…from Rev. Nathaniel Bang’s Journal
Friday 27 September 1805
Agreeable to appointment our Camp-Meeting began at the Bay of Quintie, in Adolphustown on the 27th of Sep. 1805 at 1 o’C. It was held in an open field. In the centre of which a Stage was erected and about 10 or 12 rods [approximately 180 feet or 55 meters] from the stage the tents were pitched in a direct line forming a right angle.
The worship was introduced with singing and prayer, and a Short Sermon delivered by W. Case on “Brethren Pray.” [2 Thess 3.1-3] A number of Exhortations followed but with little movement among the people. After an intermission of 20 minutes a second Sermon was delivered by N.B. [Nathan Bangs] on Christ our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption [1 Cor 1.30]: After which some exhorted and the spirit of the Lord began to move on the minds of the people. An intermission of one hour and a half, and prayer meeting was held by the whole congregation at the Stage. At first it seemed dull; but an exhortation being given by one of the preachers and then prayer again the power of God descended upon the Camp, which soon raised songs of praises to God for Salvation found. This continued till about 10 o’C at night when a Sermon was delivered by Br. Madden on “We love him because he first loved us” [1 Jn 4.19]. The night was now clear and still, & one who exhorted observed, He believed God had driven away the clouds from the sky in answer to prayer. Several exhortations were given much to the purpose, and a solemn awe rested upon our minds whilst the spirit of God powerfully opperated [sic*] upon our hearts. The exercise continued til past 12 o’C [midnight] when the majority retired to their tents. During this siege 4 sinners were Justified and 2 Backsliders reclaimed.
Saturday 28 September 1805
At 5 o’C the next morning, Sat Sep. 28 prayer meeting was held again at the Stage and continued till eight. Then a Sermon was preached by Br. Keeler on “And he preached Christ unto them” [Acts 8.5] which was applied with power. Exhortations followed in the demonstration of the spirit. At 12o’C Br. Ryan addressed us in the Name of the Lord on “My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge, at the application” [cf. Hos 4.6] of which God made bare his potent Arm; for the Window of heaven was opened and the bursting power of God descended upon the congregation, in such an awful manner, that it raised a general outcry among the people, who began to be numerous. The travelling and local preachers descended from the Stage and ran among the crowed exhorting the impenitent, comforting the distressed, and encouraging the faithful, calling out Men and brethren help. The word of command was instantly obeyed, for old and young, Male and Female were now employed in carrying on the work of God.
The people of God were chiefly in a bunch by themselves when the camp took fire and the wicked formed a circle round about where they stood with astonishment to see the exercise, whilst many of them were constrained to cry aloud for mercy. As soon as any were wounded by the spirit of God, they were immediately surrounded by a group of men and women who were earnestly engaged with God for their deliverance, and such faith had they that five were left before they were enabled to sing the song of Redeeming love.[*] It might now be said of a truth, the God of of the Hebrews is come into the camp, for the noise was heard afar off. The groans and cries of the wounded, the shouts of the delivered, the prayers of the faithful, and Exhortations of the courageous penetrated the very heavens, and reverberated trough the neighborhood. This exorcise continued till about sunset, when in its ceasing Br. Steel preached on “Behold he cometh with clouds &c.” [Rev 1.7] After several exhortations the exercise ran into a prayer meeting which continued all night without intermission; during which time 5 Souls were Justified, 8 Backsliders reclaimed[†] and 25 Sanctified. Our grateful hearts could not but return thanks to our gracious Sovereign, for so manifest a token of his lovingkindness, therefore we sang Glory to God in the highest.
Sunday 29 September 1805
On Sabbath morning as the material sun arose and darted its luminous rays into our tents, we presented ourselves before the Lord of all the Earth and besought the Sun of Righteousness to arise and shine upon our minds and glory be to God our prayers gained access in the court of Heaven, for the exhilarating Streams of divine light illuminated our souls, and the balmy[*] drops of Jesus’s love gladdened our hearts. O what a Glorious morning was this to us all to find, the tide still continued to rise and bear up the Ark of God. All about 7 o’C love feast began. We ranged the people in [a] square body together, and after the bread and water, the lovers of God and man spake feelingly and powerfully of the goodness of God to their souls, especially since they had assembled in that place, and so expressed their gratitude to God for the introduction of camp meeting among them. It was now that God shewed himself again by something the wicked with conviction which again implored God’s dear people in prayer on their behalf.
The people flocked together from different Quarters until we judged these were at least 2000, some supposed there was 2500. As the prayers of the faithful were so loud and insistent around the Stage that preaching could not be heard, we withdrew to a Waggon [sic] where N.B. [Nathan Bangs] spoke on “Yea doubtless and I count all things but loss for the Excellency of the Knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord.” [Phil 3.8] After this the noise ceased so that the congregated assembly gathered around the Stand, from whence Br. Ryan spoke on, “Many are called but few are chosen.[” Mt 22.1-14] But even while he was speaking the cries of the distressed in some of the neighbouring tents was such that it occasioned much disorder and irregularity, as some would be running to and froe, and from place to place, to see what was doing for I suppose they saw strange[†] things to day.
There was not, however, such a Terrible outcry now, as yesterday, yet the Lord was still at work. Some exhortations followed the sermon, and then preparation was made for administering the supper of the Lord. The disciples of Jesus came forward with boldness and owned their divine Teacher in the holy ordinance, whilst hundreds of spectators were looking on with amazement to see the mighty display of God’s power, for many were overwhelmed with the loving presence of God during this season of commemorating one of the greatest events ever exhibited to human view [i.e., the Crucifixion; Mt 27, Mk 15, Lk 23 &c.]. After the sacrament the meeting was carried on with exhortation, prayer, and singing, shouting and praising without any intermission til next morning. We shall notice something remarkable during this period. Just after the sacrament a young woman of high rank was struck by the power of God, and her sister seeing her weeping came and took her away by force from the multitude. Some of the daughters of Jerusalem seeing the daughters of Pride running away with one of Christ’s lambs pursued after them, retook the broken hearted-sinner, and brought her back. The wolf who stole away the lamb, followed back and was soon shot with an arrow from the Almighty, which constrained her to roar aloud for mercy, and it was not long before God heard her cry and changed her ferocious nature into the lamblike nature of Christ. Anon the retaken-captive was enabled to say the Lord has become my Salvation, therefore will I praise him[‡] [Ex 15.2]. A little boy of 11 years old was struck under conviction in the camp, and converted on the spot. I saw them carry him away to the tent whilst his tongue was employed in lifting forth the praises of his Redeemer.
A young man who had received the spirit of adoption not long since had got into despair, by giving away to the suggestion of Satan, that he had since sinned against the Holy Ghost [Mt 12.31]. His distress was so great, that he was delirious. He was brought into the camp so much against his will that we were obliged to hold him in order to help him there. His case was opened to us by Br. [Darius] Dunham, and his actions plainly indicated that he was possessed, for as soon as prayer was mentioned he would struggle with all his might to get away, which seemed to be similar to that recorded by the Evangelist [“]let us alone, trouble us not before the time[“] [cf. Mt 8.29]. The wicked Children of the Devil were so enraged because he was brought there that they came upon us, and would have taken him away with violence, had we not formed a ring around him of 5 or 6 deep[¹] in order to keep them off. We first besought God for Christ’s sake to restore him to his right mind which was done. He then began to pray for himself; and tho he did not immediately obtain the faith of assurance, yet he was delivered from despair, and before the meeting broke up obtained the peace of God to his soul. Glory be to God who heareth prayer.
The day at length came to a close, and the sable curtain of night spread her dark mantle over us, but God who rideth upon the wings of the wind, and before whom the darkness shineth as the light, shined into our hearts and gave the Knowledge that Jesus Christ was with us of a truth [Ps 139.11-14]. This night presented to our minds one [of] the most awful & delightful scenes we ever beheld. There was not a cloud in the sky. The stars sparkled in the firmament of the heavens, and the Glory of God overshadowed the camp of Israel. The neighbouring forest became vocal with the high praises of the God of Armies of Israel [1 Sam 17.45]. Turn our eyes which way soever we would, we beheld souls crying for mercy encircled round with a number of the Soldiers of Christ, with their hearts and voices raised in prayer for their Salvation; and anon the tune would be turned into notes of the sweetest melody of Glory of God, my soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour [Lk 1.46-7].
[Although no pages are missing from the notebook there is obviously some missing text here.]
[…] others with streaming eyes and hearts uplifted to heaven while their bodies lay prostrate on the ground, would be shouting aloud the praises of Immanuel, whilst some would be looking on with wonder, not being capable of distinguishing between the noise of shouting and the noise of weeping — The power of God descended upon a Travelling preacher [i.e., Nathan Bangs] in such a manner that his shouts pierced the heavens, while his body was sustained by some of his friends. He was at length carried out of the Camp into a tent where he lay speechless, being overwhelmed for a considerable time with the mighty power of God. When his strength came, and his tongue was unloosed his song was, Glory to God in the Highest [Lk 2.14].
While he lay in that situation, there came in a gross Backslider who had formerly been a useful local preacher in the M.C. [Methodist Church] and the arrows of the Almighty instantly smote him, so that he roared aloud for mercy. In the meantime many of his friends came round him with weeping eyes; and asking praying hearts, commending him to God in prayer. It was not long before God showed, he had mercy in store of such as him, by sending him deliverance and restoring comfort to his soul. Thus the work of the Lord ran like fire in a dry stable until 10 o’C next morning.
Monday 30 September 1805
There is one circumstance moreover [I] would not neglect to mention, and so much the more, as it shows the entire union which the instruments of this work felt with one another. Just at the close, after a majority of the people were dispersed, and the oil of God’s grace still continuing to circulate through our heats, a local Elder, who had been an instrument in converting many souls in this Province, began to feel the happy effects of it, yet more powerfully in his soul, whilst himself & others were interceding in the behalf of a broken hearted sinner. The travelling Ministers together with the local preachers formed in a cluster together around said Elder with their hands claspt around each others necks, tears streaming from many of their eyes, and hearts uplifted to God, broke out in such expressions of gratitude to God, and love one to another, until the presence of him who filleth all in all, filled, filled our hearts with raptures of Divine Joy, that it drew tears of thankfulness from almost every bystander. Whilst our souls were thus expanded and filled with the pure stream of the Water of Life, we seemed to be absent from the body and present with the Lord, anticipating that pure & perennial bliss where the saints of the most high shall Eternally bask in the bright beams of the smiling countenance of God. Thus our congenial souls were mingling together, with the rest of our dear brethren who were standing round in the praise of their God and our God. Surely heaven smiled at this hour; and we doubt not that if the curtain had been drawn aside we should have beheld a multitude of the heavenly Host praising God and saying, Glory, honor, praise and power be unto God and the lamb forever, whose loving spirit inspires such reciprocal love in the souls of men [Rev 15.13].
We wish to ascribe all Glory to God for every blessing received, but yet we cannot but acknowledge the entire satisfaction we took in seeing the prudent measures taken by the president of the meeting for the furtherance of the work, as also the active part which all the preachers, travelling and local, as well as private members male & female, took, in endeavouring to promote the best of all causes, by exhorting of, and praying with those that were distressed, and groaning for Redemption.
The number brought into liberty during the last 24 hours were 21 Justified, 18 Backsliders reclaimed and 12 Sanctified. The sum total 30 Justified, 28 Backsliders reclaimed, and and 39 Sanctified. 97 in all. To conclude, the hour came that we must part but even after we had been about 3 days and nights upon the ground, and had taken very little sleep and rest, yet there seemed to be an unwillingness in the minds of some to leave the spot. And even after we started, we cast a longing lingering look behind, feeling a regret at evacuating the place where God had so recently blessed us, and given us such a Signal Victory over our Enemies.
We have mentioned the number, as near as we could ascertain, which were delivered from bondage, but we would not wish to insinuate that to be the precise number, for we doubt not but there were many more; but so many came forward and openly declared what God had done for them. In addition to this all those who were before steadfast in the faith, with whom we conversed, professed to have their souls much quickened and comforted beside the many who were awakened, but did not get delivered, whom we hope will yet bring forth the fruits of righteousness.
Finally, we have every reason to praise God for the introduction of Camp Meeting among us, as we have proved it to be a powerful means of awakening and converting souls. O that this blessed work may be carried on till the ends of the Earth shall see the Salvation of our God, and his Knowledge cover the Earth as the waters cover the great deep [Ps 98.3]. Let all that love God say Amen. Amen.
Camp Meeting Terms
Exhortations: Short orations not based on a biblical text that usually followed a more traditional sermon. Among the earliest Methodists women were as likely to function as “exhorters” as men.
Justified: The process by which a person comes to an awareness of their personal sinfulness (sometimes called conviction) followed by a sense that Christ has indeed forgiven them and they are now “justified” in the presence of a perfectly holy God.
Backsliders: Returning members or adherents of evangelical Christianity who had allowed their religious convictions to atrophy.
Local Preachers: Preachers who were not usually ordained, did not travel circuits, were often married, and were always unpaid for the duties they performed. Local preachers often assisted itinerants and, when no itinerant was available, would also lead worship services and preach on Sundays.
Wounded: Those brought to a conviction of their own sinfulness and their need for salvation.
Love-feasts: Periodic special events of public worship at which bread and water were taken. Attendance at love-feasts was strictly reserved for members in good standing. Tickets provided by circuit riders were usually necessary for admission.
Supper of the Lord: A celebration (also called Eucharist, Communion, Holy Ordinance and sometimes simply the Sacrament), held by most protestant groups at which bread and wine are taken as symbols of the body and blood of Christ. Among Methodists only ordained ministers (circuit riders and bishops) could preside over this celebration. Before the Christmas Conference of 1784 (at which the Methodist Episcopal Church was established in America) all Methodists were obliged to receive the Sacrament only from ordained Church of England clergymen.
Children of the Devil: Unconverted members of the general community who were inclined to interfere with the proselytizing activities of the Methodists.
Traveling Preacher: An itinerant circuit rider as opposed to a local preacher.
Waked: An awareness of one’s sinfulness next to God’s perfect holiness.
Nathan Bangs’s original journals (together with his six-hundred and sixteen page ms. autobiography) are housed in the Methodist collections of Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. They are described in the electronic finding aid of the General Commission on Archives and History of the United Methodist Church. Copies of Bangs’s Canadian journals from 1 July 1805 to 28 April 1806 and the American journal and notebook covering events between 1800 and 1817 are also available at the United Church Archives at Victoria College, University of Toronto. I acknowledge the kind permission of Drew University to publish them in this form.
Edited by Scott McLaren
Book History Practicum
University of Toronto