Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

and that that which claims to be a revival is really one. But if, in such a scene, the mind be kept in a great degree passive, if there be a great deal of feeling with very little thought-burning heat with only dim and doubtful light; if the sensibilities of the soul be wrought into a storm, none can tell how or why; then rely on it, it is not a work which God owns; or if there are some true conversions, far the greater number may be expected to prove spurious. But

3. That on which we are principally to rely as evidence of the genuineness of a revival, is its substantial and abiding fruit. Precisely the same rule is to be applied to a revival as to individual cases of hopeful conversion. Those who have been most conversant with the subject of religious experience, du not rely chiefly for evidence of piety on the pungency of one's convictions, or the transports by which they may be succeeded, or the professions which may be made of devotedness to Christ; for they have learned that all this is equivocal; and that delusion and self-deception are consistent with the most promising appearances which are ever exhibited. While, therefore, they may hope favorably from what they see at the beginning, before they form a decisive opinion they wait to see whether the individual can endure temptation; whether he is faithful in the discharge of all duty; whether he is a good soldier of Jesus Christ. And if they see the fruits of holiness abounding in the life, whether the appearance at the beginning were more or less favorable, they infer with confidence that a principle of holiness has been implanted in the heart. In the same manner are we to test the character of revivals. If an excitement on the subject of religion (no matter how great it may have been) passes away, and leaves behind little or no substantial and enduring good; if most of those who profess to have been converted return speedily or gradually to the world, living a careless

life, and exhibiting an unedifying example; or if they manifest a spirit of pride, and uncharitableness, and a disposition to condemn all who do not exactly come to their standard, then rely on it, though that may be called a revival of religion, it has little more than the name. But if, after the excitement has gone by, the fruits of holiness remain and become more and more mature, if those who have been professedly converted hold on a course of humble, self-denied, devoted obedience, exemplifying the spirit of Christ as well as professing his name, then you may take knowledge of them that they have come out of a true revival of religion. Religion acted out in the life is the best evidence that religion has its dwelling in the heart. Let the virtues and graces of the Christian adorn the lives of those who have professed to be converted during a revival, and you need ask for no better evidence that there has been the agency of the Spirit of God.

Such, as it seems to me, are the characteristics of a genuine revival of religion. I shall not stop here to prove that such a state of things has every thing in it to interest the best feelings of a Christian. If you have ever felt the power of God's grace, and especially if your hearts are now awake to the interests of his kingdom, and the salvation of your fellow men, it cannot be a matter of indifference with

you

whether or not God's work is to be revived in the midst of us. Let me entreat you, then, as this subject is for several successive weeks to occupy your attention, to be fellow-helpers together, in humble dependence on God's grace, to procure for ourselves those rich blessings on which your meditations will turn. While we are endeavoring to form correct views of this important subject, may we get our hearts thoroughly imbued with its spirit; and be able to point with devout joy to what is passing in the midst of us, as an example of a genuine, scriptural revival of religion.

L E C T U R E II.

! DEFENCE OF REVIVALS,

ACT8 il. 13.

Others mocking, said, these men are full of new wine.

The occasion on which these words were spoken, marked a memorable era in the history of the church. The disciples of Jesus, a few days after his ascension, being assembled for devotional exercises in a certain room, in the city of Jerusalem, where they had been accustomed to meet, were surprised by a marvellous exhibition of the mighty power of God. There came suddenly a sound from heaven, as of a violent rushing wind; and, at the same time, there appeared unto them a number of divided tongues, made as it were of fire; and it was so ordered, that one of these tongues rested upon each of them. And at the moment that these tongues, or lambent flames, touched them, they were filled, in an extraordinary degree, with the Holy Spirit ; and began to speak a variety of languages which they had never before understood, with a fluency and fervor which were beyond measure astonishing. It is hardly necessary to add that this was a most signal attestation to the divinity of the gospel, and a glorious pledge of the Redeemer's final and complete triumph.

It is not strange that so wonderful an event as this should have been instantly noised abroad, or that it should have excited much curiosity and speculation. Accordingly, we are informed that the multitude came together, and were amazed

find that the fact was as had been represented ; that these ignorant Galileans had suddenly become masters of a great variety of languages; and were talking with men of different nations as fluently as if they had been speaking in their own mother tongue. The true way of accounting for this--that is, referring it to miraeulous agency--they all seem to have overlooked ; nevertheless, as it was manifestly an effect of something, they could not but inquire in respect to the cause; and we have one specimen of the wisdom that was exercised on the occasion in the words of our text-"Others mocking, said, these men are full of new wine;" -as if they soberly believed that a state of intoxication, which often deprives a man of the power of speaking his own language, had strangely given to them the power of speaking languages not their own, and which they had never learned. All will admit that this was the very infatuation of prejudice.

The reason why this absurd and ridiculous account was given of this miraculous occurrence was, that the individuals were at war with that system of truth of which this was pre-eminently the seal; they could not admit that it was an evidence of the triumph of the crucified Jesus; and rather than even seem to admit it, they would sacrifice all claims to reason and common sense. Now I would not say that all objections that are made against revivals of religion, are made in the same spirit which prompted this foolish declaration of these early opposers of the gospel ; but I am constrained to express my conviction that many of them are; and hence I have chosen the passage now read as introductory to a consideration of OBJECTIONS

AGAINST Revivals. It was actually an effusion of the Holy Spirit, which drew forth the objection contained in the text; the commencement of a scene, which terminated, as revivals now do, in the conversion of many souls, and an important addition to the Christian church.

The sole object of this discourse then, will be to consider, and so far as I can, to meet, some of the most popular objections which are urged against revivals of religion. And I wish it distinctly borne in mind that the defence which I am to make relates, not to mere spurious excitements, but to genuine revivals ;-such revivals as I have attempted to describe in the preceding discourse.

I. The first of these objections which I shall notice is, that revivals of religion, as we use the phrase, are unscriptural. It is proper that this objection should be noticed first, because if it can be sustained, it is of itself a sufficient reason not only for indifference towards revivals, but for positive opposition to them; and in that case, as it would be unnecessary that we should proceed, so it would be only fair that, at the outset, we should surrender the whole ground. No matter what else may be said in favor of revivals; no matter how important they may have been regarded, or how much we may have been accustomed to identify them with the prosperity of Christ's cause; if it can be fairly shown that they are unscriptural, we are bound unhesitatingly to conclude that we have mistaken their true character. God's word is to be our standard in every thing ; and wherever we suffer considerations of expediency in reference to this or any other subject, to prevail against that standard, we set up our own wisdom against the wisdom of the Highest; and we are sure thereby to incur his displeasure. To the law and the testimony then be our appeal. In order to denominate any thing that is connected with

« VorigeDoorgaan »