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kingdom of God. After he had given them their instructions, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. Then, it is said, they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, and when they were come in they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter and James and John, and the rest of the apostles : These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. that in a retired place, in an upper room, supposed by some to be the place where he celebrated the passover, they spent ten days in prayer. While thus waiting for the promised blessing, breathing the atmosphere of devotion, kindling the fire of their zeal at the altar of God, bracing themselves to the great work of the ministry by wrestling in prayer, the Spirit of God descended and filled all the place where they were assembled. They continued in prayer ; which is the only way to wait for the promise. When, therefore, the day of Pentecost was fully come, it found them all with one accord in one place; and under no other circumstances may the disciples of Christ expect to receive the influences of the Spirit
. Unity of feeling and of views must characterize that people whom the Comforter will visit.
There is reason to believe the establishment of the gospel in Philippi, and the planting of that flourishing church was connected with the prayers of the pious females who met for prayer in that deep retirement on the banks of the river.
It is especially true of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that God will be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.
If there have been places which God has seemed to bless with his special presence, where this previous waking out of sleep, this rising up in the energy of holy faith to take hold of the Covenant, has not been witnessed on the part of his people, still upon inquiry it has always been found that some humble, devoted Christians, unobserved, have wept in secret over the declension of vital religion, the increase of vice and immorality; and perhaps like the apostles in Jerusalem, have retired to an upper room to pour out their hearts before God, that he would return in his glory and build up Zion.
We have collected some facts from authentic sources to confirm our position, which we deem of vital importance in this discussion, that the effectual, fervent prayers of God's people are intimately connected with seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.
The commencement of that great revival of religion in Easthampton, on Long Island, 1764, which in some respects resembled as much the day of Pentecost as any that have since taken place, is thus described by the venerable Dr, Buell “ In the beginning of the year 1764, there appeared some hopeful tokens that the Lord was preparing his way for a gracious visitation. The absolute necessity and importance of the Divine influence, in order to the revival of religion, became more frequently the subject of serious consideration among the godly. Some of the Lord's people became wrestling Jacobs for the Divine influences. Our assemblies grew larger, and their attention more engaged.”
At the close of an account of a powerful work of God in Bridgehampton, in 1800, in which great numbers were hopefully brought to a saving knowledge of the truth, the writer states, “ It may be added that the above revival of religion appears to have taken place in answer to prayer. Previous to it, it had been a time of long and awful declension. But in the preceding spring, by certain communications respecting the revivals of religion in other places, a small number of Christians appeared desirous of attending meetings of special prayer for Zion. Such meetings were accordingly introduced, and an unusual spirit of prayer seemed to be granted."
After a full examination of this subject as presented in the numerous detailed histories of these favored seasons to Zion; and after fifteen years' experience, we hesitate not to say, that it will generally be found that a spirit of prayer, like John the Baptist, is the harbinger sent to prepare the way for the Messenger of the Covenant to come to Ifts temple, and for the triumphant entrance of Zion's King in visible power and majesty in the chariot of his Word.
If the way of the Lord in his merciful visitation be always thus prepared in the hearts of his people, we have a standard by which to judge of the religious state of a church. The work of God will advance and prevail in propor. tion to the spirit of prayer that is kept up among his people. If the spirit of God be sensibly withdrawn, it proves not so much his sovereignty, as the stupidity, unbelief, and unsaithfulness of his professed friends. The ministers of Jesus will labor with success, their messages will be accompanied with the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven, so long as his disciples hold up their hands by prayer. This is finely illustrated in the case of Moses whose hands were sustained by Aaron and Hur, while Amalek and Israel contended in Rephidin. (Exod. 17. 8–12.)
Let the church then that would enjoy a revival of pure and undefiled religion give themselves to prayer.
When the Lord shall build up Zion, he will regard the prayer of the destitute, and not despise their prayer ; that is, his people will come to him feeling their destitution, they will pray as the perishing mendicant begs for bread; and while thus pleading as for life, he will not despise, or turn away from their prayer. The memorable words of our Lord apply as well to the blessing of a gracious visit as to other favors, Ask and ye shall receive, seek and
ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you ; for every one that asketh receiveth, he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
The message of Jehovah to Israel by the prophet Jeremiah may be addressed to every church disposed to take measures to secure his special presence. Thus saith the Lord, after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word towards you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end, that is, the end of your faith, your redemption from bondage. The language of indolence and false confidence in view of such unequivocal declarations, would be, The word of the Lord will stand, the vision will come, let us wait for it. But what saith the Scripture? In the next sentence it is said, THEN shall ye call upon me; instead of tempting Providence, the Church shall arise and stir themselves at the sound of going in the tops of the mulberry-trees, and ye shall go-some steps are to be taken, some efforts made and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find ye shall search for me with all your
heart. You perceive the degree of earnestness with which prayer is to be offered, viz. with all the heart.
Individuals are not to wait till the whole church awake, but when God is about to revive his work there will be some who will feel the pressure of a burden which can be removed only by laying it over upon the arm of the Lord. A desire will spring up in the soul for the conversion of sinners which will express itself in secret in groanings that cannot be uttered. The imminent danger of the impenitent will be so clearly perceived, that they are seen to stand on a slippery steep overhanging the burning billows of eternal wrath. The bleeding compassion of Jesus will be felt to the very center of the soul. With such views and feelings, how can one refrain from strong crying and tears ? There will be times when the Christian, to use the language of one who has been long in the school of Christ, and been honored in winning souls, has “a desire which almost breaks the heart;—a desire which swallows up every other; which is more intense than any one can conceive who has not felt it. The man goes bowed down all the day long under sorrows too great for him to bear, because men keep not God's law,--because they are bound to that land of darkness from which there is no return. He sees it utterly impossible for him to enjoy life any more, unless the Spirit be poured out from on high. Nothing in the univa se does he desire so much. Nothing else in the universe will sat
isfy him. The mighty care hangs immoveably upon his heart. It goes with him from morning till noon—from noon till night,—and cannot be shaken off for any other matter. It is the last to press upon him when he sinks to sleep; it is the first to meet him when he
eyes. All this is consistent with a sweet sense of dependence upon God, a full conviction that God, who is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him than parents to give good gifts to their children, has reserved the times and seasons in his own hand. If the bursting heart were not relieved by the thought that God is on the throne, the conflict would be more than could be endured.
III. A church that would witness a refreshing from the presence of the Lord, must not only stir themselves up to take hold of the Covenant by fervent, persevering prayer, but they must cultIVATE A SPIRIT OF DEEP AND LIVING PIETY.
A temporary exeitement, a glow of animal feeling, a flourish of unnatural animation, is not a preparation that is from the Lord; it may gratify vanity and answer a party purpose, but a permanent blessing will not follow.
Usually, before God revives his work, his people become sensible that it is high time to awake out of sleep. The evidence that they have more of the grace of supplication is, that they exhibit more of the life of religion. They become less worldly-minded, more attached to the house of the sanctuary of God. Wilt thou not revive us again, inquired the Psalmist, that thy people may rejoic in thee ?
Various means are blessed to arouse a slumbering church or more powerfully to awaken the increasing interest that is beginning to be felt. Sometimes an alarming death, sometimes the deep visible distress and pungent conviction of a hardened sinner, or of some important individual, will give new fervor to the prayers, new vigor to the life, new impulse to the zeal of God's people.
The revival at Jerusalem (which, apart from the miraculous appearances which convinced the multitude, but did not affect the character of the work, is the great exemplar and standard of all revivals of true religion,) was preceded by an extraordinary effusion of the Spirit upon the disciples. Even while they were in the upper room engaged in prayer, suddenly, not unexpectedly, there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, (fit emblem of the energy and fervor with which they were to preach the gospel), and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost. By this anointing they were furnished with the graces of the Spirit, were brought under his sanctifying influence. They were more than ever delivered from the reigning power of sin, became more spiritual in their affections, more heavenly in their temper, more devoted in their lives. They felt all at once kindling within them a holy ardor which could be damped by no obstacle, and were endued with a fortitude which shrank from no danger. They were filled with the consolations of the Spiril, rejoicing more than ever in the fellowship of the saints, the love of Christ, the riches of grace, the communion of the Father, and the hope of heaven. They were also endowed with the gifts of the Spirit, --miraculous powers for the furtherance of the gospel.
Such special communications of grace to the people of God previous to a large ingathering of souls are not unfrequent.
That living piety which is always revived in the church when the arm of the Lord is revealed, is based upon a knowledge of the great doctrines of the gospel, particularly the character, law, and government of God, the divine glory and wonderful work of Christ, the office and agency of the Spirit,-in a word, the ruin and recovery of man. Hence sound doctrinal preaching, searching exhibitions of truth, so far from retarding the work of the Spirit, are of great service in preparing the way of the Lord.
A church that would receive a blessing must be brought to feel that a higher exercise of grace is indispensable; they must put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to sulfil the lusts thereof; they must rise up to greater attainments in godliness. And it is a dark sign (to say nothing of the unlovely spirit exhibited) to be unwilling to have the standard of the gospel set high, and the delinquency of the church exposed, that they may repent and return to the Lord. A spirit of declension, like that of apostacy, often shrinks from the light and is opposed to the truth; but the wound must be probed, if it is to be healed; the sin must be exposed, if pardon is sought.
Deep vital piety must be awakened in the church if any permanent results are to be looked for; for God blesses nothing else. There may be much
apparent success without it, but nothing that will endure, that will stand the test of the last day. Hay, wood, and stubble (by which we are to understand every thing of merely human device) will be consumed, the work of the Lord only will continue. Talents and wealth and influence have failed, when a few feeble, praying Christians have succeeded. One conscientious, holy man is a host. The strength of the first Christians was in their piety. Cyprian's holiness and self-sacrificing spirit was the secret of his unparalleled success. The Reformers, more by faith and truth than learning or native energy, succeeded in lifting the church from the lowest point of depression to light and life. The blessing that was in the Pilgrims is to be sought in their heaven-born Christianity. And the Moravians have accomplished wonders because they were filled with the Holy Ghost and faith.
Evangelical truth awakens an unconquerable attachment, an indomitable spirit; it kindles an undying flame which many waters cannot quench. He only is to be regarded as a gospel Christian, and will be favored in being instrumental of good to others, who holds forth the word of life, whose heart's desire and prayer to God is, that sinners may be saved.
IV. PLAIN, WELL-TIMED PREACHING is another means of building up the church of Christ. It is appointed by the great Head of the Church. Is not my word like as the fire and the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces ? Thine arrows are sharp in the hearts of the King's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee. It pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
It must be plain, or the attention of sinners will be diverted from the subject and from themselves to the splendor of the effort or the labor bestowed upon it; it must be affectionate, or the heart will not be unbarred to hear the message; it must be direct and faithful, or the truth will not bear upon the conscience; it must be in season, or the work will not receive an impulse.
The revival at Jerusalem (to which reference cannot be too frequently made) was a result of the preaching of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel. Now, when they heard this (it was after hearing-Peter's sermon was the instrument)
- they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren what shall we do? Peter's sermon, which became the sword of the Spirit to pierce the stout-hearted Jews, is a model of that kind of preaching which has always been owned of God. We cannot now attempt to give any thing like an analysis of it. The apostle evidently aimed at impressing conviction upon the consciences of his hearers, which ought to be the end of all public instruction; for if we fail of convincing the sinner of his guilt, the offers of the gospel will be an idle sound to him.
The truths which the apostle preached were the most humbling to human pride, the most offensive to the natural heart; calculated at once to awaken the deepest solicitude and bring the sinner into the dust. So far from offering any palliation for their crimes, he aggravated them by every possible circumstance. He thrust the charge of murder into their bosom, which pierced like a barbed arrow from the quiver of the Almighty. His sermon “was an ocean of terror,' and each reflection a wave that overwhelmed and distressed their souls."
The idea that God is a sovereign, that he worketh all things according to the counsel of his own will, that he has all hearts in his hand, and is under no obli. gation to save any sinner in his natural state, is considered by many a very discouraging doctrine, and one, though acknowledged to be fully taught in the Bible, that ought to be very seldom preached. So did not Peter think. He brought clearly into view the absolute dependence of the sinner, and his awful criminality in opposing the designs of God. The great point is to make the rebel sinner feel his guilt. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The terrors of the Lord are to be preached, but so as to persuade men. The grace of the gospel is to be preached, but so as to humble and subdue men -to make the sinner sensible of his sin and ingratitude in rejecting it.
If we examine the records of those revivals of true religion which have occurred so frequently in the church, we shall find that the truths usually styled the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel have been uniformly the most blessed by the Spirit of God.
“ I think I have found,” says President Edwards, in his · Narrative of Surprising Conversions,' “ that no discourses have been more remarkably blessed than those in which the doctrine of God's absolute sovereignty with regard to the salvation of sinners, and his just liberty, with regard to answering the prayers, or succeeding the pains of mere natural men, continuing such, have been insisted on. I never found so much immediate saving fruit, in any measure, of any discourses I have offered to my congregation, as some from those words, Rom. iii, 19— That every mouth may be stopped : endeavoring to show from thence that it would be just with God for ever to reject and cast off mere natural men.”
It is not only sermons on revivals but revival sermons, exhibiting the purity and extent and righteous sanctions of the divine law, the deep corruption and alienation of the heart by nature, the work of the Spirit, justification by faith, the duty of immediate repentance and love, which are to accomplish the work of quickening the church and saving men.
If no doctrines should be preached but such as are gratifying to the natural feelings, we should have reason to fear that the conversions which would follow (if any fruits at all appeared) would be such as would fully evince from whence the power proceeded. No truths but those which bring out the sinner's guilt, and expose his depravity, will ever humble his soul and lead him to Christ. It will not do to conceal part of the counsel of God because it may be perverted; to withhold some of the truths of the Bible because the weak and the wavering may wrest them to their own destruction.
Let every minister of the New Testament, who would see the work of the Lord prosper in his hand, devote himself to his work, and preach like Baxter and Brainerd, like Paul and Peter, endeavoring to make his hearers feel that they are lost and perishing sinners, and pointing them at once to the Lamb that taketh away
the sin of the world; and we shall not want seals to our ministry. V. It will be expected that in speaking of the means of promoting a revival of religion, I should notice in this connexion PROTRACTED MEETINGS for public worship. These are not distinct from, but only a connected method of preaching the gospel—a concentrated use of this great instrumentality,
These meetings have become so common among evangelical Christians of every name that they are no longer to be regarded as peculiar to any denomination. They are not of recent origin. The Jews from the commencement of their polity held them; they were revived by Nehemiah. The Church of Scotland has always observed a similar religious service. No serious Christian can object to such meetings, properly conducted, for bringing divine truth to bear upon the heart. It is like bringing a number of Sabbaths into immediate suc. cession. Religion is placed so prominently before the mind that the world is