Lorenzo Dow.

The dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete online

. (page 1 of 126)
Online LibraryLorenzo DowThe dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete → online text (page 1 of 126)
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Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. — David.








Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1849, by
J. S. GI, \Si:\KI{. & R. C. MARSHALL,

in the Clerk's Office of the District Cocrt of Ohio.

Stereotyped by "Vincent Dill, Jr.,
No. 17 Ann Street, N. T.


Those of our readers who have lived long enough to remember the first
thirty years of the present century, will easily call to mind a remarkable and
eccentric individual, who for nearly the whole of that period, prompted by an
inward impulse, devoted himself to a life of singular labor, self-denial and sacri-
fice. One month he would be heard of laboring for the good of souls, in his
own peculiar way, in the neighborhood of his native New England home : the
next, perhaps, braving the frost and snow of a Canadian winter ; the next, on
his way to Ireland or to England, in the prosecution of the same benevolent
purpose ; and six months afterwards, perhaps, encountering the dangers and
hardships of a Georgia or Kentucky wilderness, or fleeing for his life from the
tomahawk or the scalping knife of the Indian savage, in the then untrodden
wilds of the great valley of the West. That individual was Lorenzo Dow.

Pale, sallow, and somewhat consumptive in the appearance of his counte-
nance ; dressed in the plainest attire, with his single-breasted coat, often worn
thread-bare ; and in his later years wearing a long flowing patriarchal beard ;
his whole appearance was such as to awaken a high degree of curiosity and in-
terest. Then, the suddenness and the promptitude of his advent in a town or
village, at the very hour and minute that he had appointed, perhaps some twelve
or eighteen months before ; the boldness with which he would attack the ruling
vices, and denounce wickedness — either in high places or low, — the general
adaptation of his dry and caustic rebukes to the sin and follies prevalent in the
places he visited, and which he seemed to know almost intuitively ; together
with the biting sarcasm and strong mother- wit that pervaded his addresses ; —
all served to invest the approach to any place of the " crazy preacher," (as he
was frequently called,) with an air of singular and almost romantic interest.

And most extensively has the influence of the labors of this strange and
eccentric man been experienced and felt. Scarcely a neighborhood, from Can-
ada to Georgia, or from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, that has not some tra-



dition to relate, or some tale to tell of the visit and the preaching of Lorenzo
Dow ; and scarcely an old man in all those regions that has not some one or
more of the witty sayings of Lorenzo Dow to relate to his children and his

The history of such a man, however mysterious the impulses which prompted
him, and however strange his movements, belongs to the history of the race;
nor will justice to the race permit that the extensive memorials which he has
left of himself should be lost in silence or forgetfulness. In the minute and
extensive journals of his travels and sufferings and labors, and in his various
mental exercises, upon a great variety of matters of doctrine and opinion, which
Lorenzo Dow has left behind him, he has bequeathed to posterity a mental
daguerreotype of himself. And however outre may be many of his expressions,
however eccentric and amusing, and frequently inconclusive may be much of his
speculation and reasoning — yet it is frequently instructive ; it is always en-
tertaining; it is always characteristic ; it is part of the history of mind. The
reader is satisfied that there is no interpolation here ; that it is Lorenzo Dow
himself who speaks, and no one else. And for the very plain reason, that his
expressions, if not his thoughts, are entirely sui generis ; they are strictly
peculiar to himself. It is not denied that some of his ideas may have been
! uttered by others. It is safe to say that no man ever expressed them in the
phraseology of Lorenzo Dow.

If it were not for the fear of transcending the limits of the brief introductory
essay, and of touching upon subjects that might lead us to diverge too much
from the more immediate object with which this Introduction has been written
— it might be interesting to examine somewhat minutely a variety of questions
that naturally arise in the mind of the reader who carefully peruses the mental
portraiture of himself, embodied in his life and writings.

Thus for instance, we might be disposed to ask — was Lorenzo Dow, in truth,
a man of piety, savingly converted to God, or not? What were the motives
that prompted him to so extraordinary and laborious a life 1 What were his
reasons, while retaining his connexion with the Methodist Church, for declining
to submit to the regular course of labors and control prescribed by the Method-
ist discipline 1 Are there any reasons to doubt whether he was in truth a
sane man, or partially deranged ? What was the secret of the prejudice so
early imbibed, and so constantly exhibited through all his writings against who-
ever differed from himself in the Arminian scheme of doctrine he had adopted 1


and how did he acquire that habit of mind, which led him to be ever on the
watch for every poor unhappy wight, tinctuied with the least particle of Cal-
vinism, and to dub him with the singular, but characteristic epithet of an "A,
double-L,-part man ?"

Differing, as the writer of the present essay does, toto ccelo, from Lorenzo
Dow on the subject of the doctrines of grace, so frequently made the themes of
his severe but amusing caricatures, he would hardly feel justified in performing
the present service, did he imagine that there was, from the laughable and
witty sallies of Lorenzo Dow, any danger to be apprehended to the system of
doctrine advocated in the seventeenth century by such men as a Bates, an Owen
or a Howe ; or in later days by an Edwards or a Bellamy, a Doddridge, a
Fuller or a Payson. The reader will, doubtless, like the present writer, read
and smile as he reads the cuts and thrusts of our good friend Lorenzo, at the
" A,-double-L-part, men," and their supposed, but imaginary doctrine ; but
beyond this, whatever be the views of the reader, he will take no offence. These
ebullitions were necessary in order to complete the portraiture of Lorenzo's
mind. They can hardly do any harm. They are simply amusing. That is all.

Leaving every reader to answer most of the questions above suggested to his
own satisfaction, I shall proceed to state my reason for answering in the affirm-
ative the first of the series — Is there ground to conclude, that with all his oddi-
ties and eccentricities, Lorenzo was, after all, at heart a pious man, truly and
savingly converted to God?

Some, I am aware, have expressed doubt on this point. Before making my-
self familiar with his life and writings, I might have been undecided myself. I
can do no more than briefly sketch the conversion of Lorenzo Dow, and hint at
some of the additional reasons that have led me to the conclusion that his piety
was genuine, that his religion was that of the heart, that his faith was of the
operation of the Holy Ghost.

In perusing the journal of Lorenzo Dow, it is impossible for one familiar with
the history and writings of the immortal Bedford dreamer, to avoid being struck
with the Bunyan-like character of the experience and religious exercises of our
author. His frequent mention of remarkable dreams, his " strong temptations
to end this mortal life," and many of his mental exercises and struggles forcibly
remind one of Bunyan's experience, as described by himself in that singular !
piece of autobiography — " Grace abounding to the chief of sinners." And if we
compare the account given by each, of his conversion, I cannot perceive any


reason why the evidence of a genuine work of grace, is any less satisfactory in
the case of the Connecticut wanderer than in that of the Bedford dreamer.

The account given by Lorenzo of his conversion is characteristic of himself.
— He was as yet a youth. Already had he been warned by more than one sin-
gular dream, which he relates with characteristic minuteness. Among other
things which tended to awaken him, was an assurance that he imagined himself
to have received from the Prophet Nathan in a dream — though in this case, his
dream did not come true — that he should live only to the age of twenty-two.
" About this time there was much talk about the people called Methodists, who
were lately come into the western parts of New England. Some said they were
the deceivers that were to come in the last time. Some, on the other hand,
said they were a very good sort of people. A preacher of this zealous sect come
into the neighborhood. Lorenzo " went to the door and looked in to see a
Methodist, but to my surprise," says he, " he appeared like other men /"
After hearing two sermons, Lorenzo became the subject of deep and pungent
conviction. " I durst not stir for some time," says he, " for fear I should tum-
ble into hell. My sins and the damnable nature of them, were in a moment
exhibited to my view."

There is no greater evidence of the genuineness of conviction for sin, than
when it is accompanied by a heartfelt sense of the justice of God in the condem-
nation of the sinner. This Lorenzo seems to have felt in a high degree. A day
or two after these pungent convictions begun, he was at a prayer meeting.
" Saints were happy, and sinners were weeping on every side, but I " says he,
" could not shed a tear. Then I thought within myself — if I could weep, I
would begin to take hope, but ! how hard is my heart ! I went from one to
another, to know if there was any mercy for me. The young converts answered,
— ' God is all love, he is all mercy,' — I replied — ' God is just too, and justice
will cut me down.' — I saw no way how God could be just, and yet show me
mercy. "

A no less satisfactory evidence of the genuineness of conversion, is when it is
accompanied by an entire renunciation of self and self-righteousness, and simple
dependence for salvation upon the precious blood of Christ. This too was a
prominent element in the religious experience of Lorenzo. At the crisis of his
conviction for sin, after " striving to plead with God for mercy, for several
hours, one night, as a man would plead for his life," he fell into a slumber.
He dreamed that two devils entered the room each with a chain in his hand ;


they laid hold on him, one at his head, the other at his feet, and bound him fast
— to drag him down to hell. In the midst of a desperate struggle to break
these chains, he awaked from this terrific dream, " and Oh !" says he, " how
glad I was that it was only a dream ! Still I thought that within a few hours,
it would surely be my case. I again strove to lift my heart to God for mercy,
and these words struck my mind — ' In that day there shall a fountain be
opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and
uncleanness.' A thought darted into my mind that the fountain was Christ ;
and if it were so deep and wide for the wicked inhabitants of Jerusalem to wash
in and be clean, why not for the whole world 1 why not for me ?

Discouragements arose. He thought he heard the voice of God's justice, say-
ing, " take the unprofitable servant, and cast him into outer darkness." He
put his hands together, and cried in his heart, " the time has been that I might
have had religion, but now it is too late ; mercy's gate is shut against me, and
my condemnation for ever sealed : — Lord I give up ; I submit ; I yield ; if
there be mercy for me in Heaven let me know it ; and if not, let me go down to
Hell, and know the worst of my case. — As these words flowed from my heart,"
says he, " I saw the Mediator step in, as it were, between the Father's justice
and my soul, and these words were applied to my mind with great power —
' Son, thy sins which are many are forgiven thee ; thy faith hath saved thee ;
go in peace.' — The burden of sin and guilt, and the fear of hell vanished from
my mind, as perceptibly as a hundred pounds weight falling from a man's
shoulder ; my soul flowed out in love to God, to his ways and to his people ;
yea, and to all mankind." The next morning, says he, " I scarcely touched
the ground, for I felt so happy, that I scarcely knew whether I was in the body
or out of it. I did want a thousand tongues, and ten thousand to the end of it,
to praise God for what he had done for my soul."

What Christian that reads the above brief sketch of the conversion of Lo-
renzo Dow, and then remembers that this glorious truth of salvation through
Christ alone, constituted the leading theme in all his future ministry, and that
the flame of love to Jesus then lit up, continued to burn in his bosom through
all his life, and that the love of Christ constrained him, as long as Lue lasted,
to labor, and journey, and suffer, and preach, and pray for the salvation of
souls — can for a moment doubt that his experience was a genuine one, and that
Lorenzo Dow was truly and emphatically a monument of sovereign grace.

For my part, most firmly do I believe, that — although rejecting, (probably


through misrepresentation,) some doctrines which I regard as bible truths — yet
his faith was fixed upon the rock of ages, that he held most firmly the great
fundamental truths of the glorious gospel — the depravity of man, the necessity
of regeneration by the Holy Ghost, and the divinity and atonement of the Lord
Jesus Christ — and that he will at the last day be found among those who shall
have turned many to righteousness, and who will " shine as the sun in the fir-
mament, and as the stars for ever."

The wife of Lorenzo,— -Peggy Dow, seems to have been a christian of a kin-
dred spirit with himself. The reader will, doubtless, be gratified to learn that
her journal is included in the present edition of the works of Mr. Dow, and
also a number of the publications of the latter (obtained by correspondence with
the surviving members of his family,) which have never before been embodied in
any edition of his works. The writer of the present brief essay therefore has no
hesitation in commending the present, as the best and most complete edition
ever yet published of the works of this extraordinary and eccentric, but godly
and useful man.


Berean Parsonage, New York,

March 1st, 1849



1. I WAS born, October 16, 1777, in Cov-
entry (Tolland County) State of Connecticut,
North America. My parents were born in
the same town and descended from English
ancestors. They had a son, and tken three
daughters, older than myself, and one daugh-
ter younger ; they were very tender towards
their children, and endeavored to educate them
well, both in religion and common learning.

2. When I was two years old, I was taken
sick, and my parents having been a long jour-
ney and returning homewards, heard of my
dangerous illness, and that I was dead, and
expected to meet the people returning from
my funeral. But to their joy I was living,
and beyond the expectation of all, I recovered.

3. When I was between three and four
years old, one day, whilst I was at play with
my companion, I suddenly fell into a muse
about God and those places called heaven and
hell, which I heard people converse about, so
that I forgot my play, which my companion ob-
serving, desired to know the cause ; I asked
him if he ever said his prayers, morning or
night ; to which he replied, no — then said I,
you are wicked and I will not play with you,
so I quit his company and went into the house.

4. My mind, frequently on observing the
works of creation desired to know the cause
of things, and I asked my parents many ques-
tions which they scarcely knew how to an-

5. Being for a few weeks in another neigh-
borhood, I associated with one who would
both swear and lie, which proved some harm
to me : but these serious impressions did not
leave me until in my eighth year, when my pa-
rents removed to another vicinity, the youth
of which were very corrupt ; and on joining
their company, I too soon learned their ways,
grieved the tender feelings of my mind ; and
began to promise myself felicity, when I should
arrive to manhood.

6. One day I was the means of killing a


bird, and upon seeing it gasp, I was struck
with horror ; and upon seeing any beast strug-
gle in death it made my heart beat hard, as it
would cause the thoughts of my death to come
into my mind. And death appeared such a
terror to me, I sometimes wished that I might
be translated as Enoch and Elijah were ; and
at other times I wished I had never been born.

7. About this time a query arose in my
mind, whether God would answer prayer now
as in primitive times, and there being a small
lottery in the neighborhood, and I wishing for
the greatest prize, promised within myself,
that if it was my luck to obtain the prize, I
would take it as an answer to prayer and af-
terwards would serve God. No sooner had I
got the prize, which was nine shillings, than
I broke my promise ; my conscience condemn-
ed me, and I was very uneasy for some

8. After I had arrived at the age of twelve
years, my hopes of worldly pleasure were
greatly blasted by a sudden illness, occasioned
by overheating myself with hard labor, and
drinking a quantity of cold milk and water.
I then murmured and complained, thinking my
lot to be harder than my companions ; for they
enjoyed health, whilst I was troubled with an
asthmatic disorder or stoppage of breath. Oh!
the pain I endured !

9. Sometimes I could lie for several nights
together and sleep sound ; and at other times
would be necessitated to sit up part or all the
night — and sometimes I could not lie down at
all for six or seven days together. — But as yet
did not consider that the hand of God was in
all this. About this time I dreamed that i
saw the PRorHET nathan, in a large assem-
bly of people, prophecying many things ; I
got an opportunity to ask him how long I
should live 1 said he, until you are two-
and-twenty ; this dream was so imprinted in
my mind, that it caused me many serious and
painful hours at intervals.



10. When past the age of thirteen years,
and about the time that John Wesley died,
(1791) it pleased God to awaken my mind by
a dream of the night, which was, that an old
man came to me at mid-day, having a staff in
his hand, and said to me, Do you ever pray 1
I told him, no — said he you must, and then
went away — he had not been long gone before
he returned ; and said again, Do you pray 1 I
again said, no ; and after his departure I went
out of doors, and was taken up by a whirl-
wind and carried above the skies : at length I
discovered, across a gulf as it were through
a mist of darkness, a glorious place, in which
was a throne of ivory overlaid with gold, and
God sitting upon it, and Jesus Christ at his
right hand, and angels, and glorified spirits,
celebrating praise. — Oh ! the joyful music !
I thought the angel Gabriel came to the edge
of heaven, holding a golden trumpet in his
right hand, and cried to me with a mighty
voice to know if I desired to come there, I
told him I did — Said he, You must go back to
yonder world, and if you will be faithful to
God, you shall come here in the end.

11. With reluctance I left the beautiful
sight and came back to the earth again ; and
then I thought the old man came to me the
third time and asked me if I had prayed 1 I
told him I had ; then said he, be faithful,


[ thought that was to be when I should be

' blest ; and when I awaked behold it was a

dream. But it was strongly impressed on

my mind, that this singular dream must be

from God — and the way that I should know

it, I should let my father know of it at such

j time and such a place, viz. as he would be

I feeding the cattle in the morning, which I ac-

j cordingly did ; and no sooner had I done than

I keen conviction seized my heart — I knew I

I was unprepared to die ; tears began to run

down plentifully, and I again resolved to seek

the salvation of my soul ; I began that day to

pray in secret, but how to pray or what to

pray for, I scarcely knew.

12. I at once broke off from my old com-
panions and evil practices, which some call
innocent mirth, which I had never been told
w;is wrong ; and betook to the bible, kneeling
in private, which example 1 had never seen.
Soon I became like a speckled bird, anions the
birds of the forest, in the eyes of my friends :

I — I frequently felt for a few seconds, cords of
sweet love to draw me on ; but from whence it
-flowed, I could not tell : which I since believe

' was for an encouragement to hope in the

| mercy of God.

13. If now I had had any one to have in-
structed me in the way and plan of salvation,
I doubt not but I should have found salvation :
But, alas, I felt like one wandering arid be-

nighted in an unknown wilderness, who wants
both light and a guide. The bible was like a
sealed book ; so mysterious I could not under-
stand it, and in order to hear it explained, I
applied to this person and that book ; but got
no satisfactory instruction. I frequently wish-
ed I had lived in the days of the prophets or
apostles, that I could have had sure guides ;
for by the misconduct of professors, I thought
there were no bible saints in the land : thus
with sorrow, many months heavily rolled away.

14. But at length, not finding what my soul
desired, I began to examine the cause more
closely, if possible to find it out ; and imme-
diately the doctrine of unconditional reproba-
tion and particular election, was exhibited to
my view ; that the state of all was unalterably
fixed by God's " eternal decrees.''' Here dis-
couragements arose, and I began to slacken
my hand by degrees, until I entirely left off
secret prayer, and could not bear to read (or
hear) the scriptures, saying, if God has fore-
ordained whatever comes to pass, then all our
labors are vain.

15. Feeling still condemnation in my breast,
I concluded myself reprobated : despair of
mercy arose, hope was fled : and I was resolv-
ed to end my wretched life ; concluding the
longer I live, the more sin I shall commit, and
the greater my punishment will be ; but the
shorter my life, the less sin, and of course the
less punishment, and the sooner I shall know
the worst of my case; accordingly I loaded a
gun, and withdrew to a wilderness.

16. As I was about to put my intention into
execution, a sudden solemn thought darted in-
to my mind, " stop and consider what you are
about, if you end your life, you are undone
for ever ; but if you omit it a few days longer,
it may be that something will turn up in your
favor;" this was attended with a small degree
of hope, that if I waited a little while, it should
not be altogether in vain : and I thought I felt
thankful that God prevented me from sending
my soul to everlasting misery.

17. About this time, there was much talk
about the people called Methodists, who were
lately come into the western part of New Eng-
land. There were various reports and opin-
ious concerning them, some saying the\ were
the deceivers that were to come in the last
times; that such a delusive spirit attended
them, that it was dangerous to hear them
preach, lest they should lead people out of the
good old way. which they had been brought
up in : that they would deceive if possible the
very elect ; some on the other hand said they

Online LibraryLorenzo DowThe dealings of God, man, and the devil : as exemplified in the life, experience, and travels of Lorenzo Dow, in a period of over half a century: together with his polemic and miscellaneous writings, complete → online text (page 1 of 126)