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I obtained last summer a copy of “ PERSONAL DECLENSION AND REVIVAL OF RELIGION IN THE Soul, BY THE Rev. Octavius Winslow," and read it with deep interest, and, I trust, some edification. Deeming it exceedingly well calculated for usefulness in the Christian Church, I at once cherished the desire that it might be republished on this side of the Atlantic, and am now gratified that this desire is to be realized. The volume is pervaded by a rich vein of sound evangelical sentiment, in a spirit and form eminently experimental and practical. The topics of which it treats are at all times highly important, and deserving constant and careful consideration ; but in the present position and aspect of the Church of Christ, when the love of many waxes cold, and conformity to the world is apparently extending and increasing, and the influence of the Spirit in the conversion of Sinners is very greatly and widely restrained, they demand immediate, earnest, and prayerful attention and improvement from every disciple of Christ. The revival of the work of the Spirit in the Churches is intimately connected with and must be preceded by the revival of personal religion in the hearts and lives of Christians. The “ time of God's favor in arising and having mercy upon Zion,” is when amid deep searching and faithful discipline of heart, “his servants take pleasure in her stones, and favor the dust thereof.” Mr. Winslow has published several volumes, all of a similar character, highly evangelical, and practical. Two of these have been republished here, viz., “ The Inquirer directed to an Experimental and Practical View of the Atonement,” and “ The Inquirer directed to an Experimental and Practical View of the Work of the Holy Spirit.” Very few modern writers remind me more of the marrow of sound doctrine and rich experience in the old Puritan Divines, than the author of this volume. Mr. Winslow has for a number of years past been settled as a Pastor of the Baptist Church at Leamington, Warwickshire, England. He was a member of the Evangelical Alli. ance formed at London in August, where I learned to esteem him in the brief intercourse I had with him, and the spirit which I saw him uniformly manifest, and where I found the general estimation in which he was held by the whole Christian community. I trust this volume will gain a wide circulation in our Christian Churches, and be owned by the great and blessed Head of the Church in rendering it extensively instrumental in reviving personal religion in the souls of his children; and so gradually, largely, and widely reviving the work of the Spirit in all the Churches.
That the subject on which this humble volume treats is vastly solemn and deeply searching, every true believer in Jesus must acknowledge. The existing necessity for such a work has long impressed itself upon the Author's mind. While other and abler writers are employing their pens, either in defending the out-posts of Christianity, or in arousing a slumbering church to an increased intensity of personal and combined action in the great work of Christian benevolence, be has felt that if he might but be instrumental, in ever so humble a way, of occasionally withdrawing the eye of the believer from the dazzling and almost bewildering movements around him, and fixing it upon the state of HIS OWN PERSONAL RELIGION, he would be rendering the Christian church a service, not the less needed and important in her present elevated and excited position.
It must be admitted, that the character and the tendencies of the age are not favorable to deep and mature reflection upon the hidden, spiritual life of the soul. Whirled along as the church of God is, in her brilliant path of benevolent enterprise, -deeply engaged in concerting and in carrying out new and far-reaching plans of aggression upon the dominion of sin,-and compelled in one hand to hold the spiritual sword in defence of the faith, which, with the other she is up-building,—but few energies are left, and but little time is afforded, for close, faithful, and frequent dealing with the personal and spiritual state of grace in the soul; which, in consequence of thus being overlooked and uncultivated, may fall into a state of the deepest and most painful declension. “They made me keeper of the vineyards ; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.”
It is, then, the humble design of the writer in the present work, for awhile to withdraw the mind from the consideration of the mere externals of Christianity, and to aid the believer in answering the solemn and searching inquiry,—"What is the present spiritual state of my soul before God ?" In the following pages he is exhorted to forget the Christian profession he sustains, the party badge he wears, and the distinctive name by which he is known among men, -to turn aside for a brief hour from all religious duties, engagements, and excitement, and to look this question fully and fairly in the face.
With human wisdom and eloquence the Author has not seen fit to load and adorn his work: the subject presented itself to his mind in too solemn and awful an aspect for this. The ground he traversed he felt to be so holy, that he had need to put off the shoes from his feet, and to lay aside everything that was not in strict harmony with the spiritual character of his theme. That the traces of human imperfection may be found on every page, no one can be more conscious than the Author,—no one more deeply humbled. Indeed, so affecting to his own mind has been the conviction of the feeble manner in which the subject is treated, that but for a deep sense of its vast importance, and the demand that exists for its discussion in almost any shape, he would more than once have withdrawn his book from the press. May the Spirit of God accompany its perusal with power and unction, and to Him, as unto the Father and the Son shall be ascribed the glory!