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SOME OF THE CAUSES WHICH HINDER
ness have been enjoyed not only
Whoever has taken the trouble to investigate the early history of New-England, as it respects religion, with a view to settle this question, whether our Fathers had Revivals of Religion? must have become fully convinced that such was the fact. Several of the first generations, born in this land, were nearly all brought into the christian church by a credible profession of personal piety. During the prevalence of lax opinions respecting the qualifications of church membership, and the undisputed reign of the half-way-covenant, these scenes of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, were granted sparingly to the churches, and for considerable time, almost wholly withheld. It pleased God, however, to raise up the immortal Edwards, to reform his churches, in this land and from his day, we may date the commencement of the New-England Reformation.-From that day to this, Revivals of great power, purity, and genuine- is more ready to give the Holy
Spirit to those who ask him, than earthly parents are to give bread to their hungry children. We are not straitened in him, but in our own bowels. Every man, who has the bible in his hand, must subscribe to the sentiment, that on God's part "all things are ready." Among the causes then found in our churches and parishes, which hinder a Revival of religion, may be reckoned,
said, be at peace among yourselves, be exhorted to that, without which the use of the means of grace will be unavailing.
2. Nearly allied to the above, is a spirit of speculation in mat ters of religion. I do not mean by this a spirit of honest and candid inquiry respecting the funda mental principles of religion, those which are essential to the formation of the christian character. This spirit of inquiry is a favourable omen; a proof that
1. A state of contention. It is of little importance what is the subject of contention, if contention the deathlike insensibility and inexists. It may be respecting difference, so natural to man on worldly business merely, or it may the subject of religion, is beginrelate to denominative distinc- ning to yield to the force of contions, or to a meeting-house, or a science and the light of truth. But minister, or politics or any thing when a spirit of eager and zealelse. Wherever the spirit of con- ous disputation arises, respecting tention is found, the Spirit of God points acknowledged on all hands This is sure, while it lasts, not to be essential to the christian to prevent the commencement of system, this may be called, and a Revival, and when commenced, this is precisely what I mean, by if it then arises, to bring it to a a spirit of speculation. This spirspeedy termination. It is impos- it is unfriendly to a Revival. Not sible that it should not have this only does it turn off the minds of effect. Contention absorbs public men from great practical and exattention, and chains it down to perimental subjects of vital imthis world. A Revival demands portance, but it necessarily lowpublic attention, and elevates it ers the tone of earnest piety, manabove the world. Contention de- ifested in a deep concern for the stroys love but a Revival with- welfare of souls, and the out love, is a Revival without re- ity of Zion. Whatever profesligion. Contention destroys a spir- sions may be made of zeal for the it of prayer. Without prayer, glory of God, as the motive of inthere can be no Revival. God dulging a speculative spirit, if the will be inquired of for these things heart is so absorbed in these specto do them for us. God will be ulations as to leave it cold and known as the God of peace. He dead in regard to the salvation of forsakes every place, where peace souls, all such professions are to is wanting. When the apostle be suspected. Zeal for the glory
of God, when true and genuine, is always associated with a deep concern for the salvation of men. "If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen." Our proper business is to glorify God by seeking the salvation of men. It is truly melancholy, when a minister goes into a strange place to display "the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel," to find that numbers, even of professed christians, are listening to him, and waiting every word, with keen-eyed criticism, to ascertain whether he believes or rejects the peculiarities of their own favorite schemes. What hope is there that such men will hear to the salvation of their souls, or will be impelled by what they hear to the more vigorous discharge of every duty? do not such hearers abound in some of our congregations? And are not the hearts of some pious and faithful ministers sunk in discouragement, and broken, to witness the blasting effects of this spirit on all their labors and efforts? What is most to be deplored is, men are found on all sides of all questions, which respect subjects not of vital importance, who do not attach such an undue importance to their philosophical views and tenets, as to suspect, and almost fear a Revival in which those opinions are not fully embraced.
3. This leads me to remark, that another cause of hinderance to a Revival, is a want of faithful
ness in preaching the essential doctrines of the gospel. Here 1 would remark, that some allowance should be made for those honest-hearted pious ministers, who are as yet unenlightened respecting some of the vital principles of the gospel. President Edwards remarks, that an imperfect ministry may have some good things in it, on account of which God may see fit to crown it with his blessing. Indeed we can hardly suppose that any ministry is wholly without imperfection.-But what I refer to, is a disposition to keep out of sight, certain truths because they are deemed unprofitable. Can we expect a blessing on a ministry which aims to be wiser than God? The same objection lies against keeping back important truth, because it will give offence. That minister, who is so far governed by the fear of man, as to be more afraid of the loss of salary than of the souls of his people, will in all probability loose both. Nor is it sufficient to exhibit all important truth, just for the sake of saving the conscience from distress, but in so cloaked, and concealed, and muf. fled a manner that scarcely any body shall understand it, or feel its edge. There is, undoubtedly, such a thing as imprudence in preaching truth, and there is a pride of faithfulness, which makes what should be a humble preacher a theological Goliah, which cannot be too conscientiously avoided. President Edwards ob
jects to the sentiment, that it is the proper objects of moral obli right and best to stir up as much gation. On this view of the sub
enmity as possible by preaching.
and if he
If he is
ject, regeneration must imply the
4. Another cause of hinderance to Revivals is an injudicious exhibition of the doctrines of the gospel. There is no doctrine so plain as not to be capable of distortion. Something may, without any bad intention, be added to, or subtracted from, what the bible has taught which will entirely change the complexion, and nature, and influence of the doctrine. Total depravity may be represented, as it is in a famous Contrast," to mean the defilement of the understanding, conscience, and all the natural powers of the soul." This must imply that total depravity makes men natural fools, and not are as capable of explaining and