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supposing the special interposition and agency of God. What I am about to say may not apply, indeed, to all the seasons which have been denominated “revivals of religion.” There have undoubtedly been false and spurious revivals—scenes of tumult and confusion, in which it would be degrading the Holy Spirit to suppose he had any direct concern. I shall speak of such revivals only, as I suppose to be genuine, and as are commonly so reputed, by Orthodox ministers and Christians, at the present day. And,
1. Such revivals are distinguished from all other cases of prevalent excitement, in respect to their origin. It is true, indeed, that the minds of people are not unfrequently excited and inflamed, and very generally so, on other subjects besides religion. It is true, that these excitements are to be attributed to natural causes. And it is farther true, that we can, in all cases, ascertain the causes, to which they are to be attributed. There is no mistaking on this point; for the circumstance or event which has caused and continues the excitement, will itself be the topic of general conversation. But in respect to most revivals of religion, no sufficient natural cause for their occurrence can be assigned. The Gospel to be sure has been preached, and the means of grace have been in operation as usual, but no event of special interest has occurred, and no reason can be given why they should take place when they actually do, rather than at any other time. From some invisible and unknown cause, the minds of people often are simultaneously impressed with religious considerations. Christians feel deeply humbled and engaged, and are led to pray frequently and fervently for the prosperity of Zion; while sinners begin to be solemn and anxious, and to manifest an unusual concern for their souls. Instead of any extraordinary means being used at such times to bring about this state of feeling, the feelings of people in most instances impel them to a more diligent use of means, and to open their minds one to another, on the great subject which impresses them. It is from the fulness of their laboring hearts, that they begin to speak. I do not say that this is the invariable method, in which revivals of religion commence; but every day's observation testifies, that it is the frequent, if not the common method. So far are they from being dependent for their origin upon some great and striking exter.nal event, such as the prevalence of a disease, or an instance of mortality, that the occurrence of such an event, although a serious one, has, in many instances, served to interrupt their progress.
We see, then, that revivals of religion differ from all other cases of prevalent excitement, in their origin; and that, in accounting for their commencement, we are necessarily led to suppose the interposition and agency of an Almighty Spirit.
2. They are distinguished from other cases of general excitement, by the nature and depth of those feelings, which are brought into exercise. In cases where the existing cause is an external one, the feelings excited are necessarily superficial. They are flighty, boisterous, and it may be, powerful; but they have no settled and uniform character, and do not spring from the deep recesses of the soul. But not so the feelings which are brought into exercise, in a genuine revival of religion. Whether holy or unholy, these are always of a deep and solemn kind, such as nothing merely external could produce. The most deeply hidden parts of the soul are affected, and the cause is felt to be the naked influence of Him, who alone trieth the reins and the heart. The distressed sinner feels a load upon his conscience, which he cannot remove, and can scarcely sustain. Wherever he goes, his burthen follows him; and whatever means he employs to remove it, still it remains. While the rejoicing Christian feels an elevation of spirit, which the world could not give, and cannot take away. Whether the feelings which are exercised in a revival of religion are right or wrong, they commonly agree in this: they do not float on the surface of the soul, the sport of conflicting circumstances or events; but have their origin and seat in the deep places of the heart. They spring from that region of the inner man, over which the external world has little direct power, and which can be touched efficiently only by the finger of God. They are excited by the influence of an Almighty Spirit, and lost only when this influence is grieved away.
3. Revivals of religion are distinguished from other cases of strong and prevalent excitement, in this respect—the views and feelings produced by them are reasonable in themselves, and they lead to a rational course of conversation and pursuit. In seasons of great excitement on other subjects, the feelings of people frequently become unreasonable. They are aroused and inflamed beyond proper bounds. They fall little short, often, of a species of insanity. And as the feelings of persons at such times are unreasonable in themselves, so they lead them to speak and to act unreasonably. They lead them to say and to do many things, which in their sober moments they regret, and of which they are ashamed. But totally different from this are the views and feelings which are entertained in a revival of religion. Though strongly excited, these are perfectly reasonable in themselves. They are such as comport with the truth, and with the actual state of things. Persons at such times, view religion to be all important; and it is so. It engages their attention, and interests their feelings; and it is right it should. They regard themselves as great sinners; and they really are such. They are distressed too, and in bitterness on account of their sins; and they have reason to be. The inquiry, which their hearts most frequently suggest, is, “ What shall we do to inherit eternal life?” And what more important inquiry could their hearts suggest ? Frequently they are seen acquiescing sweetly in the will of God, and rejoicing in him as their friend and portion; and this is certainly their duty. They find all parts of his instituted service pleasant, and engage in it with interest, with fervor, and delight; and with what better feelings could they engage in it? The subjects of a genuine religious revival are conscious that their feelings, while under its influence, are reasonable and proper; and instead of condemning themselves that they have now such feelings, they feel condemned that they have not always had the same.
And as the views and feelings of persons, at such times, are reasonable in themselves, so they prompt them to a perfectly rational course of conversation and pursuit. They prompt them to speak often one to another, and freely to converse on the great subject of religion ; and on what more suitable or profitable subject could they converse ? They also prompt them to be much in prayer, both in secret and in public; and in this respect, obviously, they are no more than imitating and obeying their glorified Saviour. Their feelings, moreover, prompt them to live, as though time was short, and eternity long—as though the body was a trifle, and the soul infinitely valuable—as though the world was fleeting and empty, and the religion of Jesus of the utmost importance; and how could they pass away their lives in a manner more truly commendable or rational ?
When persons look back upon their feelings and conduct, in seasons of high and strong excitement on other subjects besides that of religion, they commonly think of them with pain and regret, and it is their sincere desire that they may never feel so again. But do those, who have passed through a genuine revival of religion, and been themselves the happy subjects of it, ever look back with sorrow and pain upon the course of conversation and conduct which they have pursued ? Do they ever afterwards regret their feelings at such a time, or desire, or pray, that they may feel so no more? On the contrary, do they not, in all subsequent life, remember their feelings and conduct during the revival with great satisfaction? Do they not consider the loss of such feelings a heavy loss; and the declining from such a course of conversation and practice, a most unreasonable declension ? And is it not their desire and prayer that they may be revived again, and again experience the blessedness they enjoyed in the day of their espousals ?
This shews, that the feelings of persons, in a season of revival, will bear looking at, when the excitement is past; that they are truly reasonable in themselves; and that they prompt to a rational and proper course of conversation and pursuit. In this respect, therefore, which is a cardinal one, revivals of religion are widely distinguished from all other cases of strong and prevalent excitement.
4. They are also distinguished from other cases of this kind, by the sudden and surprising changes which often take place in the feelings of persons, especially of opposers, in respect to them.
In seasons of excitement on other subjects, there are usually parties; and party lines, when once drawn, in most instances remained unaltered. Or, if there are changes in a few individuals, these changes are brought about gradually, and are easily assignable to natural causes. But in revivals of religion, the case is often different. Here, indeed, there are commonly parties—there are opposers of the work—there are those who do everything in their power to stop it, and bring it into discredit and contempt. And it not unfrequently happens, that these very persons are arrested in the height and violence of their opposition, and in the course of a few days, or hours, their feelings undergo a total change. Instead of opposing the work, they become entirely favorable to it, and deeply interested and warmly engaged for its continuance and support. They are made to feel that it is a reality, and begin, with others, to weep and to beg for mercy. Their pride is humbled ; their enmity slain ; their hard hearts are broken at a stroke; and their reproachful lips begin to speak forth the praises of the living God. Thus it was with Saul of Tarsus; and thus it has been with hundreds, and thousands, since. God manifests in this way, that the work is his own, and that there is no stopping or interrupting it, in opposition to his pleasure and power.
5. It may be added, that revivals of religion are distinguished from all other cases of prevalent excitement, by the permanency of those impressions which they leave on the mind, and the unalterable change which they produce in the character. Other cases of excitement do not leave such impressions, or produce such a change. Events may occur in providence, which rouse up the minds of people to a strong and general excitement. Something may take place, for instance, which calls forth a general burst of indignation. But, in this case, persons do not remain indignant forever. The storm passes over, and all is again calm. Or something may take place, which excites an universal feeling of joy. But, in this case, the tide of joy quickly ebbs, and things revert to their former state. Or something may take place, which becomes the common topic of interest and of conversation. But neither respecting this, whatever it may be, do persons think or talk forever. It soon grows stale, is dropped, and is forgotten. And in none of these cases of excitement, are the characters of the persons affected essentially altered. If they were saints before, they are saints afterwards; and if they were sinners before, they are sinners still. But in a genuine revival of religion, persons receive impressions which they never lose. A change is produced in their characters, which is radical and permanent. They are suddenly arrested in their career of vice, of vanity, or of worldly pursuit ; their thoughts are turned almost wholly to new subjects; their feelings receive a new direction; a new aspect is given to their whole characters; and this is perpetual. It exists, not for a day, VOL. 1.
a week, a month, or a year ; but in every case of genuine religious excitement, it is perpetual. The person affected becomes, in the strong language of Scripture, “a new creature.” “Old things have passed away with him, and all things have become new.” He contemplates almost every object around him, with new eyes. He has new thoughts, new feelings, new motives, connexions, and attachments, new hopes and fears, sorrows and joys. What he once hated, he now loves; and what he once loved, and delighted in, he now detests. And this new character which is assumed, he never loses. It continues, it may be with some interruption, but on the whole with increasing evidence, till he dies; and then, as we doubt not, it continues forever. Here then we have a decisive characteristic of religious revivals, and one by which they are widely and gloriously distinguished from all other cases of excitement whatever. They leave permanent impressions on the mind, and produce a great, and happy, and settled change in the character. It is this, especially, which stamps revivals of religion as the work of God.
In view of the remarks here made, our readers will know how to estimate the opinions of those, who place revivals of religion in the same class with cases of strong and prevalent excitement on other subjects. They will be satisfied, we think, that they cannot thus be classed, nor can they be accounted for in the same way. They are attended by palpable and important traits, which render them as distinct from most other cases of prevalent excitement, as wisdom is from folly, or religion from sin ; which indeed elevate them as far above these other excitements, as the heavens are above the earth. Such are the appearances which accompany them, that they can in no way be accounted for, but by attributing them to the special power of God—the special influence and agency the Holy Spirit. There are the best reasons, therefore, why all Christians should desire them, and rejoice in them ; why they should pray for them, and labor to promote them; and why they should think and speak of the frequent revivals, which are distinguishing and blessing the present age, with the liveliest gratitude and praise.
THE INSPIRATION OF THE SCRIPTURES. NO. 1.
Many, at the present day, who call themselves Christians, and who profess a serious respect for the Bible, do not believe that the several parts of it were written under a special divine guidance. And many, who seem to believe the inspiration of the Scriptures, have still no clear and definite views of the importance of the doctrine, or of the manner in which it is to be proved. I propose,