This account (circa 1740) of a farmer’s desire to hear the Word proclaimed in might by the popular evangelist George Whitefield causes my heart to well up with strong desire for our nation to again be touched with another spiritual great awakening:
Now it pleased God to send Mr. Whitefield into this land and my hearing of his preaching at Philadelphia, like one of the old apostles, and many thousands flocking after him to hear the gospel and great numbers converted to Christ, I felt the Spirit of God drawing me by conviction . . .
Next I heard he was on Long Island and next at Boston and next at Northampton and then, one morning, all on a sudden, about 8 or 9 o’clock there came a messenger and said, ‘Mr. Whitefield preached at Hartford and Wethersfield yesterday and is to preach at Middletown this morning at 10 o’clock’.
I was in my field, at work, I dropped my tool that I had in my hand ran home and ran through my house and bade my wife get ready quick to go and hear Mr. Whitefield preach at Middletown and ran to my pasture for my horse with all my might, fearing I should be too late to hear him. I brought my horse home and soon mounted and took my wife up and went forward as fast as she could and not stop or slack for me except I bade her, and so I would run until I was almost out of breath and then mount my horse again, and so I did several times to favour my horse . . . for we had twelve miles to ride double in little more than an hour.
On high ground I saw before me a cloud or fog rising, I first thought off from the great river but as I came nearer the road I heard a noise something like a low rumbling of horses feet coming down the road and this cloud was a cloud of dust made by the running of horses feet. It arose some rods in the air, over the tops of the hills and trees, and when I came within about twenty rods of the road I could see men and horses slipping along in the cloud like shadows and when I came nearer it was like a steady stream of horses and their riders, scarcely a horse more than his length behind another, all of a lather and some with sweat . . .
We went down with the stream, I heard no man speak a word all the way, three miles, but everyone pressing forward in great haste, and when we got down to the old meeting house there was a great multitude – – it was said to be 3 or 4000 people assembled together. We got off from our horses and shook off the dust, and the ministers were then coming to the meetinghouse. I turned and looked towards the great river and saw ferry boats running swift, forward and backward, bringing over loads of people, the oars rowed nimble and quick. Everything, men, horses and boats, all seemed to be struggling for life, the land and the banks over the river looked black with people and horses. All along the 12 miles I saw no man at work in his field but all seemed to be gone.
– From the manuscript of From Coles entitled ‘Spiritual Travels’, part of which is printed in Some Aspects of the Religious Life of New England, G.L. Walker, 1897, pp. 89-91, and elsewhere quoted in Murray’s biography of Edwards, 164.
HT: Chris Brauns