On July 14, 1868, 146 years ago today, the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness opened in Manheim Pennsylvania. The evening service had a reported 10,000 – 15,000 in attendance. That crowd grew to as many as 25,000 people before the end of the meeting. The speakers in attendance included John S. Inskip, Alfred Cookman, J.A. Wood, William McDonald, George Hughes, Phoebe Palmer and Matthew Simpson.
Matthew Simpson’s friend, George Hughes reported the conclusion of his testimony, “His hands were uplifted. His voice in mighty tones swelled out upon the night air. The sounds of crying and groaning co-mingled. It seemed that Matthew Simpson literally pulled down the power. Hallelujahs, like the sound of many waters, rolled through the forest temple. How many plunged into the cleansing stream that night we shall never know until mortality is swallowed up of life.”
John S. Inskip, as reported by Inskip’s biographer said this about one of the services. “The quiet was rent as “one simultaneous burst of agony, and of glory, was heard in all parts of the congregation; and for nearly an hour, the scene could not be described.”
The Lancaster Daily Express noted, “the scene was beyond all description. It was one of the most powerful manifestations of divine power we have ever beheld. Several thousand people seemed to be prostrate under the mighty influence of supernatural power.”
As the encampment moved toward its close, William McDonald reminded those gathered that “home will not be Manheim.” Appealing for tolerance and even compassion for those who had not experienced full salvation, he entreated his audience to avoid controversy and extreme austerity and suggested that one should show humility in professions of Holiness. In conclusion, he noted that “in the discharge of your religious duties, do not be governed by feeling, but by faith.”
The site of the 1868 Manheim Camp Meeting is along Route 72, just north of the town of Manheim. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I stopped by several times to visit and walk through the same woods that Inskip, McDonald, Palmer and so many others walked through. Sadly, there is no marker to indicate this historic location, it is a wooded lot and a Veterinary hospital.