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vours to describe ; it seems, therefore, a sad falling-off to turn to some other portions of the volume, which, though perhaps very good, are still very dry.
One of these “Lectures” is “On the Sovereignty of God, as connected with the Revival of Religion.” The following would have been a far better title :“An Attempt to reconcile Revivals of Religion with certain scholastic representations of Divine Sovereignty.” The author, on the whole, is very guarded in his statements, but he sometimes ventures on dangerous ground, as when, for instance, he says
" It is mercy, mere mercy, which chose the one; it is sovereignty, mere sovereignty, that God, who could, did not choose the other.” He even ascribes the non-success of the Gospel, in particular instances, to the same cause; as though the ever-blessed God, who will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth, counteracts, and that by direct interposition, his own gracious design. The idea of “mere sovereignty," which this writer entertains, appears to be that of an act without a reason ; and he endeavours to bring this sense out of the words of our Lord, “Even so, Father: for so it seemeth good in thy sight." But must not that which seems good to infinite wisdom, so appear for the best of all possible reasons-because it is so ? That reason may not only be to us unknown, but it may so far transcend our feeble sense that no revelation could render it intelligible; yet despite of our ignorance or incapacity, it still exists, and, in the light of his own infinite rectitude, justifies the ways of God. A prolific source of error, in treating of the divine attributes, is the habit of making our own mental operations the standard of our ideas and comparisons ; whereas, the greatness and majesty of God render it impossible for us to reduce his dispensations to the scale of our poor diagrams. The plan of human redemption belongs to divine sovereignty, but the rejection of its gracious provisions must be traced to another cause. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not !”
Theologians often place divine sovereignty in a false position. The design may be to honour God, but the result is—to charge him foolishly. To this point the observations of Dr. Reed, in his “Day of Pentecost,” (pp. 35, 36,) most forcibly apply :
"I acknowledge the divine sovereignty; and where I see it, I would silently bow, and adore. But in this instance, there is no place for sovereignty-the sovereignty of God is exhausted in his truth and mercy. He was perfectly free to withhold the blessing of life from a lost world; but he has graciously promised to give his Spirit, and to give it in answer to the prayers of his church. It is not now, therefore, a question of sovereignty, but of truth. What he hath said, he will do. Of no one truth is my mind more satisfied than this that if we rightly ask the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will be freely given."
It will be a happy day for the church, and for the world at large, when such views of divine sovereignty, in connexion with devout and humble piety, are universally entertained. Christians will then cease to impute to the government of God, evils which flow from the rebellion of man.
Having alluded to the sermon by Dr. Reed, we cannot pass it by without transcribing a passage descriptive of the subject before us, and beautiful on account of its strict adherence to nature..
“Were we thus visited by the influence of grace, the attention would be fixed, the world would be excluded. You would lose the sense of my voice in the deeper sense of the presence of God. You would be conscious of the descending, superincumbent glory and power of the Infinite Majesty. You would see yourself and your sins in the light of that Holy Presence; and you would sink down before it, unconsciously seek. ing the lowest place as the most grateful. Silence and solemnity that might be felt would be spread over the whole congregation, and would subdue the last dull, lingering mind to their power. You would each mourn apart for your iniquities, as though you had never been forgiven, and each apart would prayerfully seek his salvation, as though he had not yet been saved. And when at length you arose, and became conscious of each other's presence, you would appear as altered persons; the very fashion and expression of your countenances would be changed. Yes, this not only may be, but it is. Our eyes have beheld at least something like it; and there is nothing on earth to be compared with it. To stand where God is passing by! To feel that all the instrumentality is nothing compared with the results produced ! To see that the hand of God is searching the hearts of a whole people! To see them bow, awe-struck, at the footstool of his majesty, in silent tears and silent prayers ! To behold the same gracious hand distribute the blessings of life, pardon, and peace; and to witness the grateful acknowledgments of the blind who do see, the condemned who are forgiven, and the dead who live! O, brethren, there is nothing like this! This this is the house of God and the very gate of heaven!"-pp, 30, 31.
What Christian who has witnessed such scenes can ever forget them, or cease to pray that the whole church may enjoy similar times of refreshing?
The preliminary essay on the psychology (!) of religious revivals, by a Scottish minister, is a curious production, and stands in striking contrast with the plain and pointed style of Dr. Sprague's well-known work, to which it is made an introduction. So far as the writer's desigu is intelligible, it is to show an accordance between the operations of the Holy Spirit and the psychological characteristics of the mind submitted to his gracious influence. In other words, it is an attempt to teach experimental religion on the principles of phrenology! The following is a fair specimen :
“On the principles already laid down, it may be safely concluded that the conversion of scarcely two human beings will be in all respects similar. The wind,' says our Saviour, * bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' The wind blows in one place cold, in another sultry; at one time so still that scarce a leaf rustles, at another with a force which makes the forest tremble. The influences of the Spirit vary with the constitution and habits of the sinner. One man He converts by gentle and gradual methods; another, by severe and rapid means. The affections of one man are engaged at once; the understanding of another leads him slowly to the conclusion. [The conclusion of what?] To some a full gale of the Spirit is sent, and continued; others catch only, as it were, passing gusts. The voice
of love, and the whisper of persuasion, attest the still small movements of his mercy; while the tears of repentance, and the terrors of conviction, bear witness to the rougher motions of his power. Any plan of revival, therefore, which would dictate one mode of conversion for all, must be injurious.”—p. 11.
“A plan of revival which would dictate one mode of conversion for all!" Who ever heard of a plan of revival which pretended to dictate a mode of conversion for Any! Nothing, however, is surprising in a writer who can gravely state, that though * In the time of President Edwards, and for long afterwards, revivals were waited for, and took place spontaneously, they are now matters of arrangement.” (!!!)—pp. 22. Services adapted to promote a revival of religion may, like the labours of the husbandman, be “matters of arrangement,” but the weeks of harvest, in either instance, are not of human appointment. “So then, neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase.”
One extract more, and then we will bid this Scottish minister farewell.
"According to this law,” (the law which makes a man care less for his wife the longer he lives with her !) “ we are not to wonder that the first glow of a revival shall (will) pass away. Religious writers, both in this country and in America, have lamented the subsequent languor, and have proposed remedies, have flattered themselves that, in a more flourishing state of religion, the opening fervour may continue, and even increase. Vain imagination !"
But is it a vain imagination, that “the righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger ?” Is it a rain imagination, that “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day?” Is it a vain imagination, that “they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength ?” If so, where shall vain imaginations end, and who shall answer Pilate's question—What is truth?
It is a dangerous notion that the first stages of piety are the happiest. That they often prove so, is fearfully true ; but the very fact is a disgrace. Christians make up their minds to expect a state of religious declension, and so, when it comes, feel no alarm, but regard it as a matter of course. They even versify their doubts and lamentations, and sing them instead of the praises of Zion; and this, all the while, is taken for depth of experience and growth in humility! Some of our favourite hymns are of this order. They are too sadly suited to the general state of piety in our churches to be inappropriate for congregational use ; but when we sing them, if sing them we must, it should be in sackcloth and ashes.
It is true that some things which mark a revival will pass away. Overwhelming convictions of sin will give place to correct apprehensions of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Individuals, who when first brought to a sense of their guilt and danger, passed successive days N.S. VOL. v.
and nights in sleepless agony, will be able to take their accustomed rest. But if religious convictions have had a satisfactory issue, this alteration of feeling will result, not from returning indifference, but from the assurance of hope. They will lie down and rest in peace, not as heretofore, because they are careless about the claims of Christ and eternity, but because they know that there is now no condemnation. In a thorough revival of religion, gospel-hardened sinners will anxiously inquire what they must do to be saved-anxious inquirers will become true converts--and true converts will forthwith become devoted and successful agents in the conversion of others. The only legitimate close of such a revival will be the conversion of the last unawakened hearer attending that sanctuary, or the salvation of the last soul within the reach of the devoted community assembling there.
An allusion has been made to special services : the volume by the Rev. Thomas Milner, A.M., is in their defence. It is in every respect adapted to promote the object he had in view. The sermon addressed “ to the satisfied with a human justification,” is the master-piece of the volume; and the man who can read it without benefit or without alarm, must either have attained a high degree of sanctity, or have a very hardened heart.
The Rev. Robert Buchanan's introductory essay to the Narrative of Revivals at Kilsyth, &c. is powerfully written. As the production of a man who has been accustomed to look at THE CHURCH only through the medium of worldly establishments, it is tolerably free from sectarianism. The concluding paragraph places the whole question of revivals in so clear a light that we give it almost entire.
" It was remarked near the beginning of this essay, as a strange thing, that the word revival should sound so offensively when used in connexion with religion, to multitudes who, in any other connexion, are ready to hail it as bringing every glad and grateful association in its train. It is strange, undoubtedly, and as we have endeavoured to show, when the subject is considered in relation to its own proper and intrinsic merits; but it is not strange when viewed with reference to the fallen and corrupt nature of man. The Gospel itself is an offence to the unregenerate mind, and for the very same reason so is a religious revival. Formal professors of Christianity, who have accustomed themselves to consider religion as requiring little more than certain decent external observances, are naturally alarmed and irritated when they find it forcing itself, by some great and simultaneous movement of a whole community, into close and immediate contact with the whole current and business of life. They could not only endure it, but are even willingly pay to it all outward respect and deference, so long as it could be kept at arm's length; but when a whole neighbourhood is seen to be com-moved upon the subject--when the concerns of the soul and of the world to come are found engrossing men's minds, mingling with their daily conversation, and coming forth with all that power and prominence which rightly belong to the one thing needfulthe impulse such an event gives to public feeling overbears and breaks down those fences with which unspiritual men had been keeping religion at a distance from them. They cannot, in such a state of things, get rid of it, go where they will. They are left with no choice, but either to maintain that the subjects of that revival have a great deal too much of religion, or that they themselves have a great deal too little."--pp. 36, 37. The narrative itself, written by the Rev. J. Robe, A. M., minister of Kilsyth, and published a century ago, in itself highly interesting, has become yet more so from recent events in that locality. On reading the volume, some will wonder that a place once so highly favoured should ever need again a similar awakening; and others, from that very necessity, will derive an argument against revivals altogether, on the ground that, like other things, they pass away. Both objections may be answered in the same breath. We live in a fleeting world, and other circumstances than religious declension, or apostacy, may speedily scatter the happiest flock. Let a whole congregation, or even a whole town, be brought to God, yet in the course of ten years, deaths, removals, and other changes, will have so altered the face of things, that though every hopeful inquirer may have proved a true convert, and so the genuineness of the revival be placed beyond suspicion, yet some will have removed to a distance, others will have outlived their labour, and not a few will “ have fallen asleep ;" so that if conversions have not kept pace with the changes of society--in other words, if every stranger settling in that place, and every child there rising into life, has not in the mean while been savingly converted, religion will appear to have been on the decline. And if ten years would produce so great a difference, who can estimate the changes of a century? But those changes painful as they seem, may leave, in undiminished glory, the character of a revival, which, in days gone by, prepared for heaven many who now are there. It is no discredit to religion that Christians die : death to them is gain.
But shall all the energies of the church be consumed in keeping pace with the grave ? Shall all that is done avail for nothing more than filling up the death-vacancies of the faithful? If so, the religion of the CTOSS can never become the religion of the world. Hell reckons its victims by millions, and each succeeding century consigns to the bottomless pit an augmented number of human souls. We stand between the living and the dead. The cries and groans of the perishing fill every breeze. The victims of the second death meet us on every hand. With the plague-spot upon their brow, they crowd our streets, they frequent our sanctuaries, they enter our dwellings. And when shall the pestilence be stayed ? Never !-till the church shall put away iniquity. Never till Christians themselves, breaking down under a sense of blood-guiltiness, and, mourning each apart, shall commence their discipleship afresh at the cross. Never !_till the whole body of the faithful shall become ONE: ONE for compassion, ONE for affection, one for devotedness. Then, and not till then, shall there be a revival worthy of the name—a revival destined not to pass away with passing ages, but to endure as the days of eternity.