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religion that brought fear upon every soul, yet gave Christians favor with all the people!
X. Both are permanent in their effects. Many say of a revival, “Let us see how this will wear after the effervescence has ceased.” The result of revivals has been fully, calmly, and honestly investigated by the churches in America. About the year 1829, questions were sent to every minister in New England, to ascertain the number of excommunications, which had taken place before revivals and after them. The answers give generally this account: that those admitted into the church during former revivals received a new impulse; that their piety was of a higher order, and their usefulness greater; that the excommunications had been most numerous among those who had joined the church before revivals; but that, among the offsprings of revivals, they had been comparatively rare. It is a lamentable truth that, at these seasons, men who are not truly contrite, will make professions of repentance, and seck for relief from remorse in the communion of the church. These, after a short time, dismiss their religious convictions, return to their wallowing in sin, and cause the ways of God and the influences of the Holy Spirit to be derided.
Such was the revival of the day of Pentecost. Improper characters, like Ananias and Sapphira, Simon Magus, and others, thrust themselves among the disciples. Should it be said, “If God be the author of revivals, why not prevent this impure mixture ?” we can only say that we have no grounds, in the character of any of the works of God, to expect such an interference. God is the author of rain, but, fall when and where it may, it occasions numerous inconveniences to many;- of spring, a delightful season, in which weeds grow fast and high ;- of summer, which engenders many reptiles and noxious insects; — of a thaw, after a long hard frost, the operations of which are mingled with accompaniments that are truly displeasing. Shall we then say that these things are not of God ? No: for every reflecting soberminded man must avow that, notwithstanding their temporary inconveniences, they are good on the whole, and they result in a splendid amount of benefit.
Many irregularities creep in with the spring seasons of spiritual life, but, after all, no irregularity is so opposed to the gospel of Christ and to the Holy Spirit, as the regular formality of a lukewarm church. It is not to be wondered at that, in the all-reviving spring of religion, there should be in our nature some excess of imagination and feeling. Who is there that does not feel at this returning season of the year, amid fragrant blossoms and young life, a kind of annual intoxication of delight and pleasure, when thrilling excitements and exuberant emotions make the judgment connive at the playfulness and gayety of the feelings? In a young convert the work of the Holy Spirit may be real and genuine, though he is, for some time, borne along by extravagant emotions and irregular sentiments. The tares do not make the good seed bad, though they mar its growth. Spiritual prosperity, like intellectual or commercial prosperity, has its accompanying dangers, and these require wisdom and adroitness to provide for them. These revivals would be far less alloyed, and be far more pure, if we ourselves were in a more scriptural frame to receive and employ them; or, if we had a holy skill to direct their tendencies and operations, in ways and methods, more in harmony with the plans of the Acts of the apostles. After all, the Holy Spirit may overrule the cold and barren seasons, which sometimes follow revivals, that he may cleanse and purify the church, by killing the weeds, and by destroying the reptiles, which grew and multiplied during the genial season.
The revival of the day of Pentecost, AS IT WAS, with all its stir and animation, is distinctly ascribed to the Holy Spirit. Wherever a revival of the same elements and character appears now, its friends are fully authorized to attribute it to the influences of the same Benign Agent. As Luke wrote the account of this revival thirty years after the season in which it took place, its effects must have recommended themselves to the judgment of his inspired mind as beneficial, permanent, and desirable.
ON THE REASONS WHY THE SAVING INFLUENCES OF THE
HOLY SPIRIT ARE NOT MORE LARGELY MANIFESTED.
IF the agriculturists of our country, after duly cultivating the soil and sowing the grain, discovered that their crops were not commensurate with the extent of the labor bestowed, and the abundance of seed cast in the furrows, they would express a disappointment amounting to consternation; would institute a universal and honest inquiry into the causes, and call public meetings to discuss the question. In the midst of their investigations, they would not quiet and solace themselves with the persuasion, that their prosperity might be great, though not observed, or that their success was real, though there were no signs of it. They would feel that they could not flatter themselves with convictions of success, without the signs and representatives of success; for, between a harvest not appearing, and a harvest not existing, they could see no difference, nor could they be satisfied with some nice logical distinctions. If, in their speculations, they discovered that the failure of the crop was to be ascribed to some suspension or modification of the physical influences of the sun, air, water, or the seasons, they would continue the inquiry no farther; for, however distressed they might be at the loss of their harvests, they would feel that no blame was to be attached to them, or to their system of farming. Were a pious farmer to rise up and say, that the suspension of the physical influence was a sovereign act of the will of God, to punish them for their sins against him, another would reply, “If the suspension has taken place for anything in us, the act cannot be sovereign; we must, therefore, inquire for the cause in ourselves.” In the mean time, the induction of cases proved that all the influences embodied in the promise of " seed-time and harvest, summer and winter, unto the end of the world,” remained unaltered, unrecalled, and undiminished; and it was discovered that the failure of the crops was owing to the very late season in which the seed had been sown, or to inattention to the due clearance and tillage of the soil, or to the ungeni
alness of the land to the grain sown, or that it was owing to the fowls of the air, the canker worms, and locusts, that have preyed on it. The investigation now assumes a new and more beneficial aspect. It awakens personal concern ; it suggests topics for self-examination; it leads to convictions of carelessness and neglect; it vindicates the permanency of the influences of Providence ; it prompts to improved methods of cultivation; and it applies all the powers of forethought, contrivance, skill, system, caution, and perseverance, to practical results. • Such was the posture and the attitude of the Jewish church under the ministry of Jeremiah. “O the hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble, WHY shouldst thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night ? Why shouldst thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save ?” God is here declared to be the hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof, and mighty to save: he has authority to save; he has instituted means for the express purpose of saving: he has displayed his power to save in countless instances; he is unchangeable in his willingness and readiness to save ; and he is revealed as a man astonished that he does not and cannot save. His power to save has been in actual operation among this very church ; but its manifestations, though beautiful, were of short duration, just like the charming intercourse of a wayfaring man that sojourned for a night. When these revival seasons are short, it concerns every church to enter on the inquiry, why they are so brief, so “few and so far between,” and vigorously to work out this problem with fear and trembling. It becomes the church to investigate this subject thoroughly, on account of her well-known character for benevolence and good-will towards the interests of a world in ruins ; lest it should be found in a criminal position of inaptitude for the developements of saving influences; and lest it should be tempted to indulge and express wrong sentiments concerning the character and the government of God.
There is a cause why the saving influences of the Holy Spirit are not manifested more largely than they are, and why seasons of revival are so transitory as they are. What is this cause? It is not that the treasures of holy influences are exhausted or diminished; it is not that an atonement for the sins of a few, limits sanctifying influences to that number only; it is not that the means to convey them are defective, feeble, and inadequate to their end, for they are “PERFECT ;" it is not that God is unwilling or indisposed to impart them; it is not, as I hope has been proved in a former chapter, that they are withdrawn or withholden by a sovereign act of the Holy Spirit. The cause is indisputably in the church itself. The church, under the ministrations of Jeremiah, came at once to the “ vera causa," the true reason of the case. “O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do thou it for thy name's sake; for our backslidings are many, we have sinned against thee.” (Jer. xiv. 7, 8, 9.) They had withdrawn from the fountain of living waters; and this was enough to account for their arid and parched state, without the doctrinal figment, that the living waters had retired from the exuberant and inexhaustible fountain. This is also God's own statement of the case to the church in the time of Isaiah. “Behold the Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God.”
Let us now attempt to mark and explain some of the operations of this insidious cause.
I. It is a fact, that the Holy Spirit himself has limited the manifestations of his saving influences to certain arrangements, and to an established order of means.
God has been pleased to limit his power to save, as he has limited his power to create, to produce, or to rule what he created, to certain fixed and established arrangements. PALEY, the clear and able expounder of natural theology, says, “ God has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his ends within those limits. The general laws of matter have perhaps the nature of these limits; its inertia, its re-action, the laws which govern the communication of motion, of light, of heat, of magnetism and electricity, and probably of others yet undiscovered. These are general laws, and when a particular purpose is to be effected, it is not by making them wind and bend and yield to the occasion, (for nature, with great steadiness, adheres to and supports them, but it is, as we have seen in the eye, by the interposition of an apparatus corresponding with these laws, and suited to the exigency which results from them, that the purpose is at length attained. As we have said, therefore, God prescribes limits to his power that he may let