Aaron Lummus's Religious Conversion

Book Excerpt

Background Notes

Aaron Lummus was born in 1792, the year his father, a doctor, settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Religion and a “conversion experience” was very important to many people who lived in the early nineteenth century. In his manuscript autobiography, Lummus recalled his first religious experiences as a boy and his conversion to Methodism as a teenager. Lummus became an itinerant Methodist minister.

Transcription of Primary Source

I think I was about six years old when I first thought seriously of spiritual and eternal things. . . My little companions at one time observed my seriousness, and tears (for I wept over my sins at that tender age,) and in the true spirit of older sinners said to me, “You are very good all at once: but you will soon be as bad as any of us.” Having no one to guide me in the ways of religion, I was indeed soon laughed out of my seriousness. From my sixth to my ninth year, I had no special awakening that I remember. I knew I was wicked...With a consciousness of guilt, my unhappiness increased…

[In 1801] Upon first hearing the Methodists my attention was arrested, partly by the novelty of some things in their worship, and in part by their plain and earnest manner of speaking. I felt their preaching, and my former convictions were renewed…

June 8, 1807, I went to Salem, and lived with Mr. Thomas Seccomb, Druggist and Grocer, at Buffam’s Corner. In this place I soon lost ground, very sensibly, as to convictions of sin, righteousness, and judgements; and did but just escape some snares into which the unbridled passions often hurry unwary youths…

In February, 1808, I returned to Lynn. For a short time I next studied Latin. In the Spring I went to raising Garden Seeds; but in August following, went to Salem again, and lived with Mr. John Brown, Saddle, Chairs, and Trunk maker, a member of the Friends’ Society. During all this time I was without hope, and without God in the World; my mind continually running on forbidden ground…While in Lynn, I often trembled under the plain and faithful preaching of the Methodists, and sometimes it was with difficulty I refrained from crying out in the congregation…

I began to yield to the force of truth and influences of grace…Such were the exercises of my mind that my outward behaviour was changed; yet, such is the obstinacy of the human heart, I was not fully resolved to seek the Lord. But, as if to try my resolution, my kind master, Mr. Brown, at length said to me: “Too much is too much; thee will be unfit for business, Aaron, and will be undone, if thee gives up thy mind so much to these things”…Mr. B. was right in supposing that without a change and relief to my mind I should be incapable of business; but he was not right in trying to divert my attention from the concerns of my soul…About this time I read Mason on Self-Knowledge*…This I examined with much care, hoping he would show me how to find out my own heart. I marked all his rules, and means for attaining this great end, until, in the last place, he enjoined Prayer as indispensible if we would know ourselves. Here he brought me to a full stand; for I had never prayed, except by rote, and I did not yet feel prepared to begin the experience...In the latter part of September I visited my friends in Lynn, and heard Rev. Dan Young preach…Then, for the first time, I fully resolved not to rest until I found religion…The next morning I returned to Salem, and before night, to my no small surprise, Rev. Mr. Young came into our shop…I seized the opportunity for an interview, and invited him to my chamber, where I revealed to him the state of my mind. I trembled as if in an ague fit*…My reverend friend…gave me such advice as he thought suited to my case…I shunned my old companions in sin, and associated with those whose counsels and prayers I hoped would assist me in saving my soul…My awakened conscience filled me with terror; I wandered about seeking rest, but found only a still deeper sense of guilt and horror…I was much tempted to despair…My sins were continually rising like mountains before me…My food became loathsome, and sleep departed from me. I was often afraid to close my eyes…At length I was obliged to leave my business, and return to my father’s house, so much had the sorrows of my spirit affected my health…

On the night between October 17th and 18th A.D. 1808, soon after I went to bed, I heard a strange noise in my chamber; and thought, as I was just fit for him, Satan had come to carry me off. About midnight I observed a bright light in my chamber, which shone all around. I then reasoned upon it, thus. “What is it? There is neither fire nor candle in the room: and this is not moon light, for it is a dark, stormy night! Nor can it be from a candle out of doors…”The light became brighter than that of the sun at noon, and shone in beams different from any natural light; so I concluded it must be supernatural. I then discovered a most beautiful field, at a little distance, which contained one beautiful tree. The light was so bright that the field and the tree looked like geld. Under the tree lay a young person, apparently dead. I then saw the appearance as of a dove, descending with a leaf or sprig of the tree, and dropping it to the young person. Then a larger sprig was given to the young person, and the dove ascended out of sight. As the last sprig descended to the youth, an ugly looking fowl, covered with black spots, came from a different direction, and tried to catch away the last sprig, but he could not get it away, and presently flew off the way he came. The whole scene then vanished out of sight.My load of distress was now gone, but I knew not why. In the morning I kneeled down to ask for mercy as I had done, but immediately found myself praising God for his love and goodness…Afterwards, I told brother B.M. what had appeared to me in the preceding night…My heart was filled with a calm peace, which I never felt before; my mourning, and sorrow, and terror were fled away; light, love, joy and faith reigned in my soul. I was unspeakably happy…My health, strength and animal spirits, rapidly returned, and the next week I returned to my business…Little did I then know of the difficulties attending a christian life. I soon found that the world, the flesh, and the devil were combined against me, and that I must watch and pray continually, in order to overcome them.

Glossary

  • ague fit − a fit of shivering
  • Friends − Quakers
  • Mason on Self−Knowledge − A Treatise on Self−Knowledge:…and The Way to Attain It by John Mason. This book was published in many editions during the late 18th and early 19th century.

Curator Notes

Type: Book

Exact Title: Records of Some of the Principle Events in the Life of Aaron Lummus
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Page(s): p. 4-11

Year: 1850
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Description: Hand-written scripted ink on paper

Author/Creator: Lummus, Aaron

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Catalog Number: Old Sturbridge Village 1963.43 bv