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much grieved with their imperfections, and the plagues they find in their own hearts; and frequently they meet with some delightful enlivening of soul: and particularly our sacramental solemnities for communicating in the Lord'a Supper, have generally been very blessed seasons of enlivening and enlargement to the people of God.'-' He also tells us that great harmony prevailed in his congregation, and few opposers to the work appeared amongst them, and few left his congregation to join with those ministers who opposed the work.
Mr. Blair closes his narrative of the awakening in his charge in the following manner—"This blessed shower of divine influence spread very much through this province that summer, and was likewise considerable in some places bordering upon it. The accounts of some ministers sometimes distinguished by their searching, awakening doctrine, and solemn, pathetic manner of address—and the news of the effects of their preaching upon their hearers, seemed in some measure to awaken people through 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 vacantcongregations without any settled pastors, which earnestly begged 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 called abroad and employed 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 surprising 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, through the land, were deeply convinced of their miserable perishing estate, and there is abundant reason to believe, and be satisfied, that many of them were in the issue, savingly converted to God. I myself 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, several even in Baltimore, a county in the province of Maryland, who were brought up almost in a state of heathenism, almost without any knowledge of the true doctrines of Christianity, afford very satisfactory evidence of being brought to a saving acquaintance with Christ Jesus."
"Knowing I must not speak wickedly even for God, nor talk deceitfully for Him; upon the whole I must say it is beyond all reasonable contradiction, that God has carried on a great and glorious work of his special grace among us." This account is dated—New Londonderry, in Pennsylvania, August 6th, 1744.
Mr. Blair mentions the itinerating practised by some heartily engaged in the revival. This led to great complaints, and to extravagances that increased the complaints against the itinerants and those who justified their course; and ultimately led to doubts about the revival itself, and to disputes about the exercises of religion characteristic of conversion. The account given by Mr. Blair, respecting his congregation, will, in the general, exhibit the state of things in many other congregations in Pennsylvania, in Delaware, and also those in New Jersey, and some parts of New York. And the same complaints against itinerants, and extravagances came from different quarters. It would be grateful, if the limits of these sketches would permit, to give at least a general view of the great excitement on religion, throughout the Philadelphia Synod, particularly its appearance in the different congregations. Much practical wisdom could be gathered from the sayings and doings of the actors in those interesting scenes.
A vehement dispute also arose about the proper qualifications for a candidate for the gospel ministry. Ministers and churches took sides, with some asperity of feeling. The line of separation was nearly the same as on the question about experience of religion and the exercises of awakened sinners and converts. Each party charged extreme views upon the other, and in a measure drove each other into extremes, using unkind expressions and unjustifiable means, and defending unwarrantable positions.
The discussion of these subjects became so warm that Ministers and Elders and Congregations were alienated, and the Synod in 1741 was rent asunder, in circumstances of great excitement. This division continued about seventeen years. The party that retained the name of the Synod of Philadelphia, was familiarly called the "Old Side;" and the Synod of New York formed by the other party, the "New Side." The feelings of the two parties, at length became calm, the matters in dispute were amicably adjusted, and the Synods united under the name of the Synod of New York and Philadelphia.
There is no evidence that the parties disagreed on important doctrines. Mr. John Davenport was guilty of most extravagant conduct, perhaps the most objectionable known during the excitement. An opponent, the Rev. Mr. Fish, of Connecticut, makes a statement respecting this singular man,—in the midst of his irregularities "the good things about him was that he was a fast friend of the doctrines of grace; fully declaring the total depravity, the deplorable wretchedness and danger, and utter inability of man by the fall. He preached with great earnestness the doctrines of man's dependence on the sovereign mercy of God; of regeneration; of justification by faith, &c. The things that were evidently and dreadfully wrong about him were, that he not only gave full liberty to noise and outcries but promoted them with all his power. When these things prevailed among the people, accompanied with bodily agitations, the good man pronounced them tokens of the presence of God. Those who passed from great distress to great joy, he declared, after asking them a few questions, to be converts. He was a great favourer of visions, trances, imaginations, and powerful impressions in others, and made such inward feelings the rule of his own conduct in many respects. The worst thing, however, was his bold and daring enterprise of going through the country to examine all the ministers in private, and then publicly declare his judgment of their spiritual state."
Novelty of doctrine does not appear to have been the sin of that generation of Presbyterians. Novelty of methods to promote revivals excited fears in the pious; and the breaking through acknowledged rules disturbed society. These errors brought a glorious awakening into disrepute, and gave opportunity to all, who were not friendly to spiritual religion, to oppose a genuine work of God. The extreme of one side was formality in religion; of the other, extravagant bodily exercises.
The emigrants to Virginia, though, in many cases, but a short time from their mother country, remained long enough in Pennsylvania and Delaware to become parties in the division; and in their choice of residence were in a measure governed by their religious associations and belief respecting this awakening. Neighbouring ministers in Virginia attached themselves to the different Synods, and their congregations sympathised with their pastors; and while the two Synods continued separate, were tossed with the violence of the storm that rent the congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In some cases, traces of this division can be seen to this day; in most cases, however, the difference of sentiment in their ancestors is known to their descendants only as a matter of history.
The Presbyterian congregations in Virginia reared thein, cabins on the frontiers under great excitement. They were strangers in a strange land; they were exposed to the murderous incursions of the savages incensed against the white man by a century of provocations; they were in search of a home in the wilderness, where every man's cabin might stand upon his own acres held in fee simple; they were, under a strong religious feeling, searching for the truth in principle, and in some good degree guiding their practice by their principles;
they expected the undisturbed exercise of their forms of religion according to the promise of the Governor of Virginia; they expected more freedom in political matters, than was Enjoyed in Ireland, not having fully fashioned in their own minds what that freedom was, except no Peers of the realm, no Diocesan Bishops were to make part of their community; they expected equal enjoyment of civil rights, and the protection of the laws with advantages to all according to their merits, and promotion to the most worthy. And in less than half a century, this excitement, and these principles, in the wilderness, moulded a nature made firm by resistance to oppression, and hard to roughness by toil, in their father land, into a form and shape and temper such as Ireland and Scotland had never seen. The children realized, in their manhood, all their fathers panted for when they crossed the ocean, freedom in person,—freedom in property,—freedom in knowledge and religion. They possessed a land of rivers, plains, and mountains, which princes never traversed but in exile, were protected by equal laws and governed by rulers of their own choice.
Presbyterian ministers followed the steps of these colonies, first on short visits, then to become resident pastors of the infant congregations.
1st. James Gelston was sent from the Presbytery of Donegall in the year 1737, to visit the people on Opeckon. We do not hear of his making a second visit. The preaching place was near where Opeckon meeting house now stands.
2d. Mr. James Anderson was sent a special delegate from the Synod of Philadelphia in 1738, with a message to Governor Gooch. He visited the different colonies of Presbyterians in Virginia. He preached his first sermon in Augusta, supposed to be the first ever preached there, in the house of Mr. John Lewis near Staunton.
3d. A Mr. Dunlap, a probationer of the Presbytery of New York, spent about three months in the neighbourhood of Staunton, in the year 1739.
4th. Mr. John Thompson of the Presbytery of Donegall visited Virginia in the year 1739, and spent some time in the Opeckon neighbourhood,—in the neighbourhood of Staunton,— on Rockfish in Nelson,—on Cub Creek,—at Buffaloe,—and in Campbell county. "He took up voluntary collections for preachers of the gospel"—says the manuscript history of Lexington Presbytery—" and in doing justice to his memory it is proper to observe, that he was active in promoting the Presbyterian cause in Virginia.'' He was a man of great vigour and took an active part in the affairs of the church. Through his instrumentality Messrs. Black and Craig were sent by Presbytery, the one to the Triple Forks, and the other to Rockfish. He lived for a short time at Buffaloe, to which place Mr. Sankey, his son in law, removed with his congregation, and continued their pastor for many years. He removed to North Carolina, and there died in the bounds of Centre congregation.
5th. Mr. John Craig visited Augusta, in 1739, as probationer, from Donegall Presbytery, and ultimately became pastor of the Triple Forks, or Tinkling Spring and Augusta.
6th. About the same time Mr. Black took his residence on Rockfish in Nelson.
7th. The next of whom we have any knowledge was Wm. Robinson. He visited the congregations in the Valley near Winchester and above Staunton—went to Carolina, and on his return visited Hanover. His visit forms a chapter in Virginia Church History.
8th. The next was Mr. John Roan, whose visit to Hanover excited great bitterness in members of the Established Church.
9th. Mr. John Blair visited the Valley and places east of the Ridge in 1745, and again in 1746; and during his last visit organized • the congregations of North Mountain, New Providence, Timber Ridge, and Forks of James.
After this, visits were frequent; and the congregations made efforts for stated ministers. The Governor of Virginia assured the Synod that ministers and congregations should enjoy all the privileges of the Act of Toleration. But in time there was a difficulty about the construction of that law; and also whether the common sense of men, and the law itself were to be the interpreters, or the caprice of rulers and the majority, when the minority claimed privileges under the law, and the majority denied them. In another form it was the old question—whether the minority had any rights of conscience. The people in Hanover said tbey had rights under the law of God, and by the Toleration Act: Davies maintained their position with ultimate triumph.
VIRGINIA; AND WILLIAM ROBINSON.
While the settlements of the Scotch Irish were multiplying, in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and along the eastern base of the Blue Ridge, and on the waters of the Roanoke, forming a frontier line in defence of the "Ancient Dominion/' and plant