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that nothing has been marked with disapprobation which the great Head of the church approves. If any thing is to be found on earth, which has much of heaven in it, it is a genuine revival of religion. But in this imperfect state, nothing can pass through human hands entirely unsoiled. It is a delightful thought, that He who loved the church, and gave himself for it, will finally present it to himself, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle. It is my prevailing hope and belief, that the great things which God has already done for his American Israel, are precursors of still greater things. May He cleanse our Zion" by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.” And may He "purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” May our beloved land, and may the whole earth, soon behold the glory of the Lord, and rejoice in his salvation.
Adieu, my dear sir. Accept my sincerest wish, that all your efforts to do good, and especially the present, may be crowned with an abundant blessing. With much esteem and friendship, I am Your brother in the gospel,
D. DANA, Rev. Dr. SPRAGUE,
FROM THE REVEREND SAMUEL MILLER, D. D.
Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government in the Theological
Seminary at Princeton, New Jersey.
REVEREND AND DEAR BROTHER,
You request from me a historical sketch of some of those disorders which have so often attended and disgraced revivals of religion. The task is so arduous and so delicate, that you must excuse me if I shrink from it, especially in any thing like the extent which you seem to contemplate. Yet I feel so much interest in your proposed publication, that I dare not wholly decline a compliance with your request. You must be content, however, with a few general remarks, instead of an attempt to give a regular or systematic view of the proposed subject.
The pious and devoted Mr. Baxter somewhere remarks_" The word of God is divine; but our mode of dispensing it is human : and there is scarcely any thing we have the handling of, but we leave on it the prints of our fingers.” The justness of this remark we shall probably all acknowledge. And although the contemplation of the fact which it expresses, ought by no means either to discourage the Christian, or lead him to depreciate the real importance of human instrumentality in extending and building up the church; it ought to lead us all to “cease from man” as an ultimate guide in divine things; to “search the scriptures daily;" to walk with a scrupulous care in their light; and to pray fervently and unceasingly that both those who administer and those who receive the ordinances of God, may constantly go “to the law and to the testimony" for guidance in every thing.
As the remark in question applies to every department of sacred things, in which men act; so it may be considered, perhaps, as applying particularly to RevivalS OF RELIGION. In those precious seasons, so dear to every pious heart, and so much to be desired by every one who loves the prosperity of Zion; when the graces of
Christians are revived ; when many who have been slumbering in sin are awakened for the first time to a sight of their guilt and danger; when the awful realities of eternity begin to be revealed to the minds of multitudes who never saw them as realities before; when human sympathies and passions as well as gracious feelings, are called into exercise, and sometimes into very powerful and morbid exercise; and when those who are yet “babes in Christ,” and who, of course, have no experience, are ready to listen to every suggestion which may indicate some new method of “winning souls,” and of extending the Redeemer's kingdom ; can it be wondered, that, in such a season of deep interest, and powerful excitement, feeling should often predominate over judgment; and enthusiasm, fanaticism, and various forms of spurious emotion, mingle with genuine exercises; and, in the view of superficial observers, throw a suspicious appearance over the whole work? In many instances, there can be no doubt, that genuine effusions of the Holy Spirit, by means of which large additions have been made to the church of Christ, have, in their progress been tarnished by human management, and unhallowed mixtures; and, in not a few cases, arrested by transactions and appearances, which pained the hearts of intelligent Christians; disgusted and alienated serious inquirers ; grieved away the Spirit of God; left the state of the population thus graciously visited, perhaps less favorable than it was found; and greatly strengthened the hands of the enemies of the revival cause.
This is so far from being a rare occurrence, that it is presumed an extensive and strongly marked revival of religion has seldom occurred, in any age or country, and even under the ministry of the most prudent and pious pastor, in the course of which some things did not take place adapted to grieve the enlightened friends of the cause of Christ. Public services, perhaps have been, with the best intention, so inordinately multiplied as, in a measure, to defeat their own object. Means have been resorted to, in the fulness of ardent feeling, which scriptural wisdom and experience could not justify. Irregularities and excesses have insensibly crept in, which, though meant for the best, and promising, at the time, to be useful, proved far otherwise in their influence. Expression has been given, in public and private to feelings, which, though sincere and unaffected in those in whom they were first witnessed, were by no means of a similar character in all subsequent imitators. A few, perhaps, who were deeply impressed with the importance of religion, and with the danger of the impenitently wicked, began, without permission, to give vent to their honest
zeal in warm public addresses.' Those whose zeal and knowledge were less, and whose vanity was greater, soon imitated their example; until lay-preaching became prevalent, and extravagance and folly were the most prominent features in the scene. Meetings for prayer were protracted to an unseasonable hour. Judicious and sober-minded Christians were grieved to see plans adopted, and practices indulged, which, though intended for good, were by no means adapted to promote it. Many who saw and lamented these evils were backward to oppose them, lest they should be thought unfriendly to what was really excellent and commendable in the passing scene. Thus revivals have lost some of their lustre with all ; have been altogether discredited in the eyes of many ; and have, perhaps, been succeeded by long seasons of prevailing catelessness, and even of hardened opposition to the special work of the Holy Spirit.
But not only are the seeds of human infirmity and corruption to which I have referred, quite sufficient to produce, and to explain the evils which have been mentioned :—not only are the honest mistakes, and the remaining imperfections of the best men apt to betray them, in seasons of excitement, into language and plans which will not stand the test of enlightened reflection ; but there can be no doubt that the great adversary of souls makes it his constant study, by working on the minds of hypocrites and fanatics, and by leading good men, as far as possible, into his snares, to counteract and to discredit revivals of religion. “ If we look back”-says the eminently wise and experienced President Edwards—“ If we look back into the history of the Church of God in past ages, we may observe that it has been a common device of the devil, to overset a revival of religion, when he finds he can keep men quiet and secure no longer, then to drive them into excesses and extravagances. He holds them back as long as he can ; but when he can do it no longer, then he will push them on, and, if possible, run them upon their heads. And it has been by this means chiefly, that he has been successful, in several instances, to overthrow most hopeful and promising beginnings : yea, the principal means by which the devil was successful, by degrees, to overset that grand religious revival of the world, that was in the primitive ages of Christianity , and, in a manner to overthrow the Christian Church through the earth, and ot make way for, and bring on the grand anti-christian apostacy, that master-piece of all the devil's work, was to improve the indiscreet zeal of Christians ; to drive them into those three extremes of enthusiasm, superstition, and severity towards opposers, which should be enough for an everlasting warning to the Christian Church. And
though the devil will do his diligence to stir up the open enemies of religion ; yet he knows what is for his interest so well, that in a time of revival of religion, his main strength shall be tried with the friends of it, and he will chiefly exert himself in his attempts upon them. to mislead them. One truly zealous person, in the time of such an event, that seems to have a great band in the affair, and draws the eyes of many upon him, may do more (through Satan's being too subtle for him) to binder the work, than an hundred great, and strong, and open opposers."*
One would think, at first view, that a single series of mischievous disorders, strongly marked; exhibited in a day of great public interest; and distinctly recorded, would be sufficient to instruct and warn the Church in all succeeding times. But, unhappily, this is by no means found to be the case. Human nature being the same in all ages,
the tendencies, infirmities and temptations of men are the same. One generation forgets the experience of that which preceded it. Few read the record of that experience, and fewer still are qualified to profit by it. The consequence is, that every few years, the same occurrences take place. Good men are ensnared and led astray in the same manner. Hypocrites manifest the same arts and un hallowed ebullitions. Similar mistakes are made, and similar irregularities are indulged, without recollecting, or, perhaps, knowing, that they were ever witnessed before, and of course, without being admonished by the painful instructions of former times. Thus it is that children profit so little by the experience of their fathers. It were well, indeed, if the fathers themselves always profited as they ought by their own.
The truth of these remarks has been exemplified, in a greater or less degree, in almost every age of the church, from the day of Pentecost, until the present hour. Even under the eyes of the inspired Apostles themselves, some of the evils of which we have spoken occurred, and were formally reproved as disorderly and mischievous. For example, no one can read the fourteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians, without perceiving that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit were greatly abused by some of the members of that Church, and the exercise of these gifts connected with much disorder. It is persectly evident that there was a considerable excitement among the people: and it is quite as evident that this experiment was not conducted with decorum and wisdom. The following paraphrasé of Dr. Doddridge, on the twenty-sixth verse of that chapter, is decisive as to
* Some Thoughts concerning the present Revival of Religion, &c. Part IV. p. 190.