Shaking in the Multitude
The Rev. Richard Williams was to preach at Bethel Church, where I with others were assembled. The text he took is in Jonah, 2d cap. 9th vers,—"Salvation is of the Lord." But as he proceeded to explain, he seemed to have lost the spirit; when in the same instant, I sprang, as by an altogether supernatural impulse, to my feet, when I was aided from above to give an exhortation on the very text which my brother Williams had taken.
I told them that I was like Jonah; for it had been then nearly eight years since the Lord had called me to preach his gospel to the fallen sons and daughters of Adam's race, but that I had lingered like him and delayed to go at the bidding of the Lord and warn those who are as deeply guilty as were the people of Ninevah.
I now sat down, scarcely knowing what I had done, being frightened. I imagined that for this indecorum, as I feared it might be called, I should be expelled from the church. But instead of this, the bishop [Richard Allen] rose up in the assembly and [said he] believed that I was called to that work, as any of the preachers present. My fears of having given an offense and made myself liable as an offender subsided, giving place to a sweet serenity, a holy joy of a peculiar kind, untasted in my bosom until then.
[A couple of weeks later in a private home:] My congregation consisted of but five persons. I commenced by reading and singing a hymn, when I dropped to my knees by the side of a table to pray. When I arose I found my hand resting on the Bible. I opened the Scripture, as it happened, at the 141st Psalm, fixing my eye on the third verse, which reads, "Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep the door of my lips."
My sermon, such as it was, applied wholly to myself, and added an exhortation. Two of my congregation wept much, as the fruit of the labor this time. In closing I said to the few that if any one would open a door, I would hold a meeting the next sixth-day evening, when one answered that her house was at my service.
Accordingly I went, and God made manifest his power among the people. Some wept, while others shouted for joy. One whole seat of females, by the power of God, as the rushing of a wind, were all bowed to the floor at once, and screamed out. Also a sick man and woman in one house, the Lord convicted them both; one lived, and the other died.
[Six months later, among Methodists:] There were doctors, lawyers, and magistrates present to hear me speak, yet there was mourning and crying among sinners, for the Lord scattered fire among them of his own kindling. The Lord gave his handmaiden power to speak for his great name, for he arrested the hearts of the people, causing shaking amongst the multitude, for God was in the midst.
—A condensed excerpt from The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee (1833)
Copyright © 1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History Magazine.
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