"Damned If You Do And Damned If You Don't"
Context: Lorenzo Dow was an itinerant preacher, one of the most remarkable men of his age for his zeal and labor in the cause of religion. A native of Coventry, Conn., he early became impressed with the truths of the Gospel and felt irresistably impelled to devote his life to the preaching of the Word in various parts of the world. He tells about his life between 1777 and 1816 in a four-volume Journal, first published in 1836. A fifth edition, published at Wheeling, Va., by John Martin in 1845, includes a number of reflections, sermons, and the "Journey of Life" by his wife, Peggy Dow, telling of their existence together and apart. At the age of four, as Dow testifies in his Journal, while playing with a companion, he "fell into a muse about God and heaven and hell," about which he had heard his parents talk. Suddenly he asked his playmate: "Do you ever say your prayers?" When the boy replied: "No," little Lorenzo exclaimed, "You are wicked, and I shall not play with you," and ran into his house. The first chapter records other episodes that served to convince him of his mission in life. At twelve, during a bout with the fever, he had a vision of the prophet Nathan, who told him that he would die at the age of 22. After several more dreams and visions, the arrival of a group of Methodists crystallized Dow's determination, and he made up his mind to become a circuit rider and camp-meeting preacher. Though never formally connected with the society, he was a Methodist in principle. In the beginning of 1796, he did his first preaching. His uncle gave him a horse, and his parents their blessing, and off he went. His eccentric clothes and his forceful sermonizing were both effective. His shrewdness and quick discernment of character gave him considerable influence over the multitudes that attended his ministry. After preaching for several years in the eastern and southern United States, he made the first of two journeys to England and Ireland, where he was just as successful. He then returned to America, and United States. Being a public preacher for more than thirty-five years, Dow probably brought the gospel to more people than any other individual since the days of the Calvinistic preacher George Whitefield (1714–1770). His Journal ended with the entry for October 4, 1818, when he was 39; but after that time, on his journeys he rode along jotting down his thoughts and reflections which were published in a number of books such as The Dealings of God, Man, and the Devil (Norwich, 1833). In his writings were revealed his purity, integrity, and benevolence. A wanderer through life, he was a sincere Christian Pilgrim in search of a heavenly home. He finally found rest in Georgetown, D.C., on February 2, 1834. As an example of his dramatic style, he wrote concerning "Particular Election" in his "Reflections on the Love of God," an attack on preachers who select for their hearers conflicting opinions and Bible verses, criticizing:
. . . those who preach it up, to make the Bible clash and contradict itself by preaching somewhat like this:"You can and you can't–You shall and you shan't–You will and you won't–And you will be damned if you do–And you will be damned if you don't."