Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

a system, the talents and zeal of Mr. Dwight found ample scope. He was not denied the privilege of laboring for the edification of his brethren, and the conversion of sinners, nor was he slow to improve it. He first became conspicuous for his zeal in the cause of Christ in 1820.

The city of New Haven was then favored with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which continued almost without interruption through that and the following year. It was one of the most powerful and protracted revivals of religion ever known in New England.

In its beginning it was marked by the silent but unquestionable agency of the Divine Spirit. Unusual attention had been given for several months to the religious instruction of the youth in the two Congregational churches, and a general tone of seriousness had seemed to pervade their minds; but it was not till about the middle of the year, that there were any tokens of a general awakening in the churches, or of anxiety among the impenitent. Then the Lord was pleased to manifest himself, as it were simultaneously, in the “still small voice,” the “whirlwind," and the “fire.”

A single individual in one of the churches seemed first to catch the heavenly inspiration. He called upon a clergyman connected with the Faculty of College, late one Saturday evening, and expressed to him his deep concern at the low state of religious feeling

in the community, and his anxiety for an outpouring of the Spirit. They went in company to his pastor, and after a season of conference and prayer, resolved, as soon as it could be done, to assemble a few of the brethren for consultation in reference to the spiritual condition of the churches. Such a meeting was held early in the week following, at which some three or four from each of the Congregational churches, with their pastors, were present. It was a season of peculiar tenderness and solemnity. This meeting was succeeded by others, which were attended by larger numbers, and marked by a deepening tone of religious feeling. Mr. Dwight, who had not hitherto taken a very active part in religious meetings, having manifestly received a fresh unction of the Spirit, early united with this little praying circle, and entered with his whole soul into the object which it bad in view. Such assemblies were ever aster his delight.

On the Sabbath after these conferences had been held, there was an unusual seriousness apparent in the congregations, and the word of God was “ with power.” Cases of conviction and conversion soon became frequent, and the souls of believers were quickened and refreshed. The revival steadily increased in power for several months, and extended, though with declining interest, far into the following year.

As this revival progressed for a considerable period with no other human agency than that of the pastors

and brethren of the churches, and as the manner of conducting it throughout was plainly approved of God, it may be interesting to insert here a more minute account of its origin and results, published by the pastors of the Congregational churches, in the Christian Spectator of Jan., 1821. This narrative will awaken in many of our readers the most delightful reminiscences; to others it will convey much interesting information ; while it will enable all to understand better the influences under which the religious activity of the subject of this memoir was developed, and the nature and utility cf the labors in which he engaged.

The year 1820 commenced without any indication of unusual interest on the subject of religion, except that several young men, members of the Congregational churches, by mutual agreement, requested their pastors to attend a Sabbath evening conference. The request was joyfully complied with, and hailed as the harbinger of greater good. This meeting was continued without interruption, in a place provided for the purpose, and capable of accommodating not less than 300 persons. The room was always crowded, and from the seriousness and solemnity which uniformly pervaded the assembly, a stranger, appearing suddenly among them, would have thought that a revival of religion had already begun. Yet not more than two or three instances of special religious impressions are known to have existed for some time. Meetings for prayer were, as they had previously been, frequent and numerous,-and characterized by fervency of spirit. The spring opened with these prospects,--although no living breath from the four winds seemed to breathe upon the multitude of the slain.

In April, several of the divinity students and charity scholars of Yale College manifested a deep interest to effect the institution of a “ biblical class.” They were advised to proceed, and not at all discouraged by the general indifference which apparently prevailed to subjects of the kind, succeeded in procuring a large number of subscribers to the proposed establishment. A class, whose written constitution has since been published, was formed, -consisting of youth of both the ordinary and the most respectable standing in the community. The usual exercises were the recitation of a portion of scripture-previously given out, and a lesson in “ Perkins' Catechism,”-enforced by explanations, addresses and prayers from the attending ministers. These occa. sions were always highly interesting to those who attended them. They excited not so much emotion as a spirit of inquiry after religious truth-accompanied, in some cases, with peculiar

solicitude and solemnity. The Scriptures were, in consequence, more frequently and diligently searched, and more highly valued as the only source of true wisdom. No method had ever been adopted by us for the instruction of the young, which produced so much attention to the word of God. These recitations became, from week to week, more frequented, and the interest manifested in the subjects presented, more deep and extended. This class, in consequence of the multiplicity of other religious meetings, has now been, for some time, discontinued,—but a large proportion of its members, we trust, are sitting as learners at the feet of Jesus, and training up for the enjoyment of his heavenly presence.

Early in July, the watchmen of the night, saw, or thought they saw, the dawn of day. There were certain appearances, or, there was a certain aspect in the signs of the times, which, although not sufficiently distinct and definite to be characterized, failed not to excite attention and even to inspire hope. Nothing of this was communicated, but an appointment was announced

publicly on the Sabbath, for those who were particularly desirous of being conversed with respecting their own salvation, to meet next day, for the purpose. This notice was speedily noised abroad, and excited unusual interest and inquiry, as to the occasion of its being given. The meeting was accordingly looked for with anxiety, accompanied with many prayers. At the time specified, seventeen assembled,-several of whom were professors of religion--recovered from their declension and awakened to new life and vigor in the cause. The others came as inquiring sinners,—several of whom were under real conviction of sin; and the rest in a state of solicitude on the subject. When the result of this meeting became known, the effect it produced on Christians and on many of the unconverted, was immediate, sensible and important. It communicated an impulse like that of an electric stroke, to no small portion of the community. About the same time, a few of the brethren met for free conver. sation and the mutual confession of their faults. That week was one of fears and hopes, which had not been felt for a considerable number of years. There was evidently preparation making for an approaching change in the existing state of things.

The next week thirty attended the anxious meeting. It was now evident that God had begun to revive his work; there were perceivable, though as it were in miniature, all the characteristics of a genuine revival of religion. The tidings spread and produced still greater effect. Seventy assembled at the meeting for inquiry the subsequent week; the week following one hundred and twenty ; the week after that one hundred and eighty; and for two or three of the succeeding weeks, from two hundred to two hundred and forty or fifty attended. These persons were not all under deep conviction, or that extreme distress of mind which usually precedes the submission of the sinner to God, but they were all more or less anxious as to what they must do to be saved,—with the exception of those who had begun to hope in in the mercy of God through Christ.

« AnteriorContinuar »