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and Satan obtained more power to sow tares. Two persons were led away with strange enthusiastic delusions. One of them supposed himself inspired, but was afterwards brought to his right mind. Religion continued for several months to be the chief subject of conversation; but there was a gradual decline of that lively spirit which had subsisted before. After admitting that in particular cases he may have been mistaken in some of whom he entertained a good opinion, and that those who desire it may find causes of stumbling, Mr. Edwards sayz_ But in the main, there has been a great and marvellous work of conversion and sanctification among the people here."
[To be Continued.]
ON THE REVIVALS OF RELIGION IN AMERICA.
[The following article appeared in the Baptist Magazine for February
last. I reprint it, for the sake of showing my readers, the necessity of caution in receiving, and giving implicit credit to, the flat. tering reports that have been made, and co doubt will continue to be made, concerning these revivals! Of Mr. Joseph Clarke, the writer of the subjoined article, I know nothing, save that I am told, he is a young man, or minister, of the Baptist denomination, who has visited the United States probably, in the hope of finding the late accounts of the revival of religion in that country verified, and has returned to his native country disappointed. His testimony is of great value, as sbowing the fallacy of much that bas been told us: it is manifest, that Mr. Clarke did not look for a revival, where alone it was to be found!]
To the Editor of the Baptist Magazine, Having frequently been requested to give my opinion con. cerning those extraordinary exertions which are made by our American brethren, I venture to send you the following article, with the hope that you will allow it to appear in your periodical.
The state of religion among the Americans is encouraging. The correctness of the reports which have reached this country respecting their revivals, perhaps ought not to be seriously questioned ; still considerable allowance should be made of course. Things are not always in reality what they appear to be* to the persons who describe them. Besides, truth is seldom naked, and its dress frequently makes an erroneous impression. You may, therefore, conclude that a tour in America, for the purpose of witnessing such things as have been published, would be attended with considerable disappointment. I speak from experience. During my residence in that country, I never saw the churches attempt a revival, without an evident failure ; nor can I help thinking that those extraordinary means are attended with serious disadvantages, even in instances of remarkable success. They render regular services dull and inefficient; they elevate the feelings till they govern the mind, and make people appear unwise and offensive; they sometimes so exhaust the physical powers, as to cause an individual to relax from necessity, and positively become the occasion of peculiar apathy: they induce young people to put off the business of salvation till they discover in
* Query ?--Rather what they are represented to be.-W.J.
the church what they call a powerful work, under an impression that they can then get religion as a matter of course. And those means, so far as I have been able to judge, seem to render the character of Christians undignified, through leading them into peculiar extravagancies; and uninfluential, in consequence of subjecting them to so many changes, confessions, and renewed dedications.
These results are all noticed, of course, by the enemies of religion. The zeal which the church manifested is compared with her present inactivity. The joy which she recently evinced is contrasted with those indications of grief she now wears. The deep solicitude which she, but a few weeks ago, seemed to feel for the welfare of sinners, is considered in connexion with the fact, that she is now apparently unwilling to know whether they are going to heaven or to hell. And when those who are unfriendly to religion have an opportunity of making such observations as these, they are decidedly injured, and established in their unreasonable opposition ; while the people who have been reduced to this state of contempt and ridicule are depressed beyond measure. Under such circumstances, another revival is rendered next to impossible ; and when a church, thus degraded, is determined to make the attempt, the members will publicly acknowledge that they ought to be eternally despised for their unfaithfulness. They will get up, one after another, in a crowded assembly, and implore the forgiveness of God, of their brethren, and of the world ; and in order that they may establish their sincerity, and restore public confidence, they will labour for expressions of self-abasement; they will speak as though they had never been converted; they will repair to those benches which are denominated anxious seats ; the pastor will follow them; and in this singular situation, they will exhort, and cry, and pray, till the spectators are literally confounded: such proceedings I have actually witnessed.
But suppose this feeling abate, and these individuals gradually assume their former character; what will they then do? How can they become excited and influential again? It will not do to tell the old story, and be seen again on the anxious seat: they will have to devise something original, their designs will have to be uncommonly deep, and their movements exceedingly judicious: they will have to become proverbial for their change of certain habits; and remain perfectly quiet, till the world has done speaking, and feels: tired of ridiculing : they will have to spend months in endeavouring to know themselves and the nature of genuine religion-become humi. lity itself, and be distinguished for knowledge as well as zeal ; for stability as well as love. The past being buried as it were in oblivion, and experience having made them wiser and better, they may, possibly, work up their feelings again, and relate their exercises with surprising effect, and so lay the foundation for even another revival: but these flights of feelings will also prove transient; and despondency, reproaches, and sorrows will return, and be felt more keenly than ever. Now since experience tells me, that those revival meetings often end in disappointment; since reason teaches me that they cannot succeed many times in a place; and since the good that they are occasionally the means of effecting, is secured at the expense of the dignity, influence, and subsequent enjoyment of the church; and at the expense, too, of much that is lovely and permanent in the character of pure religion; it is my decided opinion, that a mode of operation, vastly superior to this, must be originated before the gospel can triumph.
It is not my intention to degrade our American brethren : indeed, I cannot: I am not in possession of suitable facts. It is true some of them are peculiar, and exceedingly fond of noisy proceedings; but the majority are most excellent people; their ardent piety and enlightened zeal incline them to work steadily, and calculate their increase at the end of the year, and do it quietly. If, in compliance with custom, they appoint a protracted meeting, they conduct it with propriety; and they will not have another unless it can be held with perfect consistency. They plainly consider every-day plodding in religion far more difficult and important, than those extraordinary endeavours which only continue for a limited period.
The attempts which are made to establish revival meetings in England, are, no doubt, well intended; they appear to have originated in a wish to imitate the Americans; but it should be recollected that imitation is seldom advantageous; for what is obtained in this manner is mostly radically defective. Religion cannot be imported, neither can any plan prove serviceable if learned only from hearsay. Revival meetings may occasionally succeed among the Americans, because the system is their own, and is there almost universally understood and recognised. Besides, there are many towns in America in which there are neither chapels nor ministers; when, therefore, such places as these are visited by revivalists, powerful excitement is almost the necessary consequence.
Revival meetings then may do for America, but they will not do for England : the people here do not understand them, neither do they heartily approve them. Our country, too, has long been inhabited, and distinguished for religious institutions. Besides, it is said, “Six days shalt thou labour," and necessity makes many in England keep this commandment. And, furthermore, the unconverted inhabitants of this country are hardened in proportion to the advantages they have misimproved, and are therefore far more likely to raise bitter persecution where revivals are attempted, than to feel willing to engage in them. But, perhaps, the secret is this: these meetings in England look like a burlesque; they appear like a body without a soul; or like an orator without originality. We cannot, therefore, expect people to be charmed and benefited by them ; for the mind cannot be wrought upon by what is felt to be a farce, nor will God bless what is not pefectly sincere.
Novelty in religion is absurd, and its appearance in the worship of God is destructive. To Americans, revivalism seems ancient and real; but to Englishmen, it appears modern and visionary. The views and feelings, associated in the capacity of revivalists, would be discovered in such language as the fol. lowing:-“Well ! here we are, and what can we do? We had, perhaps, better be minding our shops and families; we have heard a great deal about revivals, but it is a chance if we see much. By-the-bye, if this meeting should continue many days, there are several here who won't have much to eat, by the time it closes. Poor folks! they would, no doubt, rather be at work, and endeavouring to pay their way; indeed, we all find enough to do to get along now-a-days : besides, we can't convert people; this is the Lord's work; it's true he works by means, but there's a time for all things; and if we are not succeeded on Sabbath-days, there's little reason to hope we shall be succeeded on week-days.” Now, if I am not greatly mistaken, revival meetings in England would, in many instances, occasion very similar remarks to those anticipated. I therefore leave the reader to judge, how far such a mode of operation could be safely recommended. I think it should be confined to the interior of America, and even there, be considerably modified.
Instead, therefore, of proposing for adoption any part of the system, which I have thus briefly endeavoured to explain, I would advise an adherence to ordinary services; for these being evidently scriptural and reasonable, no new measures can be so well calculated to secure general satisfaction and prosperity. Only let station and talent be nicely adapted, the character of the churches be preserved sacred by union and discipline, the public sanctuary be rended pleasant, through the regular attendance of its friends and members; and we shall then have animated preachers, good congregations, delightful worship, heavenly influences, and a revival which will do honour to our country, commend our religion, and glorify the God of salvation.