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Title: Blair, Rev. Samuel to Prince, Rev. Thomas, 1744
CollectionIrish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan. Letters and memoirs from colonial and revolutionary America (1675-1815) [K.A. Miller et al.]
SenderBlair, Rev. Samuel
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationreverend
Sender Religionunknown
OriginNew Londonderry Township, Chester Co., Penn, USA
DestinationBoston, Mass, USA
RecipientPrince, Rev. Thomas
Recipient Gendermale
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count3476
Genrereligion in the colonies, doctrine
TranscriptRev. Samuel Blair, Fagg’s Manor, New Londonderry Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, to Rev. Thomas Prince, Boston, Massachusetts, 6 August 1744
Reverend Sir,
I Do most gladly comply with your Desire in sending you some Account of the glorious Appearances of God in a Way of special Grace for us in this Congregation, and other Parts of this Country.... That it may the more clearly appear that the Lord has indeed carried on a Work of true real Religion among us of late Years, I conceive it will be useful to give a brief general View of the State of Religion in these Parts before this remarkable Season. I doubt not then, but there were still some sincerely religious People up and down; and there were, I believe, a considerable Number in the several Congregations pretty exact, according to their Education, in the Observance of the external Forms of Religion, not only as to Attendance upon publick Ordinances on the Sabbaths, but also, as <to> the Practice of Family Worship, and perhaps secret Prayer too; but, with these Things the most Part seem’d to all Appearance to rest contented; and to satisfy their Consciences just with a dead Formality in Religion. If they perform’d these Duties pretty punctually in their Seasons, and, as they thought with a good Meaning, out of Conscience, and not just to obtain a Name for Religion among Men, then they were ready to conclude that they were truly and sincerely religious. A very lamentable Ignorance of the main essentials of true practical Religion, and the Doctrines nextly relating thereunto very generally prevail’d. The Nature and Necessity of the New-Birth was but little known or thought of, the Necessity of a Conviction of Sin and Misery, by the Holy Spirits opening and applying the Law to the Conscience, in order to <achieve?> a saving Closure with Christ was hardly known at all to the most. It was thought that if there was any need of a Heart-distressing Sight of the Souls Danger, and Fear of divine Wrath, it was only needful for the grosser Sort of Sinners, and for any others to be deeply exercis’d this Way (as there might sometimes be some rare Instances observable) this was generally look’d upon to be a great Evil and Temptation that had befallen those Persons. The common Names for such Soul-Concern were, Melancholy, Trouble of Mind, or Despair. These Terms were in common, so far as I have been acquainted, indifferently used as Synonimous; and Trouble of Mind, was look’d upon as a great Evil, which all Persons that made any sober Profession and Practice of Religion ought carefully to avoid. There was scarcely any Suspicion at all in general, of any Danger of depending upon Self-Righteousness, and not upon the Righteousness of Christ alone for Salvation: Papists and Quakers wou’d be readily acknowledged guilty of this Crime, but hardly any professed Presbyterian. The Necessity of being first in Christ by a vital Union, and in a justified State before our Religious Services can be well pleasing and acceptable to God, was very little understood or tho’t of; but the common Notion seem’d to be, that if People were aiming to be in the Way of Duty as well as they could, as they imagin’d, there was no Reason to be much afraid. According to these Principles, and this Ignorance of some of the most Soulconcerning Truths of the Gospel, People were very generally thro’ the Land careless at Heart, and stupidly indifferent about the great Concerns of Eternity. There was very little Appearance of any hearty Engagedness in Religion: And indeed the Wise, for the most Part, were in a great Degree asleep with the Foolish.’Twas sad to see with what a careless Behaviour the publick Ordinances were attended, and how People were given to unsuitable worldly Discourse on the Lord’s Holy Day. In publick Companies, especially at Weddings, a vain and frothy Lightness was apparent in the Deportment of many Professors; and in some Places very extravagant Follies, as Horse Running, Fidling and Dancing, pretty much obtain’d on those Occasions. Thus Religion lay as it were a dying, and ready to expire its last Breath of Life in this Part of the visible Church: And it was in the Spring Anno Domini 1740 when the God of Salvation was pleased to visit us with the blessed Effusions of his Holy Spirit in an eminent Manner. The first very open and Publick Appearance of this gracious Visitation in these Parts, was in the Congregation which God has committed to my Charge. The Congregation has not been erected above Fourteen or Fifteen Years from this Time: The Place is a new Settlement, generally settled with People from Ireland. (as all our Congregations in Pennsylvania, except two or three, chiefly are made up of People from that Kingdom) I am the first Minister they have ever had settled in the Place. Having been regularly liberated from my former Charge in East-Jersey, above an hundred Miles North-Eastward from Hence (the Rev. Presbytery of NewBrunswick (of which I had the Comfort of being a Member) judging it to be my Duty, for sundry Reasons, to remove from thence) at the earnest Invitation of the People here I came to them in the beginning of November 1739 accepted of a Call from them that Winter, and was formally install’d and settled amongst them as their Minister in April following. There were some hopefully pious People here at my first coming, which was a great Encouragement and Comfort to me. I had some View and Sense of the deplorable Condition of the Land in general; and accordingly the Scope of my Preaching thro’ that first Winter after I came here, was mainly calculated for Persons in a natural unregenerate Estate. I endeavour’d, as the Lord enabled me, to open up and prove from his Word, the Truths which I judged most necessary for such as were in that State to know and believe in order to their Conviction and Conversion. I endeavour’d to deal searchingly and solemnly with them; and thro’ the continuing Blessing of God, I had knowledge of four or five brought under deep Convictions that Winter. In the beginning of March I took a Journey into East-Jersey, and was abroad for two or three Sabbaths. A neighbouring Minister, who seemed to be earnest for the Awakening and Conversion of secure Sinners, and whom I had obtained to preach a Sabbath to my People in my Absence, preached to them, I think, on the first Sabbath after I left Home. His Subject was the dangerous and awful Case of such as continue unregenerate and unfruitful under the Means of Grace. The Text was Luk. 13. 7. Then said he to the Dresser of his Vineyard, behold, these three Years I come seeking Fruit on this Fig Tree, and find none, cut it down, why cumbereth it the Ground? Under that Sermon there was a visible Appearance of much Soul-Concern among the Hearers, so that some burst out with an audible Noise into bitter crying (a Thing not known in those Parts before.) After I had come home there came a young Man to my House under deep trouble about the State of his Soul, whom I had look’d upon as a pretty light merry sort of a Youth: He told me that he was not any Thing concerned about himself in the Time of hearing the above mentioned Sermon, nor afterwards, till the next Day that he went to his Labour, which was grubbing, in order to clear some New-Ground; the first Grub he set was about a pretty large one with a high Top, and when he had cut the Roots, as it fell down those Words came instantly to his Remembrance, and as a Spear to his Heart, cut it down why cumbereth it the Ground? So thought he, may I be cut down by the Justice of God, for the Burning of Hell, unless I get into another State than I am now in. He thus came into very great and abiding Distress, which, to all Appearance has had a happy Issue: His Conversation being to this Day as becomes the Gospel of Christ. The News of this very publick Appearance of deep Soul-concern among my People met me an Hundred Miles from Home: I was very joyful to hear of it, in Hopes that God was about to carry on an extensive Work of converting Grace amongst them. And the first Sermon I preached after my Return to them, was from Mat.6.33. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his Righteousness. After opening up and explaining the Parts of the Text, when in the Improvement, I came to press the Injunction in the Text upon the Unconverted and Ungodly, and offer’d this as one Reason among others, why they should now henceforth first of all seek the Kingdom and Righteousness of God, viz. That they had neglected too too long to do so already. This Consideration seem’d to come and cut like a Sword upon several in the Congregation, so that while I was speaking upon it they could no longer contain, but burst out in the most bitter Mourning. I desir’d them, as much as possible, to restrain themselves from making a Noise that would hinder themselves or others from hearing what was spoken: And often afterwards I had Occasion to repeat the same Council. I still advised People to endeavour to moderate and bound their Passions, but not so as to resist or stifle their Convictions. The Number of the Awakened encreased very fast, frequently under Sermons there were some newly convicted, and brought into deep Distress of Soul about their perishing Estate. Our Sabbath Assemblies soon became vastly large; many People from almost all Parts around inclining very much to come where there was such Appearance of the divine Power and Presence. I think there was scarcely a Sermon or Lecture preached here thro’ that whole Summer, but there were manifest Evidences of Impressions on the Hearers; and many Times the Impressions were very great and general: Several would be overcome and fainting; others deeply sobbing, hardly able to contain, others crying in a most dolorous Manner, many others more silently Weeping, and a solemn Concern appearing in the Countenance of many others. And sometimes the Soul Exercises of some (tho’ comparatively but very few) would so far affect their Bodies, as to Occasion some strange unusual Bodily Motions. I had Opportunities of speaking particularly with a great many of those who afforded such outward Tokens of inward Soul-Concern in the Time of publick Worship and hearing of the Word; indeed many came to me of themselves in their Distress for private Instruction and Council; and I found, so far as I can remember, that with by far the greater Part, their apparent Concern in Publick was not just a transient Qualm of Conscience, or meerly a floating Commotion of the Affections; but a rational fix’d Conviction of their dangerous perishing Estate. They could generally offer as a convictive Evidence of their being in an unconverted miserable Estate, that they were utter Strangers to those Dispositions, Exercises and Experiences of Soul in Religion, which they heard laid down from God’s Word as the inseperable Characters of the truly regenerate People of God; even such as before had something of the Form of Religion; and I think the greater Number were of this Sort, and several had been pretty exact and punctual in the Performance of outward Duties. They saw that they had been contenting themselves with the Form, without the Life and Power of Godliness; and that they had been taking Peace to their Consciences from, and depending upon their own Righteousness, and not the Righteousness of Jesus Christ. In a Word, they saw that true practical Religion was quite another Thing than they had conceiv’d it to be, or had any true Experience of. There were likewise many up and down the Land brought under deep distressing Convictions that Summer, who had lived very loose Lives, regardless of the very Externals of Religion. In this Congregation I believe there were very few that were not stirred up to some solemn Thoughtfulness and Concern more than usual about their Souls. The general Carriage and Behaviour of People was soon very visibly alter’d. Those awakened were much given to reading in the Holy Scriptures and other good Books. Excellent Books that had lain by much neglected, were then much perus’d, and lent from one to another; and it was a peculiar Satisfaction to People to find how exactly the Doctrines they heard daily preached, harmonize with the Doctrines maintain’d and taught by great and Godly Men in other Parts and former Times. The Subjects of Discourse almost always when any of them were together, were the Matters of Religion and great Concerns of their Souls. All unsuitable, Worldly, vain Discourse on the Lord’s Day seem’d to be laid aside among them. Indeed, for any Thing that appear’d, there seem’d to be an almost universal Reformation in this Respect in our Publick Assemblies on the Lord’s Day. There was an earnest Desire in People after Opportunities for publick Worship and hearing the Word.... Thus have I given a very brief Account of the State and Progress of Religion here, thro’ that first Summer after the remarkable Revival of it among us. Towards the End of that Summer there seem’d to be a Stop put to the farther Progress of the Work, as to the Conviction and awakening of Sinners; and ever since there have been very few Instances of Persons convinced. It remains then, that I speak something of the abiding Effects and After-fruits of those Awakenings, and other Religious Exercises which People were under during the above mention’d Period. Such as were only under some slight Impressions and superficial Awakenings, seem in General to have lost them all again, without any abiding hopeful Alteration upon them: They seem to have fallen back again into their former Carelessness and Stupidity: And some that were under pretty great Awakenings, and considerable deep Convictions of their miserable Estate, seem also to have got Peace again to their Consciences without getting it by a true Faith in the Lord Jesus, affording no satisfying Evidence of their being savingly renew’d: But, thro’ the infinite rich Grace of God, (and blessed be his Glorious Name!) there is a considerable Number who afford all the Evidence that can reasonably be expected and requir’d for our Satisfaction in the Case of their having been the Subjects of a thorough saving Change; except in some singular Instances of Behaviour (alas for them) which proceed from, and shew the sad Remains of Original Corruption even in the regenerate children of God while in this Imperfect State. Their Walk is habitually Tender and Conscientious; their Carriage towards their Neighbour Just and Kind; and they appear to have an agreeable peculiar Love one for another, and for all in whom appears the Image of God. Their Discourses of Religion, their Engagedness and Dispositions of Soul in the Practice of the immediate Duties and Ordinances of Religion, all appear quite otherwise than formerly. Indeed the Liveliness of their Affections in the Ways of Religion is much abated in General, and they are in some Measure humbly sensible of this and grieved for it, and are carefully endeavouring still to live unto God, much grieved with their Imperfections, and the Plagues they find in their own Hearts; and frequently they meet with some delightful Enlivenings of Soul, and particularly our sacramental Solemnities for communicating in the Lords Supper, have generally been very Blessed Seasons of enlivening and enlargement to the People of God. There is a very evident and great Increase of Christian Knowledge with many of them. We enjoy in this Congregation the Happiness of a great Degree of Harmony and Concord: Scarcely any have appear’d to open Opposition and Bitterness against the Work of God among us, and else where up and down the Land, tho’ there are pretty many such in several other Places thro’ the Country. Some indeed in this Congregation, but very few, have separated from us, and join’d with the Ministers who have unhappily oppos’d this Blessed Work.... One of our Christian Friends, a Man about 50 Years of Age, was removed from us by Death in the Beginning of May last, of whom I can give some broken imperfect Account.... His Name was Hanse Kirk Patrick, he was a Man of a pretty good Understanding, and had been, I believe a sober Professor for many Years, tho’ he had not been very long in America.... He dy’d of an Imposthume and gradually wasted away for a long Time before his Death, and was for about two Months entirely confin’d to his Bed. He told me that for sometime before he was laid Bed-fast he had been full of very distressing Fears and Jealousies about his Souls State, and was altogether unsatisfy’d about his Interest in Christ; but that soon after he was confin’d to his Bed the Lord afforded him his comforting Presence, clear’d up his Interest, and remov’d his Fears. After this he continued still clear and peaceful in his Soul, and sweetly and wholly resign’d to the Lord’s Will until Death. While he had strength to speak much, he was still free and forward to discourse of God and divine Things. One Time as two other of our Elders were with him he exhorted them to continue stedfast and faithful to God’s Truths and Cause; for he said if he had a thousand Souls he could freely venture them all upon the Doctrines which had been taught them in this Congregation. One time when I took leave of him he burst out into Tears, saying, “I had been the Messenger of the Lord of Hosts to him that the Lord had sent to call him out of the broad Way of Destruction.” For some Days before his decease he cou’d speak very little, but to all Appearance with a great deal of serenity and sweetness of Soul he fell asleep in Jesus.... This blessed Shower of divine Influence spread very much thro’ this Province that Summer, and was likewise considerable in some other Places bordering upon it. The Accounts of some Ministers being something distinguish’d by their searching awakening Doctrine and solemn Pathetick Manner of Address, and the News of the Effects of their Preaching upon their Hearers seem’d in some Measure to awaken People thro’ the Country to consider their careless and formal Way of going on in Religion, and very much excited their Desires to hear those Ministers. There were several vacant Congregations without any settled Pastors, which earnestly beg’d for their Visits, and several Ministers who did not appear heartily to put to their Shoulders to help in carrying on the same Work, yet, then yielded to the pressing Importunities of their People in inviting these Brethren to preach in their Pulpits, so that they were very much call’d abroad and employ’d in incessant Labours, and the Lord wrought with them mightily, very great Assemblies would ordinarily meet to hear them upon any Day of the Week, and oftentimes a surprizing Power accompanying their Preaching was visible among the Multitudes of their Hearers. It was a very comfortable enlivening Time to God’s People, and great Numbers of secure careless Professors, and many loose irreligious Persons thro’ the Land were deeply convinced of their miserable perishing Estate, and there is abundant Reason to believe, and be satisfy’d that many of them were in the Issue, savingly Converted to God. I my self have had Occasion to converse with a great Many up and down who have given a most agreeable Account of very precious and clear Experiences of the Grace of God, severals even in Baltimore, a County in the Province of Maryland, who were brought up almost in a State of Heathenism, without almost any Knowledge of the true Doctrines of Christianity, afford very satisfying Evidence of being brought to a saving Acquaintance with God in Christ Jesus. Thus Sir, I have endeavour’d to give a brief Account of the Revival of Religion among us in these Parts, in which I have endeavour’d all along to be conscientiously exact in relating Things according to the naked Truth, knowing that I must not speak wickedly even for God, nor talk deceitfully for HIM, and upon the whole I must say it is beyond all dispute with me, and I think it is beyond all reasonable Contradiction that God has carry’d on a great and glorious Work of his special Grace among us.
I am, Revd. Sir, you
very respectful Son
and Servant,
Samuel Blair.