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lenc, and to taste his love.A healthful state of public morals and indications of general prosperity, follow in the train. Industry supplants idleness, justice excludes dishonesty, and a thrifty economy takes the place of a vicious waste. Nor have we been subjected in these churches, to the incidental evils of which we have heard or read in former years and other places, such as extreme listlessness after high excitement, rude assaults from opposers, or instances of fixed melancholy, of mental aberration, or of suicide. So far as we recollect, the adversary of souls has not been allowed to take advantage of human infirmity in such ways, and thus cast a reproach on the cause of Christ.
4. Doctrines, style of preaching, and other means to promote revivals.
The members of this Association agree in their views of religious doctrine. They are not given to sectarism, or innovation. They cordially adhere to that system of truth, which has been set forth in the Catechisms and Confessions of the Protestant Churches, and which was taught by the Pilgrims of New England. They honestly believe in the total depravity of unregenerate man, and the consequent necessity of regeneration by the special agency of the Holy Spirit
, and of a free forgiveness through the vicarious sufferings of a divine Saviour. They honestly believe that impenitent sinners deserve endless punishment, and need to be warned to flee from the wrath to
Hence the perfection of the divine character and law, the eternal decrees of God respecting his created world, the apostasy of man, the deity, humanity, and expiatory death of Christ, the personality and official work of the Spirit, the nature and necessity of experimental religion, the salvation of the righteous and the perdition of the wicked, are subjects of frequent argument and solemn appeal.
The style of preaching is doctrinal rather than declamatory, and addressed to the understanding and coascience, rather than the passions. Men are considered as rational and voluntary beings, who need first to be instructed in duty and truth, and then to be admonished to cultivate affections and perform work correspondent to such instruction. Sermons are mostly written with care, and delivered with notes.
Other means employed are such as are usually approved for the purposes of religious instruction and impression. Such are the Sabbath School and the Bible Class, the distribution of Bibles and Tracts, personal conversation, pastoral visitation from house to house, meetings for Christian conference and prayer, and days of fasting and prayer in the churches. On
special occasions, we approve of meetings for devotional services, at an early hour in the morning; and when the state of religious feeling among a people will justify it, we recommend a weekly meeting for personal inquiry and conversation with all who are convinced of their danger and guilt as sinners. This last kind of meeting assists a pastor to be acquainted with the history of each mind at a most interesting period, and gives him an oppo tunity to answer questions, to resolve doubts, and to accommodate his counsels to the present state of each individual. A discreet and prayerful management of this meeting will try the pastor's wisdom and fidelity. Meetings of this kind are such as Baxter beld with the families of his people at his own house, (he being unable to visit them,) during his most successful ministry at Kidderminster.
Whatever may be our care and perseverance in the application of means, we prosess our entire dependence on the sovereign grace of God, and humbly cast ourselves before his throne in prayer. We say with the Apostle, (1 Cor. iii. 6, 7,) "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase : so then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither is lie that watereth ; but God that giveth the increase.”
Such is a notice of some of the recent revivals in this Association, with their characteristics and fruits, and the means employed to promote them.
II. SPECIAL AND SUCCESSIVE MEETINGS.
Meetings for religious worship, held in succession for several days, are undoul tedly entitled to approbation. They are well suited to our social nature, and God has often set liis seal to them; and when accompanied with humble and importunate prayer, with a plain and faithful exhibition of divine truth, and with a vigilant guard against the arts of human device, they may become eminently useful. They have been useful in our circle, to some exteni, Nut on account of the presentation of new truths, but that the great truths of revelation, blessed in every age of the world to the conversion of souls, have been presented in a vivid manner and with longer continuance. This, we apprehend, is the true reason why a series of religious meetings has usually resulted in the hopeful conversion of many souls.
If this opinion be correct, it is easy to see how such meetings should be conducted. The state of the church, and the circumstances of the people should be accurately observed before the meeting is appointed,-a spirit of humble prayer should be cherished, -no dependence should be placed on eloquent preachers, but every eye should be directed to the sovereign grace of God. Then let the truth be preached in a plain and faithful manner, and we may expect that the Holy Spirit will descend, and converts be multiplied.
The utility of a frequent repetition of these meetings is very doubtful. They exhaust the time and strength of ministers, they promote a kind of religious gossiping,--they cherish habits of dissipated thought, periodical fervor, fastidious taste and undue confidence in means; while their novelty, which has added to their influence, musí soon wear away. However it may be wise, after long intervals, to repeat them, they are not to be considered as the permanent means of salvation. It is the regular ministration of Christian ordinances by the stated Pastor, without the imposing grandeur, the parade, the bustle and excitement of public occasions, which God has appointed to nourish men to life eternal.
III. ANY PREVAILING Errors in DOCTRINE OR IRREGULARITIES IN PRAC
It is well known that this portion of the church has been infected for many years with errors classed under the popular names of Unitarianism and Universalism. These still remain among us, but are no longer embraced by those who form a constituent part of our churches, and are therefore comparatively harmless. Infidelity has made its appearance, and we fear that some young men in our congregations have been led
away. But these are not all the errors of the present day. There are points advanced by men, who are esteemed orthodox, which have given us some alarm. The sentiments to which we allude, pertain principally to the moral character of man, the nature and evidence of vital religion, and the influences of the I loly Spirit in electing rereneration. We have understood the Scriptures as representing man in his natural state totally depraved, possessing no holiness whatever, and nothing that can originate it. We have feared that in pressing human ability, this main difficulty has been overlooked, and an impression has been conveyed to common hearers, whether designed or not, that they are in every sense as competent to obey as they would have been if they had never fallen. Hence their deep depravity, in consequence of which they need the life-giving grace of the Spirit to sanctify and save them, is in a great measure hidden from their sight. As directly connected with this sentiment, sinners are urged to consecrate themselves immediately to God, a duty which we all readily admit, but the influence of the Spirit in producing this consecration, though seldom denied, and generally denomina!ed special and sovereign, appears to be epresented as little more than that upholding and superintending providence by which we live and move and speak, or at most, as little more than a light held up to render truth more vivid and motives more powerful. Thus, the energy which quickens the soul, is attributed to the word of God, or to human agency in some form, more than to the power which raised Christ from the dead, and quickened the Ephesians who had been dead in trespasses and sins.
These erroneous views of depravity and of the agency of the Spirit in conversion; lead into an error respecting the nature of vital religion. Fearing to infringe on human liberty, and with an honest intention, no doubt, to throw all blame on the sinner, ministers tell men that they have full ability to serve God, while the absolute necessity of a special divine influence to move them, however admitted in speculation, is studiously kept out of sight in preaching. The natural consequence is, that they are led to believe, that if they resolve to serve God with such a heart as they have, and obtain any thing like peace of mind in religious duty, they are Christians. Hence the state of their hearts is overlooked, and a false standard of religion is established.
There are several practices, too, against which we think the churches should be cautioned. The temporary settlement, and frequent dismission of ministers, we consider an evil. We have noticed, with much pain, the encroachments on the Sabbath by traffic, and by assemblages, political and literary, on Saturday evening, attended sometimes by the members of our churches. We have remarked that it is becoming common in some of our churches, to appoint“ meetings for inquiry," where some general addresses are made without any personal conversation with individuals, and all who attend are reported as "anxious inquirers.” “An inquirer,” according to the settled usage of the churches, describes a person under pungent conviction for sin ; but in such a case, it is applied to one who is willing to come into a mixed assemblage for religious counsel and exhortation. Hence it is not strange that many are reported as inquirers who were never seriously convinced of sin, and that among many nominal inquirers, few hopeful converts can be found, at the end of a year.
We have had occasion to observe in other cases where persons were awakened and conversed with, that the address was of a quieting kind, and, instead of probing their wicked hearts deep, and urging them to make thorough work, and indulge no hope without a strict scrutiny, they were exhorted to look away from themselves, and engage at once in tne Christian race, as heirs of glory. VOL. VI.-NO. IV.
Hasty admission to the church, particularly of young persons, is another practice attended with serious evils and promising little good.
Another irregular practice, which has obtained to some extent in the churches, is an undervaluing the ordinance of Infant Baptism. Parents, instead of being urged to present their ch dren in baptism as a duty, are simply reminded of it as a privilege which they may enjoy or neglect at pleasure. Some congregational ministers have even maintained that baptism administered in infancy might properly be repeated in adult years to satisfy the scruples of any, and so little is thought of the ordinance in some churches, that no record is kept of the names of those baptized, whether children or adults.
IV. Tue PRRSENT DUTY OF MINISTERS AND CHURCHES IN ORDER TO SECURE
THE SPECIAL AND CONTINUED OPERATIONS OF THE Holy Spirit, AND TO RENDER THE INFLUENCE OF THE GOSPEL GENERAL AND PERMANENT.
This topic of inquiry is so extensive in its nature that a definite answer cannot well be given. Our immediate duty may vary from day to day, and from hour to hour. All truth must be believed, and all duty performed. We must be in our appropriate places, and engaged in our appropriate works,-cultirating holy affections, embracing and defending correct principles,-pure in speech, benefiernt and useful in action. In general, we must be like the one hundred and twenty holy men and women at Jerusalem, from the day of Christ's ascension to the Pentecost. We must understand the import of the promise respecting the Spirit, and believe in its sure accomplishment: we must be in a state of expectation, of faith and hope : we must feel our absolute dependence on spiritual aid for ourselves and others: we must dwell much on the greatness of the blessing, and the endless consequences of its being granted, or withheld, in respect to the salvation, or perdition, of immortal beings: we must be humble, sincere, and persevering in our prayers,striving, like Jacob with the Angel of the Covenant, as if unwilling to be denied,—and yet placing unlimited trust in the sovereign wisdom and benevolence of God: and in all this, there must be concert and harmony,—we must often assemble together with one accord,-our prayers and alms must ascend up together, as a memorial before God: and we must continue in works of piety and acts of devotion, until the Spirit come down in his mighty power and rich grace, to convince and subdue, enlighten and console.
More particularly,–1. We must acknowledge the personal honors and offices of the Spirit. If we consider the Spirit