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his view of the subject. “I might also urge, upon this head, the great disorder which is introduced into your assemblies by this ostentatious manner of proceeding; for, indeed, if you think seriously, what a shocking thing it is, my brethren, that when you come together for the purposes of social worship, in which all hearts should unite, each of you is desirous himself to officiate publicly, in such a manner as best suits his present inclination, without any regard to decency and order ? Every one of you hath a psalm to read, hath a doctrine to inculcate, hath a tongue in which to preach or pray, hath a revelation of some mystery to produce, hath an interpretation, which perhaps he immediately begins, while the person from whom he is to interpret, hath but begun to speak ; and thus five or six, if not more, may be speaking at the same time; in consequence of which no one can be distinctly heard, and the assembly degenerates into a kind of tumultuous riot. I beseech you, my friends, to rectify this, and to proceed upon the general canon, which I would recommend to you upon all such occasionslet all things be done, not for ostentation, but for edification, in such a manner as you do in your consciences believe will be most like to do good to the souls of men, and to build up the Church of Christ.” To this paraphrase, the pious author adds, in a note"It seems probable that some of these Christians were so full of themselves, and so desirous of exercising their respective gifts, that, without waiting for the permission and direction of him who presided in the assembly, several began speaking, or singing in the same minute, and some began while others were speaking. The manner in which discourses were carried on in the schools of the philosophers, where several little knots of disputants seem to have been engaged at the same time, and what happened in Jewish synagogues, after worship was completed, might possibly have given some occasion to an irregularity which to us seems so shocking.” So much for the case of the Corinthian Church. The diligent reader of the New Testament will see in the accounts given of other churches, indications of similar disorders, evidently spoken of as offensive to infinite wisdom.
Concerning the partial or more extensive revivals of religion which took place, in the different countries, from the apostolic age to the Reformation, we know so little in detail, that we cannot undertake to speak particularly of the disorders with which they were attended. But that there were such disorders, in a number of instances, cannot be doubted by those who read ecclesiastical history with the smallest share of either attention or discernment. I have no doubt, that many of those serious people, who are represented by Mosheim and others,
as having fallen into irregularities; and who are set down by these historians as “heretics” or “schismatics ;” were really among the “Witnesses of the Truth ;" who connected with their testimony, some wildness in opinion, or disorder in practice, which tarnished their profession, and virtually threw their influence into the scale of the enemy. The fact is, we seldom read of the minds of men being roused and excited, even by a good Spirit, without some testimony that pride, vanity, enthusiasm and fanaticism, in various degrees and forms, mingled with the good work, and produced effects which grieved the hearts of intelligent and solid Christians. It seems to have been the lot of “the sons of God,” in all ages, that whenever they assembled in greater numbers, and with greater zeal than usual, to present themselves before the Lord,” “Satan came also among them."
The glorious revival of religion which we are wont to designate by the emphatic title of the REFORMATION, can never be too highly estimated, or too gratefully acknowledged by those who love the purity and prosperity of the Redeemer's kingdom. That wonderful impulse from the Spirit of God, which electrified western Christendom, and which, at once, convulsed and purified so large a portion of the church; was made productive of blessings in which we yet rejoice, and which will be matter of fervent thankfulness to the end of time. But even the lustre of that scene was tarnished by various disorders, which deeply grieved intelligent and judicious Christians, and, in some places, for a time, greatly hindered the progress of the good
When I see Carolostadt, the friend, and, for a time, the affectionate coadjutor of Luther; a man of reasonable talents and learning; who had exposed the tyranny and superstition of the Pope with great effect; and who had been pronounced to have deserved well of the Protestant cause :—when I see such a man acting the unwise and turbulent part which history reports of him-I could almost sit down and weep over poor, frail human nature. When I see him entering the Churches of the Romanists, breaking in pieces their images, throwing down their altars, and trampling their crucifixes under his feet:—when I find him denouncing human learning, as useless, if not injurious to the student of the holy Scriptures ; going into the shops of the lowest mechanics, and consulting them about the meaning of difficult passages of Scripture; ostentatiously renouncing the title of “ doctor,” and all'names of ecclesiastical distinction; insisting that ministers ought not to study, but to support themselves by the labor of their own hands; filling the minds of young men with his eccentric and mis.
chievous opinions; persuading the students of the University of Wit. temberg, to abandon their studies, and even the boys, in the lower schools, to throw aside their books, and enter immediately on the business of religious teaching ;-and when I find him, in addition to these irregularities, declaring that he had not the least regard for the authority of any human being, but must pursue his own course; and that no man could be a real Christian who disapproved of that course: I say, when I find him acting thus, amidst the entreaties and the tears of far wiser and more pious men than himself;-I cannot help exclaiming—“Lord, what is man!” These proceedings, it is unnecessary to say, were matter of great grief to Luther, and all his judicious friends, and evidently injured the cause of the Reformation. But, in spite of all the remonstrances and entreaties which could be presented to Carolostadt, he persevered in his unhappy course for several years. And although he afterwards came, in a great measure, to his senses, acknowledging his fault, and professed to mourn over it; still the cause of truth had been dishonored, and incalculable mischief done which it was impossible to recall.
The revival of religion which took place in the former part of the cighteenth century, in this country, is generally considered, I believes and with great justice, as the most extensive and powerful that American Christians ever witnessed. The labors of the Apostolic Whitfield, and his coadjutors, the Tennents, &c., and also of the venerable Stoddard, President Edwards, and others, in New-England, were connected with triumphs of gospel truth, which the friends of vital piety love to remember, and which they can never call to mind without gratitude and praise to Him who has “the residue of the Spirit.” Many thousands of souls, there is reason to believe, were brought into the kingdom of Christ, during that revival, and a new impulse and aspect given to the Church in the American colonies.
Yet, here again, some of the managers in this heart-elevating scene, --to recur to the expressive language of Baxter,—“ left upon it the prints of their fingers,” and thus created unsightly spots in a “blaze of glory.” He who will take the trouble to consult the fourth part of the venerable Edward's treatise on that revival, as well as some other contemporaneous publications, will find evidence of this fact as painful as it is unquestionable. He will find, that, amidst the most gratifying evidence that good seed, and good fruits predominated, the enemy was permitted to “sow tares,” which sprung up with the wheat, and, in some cases, almost “choked it.” The disorders of lay-preaching well nigh brought the ministry, in many places, into contempt.
The outcries, the praying and exhorting by females in public, grieved the hearts of judicious Christians. The language of harsh censure, and of uncharitable denunciation, as“ unconverted” persons,-as“ blind leaders of the blind,”—as“ devout leaders to hell”—was directed towards some of the best ministers of Christ in the community, because they disapproved of these irregularities. Public confessions of secret sins were warmly urged, and actually made, and crimes altogether unsuspected brought to light, to the disgrace of Christian character, and the destruction of domestic peace. Thus scenes which were no doubt intended to make a deep and salutary impression, were made the subjects of unhallowed speculation, and the themes of a thousand tongues. All these things were urged with the confidence of oracular wisdom; and whoever ventured to lisp any thing like doubt or opposition, was publicly stigmatized as an enemy to revivals, and an opposer of vital piety.
Among those who took the lead in this fanatical and disorderly conduct, one individual obtained such an unhappy eminence, that his case ought to be kept before the public mind as a salutary warning. I need not tell you, that I refer to the Rev. Mr. James Davenport, greatgrandson of the venerable and excellent John Davenport, the first minister of New Haven, and at that time pastor of a church at Southhold, on Long-Island. Mr. Davenport was then a young man, and had been for some time esteemed a pious and faithful minister. Hearing of the signal effusions of the Holy Spirit with which God had been pleased to favor many parts of New-England, he about the year 1741, made a visit to Connecticut, and shortly afterwards to Massachusetts ;, and every where preached abundantly, and entered with warmth into the spirit of the prevailing revivals. Soon, however, becoming animated by a furious zeal, and imagining that he was called to take a special lead in the work, he began to set at nought all the rules of Christian prudence and order, and to give the most unrestrained liberty to his fanatical feelings. He raised his voice to the highest pitch in public services, and accompanied his unnatural vehemence, and cantatory bawling, with the most violent agitations of body. He encouraged his hearers to give the most unrestrained vent both to their distress and joy, by violent outcries, in the midst of public assemblies. He pronounced those who were thus violently agitated, and who made these public outcries to be undoubtedly converted persons. He openly encouraged his new converts to speak in public, and brought forward many ignorant and unqualified persons, young and old, to address large assemblies, in his own vehement and magisterial manner. He led
his followers in procession through the streets, singing psalms and hymns. He claimed a kind of prescriptive right to sit in judgment on the character of Ministers of the Gospel. He went from place to place, undertaking to examine ministers, as to their spiritual state, and to decide with confidence whether they were converted or not; and when his judgment was unfavorable, he would often in his public prayers, denounce them as graceless persons, and call upon the people to pray for their conversion. Those who refused to be examined by him, he, of course, placed on the reprobated list. He made his public prayers the medium of harsh, and often indecent attack on those ministers and others whom he felt disposed, on any account, to censure. He taught his followers to govern themselves by impulses and impressions, rather than by the word of God ; and represented al} public services in which there was not some visible agitation, or some audible outcry, as of no value. He warned the people against hearing unconverted Ministers, representing it as a dreadful sin to do so; and on more than one occasion publicly refused to receive the sacramental symbols in particular churches, when he had an opportunity of doing it, because he doubted the piety of the pastors.
Mr. Davenport's elder and more judicious brethren, who trembled for the interests of religion, and who were especially anxious that no dishonor might be cast on the revivals which were going on around them, remonstrated against these proceedings; warned him of their consequences; and begged him to examine whether he was not under the influence of a wrong spirit. But he was deaf to all their remonstrances and entreaties; encouraged bodies of people, in a number of places, to withdraw from their pastors, and establish separate societies, in which all his peculiarities and extravagances might freely indulged ; scattered division and strife in every direction ; increased the number of the enemies of the revival ; discouraged and disgusted not a few of its friends; and, in a word, created disorders, alienation, bitterness, and division, the consequences of which remain in many parts of that country, to the present day.
In this deplorable state of things, some of the most eminently wise and pious ministers in the land raised a warning voice against extravagancies which seemed likely to bear down all before them. They were heard by some, and their preaching and writings did much good. But they were denounced by many as enemies of the revival; and, in spite of every thing they could say or do, the infatuation of Davenport and his followers could not be arrested. Like other diseases, it ran its course, until the virulent matter which gave it aliment