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obtained, and the reliance which has been concentrated directly on God, shall be really and practically, although unconsciously, transferred to "a moral power" originating in man; if in our zeal to convince impenitent sinners of their power to repent, we send them away securely trusting to resources of their own to be put in requisition in the time of need ; and in our endeavors to summon christians to reforming and benevolent enterprises, we bring them up from their knees to take hold of a lever which, by the might of their own arm, is to overturn the deep foundations of the world's apostacy and woe; if in short, though our orthodoxy shall remain unimpaired, our practical habits and feelings shall be unfriendly to retiring, humble, and unceasing prayer, we shall have no cause to wonder if we painfully feel the import of the declaration “cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh bis arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” In these remarks we speak rather with reference to what would be a natural and is in fact a frequent result of human depravity, than with any definite view to what we have observed very extensively to exist. But we have so often seen revivals in individual churches and neighborhoods arrested, and their promising fruits miserably blighted, by the insidious influences of a self-coinplacent and self-depending pride, that we are jealous, we confess, lest by similar causes, we promote a more general dereliction. If the present is the age of action, it should equally be the age of prayer. If the call is “go forward,” it is also “ let him that glorieth glory in the Lord.”
Dependence on divine influence, however, is not more opposed to self-confidence on the one hand, than it is to desponding inactivity on the other. Indeed it is only by a positive reliance on God, according to his word, that faith gladly renounces all inconsistent objects of dependence. There may be, there often is, despondency where there is no faith. There cannot be faith without expectation. And for the most cheering reliance on the readiness of God to communicate his effectual aid in the way of his appointment for the most enlarged expectation in our prayers for it; the revelation afforded us in the gospel of his good will towards men, and of the mediation of Christ, with express reference to this very thing; together with his declared purposes, his extensive promises, and his repeated exhortations and commands respecting it, furnishes ample warrant. Faith in God, as thus revealed, is the essential thing required, as the condition of the blessing. It is this which makes it honorable in God to give, and which prepares men effectually to seek, and thankfully to receive. It is this also which carries forward those honored instruments of divine grace, whom our author sneeringly calls, “ the masters of revivals,” under the consciousness of their own weakness, and in resistance of more than human power, in a bold and faithful application of the means of salvation, with hope of success : and their hope is not in vain.
It is to little purpose that the writer of these Letters would disprove a divine influence in revivals, by a large display of means employed to promote them. For what believer in that influence ever doubted the importance of concurrent means? That because means are necessary to the conversion of men--means wisely adapted to the end—those means must be effectual without divine influence ; or with only that influence which uniformly accompanies them, this writer certainly has not shown. It may still be true that a special interposition of God is necessary in every instance of conversion. We would not call it miraculous, for miracles are effects of a divine interposition in the natural world. But that conversion is the result of a special interposition of God in connection with the means of his appointment, we have at least his word to prove : “He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy.”
- Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." 6 Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
It is evident enough, however, that the author is not less offended with the means used to promote revivals, than with the ascription of them to a divine source. He perceives that the doctrines of the entire depravity and universal condemnation of unrenewed men; of the practicability and duty of immediate repentance, and the radical defect of all their doings without it; of salvation by the blood of the cross, and the necessity of faith ; of the offices of the Holy Spirit, and the sovereignty of his influence in conversion ; and in general the scheine of doctrine taught in the calvinistic churches of New England," are the means by which the religious excitements” in these churches, are produced. He has discernment enough to see, and we doubt not has felt, that these doctrines are calculated to disturb impenitent men; and that just impressions of them cannot easily consist with a life of negligent security. He therefore pours out all his malignity against them. Urging men to immediate repentance he can least of all endure. “ The idea of an instant conversion," he remarks, "goes deeply and intrinsically into the very principles of a revival. Without this idea it could not go on, nor exist, a single day.” Let the friends of revivals profit by his remarks. The doctrines of our faith are indeed " the very principles of revival,” because they are the principles of the gospel. They are the truth of things as impressed by the Spirit of God on the minds of men, and the exciting causes of all their moral feelings and purposes, whenever they are reclaimed to God and prepared for heaven. They are " the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” Let those to whom the ministry of them is committed, therefore, go on, with the deepest sense of their insufficiency indeed, yet with the boldness becoming men furnished with a system of truth adapted by divine wisdom to the salvation of men, and acting under a divine commission for the express purpose of “turning them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” With this subject intently in view, let them with prayerful dependence on God, never cease “by manifestation of the truth to commend themselves unto every man's conscience as in the sight of God," and they will not be left without witness, that “the weapons of their warfare are mighty through God.” It was this spirit of faith which animated the preaching of Baxter, of Doddridge, of Whitfield, of Edwards, and gave
such power to their testimony. Wherever there is the same spirit, simifar results are to be expected. In whomsoever it exists, " believing they will therefore speak,” and the impressions of their own minds will be conveyed in a greater or less extent, to the minds of others. Nor can such men be confined to the public forms of speaking. They will “ preach the word in season and out of season.” Whatever reproaches our English traveler may be disposed to cast on “ domiciliary visitations,” they will preach the gospel after the example of Paul, not only publicly, but also “from house to house."
Bitter complaints are made throughout these Letters of the power of the clergy. The writer “never knew a people over whom the clergy had such an influence-among whom such a towering spiritual hierachy was built up, as the good and intelligent, but after all very superstitious people of New-England." We only wish that all those who are now echoing such complaints, would be equally definite in stating the form in which this tyranny is exercised. So far as appears from these Letters, it is confined to the encouragement of revivals. Without the influence of the clergy there would be no revivals: at least,“pot without their aid.” To this statement we certainly feel no great objection. Whatever power any of the professed ministers of Christ may have exerted by means of secular authority, ecclesiastical domination, political intrigue, or spiritual usurpation, we do most ardently hope that the good and enlightened people of New-England,” will never be “superstitious” enough to endure. But whatever power they exert “by the word of truth, and the armor of righteousness on the right hand and left," whether the word of truth be preached directly by themselves, or sent abroad under their influence, this is the power which Christ has given to them—a power, “not for destruction, but for salvation.” This power is not properly of them, but of God. He originated it in the gift of the gospel to the world. He exerts it, by putting this treasure into the earthen vessels which he has made, to receive it; and through them, giving it effect, by his Spirit, in the consciences and hearts of men. Whoever opposes it, contends not with men, but with God and whoever wishes it to be less, desires that the King of glory, riding forth prosperously because of truth and meekness,” may be stopped in his career. Yet so it is that this power excites the bitterest opposition of men; and only because it lays the axe at the root of their pride and self-indulgence. Hence multitudes are indignant at the exertion of it. Even at this day, and in this country, after all that christianity has done for us, and all that our fathers have done and suffered to transmit it to us, its salutary influence whether as it is displayed among ourselves in revivals of religion, or as it is spread abroad by evangelical efforts, excites an alarm, which not the man of sin himself
, though by divine designation “ drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs," and "coming after the working of Satan, with all deceivableness in them that perish,” seems to have produced. In this contest of feeling and action, it concerns every one to take care on which he stands, “lest haply he be found fighting against God.”
Notwithstanding the power of the New-England clergy, in the view of our traveler, he justly remarks that various other circumstances must conspire to produce a revival. Among these he does not overlook the concurrence of the church. And truly, did all the members of our churches, as becomes their profession, observe the institutions of the gospel with constancy, seriousness, and evident delight; did they bear an enlightened and decided testimony to the preaching of it in their intercourse with men; did they preserve unbroken their own unity and promptly exclude incorrigible offenders; did they endeavor to bring the negligent around them under the means of grace, and to instruct, convince, and persuade those who belong to the circle of their influence, concerning those things which pertain to salvation; and recommend the whole by a fair and legible transcript of the gospel in their habitual conduct, who can imagine the power of conviction and persuasion which would attend its public ministrations? It is this concurrence chiefly, which, so far as means are concerned, gives the gospel its power, in seasons of revival. And it is the want of this concurrence, together with a directly counteracting influence in so many christian professors by their lukewarmness, their contentions, their conformity to the world, and their general inconsistency of life, which forms one of the principal reasons that revivals are not more frequent and powerful, and of longer continuance
That revivals of religion may be interrupted by any cause foreign to their nature, which strongly engages the attention and interests the feelings of men, is often remarked. However laudable in itself or important in its proper place; however nearly allied to religion, or necessary to its general interests; the effect on minds, at the crisis when their final choice for eternity is often decided, is disastrous. How far objects of unquestionable importance, which now powerfully engage the public mind-particularly those of outward reformation and evangelical enterprise, may tend to prevent the prevalence of revivals, is worthy of consideration.
That these objects must be prosecuted, there would seem to be no cause for doubt. They are necessary to the conversion of the world. That there is no necessity of their preventing revivals, seems to be equally certain ; not only because they are plainly indicated by the King of Zion as objects to be sought, but also because in many places they both are found to be consistent. Such however, is human depravity, that we may be too well satisfied with the form, and machinery and preparatory measures of religion, without its spirit and vitality; and the time and thought, the preaching and calling of assemblies, the public appeals and individual effort, employed in these objects, may prevent that predominant desire of revivals, and that directness of aim at them, in the prayers and labors both of our ministers and churches, without which they are not to be expected. The danger, in whatever degree it exists, should be known, and call forth our earliest
Milner in his Church History has remarked that “revivals of religion seldom last in their purity above thirty or forty years." Were this remark to be verified a second time in New-England, how soon would all our plans both of external reformation, and evangelical enterprise, prove the weakness of man. It may be hoped that a remark suggested by the experience of the seventh century, though intended to extend in its application down to the close of the eighteenth, may not be found true in our nearer approach to the promised period when “at evening tide it shall be light.”
Yet the dearest interests of our children, our country and the world, demand that we forget not the order of the divine economy_"
“For these things will I be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.”
ART. III.-REVIEW OF JAMES' CHURCH MEMBER'S GUIDE. Christian Fellowship, or the Church Member's Guide. By J. A. JAMES,
A.M. Birmingham, England. Edited by J. O. Choules, A. M. Pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Newport, R. I. Boston: Lincoln and Edmands, printers and publishers, 1829: pp. 239, 18mo.
In this volume, the religious community are again presented with a valuable offering from the pen of Mr. James of Birmingham. The subjects discussed, and the duties pointed out and enforced, are of great practical importance; and the author has executed his task with his usual ability. It is gratifying to witness the rapid succession of Mr. James' public labors. Aside from the value of the works themselves, we highly estimate the example of diligence, which they present, in a christian pastor. The author, as minister of a large and intelligent congregation, in one of the great towns of England, has a responsible charge; and if he lives at all according to his own rules, as prescribed in this volume, he