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eminent living writer, “whether a more gradual dispensation of the Spirit, were not better than these sudden outpourings? But we have been accustomed to feel that God is the best judge in this matter, and that man cannot make a revival either gradual or sudden. When he gives us drop by drop, we are thankful; and when the cloud of mercy above bursts and pours down a flood at once, we dare not request him to stay his hand; we cannot but exult and rejoice in the exuberance of his mercy. Nor can we perceive how it is possible that 800,000,000 of souls, or any considerable part of this number, can be washed from their sins, within the most distant time to which the millennium can be deferred according to prediction, by single drops falling in such slow and deliberate succession as should not excite the fears, and should satisfy the prudence of some apparently very good men. We doubt not that greater revivals than have been, are indispensable to save our nation and to save the world, by giving universal and saving empire to the kingdom of Christ; and as clouds thicken and dangers press, we look for them with strong confidence, and with the increased urgency of unutterable desire.”
It cannot, we think, be reasonably questioned that Revivals of Religion are our only hope for our country and the world. But there is a question relating to this subject, which ought most deeply to interest every benevolent and every patriotic heart, especially at the present day, namely,—How may revivals be hindered or promoted? They are the effects of the gracious influences of the Spirit of God, but yet we know by observation, that usually, they are neither granted nor withheld, except in connection with an agency exerted by christians, adapted to procure or preclude them. This is precisely what we should expect from such passages of scripture as the following : “ Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way; take up the stumbling blocks out of the way of the people.” “Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the bighway, gather out the stones.” It is the province of the Holy Spirit to revive the work of God; but it is the province of christians to prepare the Spirit's way by removing obstructions to the free operation of his reviving power. What are such obstructions, it is our present object to show.
If it were not out of the just range of our purpose to advert to the opposition of the world to revivals, we might divell long on this topic ; for, averse as the spirit of the world is to ordinary exemplifications of the spirit of the gospel, it is friendship itself towards these, compared with what it often becomes, when inflamed by the prevalence of powerful revivals of religion. Nor is this surprising, since there is nothing which presents the spirit of the gospel in such
perfect and intense hostility to worldliness. But christians are not answerable for the world's opposition to revivals; nor can they hinder it. Nor can that opposition much hinder the progress of revivals. Let christians but take due heed to themselves, that they give the world no occasion for opposition, by mismanagement or otherwise, and men may scoff and rail as they please ; the effusions of the Spirit, we may hope, will by such means, be rather increased ban restrained.
The obstacles to revivals proper to be noticed in this paper, may be comprehended in these four divisions; ihose which arise from the character of the christian world at large; from the character of the ministry; from the character of particular churches; and from the character of former revivals.
I. A spiritual survey of the state of the general church, cannot but make the impression on every enlarged and intelligent mind, that the followers of Christ, of alınost all denominations, are chiefly engaged about other business than that which ought to absorb their attention. That business, unquestionably, is the salvation of men, the conversion of the world. This was the business which brought Christ himself into the world, and which, when he was about to leave the world, he committed to the hands of bis disciples, of all generations, as the high purpose of their existence. His first disciples, full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, entered on this work, and spent their lives and their all in performing it. They planted churches in almost every part of the civilized world. But nearly eighteen centuries have elapsed since they fell asleep, and there has been scarcely, until of late, any enlargement of christianity beyond the bounds to which they carried it; while within these bounds, it has been, for the most pari, in a state of the most deplorable infirmity, or monstrous perversion. The reason is, that succeeding generations of christians ceased from the work to which the first disciples devoted their lives, and gave their chief concern to doubtsul disputations about religious philosophy, and ecclesiastical forms, and other sectarian objects. Christians have recently had a partial awakening from this mighty infatuation, but partial it truly is. Any one who will lift up his eyes, and look in the spirit of Christ, over the length and breadth of the church, even at this day, will see the vast multitude of its members engaged about almost every thing rather than fulfilling the unrevoked command of their Lord, "to teach all nations, and preach the gospel to every creature." Some, under the sway of the spirit of sect, are striving to build themselves up in great strength and dimensions, and would fain draw down fire from heaven, to burn up those who do not fall in, and build with them. Some are laboring hard in angry controversies, supposing nothing to be a more worthy object of pursuit than
imen, night and diavex their own sous on all points
Breatest of all hinnce of ordinante in religion
the confutation of speculative errors on all points of divinity, larger and less. Some vex their own spirits not less than those of other men, night and day, in trying to detect all descriptions of heretics and deceivers. And some, like the Zidonians, are " at quiet and secure,” caring for nothing more in religion, than the decent and dignified observance of ordinances. These most certainly are the greatest of all hindrances to revivals of religion—the mighty mountains which stand in the way of the church's enlargement. They are raised and kept up by the church herself, neglecting her proper work, and wasting her strength and her resources about things of questionable propriety, or at least, comparatively of very small moment. It is not denied that church purity and church order, as subservient to the salvation of men, are important; but when these things are made the supreme concern, the symmetry and beauty of christian character, give place to the odious forms of sectarianism, and the Holy Spirit of God is grieved and quenched. Heresy, in every shape, is hateful; but when christian brethren, who ought to be one, as Christ and the Father are one; tender of each other's good name, and glad of each other's advancement as each of his own; ever praying for one another; ever laboring, and suffering, and rejoicing together, as having one common and indivisible interest: when these, of all creatures the most closely allied in brotherhood, instead of living together in unity and love, treat each other as if unity were a disgrace and a crime, censuring and denouncing one another before the world, impeaching each other of dishonesty and evil designs without any regard to Christ's counsel, (Matt. xvii.) as to the mode of proceeding in such delicate cases; striving with all bitterness and fierceness of spirit to hinder each other's usefulness, and destroy each other's work; when christians thus carry themselves towards christians, as alas ,even ministers are at this day and in this country doing to a great and still increasing extent, they are doubtless answerable for greater mischief, a worse heresy than Universalism, Socinianism, or any other false doctrine on earth.*
* See several of our religious newspapers and magazines.- What must stran. gers to the real state of things in the American churches think of certain of our most devoted and successful ministers, judging of them from what is constantly said concerning them, by many of our religious editors and their correspondents? They are denounced by these men, as intriguers, enemies, common enemies, un. sound in the faith, errorists, neologists, covenant-breakers, etc. etc. etc.; and are charged with secret schemes and intentions, of which if they are truly guilty, they are among the most unprincipled of mankind. If these ministers are not of "the little ones” of Christ, they have at least the lot to be “despised." But what if the last day shall discover, that they are not entirely destitute of the characteristics of a christian, while enduring such reproach from their brethren ? Is the caution in Matt. xviii. 10, also deserving of cootempt? See verses 6 and 7, of that chapter. At the same time, let the self-denial, and labors, and success of these ministers, be set off against the accusations laid against them. It is easy to bring charges,
This, though apparently laid to heart by almost no one, is truly the most deplorable of evils. While it remains, we labor in vain to remore other evils. Error, infidelity, superstition, imposture, idolatry, worldliness, vice, and crime, in all their forms and degrees, fed and fattered from this fountain of death, will continue to flourish in the
arth, in despite of all our zeal to destroy them. Revivals them-zselves, however multiplied, will fail to convert the world, if they do
w remove this barrier to the progress of the gospel. For accordng to the prayer which Christ offered for his disciples just before is death, their holy unity among themselves is the just and neces
y means of the world's conviction, that Christ is its anointed Lord stod Savior. * : II. The chief instrumental cause of the good, and the evil, in - the christian world; is to be found in ministers of the gospel. They
ue, as they have always been, the greatest friends, and likewise the greatest adversaries, to revivals of religion. Revivals have become so common, are productive of such bevigo results, and are
shen no present necessity to make them good is felt, but they will not be brought - from a regard to the authority, and of course not from a regard to the honor of
Christ. If the business of bringing charges were always as difficult and as unpleasant, as it is when Christ's rule, in such cases, is observed, more would probbly be gained by silence in one year, than has ever been by all the lawless crimsations and loud-sounding alarms of past ages. An open and fearless testimony
guest deceivers and schismatics, is a sacred duty; but to lift up a reckless voice 1 keusation and railing against men of God of any name, is a business which - Sould be left to the “ accuser of the brethren." If suspicion that they are not
ben of God, be the apology offered for such a course against them, the apology
Is itself an offense, since the suspicion, if it be ground of process against them at Ball, should lead to the steps of a scriptural prosecution. If this mode of pro.
#ding seems to leave the church too much exposed to the designs of heretics, let it be considered whether the church is not more self-honored by the preservaten of her charity, than by any rash demonstrations of fiery zeal at the expense of it; and that all ecelesiastical history raises a voice of terrific remonstrance against a disregard to Christ's rule in managing church scandals. How long shall
be enemy continue bis rejoicings, at the janglings and contentions, and the spir1.210 concision, which the church nourishes in her own bosom, under pretext of
zeal for purity, and soundness in the faith? Had departures from the faith been uways dealt with in strict charity, who can think they would have been either half as numerous, or half as burtful? The erring spirit of man becomes erect by Enchristian methods of resistance, and makes daring advances, of wbich there would not have been a thought, had love, instead of the spirit of persecution,
been its opponent.
The religious periodicals of the day are a late contrivance, and they may, and We doubt not they will be, made instrumental of great benefit to mankind; some
them have done and are doing much good; but doubtless there is room for neprovement in the spirit and manner in which the best of them are conducted. reedom of remark on public men and proceedings is not only proper, but highly mportant and needful; but it should be the freedom of love, not of bitterness and
Tah. To us it appears as a palpable certainty, that there is nothing in the whole compass of thought, which should be more earnestly desired by those who
the advancement of the gospel, than the removal of the spirit of uncharitableDess from the church.
* - John xvii. 21. Vol. JV.
in such esteem among all the best churches in our land, that few ministers of any evangelical denomination are now to be found among their open opposers. But not a few, it is to be feared, are still secretly doubtful, if not more than doubtful, as to their reality and desirableness; and in their conduct in respect to them, proceed rather on the supposition that they may be of God, than on the heart-felt and cherished conviction that they are. Now such ministers cannot be relieved of the responsibility of being opposed, in spirit and in practice, to revivals, by their silent and negative course concerning them. To have no positive faith in revivals, is to be averse and contrary to them. Revivals are so big with great consequences, so instinct with life and power, that they cannot be the object of attention, without moving the mind one way or another, without being hated where they are not loved, dreaded where they are not desired, though peculiar circumstances of expediency may repress positive expressions of aversion. Such ministers not only will do nothing in favor of revivals, but amidst studied silence and reserve, will do much against them, both in their preaching and their intercourse among their people. Can the preaching of men be otherwise than essentially hostile to revivals, who are not without doubts whether revivals are not the work of man, or perhaps of man and Satan united ? The state of mind which dictates such a strain of preaching, cannot but dictate a coincident strain of conversation. Direct unfriendliness may not be intended; but it will be exerted, and exerted in the most decisive and effectual manner.
But ministers who fully believe in revivals, and pray and plead for them as the best of God's works; may still be practically opposed to them. It is proper here to use much caution, but great plainness of speech is not less important. It cannot well be doubted that the character of the ministry in this country, has generally been improving, and is better now than it has been heretofore. The glorious revivals of this day speak well for the ministry. But yet it is too clear that some of the chief hindrances to revivals are to be sought for among them. They have improved, but the room for improvement is still so great, that they should continually forget the things which are behind, and press forward still towards those which are before. Let even our most simple minded ministers reflect, as before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, the great Judge of quick and dead, upon the general strain of their preaching. What is its object? To earn or sustain a high reputation in the church? or to keep in favor with their people? or to beat down theological antagonists ? or merely to recover this world to Christ, to save the souls of men, to help saints on their heavenward way, and bring sinners to immediate repentance? The spirit