The camp was furnished with several stands for preaching, exhorting, jumping and jerking; but still one place was the pulpit, above all others. This was a large scaffold, secured between two noble sugar trees, and railed in to prevent from falling over in a swoon, or springing over in an ecstasy; its cover the dense foliage of the trees, whose trunks formed the graceful and massive columns. Here was said to be also the altar, but I could not see its horns or any sacrifice; and the pen, which I did see—a place full of clean straw, where were put into fold stray sheep willing to return. It was at this pulpit, with its altar and pen, the regular preaching was done; around here the congregation assembled; hence orders were issued; here, happened the hardest fights, and were gained the greatest victories, being the spot where it was understood Satan fought in person; and here could be seen gestures the most frantic, and heard noises the most unimaginable, and often the most appalling. It was the place, in short, where most crowded either with praiseworthy intentions of getting some religion, or with unholy purposes of being amused; we, of course, designing neither one nor the other, but only to see philosophically and make up an opinion. At every grand outcry a simultaneous rush would, however, take place from all parts of the camp, proper and improper, towards the pulpit, altar, and pen; till the crowding, by increasing the suffocation and the fainting, would increase the tumult and the uproar; but this, in the estimation of many devotees, only rendered the meeting more lively and interesting.
By considering what was done at this central station one may approximate the amount of spiritual labor done in a day, and then a week in the whole camp:
1. About day-break on Sabbath a horn blasted us up for public prayer and exhortation, the exercises continuing nearly two hours.
2. Before breakfast, another blast for family and private prayer; and then every tent became, in camp language, "a bethel of struggling Jacobs and prevailing Israels," every tree "an altar;" and every grove "a secret closet;" till the air all became religious words and phrases, and vocal with "Amens."
3. After a proper interval came a horn for the forenoon service; then was delivered the sermon, and that followed by an appendix of some half dozen exhortations let off right and left, and even behind the pulpit, that all might have a portion in due season.
4. We had private and secret prayer again before dinner;—some clambering into thick trees to be hid, but forgetting in their simplicity, that they were heard and betrayed. But religious devotion excuses all errors and mistakes.
5. The afternoon sermon with its bob-tail string of exhortations.
6. Private and family prayer about tea time.
7. But lastly, we had what was termed "a precious season," in the third regular service at the principia of the camp. This season began not long after tea and was kept up long after I left the ground; which was about midnight. And now sermon after sermon and exhortation after exhortation followed like shallow, foaming, roaring waters; till the speakers were exhausted and the assembly became an uneasy and billowy mass, now hushing to a sobbing quiescence, and now rousing by the groans of sinners and the triumphant cries of folks that had "jist got religion"; and then again subsiding to a buzzy state, occasioned by the whimpering and whining voices of persons giving spiritual advice and comfort! How like a volcanic crater after the evomition of its lava in a fit of burning cholic, and striving to resettle its angry and tumultuating stomach!
It is time, however, to speak of the three grand services and their concomitants, and to introduce several master spirits of the camp.
Our first character, is the Reverend Elder Sprightly. This gentleman was of good natural parts; and in a better school of intellectual discipline and more fortunate circumstances, he must have become a worthy minister of some more tasteful, literary and evangelical sect. As it was, he had only become what he never got beyond—"a very smart man;" and his aim had become one—to enlarge his own people. And in this work, so great was his success, that, to use his own modest boastfulness in his sermon to-day,—"although folks said when he came to the Purchase that a single corn-crib would hold his people, yet, bless the Lord, they had kept spreading and spreading till all the corn-cribs in Egypt weren't big enough to hold them!"
He was very happy at repartee, as Robert Dale Owen well knows; and not "slow" (inexpert) in the arts of "taking off"—and—"giving them their own." This trait we shall illustrate by an instance.
Mr. Sprightly was, by accident, once present where a Campbellite Baptist, that had recently taken out a right for administering six doses of lobelia, red pepper and steam to men's bodies, and a plunge into cold water for the good of their souls, was holding forth against all Doctors, secular and sacred, and very fiercely against Sprightly's brotherhood. Doctor Lobelia's text was found somewhere in Pope Campbell's New Testament; as it suited the following discourse introduced with the usual inspired preface:
"Well, I never rub'd my back agin a collige, nor git no sheepskin, and allow the Apostuls didn't nither. Did anybody ever hear of Peter and Poll a-goin' to them new-fangled places and gitten skins to preach by? No, sirs, I allow not; no, sirs, we don't pretend to loguk—this here new testament's sheepskin enough for me. And don't Prisbeteruns and tother baby sprinklurs have reskorse to loguk and skins to show how them what's emerz'd didn't go down into the water and come up agin? And as to Sprightly's preachurs, don't they dress like big-bugs, and go ridin about the Purchis on hunder-dollur hossis, a-spunginin on poor priest-riden folks and a-eatin fried chickin fixins so powerful fast that chickins has got skerse in these diggins; and then what ain't fried makes tracks and hides when they sees them a-comin?
"But, dear bruthrun, we don't want store cloth and yaller buttins, and fat hossis and chickin fixins, and the like doins—no, sirs! we only wants your souls—we only wants beleevur's baptism—we wants prim—prim—yes, Apostul's Christianity, the Christianity of Christ and them times, when Christians was Christians, and tuk up thare cross and went down into the water, and was buried in the gineine sort of baptism by emerzhin. That's all we wants; and I hope all's convinced that's the true way—and so let all come right out from among them and git beleevur's baptism; and so now if any brothur wants to say a word I'm done, and I'll make way for him to preach."
Anticipating this common invitation, our friend Sprightly, indignant at this unprovoked attack of Doctor Lobelia, had, in order to disguise himself, exchanged his clerical garb for a friend's blue coatee bedizzened with metal buttons; and also had erected a very tasteful and sharp coxcomb on his head, out of hair usually reposing sleek and quiet in the most saint-like decorum; and then, at the bid from the pulpit-stump, out stepped Mr. Sprightly from the opposite spice-wood grove, and advanced with a step so smirky and dandyish as to create universal amazement and whispered demands—"Why! who's that?" And some of his very people, who were present, as they told me, did not know their preacher till his clear, sharp voice came upon the hearing, when they showed, by the sudden lifting of hands and eyebrows, how near they were to exclaiming: "Well! I never!"
Stepping on to the consecrated stump, our friend, without either preliminary hymn or prayer, commenced thus:
"My friends, I only intend to say a few words in answer to the pious brother that's just sat down, and shall not detain but a few minutes. The pious brother took a good deal of time to tell what we soon found out ourselves—that he never went to college and don't understand logic. He boasts, too, of having no sheepskin to preach by; but I allow any sensible buck-sheep would have died powerful sorry, if he'd ever thought his hide would come to be handled by some preachers. The skin of the knowingest old buck couldn't do some folks any good—some things salt won't save.
"I rather allow Johnny Calvin's boys and 'tother baby sprinklers,' ain't likely to have they idees physicked out of them by steam logic, and doses of No. 6. They can't be steamed up so high as to want cooling by a cold water plunge. But I want to say a word about Sprightly's preachers, because I have some slight acquaintance with that there gentleman, and don't choose to have them all run down for nothing.
"The pious brother brings several grave charges; first, they ride good horses. Now don't every man, woman and child in the Purchase know that Sprightly and his preachers have hardly any home, and that they live on horseback? The money most folks spend in land these men spend for a good horse; and don't they need a good horse to stand mud and swim floods? And is it any sin for a horse to be kept fat that does so much work? The book says 'a merciful man is merciful to his beast,' and that we mustn't 'muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn.' Step round that fence corner, and take a peep, dear friends, at a horse hung on the stake; what's he like? A wooden frame with a dry hide stretched over it. What's he live on? Ay! that's the pint! Well, what's them buzzards after?—look at them sailing up there. Now who owns that live carrion?—the pious brother that's just preached to us just now. And I want to know if it wouldn't be better for him to give that dumb brute something to cover his bones, before he talks against 'hunder-dollur hossis' and the like?
"The next charge is, wearing good clothes. Friends, don't all folks when they come to meeting put on their best clothes? and wouldn't it be wrong if preachers came in old torn coats and dirty shirts? It wouldn't do no how. Well, Sprightly and his preachers preach near about every day; and oughtn't they always to look decent? Take, then, a peep at the pious brother that makes this charge; his coat is out at the elbow, and has only three or four buttons left, and his arm, where he wipes his nose and mouth, is shiny as a looking glass—his trousers are crawling up to show he's got no stockings on; and his face has got a crop of beard two weeks old and couldn't be cleaned by 'baby sprinklin''; yes, look at them there matters, and say if Sprightly's preachers ain't more like the apostles in decency than the pious brother is.
"A word now about chickin-fixins and doins. And I say it would be a charity to give the pious brother sich a feed now and then, for he looks half-starved, and savage as a meat-ax; and I advise that old hen out thare clucking up her brood not to come this way just now, if she don't want all to disappear. But I say that Sprightly's preachers are so much beliked in the Purchase, that folks are always glad to see them, and make a pint of giving them the best out of love; an' that's more than can be said for some folks here.
"The pious brother says he only wants our souls—then what makes him peddle about Thomsonian physic? Why don't he and Campbell make steam and No. 6 as free as preaching? I read of a quack doctor once, who used to give his advice free gratis for nothing to any one what would buy a box of his pills—but as I see the pious brother is crawling round the fence to his anatomical horse and physical saddle-bags, I have nothing to say, and so, dear friends, I bid you all good-by."
Such was Rev. Elder Sprightly, who preached to us on Sabbath morning at the Camp. Hence, it is not remarkable that in common with many worthy persons, he should think his talents properly employed in using up "Johnny Calvin and his boys," especially as no subject is better for popularity at a camp-meeting. He gave us, accordingly, first, that affecting story of Calvin and Servetus, in which the latter figured to-day like a Christian Confessor and martyr, and the former as a diabolical persecutor; many moving incidents being introduced not found in history, and many ingenious inferences and suppositions tending to blacken the Reformer's character. Judging from the frequency of the deep groans, loud amens, and noisy hallelujahs of the congregation during the narrative, had Calvin suddenly thrust in among us his hatchet face and goat's beard, he would have been hissed and pelted, nay possibly been lynched and soused in the branch; while the excellent Servetus would have been toted on our shoulders, and feasted in the tents on fried ham, cold chicken fixins and horse sorrel pies!
Here is a specimen of Mr. S.'s mode of exciting triumphant exclamation, amens, groans, etc., against Calvin and his followers: "Dear sisters, don't you love the tender little darling babes that hang on your parental bosoms? (amen!)—Yes! I know you do—(amen! amen!)—Yes, I know, I know it.—(Amen, amen! hallelujah!) Now don't it make your parental hearts throb with anguish to think those dear infantile darlings might some day be out burning brush and fall into the flames and be burned to death! (deep groans.)—Yes, it does, it does! But oh! sisters, oh! mothers! how can you think your babes mightn't get religion and die and be burned for ever and ever? (O! forbid—amen—groans.) But, oho! only think—only think, oh! would you ever a had them darling infantile sucklings born, if you had a known they were to be burned in a brush heap! (No, no!—groans—shrieks.) What! what! what! if you had foreknown they must have gone to hell?—(hoho! hoho—amen!) And does anybody think He is such a tyrant as to make spotless, innocent babies just to damn them? (No! in a voice of thunder.)—No! sisters! no! no! mothers! No! no! sinners, no!!—He ain't such a tyrant! Let John Calvin burn, torture and roast, but He never foreordained babies, as Calvin says, to damnation! (damnation!—echoed by hundreds.)—Hallelujah! 'tis a free salvation! Glory! a free salvation!—(Here Mr. S. battered the rail of the pulpit with his fists, and kicked the bottom with his feet—many screamed—some cried amen!—others groaned and hissed—and more than a dozen females of two opposite colors arose and clapped their hands as if engaged in starching, etc., etc.) No-h-o! 'tis a free, a free, a free salvation!—away with Calvin! 'tis for all! all! all! Yes! shout it out! clap on! rejoice! rejoice! oho-oho! sinners, sinners, sinners, oh-ho-oho!" etc., etc.
Here was maintained for some minutes the most edifying uproar of shouting, bellowing, crying, clapping and stamping, mingled with hysterical laughing, termed out there "holy laughing," and even dancing! and barking! called also "holy!"—till, at the partial subsidence of the bedlam, the orator resumed his eloquence.
It is singular Mr. S. overlooked an objection to the divine Providence arising from his own illustration. That children do sometimes perish by being burnt and drowned, is undeniable; yet is not their existence prevented—and that in the very case where the sisters were induced to say they would have prevented their existence! But, in justice to Mr. S., we must say that he seemed to have anticipated the objection, and to have furnished the reply; for, said he, in one part of his discourse, "God did not wish to foreknow some things!"
But our friend's mode of avoiding a predestined death—if such an absurdity be supposed—deserves all praise for the facility and simplicity of the contrivance. "Let us," said he, "for argument's sake, grant that I, the Rev. Elder Sprightly, am foreordained to be drowned, in the river, at Smith's Ferry, next Thursday morning, at twenty-two minutes after ten o'clock; and suppose I know it; and suppose I am a free, moral, voluntary, accountable agent, as Calvinists say—do you think I'm going to be drowned? No!—I would stay at home all day; and you'll never ketch the Rev. Elder Sprightly at Smith's Ferry—nor near the river neither!"
Reader, is it any wonder Calvinism is on the decline? Logic it can stand; but human nature thus excited in opposition, it can not stand. Hence, throughout our vast assembly to-day, this unpopular ism, in spite of Calvin and the Epistle to the Romans, was put down; if not by acclamation, yet by exclamation—by shouting—by roaring—by groaning and hissing—by clapping and stamping—by laughing, and crying, and whining; and thus the end of the sermon was gained and the preacher glorified!
The introductory discourse in the afternoon was by the Rev. Remarkable Novus. This was a gentleman I had often the pleasure of entertaining at my house in Woodville; and he was a Christian in sentiment and feeling; for though properly and decidedly a warm friend to his own sect, he was charitably disposed toward myself and others that differed from him ecclesiastically. His talents were moderate; but his voice was transcendently excellent. It was rich, deep, mellow, liquid and sonorous, and capable of any inflections. It could preserve its melody in an unruffled flow, at a pitch far beyond the highest point reached by the best-cultivated voice. His fancy naturally capricious, was indulged without restraint; yet not being a learned or well-read man, he mistook words for ideas, and hence employed without stint all the terms in his vocabulary for the commonest thoughts. He believed, too, like most of his brotherhood, that excitement and agitation were necessary to conversion and of the essence of religion; and this, with a proneness to delight in the music and witchery of his own wonderful voice, made Mr. Novus an eccentric preacher, and induced him often to excel at camp-meetings, the very extravagances of his clerical brethren, whom more than once he has ridiculed and condemned at my fireside.
The camp-meeting was, in fact, too great a temptation for my friend's temperament, and the very theater for the full display of his magnificent voice; and naturally, this afternoon, off he set at a tangent, interrupting the current of his sermon by extemporaneous bursts of warning, entreaty and exhortation. Here is something like his discourse—yet done by me in a subdued tone—as, I repeat, are most extravaganzas of the ecclesiastical and spiritual sort, not only here, but in all other parts of the work.
"My text, dear hearers," said he, "on this auspicious, and solemn, and heaven-ordered occasion, is that exhortation of the inspired apostle, 'Walk worthy of your vocation.'
"And what, my dear brethren, what do you imagine and conjecture our holy penman meant by 'walking?' Think ye he meant a physical walking, and a moving, and a going backward and forward thus? (represented by Mr. N.'s proceeding, or rather marching, à la militaire, several times from end to end of the staging). No, sirs!—it was not a literal walking and locomotion, a moving and agitating of the natural legs and limbs. No, sirs!—no!—but it was a moral, a spiritual, a religious, ay! yes! a philosophical and metaphorically figurative walking, our holy apostle meant!
"Philosophic, did I say? Yes: philosophic did I say. For religion is the most philosophical thing in the universe—ay! throughout the whole expansive infinitude of the divine empire. Tell me, deluded infidels and mistaken unbelievers! tell me, ain't philosophy what's according to the consistency of nature's regular laws? and what's more onsentaneous and homogeneous to man's sublimated moral nature, than religion? Yes! tell me! Yes! yes! I am for a philosophical religion, and a philosophical religion is for me—ay! we are mutually made and formed for this beautiful reciprocality!
"And yet some say we make too much noise—even some of our respected Woodville merchants—(meaning the author). But what's worth making a noise about in the dark mundane of our terrestrial sphere, if religion ain't? People always, and everywhere in all places, make most noise about what they opine to be most precious. See! yon banner streaming with golden stars and glorious stripes over congregated troops, on the Fourth of July, that ever-memorable—that never-to-be-forgotten day, which celebrates the grand annual anniversary of our nation's liberty and independence! when our forefathers and ancestors burst asunder and tore forever off the iron chains of political thraldom! and rose in plenitude, ay! in the magnificence of their grandeur, and crushed their oppressors!—yes! and hurled down dark despotism from the lofty pinnacle of its summit altitude, where she was seated on her liberty-crushing throne, and hurled her out of her iron chariot, as her wheels thundered over the prostrate slaves of power!—(Amen)—Yes!—hark!—we make a noise about that! But what's civil liberty to religious liberty, and emancipated disenthraldom from the dark despotism of yonder terrific prince of darkness! whose broad, black, piniony wings spread wide o'er the ærial concave like a dense cloud upon a murky sky?—(A-a-men!)—And ain't it, ye men of yards and measures, philosophical to make a noise about this?—(Amen!—yes!) Yes! yes! and I ain't ashamed to rejoice and shout aloud. Ay! as long as the prophet was ordered to stamp with his foot, I will stamp with my foot;—(here he stamped till the platform trembled for its safety)—and to smite with his hand, I will smite with my hand—(slapping alternate hands on alternate thighs.)—Yes! and I will shout, too!—and cry aloud, and spare not—glory! for—ever!—(and here his voice rang out like the sweet, clear tones of a bugle).
"And, therefore, my dear sisters and brethren, let us walk worthy of our vocation; not with the natural legs of the physical corporation, but in the apostolical way, with the metaphysical and figurative legs of the mind—(here Mr. N. caught some one smiling).—Take care, sinner, take care! curl not the scornful nose—I'm willing to be a fool for religion's sake—but turn not up the scornful nose—do its ministers no harm! Sinner, mark me!—in yon deep and tangled grove, where tall, aspiring trees wave green and lofty heads in the free air of balmy skies—there sinner, an hour ago, when the sonorous horn called on our embattled hosts to go to private prayer! an hour ago, in yonder grove I knelt and prayed for you!—(hooh!)—yes! I prayed some poor soul might be given for my hire!—and he promised me one!—(Glory! glory!—ah! give him one!)—laughing sinner!—take care!—I'll have you!—(Grant it—amen!—ooohoo!) Look out, I'm going to fire—(assuming the attitude of rifle-shooting)—bang!—may He send that through your heart!—may it pierce clean home through joints and marrow!—and let all people say amen!—(and here amen was said, and not in the tame style of the American Archbishop of Canterbury's cathedral, be assured; but whether the spiritual bullet hit the chap aimed at, I never learned; if it did, his groans were inaudible in the alarming thunder of that amen).
"Ay! ay! that's the way! that's the way! don't be ashamed of your vocation—that's the way to walk and let your light shine! Now, some wise folks despise light, and call for miracles: but when we can't have one kind of light, let us be philosophical, and take another. For my part, when I'm bogging about these dark woods, far away in the silent, somber shadows, I rejoice in sunshine; and would prefer it of choice, rather than all other celestial and translucent luminaries: but when the gentle fanning zephyrs of the shadowy night breathe soft among the trembling leaves and sprays of the darkening forests, then I rejoice in moonshine: and when the moonshine dims and pales away, with the waning silvery queen of heaven in her azure zone, I look up to the blue concave of the circular vault, and rejoice in starlight. No! no! no! any light!—give us any light rather than none!—(Ah, do, good—!) Yes! yes! we are the light of the world, and so let us let our light shine, whether sunshine, or moonshine, or starlight!—(oohoo!)—and then the poor benighted sinner, bogging about this terraqueous, but dark and mundane sphere, will have a light like a pole star of the distant north, to point and guide him to the sunlit climes of yonder world of bright and blazing bliss!"—(A-a-amen!)
Such is part of the sermon. His concluding prayer ended thus—(Divine names omitted).
"Oh, come down! come, come down! down! now!—to-night!—do wonders then! come down in might! come down in power! let salvation roll! Come down! come! and let the earthquaking mighty noise of thy thundering chariot wheels be heard, and felt, and seen, and experienced in the warring elements of our spiritualized hearts!"
During the prayer, many petitions and expressions were so rapturously and decidedly encored, that our friend kindly repeated them; and sometimes, like public singers, with handsome variations; and many petitions by amateur zealots were put forth, without any notice of the current prayer offered by Mr. N., yet evidently having in view some elegancy of his sermon. And not a few petitions, I regret to say, seemed to misapprehend the drift and scope of the preacher. One of this sort was the earnest ejaculations of an old and worthy brother, who, in a hollow, sepulchral, and rather growly voice, bellowed out in a very beautiful part of the grand prayer: "Oohhoo! take away moonshine!"
But our first performance was to be at night: and at the first toot of the tin horn we assembled in expectation of a "good time." For, 1. All day preparation had been making for the night; and the actors seemed evidently in restraint, as in mere rehearsal: 2. The night better suits displays and scenes of any kind: but 3. The African was to preach; and rumor had said, "he was a most powerful big preacher, that could stir up folks mighty quick, and use up the ole feller in less than no time."
After prefatory prayers and hymns, and pithy exhortations by several brothers of the Circassian breed, our dusky divine, the Rev. Mizraim Ham, commenced his sermon, founded on the duel between David and Goliath.
This discourse we shall condense into a few pages; although the comedy or mellow-drama—for it greatly mellowed and relaxed the muscles—required for its entire action a full hour. There was, indeed, a prologue, but the rest was mainly dialogue, in which Mr. Ham wonderfully personated all the different speakers, varying his tone, manner, attitude, etc., as varying characters and circumstances demanded. We fear much of the spirit has evaporated in this condensation; but that evil is unavoidable.
"Bruthurn and sisturn, tention, if you pleases, while I want you for to understand this here battul most partiklur 'zact, or may be you moughtn't comprend urn. Furst place, I gwyin to undevur to sarcumscribe fust the 'cashin of this here battul: second place, the 'comdashins of the armies: third place, the folkses as was gwyin for to fite and didn't want to, and some did: and last and fourth place, I'm gwyin for to show purtiklur 'zact them as fit juul, and git victry and git kill'd.
"Tention, if you please, while I fustly sarcumscribe the 'casion of this here battul. Bruthurn and sisturn, you see them thar hethun Fillystines, what warn't circumcised, they wants to ketch King Sol and his 'ar folks for to make um slave; and so, they cums down to pick a quorl, and begins a-totin off all their cawn, and wouldn't 'low um to make no hoes to hoe um, nor no homnee. And that 'ar, you see, stick in King Solsis gizurd; and he ups and says, says he, 'I'm not gwying to be used up that 'ar away by them uncircumcis'd hethun Fillystines, and let um tote off our folkses cawn to chuck to thar hogs, and take away our hoes so we can't hoe um—and so, Jonathun, we'll drum up and list soljurs and try um a battul.' And then King Sol and his 'ar folks they goes up, and the hethun and theirn comes down and makes war. And this is the 'cashin why they fit.
"Tention, 'gin, if you pleases, I'm gwyin in the next place secondly, to show the 'comdashins of this here battul, which was so fashin like. The Fillystines they had thar army up thar on a mounting, and King Sol he had hissin over thar, like, across a branch, amoss like that a one thar—(pointing)—and it was chuck full of sling rock all along on the bottom. And so they was both on um camp'd out; this a one on this 'ar side, and tother a one on tother, and the lilly branch tween um—and them's the 'comdashins.
"Tention once more agin, as 'caze next place thirdly, I'm a gwyin to give purtiklur 'zact 'count of sum folkses what fit and sum didn't want to. And lubly sinnahs, maybe you minds um, as how King Sol and his soljurs was pepper hot for fite when he fust liss um; but now, lubly sinnahs, when they gits up to the Fillystines, they cool off mighty quick, I tell you! 'Caze why? I tell you; why, 'caze a grate, big, ugly ole jiunt, with grate big eyes, so fashin—(Mr. Ham made giant's eyes here)—he kums a rampin' out a frount o' them 'ar rigiments, like the ole devul a gwyin about like a half-starv'd lion a-seeking to devour poor lubly sinnahs! And he cum a-jumpin and a-tearin out so fashin—(actions to suit)—to git sum of King Solsis soljurs to fite urn juul; and King Sol, lubly bruthurn and sisturn, he gits sker'd mighty quick, and he says to Jonathun and tother big officers, says he, 'I ain't a gwyin for to fite that grate big fellah.' And arter that they ups and says, 'We ain't a gwying for to fite um nuther, 'caze he's all kiver'd with sheetirun, and his head's up so high we muss stand a hoss back to reach um!'—the jiunt he was so big!!
"And then King Sol he quite down in the jaw, and he turn and ax if somebody wouldn't hunt up a soljur as would fite juul with um; and he'd give um his dawtah, the prinsuss, for wife, and make um king's son-in-law. And then one old koretur, they call him Abnah, he comes up and says to Sol so: 'Please, your majustee, sir, I kin git a young fellah to fite um,' says he. And Abnah tells how Davy had jist rid up in his carruge and left um with the man what tend the hossis—and how he heern Davy a quorl'n with his bruthers and a wantun to fite the jiunt. Then King Sol, he feel mighty glad, I tell you, sinnahs, and he make um bring um up, and King Sol he begins a-talkin so, and Davy he answers so:—
"'What's your name, lilly fellah?'
"'I was krissen'd Davy.'
"'Who's your farder?'
"'They call um Jesse.'
"'What you follur for livin?'
"'I 'tend my farder's sheep.'
"'What you kum arter? Ain't you affeerd of that 'ar grate ugly ole jiunt up thar, lilly Davy?'
"'I kum to see arter my udder brudurs, and bring um in our carruge some cheese and muttun, and some clene shirt and trowser, and have tother ones wash'd. And when I cum I hear ole Golliawh a hollerin out for somebody to cum and fite juul with um; and all the soljurs round thar they begins for to make traks mighty quick, I tell you, please your majuste, sir, for thar tents; but, says I, what you run for? I'm not a-gwyin for to run away—if King Sol wants somebody for to fite the jiunt, I'll fite um for um.'
"'I mighty feer'd, lilly Davy you too leetul for um—'
"'No! King Sol, I kin lick um. One day I gits asleep ahind a rock, and out kums a lion and a bawr, and begins a-totin off a lilly lam; and when I heern um roarin and pawin 'bout, I rubs my eyes and sees um gwyin to the mountings—and I arter and ketch'd up and kill um both without no gun nor sword—and I bring back poor lilly lamb. I kin lick ole Goliawh, I tell you, please your majuste, sir.'
"Then King Sol he wery glad, and pat um on the head, and calls um 'lilly Davy,' and wants to put on um his own armur made of brass and sheetirum and to take his sword, but Davy didn't like um, but said he'd trust to his sling. And then out he goes to fite the ole jiunt; and this 'ar brings me to the fourth and last diwishin of our surmun.
"'Tention once more agin, for lass time, as I'm gwyin to give most purtikurlust 'zactest 'count of the juul atween lilly Davy and ole Goliawh the jiunt, to show, lubly sinnah! how the Lord's peepul without no carnul gun nor sword, can fite ole Bellzybub and knock um over with the sling rock of prayer, as lilly Davy knocked over Goliawh with hissin out of the Branch.
"And to 'lusterut the juul and make um spikus, I'll show 'zactly how they talk'd, and jaw'd, and fit it all out; and so ole Goliawh when he sees Davy a kumun, he hollurs out so, and lilly Davy he say back so:
"'What you kum for, lilly Jew?—'
"'What I kum for? you'll find out mighty quick, I tell you—I kum for fite juul—'
"'Huhh! huhh! haw!—t'ink I'm gwyin to fite puttee lilly baby? I want King Sol or Abnah, or a big soljur man—'
"'Hole your jaw—I'll make you laugh tother side, ole grizzle-gruzzle, 'rectly—I'm man enough for biggust jiunt Fillystine.'
"'Go way, poor lilly boy! go home, lilly baby, to your mudder, and git sugar plum—I no want kill puttee lilly boy—'
"'Kum on!—don't be afeerd!—don't go for to run away!—I'll ketch you and lick you—'
"'You leetul raskul—I'll kuss you by all our gods—I'll cut out your sassy tung—I'll break your blackguard jaw—I'll rip you up and give um to the dogs and crows—'
"'Don't cuss so, ole Golly! I 'sposed you wanted to fite juul—so kum on with your old irun-pot hat on—you'll git belly full mighty quick—'
"'You nasty leetle raskul, I'll kum and kill you dead as chopped sassudge.'"
Here the preacher represented the advance of the parties; and gave a florid and wonderfully effective description of the closing act partly by words and partly by pantomime; exhibiting innumerable marches and counter-marches to get to windward, and all the postures, and gestures, and defiances, till at last he personated David putting his hand into a bag for a stone; and then making his cotton handkerchief into a sling, he whirled it with fury half a dozen times around his head, and then let fly with much skill at Goliath; and at the same instant halloing with the frenzy of a madman—"Hurraw for lilly Davy!" At that cry he, with his left hand, struck himself a violent slap on the forehead, to represent the blow of the sling-stone hitting the giant; and then in person of Goliath he dropped quasi dead upon the platform amid the deafening plaudits of the congregation; all of whom, some spiritually, some sympathetically, and some carnally, took up the preacher's triumph shout—
"Hurraw! for lilly Davy!"
How the Rev. Mizraim Ham made his exit from the boards I could not see—perhaps he rolled or crawled off. But he did not suffer decapitation, like "ole Golly": since in ten minutes, his woolly pate suddenly popped up among the other sacred heads that were visible over the front railing of the rostrum, as all kept moving to and fro in the wild tossings of religious frenzy.
Scarcely had Mr. Ham fallen at his post, when a venerable old warrior, with matchless intrepidity, stepped into the vacated spot; and without a sign of fear carried on the contest against the Arch Fiend, whose great ally had been so recently overthrown—i.e., Goliath, (not Mr. Ham). Yet excited, as evidently was this veteran, he still could not forego his usual introduction, stating how old he was; where he was born; where he obtained religion; how long he had been a preacher; how many miles he had traveled in a year; and when he buried his wife—all of which edifying truths were received with the usual applauses of a devout and enlightened assembly. But this introduction over—which did not occupy more than fifteen or twenty minutes—he began his attack in fine style, waxing louder and louder as he proceeded, till he exceeded all the old gentlemen to "holler" I ever heard, and indeed old ladies either.
"... Yes, sinners! you'll all have to fall and be knock'd down some time or nuther, like the great giant we've heern tell on, when the Lord's sarvints come and fight agin you! Oho! sinner! sinner!—oh!—I hope you may be knock'd down to-night—now!—this moment—and afore you die and go to judgment! Yes! oho! yes! oh!—I say judgment—for it's appinted once to die and then the judgment—oho! oh! And what a time ther'll be then! You'll see all these here trees—and them 'are stars, and yonder silver moon afire!—and all the alliments a-meltin and runnin down with fervent heat-ah!"—(I have elsewhere stated that the unlearned preachers out there (?) are by the vulgar—(not the poor)—but the vulgar, supposed to be more favored in preaching than man-made preachers; and that the sign of an unlearned preacher's inspiration being in full blast is his inhalations, which puts an ah! to the end of sentences, members, words, and even exclamations, till his breath is all gone, and no more can be sucked in)—"Oho! hoah! fervent heat-ah! and the trumpit a-soundin-ah!—and the dead arisin-ah!—and all on us a-flyin-ah!—to be judged-ah!—O-hoah! sinner—sinner—sinner—sinner-ah! And what do I see away thar'-ah!—down the Mississippi-ah!—thar's a man jist done a-killin-ah another-ah!—and up he goes with his bloody dagger-ah! And what's that I see to the East-ah! where proud folks live clothed in purple-ah! and fine linen-ah!—I see 'em round a table a drinkin a decoction of Indian herb-ah!—and up they go with cups in thar hands-ah! and see—ohoah!—see! in yonder doggery some a dancin-ah! and fiddlin-ah!—and up they go-ah! with cards-ah! and fiddle-ah!" etc., etc.
Here the tempest around drowned the voice of the old hero; although, from the frantic violence of his gestures, the frightful distortion of his features, and the Pythonic foam of his mouth, he was plainly blazing away at the enemy. The uproar, however, so far subsided as to allow my hearing his closing exhortation, which was this:
"... Yes, I say—fall down—fall down all of you, on your knees!—shout!—cry aloud!—spare not!—stamp with the foot!—smite with the hand!—down! down!—that's it—down brethren!—down preachers!—down sisters!—pray away!—take it by storm!—fire away! fire away! not one at a time! not two together-ah!—a single shot the devil will dodge-ah!—give it to him all at once—fire a whole platoon!—at him!!"
And then such platoon firing as followed! If Satan stood that, he can stand much more than the worthy folks thought he could. And, indeed, the effect was wonderful!—more than forty thoughtless sinners that came for fun, and twice as many backsliders were instantly knocked over!—and there all lay, some with violent jerkings and writhings of body, and some uttering the most piercing and dismaying shrieks and groans! The fact is, I was nearly knocked down myself—
Yes—indeed—but not by the hail of spiritual shot falling so thick around me; it was by a sudden rush towards my station, where I stood mounted on a stump. And this rush was occasioned by a wish to see a stout fellow lying on the straw in the pen, a little to my left, groaning and praying, and yet kicking and pummelling away as if scuffling with a sturdy antagonist. Near him were several men and women at prayer, and one or more whispering into his ear; while on a small stump above stood a person superintending the contest, and so as to insure victory to the right party. Now the prostrate man, who like a spirited tom-cat seemed to fight best on his back, was no other than our celebrated New Purchase bully—Rowdy Bill! And this being reported through the congregation, the rush had taken place by which I was so nearly overturned. I contrived, however, to regain my stand, shared indeed now with several others, we hugging one another and standing on tip-toes and our necks elongated as possible; and thus we managed to have a pretty fair view of matters.
About this time the Superintendent in a very loud voice cried out—"Let him alone, brothers! let him alone sisters! keep on praying!—it's a hard fight—the devil's got a tight grip yet! He don't want to lose poor Bill—but he'll let go soon—Bill's gittin the better on him fast!—Pray away!"
Rowdy Bill, be it known, was famous as a gouger, and so expert was he in his antioptical vocation, that in a few moments he usually bored out an antagonist's eyes, or made him cry peccavi. Indeed, could he, on the present occasion, have laid hold of his unseen foe's head—spiritually we mean—he would—figuratively, of course—soon have caused him to ease off or let go entirely his metaphorical grip. So, however, thought one friend in the assembly—Bill's wife. For Bill was a man after her own heart; and she often said that "with fair play she sentimentally allowed her Bill could lick ary a man in the 'varsal world, and his weight in wild cats to boot." Hence, the kind-hearted creature, hearing that Bill was actually fighting with the evil one, had pressed in from the outskirts to see fair play; but now hearing Bill was in reality down, and apparently undermost, and above all, the words of the Superintendent, declaring that the fiend had a tight grip of the poor fellow, her excitement would no longer be controlled; and, collecting her vocal energies, she screamed out her common exhortation to Bill, and which, when heeded, had heretofore secured him immediate victories—"Gouge him, Billy!—gouge him, Billy!—gouge him!"
This spirited exclamation was instantly shouted by Bill's cronies and partizans—mischievously, maybe, for we have no right to judge of men's motives, in meetings:—but a few—friends, doubtless, of the old fellow—cried out in very irreverent tone—"Bite him! devil—bite him!" Upon which the faithful wife, in a tone of voice that beggars description, reiterated her—"Gouge him," etc.—in which she was again joined by her husband's allies, and that to the alarm of his invisible foe; for Bill now rose to his knees, and on uttering some mystic jargon symptomatic of conversion, he was said to have "got religion";—and then all his new friends and spiritual guides united in fresh prayers and shouts of thanksgiving.
It was now very late at night; and joining a few other citizens of Woodville, we were soon in our saddles and buried in the darkness of the forest. For a long time, however, the uproar of the spiritual elements at the camp continued at intervals to swell and diminish on the hearing; and, often came a yell that rose far above the united din of other screams and outcries. Nay, at the distance of nearly two miles, could be distinguished a remarkable and sonorous oh!—like the faintly heard explosion of a mighty elocutional class, practising under a master. And yet my comrades, who had heard this peculiar cry more than once, all declared that this wonderful oh-ing was performed by the separate voice of our townsman, Eolus Letherlung, Esq.!
A camp-meeting of this sort is, all things considered, the very best contrivance for making the largest number of converts in the shortest possible time; and also for enlarging most speedily the bounds of a Church Visible and Militant.