THE GREAT JACKSON TORNADO -- EIGHT HUNDRED PROFESS CONVERSION --SEPTEMBER 30 TO NOVEMBER 22, 1883
This was one of the most remarkable revivals in the history of Michigan. Dr. F. Reasner,an official member of the First M. E. Church, met the evangelist at the Lake Side Campmeeting andobtained a promise from him, that, if the church called, he would come and labor at Jackson. In duetime the official call came, and, true to his promise, September 31st found Mr. Weber at Jackson,at the head of what was to prove a mighty revival movement. The following concerning theopening there is from his own pen, "Jackson, Mich., i a city of twenty-two thousand population. Itis called the hardest city in Michigan. Several noted evangelists had been there without stirring theentire city. It seemed as if Satan had become so entrenched as to defy the churches and all that wasgood.
"The church, the largest in that conference, had been burdened with a debt of $40,000,which seemed to crush out all the spirituality, in fact all they could attend to was to raise money topay the interest. Bro. J. Graham, a man full of tact and push, being pastor, crowded the questionday and night of paying off the debt. Some said, 'It cannot be done'; but be, true as the needle is tothe north, when be undertakes anything, said, 'It must be done.' This 'It must' was pushed night andday, until the debt was entirely liquidated, and now the church was in a condition to enjoy aglorious revival ... The church was in a very low state of spirituality and the signs of life werefew."
A prominent member of the official hoard says, "The spiritual condition of our church, asalso the community, was at a low ebb. Our prayer and class meetings were thinly attended and thesinging of the old hymn,
'Live at this poor dying rate,' seemed to express the real condition of our church."
There was a large Catholic population, and the Protestant churches were cold and formal.As truly as of New England towns in Whitefield's times, it might have been said, --
"To the lust of office and greed of trade,
A stepping stone is the altar made;
Everywhere is the grasping hand,
And eager adding of land to land;
And earth, which seemed to the fathers meant
But as a pilgrim's wayside tent,
A nightly shelter to fold away
When the Lord should call at break of day,
Solid and steadfast seemed to be,
And Time has forgotten Eternity!"
Reports of Mr. Weber's successes and eccentricities had preceded him, and Sundayevening the people, wide-awake with curiosity, gathered to his first meeting. After singing, andfitting preliminary remarks by the pastor, the evangelist took charge of the service. His remarkswere reported by the daily papers as follows, --
"Bro. Weber said he did praise God for what He had done and for what He was going todo, for the people were going to have an old-fashioned Methodist time. He did not want scientificsinging, but singing from the heart. 'Glory hallelujah' was then sung, after which there was prayerby the Revs. M. S. Sly and J. Graham. 'Bringing in the Sheaves' was then sung, Mr. Weberremarking that the sheaves would begin to be gathered before next Sunday. After, 'Shall we gatherat the river?' was sung with great fervor, by the choir and congregation, led by the revivalist,prayer was again offered.
"'The people had come to hear a sermon,' Rev. Weber said, 'but he did not come to preach.'He just came to help Revs. Graham, Sly, and perhaps other ministers, who were in thecongregation. In the afternoon he had taken a retrospective view of the situation in Jackson, inprayer in his closet, and as he had thought of the condition of a large portion here, his heart hadbled for them, but the God who had given him thousands and thousands of converts had notdeserted him. Perhaps some of his hearers did not like his ways, and perhaps he would 'not likethem if he knew all about them; on this score he and they were mutual. He had not come to stay afew days. He had told his folks in Ohio that he was going to be gone between one and four months,and if the ministers would stand by him, his bones would bleach before he had left, until he hadmade five hundred to one thousand converts here in Jackson.
"At Findlay, O., thirty-five came forward the second night. When he left the tally, thatshowed five hundred and thirty converts. The church was not large enough to hold those who came,and hundreds went away. He was reminded of a story of a man who saw but one devil on the roofof a house. He asked what he was doing there, and the devil replied, 'There is a church quarrelhere, and I can keep them in order alone.' Passing on, be found a church lined with devils, for therea revival was going on, and it took all the power of Satan to hold a few back. This town was goingto be mightily moved for God, and multitudes saved, who are now going 'pell-mell' to hell. Heexpected that many would go away mad, but some of them would come back glad.
"At Marysville, O., during the hot weather in June, he had made four hundred and threeconverts in four weeks; the church and yards were thronged, and one young man was so anxious forsalvation that he jumped into the church through a window. The people must be careful how theyacted in regard to this work. He had heard of a little dog barking at the moon. The moon went onshining, and when the little dog died, even then the moon did not stop. The people could hark atthis work, but it would still go on. All he asked of this people was a ten days' probation, and thenthey could look for a moving of the Spirit. There was so much preciseness that Christ was almostdriven out of the churches. At his church in Ohio, the people had said, 'monkey show,' and wouldnot stand it. Then he tried to preach in the usual precise kind of a way, but he dropped into thepulpit paralyzed. The people begged him to go on, and the next night twenty-five or thirty soulssaid, 'I want to be saved.'
"Last year he had seen three thousand converts. He had come to be just like himself; hecould not be anybody else if he tried. In reply to the slander that he worked for money, the speakersaid he had refused a position worth between $5,000 and $6,000 a year, and had given up a placeat $10 per day, when he was through college, to go into this work, a place where he would nothave been libeled by newspapers, cursed and damned by a good many people, in whose way hestood. He wanted personal work in the congregation, and night after night with penitents. Hewanted the people to know that they were saved. For himself, he did not wish to go to heaven on aguess. He did not believe there were people enough, with red-hot personal experiences, in thecongregation, to lead the coming throng to the altar, and the church was going to be too small forthe congregations of the coming nights."
He then closed with the benediction.
The speaker's independence of man, earnestness, and confident prophecies of comingcrowds and great success, aroused a great deal of criticism. Especially his statement that, undersuch unfavorable circumstances, there would be from five hundred to one thousand conversions.
Satan, who had been defeated through him many times before, and understood well that theevangelist meant every word he said, sent as strong a detachment of devils to Jackson as he couldspare, and the battle at once began.
At the next evening service he "gave an invitation for those who knew they were saved tostand up. A good number arose. He then asked any who would like to know they were saved toarise, and as many more arose.
His pointed sermons and earnest efforts, both in public and private, soon stirred the entirecity. Peal followed peal of denunciation of the popular sins of the church and the people. Theywould hardly recover from one surprise before another was ready.
"Through the celled chambers of secret sin
Sudden and strong the light shone in;
A guilty sense of his neighbor's needs
Startled the man of tithe deeds."
Purity, Innocence, and Virtue waved their hands and rejoiced. Truth and Uprightnessdefended the evangelist, and urged him on. Error, Vice, and Hypocrisy counseled together howthey might paralyze his power. As elsewhere, unconverted professors were among the chiefopposers. The Jackson Star, a "wandering star" to whom we fear is "reserved the blackness ofdarkness, forever," from the beginning ridiculed the revival and the evangelist, as the followingextracts from its columns indicate, AMUSEMENTS -- REV. MR. WEBER.
The M. E. Church has contributed its share to the amusements this week. Rev. Mr. Weberis a star of a considerable magnitude. Though he was not extensively billed, he has played to largehouses all the week. Matinees every afternoon.
The Rev. Mr. Weber continues his nightly performances at the M. E. Church, and, no matterwhat the attraction at the other theater, he fills the house nightly. He is really a good actor, and thelarge houses are greatly pleased.
Tadpoles often fall during a tornado, and this was simply one of them. Two of the Starreporters were converted before the meetings closed. Glory to God! The Jackson Citizen, theofficial paper of the city, and one of the leading newspapers in Michigan, by able editorials andreports of the meetings seemed to feel it an honor to use its extensive influence in every way tosupport the evangelist and the revival. This led to a sort of newspaper "war" which helped thework, and did honor to the Citizen. The following extracts from it give us something of an idea ofthe effect of the revival, even in the secular circles of the city, The revival services at the First M.E. Church, under the management of the young revivalist, Weber, are the talk of the city. Whilesome have faith that God will use him for much good, others are wishing that he may be successful,and yet reserve their judgments. While some others have their fine sensibilities very much ruffledby the unusual, manners of the man, others flatly denounce the service as wanting in commonrespect to the house of God.
Those who have faith that good will come of this effort are 'costly those who are devoted,earnest Christians, that realize the necessity of the hour, and remember that God uses variousmethods and instrumentalities to bring about his purposes. Those who are afflicted by the style ofthe man, are those who know but little of religion outside the forms and ceremonies of the churchrarely at prayermeetings, seldom at class, never enthusiastic except at socials and entertainments.And, strange to say, those who flatly denounce are those who seldom enter a church, have littleregard for religion, and have faith in nobody but themselves.
Please note the sentences which we have italicized. They contain the secret of oppositionto all genuine revivals.
In another issue, the Citizen said, --
"The controversy going on in the minds of hundreds who have listened to the sermons ofRev. J. H. Weber, the evangelist, seems likely to be left to the city press for final settlement. TheChristian churches believe that his mission is to do good, and the two thousand people who throngthe Methodist church building every night to hear him, is pretty conclusive evidence that he is notrepudiated by the citizens of Jackson."
While the newspaper dueling was going on, the tide of convicting and converting powerwas continually rising, and the attendance kept increasing, until hundreds would come and beunable to gain admittance. Did all the ministers of the city stand by the evangelist? We presumenot; some did not by Jesus, nor Wesley, nor Finney. Very many people, regardless of creed, aredrawn, as by magnetism, to the clear, crystal draughts of gospel truth, that are dispersed so freelyin genuine revivals, and though offered from the tin cups of informality, they much prefer this tovainly sipping from the silver chalices of emptiness. They therefore naturally go where they canget and do the most good. So it is not strange that sometimes, as of old, "Grave pastors, fearingtheir flock to hose, Prophesied to empty pews that Gourds would wither, and mushrooms die, Andnoisiest fountains soonest run dry."
This was true of, at least, one minister at Jackson, and has frequently been known to occurin the history of revival movements. No proselytizing is allowed by Mr. Weber. All Christians areinvited to co-operate, and his converts sometimes join different churches. He does a great deal ofpersonal work, and proselytizing preachers sometimes get terribly stung. In one town, thePresbyterian minister stood aloof from the meeting, but, like a hawk, would swoop down on any ofthe converts that he was anxious to have in his church. In one instance, as he was about to seize hiswould-be prey, he was met by this Stinging rebuke, "You paid no attention to us before we wereconverted and we shall go with those who did." He flew back to his retreat a disappointed and wetrust a wiser man.
Though the meetings of the first week were declared to be glorious ones, yet each weekwould surpass the former, until, under the head of "WONDERFUL CROWDS, WONDERFULINTERESTS, WONDERFUL RESULTS," it was reported, "In the language of the pastor, itbeggars description. He doubted if any church in Michigan or Detroit Conferences had ever seensuch a day, -- so full of tangible results. He did not think that any pastor had ever been permitted toadminister the rites of baptism to so many people, all the result of one revival, as he had, duringthe morning service."
A special to the Commercial gazette, headed, "EXTRA" -- ORDINARY RELIGIOUSREVIVAL -- PHENOMENAL SUCCESS OF A YOUNG CINCINNATI EVANGELIST," declaredthe meetings "surpassed anything of the kind ever known in this section. The church, in its audienceroom and galleries has a seating capacity of over two thousand, which have nightly been crowded,while hundreds were turned away for want of even standing room, and even now the interest stillincreases, so that it has become necessary to throw open the lecture room and parlors of the churchin the basement, which have been crowded as well, and thus two meetings were in progress at thesame time. The records show nearly eight hundred conversions, over three hundred of which havealready united with the First M. E. Church, and perhaps as many more at the different churches inthe city."
A correspondent of the Michigan Christian Advocate wrote, --
"Nothing in this city is so much talked of as the revival now in progress in our church. TheHoly Spirit is doing His office work, and all over the city men and women are under powerfulconviction. Those who once hated and reviled now sing glad anthems of praise unto Him who hathredeemed them. On Sunday evening our church was 'packed,' no other word will convey the idea.The city press places the number at two thousand five hundred. Bro. Weber preached from the text,'The great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?' and for more than fortyminutes, he held his audience before the judgment seat of God, and many of the stoutest hearts'quaked and trembled.' At one point in his sermon he spoke of the trump of God sounding, and thereached down and took the cornet from the hands of the cornet-player, and held it aloft, and hiseffect upon his audience brought to mind the incident in the life of Lorenzo Dow. 'God is in Hisholy temple, and not unto us, but unto Him, be all the glory.'"
It was estimated that as high as from five hundred to one thousand persons went away, on asingle evening, unable to gain admittance.
We copy the following important report from the Lamp of Life, Rev. J. S. Smart, editor,where it was published under the above caption, --
"The following letter from Rev. John Graham, pastor of the first M. E. Church, Jackson,Mich., will be read with profound interest, and with thanksgiving and praise to God, for thewonderful works of his grace, Jackson, Nov. 20, 1883.
"'Dear Bro. Smart, -- In respect to the revival now going on in our church, anything I mightsay will fall short of the reality. It goes beyond everything I have ever seen. We have been carryingforward service now into the eighth week, and since the third week the work has taken on the mostsolid type, spreading largely among young men, the middle aged, and reaching to some away up inthe sixties. The conversions are clear, and, one thing remarkable, most of them are converted ononce coming to the altar.
"'Up to the present, there are reported eight hundred conversions. There are converted,nightly, from twenty to thirty. we have so far gathered into the First Church three hundred and fifty,and will, at least, get four hundred. Seven have just united with the Haven-street M. E. Church. Thegain to Jackson Methodism, at present, by probation and by letter, will be over five hundred andfifty. Many old letters have been hunted up. A few have united with other churches, and many havebeen converted belonging to adjacent villages. The crowds are simply overpowering. The churchis packed night after night. Then, some nights, we have an overflow meeting in the lecture roomthat will be filled, holding about five hundred.
"'The whole city and surrounding country are moved with a deep religions influence, andeverywhere men and women and talking about the revival. Last Sunday was the most wonderfulday I have ever seen. During the week, a baptismal service was announced, for Sunday morning.Every available seat in the audience room was filled. We gave an invitation to the candidates tocome to the altar. It was first filled with parents, presenting their children, then by probationers,and for one hour and one-half I administered the rite of baptism. One hundred and forty-four werethus dedicated to God, one hundred and ten of whom were adults.
"'Mr. Weber is a combination of eccentricity and force, is deeply in earnest, and worksalong the old lines of Methodism. He practices our altar service, and believes in people knowingthey are saved. I have given you the main facts without any attempt at finish whatever. Yours, J.Graham.'"
The closing service was a fitting climax to all that had gone before.
On the final night, persons were admitted only by tickets. The spiritual atmosphere, ascompared with the first night, was changed as from January to June. The rainbow of promisesfulfilled arched the spiritual sky. The songs of victory and praise rose from multitudes of happyhearts, and fifteen hundred came to bid the evangelist farewell. "He could not pronounce thebenediction without giving one more opportunity to those who had so long resisted. The altar wasfilled, and eleven souls came out into the light."
Thus closed the labors of Mr. Weber in one of the greatest revivals of this or any age.
At Pentecost, there was at least one hundred and twenty evangelists baptized with the HolyGhost, to aid in the meeting. Here there was only one. The Pentecost congregation was composedlargely of devout Jews, who were walking in the light they had, and looking for the Messiah. TheJackson congregation was largely made up of slaves to Worldliness, Prejudice, and Vice. Godwas glorified in both. To Him be the praise! Amen.
A LITTLE CHILD SHALL LEAD THEM
Two little children went home and there begun shouting, praising God. The parents becamealarmed about them, and the mother came to the meetings and was converted.
BREAD CAST UPON THE WATERS Here Mr. Weber met a man whose salvation he had sought years before, when they werelaborers together 'n a shop. This man was converted, and said to the evangelist, "Many times Ithought of the words you said to me at the shop."
"ZACHAEUS, COME DOWN"
At the close of one service all who wished prayers were asked to rise. Among the numberwho arose MUSCULAR RELIGION.
A man came into Mr. Weber's room, at the hotel, and wanted to fight him, because he hadcalled attention to his wife, who was "cutting up" in church. The evangelist "put him out of hisroom.
One evening a woman was converted just as Mr. Weber was about to take his text, andshouted aloud in her new found joy.
"YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN"
In his sermon on the new birth, the evangelist said, "Some say," I do not understand thisbeing born again. Don't you think people are educated to it?' Now, whenever I hear this, it remindsme of the story I have heard told of the Chinese emperor with the pig, who thought that the pig wasdirty because always kept in an unclean place. He thought that, if kept in a clean place, it would beclean and like a little lamb, and so he called his wise men together, and they concluded to take ayoung pig, put him in a clean place and educate him. This was done, and they taught him manytricks, until at last they thought him all right and concluded to fix him up and take him out for awalk, which they did. Everything went all right until they came to a mud-puddle, when in went thepig. At this the emperor was wroth, and declared those in charge of him had not given him theproper education, and compelled them to be placed in dungeons, and others selected to continuethe education of Mr. Pig. After a while, they took the pig out again. Many said, 'Why, he wastempted that time;' but by and by they came to another mud-puddle, and the pig was soon in againall over."
One of the tests of conversion which the people meet in genuine revivals, is liberality. Atthe close of this meeting, after all its expenses were met, there still remained three hundred dollarsin the treasury.
Mr. Weber went from Jackson to Millersburgh, O., where over one hundred and fortyprofessed conversion, and closed the year with another sweeping tornado at Fort Wayne, Ind., inwhich over four hundred professed to have found the Saviour. During the last two days of 1883,seventy were saved in his services, and between three thousand and four thousand during the year.Referring to God's blessing, he writes, "It is a great deal better than I deserve."
"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him, all creatures here below,
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."