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may be in themselves, they cer. qualify a person to direct, in the most proper manner, a revival of religion.
tainly can do no good. By original and striking views of subjects --by uncommon and unexpected modes of address-and in every proper way-those who are charged with dispensing the means of grace, should endeavour to render them impressive. There is a spot in every sinner's mind under the gospel-it is the spot which, in the ordinary course of means, is most exposed-which it may be expected has long ago become perfectly callous. The arrows of truth have continued to fall on it till they make no impression. Now it is to little purpose that ministers continue preaching and preaching, at this hard place in the heart. They must level their arrows in new directions, and endeavour to find some tenderer part. Achilles was slain by the arrow of Paris, although vulnerable only in his heel. No religious means will be likely to benefit the stupid, careless sinner, unless they wound him. Peter's hearers were "pricked in the heart.”And it is desirable, that religious teachers, at the present day should be so skilful as to be able to" affect the heart," by the truths they dispense.
5. It may be gathered from what has been said, that much skill and judgment—much acquaintance with human nature, and with the established laws of mind--as well as much experience in divine things--are requisite in order to
Revivals of true re
ligion are the work of the Holy Spirit. They are sea sons, when his operations are specially and gloriously exhibited in awakening, convincing, and converting sinners, and in quickening and comforting the people of God. But in these seasons, as in all others, the Spirit operates through the medium of the human faculties, and in conformity with the established laws of mind.And in these seasons as in all others there is room and necessity for the co-operation of men. those who are called at such times to co-operate with the Divine Spirit, in dispensing the word of life, and giving direction to the work of God, need themselves to be directed, in a peculiar degree by "that wisdom which is from above." Ignorance or error on their part, may be even more fatal than avowed opposition. Mistakes may be made which can never be rectified and which will be productive of incalculable evils.
When appearances indicate that a revival has commenced, it should be a principal object to keep up,and increase the impressions which have been made. These impressions once lost, will seldom be regained, and they leave the heart harder than at the first. The particular state of the revival, and, as far as possible of every individual in
terested in it, should be known by This certainly is a work, in which
the religious teacher,so that every word spoken by him, might be a word in season. On this account, he should use all prudent means, to induce those who are awakened to take a stand, and to draw from them a free expression of their feelings. Care should also be taken that the work be not too rapidly hastened. Addresses to the passions should be cautiously avoided, and the excitement should not be pushed either farther or faster, than the clear light of truth will carry it. There is a degree of excitement, beyond which the human faculties, in their present state, cannot go, and in which they cannot long be sustained. They will soon begin to droop, and their energy will be relaxed. For this reason, there is a time, in every revival of religion, when the work is at its height- a season which has not unfitly been denominated its crisis. This season once past, the glory and power of the revival are usually gone. Little more can be done in it than to gather in the gleanings of the harvest. Great care should therefore be taken that the work be not prematurely hastened to its crisis, and in this way ended.
My readers, I trust, will not be offended, that I am disposed to look at the sacred subject of revivals of religion, with rather a philosophical eye. I am doing, as I hope, no discredit to the peculiar work of the Holy Spirit.
1 believe, and in which I glory. I rather think, that were revivals of religion more studied, and better understood, especially in their relation to the philosophy of mind; they would be more frequent, more lasting, and the fruits of them would be more abundant and glorious.
6. The subject suggests some reasons why revivals of religion have not been permanent. As they are the work of the Holy Spirit, the prime reason for their cessation, is the withdrawing of his influences. The Holy Spirit is grieved away. This reason for the cessation of a revival is a criminal one-one which ought not to exist--and in view of which it becomes Christians to be deeply humbled.-But there is another reason for the fact under consideration, which is rather natural than moral, and which does not necessarily imply criminality. Revivals of religion, are attended perhaps always, with more or less unnatural excitement of the animal system. The animal spirits. have an unusual flow, and a high degree of mere animal feeling is experienced. Now it is not possible, in the nature of the case, that this species of excitement should be perpetual. It would be a miracle if it should. There is no religion in it, while it lasts; and it need not be expected to last very long. The unnatural ex. citement will subside, and for a
time, the animal system may be expected to sink as much below its usual state, as it has been raised above it. These changes, which result from our very constitutions, and are not directly of a moral or religious nature, ought never to exclude the love of God from our hearts; though often, doubtless, they become the occasion of doing it. They furnish no sufficient excuse for declension in holiness, or for the indulgence of sin.
7. If the Holy Spirit operates through the medium, and in the manner which has been described, then that religious experience, of which no rational account can be given, ought ever to be sus pected. The Holy Spirit is the author of all true religious experience, but in producing it, he operates in a rational manner; and those who are the subjects of his saving operations can give a reasonable account of the views and exercises of their minds. The Spirit enlightens, but it is with the light of truth; and those, on whose understandings and consciences the truth is impressed, can mention the particular truths which impress them. The Spirit sanctifies, but it is in view of motives; and all who are truly sanctified can state the motives, in view of which their hearts have been excited to exercises of holiness. The Spirit also comforts the children of God, but it is by means of considerations adapted to this purpose; and those who are in the enjoy
ment of spiritual comforts can be at no loss what these considerations are. The experience and the hopes of such are rationally founded, and they can render a reason of the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. And those exercises and hopes, of which a rational account cannot be given, there is no reason to believe will abide the scrutiny of the final day.
8. It appears from what has been said, that much of the mystery which has been drawn around the work of the Holy Spirit, may be safely removed.--It is not discreditable to the piety of Christians, that this subject has been regarded as a sacred one--too sacred almost to be trusted with mortal bands, or to be looked at with any thing like a philosophical eye. On this account a kind of awful mystery has been drawn around it, which, instead of heightening, has the rather served to obscure its glory. It is indeed a sacred subject; but not too sacred to be carefully and candidly investigated.-It is not too sacred to be understood, so far as it is capable of being understood by men. There is no virtue in wrapping it up, as.too good to be looked at; but on the contrary, the utmost danger.-On no subject is ignorance more to be deprecated; as on no subject will mistakes be more likely to prove fatal. The work of the Holy Spirit may be, and ought to be, diligently studied. It is a study from which the greatest advanta
ges may be expected to result. The remarks which have been made, may serve to shew us our dependance upon the Holy Spirit. Naturally, we are in a state of complete moral darkness. We have eyes but we see not. We have understandings, but, in respect to things purely spiritual, they are perverted and blind. We have consciences, but they are in a great measure stupified and seared.
Under these circumstances, how much do we need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us. How much do we need his divine assistance, to prepare our minds for the truth, and truth for our minds, and to impress upon us those considerations without a knowledge of which we must perish for ever.--Naturally too, our hearts are unsanctified. We are capable of loving God, repenting of sin, and becoming holy; but we are wholly averse to holiness, and unwilling to do our duty. How much then do we need the Holy Spirit, to make us willing in the day of his power. How much do we need his sanctifying influence, to make us possessors of that "holiness, without which no man can see the Lord."--Naturally also, we are as miserable, as we are sinful. Disappointed in our search after happiness, and dissatisfied with ourselves, we are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt." How much then do we need the Divine Spirit as our comforter. How much do we need
I feel wholly at a loss, how to introduce the subject upon which I wish to write. You will therefore, be pleased to excuse me, if I do it very abruptly, by relating a few simple facts, in order to explain my motive for addressing a letter to a stranger. In the autumn of 1811, I lost a beloved brother by death. I had for many months viewed the tyrant advancing with a slow, but steady pace; and I at length saw his dreadful work performed. My heart rose against God. I wished him deprived of the power to punish. I would gladly have hurled him from his throne. I found I was willing to join earth and hell in opposing the execution of justice upon sinners. These feelings were of short duration. They shocked me and left an impression of the total
The never be benefitted by the prayers, which were made on that account, expecting they had been answered in some one else.
depravity of my heart. blindness of my mind and my stupidity in not realizing my guilt and danger gave me uneasiness. I found my petitions for mercy were nothing but mockery. I felt desirous of having a particular interest in the prayers of some one who I thought was pious. I was unwilling to make such a request to any, with whom I was acquainted, partly from a fear, that I should deceive them, making them think 1 was a convinced sinner, when I knew I was not; and partly from an unwillingness to being questioned concerning my feelings in regard to religion. I spent many hours in thinking what I should do. I at length determined to write to you, Sir; but how should I do it without being discovered? I concluded to disguise my handwriting, to send it without name or date; requesting my brother to put it into the Post-Office; evading his questions concerning its contents.
When you, Sir, came to Attleborough and preached on Saturday near my father's, I attended and listened attentively; but felt nothing, until these words were uttered, "they must be broken hearted- they must die--let them feel what else they may-let them do what else they will, they have not taken one step towards heaven." I know I had never felt this broken-heartedness for sin, which was spoken of. I had often thought there was no merit in my religious performances; but I had never felt it before. I seemed like one cut off from every support and was looking around in vain for something on which to lean. I returned home and endeavored to recollect the sermon ; but my mind was too much agitated to remember any thing distinctly, except those two sentences. I awoke in the morning, feeling unhappy at the thought of spending another Sabbath, as I had ever done with out understanding what I read, or feeling what I heard. I saw no way, in which I should be benefitted by the preaching on that day. I thought that all the means had been used in vain with me which were generally taken to convince and convert sinners. I wished for conviction of sin and danger. Yet I was conscious, that
From that time until June 1815 -I was far from enjoying life.I constantly felt that something was wanting in order to my being happy. I felt that I had a hard heart and a blind mind; and that I was far from righteousness. I never considered myself the subject of genuine conviction, but felt anxious that I might be. I thought much of the letter, was desirous of knowing, if it were re. ceived, but at length concluded, that provided it were, I should I was armed against it.