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EDITED BY REV. AUSTIN DICKINSON, NEWYORK.
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No. 81.----Feb. 1833.
CONTENTS.—Two Sermons, by Rev. Dr. Tucker, of Troy,—viz.
Means of a Revival of Religion, and Alarm to the Careless.
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Amos vii. 2.—By whom shall Jacob arise ?—for he is small.
The prophet Amos, though of humble origin and occupation, was distinguished for the loftiness of his conceptions, and the energy and pointedness of his ministrations. In this chapter he is represented as beholding in vision the judgments of God about to visit the people of Israel. His benevolent spirit was excited, and he earnestly besought the Lord to stay bis anger and avert the threatened evils. The text contains the argument of his prayer.
If the wasting calamities denounced should come upon Israel and cut off the sources of subsistence, and thus diminish their numbers and weaken their strength, how could the Church recover from its depression, how could the breach be repaired ? By whom shall Jacob arise ? for he is small? The argument prevailed. The Lord repented him of the evil and delayed the deserved judgments.
The text, independent of its particular application, may be regarded as a question of great interest to churches under trying circumstances. Jacob represents the people of God. The obvious import of the inquiry is,
How shaLL A CHURCH THAT IS SMALL, OR IN A LOW STATE, BE BUILT UP, REVIVED, RAISED FROM ITS DEPRESSION ?
In furnishing an answer to this question it will be necessary to examine those parts of Church history, inspired and uninspired, which record revivals of religion. In discussing the subject we intend to guard against speculation and theory, and refer only to facts. It ought to be distinctly stated, that the great principle of God's moral government is to be acknowledged, as well in attempting to promote the salvation of others as in working out our own,--that it is God who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure. For it is as true of three thousand as of a few truly converted, that they are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; and after all the well directed and long continued efforts of men to build up the Church, it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. This should always be mentioned both to chasten pride and to encourage faith.
The object aimed at is not merely an increase of numbers, but a revival of pure and undefiled religion. A numerous or a wealthy church is not necessarily an efficient one. Numbers often weaken the moral influence. A revival of religion is a resuscitation of the graces of God's people, connected with the conversion of sinners. Christians then begin to live, for a time, as they ought always to live. What question can possess more interest to a minister or a
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church, than this,--how can the number of deeply pious, devoted servants of Christ be increased ?
I. The first step preliminary to every other, is A PREPARATION OF THE SOIL. Thus saith the Lord, break up the fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Every church, from which the converting influences of the Spirit are withdrawn, must have within it some evils which need to be removed. For the Lord is with a people, while they are with him; if they seek him, he will be found of them, but if they forsake him he will forsake them. When his special presence is withdrawn they have provoked him by their sins. A single Achan may arrest the victories of Zion. The message from Zion's King to such a church is, Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. If the sin of broken vows, of blood-guiltiness, of worldly conformity, of idolatrous pursuit of wealth or honor, of contention and strife, of alienation of heart among brethren attach to the garments of professors, the evil must be ferreted out and repented of before a blessing can be expected. In many cases the observance of a day of humiliation and prayer in the Church has been followed by happy results. The people of God, humbled for past delinquency, deeply affected to think of the ruin they have been instrumental of bringing upon sinners, by the unchristian examples they have set, the levity and folly of their lives, their remissness in duty, and especially their reluctance to speak to them on the subject of salvation, have openly and publicly made confession before the world, and renewed their covenant before the Lord.
II. As there is a fixed and invariable connexion between the faith and faithfulness of God's people and the conversion of sinners, the Church is next to be urged to CULTIVATE A SPIRIT OF GRACE AND SUPPLICATION.
This is agreeable to the order mentioned in prophecy. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people and the inhabitants of many cities : and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts. And again, I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and supplication. These predictions, it is believed, refer to those seasons under the gospel denominated revivals of religion, when multitudes are gathered into the kingdom of God. The members of the Church individually should be reminded that the success of the cause in a measure depends upon them; they are to aim at more spirituality, more habitual seriousness, more holiness of heart and energy of character.
The grace of supplication is uniformly poured upon the members of Christ's Church previous to an extraordinary visitation of mercy. This point may be illustrated by a reference to facts. This was eminently true of the national reformation under Josiah, when the whole aspect of the Church was changed, and the leaven of piety diffused through the entire mass of the people, when the foundations of many generations were rebuilt, and the worship of Jehovah was restored.
The surprising change effected by the ministry of Ezra, that issued in the renovation of all Israel, was preceded by special humiliation and prayer.
Previous to the opening of the windows of heaven to pour out a blessing upon
the Jews in the days of Malachi, we are told that they that feared the Lord spake often to one another; they assembled for social worship and united in earnest prayer; and the Lord hearkened and heard it: and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name.
A continued season of prayer was connected with the great revival at Jerusalem. The day of Pentecost was fifty days after the resurrection of Christ. He was with his disciples forty days speaking of the things pertaining to the