How many preachers have had the experience of seeing their whole congregation fall into a sound sleep, while preaching to them? Probably the Rev. P. Courtenay was the only one.
During the War of 1812 American shipping was severely harassed by the English cruisers, and a great many sailors were driven to the coast in order to escape. In the summer and fall of 1812 the shore towns of Virginia were overrun by these unfortunate sailors.
In September of that year a Methodist camp meeting was held in a popular campground near the James River, a little way below Richmond. Great crowds had gathered there and Jesse Lee was in charge of the meetings. The fame of this camp meeting had spread through the surrounding country and reached the ears of a certain Captain Swift and his crew of sailors who were stranded in that region. Being idle and seeking excitement, they decided to have some fun with the Methodist preachers. Having had plenty of whisky, they arrived on the campground after the people had retired for the night.
Lee aroused some of the preachers and went out to meet the sailors and told them that if they would be seated, they could have a sermon. He assigned Courtenay to the task. He took as his text, "At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God." For a man aroused out of bed to preach a sermon he was doing bravely; but the drone of his voice, the strange lights, the night quiet and the whisky conspired to put them all to sleep. Lee pulled Courtenay's coattails and said, "Stop, let's go to bed." The sailors awoke next morning, stiff and cold, and departed thoroughly chagrined, without doing any mischief.