The Burden of Your Heart

harlan_page2I’d like to share a series of posts that draw lessons from a godly man that lived during the Second Great Awakening. Harlan Page (1791-1834) was a carpenter who worked on houses (they called them “house joiners” then) who devoted himself to witnessing to the lost around him and encouraging Christians to live faithful, godly lives. What I appreciate about Page is his tenacity, discipline, and fervor. In a little over a week I’ll be in his home town of Coventry, CT. I would highly recommend this biography of his life, Memoir of Harlan Page, or, The Power of Prayer and Personal Effort for the Souls of Individuals. The following is from chapter 9 of that work.

[The salvation of souls] was the burden of his heart, and the purpose of his life. When engaged in his usual business, the religious welfare of persons with whose state he had become acquainted, was generally pressing on his mind; and it is now known, that for several years before he died, he almost always had by him a memorandum of the names and residence of a few individuals with whom he was to converse. On these he would call, as he went to and from his office, or religious meetings; and if no names were on this list, he felt that he was doing little good. He also uniformly had in his hat more or less awakening tracts, that he might present as he should judge them adapted to the state of those he met. Not unfrequently he would seize a few moments from his usual occupation, to go out and address some individual; and when the business of the day was closed, he hastened to some meeting or other religious engagement for the evening. It is believed that an entire month has frequently elapsed, during which he did not sit down for an hour, even in the bosom of his own family, to relax his mind or rest. Every evidence of good accomplished gave him new joy, and every opening for usefulness added a new impulse to his efforts. He felt that, under God, the eternal joy or woe of immortal souls depended on his fidelity. Each evening and each hour brought its duties which he felt could not be neglected or postponed. The present duty was still before him; and though “faint,” he was still “pursuing.” His labors on the Sabbath were not less exhausting than on other days; and he doubtless thus failed of obtaining that “compensation for toil” which the body requires, and which is essential to a long life.

When urged, at the close of a day of fatigue, to spare himself and spend the evening at home, he would say, “Don’t attempt to persuade me away from duty. I have motive enough within myself to tempt me to enjoy repose with my family, but that will not save souls.” A little previous to his last sickness, as he returned from church coughing, he was asked if he had not spoken too much in the Sabbath-school. “Perhaps I have,” he replied; “but how could I help it, when all eyes were fixed, and the children seemed to devour every word I said?”

It was not uncommon, at different periods of his life, for him in sleep to imagine himself addressing the impenitent; and to wake in a high state of excitement and in tears, occasioned by the deep sympathy he felt for their perishing condition. It is also known, that when he saw no manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he would be, at times, in deep distress—would wrestle more abundantly in prayer, renew his efforts to arouse Christians to duty and awaken the impenitent; and more or less conversions were almost always the result.

In short, it was not the great object of his spiritual life himself to be happy in religion, but rather by persevering labors and holy self-denial, like the apostle who testified that he died daily, to glorify God in winning souls to him. He ardently desired to devote the whole undivided efforts of his life to this work; and nothing but the duty of providing for the support of his family prevented it.

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