irrepressible Lorenzo Dow



I introduced this brief biography of this “bigger-than-life” figure last month. I wanted to do a brief follow-up with a Part Two of this man.

In early rustic Americana, there are many stand-out figures. Some of whom the general public has barely heard of. For instance, the remarkable and absolutely fearless Simon Kenton, in his day, was a bigger figure than Daniel Boone, yet very little is known about him in historical reference or a topic of study, compared to Boone.

Yet Kenton saved Boone’s life early on. Boone’s scalp would have been on a Shawnee war lance as a decorative trophy long before he became famous.

It is the same with Lorenzo Dow.

Dow made many enemies in his day. He also was the most celebrated preacher in early American history. He was a singular figure in the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening was a period of general revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the United States. It was characterized by supernatural events and conversions, most noticeably, the phenomenon of the “jerks.”

The “jerks” was a supernatural sign from God. Nearly all revivals witnessed this phenomena. Dow talked about it, Finney talked about it, the Cane Ridge Revivalists observed it, and on and on. What it was, was when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon someone, usually an unrepentant sinner, or sincere seeker of God, they were whipped back and forth in an unrestrained motion. Though violent at times, no one ever complained of injury. Many hardened sinners would claim that they would successfully resist the “jerks,” only to be afflicted… the worst. Women of station and pride would put bob after bob in their hair to hold it in place to withstand the ‘jerks.” Yet, their “bobs” and hairpins, barrettes, and such apparati, would all fly out of their hair like some bees from a hive when stirred up. One wicked, boastful man so resisted the “jerks” with his great physical strength and strength of will… that his neck was broken…

Word got around after that… If you weren’t serious about God, then you need not apply in these gospel meetings.

But I digress.

Yet, Dow’s enemies were more powerful than his fame or role in a great revival that swept the land. Dow was opposed by much, if not all, of organized, established Christendom in his day. They persecuted him badly. The brunt of his opposition were Christian people and Christian denominations. They even supplied to their lackeys, rocks, objects, and rotten fruit and vegetables, to throw at him.

Dow also made foes of the Roman Catholic Church, and particularly, their intelligence apparatus and conspirators in intrigue, the Jesuits. The Jesuits became an arch enemy.

The Jesuits have not changed any. They just work more silently than before. This will change when they are exposed again for what they are.

Both of these factions have never forgotten Dow. They won’t give Dow… his due. Nowadays, attributable to this hatred and contrived artifices, hardly anyone has heard of Lorenzo Dow.

You would have never thought that would be ever possible with his following in early America.

Lorenzo Dow was called of God, like many servants of God, at an early age. We may think extreme some of his motivations to follow God. But his times demanded such. It was a much different era. When Dow was trying to be “just” a church member, he became deeply affected by the death of Methodist Church founder, John Wesley.

As a result,  he had a dream soon after in which John Wesley told him to come to God and receive forgiveness for his sins. The dream was vivid enough and caused Dow to become very spiritually hungry.

In that day, they didn’t have what is now known as “easy believism,” or “cheap grace,” as described by German pastor and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

No, life was chock full of vicissitudes. Life was uncertain, and could be quite boring, tiring and taxing with all the drudgery of mundane, uninspiring employment and back-breaking toil for subsistence wages. With this forefront of such misery, was the immediate backdrop that at any moment in time,…without any warning,.. you could lose your life rather quickly.

You had fevers then that could grab you at an instant, and have you facing life’s end before the day was out, along with diseases like smallpox and other contagions that have either been eliminated today, or greatly ameliorated. You had contaminated water, unsafe food, food handlers and medical care workers who seldom washed their hands, along with wearing filthy garments. You had to ride horses who could be fractious and throw you for a loop, breaking bones or your neck, or end up kicking you end over end. You can read historical accounts where this man or this person was laid up for a month being thrown from a horse or injured from a harrowing buggy ride. You had to raise your own food, and animal husbandry could be tricky. You could be impaled by a goat or cow horn, or rammed into a somersault by a ram when you weren’t looking.

In addition, if you lived near the frontier, where Dow frequently preached at, you had the threat of wild and renegade Indians. You just never knew their mood for that day if you encountered them. They might be hungry, and communication could be difficult. Misunderstandings could arise, and before you know it, something very bad could go wrong. You also had wild animals to deal with. Mountain lions, cougars, bears of different sorts, rabid raccoon, wolves, coyotes, feral dogs and pigs, and all kinds of venomous snakes and varmints, all of which could come out of the woodwork and make your decision-making interesting, and life, challenging.

At any rate, it was a different time and life was treacherously short for more than a few.

With this all in mind, folks had to get the question of redemption settled well in their minds.

You just never knew when you could “slip into eternity”… much sooner than you planned!

Hence, “easy believism” and “cheap grace” were wholly unacceptable and impractical. To preach such was a “fool’s errand.” Frankly, it was the “devil’s work.”

Salvation could not just be a hope,… like it is for very many nowadays that claim to be Christian professors…for in Dow’s day, it had to be be a “real and present reality.”

Your life had to be an “amen.” Amen.

Salvation had to be a “felt” reality. You had to know your sins…to be forgiven. Condemnation for sin was pretty uncomfortable and relief had to be sought. Christ had to be revealed in a “real way.” Joy and peace were not words, but the practice of consistent Christian religion. You just didn’t accept being less… as that was not only insincere, and hypocritical, but downright… dangerous…

You had to be ready… you never knew when your number would be called…

…You had to learn to pray…

A lot of folks could pray back then. People got down to business with God. Indeed, everyone back then who couldn’t pray well or much…KNEW SOMEONE THAT COULD!…

Today many, many Christians do not know how to pray. Many, many Christians do not pray daily as Jesus taught.

I am not sure how you can be a Christian and not have a prayer life.

In fact, you really can’t. I am sorry to inform those that think otherwise. Deception is often commenced after self-deception takes precedence through self-justification. All this does, is give a person a more scenic route, unto destruction.

I am not sure at all how you can profess to be a Christian and have no reality of revelation from God. You cannot be a Christian if you do not have a testimony of answered prayer.

God REALLY does give direct guidance and revelation.

If you are a professing Christian and don’t believe this, or don’t have this…you need to get Dow’s religion.

Incredibly, this is issue of not being able to pray is paramount among Christians today. It is one reason that the United States has such corrupt and evil leaders.

For the record, I have never… I repeat, NEVER, have heard a preacher or minister address the topic of prayer in a sermon or preaching.

And, I have been involved in the Gospel of Jesus Christ for forty-five years.

I think, I must be the only one who talks about prayer without getting legalistic.

With post-modern society and the comforts of life brought in by the amelioration of modern invention and technology which has made our lives substantially easier, and safer, it has also made much of the general population quite complacent.

Folks think that they have lots more time. They can put off eternal questions to another period of their life.

They couldn’t be more wrong….

Life is as serious now…as far as God is concerned, as it ever, ever was. The question of eternity must be settled as early as possible in one’s life. Otherwise, eternity is a long time to be on the wrong side of the equation.

Dow in action As Dow stated succinctly and correctly… “Upon the great journey of Life, …Eternity… is the Country to which All are Traveling.”

When men like Dow, and Charles Finney, and others preached, they did not issue an altar call at the end of their preaching. They didn’t know what an “altar call” was.

Finney would preach, as I have read, up to 28 days in a row, without offering the hope of redemption. He wanted the conviction of sin to be so strong, and the condemnation of sin to be so acute, that the strongest men would nearly suffer a nervous breakdown in agonizing before God to relieve the guilt of sin. He wanted men and women to be thoroughly converted. Some say, who studied his methods, that Finney would preach the tenets of the Ten Commandments and related Law of Moses to drive the guilt of sin home.

This was a standard staple it appears in the times.

Jesus did a similar thing in his very early preaching in Galilee. He pointed out the false hopes and pretensions of the Pharisees and the religious establishment at the Temple in Jerusalem.

In Dow’s day, when it was time to offer redemption and salvation, folks were invited to… pray… after the service well into the night…seeking God for forgiveness, and the personal knowledge of salvation.

They weren’t told to repeat… “the sinner’s prayer.”

This would have been eschewed and rejected out of hand. Again, such a “shortcut” would be the “Devil’s Work” of false assurance, false conversion, and false repentance.

No, sinners had to “pray through.”

Now, there is a term that hardly anyone hears anymore: …”praying through”…

I had a Pentecostal preacher a few years ago, tell me that his denomination in the year of 1962 was approached by powerful influences, like the Dallas Theological Seminary, the Moody Institute, and the ministry of Billy Graham, to forego their “old” practice of “praying through” for salvation. This “old” practice had been carried over from the Great Awakening revivals into the Pentecostal Revival and Movement.

His denomination caved in. Now, there is no revival or moving of the Spirit there.

It is the same everywhere there is this lie of “easy believism.” The so-called “sinner’s prayer” has been found to be a 20th-century phenomenon promoted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Bill Bright’s Campus Crusade. You see televangelists spew this prayer out at the end of each of their telecasts in which they contradict themselves one way or another in a pitch for donations.

You will never find such a “sinner’s prayer” in the Scriptures.

Instead, you find doubts about the authenticity of personal repentance and conversion using such a prayer based on the research of highly respected church pollster, George Barna. Every Sunday, Barna’s findings of one sort or another, are quoted in pulpits in the United States.

I have written a bit earlier on this subject, citing Ted Turner. Ted Turner is the media mogul that created CNN and Turner Broadcasting out of Atlanta, Georgia, years ago. He is now retired of sorts to Montana, where he is the second largest land owner in the United States. That is his brief bio. Poor Ted claims that he used elements of the “sinner’s prayer” nearly a half-dozen times… to no avail. For a long time, he was disillusioned with Christianity calling himself first, an atheist, and later an agnostic.

Now he is neither.

At any rate, folks in Dow’s meetings and in Dow’s era, did things the “old-fashioned” way.

They prayed through.

It might take an hour. It might take most of the night, or all night. A person might have to give up and return the next night, and so on, until God was sought successfully for the promised blessing. It might take weeks to get “through.”

But when you got “through,” your joy was so great, that everyone around you knew, that “you got religion.”

The things around you changed. You didn’t see dirty, grubby faces. Instead, they are all beautiful. You are full of hope for a dying world. You have changed. You don’t like to do the things you did before. If you were prone to lying, you hated it now. If you stole, you provided restitution. If you drank inordinately, you lost all desire for the taste of alcohol. If you were an  adulterer, somehow you fell in love with your wife either all over again, or for, the very first time. You honoured your wife as you did yourself, which now was appreciable because of God’s grace to you, a sinner. Yes, Love was in the air!

This is how conversion worked in the day of Lorenzo Dow. Somehow we need another Lorenzo Dow or two, or four, or many, weird, rustic and eccentric, to come on the scene today, and show us the way…. TODAY!


Thanks for reading.

Copyrighted. Joseph Spickard, 2016. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this intellectual property without prior permission from the author is prohibited.

For additional reading of an incident in Dow’s life, click here:


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