Imatges de pÓgina

best calculated to produce the most immediate and strong excitement, and urging them from day to day, with honest and most devoted vehemence : and they are still more in danger of mistaking the excitement thus produced, for the enkindlings of the Holy Spirit and the sure indications of deep and genuine conviction. And when this high state of feeling is not at once secured by the reiteration of some favorite and startling truths of revelation, there is often a hazardous resort to new and questionable expedients, to reach and fill the soul with those lively emotions, which shall resemble, at least, the strivings of the Holy Ghost; and then there is the delusion to which such preachers are always exposed, which is, to presume the measures of their adoption to be sanctioned by the consequences which succeed, taken for granted as the genuine fruits of the truth and the Spirit of God. Just as though it was settled, that if there is excitement produced, it must be of course, genuine religious awakening. And if God sees fit to overrule these expedients for good, or in defiance of them, to save souls in immediate connexion with them, they are adopted as sanctioned by infinite wisdom and saving grace, and are at once enrolled among the discoveries of the age, to promote the cause of Jesus Christ; than which, nothing can be more presumptuous and fatal.

We do not say, that in such cases there is no genuine religious excitement, but where there is, an intelligent apprehension of truth would render the conviction vastly more hopeful and safe, and the subject of it, if converted, far more stable and useful. Nothing is more common, than for the class of preachers in question, to declaim against severe study, and denounce labored sermons and doctrinal preaching during revivals of religion. Unable to frame the one, or to understand and properly arrange the other, they have little acquaintance with the efficacy of either, and hence, honestly, we doubt not, decry both. The result of the labors of these men may be, as is often seen, a powerfulexcitement, celebrated by the apparent feebleness of instrumentality, numerous reputed conversions, sudden suspension of feeling, speedy difficulties and dismission of the stated minister; and from want of being well grounded in the faith of the gospel, and thoroughly indoctrinated during the season of “religious experience," if not in many cases from actual and fatal deception, there is often a sickly and deformed growth of Christian character, great looseness in religious sentiment, alarming indifference as to religious practice, and generally a protracted reign of spiritual coldness and sterility succeeds.


Here we confidently believe is found one of the greatest evils of an uneducated ministry. And we appeal to the most natural and obvious tendency of such preaching, as that to which we have alluded, and we appeal to facts, abundant in the history of the church and of revivals of religion, to sustain the declaration, that the looseness of Arminian sentiments and the grossest Antinomian practices, have resulted and do continue to result from such defective administration of the truth, and especially from such defective administration of truth with the admixture of unauthorized human invention, during the season of religious revivals. It is now the time, when Satan seizes on the defects of preachers and sows his tares amidst the wheat, and loudly boasts of reaping richest harvests from the sunshine and showers of divine grace. Thus are many of our revivals of religion, scandalized before the enemies of righteousness, and regarded with distrust and caution by many of the sincere friends of God. Many souls are deceived as to the hopes on which they rest for eternity, and judicious measures are deferred or discontinued, from the abuse which they receive from the unskilful and inexperienced.

Lest our remarks should be associated with some whose labors have been signally blessed, we would add, that such have learned from experience, from intercourse with intelligent men and from books, to some extent at least, that knowledge which is essential to safe and successful ministrations. They may indeed surpass many men who are regularly educated, in plain, systematic, and argumentative sermons: we have known such, and have listened with respect and profit to the embodied resources of their powerful minds; and in this plain, systematic, argumentative preaching, is found the main source of their success. Their appeals to feeling are sustained by the enlightening influence of well arranged thought, forced as by demonstration on the mind; and hence, however highly raised, the danger of deception is avoided and a guard is placed to melancholy and ruinous reaction.

But the evil to be avoided remains yet to be considered. Others, without the intellect, without the experience and without the discretion if not the piety of such men, will vainly attempt to tread in their steps:—fixing their eye on the high feeling produced and the rapturous results that succeed, they first and vigorously aim to produce the same excitement, their hearts no doubt set upon securing the same happy results. We must fear, we must believe, that there is in most cases an entire failure, though we have often witnessed the most strong and elevated state of feeling. The salutary, gracious conse

quences are not secured-or if hopefully and nominally secured, they are, after all, of a very doubtful character--and if not doubtful, as before stated, they are of a most defective character, and so defective that the question becomes serious whether the church can bear the expense at which all the good arising has been secured. The reason of this defect or deception is obvious. This state of feeling was not raised, as in the first case, by the plain and pungent preaching of the truth, logically arranged and forcibly illustrated. The mind, the understanding and the conscience were not secured. The way was not in this scriptural manner, prepared ; but the first immediate and vigorous effort was to produce feeling.--Disregarding its character, all happy and saving results must be hazarded if not lost. If the same logical and scriptural process is attempted, the failure is still greater, for an unsuccessful attempt here, is certain death to that feeling, which might otherwise be produced, and every attempt will be unsuccessful, where a well furnished and disciplined mind is not found engaged in the effort.

Hence we find uneducated men, generally, foregoing, or failing in the attempt, to furnish the mind with instruction, preparatory to arousing the feelings of the heart, and generally directing their efforts to produce immediate excitement, which unguided and uncontrolled by intelligent apprehension of truth, becomes subject to all the danger to which we have alluded. How does this affect the character of revivals of religion and the prosperity of the church? It endangers the purity and continuance of the one and correct sentiment in the other. Revivals of religion will be pure and protracted in proportion as the doctrines and precepts of the gospel are better understood and more correctly preached. Our firmest hope, that these seasons will yet become pure as the Pentecost of the Apostles and protracted as the Millennium, rests on increased attention to education in the gospel ministry, attended with correct principles in developing the doctrines of inspired truth, and deep piety of heart.

As another argument in favor of an Educated Ministry, we would mention the importance of securing continued and increasing interest, untiring activity and permanence of settlement in the ministry.

That man, whose resources are limited, and whose attention is confined to a few of the more obvious, however important truths of the gospel, and who does not see their connexion with the remaining truths of the Bible and the practical bearing of all united, will always be in danger of losing his interest in the very truths on which he dwells; and they will soon become so


familiar, both to himself and to his hearers, that their value and influence will become entirely suspended; and the only resort of such a minister, to secure a return of interest to himself in the great subjects of his profession, will be, to change the people of his charge. But let him become well acquainted with doctrinal and practical theology; with that system of truth, every part of which is so important, and the whole, in its natural arrangement so beautiful, and in its legitimate influence so powerful ; and the more he contemplates it, the more he studies it, the more he prays over it and preaches it, the more will he be astonished at its genuine philosophy, enraptured by its unparparalleled sublimity and enchained by its power; and from its ever new discoveries, its endlessly diversified relations, he will appear before his people, from week to week, with the charms of novelty in his preaching, with ever growing ability to interest, to instruct and to impress. To such a man, a thousand lives would be inadequate to comprehend the wisdom, and to exhaust the power of the doctrines of the cross. Look at the ever increasing interest of Paul, of Luther, of Knox, of Edwards, in the gospel of Christ, as the divinely given system of sacred truth, and we are at no loss to understand the spring of their untiring activity. From these exhaustless stores of heavenly science, they imbibed and strengthened the principles of holy living: observing the necessary and immutable relation of doctrines with duties, the more they learned, the more they loved and labored; and from the broad range of their intelligence and influence here, we cannot but contemplate with astonishment, the stand their unfettered minds must have taken, when heaven broke upon their view. Interest in the truth and engagedness in its precepts, both here and hereafter, must depend in no small degree, on the extent of our acquaintance with the revealed doctrines of Jesus Christ. Hence we find from Paul to the present day, that educated ministers are most interested and active in defending and disseminating the truth; in starting and in carrying forward the great enterprises of Christian charity.

The permanency of the ministry equally demands education. We will not here discuss the question, whether the ministry should be permanent or itinerant. With those who advocate its itinerancy, any arguments on the main question would doubtless be lost. We take for granted that the question as to a permanent ministry is settled. How shall its perinanence be most effectually secured? We reply, by thorough education Let the minister be able to take the lead of intellect, hold influence over the mind, and with common prudence and piety, he makes himself essential, not only to the spiritual good, but to the best worldly interest and reputation of his people. He gains their confidence and secures respect for his sentiments, and thus prepares the way to their hearts; and while they may repel the truth he presses on the soul, they are conipelled to respect his intelligence and allow the consistency between his sentiments and his labors—and the most inveterate opposers will hear, from such a man, what they would not endure from one, whose education and resources were inferior to their own. But this is not the only cause of his permanence. An educated man is capable of continually instructing and of continually interesting his hearers: they feel that they are benefitted by an attendance on his ministry. They see in their growing intelligence a reflection of his wisdom and cannot but appreciate the value of such a man. But how is it, with those who are uneducated? They are generally far from securin permanence. To meet the inadequacy of their professional furniture, in many cases, the whole system of their ministry, is a system of itinerancy; and for the same reason, we find many who are uneducated, where this system is not generally introduced, pleading for its partial adoption at least. They no doubt feel its necessity and not capable of estimating the value of a permanent ministry, are honestly in favor of its being made itinerant. They would have it appear, that revivals of religion, would spread over the country, if the established clergy would break loose from their people, and, going from congregation to congregation, pour out their souls in plainness and fervor, preaching as though they were preaching for the first and last time to immortal souls, and exhausting all their power in the production of so great a good. In theory this may be imposing to a certain class of minds, but when reduced to practice, the purity, the stability and promtitude of action for which our church has long been distinguished, would be endangered, if not wholly destroyed.

The numerous subjects of our religious revivals should be trained in gospel sentiments, Christian enterprise and laborious action, and no other man can so successfully accomplish it, as he, under whose ministry they have been converted, and to whom their hearts are attached by that kind and prayerful interest which watched and guided their footsteps in the perilous moments of their deep and doubtful struggles. But education in a minister and permanency of location is essential to all this, and without it no man can train the youthful subjects of grace, to meet the demands of the present age.

It was a remark of Whitefield, that he could not sustain him

« AnteriorContinua »