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evidently was he raised up, to hold the scales in such a juncture. To be duly estimated, the work should be judged of in connection with the circumstances under which it was produced. The manner of laying out his plan, and the topics introduced, the practices which he either defended or censured, the wisdom with which he conducted his subject, are much more apparent, to those who will make themselves familiar with the historical facts by which it is illustrated.
It would be out of place here, to attempt an extended review of this celebrated treatise. The general plan will be seen from the table of contents. He begins his work, by showing very clearly which side he espoused of the main question at issue, and by avowing his full conviction that the excitement then in progress was a great and glorious work of God. He had no sympathy at all with those who doubted on this point, or who were so forever harping upon real or fancied errors, connected with the work, that they had no heart to rejoice in its blessed results. He explains, in a masterly manner, how these errors, so far as they had a real existence, were not only compatible with a genuine work of grace, but might well have grown out of the work itself, from the greatness and the novelty of the excitement, the opposition encountered, the weakness of the instruments, (modestly including himself,) and the imperfection of knowledge and grace in those who were engaged in the work. And he expresses, in no measured terms, but with equal kindness, his sense of the offensiveness of their conduct, who stood aloof at such a day of the espousals of the church, minding nothing but defects and blemishes. After all their cry about madness and enthusiasm, the worst madness in the sight of God, was to remain cold and inactive at such a time. Nothing can exceed the acuteness with which he handles the objections of those, who would pretend to judge of revivals by philosophy, or custom, or their own shal. low experience. Would that it might ever be so, that those who feel called upon to promote the purity of revivals, should begin by such a triumphant vin. dication of them, as the glorious work of God's Holy Spirit. Were the principles here laid down duly considered, men would be slower than they are to discredit the genuineness of a revival, or the piety or orthodoxy of those who labor in it, merely because it appears to them to be attended with indiscretions or irregularities.
Part second, in which he enforces the obligation of all to be actively engaged in promoting the work, is full of the most solemn and weighty considerations. The principle is fully brought out, that a time of revivals calls for special efforts, to fall in with the designs of the Spirit, and promote and extend the work. It is difficult to conceive how a minister can read this part, and while revivals are prevailing all around him, still quiet his conscience without putting forth some special efforts to have his people share in the passing mercy. There are some passages in this part which have an awful, solemnity, and ought to be deeply pondered by those, who are not adopting any special measures to promote and extend the work of grace now going on in our land. Those especially, who allow themselves to speak slightingly of these excitements, and to deride or abuse the instruments that God sees fit to employ, should take heed to some of the admoni
tions, which come with so much force, as well as discrimination, from the pen of Edwards.
Having exhibited the danger of not acknowledging and promoting the work of revival, in a way calculated to carry trembling to the hearts of those that stand aloof from revivals, because they are carried on in a way which does not exactly coincide with their views, he next shows the blessedness that must necessarily attend a hearty co-operation in the work. Two principles are clearly maintained; that it is at their peril if men fail to acknowledge a real revival of religion, through any false notions, or a priori reasonings of their own; and that a time of revival imposes a special duty upon ministers and others, to go out of their ordinary course, and do something more than what is usual, to honor and advance the work. Men may be in fact opposers of the work, who do not directly speak against it as a whole; who even acknowledge, in general terms, that there is a good work carried on in the country; but whose habitual conversation shows that they are in fact more out of humor with the state of things, and enjoy themselves less than they did before the work began. Such are known, by being more forward to take notice of what is amiss than of what is good in the work. And there can be no doubt their influence, on the whole, is unfavorable to the revival. If men viewed things in a just light, the conversion of numbers of siuners would so engage their attention, and engross their hearts, that they would not be in a humor to dwell perpetually upon the errors of the instruments.
In the third part, we have a very discriminating and hearty defense of the subjects and zealous promoters of the work, from many groundless charges which had been brought against them. He vindicates zealous preachers from the charge of appealing exclusively to the passions. There is no danger of raising the affections too high in religion, if they are raised in view of the proper objects. Neither are ministers to be blamed for preaching terror to awakened sinners, if it is truth, and if proper pains are taken to enlighten them, and show them what they must do to be saved. And in regard to frequent meetings, and the like, he mentions that it is to the honor of God, when people are so much employed in outward acts of religion, as to carry a public appearance of engagedness in it, as the main business of life. And though it is not true, ordinarily, that the time occupied by religious meetings encroaches seriously upon men's worldly business, yet it may often be highly proper and useful to do so. And on the subject of frequent preaching, in reply to the objection that one sermon will crowd out another from people's minds, this great master of assemblies avers, that the main benefit of preaching is by impressions made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by any effect that arises from the subsequent remembrance of it.
Having shown in what way, and to what extent, effects on the body are to be regarded as probable tokens of God's presence and power; considered how far it is proper to use means for increasing the excitement in an assembly; and justified the earnestness of those whose hearts are full of the love of Christ, the practice of frequent singing, and the religious meetings of children, under proper regulations; he then proceeds, in part fourth, to point
out what things ought to be corrected or avoided, in promoting the revival. If any evidence were wanting, to prove the remarkable integrity and singleness of heart of this eminent servant of Christ, it may be fouud in the plain, pointed, and faithful manner in which he has treated this part of the subject. It required no small measure of grace to acknowledge, and of firmness to point out to public notice, the faults, errors, and delinquencies of those whom he had just been strenuously engaged to uphold and defend.
He begins with remarking, that the last resort of the devil to overthrow a revival of religion, is to corrupt it, or carry it to cextremes; and that the errors of its friends and promoters furnish him with his greatest advantage. It is a great mistake for Christians to think, that even in the seasons of their highest spiritual enjoyment, they are out of danger from the adversary. These errors are traced to spiritual pride; the adoption of some wrong principles, respecting the guidance of the Spirit, the prayer of faith, or some other point; and ignorance of Satan's devices.
No enemy of the revivals could have done this part of the work with a more unsparing hand than Edwards. Faithful are the wounds of à friend. And every one, especially every minister, who is actively engaged in revivals, and successful in promoting them, should make himself familiar with this part of the book, as the chart of his constant dangers and easily besetting sins. He will find many around him, who are fond of throwing these things in his teeth; aud the only just defense is, so to live and labor that they shall not be true. In regard to the use which is lawfully to be made of this part, it is proper to observe, that the points here agitated, are points which concern only those who are themselves actively and cordially engaged in promoting revivals, to be settled among themselves. Those who are unbelieving and inactive, will find matters enough to occupy their attention, in the previous pages. Indeed, it would be no bad rule, and would conduce much to the peace of the church, to have it understood, that no person should make use of this part, in discussing points connected with revivals, until he had read, marked, inwardly digested, and cordially approved and adopted the previous portions. It would silence many complainers, and might awaken some sleeping consciences.
In commenting thus freely upon the evils which will sometimes be found among those who are earnestly engaged in promoting the revival, Edwards shows that it was no part of his principles to cover up such things, or to palliate them. He does not admit the doctrine, that speaking of these things, in a friendly way, and for the purpose of correcting them, and of doing good to those who have fallen into them, will stop the revival. But it ought to be done by those who are actually engaged themselves in the revival, and not by those who are looking on, and taking no part nor responsibility in the work.
The pride, false principles, censoriousness, and other things which he has pointed out as errors, have not ceased from the church. And this part of the book still needs to be studied. Probably the views of our most judicious and warm hearted men are a little altered in regard to the importance which should be allotted to strong bodily emotions; and their ideas considerably
enlarged, respecting the extent to which the instrumentality of private brethren can be profitably employed in promoting the revival. The suggestions in part fifth, of what things should be done directly to promote the work, are not all as applicable to the present state of society, as they were when written; though they are still valuable, for the developement of important principles. And the most of them are of universal application. In particular, it is clearly implied in what he says, that the means of revival are to be varied from time to time, according to the aspects and circumstances of a community. And every engine of influence, which can be used consistently with truth, ought to be employed in forwarding the work. Ministers should exhibit great zeal and resoluteness in pushing the work forward. Mr. Whitefield's success was greatly owing to this. Coldness and irresolution in dealing with worldly, unconverted sinners, only confirm them in their course. The importance of external reformation, and of abounding in deeds of charity, as a means of revivals, is clearly set forth by Edwards, and has been abundantly evinced in the blessing which has every where followed the temperance reform, and the unusual displays of Christian benevolence, in the last two years.
In short, the work is full of the wisest practical instructions, based upon the most profound knowledge of the true principles on which these things proceed. And the hope is now fondly cherished, that the circulation of a complete and beautiful edition among the churches, at such a juncture as the present, will be eminently serviceable, in giving force, consistency, purity, and permanency, to the revivals now in progress throughout the country. That the blessing of God, and the enlightening and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, may secure such a result, is the earnest prayer of
New York, March, 1832.
A FAITHFUL NARRATIVE
SURPRISING WORK OF GOD,
CONVERSION OF MANY HUNDRED SOULS
AND THE NEIGHBORING TOWNS AND VILLAGES OF NEW HAMPSHIRE, IN NEW ENGLAND:
In a Letter to the Rev. Doctor Colman,
At that time Pastor of Brattle street Church, Boston.
BY PRESIDENT EDWARDS.
By the Rev. Dr. Watts and Dr. Guyse of London, and by the Boston Ministers.