9. Methodist Camp Meetings.

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The Rev. Samuel Coats (in the Methodist Magazine for May, 1804) gives an account of a Camp-Meeting held about fifteen miles from Baltimore. It was held in a forest, in a very retired situation, with only one blind road leading to it. A stand was erected in the midst of a piece of ground containing three or four acres: and round this, the tents, waggons, carts, coaches, chairs, horses, &c. were 14arranged in a circle. Fires were kindled at the front of each tent. The number of those who encamped on the ground, was not above two or three hundred, owing partly to a fear of catching cold; partly to “a prejudice which had been taken up against camp-meetings.” On this account also there were fewer preachers than there would otherwise have been, there being only about twenty. But the number of people who attended on the week days, was from 1000 to 1500, and more than 5000 on the Sunday.

A horn was blown in the morning to collect the people to a general prayer meeting at eight o’clock. This lasted till ten, and then preaching began. The same order was observed in the afternoon; one sermon was preached at each time, and two or three exhortations deliered. “During this time, (says Mr. Coats) the minds of the people were affected in a most extraordinary manner. Many fell down slain (so to speak) with the sword 15of the spirit; the word of God, and groaned like men dying in the field of battle, while rivers of tears ran down their cheeks. A number of souls were quickened and comforted on Saturday and through the Sabbath: but the most glorious times were on the evening of the Sabbath, and the Monday following. It appeared as if nothing could stand before the word of God. If we only spoke to any of the bye-standers, they were melted down like wax before the fire. It seemed as though all oppositions were fled, and their minds were stript of every plea except… God be merciful to us sinners. Oh my dear sir, if you had been there, you would have been astonished. In one place you would have seen a poor sinner leaning with his head against a tree, with tears running from his eyes like drops of rain upon the ground, while some went to him, and pointed to him the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. In another place you would have 16observed a whole groupe of people, and from the midst of them would have heard the piercing cries of broken hearted penitents. If you had turned your eyes in another direction, you would have discovered a grey-headed father and his two daughters, all down upon their knees together among the leaves and dirt, crying upon God to have mercy upon their poor souls. I could have led you from thence a little way along a gradual ascent to a spot highly favoured of Heaven, where was a tent filled with happy souls to the number of fourteen or fifteen, who had either been assured of God’s pardoning mercy, had been more fully renewed in love, or had received some peculiar comfort that day. In the meantime, prayer, which was fervent and unceasing, was so remarkably answered, that if a mourner only prayed a few minutes for his own soul, he was generally assured of his acceptance immediately, and rejoiced in God his Saviour. I understand that 17two whole waggon loads of people, who came thither from a distance, returned home, rejoicing in the love of God.

“This scene continued three days and nights, with scarcely an hour’s intermission. Not less than 100 persons are supposed to have been convinced; and I have no doubt, (says Mr. Coats) but if the generality of those who were together on the Sabbath day, had encamped on the ground, and continued there day and night, we should have had many more brought to God. For these camp-meetings are the most calculated to free the mind from the cares of the world, to divest it of pride and self-love, and to work upon the tender feelings of the heart, of any thing I ever saw. The appearance of the place at night was very solemn, and at the same time romantic. When going to the place, a person heard the preaching, singing, and other exercises of devotion at some distance off; and coming by a winding path through a 18thick wood, all on a sudden he beheld a large congregation of people, and a whole train of fires all around them; candles and lanthorns hung on the trees in every direction, and the lofty oaks with their spreading boughs formed a canopy over our heads, while every thing conspired with the solemnity of the night, to make the place seem aweful. This is only a faint description.”

In the same magazine for February, 1806, Mr. John Wright describes another of these meetings, where there were two methodist bishops, about 100 preachers, between 4 and 5000 people, and about 300 waggons, all encamped in the woods in a square. This meeting lasted four days, and “although the rain began on Friday evening, and continued, till Sunday morning very heavy and without intermission, there was no cessation of divine worship: it continued night and day, and the sermons, exhortations, and prayers, says the writer, were the most 19powerful I ever heard. The power of God was there, and sinners were cut to the heart, and fell down under the word like grass before the scythe. There was no respect of persons, but high and low, young and old, were arrested by the mighty hand of God. Some seemed to have the most aweful apprehensions, and were in the greatest distress of any I ever saw, under a sense of their guilt and a fear of Hell, whilst others were apparently lifeless for three or four hours. The first word they are generally heard to speak after they are delivered, is ‘glory’ and they generally whisper it before they have strength to speak aloud. Afterwards they usually call on their wicked companions, and pray and exhort them to flee to Jesus.”

Another writer, (Methodist Mag. April 1806,) describes the ceremonies at breaking up. “At seven o’clock, we prepared for our christian parting, it was ushered in by two of the preachers walking 20around the camp, blowing the trumpets: after this, the preachers all assembled on the preaching stand, with the congregation before them. Brother J. Lee spoke a little upon the occasion. The preachers then fell upon each other’s necks and wept; after which we took leave of the people, expecting to see many of them no more, until we meet in our Father’s house. The place was truly a Bochim.”

At this Camp there were from 9 to 10,000 persons; and “people of all descriptions, from the grey-headed, down to little children, were crying for mercy.”

When the judgement of the Conference at Liverpool, 1807, was asked concerning camp-meetings, the answer was, “It is our judgement, that even supposing such meetings to be allowable in America, they are highly improper in England, and likely to be productive of considerable mischief, and we disclaim all connection with them.”


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