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In the year 1831, which was a year memorable for the effusions of the Spirit, in almost every part of our land, this people were not passed by. In the fore part of this year, it pleased God again to arrest the attention of many. For a number of months, the excitement was very great, and our meetings were frequent, crowded, and solemn. Some instances of conversion early occurred, which were more striking than any we had ever witnessed. The almighty and sovereign power of God was remarkably displayed, evincing the truth of his own declaration, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.” This revival was followed by an accession to the church of forty-four persons.
The whole number received into the church, during my ministry, is six hundred and seventy-four. None of these have presented themselves for examination, under two and three months, after they began to cherish a hope of having passed from death unto life, many have chosen to wait longer. Whenever we have been favored with a season of the outpourings of the Spirit, meetings have been appointed with particular reference to the young converts, at which they have been freely conversed with, respecting the ground and reason of their hope, and thěy have had opportunity to test their characters, by having the great truths of the gospel presented clearly to their view. They have been warned of the danger of being deceived. The confession of faith has also been read and explained to them, and their full assent to it has been obtained, before they offered themselves to
In all the revivals, of which I have given a brief account, it has been evident, that God and not man has selected the subjects of renewing grace; yet a large proportion have been taken from religious families. In some instances, heads of families, with their children and children's children, sit together at the table of the Lord.
I would here remark, that several prayer meetings have been sustained in this town wholly by the female members of the church, and I have had no doubts of their-utility. They have been the means of quickening those who have attended them. What rich blessings
prayers may have drawn down upon us, will be known in the great day which is approaching. But while I have rejoiced, in knowing such meetings were holden, I have never countenanced the praying of women, in promiscuous assemblies, whether great or small, from a full conviction, that the practice is contrary to the spirit of God's word. Neither have I seen it to be proper, even in seasons of the greatest excitement, to call upon impenitent sinners, either in our
public meetings, or in the inquiring room, to manifest their determination to seek religion, or to give any pledge that they would do it. This would be inconsistent with the views I entertain of the depravity of the heart. It would be a departure from the practice of Christ and his apostles. In their preaching, they inculcated repentance and submission to God, as the immediate duty of sinners.
Though all, who have been received into this church, have not ap. peared equally well, as being devoted and established Christians, yet, generally speaking, they have exhibited evidence, in their walk, of a moral change, and of being on the Lord's side. We have had frequent calls for the exercise of Christian discipline. Some of the members have been led publicly to confess their faults, from a consciousness of their having brought reproach on the precious cause of Christ, and some, refusing to be reclaimed, have been cut off from our communion. The number of the latter is small.
In conclusion, I will say, and I feel a pleasure in saying it, that the church have manifested a commendable zeal and liberality in supporting the various charitable institutions of the day, and in promoting the cause of temperance, which, for a few years past, has been regarded as a subject of the deepest interest to the cause of the Redeemer, and to our country.
My only apology for the length of this letter is, that I have taken a survey of the labors and events of forty years. From, Rev. Sir, your brother in Christ,
ALVAN HYDE, Rev. WILLIAM B. SPRĄGUE, D, D,
FROM THE REVEREND JOEL HAWES, D. D. .
Hartford, March 12th, 1832. MY DEAR BROTHER,
You request me to “furnish some account of the revivals that have fallen under my observation, or have occurred within the sphere of my labors.” My reply. must be brief, but will, I trust, embrace the principal points which are of any importance to your object.
The church of which I am pastor, like most of the early churches of New England, was planted in the spirit of revivals. This circumstance has had great influence on its subsequent history. Revivals of religion have always been held in high estimation by the church; and many have been the seasons-of spiritual refreshing, with which God bas visited this vine, since it was first planted by Hooker and Stone, and the faithful men who followed them into the wilderness. But passing over these, as not coming within the design of your request, it is more to the purpose to state, that when the present series of revivals commenced, in this part of our country, about forty years ago, this church shared richly in the blessing. Dr. Strong was then its pastor. He was a man of a clear and powerful mind,
and of decidedly evangelical sentiments. During the last twenty-five years of his ministry, he witnessed three special seasons of revival among his people; in the progress of which large additions were made to the church, the tone of piety was much elevated, and the state of religion generally in the city greatly improved. The last of these seasons was of nearly two years' continuance, at no one time very powerful, but marked with a constant, silent descent of divine inflụence; producing general seriousness among the people, with frequent conversions and frequent accessions to the communion of the church. The fruits were decidedly good. The church was large and flourishing, happily united in sentiment, and “walking,” in some good degree, " in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost.”
About the close of this revival in 1816, Dr. Strong died. I was called to take charge of the church in 1818. During the first three years of my ministry, though not entirely unąttended with tokens of divine favor, I witnessed nothing like a revival among my people. Early in 1821, a work of great power commenced, and continued, with some variations of interest, during the year. As the fruits of this visitation of mercy, nearly two hundred were added to the church. Some of these, as was to be expected among so large a number, have since given painful evidence that they were deceived in regard to the foundation of their hope. But of the great body of them, I am happy to say, they have continued to adorn their profession by an exemplary Christian life. Since that period, we have enjoyed thrée other seasons of special religious attention ; but neither of them was of so long continuance, or productive of so abundant fruits as was the first. During the time I have been connected with the church, about five hundred and fifty have been added to its communion, not less than four-fifths of whom are to be regarded as the fruits of revivals.
I know not that there has been any thing in the mode of conducting the revivals with which we have been favored, or in the effects that have resulted from them, so peculiar as to be worthy of notice. It was the object of my predecessor, as it bas been mine, to preach the doctrines of the gospel with great clearness and discrimination at such seasons ;-to guard against every thing like irregularity and noise and misguided feeling; and to encourage none in the indulgence of a hope, that did not appear to be based on an intelligent conviction of truth and sincere conversion of the heart to God. That the effects have, on the whole, been eminently happy, it is needless to affirm after what has now been stated. I have often said, in addresses from my pulpit, that the church is what it is very much from the influence of revivals of religion. And it is now my sober judgment, that if there is, among the people of my charge, any cordial belief and love of the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel; any serious practical regard to the duties of the Christian life; any self-denial and bearing of the cross, and following Christ according to his commands; any active benevolence and engagedness in doing good ; in 'short
, any pious efficient concern for the glory of God and the salvation of sinners, either at home or abroad, in Christian or in heathen lands,-all this is to be traced, in no small part, to the influence of revivals of religion ; and it is to be found, in an eminent degree, among those who have been added to the church as fruits of revivals.
The above remarks, I doubt not, are equally applicable to the other
churches, in this city, belonging to the Congregational denomination. A large proportion of their members date their Christian hope from some season of special divine influence, and the tone of religious feeling and action has risen in proportion to the frequency with which such seasons have been enjoyed. Nor is this remark to be confined to the churches of this city. It is applicable to the churches of our connection throughout the State. In 1829 a letter was addressed to the Congregational ministers of Connecticut, proposing, among other inquiries, the following:-"1. What was the whole number of professors of religion in your church at the commencement of the year 1820 ? 2. What number were added to your church by profession during the years 1820,-1-2-3-4? 3. Of those who are now members of your church, what proportion may be considered as the fruit of a revival, and what is their comparative standing for piety and active benevolent enterprise ?” I have not by me, at this time, the documents that were communicated in answer to these or other similar inquiries. But I am able to state, that the answers were in a high degree satisfactory. It appeared that a very large proportion of all, who are now members of the Congregational churches in this state, became such in consequence of revivals ; that the relative proportion of such, as revivals have been multiplying, has been continually increasing; that the most active and devoted Christians are among those who came into the church as fruits of revivals; that those churches in which revivals have been most frequent and powerful are the most numerous and flourishing; and that in all the churches thus visited with divine influence, there has been a great increase of Christian enterprise, and benevolent action. These results, stated by men who witnessed them in their own congregations, and many of whom, from long experience and observation, had the best means of judging, should silence the tongue of cavil and scepticism, and excite all Christians to pray, with warmer and holier affections, for the universal revival of God's work.
Though I have extended this letter beyond what I intended, I feel constrained to add a few particulars as the result of what little experience God has been pleased to give me in revivals of religion.
1. The theory of revivals is very simple. It is only the increase, and the extension to a number of sinners, at the same time, of that influence of the Holy Spirit, which is employed in the conversion of each individual sinner that is brought to repentance.
2. I see not how any man, who believes in the doctrine of divine influence, or has ever witnessed a revival of religion, can, either on