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ren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed, preach Christ, even of envy and strife; and some also, of good will. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds; but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the Gospel. What then ? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached ; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”—(Phil. i : 14–19.)
We have now seen under what influences Mr. Dwight formed the habit of active Christian effort for which he was so distinguished. Qualified by nature and education to take the lead in plans of usefulness, he was thrown by the providence of God, early in his Christian life, into circumstances which called forth all his talents and energy in the service of his Master. When brought under the quickening influences of the Spirit, and surrounded by praying Christians and inquiring sinners ; when sought after by ministers and churches from abroad, to instruct and edify them in the knowledge of Christ ; when made the instrument of the conversion of souls in various parts of the State, and blessed with the joy of those who “turn many to righteousness," then it was, that his religious character assumed a tone above that of the generality of Christians, a tone of fervor, of decision, of faith, of prayerfulness, which it never lost. Through life, that character bore the im
press of those memorable scenes in which it was so strikingly developed. The views which Mr. Dwight entertained of the importance of personal efforts to promote revivals of religion, and of the duties and influence of the laity, were plainly derived from the same source. They were founded upon experience no less than on the word of God.
Passing over a space of five or six years, in which Mr. Dwight was forward in every “good word and work,” we come to a second great religous movement, in which he bore a conspicuous part.
In the years 1827–28, the State of Connecticut was again favored with extensive and powerful revivals of religion, through which a new channel was opened for the influence of private Christians. It was at this time, that the system known as the “ Conference of the Churches," was devised; a system which was eminently adapted to strengthen the bonds of Christian fellowship, and to kindle the flame of religious zeal. As the character of these conferences is but little understood by many now upon the stage, it is important to preserve some record of them, as constituting an era in the religious history of Connecticut. Fortunately, we have a somewhat minute account of this system from the pen of Mr. Dwight, who was not only familiar with its operations and results, but in a measure identified with it. The account is in the form of a letter to his brother, Mr. Jas. Dwight, and is as follows:
New Haven, Sept. 10, 1828. My Dear Brother—Many accounts of the conferences of the churches have been given in our religious newspapers, during the last two years, particularly as having been held in the States of Maine, * New Hampshire, and the eastern part of Massachusetts. These conferences have generally been formed by the ministers and delegates of ten or fifteen churches assembling togetlfer at a central place, and employing their time in narrations of the state of religion in each church, in religious services, and in discussing questions relative to religious doctrine, or the order and discipline of the churches; and closing with the celebration of the Lord's Supper, by all the communicants who were assembled. These meetings have undoubtedly been useful, and good has resulted from them; in some few instances, I believe, revivals of religion have followed them.
* “The churches of Maine, meet by their pastors and dele. gates, in stated conventions called conferences. Each conference has its own constitution, and is designed to include the churches of a county, or of some other convenient district. The rules of the conference expressly forbid the exercise of any authority or control over the churches. The meetings are held, not to receive appeals or complaints, or to inquire after error and disorders, but for united prayer, for the extension of Christian intercourse and acquaintance between the members of different churches, for mutual instruction, by the discussion of such questions as arise from time to time, for devising and imparting aid to feeble church. es, and for promoting in all such ways, the prosperity of reli. gion.”-(Congregational Order, p. 443.)
But a very different kind of meeting, although designated by the same name, has arisen, and is now continued every week in the northern section of this State, of which I will attempt to give you a particular statement. This meeting originated in Berkshire county, Massachusetts, directly north of Connecticut, last autumn, and seems to mark a new era in the Church of Christ. Revivals of religion commenced almost simultaneously in the towns of Lee and Lenox, and became very powerful. In Lee, I understand, that within the short space of eight or ten days, sixty
fully born into the kingdon of Christ. The brethren of these two churches felt a strong desire that the blessings poured out on them so bountifully, might be enjoyed by the neighboring churches; and to accomplish this object, they resolved, in compliance with the invitation of a church in the vicinity, (the North Church in Stockbridge,) that on a certain day they would send a deputation to visit them, and relate what great things the Lord had done. This notice was received kindly, and at the appointed time great numbers of Christians, and of those who had not made a profession of religion, came together to learn the wonderful works of the Lord. The deputies who met the people were laymen appointed by their respective churches, who told their story, accompanied by exhortations to repentance and faith, in a plain, but pungent and com
mon sense manner. The result was a revival of religion in the town visited. The next week deputies were sent by request to another town, and the same blessed result followed. As the revivals increased, the number of churches represented increased, and the interest taken in these meetings was greatly extended. All the towns in Berkshire county were in this manner visited by the conference. About twenty revivals of religion took place, and about two thousand persons were hopefully converted from sin to holiness.
This statement of the wonderful works of God by his Holy Spirit in the towns in Berkshire county, I have gathered from the verbal relations of an individual, who had known the facts, and from printed communications in our religious newspapers. The account I shall now give you of what has transpired in the northwestern towns in Connecticut, I derive from individuals who have been eye-witnesses of the operations of the Divine Spirit, and from personal examination. After all the towns in Berkshire county had been visited by the delegates of the churches, the brethren, feeling that God was ever ready to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, nothing wavering, raised their eyes and extended their vision across the dividing line, into Connecticut. They sent word to one of the churches on the northern border, that a visit should be made them on a particular day, I think on Wednesday of the following week. Many assem