The Journals & Notebook of
 Nathan Bangs 1805-1806, 1817

 

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Editorial Annotations


There are several noteworthy divergences between Bangs's 1805 manuscript account and the later published account of 1863. The first is a noticeable decrease in the degree to which the "converted" are contrasted with the "unconverted." The earlier references to non-Methodists as "wicked," "ferocious," and "wolvish" are either omitted or replaced in the 1863 text with the far less noxious (if still condescending) term "unawakened." This change in tone is nowhere more pronounced than in the exorcism of the young demoniac. In the 1863 revised version not only is Bangs's earlier claim that the young man was in fact "possessed" softened to suggest he only seemed to behave as one possessed, but the whole colourful affair detailing the "Wicked Children of the Devil" attempting to liberate the young man from the exorcising preachers only to be physically repulsed by believers forming a circle six deep around him is omitted. Carroll, though publishing several years after Stevens, seems to have been less reticent about including qualified narratives centered on demoniacs. In the first volume of Case and his Cotemporaries, for example, he describes another exorcism that has many features in common with Bangs's 1805 account. Both concern former believers who are deprived first of their piety and then of their reason. Darius Dunham, the sacerdotal agent in both cases, seems to combined the roles of presiding elder and unofficial exorcist in Upper Canada at the time. See right-hand pane for a link to Carroll's text.

Even more extraordinary than these alterations, however, is the change to the conversion story of the young woman "of high rank."  Bangs's 1805 account describes the repentant young woman, led away from the camp by her disapproving sister, being pursued by a group of Methodist women to whom Bangs give the appellation  "Daughters of Jerusalem."  Stevens's 1863 published account, on the other hand, replaces the heroic "Daughters of Jerusalem" with a single unnamed male preacher who alone pursues and returns the young woman to the meeting. Finally, Bangs's autobiography describes a scene somewhere between the two extremes. In this version Bangs takes the lead but is clearly assisted by several women in the task of returning the repentant sister to the camp meeting. See links to these varying accounts in the right-hand pane. These incremental alterations may be accounted for by a growing consciousness that, as Methodism became increasingly respectable, the public roles that women could occupy proportionately decreased. It is equally striking that these texts, taken together, show that Stevens was not immune to taking liberties with Bangs's manuscript materials. 

The "little boy of 11 years" seems to be the same boy that Henry Ryan, in Playter's account, uses to demonstrate to the "heedless youth" at the meeting that Methodist conversions are not brought about by "scaring" but by "spiritual influence."  Stevens, unlike Playter, makes no mention of Henry Ryan in his account of the camp meeting, probably because of Ryan's role in fostering schism among Methodists in Upper Canada throughout the 1820s.

Finally, Rawlyk's retelling of this day's events is confused on several points, most notably by the fact that he seems to conflate the love-feast and the Lord's supper two very distinct acts of Methodist worship (151).

[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[] 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.

* Rawlyk omits this word (151)
Rawlyk has "stranger" (151)
Rawlyk has "you" (152)
Rawlyk as "3 or 6 deep" (152)
   

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Manuscript

Primary Sources


Abel Stevens Life and Times of Nathan Bangs Stevens and Bangs on the third day of the camp-meeting

Nathan Bangs  "Auto-biography" Bangs on the two sisters "of some standing in society"

George Playter History of Methodism in Canada Playter on the Hay Bay camp meeting

John Carroll Case and His Cotemporaries Carroll on an exorcism performed by Darius Dunham

 

Terms


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.

Travelling preacher: An itinerant circuit rider as opposed to a local preacher.

 

 

Edited by Scott McLaren
Book History Practicum
University of Toronto