THE COLLEGE REVIVAL.
From The Cornerstone, a religious inspirational book by Jacob Abbott, a teacher at Amherst, pp 313-338.
As probably but few of my readers have had opportunity to form any acquaintance with the interior of a NewEngland College, or with the nature of college life, I must commence my narrative with a description of the place in which the scene is laid.
The appearance which a NewEngland College exhibits to a traveller, is that of a group of large brick buildings, generally a hundred feet long, and four stories high, standing usually upon an eminence, or upon a level plain, on the borders of some quiet country village. The buildings are connected with one another, and approached from various directions, by gravelled walks, and perhaps, ornamented with shrubbery; and one among them, distinguished usually by a form somewhat different from the rest, and surmounted by a sort of cupola, indicates that the whole constitute some public establishment.
A fresh admission of students takes place in the autumn of each year, consisting ordinarily of young men, from twenty years of age, down to thirteen. These students are united into one class, and commence one course of study, which extends through a period of four years. During these four years, there will of course be three more admissions, making four classes? and only four in the institution at the same time.
The large buildings I have alluded to, are divided into rooms, as nearly alike as possible;-eight usually upon a floor, and consequently, thirtytwo in all. Each one of these rooms is assigned to two of the members of the class admitted, and it is to be for one year their home The first day of the collegiate year, those portions of the building assigned to the Freshmen, as the last admitted are called, exhibit a scene of very peculiar and striking character. The bustle of preparation,-moving in, and putting up furniture,-the interest excited by the novelty of the mode of life they are now to lead, and the lingering recollections of home, left perhaps for ever,- resolutions of diligence and fidelity in the course of study before them,-and the various other feelings excited by the new and strange faces and objects around, all conspire to give to the Freshman's first day at college, a marked and striking character, and to fill it with new and strong emotions which he never can forget.
In every class there is a large number of youthful members, whose parents' situation in life is such, that they have been the objects of constant attention from infancy, and have accordingly been early fitted for college, and sent to the institution before their minds are sufficiently matured, and their moral principles firmly enough established, to resist the new and strong temptations to which they are henceforth to be exposed. Others are older and more mature. Many of these have prepared themselves for college by their own exertions, and have entered under the influence of strong desires to avail themselves of its privileges. In these two classes may be found almost every variety of human character. Every virtue and every vice here exhibit themselves. There is infidelity, cold, calculating, malicious infidelity, establishing her wretched reign in the bosoms of young men just opening into manhood. There is vice, secret and open, of every species, and in every degree. There is intemperance and profaneness, and hatred of religion, and an open and reckless opposition to the cause of God and holiness, scarcely ever surpassed by the animosity of any veteran foe.
The lines between the enemies and the friends of God are thus drawn in college more distinctly than in almost any other community:-and the young and inexperienced in every new class, are marked out by the idle dissipated, and abandoned, for their prey. The victim first listens to language and sentiments which undermine his regard for the principles of duty, and weaken those cords which Christian parents had bound around his heart, when he left his early home, and he soon falls more and more under the influence of these ungodly companions. Half allured by their persuasions and half compelled by their rude intrusions into his room, he spends the hours which college laws allot to study, in idle reading, or in games of chance or skill. He first listens to ridicule of religious persons, and then joins in it, and next begins to ridicule and despise religion itself. The officers of college do all in their power to arrest his progress. They see the first indications of his beginning to go astray, in the neglect of his studies, and in the irregularity of his attendance upon college duties; and again and again appoint one of their number to warn him, and expostulate with him, and kindly to put him on his guard. How many such efforts have I made! As I write these paragraphs, I can recall these interviews to mind with almost the distinctness of actual vision. A short time after sending the messenger for the one who was to receive the friendly admonition, I would hear his timid rap at the door. He would enter with a look of mingled guilt, fear, and shame, or sometimes with a step and countenance of assumed assurance. How many times in such circumstances, have I tried in vain to gain access to the heart! 1 have endeavored to draw him into conversation about his father and mother, and the scenes of home and childhood, that I might insensibly awaken recollections of the past, and bring back long lost feelings, and reunite broken ties. I have tried to lead him to anticipate the future, and see the dangers of idleness, dissipation, and vice. I have endeavored to draw forth and encourage the feeble resolution, and by sympathy, and kindness, and promises of aid, to bring back the wanderer to duty and to happiness. He would listen in cold and respectful silence, and go away unchanged; perhaps, to make a few feeble resolutions, soon to be forgotten; but more probably to turn into ridicule the moral lecture, as he would call it, which he had received; and to go on, with a little more caution and secrecy perhaps, but with increased hardihood and rapidity, in the course of sin.
In many cases, college censures and punishments frequently follow, until expulsion closes the story. In other cases, the individuals conceal their guilt, while they become more and more deeply involved in it, and more and more hardened. They associate with one another, and at length, in some cases, form a little community where ungodliness, infidelity, and open sin, have confirmed an unquestioned sway.
I must say a word or two now in regard to the ordinary routine of daily life at college, in order that the description which is to follow, may be better understood. Very early in the morning, the observer may see lights at a few of the windows of the buildings inhabited by the students. They mark the rooms occupied by the more industrious or more resolute, who rise and devote an hour or two to their books by lamplight on the winter mornings. About day, the bell awakens the multitude of sleepers in all the rooms, and in a short time they are to be seen issuing from the various doors, with sleepy looks, and with books under their arms, and some adjusting their hurried dress. The first who come down, go slowly, others with quicker and quicker step, as the tolling of the bell proceeds:-and the last few stragglers run with all speed, to secure their places before the bell ceases to toll. When the last stroke is sounded, it usually finds one or two too late, who stop short suddenly, and return slowly to their rooms
The President or one of the Professors reads a portion of scripture by the mingled light of the pulpit lamps, and the beams which come in from the reddening eastern sky. He then offers the morning prayer. The hundreds of young men before him exhibit the appearance of respectful attention, except that four or five, appointed for the purpose, in different parts of the chapel, are looking carefully around to observe and note upon their bills, the absentees. A few also, not fearing God or regarding their duty, conceal under their cloaks, or behind a pillar or a partition between the pews, the book which contains their morning lesson:-and attempt to make up as well as the faint but increasing light will enable them, for the time wasted in idleness or dissipation on the evening before. When prayers are over the several cusses repair immediately to the rooms assigned respectively to them, and recite the first lesson of the day.
During the short period which elapses between the recitation and the breakfast bell, college is a busy scene. Fires are kindling in every room. Groups are standing in every corner, or hovering around the newlymade fires:-parties are running up and down the stairs two steps at a time, with the ardor and activity of youth:- and now and then, a fresh crowd is seen issuing from the door of same one of the buildings, where a class has finished its recitation, and comes forth to disperse to their rooms;-followed by their instructer, who walks away to his house in the village. The breakfast bell brings out the whole throng again, and gathers them around the long tables in the Common's Hall, or else scatters them among the private families in the neighborhood.
An hour after breakfast the bell rings, to mark the commencement of studyhours:-when the students are required by College laws to repair to their respective rooms, which answer the threefold purpose of parlor, bedroom, and Study, to prepare for their recitation at eleven o'clock. They, however, who choose to evade this law, can do it Without much danger of detection. The great majority comply, but some go into their neighbors' rooms to receive assistance in their studies, some lay aside the dull text book, and read a tale, or play a game: and others, farther gone in the road of idleness and dissipation, steal secretly away from college, and ramble in the woods, or skate upon the ice, or find some rendezvous of dissipation in the village, evading their tasks like truant boys They, of course, are marked as absent; but pretended sickness will answer for an excuse, they think, once or twice, and they go on, blind to the certainty of the disgrace and ruin, which must soon come.
The afternoon is spent like the forenoon, and the last recitation of the winter's day, is just before the sun goes down. An hour is allotted to it, and then follow evening prayers, at the close of which the students issue from the chapel, and walk in long procession to supper.
It is in the evening, however, that the most striking peculiarities of college life, exhibit themselves. Sometimes literary societies assemble, organized and managed by the Students, where they hold debates, or entertain each other with declamations, essays, and dialogues. Sometimes a religious meeting is held, attended by a Portion of the professors of religion, and conducted by all officer; at other times the students remain in their rooms, some quietly seated by their fire, one on each sire, reading, writing, or preparing the lessons for the following morning:-others assemble for mirth and dissipation or prowl around the entries and halls, to perpetrate petty mischief, breaking the windows of some hapless Freshman,-or burning nauseous drugs at the keyhole of his door,-or rolling logs down stairs, and running instantly into a neighboring room so as to escape detection;-or watching at an upper window to pour water unobserved upon some fellow student passing in or out below;-or plugging up the keyhole of the chapel door, to prevent access to it for morning prayers; -or gaining access to the bell by false keys, and cutting the rope, or filling it with water to freeze during the night:-or some other of the thousand modes of doing mischief to which the idle and flexible Sophomore is instigated by some calculating, and malicious mischief maker in a higher class. After becoming tired of this, they gather together in the room of some dissolute companion, and there prepare themselves a supper, with food they have plundered from a neighboring poultry yard, and utensils obtained in some similar mode. Ardent spirit sometimes makes them noisy;-and a college officer, at half past nine, breaks in upon them, and exposure and punishment are the consequences;-disgrace, suspension, and expulsion for themselves, and bleeding hearts for parents and sisters at home. At other times, with controlled and restrained indulgence, they sit till midnight, sowing the bitter seeds of vice; undermining health, destroying all moral sensibility, and making almost sure the ruin of their souls.
In the meantime, the officers of the institution, with a fidelity and an anxious interest, which is seldom equalled by any solicitude except that which is felt by parents for their children, struggle to resist the tide. They watch, they observe, they have constant records kept, and in fact, they go as far as it is possible to go, in obtaining information about the character and history of each individual, without adopting a system of espionage, which the nature of the institution, and the age of a majority of the pupils, renders neither practicable nor proper. They warn every individual who seems to be in danger, with greater and greater distinctness, according to the progress he seems to be making, and as soon as evidence will justify it, they remove every one whose stay seems dangerous to the rest; but still the evil will increase, in spite of all the ordinary human means, which can be brought against it.
Such is college, and such substantially was the condition of Amherst College, in April, 1827, at the time of my narrative. Faithful religious instruction was given on the Sabbath, at the chapel, where the students were required to attend, and we were accustomed to hold also, a meeting for familiar religious instruction one evening during the week. At this meeting, however, scarcely any were present;-a small portion of the actual members of the church were accustomed to attend, but never any one else. If a single individual, not professedly a Christian, had come in, for a single evening, it would have been noticed as a rare occurrence, and talked of by the officers as something unexpected and extraordinary. Our hearts ached, and our spirits sunk within us, to witness the coldness and hardness of heart towards God and duty, which reigned among so large a number of our pupils. Every private effort which we could make with individuals, entirely failed, and we could see too, that those who professed to love the Savior, were rapidly losing their interest in his cause, and becoming engrossed in literary ambition and college rivalry, dishonoring God's cause, and gradually removing every obstacle to the universal prevalence of vice and sin.
There was then in college, a young man, who had been among the foremost in his opposition to religion. His talents and his address gave him a great deal of personal influence, which was of such a character as to be a constant source of solicitude to the government. He was repeatedly involved in difficulties with the officers on account of his transgressions of the College laws, and so well known were his feelings on the subject, that when at a government meeting, during the progress of the revival, we were told with astonishment, by the President, that this young man was suffering great distress on account of his sins, it was supposed by one of the officers, that it must be all a presence, feigned to deceive the President, and make sport for his companions. The President did not reply to the suggestion, but went to visit him; and when I next saw him, he said, "There's no presence there. If the Spirit of God is not at work upon his heart, I know nothing about the agency of the Spirit."
That young man is now the pastor of a church, active and useful, and when commencing this narrative, I wrote to him to send me such reminiscences of this scene as might remain upon his mind. He writes me thus.
Very dear Sir,
"My obligations to you as a friend and instructer make me anxious to fulfil my promise of drawing up a sketch of the revival at Amherst College, during the last two or three weeks of April, 1827. I have been delayed partly by sickness, and the unusual pressure of duties here, partly by the difficulty of settling in my mind a clear idea of what you wish, and partly by the impossibility of reviving the memory of facts and impressions in the exact order of their occurrence. If this communication should reach you too late to answer your purpose, it will at least prove my wish to yield you such assistance as I may.
"For a considerable time previous, the subject of religion in college had fallen into great neglect;-even the outward forms were very faintly observed. During nearly two years in which I had been connected with the college, I had never heard the subject mentioned among the students, except as matter of reproach and ridicule. At least this is true, so far as my intercourse with the students was concerned. Those who professed piety, either through timidity or unconcern, seemed to let the subject rest, and were chiefly devoted to indolence, or literary ambition. But while religion was shamed and fugitive, irreligion was bold and free. A majority of the students were avowedly destitute of piety; and of these a large portion were open or secret infidels; and many went to every length they could reach, of levity, profaneness, and dissipation. So many animosities and irregularities prevailed, as to endanger the general reputation of the seminary.
"Some of the students who were differently situated from myself, may perhaps have noticed preparatory movements on the common mass of mind, indicating an undercurrent of feeling, gradually gaining strength, and preparing the community for the results which were to follow. But I saw none;-and none such could have been generally apparent. Upon myself, the change opened with as much suddenness as power."
I here interrupt, for a moment, the narrative of my friend, to mention all the indications which I, myself, or my brother officers perceived. The President, with faithfulness, and plainness, urged upon the professors of religion, their duties and their neglect, and held up to them the evidences that they were, as a body, wandering from duty, and becoming unfaithful to their trust. But he had done this, often, before. In fact, he was in the habit of doing it. The difference seemed to be, that though heretofore they would listen with stupid coldness, and go away unchanged,-now they suddenly seemed inspired with a disposition to hear, and with a heart to feel. They began to come in greater numbers to the meetings appointed for them, and to listen with silent solemnity to warnings and expostulations which had been always unheeded before. All the efforts which were made were aimed at leading Christ's followers to penitence, and at bringing them back to duty. And though it had been impossible before, it was perfectly easy now; and while this very work was going on,-actually before the time had come for thinking of the others,-they began spontaneously, or at least, to all appearance without human exertion, to tremble for themselves. The officers and the religious students were astonished day after day to find numbers whom no faithfulness of expostulation had hitherto been able to affect at all, now coming, of their own accord, and asking for help and direction; trembling with anxiety and remorse on account of their past sins, and with fear of God's displeasure. But to return to my correspondent.
"The first circumstance which attracted my attention was a sermon from the President, on the Sabbath. I do not know what the text and subject were, for according to a wicked habit, I had been asleep till near its close. I seemed to be awakened by a silence, which pervaded the room: a deep solemn attention which seems to spread over an assembly when all are completely engrossed in some absorbing theme. I looked around, astonished, and the feeling of profound attention seemed to settle on myself. I looked towards the President, and saw him calm and collected, but evidently most deeply interested in what he was saying,-his whole soul engaged, and his countenance beaming with an expression of eager earnestness, which lighted up all his features, and gave to his language unusual energy and power.
"What could this mean? I had never seen a speaker and his audience so engaged. He was making a most earnest appeal to prevent those who were destitute of religion themselves, from doing any thing to obstruct the progress of the revival which he hoped was approaching-or of doing any thing to prevent the salvation of others, even if they did not desire salvation for themselves. He besought them, by all the interests of immortality, and for the sake of themselves, and of their companions, to desist from hostilities against the work of God.
"The discourse closed, and we dispersed. But many of us carried away the arrow in our hearts. The gayest and the hardiest trembled at the manifest approach of a sublime and unwonted influence. Among some who might have been expected to raise the front of opposition, I resolved not to do it, but to let it take its course:- keeping away from its influence, without doing any thing to oppose it; but neutrality was impossible."
I must interrupt the narrative of the letter again, to explain a circumstance which I perceive is alluded to in the next paragraph. About a year before this time, there had been similar indications of a returning sense of duty to God, among the students. The officers were much encouraged, but our hopes were all dispelled by the success of a manoevre which is so characteristic of college life and manners that I will describe it. The plan adopted by the enemies of religion was to come up boldly, and face the awakening interest, and, as it were, brave it down. The first indication of this design which I perceived was this. I had been invited by the serious portion of the students to address them one Saturday evening in a recitation room. I took my seat in the great armedchair which had been placed for me in a corner with a bible and hymnbook on the oval leaf attached to it, whose form and fashion any collegian will recollect, when the door opened, and in walked, one after another, six or eight of the most bold, hardened, notorious enemies of religion which the institution contained. They walked in, took their seats, in a row directly before me, and looked me in the face,-saying by their countenances most distinctly, 'Sir, we defy you, and all your religion:'-and yet, it was with that peculiar address, with which a wild college student can execute his plans, so that there was not the slightest breach of any rule of external propriety, or any tangible evidence of intentional disrespect. Not one of them had, perhaps, ever been voluntarily in a religious meeting at college before, and every one in the room knew it. I can see the leader now, as distinctly as if he was before me:-his tall form, manly countenance, and energetic look. He maintained his ground as the enemy of God and religion, for a year after this time:-but then, that is at the time described in my letter, his eyes were opened: he prayed with agony of spirit, hour after hour, in his open room, for forgiveness; and now he is in a foreign land preaching to pagans the Savior, whom I vainly endeavored on this occasion to bring to him. I do not know whether this description will ever reach him; if it does, he will remember the meeting in the Freshman recitation room,- and be as bold for God now, as he was then against him. He has been so already.
After a few similar efforts to this, the irreligious party, for it is almost a trained and organized party, determined to carry their system farther still. They accordingly formed a plan for a religious meeting from which every friend of religion should be excluded. They circulated the information among themselves, taking special pains to secure the attendance of every one, and then, one evening, after prayers, as the officers were coming out of the chapel, one of them was astonished at being accosted by two wellknown enemies of every thing like piety, who appeared, as they said, from some of their friends, as a committee to invite him to attend a religious meeting that evening. The officer promised to come; and when, after tea, he repaired to the room, he found it crowded with persons whose faces he had never seen at a voluntary meeting before. There they sat, the idle, the dissipated, the profane, and the hater and despiser of God; there were also numerous others, moral and welldisposed, but regardless of religious duty; but not a single one whom he had been accustomed to see in such a room, for such a purpose, was, on this occasion, allowed to be there.
The officer addressed them faithfully and plainly, urging their duties and their sins upon their consideration, while they sat still, in respectful but heartless silence; looking intently upon him, with an expression of countenance which seemed to say, "Here we all are, move us if you can." And they conquered. They went home unmoved; and all the indications of increasing seriousness, soon disappeared. They continued to assemble for several weeks, inviting the officers in succession to be present, and at last, the few who remained conducted the meetings themselves, with burlesqued sermons, and mock prayers, and closed the series at last as I have been informed, by bringing in an ignorant black man, whose presence and assistance completed the victory they had gained over influences from above. All this took place the year before, and it is to these circumstances that the next paragraph in the letter alludes.
"It was probably with an intention somewhat similar to that which prompted the meetings which the irreligious students held by themselves the year before, that the following plan was formed. A student who was temporarily my roommate importuned me to invite one of the tutors to conduct a religious meeting at my room. I told him I would, if he would obtain the promise of certain individuals, ten in number, whom I named, that they would attend. I selected such individuals as I was confident would not consent to be present. In a short time, he surprised me with the information, that he had seen them all, and that they had consented to the proposal. Of course, I was obliged, though reluctantly, to request the tutor to hold such a meeting. Most of us repaired to the place, at the appointed time, with feelings of levity, or of bitter hostility to religion. My roommate had waggishly placed a Hebrew Bible on the stand. Whether this circumstance, or the character of his auditory, suggested the subject which the tutor chose, I know not:-but after opening the meeting with prayer, he entered into a defense of the divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, from external, and internal evidence, which he maintained in the most convincing manner; and then, on the strength of this authority, he urged its promises and denunciations upon us as sinners. The effect was very powerful.. Several retired deeply impressed, and all were made more serious, and better prepared to be influenced by the truth. So that this affair 'fell out, rather to the furtherance of the Gospel.'
"My own interest in the subject rapidly increased, and one day, while secluded in my apartment, and overwhelmed with conflicting emotions of pride and despair, I was surprised by a visit from the President. He informed me that he had come with the hope of dissuading me from doing any thing to hinder the progress of the revival. After intimating that he need feel no apprehensions on that point, I confessed to him with difficulty the agitation of my thoughts. Apparently much affected, he only said, 'Ah, I was afraid you would never have such feelings.' After remaining silent a few minutes, he engaged in prayer, and retired, advising me to attend a certain meeting of my classmates for prayer. I felt very much like the Syrian general when offended by the supposed neglect of the prophet; for I thought he would have seized the opportunity to do some great thing for the relief of my laboring mind.
"With feelings still more excited I repaired to one of my classmates, who had the reputation of being one of the most consistent Christians among us. I asked him, with tears, to tell me what I should do to be saved. He too betrayed his wonder, and only resorted to prayer with me, in which he could do little, but say, 'Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on us.' Long, afterwards, I learned that when he left me, to join a circle assembled that evening for prayer, he told them that my inquiry for the way of salvation, made him feel as if he needed to learn it himself."
The writer of the narrative which I have been transcribing, had then a mother: she has since gone home. She was a widow, and he her only child. She was a Christian too, and her heart was oppressed, and her life saddened, by the character and conduct of her son. He wrote to her at this time, and among her papers after her death, he found his letters, and has sent them to me. I wish I could put them, just as they are, into this description;-tattered and torn with frequent perusal.. Those widowed and lonely mothers among my readers, whose lives are imbittered by the impiety and wild irregularity of an unconverted son, will understand the feelings which led her, literally to wear these letters out, with repeated readings. As they read them, let them look to God, and take courage, and remember that it is never too late to pray, and never too late for God to answer prayer.
In the first letter, he informs his mother of the indications of a general awakening to an interest in religion among the students, and expresses a considerable personal interest in it. "For the sake of the institution, of religion, and for my own sake, I feel most anxious that the work may go on with power. With what joy would I inform you, that I felt the strivings of the Holy Spirit in my breast. But I can only say, that I feel a growing sense of humiliation for sin. May it ripen into conviction, sincere repentance, and unfeigned dedication of my heart, soul, and powers to God." He then asked for his mother's prayers, and thanks her for all her past kindness to him.
The anxious suspense which this letter must have occasioned to the parent who received it, was dispelled a few days afterwards by the following. Before perusing it, I wish the reader would look around, in the village or town, where he resides, fix his mind upon the leader in all the opposition to God and religion, which is made there; some man of accomplished manners and address, superior intellect, and extensive influence,-and the open and avowed opposer of piety, and all of its professors. You must have such a man in mind as the writer, in order to appreciate it at all. Then recollect that this is from an only son to a widowed Christian mother,- transcribed exactly from the tattered fragments which now carefully put together.
Amherst College, April 28, 1827
"My dearest Mother,
"Where shall I find words to declare the wonders of redeeming love? Even in my low state, Almighty God has not forgotten me, nor the prayers of my pious friends. How can I describe the peace of mind, the swelling overwhelming tide of joy which results from an entire submission to a merciful God? I can only say, that there is no happiness like the happiness of a heart devoted to the holy pleasure of its Maker; no peace, like the peace of a mind that is reconciled to God. At the beginning of the present week, my attention was strongly directed to the importance of the soul I immediately relinquished all other business, and devoted myself to this. My sense of the justice and excellence of the divine law, of the holiness of God, and my own dreadful and sinful condition rapidly increased. Tuesday and Wednesday my distress and anxiety grew more and more overpowering. Under the alarming impression that I had committed the unpardonable sin, I devoted great and anxious inquiry to the nature of it. When I found reason to believe that this sin could not be brought up against me, there seemed to be a gleam of hope. I felt, or rather learned that I must be wholly resigned to the will of God, yet there was great opposition in my heart. For a long time it seemed as if I would readily submit if I was only sure of pardon. I was making conditions and struggling against impressions, and became almost desperate, believing that my guilt had shut up every avenue of hope. The conflict had prostrated my strength, and could not have been maintained much longer, when I was led to compare my situation with that of the lepers at the gate of Samaria, when that city was besieged by the Syrians: 'if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.' If I continued to hold out against God, I should surely be cut off, and that without remedy; if I surrendered myself unconditionally and with an undivided heart, I still could but die, while there was every reason to hope that God would not reject a heart offered in sincerity and truth. Accordingly I struggled to obtain this frame of mind, and at length, as I hope, subdued my pride and hostility, so as to melt into perfect submission to the will of God, heartily to confess the holiness and justice of the law, and freely acknowledge my own unworthiness. After I had been enabled by the divine blessing to do this, it seemed so reasonable, so altogether necessary and even so easy, that I marvelled at the blindness, and hardness of heart, that had prevented my doing it long since. At the same time, I was filled with such transport, that it seemed to me as if I never could leave the foot of the cross, as if I wished to retire from the world, to meditate and reflect on the loveliness of Christ. This happy change took place about Thursday noon. The period of my greatest mental distress was Wednesday night. Nature was so exhausted in a conflict of a few hours, that I could scarcely stand. I found it impossible to eat during a great part of this time. The flesh is still weak, but I rapidly recovered strength as I gained peace. I now for the first time realize what is meant by saying, that 'old things are passed away and all things become new.' I no longer see the same countenances, read the same Bible, and feel like the same person. The character of all my acquaintances are entirely changed. My pious friends once appeared gloomy and reserved, now they are benevolent and cheerful. My gay acquaintances seem no longer happy, but mad. The Book of God once seldom read, or when read, disrelished or misunderstood, now seems replete with interest and instruction. I am filled with joyful amazement as I learn from it, the love which Jesus has manifested for the world, and the purity and excellence of the divine character. At the same time it teaches numerous lessons of humility, gives an odious aspect to sin, and warns against our deceiving hearts. I reflect with horror and dismay on my former course of forgetfulness of God, and feel as if it were a privilege to be allowed to attempt, though feebly, to pursue a totally opposite course. The sense I have of my former character makes me feel deeply for all my impenitent friends. I feel constrained to humble myself before them on account of my former bad example and influence, and even with tears beseech them to turn from their sinful ways to repentance and faith. In short I feel a perfect good will, I hope, to all the world, and banish hatred and envy from my heart where they had long been cherished. But, my dear mother, my hope is with great fear end trembling; sometimes it seems incredible that such an one as myself should find any favor with God; and if I have any hope, it is that Jesus Christ might show forth in me all longsuffering, for where sin abounded, grace doth much more abound. Some(times?) I feel as if I was in rebellion yet; but I do not rest at such a time, till I resign myself anew, and without reserve to my Maker. But, dear mother, I would that much fervent prayer might be offered up, that I may watch my heart diligently, and consider well the ground of my hope, and not be dangerously deceived; and if I find myself under such an awful mistake, that I may not rest there, but give myself no peace, till by sincere repentance and faith I may be reconciled to God in Christ. On the other hand if it should seem that God has magnified his long suffering and the riches of his tender mercies in me, pray that I may be strengthened and established in repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and that I may exercise all the Christian virtues, and walk according to the law of God, increasing in the knowledge of the truth and growth in grace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Oh, my dear mother, on you, on me, and on all the world, may God pour out the influence of the Spirit, to guide and sanctify us, and fit us for an eternity of happiness in heaven. I would wish to write much more, but hope to see you next Saturday or before. My sincere love, and prayers to and for all friends.
"Your affectionate Son."
I have thus followed out this particular case, in order to give to my readers, by means of a minute examination of one specimen, a clear idea of the nature of the changes which were effected. There were, however, many other cases, as marked and striking as this; so that any person who was a member of college at that time, might be in doubt, after reading the preceding description, which of half a dozen decided enemies of religion, who were at this time changed, was the one referred to. In fact the feeling went through the college;-it took the whole. Nothing like opposition to it was known, except that perhaps in a very few cases individuals made efforts to shield themselves from its influence; and one or two did this successfully, by keeping themselves for many days, under the influence of ardent spirit! With a few exceptions of this kind, the unwonted and mysterious influence was welcomed by all. It was not, among Christians, a feeling of terror, of sadness and melancholy, but of delight. Their countenances were not gloomy and morose, as many persons suppose is the case at such a time, but they beamed with an expression of enjoyment, which seemed to be produced by the all pervading sense of the immediate presence of God. I have seen, in other cases, efforts to appear solemn,-the affected gravity of countenance, and seriousness of tone;-but there was nothing of that here. Hearts were all full to overflowing, and it was with a mysterious mingling of peace and joy,-an emotion of deep overwhelming gladness in the soul, though of a character so peculiar, that it expressed itself in the countenance by mingled smiles and tears.
The ordinary exercises of college were not interrupted. The President held two or three religious meetings during the week, but recitations went on unchanged and I well recollect the appearance of my mathematical classes. The students would walk silently and slowly from their rooms, and assemble at the appointed place. It was plain that the hearts of many of them were full of such emotions as I have described. Others, whose peace was not made with God, would sit with downcast eyes, and when it came their turn to be questioned, would make an effort to control their feelings, and finding that they could not recite, would ask me to excuse them. Others, known heretofore as hardened enemies of God and religion, sat still, their heads reclined upon the seats before them, with hearts overwhelmed with remorse and sorrow, and eyes filled with tears. I could not ask them a question. One morning, I recollect, so strong and so universal were these feelings, that we could not go on. The room was silent as death. Every eye was down; I called upon one after another, but in vain; and we together prayed God to come and be with us, and bless us, and to save us and our classmates from sin and suffering, and then silently went to our rooms.
The buildings were as still this week as if they had been depopulated. The students loved to be alone. They walked about silently. They said little when they met, as men always do when their hearts are full. Late in the evening they would collect in little circles in one another's rooms, to spend a few moments in prayer. I was often invited to these meetings, and it was delightful to see the little assembly coming into the room at the appointed time, each bringing his own chair, and gathering around the bright burning fire, with the armedchair placed in one corner for their instructor, and the two occupants of the room together upon the other side. They who were present at these meetings will not soon forget the enjoyment with which their hearts were filled, as they here bowed in supplication before God.
On Tuesday and Thursday evenings we assembled in the largest lecture room, for more public worship. It was the same room where, a few weeks before, on the same occasions, we could see only here and there one among the vacant, gloomy seats. Now how changed. At the summons of the evening bell, group after group, ascended the stairs and crowded the benches. It was the rhetorical lecture room, and was arranged with rows of seats on the three sides, and a table for the Professor on a small platform on the fourth. The seats were soon full, and settees were brought in to fill the area left in the centre. The President was seated at the table; on either side of him the Professors; and beyond them, and all around, the room was crowded with young men hungering and thirsting after the word of God.
I recollect particularly one of these meetings. It was one of the earliest after the revival commenced, and before us, crowding the settees in the open area, were gathered all the wild, irreligious, vicious and abandoned young men which the institution contained. There they were, the whole of them; all enmity gone, opposition silenced, and pride subdued, and they sat in silence gazing at the President and drinking in all his words as he pressed upon them their sins, and urged them to throw down the weapons of their rebellion, and come and submit themselves to God. The text for the evening, if I recollect right, was this, "Notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, the kingdom of God, has come nigh unto you." Every person in the room felt that it was nigh. He spoke in a calm, quiet, but impressive manner, and every word went to a hundred and fifty hearts. Many persons imagine that preaching in such a season is loud and noisy, and set off with exciting remarks, and extravagant gesticulations; and it is so sometimes, when men attempt to make a revival by their own power. But where the spirit of God really comes, there are very different indications. Every one feels irresistibly that God is there, and that he himself must walk humbly and softly before him. The almost supernatural power which preaching seems to have at such a time is the power of simple truth, on hearts bowed down before it by influences from above. Such a season robs eloquence and genius of all their power; declamation is more than useless, and all the arts of oratory of no avail. There are souls awed and subdued before God, and longing for the light of truth; and he who can supply these desires with the greatest calmness,, and directness, and simplicity, will be the means of producing the most powerful effects. A man could scarcely give utterance to rant and declamation and noisy harangue in such a room, even if he had come all prepared to do it. As he should enter such a scene, he would be subdued and calmed by its irresistible influence. He would instinctively feel, that noisy eloquence there would grate upon every ear and shock every heart, and no bold assurance would be sufficient to carry him on.
We listened to the sermon, which was earnest and impressive, though direct, plain, and simple; it told the ungodly hearers before us, that the kingdom of heaven was nigh them, and urged them to enter it. We knew, -we could almost feel that they were entering it; and when, at the close of the meeting, we sang our parting hymn, I believe there was as much real, deep flowing happiness in that small but crowded apartment, as four such walls ever contained.
When the indications of this visit from above first appeared, it was about a fortnight before the close of the term, and in about ten days its object was accomplished. Out of the whole number of those who had been irreligious at its commencement, about one half professed to have given themselves up to God; but as to all the talent, and power of opposition, and open enmity,-the vice, the profaneness, the dissipation,-the revival took the whole. With one or two exceptions, it took the whole. And when, a few weeks afterwards, the time arrived for those thus changed to make a public profession of religion, it was a striking spectacle to see them standing in a crowd in the broad aisle of the college chapel, purified, sanctified, and in the presence of all their fellow students renouncing sin, and solemnly consecrating themselves to God. Seven years have since elapsed, and they are in his service now. I have their names before me, and I do not know of one who does not continue faithful to his Master still.
But I have dwelt too long perhaps on this subject, and I must close this chapter. I have been intending however to say two things in conclusion, though I must now say them briefly.
1. There are many persons who, because they have seen or heard of many spurious and heartless efforts to make a revival of religion, accompanied by noise and rant, and unprofitable excitement, doubt the genuineness of all these reformations. But I ask them whether the permanent alteration, in a week, of nearly all the wild and ungovernable and vicious students of a college, is not evidence of the operation of some extraordinary moral cause. We who witnessed it cannot doubt. Such cases too, are not uncommon. They occur continually, all over our land, producing entire changes in neighborhoods and villages and towns, and very often in colleges. The effect in this case upon the police of the institution was astonishing. Before the revival, the officers of the institution were harassed and perplexed with continual anxiety and care, from the turbulence and vice of their pupils. But from this time we had scarcely any thing to do with the discipline of the institution. Month after month, every thing went smoothly and pleasantly, and we had nothing to do but to provide instruction for industrious, faithful and regular young men; while before, the work of punishing misdemeanors, and repressing disorder, and repairing injuries, demanded far the greatest portion of our attention and care. Similar changes have often been produced in other communities, and the fact that so many persons have thus had the opportunity personally to witness them, is the real ground of the conviction which almost universally prevails, among the most intelligent and substantial portions of the community, that they are the work of God. That there will be some counterfeits is to be expected. As human nature is, it is certain. But we ought, when convinced that there are counterfeits, not to condemn all, but carefully to discriminate, and to bring before the world the marks of a counterfeit as distinctly as possible, so that nothing but what is genuine may obtain credit among mankind.
2. Reader, there is such a thing as having the heart filled with peace and joy, under the influence of the Spirit of God. Do not doubt it, if you have not yourself experienced it, and do not forget it if you have. The mysterious influence shows itself in many ways. It whispers to the soul sometimes in solitude, at midnight, and beckons it away from the world to God and duty. The morning light, and the return of business and pleasures silence it, perhaps,-but then it will return in sickness, in affliction, and sorrow, and say to the spirit, still lingering about the world, "Come away, come away." It may be disregarded still,-but it will hover near, and like a dove unwilling to leave its master, will flutter round and light upon him again and again. It melts the soul into penitence for sins which have been thought of with cold insensibility for years,-it subdues stubbornness and pride,-it removes the vail from before the tomb, and brings God and the judgment and heaven to view. It gives life and sensibility to the torpid soul,- arouses its powers, nerves the weak, humbles the proud, breaks the chains and fetters of sin, and under its magic power, the hardened, rebellious, stupid enemy of God, rises to life and to freedom. His restless, feverish, anxiety is gone, and joy gladdens his heart, hope beams in his eye, and he comes to his Savior, subdued, altered, purified, for ever. Blessed Spirit, thou art indeed the light and life of man;-the only real Comforter, in this vale of sorrow and sin. We will pray for thee, and open our hearts to thee, and welcome thy coming. Descend, heavenly influence, descend every where, and bring this Sinning and suffering world back to its duty.