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may be allowed to declare any thing that appears to me probable in a thing of this nature, I hope that more than three hundred souls were savingly brought home to Christ in this town in the space of half a year, (how many more I don't guess,) and about the same number of males as females; which by what I have heard Mr. Stoddard say, was far from what has been usual in years past, for he observed that in his time many more women were converted than men. Those of our young people that are on other accounts most likely and considerable, are mostly, as I hope, truly pious, and leading persons in ways of religion. Those that were formerly loose young persons, are generally, to all appearance, become true lovers of God and Christ, and spiritual in their dispositions. And I hope that by far the greater part of persons in this town' above sixteen years of age, are such as have the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ; and so by what I heard, I suppose it is in some other places, particularly at Sunderland and South Hadley.
This has also appeared to be a very extraordinary dispensation, in that the Spirit of God has so much extended not only his awakening, but regenerating influences both to elderly persons, and also to those that are very young. It has been a thing heretofore rarely to be heard of, that any were converted past middle age; but now we have the same ground to think that many such have in this time been savingly changed, as that others have been so in more early years. I suppose there were upwards of fifty persons converted in this town above forty years of age; and more than twenty of them above fifty, and above ten of them above sixty, and two of them above seventy years of age.
It has heretofore been looked on as a strange thing, when any had seemed to be savingly wrought upon, and remarkably changed in their childhood; but now I suppose, near thirty were to appearance so wrought upon, between ten and fourteen years of age, and two between nine and ten, and one of about four years of age; and because I suppose this
last will be with most difficulty believed, I will hereafter give a particular account of it. The influences of God's Spirit have also been very remarkable on children in some other places, particularly at Sunderland and South Hadley, and the west part of Suffield. There are several families in this town that are all hopefully pious; yea, there are several numerous families, in which I think we have reason to hope that all the children are truly godly, and most of them lately become so: and there are very few houses in the whole town, into which salvation has not come in one or more instances. There are several negroes, that from what was seen in them then, and what is discernible in them since, appear to have been truly born again in the late remarkable season.
God has seemed to have gone out of his usual way, in the quickness of his work, and the swift progress his Spirit has made in his operations on the hearts of many. It is wonderful that persons should be so suddenly, and yet so greatly changed. Many have been taken from a loose and careless way of living, and seized with strong convictions of their guilt and misery, and in a very little time old things have passed away, and all things have become new with them.
God's work has also appeared very extraordinary in the degrees of the influences of his Spirit, both in the degree of awakening and conviction, and also in the degree of saving light, and love, and joy, that many have experienced. It has also been very extraordinary in the extent of it, and its being so swiftly propagated from town to town. In former times of the pouring out of the Spirit of God on this town, though in some of them it is very remarkable, yet it reached no further than this town; the neighboring towns all around continued unmoved.
The work of God's Spirit seemed to be at its greatest height in this town, in the former part of the spring, in March and April, at which time God's work in the conversion of souls was carried on among us in so wonderful a manner, that so far as I, by looking back, can judge from the particu
lar acquaintance I have had with souls in this work, it appears to me probable to have been at the rate at least of four persons in a day, or near thirty in a week, take one with another, for five or six weeks together. When God in so re; markable a manner took the work into his own hands, there was as much done in a day or two, as at ordinary times with all endeavors that men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year.
I am very sensible how apt many would be if they should see the account I have here given, presently to think with themselves that I am very fond of making a great many converts, and of magnifiying and aggrandizing the matter; and to think that, for want of judgment, I take every religious pang, and enthusiastic conceit, for saving conversion; and I don't much wonder if they should be apt to think so: and for this reason I have forborne to publish an account of this great work of God, though I have often been put upon it; but having now as I thought a special call to give an account of it, upon mature consideration I thought it might not be beside my duty to declare this amazing work, as it appeared to me, to be indeed divine, and to conceal no part of the glory of it, leaving it with God to take care of the credit of his own work, and running the venture of any censorious thoughts which might be entertained of me to my disadvantage: but that distant persons may be under as great advantage as may be, to judge for themselves of this matter, I would be a little more large and particular.
The manner of conversion various, yet bearing a great resemblance.
I THEREFORE proceed to give an account of the manner of persons being wrought upon; and here there is a vast variety,
perhaps as manifold as the subjects of the operation; but yet in many things there is a great analogy in all.
Persons are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally, and that it is of great importance to them that they speedily escape, and get into a better state. Those that before were secure and senseless, are made sensible how much they were in the way to ruin in their former courses. Some are more suddenly seized with convictions; it may be by the news of others' conversion, or something they hear in public or in private conference; their consciences are suddenly smitten as if their hearts were pierced through with a dart: Others have awakenings that come upon them more gradually; they begin at first to be something more thoughtful and considerate, so as to come to a conclusion in their minds, that it is their best and wisest way to delay no longer, but to improve the present opportunity; and have accordingly set themselves seriously to meditate on those things that have the most awakening tendency, on purpose to obtain convictions; and so their awakenings have increased, till a sense of their misery, by God's Spirit setting in therewith, has had fast hold of them. Others that, before this wonderful time, had been somewhat religious and concerned for their salvation, have been awakened in a new manner, and made sensible that their slack and dull way of seeking was never like to attain their purpose, and so have been roused up to a greater violence for the kingdom of heaven.
These awakenings, when they have first seized on persons, have had two effects: one was, that they have brought them immediately to quit their sinful practices, and the looser sort have been brought to forsake and dread their former vices and extravagancies. When once the Spirit of God began to be so wonderfully poured out in a general way through the town, people had soon done with their old quarrels, backbitings, and intermeddling with other men's matters; the tavern was soon left empty, and persons kept very
much at home; none went abroad, unless on necessary business, or on some religious account, and every day seemed in many respects like a sabbath day. And the other effect was, that it put them on earnest application to the means of salvation, reading, prayer, meditation, the ordinances of God's house, and private conference; their cry was, "What shall we do to be saved?" The place of resort was now altered; it was no longer the tavern, but the minister's house, that was thronged far more than ever the tavern had been wont to be.
There is a very great variety as to the degree of fear and trouble that persons are exercised with before they obtain auy comfortable evidences of pardon and acceptance with God: some are from the beginning, carried on with abundantly more encouragement and hope than others: some have had ten times less trouble of mind than others, in whom yet the issue seems to be the same. Some have had such a sense of the displeasure of God, and the great danger they were in of damnation, that they could not sleep at night; and many have said that when they have laid down, the thoughts of sleeping in such a condition have been frightful to them, and they have scarcely been free from terror while they have been asleep, and they have awaked with fear, heaviness, and distress still abiding on their spirits. It has been very common that the deep and fixed concern that has been on person's minds has had a painful influence on their bodies, and has given disturbance to animal nature.
The awful apprehensions persons have had of their misery, have for the most part been increasing, the nearer they have approached to deliverance; though they often pass through many changes and alterations in the frame and circumstances of their minds. Sometimes they think themselves wholly senseless, and fear that the Spirit of God has left them, and that they are given up to judicial hardness; yet they appear very deeply exercised about that fear, and are in great earnest to obtain convictions again.