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  • Publicado : 11 de noviembre de 2009
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In the decades following the Revolution, a vast variety of choices appeared on the American religious landscape as an antiauthoritarian climate encouraged the formation of new democratic religious sects. The Baptists and Methodists were most adept in preaching to the new populist audience during these years of camp meeting revivalism. Peter Cartwright greatly contributed to the Methodists’success at introducing evangelical Protestantism to the new settlements of the West. Born in Virginia in 1785 and raised in Kentucky, Cartwright served as an itinerant minister bringing his version of enthusiastic religion to Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, and Ohio. This account of his conversion in the camp meeting of 1801 and his later career as a circuit rider comes from his autobiography, which waspublished in 1856.
Somewhere between 1800 and 1801, in the upper part of Kentucky, at a memorable place called “Cane Ridge,” there was appointed a sacramental meeting by some of the Presbyterian ministers, at which meeting, seemingly unexpected by ministers or people, the mighty power of God was displayed in a very extraordinary manner; many were moved to tears, and bitter and loud cryingfor mercy. The meeting was protracted for weeks. Ministers of almost all denominations flocked in from far and near. The meeting was kept up by night and day. Thousands heard of the mighty work, and came on foot, on horseback, in carriages and wagons. It was supposed that there were in attendance at times during the meeting from twelve to twenty-five thousand people. Hundreds fell prostrate underthe mighty power of God, as men slain in battle. Stands were erected in the woods from which preachers of different Churches proclaimed repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and it was supposed, by eye and ear witnesses, that between one and two thousand souls were happily and powerfully converted to God during the meeting. It was not unusual for one, two, three, and four toseven preachers to be addressing the listening thousands at the same time from the different stands erected for the purpose. The heavenly fire spread in almost every direction. It was said, by truthful witnesses, that at times more than one thousand persons broke into loud shouting all at once, and that the shouts could be heard for miles around.
From this camp-meeting, for so it ought to be called,the news spread through all the Churches, and through all the land, and it excited great wonder and surprise; but it kindled a religious flame that spread all over Kentucky and through many other states. And I may here be permitted to say, that this was the first camp- meeting ever held in the United States, and here our camp-meetings took their rise....
In 1801, when I was in my sixteenth year,my father, my eldest half brother, and myself, attended a wedding about five miles from home, where there was great deal of drinking and dancing, which was very common at marriages those days. I drank little or nothing; my delight was in dancing. After a late hour in the night, we mounted our horses and started for home. I was riding my race-horse.
A few minutes after we had put up the horses,and were sitting by the fire, I began to reflect on the manner in which I had spent the day and evening felt guilty and condemned. I rose and walked the floor. My mother was in bed. It seemed to me, all of a sudden, my blood rushed to my head, my heart palpitated, in a few minutes I turned blind; an awful impression rested on my mind that death had come and I was unprepared to die. I fell on myknees and began to ask God to have mercy on me.
My mother sprang from her bed, and was soon on her knees by my side, praying for me, and exhorting me to look to Christ for mercy, and then and there I promised the Lord that if he would spare me, I would seek and serve him; and I never fully broke that promise. My mother prayed for me a long time. At length we lay down, but there was little sleep...
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