In the early 1800s, Yale College produced an “usually large amount” of ministers. This was at least partly due to three revivals that occurred during 1808-1815. The last of these, which was the last revival to occur during Timothy Dwight’s term as president of the college (Dwight was grandson of Jonathan Edwards), occurred in 1815. S. Dryden Phelps’ father in law James Harvey Linsley (1787-1844) had participated in this revival.
One professor recalls the revivals commencement by saying that “prayers were at length answered and a revival of great power commenced…Its immediate cause was the reading at Sabbath evening prayers of an account of the death of Sir Francis Newport…[which produced] a kind of electric power on the whole body of students. Nearly every individual in the college became anxious for the salvation of his soul; and those who had been most
thoughtless seemed to be most affected.”
According to that same professor, some 80 students professed to have been converted during that year. Linsley, a student at Yale at the time, was kept very busy during the revival. His daughter called it a “glorious outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” Before the revival occurred, Linsley along with some other classmates woke up at an early hour, before the official time of prayer, in order to pray for “impenitent students.”
The event deeply impressed Linsley. In a letter he wrote to his sister at the time, he said: “my emotions are unutterable…such an outpouring of the Spirit of God, never did I witness before… The Lord is here indeed.” In the same later he recalls how he barely had time to study because classmates were coming to his room one after the other and saying “O I am a poor sinner Linsley; do pray for me; what shall I do?”
A review of the letter gives that impression that Linsley is grasping at words sufficient to describe what happened. “The Lord has shaken these colleges to their centre in a spiritual sense.”
Sadly, as was a common theme in his life, the hectic pace of his energy caused Linsley’s body to give in. The revival took a serious toll on his frail health and he once again had a violent attack of hemmorrhage in his lungs and almost died.
1. Memoir of the Rev. James H. Linsley
2. Robert Buckingham Mouheb, Yale Under God.
3. Thomas H. Kiker, The relationship between Samuel J. Mills Jr. and the influence of the Second Great Awakening on missions and evangelism
Listen to this Post