FREEBORN GARRETTSON
(1752 — 1837)

February 9, 2017 // Story

 

FREEBORN GARRETTSON
(1752 — 1837)

The Year 1777  Garrettson, about 25 years old
Stirred Up To Seek Perfect Love

“In this circuit I conversed with some deeply experienced Christians, and by their humble

walk and heavenly conversation, I was much stirred up to seek a deeper work of grace; especially
by the experience of sister B_____. I believed there was such a thing as perfect love to be attained
in this world; and I likewise knew I was not in possession of it: I saw a beauty in the doctrine, and
preached it, but it was at a distance.

“Respecting Christian perfection, I believed such a thing to be attainable in this life; I

therefore, both in public and private, contended for it, and had often felt the need of it in my own
soul: but I never had such a view of it in my life as while in this circuit. The Lord, in a very
powerful and sudden manner, gave me to see and feel the need of this blessed work. Every heart
corruption was discovered to me by the blessed Spirit, at the house of that dear afflicted mother in
Israel, Mrs. Y. I have had many sweet moments with that precious family; but she has since gone to
Abraham’s bosom. This discovery was made to me while I was alone in the preachers’ room. I
expected in a few moments to be in eternity; and the cry of my heart was, Lord, save me from
inbred sin. The purity of God, heaven, and the law, with the impurity of my heart, were so
disclosed to my view, that I was humbled in the very dust; and expected never to enter into the
kingdom of heaven without a greater likeness to my blessed Lord. I rejoiced that the cold hand of
death was not upon me. For more than a week an earnest struggle continued in my heart for all the
mind which was in Christ. My appointments were made, or I am apprehensive I should have
declined preaching so pure a Gospel, till the heart corruptions which I felt were washed away.
The enemy strove very hard to rob me of my confidence; but although I was at times brought very
low, yet I did not let go my hold of the dear Redeemer, the witness of my justification, &c.

1777 — Entirely Sanctified, But The Experience Not Claimed

 

“One day I went to my appointment, and while the people were gathering, I withdrew about

a quarter of a mile from the house, and wrestled with the Lord in prayer: I thought I could not meet
the congregation, unless I was delivered from my inbred sins. However, after the people had
waited about an hour, I went to the house, but my struggle seemed to be at the height. I thought I
would pray with the people and dismiss them. After prayer my Lord gave me this text, ‘Blessed are
the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ Never had I such freedom before that time, to describe,
1st, the impurity of the heart: 2dly, how it is to be purified: and 3dly, the blessing resulting
therefrom — that they shall see God. While I was speaking of the travail of a soul for purity, all my
inward distress vanished, and I felt a little heaven on earth. I know that the Lord deepened his
work; but I did not claim the witness of ‘perfect love;’ yet my soul was happy from day to day.

1778 — A Comfortable Hope That He Was Sanctified Wholly

“We had a comfortable conference in Leesburg, and May 20, 1778, I set out for my

destined place. After preaching a few sermons, and visiting my old friends and relations, on the
30th of May I crossed the Chesapeake, and in the evening had a delightful opportunity of pressing
the necessity of holiness on the minds of many. Blessed be God! there was a shout in the camp
among our blessed Saviour’s despised followers; and I have no doubt but that the Lord directed my
lot into this part of the work.

“On Sunday I spoke in Kent preaching house with much liberty, and we had a sweet

refreshing season. This was the first Methodist preaching house that was built on this shore. In the
evening I was much drawn out in prayer and self-examination; and felt the sweet beams of the
blessed Spirit, and experienced the bliss of prayer, with a comfortable hope that my Lord had
deepened his work of grace in my heart.

1778 — Received the Witness
Excerpt from a letter to John Wesley:

“The second year I traveled, I was powerfully convinced of the necessity of holiness. For a

considerable time I waded through deep, but sweet distress. I had a discovery of the purity of the
law, and the impurity of my own heart: being conscious it was my privilege to become pure in
heart, I determined not to stop short of it. Sensible I was it came by faith. I was under deep
exercises to preach no more, till I received that blessing. There was a time when I had a greater
nearness to God, but I did not receive the witness till a twelve-month afterward. — F. Garrettson.”

1789 — Another Strong Witness to Perfect Love:

July 23, he came to the town of Sharon, in Connecticut, where he found a number of

precious souls, to whom he preached in the open air, there being so many assembled that no house
could accommodate them … Many of the inhabitants of the town came in to see me, and my soul
was so happy that I was constrained with tears to exhort all that came near. I think I never had so
strong a witness of perfect love.

1809 — Preaches Holiness At A Camp Meeting

 

“Friday 11. A very rainy day. I preached in a large tent, on the necessity of holiness. Mr.

Harris fell under the word, cried for mercy, and found peace. He is not a member of our Church.
Brother Chalmers got under such a deep travail of soul for holiness, that he fell under the power of
God, and lay for hours; and when he came to, rejoiced in the perfect love of God. I was requested
by some of my old friends to call this meeting; among others was Mrs. Bruff and her sister Ward.
These holy women are full of the perfect love of God. This meeting held several hours. I likewise
called a meeting in the preachers’ tent at the same time; — the tents rang with the praises of God.
The poor Blacks seemed almost ready to fly. There is, nevertheless, a probability we shall have a
great meeting. Many of our good friends have come from Baltimore. I must leave you. This minute
I have been conversing with Mrs. Bruff; — she tells me, at the above-mentioned meeting three
beside Mr. Chalmers were brought out, and several led to feel the necessity of holiness.

1819 — Preached on Christian Perfection — A Favorite Theme

On Wednesday evening he gave information that as he expected to depart next day, he

would preach at sunrise on the doctrine of Christian perfection.

After preaching with much satisfaction in Providence, both in the Methodist church, and by

request, in the one occupied by the Rev. Mr. Wilson, a pious Presbyterian clergyman, Mr.
Garrettson rode forward to Bristol, where he preached to a large congregation on the doctrine of
Christian perfection, a favorite theme with him.

1824 — Reflects on Nearly 50 Years in Perfect Love

…Nearly half a century since I was happy in the perfect love of God … Unworthy as I feel

myself, I would not part with my hope of glory for a million of worlds.”

1827 — His Dying Testimony To Nathan Bangs

In the conversation to which I have alluded, he unbosomed himself with great freedom,

rehearsed the goodness of God, which had been so abundantly manifested to him through every
period of his life; at the same time, as was usual with him, expressed himself in terms of the
deepest self-abasement. At one time he would express his admiration of the perfections of God, as
manifested in creation, and more especially in the grand system of redemption, and then cry out
with holy rapture, “I am filled with the perfect love of God.” With much feeling and emphasis he
said, “My hope is all founded in the infinite merits of the Lord Jesus; in this hope I enjoy
unspeakable consolation.” In this way he lingered, sometimes suffering exquisitely, for about five
weeks. He did, indeed, pass through the furnace, but he came forth not only unhurt, but abundantly
refined; and he died as he had lived, a witness of perfect love.

1827 — From The Account of His Death by His Daughter, Mary

To a friend he said, a short time before his death, ‘I feel the perfect love of God in my soul.’

… His last sentence spoken, even in death, was, ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah!’ After that, though he lingered many hours, he could not speak articulately. Once only,
clasping his hands, and raising his eyes to heaven, he uttered, ‘Glory! glory!’ … Just as the period

 

of his departure approached, one of the preachers broke forth into prayer; — prayer so elevated, so
holy, that it seemed to wrap the hearers above all sublunary consideration, and as he commended
the dying saint into the hands of God, he prayed that the mantle of the departing patriarch might rest
on his surviving brethren. His prayer seemed answered; — a divine influence pervaded the
apartment; two of the preachers almost sunk to the floor, under a glorious sense of His presence
who filleth immensity. My dear mother, with clasped hands and streaming eyes, exclaimed, ‘Yes,
Lord! we give him up freely, freely give him up to thee!’ … The spirit departed, leaving the body
impressed with the sweetest expression of peace and tranquillity; an expression which it retained
until the moment when it was shrouded from human observation. We could stand beside those dear
remains, and imagine that their appearance of renewed youth and happiness was a pledge of that
glorious resurrection, when death shall be swallowed up in victory, and the mortal put on
immortality; and we could look on the grave as a sure and certain deposit; until that day when it
shall give back its precious seed rejoicing.”

From Nathan Bangs’ Evaluation
of Freeborn Garrettson as a Minister

If it be the chief business of a minister of the sanctuary to carry a conviction to the hearts of

sinners of the truths of the Gospel, and to awaken within them a serious concern respecting the
solemn realities of eternity; if the object of his mission be to point those “that mourn in Zion” to the
”Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;” if he should not cease his exhortations until
he lead the penitent sinner to the blood of atonement, “which cleanseth from all unrighteousness,”
and until he so believe as to receive the witness in himself that he is born of God; if the end of his
commission is to build up believers “in their most holy faith,” and never let them rest until they are
filled with the perfect love of God; if to accomplish these objects be the principal aim of the
minister, then we may pronounce the Rev. FREEBORN GARRETTSON to have been a true
minister of Jesus Christ.

From the time of his conversion to God, in the 23d year of his age, until his death, in the

76th year of his age, under the protection of “the everlasting arms,” the purity of his life, and the
uprightness of his deportment, were never questioned, but acknowledged by all with whom he had
intercourse; and for upward of fifty-one years he appeared before the public as an ambassador of
the Lord Jesus Christ, during which time the words of his lips gained the more credence from the
unimpaired confidence which every one had in the integrity of his heart and the righteousness of his
life. And when he sunk into the grave, he was the oldest traveling minister of that Church, whose
general economy he loved, whose doctrines he believed and preached, whose God and Saviour he
adored, and served in “the fellowship of the Gospel,” and whose ramparts he left, after having
defended them for more than fifty years, to take his seat in “that house not made with hands, eternal
in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God.”

Finally, in contemplating his character, we may take the text on which he so often delighted

to preach, and which was selected as the foundation of his funeral discourse, and say, “Mark the
perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.”

Source: “The Life of Freeborn Garrettson,”
by Nathan Bangs

 

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HOW THEY ENTERED CANAAN
(A Collection of Holiness Experience Accounts)
Compiled by Duane V. Maxey

Vol. I — Named Accounts

Interchurch Holiness Convention

18931 Route 522

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Phone: 570-658-1030