerning the reign of this Antichrist, when it began and when it would end, and when Christ would appear and set up his true kingdom. And many began to apprehend, that this period was not far off; and concluded it was time to leave off their vain disputes, and unite in prayer, for Christ to come and pour out his spirit, gather his people into one, make an end of sin, and fill the earth with his glory.
VII. For several years there were praying societies kept up in different parts, composed of persons who were distinguished in some things from all the denominations, though blended with them in their outward communion. These professed to be in search of the truth and power of religion, and ready to embrace it whenever it would appear, but did not believe it was among any of the denominations, in purity. They believed there were errors in all their systems of doctrine, which kept them dead and lifeless, without the Spirit of God. The social exercises which sprung from this faith, were reading the Scriptures without any comment, praying for the divine Spirit to open them - confessing and lamenting the deplorable state of mankind in general, and that of cold, lifeless, and corrupt professors of Christianity in particular; and pleading for the accomplishment of those blessed promises which respected the coming of Christ and the glory of the latter days. Examining themselves by the evidences and marks of grace laid down in the Scriptures - lamenting a lack of those evidences - confessing their short-comings in duty, and resolving to correct past errors and be more watchful over, a deceitful and desperately wicked heart - opening their trials to one another, and encouraging each other to persevere until they found Christ in very deed.
When any one prays for a thing, it is a sure and certain evidence that he has not got ,that thing in possession; and hence the united prayers of hundreds of the warmest professors, entreating Christ to come and visit the churches, loudly proclaimed that he was not already there. While he was contemplated at a distance through the promise, the following lines well suited the day, and proved his absence front the soul
“When I turn my eyes within, all is dark, and vain, and wild;
Full of unbelief and sin - can I deem myself a child?”
The following extracts of letters from persons of no small note in the churches, will show more particularly the state of religion at that period:
“March 22, 1798.
“MY DEAR FRIEND:- I have this winter past preached with difficulty, my heart but little engaged. I know that I am not as I ought to be, yet cannot be affected with my sad case.
“LEXINGTN, September 5, 1796.
“DEAR SIR : - Yesterday I received your kind letter, and I now undertake to answer it. The dead state of religion is truly discouraging here, as well as elsewhere. It appears a wonder of mercy that God is so kind to this Sardis, as to afford her the means of grace; without this she would certainly run into total infidelity. When I look into my wretched heart, and consider how much I have dishonored God by a dead and careless life, I have reason to cover my head in the dust.
“If some are spotted with sin, I am spot all over.
“DEAR BROTHER - It is not likely I can say anything to entertain or refresh you. I sometimes think I would be willing to travel with you to heaven; but I feel very unlike an inhabitant of that place. I would be glad to be at the truth, and the substance.
“But I commonly feel so much more like a devil than a Christian, that it makes me often forebode the displeasure of God, the Holy and the Just. I sometimes think I am coming towards the birth, but can seldom think I am born. Oh, how long! how long! And what am I? I would strip off everything but Christ and his Holy Spirit, to enter the narrow gate.
“I can tell you but little about my poor congregations. I see but little prospect of encouragement. I dare not say none.
“I sometimes hope to see Jesus King in Zion.
VIII. Now let any one judge from the foregoing evidences, what kind of a work was necessary to take place among such a people, in order to their recovery; a people confessedly vain, and dark, and wild; full of unbelief and sin - dead and careless - spot all over; and more like devils than Christians.
The generality, however, unaffected with their sad case, were still going on, crying out against infidelity, lampooning the Deist, treating his cavils with contempt, and laboring each one to augment his party; while a distressed few were watching, like the guards of the night, and ready to meet the first dawn of the approaching day.
A sense of the total depravity of human nature, and the entire separation of the soul from God, is the first thing necessary to prepare the way for the entrance of spiritual life. Therefore, such as honestly confessed their lost and deplorable state, and intensely groaned for deliverance from it, were not in so dangerous a condition, as those who made a high-sounding profession and gloried in some plan of salvation, that still left them in bondage to corruption. But a conviction of being lost, never saved any one; though many have made conviction a great evidence of their election; and vainly rested upon that light, which searches out the evil and wickedness of the heart, without going any further. But such as were honest. before God could not stop here; they must be at the truth and the substance. Therefore, it was necessary that the channel, through which the quickening power of God has access to the soul, should be opened; namely, the everlasting covenant of redemption. And as this is the only channel through which souls can receive any special favor from God, it will be proper here to make a few observations concerning it.
IX. When one makes a promise to another, and that promise is accepted ; this constitutes a covenant, or agreement. Thus the promise of eternal life, was made to Christ, before the foundation of the world; and accepted by him in behalf of all his seed. In this promise, or covenant of life, the father and son were perfectly united; and as both are everlasting and unchangeable, it must be an everlasting anti unchangeable covenant, which cannot be broken. The covenant itself is absolute, unconditional and inviolable. But in order to its being fulfilled, and finally settled, there is a work given the Son to do, which, in the nature of things, is necessary to be done; and that is, to overcome death, and him that has the power of it. And until this is actually done, the heir is in bondage. It is true, eternal life is secured, in the covenant, to all the seed; though they be not in actual possession of it. But while death reigns, the blessings of the covenant can only be administered by way of promise; and the party to whom the promise shall be fulfilled, designated in the Father’s revealed will.
This everlasting covenant has ever been a mystery to man in his fallen state; nor could anything certain be ever known respecting it but by a living revelation from God - an express manifestation of the divine will, attested by living witnesses. And where this orderly administration has been wanting, the more that has been said about it, the greater confusion and controversy has been stirred up.
It is true, the Scriptures contain a copy of the divine will, concerning the redemption of souls; all the promises of God are there recorded. But of what use is a bare copy of a will, without witnesses.
These great and precious promises could effect nothing real; the inheritance itself was not in them; and although thousands have undertaken to administer upon the authority of the Scripture, as though it was the very original itself, sealed and confirmed by unalterable seals; and have pretended to be the true witnesses of God; yet their folly is made manifest to all men; for they have not agreed in their witness; but have filled the world with endless debates, concerning the sense and meaning of what they call the will. Now if the witnesses were all divided, and could not even agree in their testimony, who were the proper heirs, how could anything ever be decided in such a court?
But however great the contention has been about the copy, and however much these presumers have altered, amended, expounded and paraphrased upon it, yet the original has remained unsullied. God is of one mind; and his promises in Christ are Yea and Amen.
When God revealed his covenant to Abram, it was only by promise. “In thee and in thy seed, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” OBSERVE, the blessing promised was not to Abram and his seed, but to all the nations of the earth. It was not, “thou and thy seed shall be blessed” with irresistible grace, but “in thee and in thy seed [which is Christ] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” All were under the curse, and stood in equal need of the blessing. Sin and death had their dominions equally over all. But a better dominion was promised; a kingdom of righteousness, a dominion of life, in which all the nations of the earth should be blessed.
Although death reigned from Adam to Moses, and from Moses to Christ, yet the promise of God to Abram was sure to all the seed: death could not destroy it; the law could not supplant it, or make it void; the threatenings and curses from Mount Sinai were not against the promise, nor the seed to whom the promise was made. The promise was established and confirmed by unalterable seals, illustrated by types and figures, and attested by a long succession of living prophets, until Christ, the proper heir, made his appearance; finished the work that was given him to do; received the substance that was promised by the Father; and took possession of the inheritance. Until this took place, souls were in bondage under the rudiments of the world; they could find no resurrection into eternal life, until the Son of God, in the fulness of time, was made of a woman; made flesh; placed under the same rudiments by which they were held in bondage; and from thence ascended, step by step, until he entered the promised possession. Then, and not till then, the way was open for the substance to be ministered; then the first-born could give gifts unto his brethren - substantial, real gifts. What he received of the Father, he gave to those who were joint heirs with him to the promised possession; and sent them into the world, as he had been sent, to minister to others as he ministered to them. Moreover, he did not send them to some particular persons, but to every creature that was under heaven; and commissioned them to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound - one as much as another. No nation or individual was excluded, but the promise was to all, and upon all; and should finally be fulfilled to all them that believe and obey.
X. While the everlasting covenant was thus ministered in truth, by the apostles and true witnesses of Christ, it was confirmed by the most convincing signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost. They healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out malignant spirits, spake with unknown tongues, held converse with angels and departed spirits, saw visions, fell into trances, had gifts of prophesying, etc. etc. These, and such like, were seals to their ministry. But above all, the salutary change produced in the lives and manners of those who believed, confirmed the doctrine to be of God; and served as a test to those who should come after, whereby to distinguish the true covenant of God from all the counterfeit doctrines of men. When the true administration of the covenant ceased, the signs and seals of confirmation ceased with it. God would not affix his seal to the canons, decrees and covenants of wicked men, who rose up to supplant the true work of redemption. And therefore, for many ages, what has been called the Christian doctrine has been void of authority; except what arises from superstition, vain philosophy, the power of human eloquence, or the civil sword. But when God, in infinite kindness, began to revive the everlasting truth in these latter days, the living seals of the covenant were annexed - such seals and evidences of a supernatural and divine power, as have excited as great astonishment in the minds of mankind as those of antiquity.
THE first extraordinary appearances of the power of God, in the late revival, began about the close of the [18th] century, in Logan and Christian counties, on the waters of the Gasper and Red rivers. And in the spring of 1801 the same extraordinary work broke out in Madison county, upper part of Kentucky; of which I was an eye witness; and can, therefore, with greater confidence testify what I have heard, seen and felt.
It first began in individuals, who had been under deep convictions of sin, and great trouble about their souls; and had fasted and prayed, and diligently searched the Scriptures; and had undergone distresses of mind inexpressibly sore until they had obtained a comfortable hope of salvation. And from seeing and feeling the love of Christ, and his willingness to save all that would forsake their sins, and turn to God through him; and feeling how freely his love and goodness flowed to them; it kindled their love to other souls that were lost in their sins, and an ardent desire that they might come and partake of that spiritual light, life, and comfort, which appeared infinite in its nature, and free to all. And under such an overpowering weight of the divine goodness as tongue could not express, they were constrained to cry out, with tears and trembling, and testify a full and free salvation in Christ for all that would come; and to warn their fellow-creatures of the danger of continuing in sin, and entreating them in the most tender and affectionate manner, to turn from it, and seek the Lord, in sure and certain hope that he would be found.
Under such exhortations the people began to be affected in a very strange manner. At first they were taken with an inward throbbing of heart ; then with weeping and trembling; from that to crying out, in apparent agony of soul; falling down and swooning away, till every appearance of animal life was suspended, and the person appeared to be in a trance. From this state they would recover under different sensations, which will be more particularly noticed hereafter.
The following extract of a letter, dated Caneridge, January 30, 1801, gives a striking account of the work, as it first appeared in the lower parts of Ken-tucky, and Cumberland.
“The work is still increasing in Cumberland; it has overspread the whole country. It is in Nashville, Barren, Muddy, Gasper, Redbanks, Knoxville, etc.
“J.M.C. has been there two months; he says it exceeds any he ever saw or heard of. Children and all seem to be engaged; but children are the most active in the work. When they speak, it appears that the Lord sends his Spirit, to accompany it with power to the hearts of sinners. They all seem to be wrought in an extraordinary way; lie as though they were dead for some time, without pulse or breath; some longer, some shorter time. Some rise with joy and triumph; others crying for mercy. As soon as they get comfort, they cry to sinners, exhorting day and night to turn to the Lord.
It is worthy of notice, that a work by which God intended to bring down the pride and loftiness of man, should begin in small children. By this it was manifest who was the furthest lost from God, and what course must be taken in order to return.
At a sacrament, near Flemingsburgh, the last Sabbath in April, the power of God was very visible among the people through the whole of the occasion; under which there was much weeping, trembling, and convulsion of soul. But what was the most solemn and striking, was the case of two little girls, who, in the time of meeting, cried out in great distress. They both continued for some time praying and crying for mercy, till one of them received a comfortable hope, and then turning to the other, cried out: “Oh! you little sinner, come to Christ! take hold of his promise! trust in him! he is able to save to the uttermost! Oh! I have found peace to my soul! Oh! the precious Saviour! come just as you are! he will take away the stony heart and give you a heart of flesh! you can’t make yourself any better - just give up your heart to Christ now! - You are not a greater sinner than me! You need not wait another moment!” Thus she continued exhorting, until her little companion received a ray from heaven that pro-duced a sudden and sensible change; then rising with her in her arms, she cried out in a most affecting manner: “Oh, here is another star of light!” These children were perhaps nine or ten years old. The Sabbath following, about twenty persons were struck in the congregation of Cabin Creek, Mason County. Among the first who cried out, in distress, was a girl about twelve years old. Their convictions of their lost state (from a sudden opening of that pure holiness, to which sin stands directly opposed) were quick as the lightning’s flash, and came with such weight, that had they not, in some way or other, opened their case, they must have sunk into the horrors of despair. It was dire necessity which at first obliged them to expose themselves to public view as objects of pity; for everything of the kind was looked upon by the generality, even of professors, as wild enthusiasm, or the fruits of a disordered brain.
There were, however, a few who understood the disorder, and were ready to fly to their relief, and proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound.
And here a new scene was opened. While some trembled like one in a fit of the ague, wept, or cried out, lamenting their distance from God, and exposedness to his wrath, others were employed in praying with them, encouraging them to believe on the Son of God, to venture upon his promise, give up their wicked, rebellious heart, just as it was, for God to take it away, and give them a heart of flesh; singing hymns, and giving thanks to God for the display of his power, without any regard to former rules of order. At this some were offended, and withdrew from the assembly, determined to oppose it as a work of the wicked one. But all their objections only tended to open the way for the true nature and spirit of the work to shine out, and encourage the subjects of it to set out with warmer zeal to promote it. Accordingly, a meeting was appointed a few evenings after, to which a crowd of awakened souls flocked, and spent the whole night in singing hymns, praying, and exhorting one another, etc. At this meeting one man was struck down, and lay for about an hour in the situation above mentioned. This put the matter beyond dispute, that the work was supernatural; and the outcry which it raised against sin, confirmed a number in the belief that it was from above.
From small beginnings it gradually spread. The news of these strange operations flew abroad, and attracted many to come and see, who were convinced, not only from seeing and hearing, but feeling; and carried home the testimony that it was the living work of God. This stirred up others, and brought out still greater multitudes. And these strange exercises still increasing, and having no respect to any stated hours of worship, it was found expedient to encamp on the ground, and continue the meeting day and night. To these encampments the people flocked, in hundreds and thousands; on foot, on horseback, and in wagons and other carriages.
At first appearance those meetings exhibited nothing to the spectator but a scene of confusion, that could scarce be put into human language. They were generally opened with a sermon, near the close of which there would be an unusual outcry; some bursting forth into loud ejaculations of prayer, or thanksgiving, for the truth; others breaking out in emphatical sentences of exhortation; others flying to their careless friends with tears of compassion, beseeching them to turn to the Lord; some struck with terror, and hastening through the crowd to make their escape, or pulling away their relations; others trembling, weeping, crying out for the Lord Jesus to have mercy upon them, fainting and swooning away, till every appearance of life was gone, and the extremities of the body assumed the coldness of a dead corpse; others surrounding them with melodious songs, or fervent prayers for their happy resurrection in the love of Christ; others collecting into circles around this variegated scene, contending with arguments for and against. And under such appearances the work would continue for several days and nights together.
I shall now mention particularly some of the first meetings of this kind, with a few concomitant circumstances, from which the work took a general spread, in the year 1801:
The first was held at Cabin Creek. It began on the 22d of May, and continued four days and three nights. The scene was awful beyond description; the falling, crying out, praying, exhorting, singing, shouting, etc., exhibited such new, and striking evidences of a supernatural power, that few, if any, could escape without being affected. Such as tried to run from it, were frequently struck on the way, or impelled, by some alarming signal to return; and so powerful was the evidence on all sides, that no place was found for the obstinate sinner to shelter himself, but under the protection of prejudiced and bigoted professors. No circumstance at this meeting, appeared more striking, than the great numbers that fell on the third night: and to prevent their being trodden under foot by the multitude, they were collected together, and laid out in order, on two squares of the meeting-house; which, like so many dead corpses, covered a considerable part of the floor. There were persons at this meeting from Caneridge, Concord, Eagle-Creek, and other neighboring congregations, who partook of the spirit of the work, which was a particular means of its spreading.
The next general camp-meeting, was held at Concord, in the county of Bourbon, about the last of May, or beginning of June. The number of people was supposed to be about 4,000, who attended on this occasion. There were present seven Presbyterian ministers; four of whom were opposed to the work, and spoke against it until the fourth day about noon; the evidence then became so powerful, that they all professed to be convinced, that it was the work of God; and one of them addressed the assembly with tears, acknowledging, that notwithstanding they had long been praying to the Lord, to pour out his spirit, yet when it came, they did not know it; but wickedly opposed the answer of their own prayers. On this occasion, no sex or color, class or description, were exempted from the pervading influence of the Spirit; even from the age of eight months, to sixty years, there were evident subjects of this marvelous operation.
The meeting continued five days, and four nights; and after the people generally scattered from the ground, numbers convened in different places, and continued the exercise much longer. And even where they were not collected together, these wonderful operations continued among every class of people, and in every situation; in their houses and fields, and in their daily employments, falling down and crying out, under conviction, or singing and shouting with unspeakable joy, were so common, that the whole country round about, seemed to be leavened with the spirit of the work.
The next camp-meeting was at Eagle Creek, Adams county, Ohio. It began June 5, and continued four days and three nights. The number of people there was not so great, as the country was new; but the work was equally powerful, according to the number. At this meeting, the principal leading characters in that place, fully embraced the spirit of the work, which laid a permanent foundation, for its continuance and spread, in that quarter.
The next general meeting was at Pleasant Point, Kentucky; which equaled, if not surpassed, any that had been before. Here, the Christian minister, (so called,) the common professor, the professed deist, and debauchee, were forced to take one common lot among the wounded, and confess, with equal candor, that hitherto they had been total strangers to the religion of Jesus. From this meeting, the work was spread extensively through Bourbon, Fayette, and other neighboring counties; and was carried by a number of its subjects, to the south side of Kentucky, where it found a permanent residence in the hearts of many.
The general meeting at Indian Creek, Harrison county, began the 24th of July, and continued about five days and nights. To this meeting, the subjects of the work were generally collected from all quarters; and abundantly strengthened each other in the promiscuous exercises of prayer, exhortation, singing, shouting and leaping for joy; but there was very little appearance of that power which strikes conviction to the heart of the sinner, until the third day, about two o’clock in the afternoon. A boy, from appearance about twelve years old, retired from the stand in time of preaching, under a very extraordinary impression; and having mounted a log, at some distance, and raising his voice, in a very affecting manner, he attracted the main body of the people, in a few minutes. With tears streaming from his eyes, he cried aloud to the wicked, warning them of their danger, denouncing their certain doom, if they persisted in their sins; expressing his love to their souls, and desire that they would turn to the Lord, and be saved, he was held up by two men, and spoke for about an hour, with that convincing eloquence that could be inspired only from above. When his strength seemed quite exhausted, and language failed to describe the feelings of his soul, he raised his hand, and dropping his handkerchief, wet with sweat from his little face, cried out: “Thus, O sinner! shall you drop into hell, unless you forsake your sins and turn to the Lord.” At that moment some fell, like those who are shot in battle, and the work spread in a manner which human language cannot describe.
The next general meeting was at Caneridge, Bourbon county, seven miles from Paris. It began the 6th of August, and continued, day and night about a week. The number of people collected on the ground, at once, was supposed to be about twenty thousand; but it was thought a much greater number were there in the course of the meeting. The encampment consisted of one hundred and thirty-five wheel-carriages, and tents proportioned to the people. This immense group included almost every character that could be named; but amidst them all, the subjects of this new and ,strange operation were distinguished, by their flaming zeal for the destruction of sin, and the deliverance of souls from its power. The various operations and exercises on that occasion were indescribable. The falling exercise was the most noted. James Crawford, one of the oldest ministers in the State, and one of the foremost in the work, informed me that he kept as accurate an account as he could of the number that fell on the occasion, and computed it to be about three thousand. The vast numbers who received light, on this occasion, and went forth in every direction to spread it, render it impossible to pursue any further the particular track of its progress. I shall only add that it was but a few weeks after this meeting, that the same work broke out in North Carolina, by the instrumentality of some who went from Caneridge to bear the testimony.
I shall now take notice of the opposition, which was raised against the work, in this first stage of it; and show some of the causes from which it sprung.
The people among whom the revival began, were generally Calvinists; and although they had been long praying in words, for the out-pouring of the Spirit; and believed that God had foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; yet, when it came to pass that their prayer was answered, and the Spirit began to flow like many waters, from a cloud of witnesses; and souls were convicted of sin, and cried for mercy, and found hope and comfort in the news of a Saviour; they rose up and quarreled with the work, because it did not come to pass that the subjects of it were willing to adopt their soul-stupefying creed. Those who had labored and travailed, to gain some solid hope of salvation; and had ventured their souls upon the covenant of promise; and had felt the living seal of eternal love; could not, dare not preach, that salvation was restricted to a certain definite number; nor insinuate, that any being which God had made, was, by the Creator, laid under the dire necessity of being damned forever. The love of a Saviour constrained them to testify, that one had died for all. This truth so essential to the first ray of hope in the human breast, was like a dead fly in the ointment of the apothecary, to the Calvinist: hence all the trembling, weeping and groaning under sin, rejoicing in the hope of deliverance, and turning from the former practice of it, sent forth a disagreeable savor. Yet these exercises would no doubt have passed for a good work of God, had they appeared as seals to their doctrine of election, imperfection, and final perseverance. But everything appeared new, and to claim no relation to the old bed of sand upon which they had been building: and rather than quit, the old foundation, they chose to reject, oppose and persecute the truth, although accompanied with all that evidence, which many of them were obliged to acknowledge was Divine.
Some who were inwardly opposed, at first exercised forbearance, and professed a measure of union with the work; in hopes that it would die away like former revivals, and the people return into their old order. But as they perceived that it increased, they laid aside the mask, and came out with a bold testimony against it, as a dangerous delusion.
In some of the churches, there were days set apart for fasting and prayer, to deprecate the Divine displeasure ; through which they supposed it was sent upon the land.
These public testimonies against the work, particularly by ministers, were a means of stirring up and encouraging those who were openly wicked to come forth to mock, to oppose and persecute; but even such, were often unable to withstand the power; and sometimes in the very act of persecuting and afflicting, were struck down like men in battle; and so alarming was the sight, that others, on foot or on horseback, would try to make their escape and flee away, like those who are closely pursued by an enemy in time of war, and be overtaken by the invisible power, under which they would be struck down and constrained to cry out in anguish, and confess their wickedness in persecuting the work of God, and warn others not to oppose. Thus, many who were openly profane, were taken in the very act of persecuting the work; and, like Saul of Tarsus, made the happy subjects and zealous promoters of it; while bigoted professors, who had hissed them on, remained like the heath in the desert, that seeth not when good cometh.
PART ONE: THE KENTUCKY REVIVAL
Of the state of religion in this western country, before the Kentucky revival made its appearance.
Of the first appearances of the extraordinary work, in different parts of Kentucky, in 1800 and 1801.
Of the distinguishing doctrines and manner of worship among the first subjects of the revival.
Concerning the separation of those called new-lights from the Presbyterian church.
PART TWO: A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE ENTRANCE AND PROGRESS OF WHAT THE WORLD CALL SHAKERISM, AMONG THE SUBJECTS OF THE LATE REVIVAL IN OHIO AND KENTUCKY.
PART THREE: a FEW REFLECTIONS