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in the community, and I have wished to guard you against the influence of these objections on the one hand, and to assist you to be always ready to give an answer to any one that asketh a reason of your views of this subject on the other. I hope that what has been said may confirm your conviction that the cause of revivals is emphatically the Saviour's cause ; and that you may be disposed, each one to labor in it with increased diligence and zeal. And may your labors be characterized by such Christian prudence, and tenderness, and fidelity, that while you shall see a rich blessing resting upon them, they may have a tendency to silence the voice of opposition, and increase the number of those who shall co-operate with you in sustaining and advancing this glorious cause.
L E C T U R E III.
OBSTACLES TO REVIVALS.
1 CORINTHIANS ix. 12.
-Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
It is impossible to contemplate either the life or writings of the Apostle Paul, without perceiving that the ruling passion of his renewed nature was a desire to glorify God in the salvation of men. For the accomplishment of this end there was no service which he would not perform ; no earthly comfort which he would not surrender; no suffering which he would not endure. A charming illustration of his disinterestedness in the cause of his Master, occurs in the chapter which contains our text. He maintains, both from scripture and from general equity, the right which a minister of the gospel has to be supported by those among whom he labors; and then shows how he had waived that right in favor of the Corinthians, that the purpose of his ministry might be more effectually gained. "If others be partakers of this power over you," says he, that is, “if it is the privilege of ministers in general to receive their support from those for whose benefit they labor, are not we rather entitled to this privilege-we who have been instrumental not only of instructing and comforting you, but of leading you to the profession of Christianity? Nevertheless we have not used this power, but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ : we cheerfully submit to many inconveniences and deprivations, that our success in winning souls to Christ through the gospel, may not be
in any degree hindered by the cavils of those who are always on the alert to misrepresent and censure us."
The text takes for granted that there may exist certain hindrances to the influence of the gospel. As every genuine revival of religion is effected through the instrumentality of the gospel, it will be no misapplication of the passage to consider it as suggesting some of the OBSTACLES which often exist in the way of a revival ; and in this manner I purpose to consider it at the present time.
What then are some of the most common hindrances to a scriptural revival of religion ?
I. Ignorance or misapprehension of the nature of true revivals.
It is not to be concealed or denied that much has passed at various periods under the name of revivals, which a sound and intelligent piety could not fail to reprobate. There have been scenes in which the decorum due to Christian worship has been entirely forgotten; in which the fervor of passion has been mistaken for the fervor of piety; in which the awful name of God has been invoked not only with irreverence, but with disgusting familiarity; in which scores and even hundreds have mingled together in a revel of fanaticism. Now unhappily there are those, and I doubt not good men too, who have formed their opinion of revivals from these most unfavorable specimens. These perhaps, and no others, may have fallen under their observation; and hence they conclude that whatever is reported to them under the name of a revival, partakes of the same general character with what they have witnessed; and hence too they look with suspicion on any rising religious excitement, lest it should run beyond bounds, and termipate in a scene of religious frenzy.
There are others, (I here speak particularly of ministers of the gospel-for their influence is of course most exten.
sively felt on this subject,) who are led to look with distrust on revivals, merely from constitutional temperament, or from habits of education, or from the peculiar character of their own religious experience; and while they are hearty well wishers to the cause of Christ, they are perhaps too sensitive to the least appearance of animal feeling. Besides, they not improbably have never witnessed a revival, and as the case may be, have been placed in circumstances least favorable to understanding its nature or appreciating its importance. What is true of one individual in this case, may be true of many; and if the person concerned be a minister of the gospel, or even a very efficient and influential layman, he may contribute in no small degree to form the opinion that prevails on this subject through a congregation, or even a more extensive community.
Now you will readily perceive that such a state of things as I have here supposed, must constitute a serious obstacle to the introduction of a revival. There are cases indeed in which God is pleased to glorify his sovereignty, by marvellously pouring down his Spirit for the awakening and conversion of sinners, where there is no special effort on the part of his people to obtain such a blessing ; but it is the common order of his providence to lead them earnestly to desire, and diligently to seek, the blessing, before he be. stows it. But if, instead of seeking these special effusions of divine grace, they have an unreasonable dread of the excitement by which such a scene may be attended ; if the apprehension that God may be dishonored by irreverence and confusion, should lead them unintentionally to check the genuine aspirations of pious zeal, or even the workings of religious anxiety, there is certainly little reason to expect in such circumstances a revival of religion. I doubt not that a case precisely such as I have supposed has sometimes existed ; and that an honest, but inexcusably ignorant
conscience on the part of a minister or of a church, has prevailed to prevent a gracious visit from the Spirit of God.
II. Another obstacle to a revival of religion is found in a spirit of worldliness umong professed Christians. The evil to which I here refer assumes a great variety of forms, according to the ruling passion of each individual, and the circumstances in which he may be placed. There are some of the professed disciples of Christ, who seem to think of little else than the acquisition of wealth; who are not only actively engaged, as they have a right to be, to increase their worldly possessions, but who seem to allow all their affections to be engrossed by the pursuit ; who are willing to rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness, to become rich; and whose wealth, after it is acquired, serves only to gratify a spirit of avarice, or possibly a passion for splendor, but never ministers to the cause of charity. There is another class of professors whose hearts are set upon worldly promotion; who seem to act as if the ultimate object were to reach some high post of honor; who often yield to a spirit of unhallowed rivalry, and sometimes employ means to accomplish their purposes which Christian integrity scarcely knows how to sanction. And there is another class still, not less numerous than either of the preceding, who must be set down in a modified sense at least, as the lovers, of pleasure : far enough are they from encouraging or tolerating any thing gross or offensive to a cultivated worldly taste; but they mingle unhesitatingly in scenes of amusement, from which they know before hand that every thing connected with religion must be excluded ; and they talk afterwards with enthusiasm of the enjoyment they have experienced in such scenes; and if the consistency of their mingling in them with Christian obligations happens to be called in question, not improbably they will defend themselves with