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tiç and important information ; and he doubts not that the testimony on this momentous subject of such a representation from our American Church, will not only be gratefully received, but considerately and earnestly pondered.”-p. 6.
For force of truth, fearlessly, yet wisely expressed,-for uniformity of opinion, amidst variety of experience and of circumstances,
for concurrence, without collusion, on the part of a great number (20) of distinguished gentlemen, belonging to six different denominations, and from nearly every state of the original American Union, on the most difficult and important of all subjects—this series of Letters is almost without a parallel. We have read them with unmingled satisfaction. They illustrate with peculiar beauty the essential unity of the Christian church. They constitute a galaxy of truth on the “ministration of the Spirit.” They show that there is recovering power, and even healthful life in the midst of 's, notwithstanding all the false doctrines and dangerous ilmovations of the present critical conjuncture. They give augmented hopes of the purity, the combined action, the enlarged influence, and continual Revival of the American Church.
In the following extracts we have an extended definition by the author, of a “ Revival of Religion.”
“I proceed to the main design of the discourse, which is to exhibit the nature of a revival of religion. Religion consists in a conformity of heart and life to the will of God. It consists in a principle of obedience implanted in the soul, and in the operation of that principle in the conduct. Religion is substantially the same in all worlds; though the religion of a sinner is modi. fied, in some respects, by his peculiar character and condition. In common with the religion of the angels, it consists in love to God-to his law, to his overnment, to his service; but in distinction from that, it consists in repentance of sin; faith in the merits of a crucified Saviour; resignation under trials ; opposition to spiritual enemies. Moreover, religion in the angels is an inherent principle; it begins with their existence; but in the hu. man heart it is something superinduced by the operation of the spirit of God.”
“ Now, if such be the nature of religion, you will readily perceive in what consists a revival of religion. It is a revival of scriptural knowledge; of vital piety; of practical obedience. The term revival of religion has sometimes been objected to, on the ground that the revival of any thing supposes its previous existence ;
whereas in the renovation of sinners, there is principle implanted which is entirely new. But though the fact implied in this objection is admitted, the objection itself has no force; because the term is intended to be applied in a general sense, to denote the improved religious state of a congregation, or of some other community; and it is moreover applicable in a strict sense, to the condi. tion of Christians, who, at such a season, are in a greater or, less degree revived; and whose increased zeal is usually rendered in. strumental of the conversion of sinners. Wherever, then, you see religion rising up from a state of comparative depression to a tone of increased vigour and strength; wherever you see profess. ing Christians becoming more faithful to their obligations, and behold the strength of the Church increased by fresh accessions of piety (piety ? numbers,) from the world ; there is a state of things which you need not hesitate to denominate a revival of religion.”—Pp. 6, 7, 8.
The Christian religion (which is the only religion of a sinner) depends for its existence and extension in the world on the continued interposition of God.
Nec Deus intersit nisi dignus vindico nodus,
Inciderit, was a canon-law of the ancient tragic Muse who used “The Gods” to grace the stage and to develop the plot of the drama. But the religion, like the being of a creature is constantly dependent upon God, not only for its origin, but for its continued existence in the soul, at every step. And surely nothing is more supremely worthy of the interposition of a God, than the renovation and eternal redemption of a ruined world! In the economy of redemption the Spirit of God is the great official Agent in carrying forward the religion of Christ in the world. The work of the Spirit is no less necessary than the death of Christ. Indeed it is only the continued divine application of the merits of that death. The gift of the spirit is the comprehensive blessing of Christianity; and in the word of God, it is a term con
а vertible with all good things.”*
“In the esteem of our Lord, it was more than a compensation to his disciples for the loss of his bodily presence; so much superior to it, that he tells them, it was expedient he should leave them, in order to make way for it: •If I go not away, the comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart, I will send him unto you. I have many
* Compare Matthew vii. 11, with Luke xi. 13.
things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when the Spirit of truth is come, he will lead you into all truth. He will convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.' Nor is there any pretence for alleging, that this communication was confined to miraculous gifts, since it is asserted to be that Spirit which should abide in them forever, and by which the Church should be distinguished from the world."* In a word this gift is the sum of
a eternal life to men—the regeneration—the sanctification and eternal salvation of their souls.
But religion in the soul (not necessarily, yet) through the remaining evils of the Christian's heart and the dangers of his way is exposed to frequent and great decays. At such seasons, whether produced by some sudden temptation, or, (as is more common) by a gradual and unperceived declension, the Author of life, the Holy Spirit is grieved, and to a great extent, abandons the heart. Darkness then fills the deserted soul, and grace threatens to expire under the weight of reviving corruption.
Now, when the “Good Spirit” returns, as he did to the repenting king of Israel, to wash away anew the stain of sin and forgive its guilt; to restore the lost favour of God with the high and holy joys of his salvation; and to renovate the languishing graces of the heart, by the communication of new life, the Christian is most properly said to be revived. “He revives as the corn;
grows as the vine.” But again, man is eminently a social being. The religion of Christ finds him wearing such a nature, and is adapted to it with infinite tenderness and wisdom. The church itself, which is the depositary of this religion on earth, is constituted by God, a social institution. While God insulates every creature, in the dispensation of his law, of his providence, and of his Spirit now, (as he will in the final judgment,) yet He also deals with each one as a member of society; and each one carries this relation with him into the Church of God. When a number of persons are united in a Church, their personal decays and revival, exert respectively a direct influence upon those around them; and the combined result forms their religious state as a society. Now if we look abroad upon the churches, is it not a deplorable fact that the great body of them is in a state (we allude entirely to their spiritual history) of religious declension?
* Robert Hall.
Amidst many churches we see only an occasional church that is really awake: and so in any particular church; as a mass they decay-while here and there only an individual may be revived and truly awake to the great things of eternity and God. As a body “they slumber and sleep." And when any is awakened, it is separately, irregularly, partially; not all at once. Now it is quite apparent that such a church cannot flourish or be useful in any appropriate measure. Its action is impaired. It is an irregular undisciplined force, in which there is no combined and effective action. Its intercession is not felt in heaven; nor its goodly influence on earth. Sinners are not converted unto God. His worship is neglected—his cause dishonoured; and the Spirit of God leaves them, as he went up of old with his awful train from the violated temple to the mountain-top.*
But when the mourning people, in view of these things, humble themselves before God, having put away all their abominations, and, as a people "call out of the depths” upon the name of the Lord; and when an injured, absent God, returns to renovate with the graces of his Holy Spirit, the guilty decays of his people; when the Church renews her youth and beauty in the baptism of her Lord, and salvation is poured from on high, then may their state be fitly called "life from the dead." It is the divine influence upon the mass—the popular and social application of religion. It is the Spirit of God awakening, at the same time, to holy love, and harmonious action, the whole body of Christians in a particular place. It is not of professors of religion merely that we speak; for the voice of the archangel and the trump of God alone, will awaken some of these. But when the real spiritual Church among a people experience this deep and simultaneous renovation, it is most properly styled a REVIVAL OF RELIGION.
We have already remarked, that the Church of God is the depositary of the religion of Christ on earth. She has the Gospel in trust for the world. She is the seat of God below; a missionary organization; a magazine of means. “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and from her the deliverer come.” When the people of God are faithful to this great trust; when they truly possess and properly display the spirit of their Master, they are God's appointed and adapted instruments
* Ezek. x. 23.
for spreading the salvation of Christ. Now the appropriate character and influence of a Christian church, are no where so strongly seen and exercised, as in a Revival of Religion. Then the Church arises and shines, her light having come, and the glory of the Lord having risen upon her. Then she puts on her strength, to do her Master service, and her beautiful garments to show forth his praise! Such a people are called “vessels unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work ;” “and a people made ready prepared for the Lord.” Itis a great general law in the divine economy of means, that such a people shall be abundantly blessed in turning souls to God. “Create in
6 me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." Hence, as an inseparable concomitant of a Revi
. val of Religion among a people, is the simultaneous conviction and conversion of many sinners. It is thus that the Infinite Spirit, in divine sovereignty, is pleased to carry on his work. This the Bible explicitly declares, and it is a fact confirmed by all experience. We find the following just delineation of this feature of the subject in the first Lecture:
“ Another prominent feature in the state of things which I am describing, is the alarm and conviction of those who have hitherto been careless. Sometimes the change in this respect is very gradual; and for a considerable tiine nothing more can be said than that there is a more listening ear, and a more serious aspect, than usual, under the preaching of the word; and this increased attention is gradually matured into deep solemnity and pungent conviction. In other cases, the reigning lethargy is suddenly broken up, as if there had come a thunderbolt from eternity, and multitudes are heard simultaneously inquiring what they shall do to be saved. There are others who are partially awakened; whose attention is in some measure excited, but not enough to prompt to any decided and vigorous effort."
“ It also belongs essentially to a revival of religion, that there are those, from time to time, who are indulging a hope that they are reconciled to God, and are born of the Spirit. “In some cases the change of feeling is exceedingly gradual,* insomuch that the
* The meaning of course is, that the discovery of this change is gradual. The change itself is instantaneous.