Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

My communication relates to what I, in common with many around me, cannot but regard as a remarkable manifestation of divine power in the revival of religion.

The plan of protracted meetings considerably interested me from the commencement of their operation in our country. I accordingly made a trial of them in the years 1838 and 1839; but without any apparent success. Indeed, I have reason to fear that the result was more injurious than beneficial. This consequence naturally led to reflection. It did not shake my confidence in the utility of continuous services, but convinced me that I had erred in the mode of conducting them. The cause of my error was soon evident. It consisted in the sudden adoption of the plan in question, without any regard to the adequate preparation of the church or myself; in a false dependance on the measure itself, and in a misplaced confidence in human talent. Towards the close of last year, I resolved that if another attempt be made, the meetings should be conducted on very different principles. To this third experiment I now allude.

It has long been customary with the people under my pastoral care to hold a special prayer-meeting early in the morning of New Year's Day. The one that ushered in the present year was marked by unusual fervour and very solemn consecration to the divine service. Not an individual present failed to give very visible evidence of the peculiar depth of his emotions. My address was te peatedly interrupted by the intensity of my own feelings, and the audible expression of those of others. It was evidently a time of prevailing prayer. The meeting stands out distinguished in the recollection of many among the long series that preceded it. To the present time it is again and again reverted to as the beginning of our revival. In an annual letter which I addressed to my beloved charge a few weeks after, in allusion to this season, I expressed the following aspirations. “We have had the earnest-o that we may have the fulfilment ! A few drops have fallen- that the overflowing shower may come! We are beginning to awake-may God incline us to arise and work !"

I soon discovered a very altered character in the people. Prayermeetings, to the extent of ten or twelve a week, spontaneously arose. Some were commenced without my knowledge, and all, as far as I recollect, at the suggestion of the people themselves. With the proposal for one of them I was much struck. A young man said, at a meeting of members, “ We have a devotional meeting on Monday, and another on Friday, but the interval seems too long; cannot we meet early every Wednesday morning for the special purpose of imploring the large outpouring of the Holy Spirit on our society ?” We met regularly at half-past six, A. M. and found that time pre-eminently delightful. All who came to that meeting came, in a peculiar sense, “ with one accord.” Thus our spiritual affairs continued till Easter. In the meanwhile I delivered a course of sermons on the revival of religion.

The Easter holidays affording a suitable opportunity, I convened a meeting of members, with a view to ascertain the state of spirituality in the church. None who came had any very distinct code

ception of the precise object of the meeting, or of the mode of conducting it. After singing and prayer, I commenced the addresses by referring to the recent change, which was sufficiently visible in the church, and by describing my own christian experience during the previous four months. I then called upon the male members by name to express their sentiments respecting the state of religion in the church and in their own hearts. The effect of these simple addresses was perfectly electrical. Every speaker was completely unmanned. A long silence at one part of the meeting paid its tribute to the intensity of our feelings. I was called upon to speak, but, for a time, was quite unable to give utterance to my thoughts. The circumstance that affected us most, was the narration of christian experience given by two or three individuals who were once some of the most dissolute characters in the neighbourhood. 0, never shall I forget the exquisitely simple statement of a man who was once a notorious swearer, drunkard, and sabbath-breaker. After labouring for a long time to gain the power of utterance, he said, " () what has God done for me! He has taken away a blaspheming heart, and he has given me a praying heart. He has given me a new hope and a new home.” A member who was sitting by him at the time, had several times stood between him and his wife to prevent them from inflicting severe injuries on each other.

This meeting gave an additional impulse to the revival that had evidently commenced. One thing now occurred which convinced me that a real work was going on. I left home to attend the May meetings in London, but, on my return, found no diminution in the attendance at our special prayer-meetings, or in the interest felt by the members. All went on as usual. This convinced me that the work was the Lord's, and not man's.

At length, after several preparatory meetings, we resolved to have a protracted service. We felt ourselves in some measure ripe for a season of great revival. We determined to begin on the 21st of June. In the plan that we sketched out, we arranged to have, for one week, prayer-meetings every morning at seven, tent preaching near the chapel every evening at six P. M. and an adjourned service in the chapel immediately after, when prayers were to be offered and addresses given. I selected and arranged the topics of address, and invited a few neighbouring brethren to take them. I endeavoured to obtain the services of each brother for two or three days together, and invited those who appeared to me most deeply interested in revivals. I was resolved, in the invitation of ministers to assist, not to be determined by mere talent, or even popularity. It became apparent, after the first meeting, that the previous arrangement of subjects must be laid aside. My plan, too, as to the different speakers, was much altered. We felt that we were in God's hands, and were willing to go in whatever path he might direct. My own addresses, (for I gave two or three every evening, being convinced that the pastor, if he do not conduct the whole, should take the most prominent part on such occasions,) were in most cases left to the direction of the circumstances of the congregation. All the addresses delivered on the occasion were plain, applicatory, faithful; and most of them related to the duty of immediate decision. After the first evening meeting, I invited all who felt deeply concerned for their salvation to meet me in the vestry. Three or four came. I repeated the invitation the next evening, and sixteen came. The next night we had, I believe, thirty. Thus the number went on itcreasing, till I obtained the names of one hundred and seventy individuals who felt deeply anxious for their souls. On the Thursday of the first week I received a document, signed by nearly fifty members, requesting the continuance of our protracted service into the next week. This was done, and we closed the whole engage ments at the usual half-yearly tea-meeting of members on July 2d.

I now write on September 11th, and what is the result? The number of members whose names I have inserted in the book kept for that purpose, amounts, at this time, to more than two hundred. But have all kept steadfast? No. I have to weep over the decline of several. I know of from twelve to sixteen who, I fear, have returned to the world. They are not worse than they were; but they were merely convinced, not converted. Yet who knows that a wound may be left in their hearts, which will one day “ be bound up” by him who has promised to “ heal their backslidings ?" At our last church meeting we admitted twenty-seven individuals. Since January, when I consider the work began, seventy members have been added to the church, and thirteen stand proposed for admission. Considering the number of hopeful cases that I still know of, and the number that stand proposed, I shall not be surprised if the increase throughout the year exceed one hundred members.

What class of persons, it may be asked, have been thus converted! Most of them have been regular attendants on a gospel ministry for some time. Some of them have been brought out of the world, and whose conversion, several months since, I should have pronounced in the highest degree improbable. Great astonishment has seized me in seeing them come to the inquiry class. By far the greatest number exceed twenty years of age. Some are in their maturity; others are far advanced in life.

I do not perceive that this event has occasioned very much difference in the appearance of the congregation, thongh some persons have been induced to become regular hearers, who never came before ; but that the church generally has been greatly benefited by the season I have described, is very obvious. Eight or nine weekly meetings for religious conversation with members and inquirers, besides twelve weekly prayer-meetings, continue to be held. Many fresh members have entered upon departments of christian activity. Union prevails; and though the great excitement which the protracted meeting awakened, was likely to leave a corresponding exhaustion, still I consider the chnrch has learned such lessons, engaged in such exercises, and received such evident answers to prayer, that I cannot doubt the good effected will be permanent and advancing.

In conclusion, I may he permitted to say, that the result of this third attempt has fully convinced me that a well-timed and wellconducted protracted meeting is eminently calculated to produce great advantages. Its adaptation to usefulness arises from well-known principles in human nature; and the Holy Spirit always acts in concert with the divinely established laws of the mind. God does not give new faculties to the converted man. He only directs the exercise of those originally possessed. A supernatural influence does direct the process, but only, I humbly conceive, in the same way as the teacher's hand guides the pen which the pupil holds and which the pupil moves. Who knows not that the mind is powerfully impressed by any subject of thought in proportion to the continuousness of its meditation thereon ? What is it that causes the world so completely to absorb the passions of the man of commerce but this habitual occupation in its affairs? Why may we not expect a similar result if we can secure continued attention to religions truth? Surely man needs the help of prolonged attention. For can it be supposed, speaking after the manner of men, that the mighty spell of worldly influence and sinful indulgence in which so many of our Sabbath-day hearers are involved, will be effectually broken by a single or a second address on the seventh day, attended, as that address generally is, with a sameness of mode and circumstance, which must, to a great extent, diminish its impressiveness ? Perpetual change is an evil to be deplored; but perpetual monotony is, in such a matter as ministerial appeal, quite as injurious. Something is needed to break in upon the intrenchments with which the habit of hearing the gospel is calculated to inclose the secret love of sin. Something new is even more necessary to affect the masses who stroll past our various places of Worship, seemingly as uninterested in the proceedings within as if the preacher and his hearers were convened for purposes of private speculation or compacted excinsiveness. Every new place of worship operates beneficially in attracting a few of these stragglers. But the regular inhabitants soon become accustomed to its walls, soon forget the passing congregation; and, if it invite them by a merry peal, soon become unconscious of the sound. We must have out-door preaching. We must abound in itinerant labours. The inconvenience which arises from the change of weather, and the contemptuous gaze of uninterested passers-by, is almost completely obviated by a tent. The tent itself is an attractive advertisement of the service, and gives every minister who is not trammelled by the restrictions of ecclesiastical formularies, an opportunity of going into whatever district he pleases, and proclaiming the gospel with as much freedom beneath the frowning majesty of a cathedral as in the midst of the meanest dwellings. Church extensionists may erect building against building; they are not likely to erect tent against tent. Bnt if we were to provoke them to this, who would not rejoice?

Sincerely hoping that the above statements will be deemed worthy of your acceptance, and conduce, in some humble measure, to the extension of the blessings of vital religion,

I remain, my dear Sir,

Your's very truly,

J. C. GALLAWAY. Il'estbromwich, Sept. 11, 1840.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF PREACHING CHRIST JESU'S OUR

LORD.

( To the Editor.) MY DEAR SIR,-I have long had it on my mind to say a word to you, and, by your permission, through you, to my brethren in the ministry of the gospel, who may be readers of your widely circulated Magazine, upon the importance of preaching nothing among men but Jesus Christ and him crucified. In doing this, I would disclaim any thing coming near to arrogance with respect to myself, or censure as it regards others, but would simply endeavour to erpress to you, and, with not a little distrust of myself, what has been for some time my deep conviction. Is our practice generally, as ministers of the gospel, and I would not be understood to refer to our own denomination alone, in as strict accordance as it should be, with that of the only infallible models-of our blessed Lord, wbo, when on earth, always preached himself ? and of his apostles, evangelists, and teachers, who never preached any other than him? Is it not in the New Testament plain, that its models of all ministers and teachers considered the subject of their preaching to be, not things, so much as persons, and chiefly,—I had almost said exclusively, the person of the Lord Jesus Christ? In the nine or ten inspired sermons of the Acts of the Apostles, is not Jesus Christ the theme of them all ? and in the epistles, are not his name and the different words, such as personal and relative pronouns that stand for it, the teeming subject of every paragraph and of every page? Is it not a fact that the divine names, the names of Jesus, occur in the New Testament very much more frequently than the name of man! And does not this show that we may not seek to explain away each an expression as preaching him, and him crucified ; as if it might be interpreted to take in the preaching of all kinds of knowledge, and to embrace all diversities of intellectual and moral system? Are we not given to understand that the world, by the wisdom of God, did not know him ; but that after he had given to them a trial of four thousand years, by spreading before their successive generations the works of his own wisdom, the manifestations of his eternal power and godhead ; and they had prayed unto the stars above, and unto the creatures of the earth below; and the result of all was universal ignorance of God; that then he resolved on saving the world by the foolishness of preaching; by the proclamation of a person crucified, dead, buried, 'raised, ascended, living, interceding, reigning ? Now I have felt strongly that we, in this age of knowledge, are in danger of trying to do again what four thousand years were given for, to no purpose ; to save men by science; to preach things. I have been afraid that in this age, where popularity is so highly esteemed, we should yield to the temptation of preaching what is undoubtedly the most popular of all subjects of preaching, and will be, until Jesus Christ have gained the majority on earth;

« VorigeDoorgaan »