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But wheresoever God works with power for salvation upon the minds of men, there will be some discovery of a sense of sin, of the danger of the wrath of God, of the all-sufficiency of his Son Jesus, to relieve us under all our spiritual wants and distresses, and a hearty consent of soul to receive him in the various offices of grace, wherein he is set forth in the holy scriptures. And if our readers had opportunity (as we have had) to peruse several of the sermons which were preached during this glorious season, we should find that it is the common plain Protestant doctrine of the reformation, without stretching towards the Antinomians on the one side, or the Arminians on the other, that the Spirit of God has been pleased to honor with such illustrious success.
We are taught also by this happy event how easy it will be for our blessed Lord to make a full accomplishment of all his predictions concerning his kingdom, and to spread his dominion from sea to sea, through all the nations of the earth. We see how easy it is for him, with one turn of his hand, with one word of his mouth, to awaken whole countries of sleeping sinners, and kindle divine life in their souls. The heavenly influence shall run from door to door, filling the hearts and lips of every inhabitant with importunate inquiries, What shall we do to be saved? And how shall we escape the wrath to come? And the name of Christ the Savior shall diffuse itself like a rich and vital perfume to multitudes that were ready to sink and perish under the painful sense of their own guilt and danger. Salvation shall spread through all the tribes and ranks of mankind, as the lightning from heaven in a few moments would communicate a living flame through ten thousand lamps or torches placed in a proper situation and neighborhood. Thus "a nation shall be born in a day” when our Redeemer pleases, and his faithful and obedient subjects shall become as numerous as the spires af grass in a meadow newly and refreshed with the showers of heaven. But the pleasure of this agreeable hint bears the mind away from our theme.
Let us return to the present narrative. "Tis worthy of our observation, that this great and surprising work does not seem to have taken its rise from any sudden and distressing calamity or public terror that might universally impress the minds of a people: here was no storm, no earthquake, no inundation of water, no desolation by fire, no pestilence or any other sweeping distemper, nor any cruel invasion by their Indian neighbors, that might force the inhabitants into a serious thoughtfulness and a religious temper by the fears of approaching death and judgment. Such scenes as these have sometimes been made happily effectual to awaken sinners in Zion, and the formal professor and the hypocrite, ve inquired, terrified with
the thoughts of divine wrath breaking in upon them, "Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" But in the present case the immediate hand of God in the work of his Spirit appears much more evident, because there is no such awful and threatening Providence attending it.
It is worthy also of our further notice, that when many profane sinners, and formal professors of religion, have been affrighted out of their present carelessness and stupidity by some astonishing terrors approaching them, those religious appearances have not been so durable, nor the real change of heart so thoroughly effected. Many of these sort of sudden converts have dropt their religious concerns in a great measure when their fears of the threatening calamity are vanished. But it is a blessed confirmation of the truth of this present work of grace, that the persons who were divinely wrought upon in this season continue still to profess serious religion, and to practice it, without returning to their former follies.
It may not be amiss in this place to take notice, that a very surprising and threatening Providence has this last year attended the people of Northampton, among whom this work of divine grace was so remarkable: which Providence at first might have been construed by the unthinking world to be a signal token of God's displeasure against that town, or a judgment from heaven upon the people; but soon afterwards, like Paul's shaking the viper off from his hand, it discovered the astonishing care and goodness of God expressed towards a place where such a multitude of his young converts were assembled: nor can we give a better account of it than in the language of this very gentleman, the Rev. Mr. Edwards, minister of that town, who wrote the following letter, which was published in New England.
Northampton, March 19th, 1737. "We in this town were the last Lord's day the spectators, and many of us the subjects, of one of the most amazing instances of divine preservation, that perhaps was ever known in the land: our meeting-house is old and decayed, so that we have been for some time building a new one, which is yet unfinished: it has been observed of late, that the house that we have hitherto met in has gradually spread at bottom, the cells and walls giving way, especially in the foreside, by reason of the weight of timber at top pressing on the braces that are inserted into the posts and beams of the house. It has so done more than ordinarily this spring; which seems to have been occasioned by the heaving of the ground by the extreme frosts of the winter past, and it is now settling again on that side
which is next the sun, by the thaws of the spring: by this means the underpinning has been considerably disordered, which people were not sensible of, till the ends of the joists which bore up the front gallery, by the walls giving way, were drawn off from the girts on which they rested; so that in the midst of the public exercise in the forenoon, soon after the beginning of the sermon, the whole gallery full of people, with all the seats and timber, suddenly and without any warning, sunk, and fell down, with most amazing noise, upon the heads of those that sat under, to the astonishment of the congregation, the house being filled with dolorous shrieking and crying; and nothing else was expected than to find many people dead, and dashed to pieces.
"The gallery in falling seemed to break and sink first in the middle; so that those who were upon it were thrown together in heaps before the front door; but the whole was so sudden, that many of them that fell knew nothing in the time of it what it was that had befallen them; and others in the congregation knew not what it was that had happened with so great a noise; many thought it had been an amazing clap of thunder: the falling gallery seemed to be broken all to pieces before it got down; so that some that fell with it, as well as those that were under, were buried in the ruins, and were found pressed under heavy loads of timber, and could do nothing to help themselves.
"But so mysteriously and wonderfully did it come to pass, that every life was preserved; and though many were greatly bruised, and their flesh torn, yet there is not, as I can understand, one bone broken, or so much as put out of joint, among them all: some that were thought to be almost dead at first, are greatly recovered; and but one young woman seems yet to remain in dangerous circumstances, by an inward hurt in her breast; but of late there appears more hope of her recovery.
"There is none can give any account, or conceive by what means it should come to pass, that people's lives and limbs should be thus preserved, when so great a multitude were thus imminently exposed : it looked as though it was impossible it should be otherwise, than that great numbers should instantly be crushed to death or dashed in pieces it seems unreasonable to ascribe it to any thing else, but the care of Providence in disposing the motions of every stick of timber, and the precise place of safety where every one should sit and fall, when none were in any capacity to take care for their own preservation. The preservation seems to be most wonderful, with respect to the women and children that were in the middle alley, under the
gallery, where it came down first, and with greatest force, and where was nothing to break the force of the falling weight.
"Such an event may be a sufficient argument of a Divine Providence over the lives of men. We thought ourselves called to set apart a day to be spent in the solemn worship of God, to humble ourselves under such a rebuke of God upon us in the time of public service in God's house, by so dangerous and surprising an accident; and to praise his name for so wonderful and as it were miraculous a preservation; and the last Wednnsday was kept by us to that end : and a mercy in which the hand of God is so remarkably evident, may be well worthy to affect the hearts of all that hear it.”
Thus far the letter.
But it is time to conclude our preface. If there should be any thing found in this narrative of the surprising conversion of such number of souls, where the sentiments or the style of the relator, or his inferences from matters of fact, do not appear so agreeable to every reader, we hope it will have no unhappy influence to discourage the belief of this glorious event. We must allow every writer his own way; and must allow him to choose what particular instances he would select, from the numerous cases which came before him. And though he might have chosen others, perhaps, of more significancy in the eye of the world, than the Woman and the Child, whose experiences he relates at large; yet it is evident he chose that of the Woman, because she was dead, and she is thereby incapable of knowing any honors or reproaches on this account. And as for the Child, those who were present, and saw and heard such a remarkable and lasting change, on one so very young, must necessarily receive a stronger impression from it, and a more agreeable surprise than the mere narration of it can communicate to others at a distance. Children's language always loses its striking beauties at second hand.
Upon the whole, we declare our opinion, that this account of such an extraordinary and illustrious appearance of divine grace in the conversion of sinners, is very like by the blessing of God to have a happy effect towards the honor and enlargement of the kingdom of Christ.
May the worthy writer of this epistle, and all those his Rev. brethren in the ministry, who have been honored in this excellent and important service, go on to see their labors crowned with daily and persevering success! May the numerous subjects of this surprising work hold fast what they have received, and increase in every Christian grace and blessing! May a plentiful effusion of the blessed
Spirit, also, descend on the British Isles, and all their American plantations, to renew the face of religion there! And we intreat our readers in both Englands, to join with us in our hearty addresses to the throne of grace, that this wonderful discovery of the hand of God, in saving sinners, may encourage our faith and hope of the accomplishment of all his words of grace, which are written in the Old Testament and in the New, concerning the large extent of this salvation in the latter days of the world. Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly, and spread thy dominion through all the ends of the earth. Amen. ISAAC WATTS. JOHN GUYSE.
London, October 12, 1737.