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gregation began to inquire respecting the meetings, and expressed a wish to attend.”
Dr. Shepherd, of Lenox, Mass., writes of a revival in 1799, thus :
"Such were the melancholy prospects of this church while showers of divine grace were falling on other parts of Zion. But in the month of April, several members of the church manifested great anxiety about the state of religion among us, and expressed a desire that meetings might be appointed for religious conference and special prayer for the outpouring of the Spirit. It was done. From that time the work became more general.”
Judge Boudinot, writing to Judge Reeve of revival, (Revival Sk. p. 165) says:
“ The flame at once caught the hearts of the truly pious among us.
The next Sabbath morning a number agreed to form a society to meet at nine o'clock, and spend an hour previous to going to church in prayer to God for his blessing on the word. They styled themselves the Aaron and Hur Society, as supporting the hands of their minister. It was not long before the blessed work pervaded every part of the congregation."
One reference only to revivals of this period in the Eastern States. Rey. John B. Preston, Rupert, Vt., July, 1804, says:
“From year to year religion was declining, the church was decreasing in numbers and graces; and iniquity abounded. A little more than a year ago, the darkness reached its height, and appeared scarcely to admit the smallest beam of hope.
“In this hour of extremity, a small number of the few remaining professors agreed to meet once a week for social prayer. At the first the number was very small, sometimes not more than two or three ; but they appeared strong in faith and fervent in prayer, the Spirit helping their infirmities with groanings which could not be uttered. The meetings became increasingly solemn, so that, in September, the number of religious conferences, or, rather, prayer-meetings, in different parts of the society, were multiplied to four in a week. A day of fasting and prayer was observed about this time, and attended with a special degree of solemnity. In November, on a sudden, the Spirit of the Lord appeared to come down upon us like a mighty rushing wind. Almost the whole society seemed to be shaken at once. Our prayer-meetings were crowded, and solemn in an amazing degree.”
These, but specimen selections out of many, all unite in identifying the prayer-meeting as the uniform instrumentality in promoting revivals, and of testing the state of religion in any locality, or at any period in the history of the church.
Leaving the East as the field of our historical gleanings, we shall turn to the South and West. Here extensive range opens. Dr. Alexander, late of Princeton, Dr. Hunphrey, of Mass., with several others, have given many interesting details of extensive revivals in many parts of the South. Virginia, as a field of interest, about the year 1788, furnishes some striking instances of extensive awakenings originating in prayer-meetings.
Dr. Hill, of Winchester, gives the following narrative (Revival Sketches, pp. 182-184). Speaking of early religious impressions received from a sainted mother, he says:
"I carried these with me into Hampden-Sidney College, where there was then not one pious student.
I had no Bible, and dreaded getting one, lest it should be found in my possession. A pious lady near sent me Alliene's Alarm When I got it, I locked my room, and lay on my bed reading it, when a student knocked at the door. And although I gave him no answer, dreading to be found reading such a book, he continued to knock and beat the door until I had to open it. He came in, and seeing the book lying on the bed, seized it, and examining its title, said, 'Why, Hill, do you read such books ? I hesitated, but God enabled me to be decided, and to answer him boldly, but with much emotion, 'Yes, I do.' The young man said, with deep agitation, 'O, Hill, I envy you. You may obtain religion, but I never can. I came here a professor of religion, but through fear I dissembled, and have been carried along with the wicked until I fear there is no hope for me."
“He told me there were two others who, he believed, were serious. We agreed to take up the subject of religion in earnest, and seek it together. We invited the other two, and had a prayer-meeting in my room on the next Saturday afternoon. And 0, what a prayer-meeting! We tried to pray, but such prayer I never heard the like of. We knew not how to pray, but tried to do it. It was the first prayer-meeting I had ever heard of. We tried to sing, but it was in a most suppressed manner; for we feared the other students. But they found it out, and gathered round the door, and made such a noise that some of the officers had to come and disperse them. And so serious was the disturbance that the President, the late excellent Rev. Dr. John Blair Smith, had to investigate the matter at prayers that evening, in the prayer hall. When he demanded the reason of the riot, a ringleader in wickedness got up and stated that it was occasioned by three or four of the boys holding a prayer meeting, and they were determined to have no such doings there.
The good President heard the statement with deep emotion, and looking at the youths charged with the sin of
praying, with tears in his eyes, he said, Oh, is there such a state of things in this College? Then God has come near to us. My dear young friends, you shall be protected. You shall hold your next prayer-meeting in my parlor, and I will be one of your number. Sure enough, we had our next meeting in his parlor, and half the College were there. And there began a glorious revival of religion, which pervaded the College, and spread into the country around."
COLLEGE NARRATIVES AND LESSONS.
This College narrative illustrates several things. 1. That true religion, sanctifying our social nature, brings kindred spirits together for the enjoyment of Christian communion. Hill and the other three pious students—the only ones known to have been religiously disposed-were attracted together in a most wonderful way in God's mysterious Providence. They were drawn together by the same common attraction mutually inclining each to seek and delight in the society of religious character. They were drawn together by the same natural feeling of love to social prayer. Here was no force of education, no denominational drill to bias to any ritualistic forms—nothing but the workings of grace upon pious and simple minds, under the influence of love to Christ, love to prayer, love to the company of kindred spirits.
2. The power of social prayer to increase mutual affection, mutual growth in grace, and to prepare for future usefulness. This prayer-meeting produced lasting effects for good upon the minds of the four friends who formed this College prayer meeting.
3. This case illustrates the power of social prayer in the cause of revivals of religion. This was made instrumental in the conversion of about one-half the students of a college when it was supposed there was not one pious among them. Many of these afterwards became learned ministers of the gospel. And, besides, from this humble little prayer-meeting commenced many and extensive revivals throughout the country around.
Nor is this an isolated case--a single instance of very rare occurrence. It is only one of many, illustrating an important principle of true religion, and of the power of concerted social prayer, according to the promise of Christ, and the design of this ordinance of grace.
In the summer of 1823, the writer was a student at Jefferson College, Western Pennsylvania. That year witnessed in that College a revival of some interest. With its origin and progress and whole history he was personally and intimately acquainted. It may not be without interest in this connection. During the vacation preceding the summer session, a few of the pious students conferred together on the subject of the conversion of godless and immoral students, many of whom were possessed of fine talents, which, if sanctified by grace, and consecrated to the cause of Christ and religion, would be a great acquisition to that cause. They singled out a few of that class as the special objects of prayer, and agreed that they would organize themselves into a select and special prayer-meeting, for the purpose of pleading Christ's promise. (Matt. xviii. 19): “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” This society had just commenced its meetings, which were held in the private rooms of the students who formed it, when the summer session of the College opened. In the course of a few weeks evidences of awakening began to be manifested, particularly among that class made the special object of the concerted prayers of the recently formed prayer-meeting. And, at