How the Presbyterian Sacramental Meeting
Relates to the Heresy
of Decisional Regeneration
Among Presbyterians in Scotland, the Lord's Supper in remote rural areas was conducted once a year, often taking a week of festivals as part of the communion season. Communicants were examined by a minister and elders, proving their knowledge of the Shorter Catechism. They were then given communion tokens that entitled them to take part in the ceremony. Long tables were set up in the middle of the church at which communicants sat to receive communion. Where ministers refused or neglected parish communion, largely assemblies were carried out in the open air, often combining several parishes. These large gatherings were discouraged by the General Assembly, but continued. They could become mixed with secular activities, and became an opportunity for evangelical meetings, like the meeting at Cambuslang Work.
This tradition was brought to the American Colonies in the form of the Second Great Awakening Camp Meetings.
James McGready (1758-1817) is considered the father of the American Camp Meeting. Actually, he merely continued a tradition of Presbyterian Sacramental Meetings that had been held in Scotland since the seventeenth century and that were brought to the American Colonies by Presbyterians and celebrated in America since the eighteenth century. These were held annually and sometimes bi-annualy, sometimes called "holy fairs". The events were structured to achieve maximum evangelistic results. Participants were exhorted to examine themselves over a period of days culminating in the sharing of the Lord's Supper. The restoration of regenerate believers was emphasized as much as the regeneration and conversion of unbelievers. This should help modern readers understand the psychological pressures on participants to conform to holiness standards in order to qualify to receive a Communion Token to be admitted to the Lord's Table.
All the customs from Scotland were maintained in the American Sacramental Meetings. The fencing of the tables, Communion Tokens, Scottish Psalm Singing, Preparatory Meetings, Fast Days, Thanksgiving Services, Action Sermons, sitting at the long linen-covered tables, the great crowds, outdoor preaching from the tent, all were part of the psychological buildup and release of emotion of what we call the Camp Meeting.