I lost my Christian mother when I was a youth, but not before the instruction I had received from her beloved lips had made a deep impression upon my mind, an impression which I carried with me into a college (Hampden, Sidney), where there was not then one pious student. There I often reflected, when surrounded by young men who scoffed at religion, upon the instruction of my mother, and my conscience was frequently sore distressed. I had no Bible, and dreaded getting one, lest it should be found in my possession.
At last I could stand it no longer, and requested a particular friend, a youth whose parents lived near, and who often went home, to ask his excellent mother to send me some religious books. She sent me “Alleine’s Alarm,” an old black book, which looked as if it might have been handled by successive generations for a hundred years.
When I received it, I locked my door and sat down to read it, when a student knocked at the door. I gave him no answer, dreading to be found reading such a book, but he continued to knock and beat the door until I had to open it. He came in, and seeing the book lying on the bed, seized it, and examined its title. Then he said, “Why, Hill, do you read such books?”
I hesitated, but God enabled me to be decided, and to tell him boldly, but with much emotion, “Yes, I do.”
The young man replied with much agitation: “O Hill, you may obtain religion, but I never can! I came here a professor of religion; but through fear I dissembled it, and have been carried along with the wicked, until I fear there is no hope for me.”
He told me that there were two others who he believed were somewhat serious. We agreed to take up the subject of religion in earnest, and seek it together. We invited the other two, and held a prayer-meeting in my room on the next Saturday afternoon. And, O, what a prayer-meeting! We knew not how to pray, but tried to do it. We sang in a suppressed manner, for we feared the other students. But they found us out, and gathered round the door, and made such a noise that the officers had to disperse them.
So serious was the disturbance that the president, the late excellent Rev. Dr. John B. Smith, investigated the matter at prayers that evening in the chapel hall. When he demanded the reason of the riot, a ringleader in wickedness rose up and stated that it was occasioned by three or four of the boys holding prayer-meetings, and they were determined to have no such doings there. The good president heard the statement with deep emotion, and, looking at the youths charged with the sin of praying, said, with tears in his eyes, “O, is there such a state of things in this college? Then God has come near to us. My dear young friends, you shall hold your next meeting in my parlor.” We did hold our next meeting in his parlor, and half the college was there. And there began a glorious revival of religion, which pervaded the college, and spread into the country around.
Many of those students became ministers of the gospel. The youth who brought me “Alleine’s Alarm” from his mother was my friend, the Rev. C. Stitt, who is preaching in Virginia. And he who interrupted me in reading the work, my venerable and worthy friend, the Rev. Dr. H., is now president of a college in the West.