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graces languish for want of that appropriate nourishment
which is supplied by Christian ordinances. It is not easy, 1 nor indeed possible, to establish any certain rule which
shall apply in all cases, in respect to the time of admission to the privileges of the church ; because there must needs be a difference corresponding with the variety of constitutional temperament, external advantages, degrees of knowledge, and degrees of evidence of Christian character; but it is manifest that either extreme is fraught with danger; that great precipitancy, or long delay, may be the occasion of serious evils.
The young convert should be well instructed in relation to the nature and obligations of a Christian profession; and should be encouraged to come with humility in view of his unworthiness; with gratitude in view of the greatness of the privilege; with strong resolutions of holy living in view of the peculiar obligations of acknowledged discipleship; and with full dependence on divine grace in view of his own weakness on the one hand, and the arduous duties of the Christian life on the other. Let him come with this spirit, at the proper time, and we may reasonably hope that it will be good for him, that it will be good for the church, that he joins himself to her communion.
Let it not be thought, however, that the church owes no peculiar duty to young Christians, after she has received them into her fellowship, or that the same cautions and counsels which she has given them before, are not to be repeated subsequently to this act. She is to bear in mind that they are new in the duties and conflicts of the Christian life; that they are peculiarly exposed to the temptations
of the world, that they need to be counselled and instructsed with Christian fidelity and affection ;-to be assisted in
forming and executing their plans of usefulness; and ene couraged to come up prudently, and yet fearlessly and
decidedly, to the help of the Lord against the mighty. As a tender mother cherisheth her children, so she is to cherish them. Like the great Shepherd, she is to take the lambs in her arms, and carry them in her bosom.
Without extending my remarks farther on this subject, I think we are fairly brought to the conclusion, that every revival of religion is dependent for its good effect, in no small degree, upon the course which is adopted with those who are professedly its subjects. Whether the effect of a revival is to be that the purity of the church shall be increased, as well as its numbers, or that with what is truly good it is to receive a large amount of dross and chaff; whether those who have really been renewed are to begin and hold on a course of consistent, active, Christian obedience, or to have their religious character marred, and their usefulness abridged, by being conformed to false and un. scriptural standards ;-depends, in no small degree, upon the instruction and counsel they receive, while they are yet babes in Christ. Let every Christian, then, who undertakes to perform this important office, realize deeply his responsibility. Let him bear in mind that the influence which he exerts, will tell, not only on individual character, but on the future efficiency and purity of the church. And let all seek to qualify themselves for this arduous work, (for there are none upon whom it may not at some time devolve,) by the faithful study of God's word, by earnestly supplicating divine grace, and by constantly aiming at a high standard of Christian experience. With the furniture thus acquired, you may mingle among your younger brethren and sisters in Christ with delight and profit, both to yourselves and them. You may be increasing in the knowledge of God, while you are building them up in the most holy faith. You may be walking in the path of eminent usefulness towards the abodes of immortal glory.
L E C T U R E VIII.
EVILS TO BE AVOIDED IN CONNECTION WITH REVIVAL$.
ROMANS xiv, 16.
Let not then your good be evil spoken of.
This direction of the Apostle was suggested by a par
which was the subject of controversy in the church at Rome, when this epistle was written. You will instantly perceive, however, that the rule here prescribed, is of universal application; and that it is founded in general principles of Christian prudence and charity. The design of it is not only to direct us in the practice of that which is good, but to lead us to unite wisdom with our pious activity; that we may, so far as possible, prevent incidental evils from being connected with our well meant efforts, and that our good may be inoffensive and irreproachable.
As there is no part of Christian conduct in relation to which this direction is not applicable, so, if I mistake not, it applies especially to the part which the church is called to take in a revival of religion-indeed to the whole economy of a revival. For as there is no department of reli. gious action in which even good men are not liable to err, so there is no other field in which the Christian is called to labor, where there is greater danger of his being misled, There is in the minds of most men a tendency to extremes; and that tendency is never so likely to discover itself as in a season of general excitement. When men are greatly
excited on any subject, we know that they are in far more danger of forming erroneous judgments, and adopting improper courses, than when they are in circumstances to yield themselves to sober reflection. Now as there is often great excitement in connection with a revival, there is the common danger which exists in all cases of highly excited feeling, that our honest endeavors to do right will result in more or less that is wrong ; in other words, that we shall give occasion for our good to be evil spoken of.
The conclusion to which we should be brought on this subject from the very constitution of human nature, is in exact accordance with what we know of the history of revivals. There always has been, mingled with these scenes of divine power and grace, more or less of human infirmity and indiscretion; and in some cases, no doubt, in which there have even been many genuine conversions, there has been just reason to say, “what is the wheat to the chaff ?" To say nothing of revivals in modern times— whoever will read the history of the early revivals in New England, while he will find evidence enough that the presence and power of God was in them, and if he be a Christian, will regard the record of them as occupying one of the most blessed chapters in the history of the church, will nevertheless find just cause to weep that they should have been clouded so much by the mistakes and infirmities even of good men. But those good men (some of them at least) lived to be satisfied that they were in the wrong; and it is to their honor that they acknowledged it; and it were impossible to read the record of their acknowledgment, without feeling a sentiment of veneration for their characters, and without wishing that the errors into which they fell, might, so far as they were themselves concerned, be blotted from the memory of the church.
I am aware, my friends, that in endeavoring to present
before you the abuses to which revivals are liable, and with which they have always been in a greater or less degree, connected, I am undertaking a task of peculiar delicacy; and I confess to you, that nothing but a strong and honest sense of duty would have led me to attempt it. I will state to you the considerations which have arisen to occasion this reluctance, and the manner in which I have felt myself obliged to dispose of them.
In the first place, I can hardly doubt that an attempt to expose these evils, may appear to some unnecessary. But so thought not the illustrious Edwards, when his discriminating and mighty mind was occupied in framing some of the most judicious treatises which the world has seen, for the very purpose of guarding against the abuses of revivals. On the title page of those books the church has written her own name, and she claims them as her property in a higher sense than almost any thing else except the Bible.- And is it not manifest that that illustrious man judged rightly in composing them; and that the church has judged rightly in the estimate she has formed of them? For who does not perceive that if revivals of religion become corrupted, there is poison in the fountain whose streams are expected to gladden and purify? And who that is competent to judge, will doubt that those treatises have done more than any other uninspired productions, to maintain the purity of revivals, from the period in which they were written to the present ? If Edwards has rendered good service to the church by writing these immortal works, then surely it cannot be unnecessary for other ministers to direct their humbler efforts to the same end. It is just as necessary now to distinguish between true and false experience, and between right and wrong conduct in a revival of religion, as it ever has been in any preceding period; and the manner in which this duty is practically