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and supplication. Prayer is easy and grateful, and not a burden or a task. The closet is visited for communion with the Father of spirits. The family is daily assembled to read his word and unite in his worship. The erection of the domestic altar in prayerless families is often a striking indication of the progress of a revival. Little assemblages for prayer, as in the twilight of the morning and at other hours, are common and well attended. And the church on the Sabbath exbibits a new appearance in the greater number, solemnity, and deep attention of the people.
A cordial trust in Christ is another feature of a revival of religion. Evangelical views of his nature and offices are readily embraced by those who are thoroughly convinced of sin, and find themselves exposed to perdition. It is not found necessary to dwell with unusual frequency or special argumentation on his deity or atoning sacrifice. When these are presented in a plain and scriptural light, penitent inquirers readily repose unlimited contidence in him, and commit their souls to his divine care, as the Gentile converts did, in the days of the Apostles. They at once apprehend and joyfully embrace the scheme of salvation revealed in the Gospel. They see Christ to be the end of the law for righteousness to the believer,-its demands answered and its authority sustained; while the penitent, in himself condemned and lost, is freely pardoned. They behold with admiring gratitude, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” It is surprising, often, to see how easily persons, who were embarrassed by the prejudices of a false education, begin to adore and praise the Saviour, and find peace to their souls through faith in his vicarious sufferings and gracious intercession. They bow with devout reverence, and begin the celestial strain, “ Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and doininion forever and ever.”
Practical piety, or a persevering obedience to the holy law of God, is the last feature of a religious revival, which will now be noticed. This is the test of character. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” From the abundance or overflowing of the heart, we speak and act. It is impossible that our affections and purposes should not appear in the visible habits and conduct of life. We may be hypocrites in particular instances, but a universal hypocrisy cannot be maintained. A character will be formed and exhibited. A great increase of practical piety, therefore, is a uniform feature of a true revival of religion. The name of God is spoken with reverence, his
dominion is acknowledged, his day is sanctified, his worship is observed, his word is read, and his precepts are obeyed. All works of charity, which tend to glorify God, or improve the condition of man, receive a new impulse. This obedience, which flows from a regenerate heart, is not fitful and tempora-ry, but enlightened and persevering. The obligations of duty do not vary with time and circumstances, but are eternal as our intelligent nature and the moral government of God.
Such are some of the features of a revival of religion, in distinction from a temporary excitement of sympathy, or a simple attendance on the external forms of religion. If the subjects of such a work of grace are many, intelligent, and devout, while there is joy in heaven among the angels in view of their repentance, the church on earth should participate in the joy. The reality of such revivals of religion, both in ancient and modern times, is a matter of authentic and well attested history. We might as well deny political changes in the history of the world, as moral. With us, a frequent revival of religion is a maiter of observation and experience. We see no valid objection to the thing itself. It is a needful work, and ought to be esteemed a precious blessing fron, the ascended Saviour. All valid objections, which were ever made to a revival of religion, rest not against the thing itself, which is the perfect work of the Spirit, but against some measures, or attendant circumstances, which wholly originate in human weakness, or folly. We should beware how we think, or speak lightly of the work of the Spirit, lest we incur the guilt of the unpardonable sin. And let us not ascribe to the work of the Spirit the imperfections of men. Religion has often been exposed to the contempt of the unbelieving, by the rashness, or folly, of its professed friends: and thus a stone of stumbling has unhappily been cast in the pathway of ruin. How cautious ought me to be, lest we deface the beauty of a divine work, by rendering the imperfect instrumentality of man too prominent.
A revival of religion is represented in the Bible under strong and glowing imagery. It is set forth by the return of spring, after the chills and tempests of winter, -by showers of rain, with attendant fruitfulness and plenty, after the prevalence of famine,—and by a resurrection to life, after being long subjected to the power of death. It is represented that under the Messiah's reign, human diseases will be removed, and long life be a general blessing,—that brute animals will lose their savage nature,—and that peace and abundance will be universal.
2. Have any recent revivals taken place within this As
sociation? This Association embraces ten churches, five in the city of Boston, and five in its southern vicinage. Seven of these have been organized within a few years. Our history is chiefly limited to a short period. Heavy pecuniary sacrifices, and the alienation of friends excepted, it has been a time of signal prosperity and mercy. To leave the churches and altars where our fathers worshipped, -to relinquish our just claims to ecclesiastical funds, and to be at the expense of erecting new buildings for our accommodation in the service of God, are oppressive t:ials, which can be best appreciated by experience. A conscious sense of fidelity to Christ, and some tokens of his approbation are a present reward.
The Park Street Church continues destitute of a Pastor, * and a history of the gracious work of the Spirit within its limits cannot now be presented. It has been highly distinguished for enterprise and liberality. And such bas been the increase
. of its number, that while it has sent out little colonies to assist in the establishment of five or six other churches, it still enumerates more than four hundred members.
The Union Church has been highly favored ly the Head of the Church. A spirit of harmony and prayer has been nearly uninterrupted. Two or three periods of reviving have been distinctly narked. It has been instrumental in introducing the two revivals with which the city has been favored in the last ten years. As its beloved pastor is exhausted with liis labors, a particular notice of the measures adopted and the various success attending them cannot now be given. It contains more than four hundred members.
The Pine Street and South Boston Churches have been established within a few years, and are regularly advancing in number and strength. They shared in the blessings of the late revival in 1831, and give fair promise of enlargement and usefulne-s. Each of them has about one hundred and fifty members.
The Mariners' Church was lately established for the special benefit of those, “ who go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.” It is well attended on the Sabbaib, and exerts a salutary influence on the moral habits and gensial character of seamen. is a light-house on the border of the ocean, we trust it will guide many mariners on the perilous voyage of life to the haven of final rest. Bibles and tracts are distributed. Some instances of hopeful conversion have occurred.
The Rev. J. 11. Linsley has been installed pastor of the Park Street Church since this Report was written.
The evangelical churches in Brighton and Walpole have been organized withio five years, consisting of individuals who withdrew from the Armimian or Unitarian Parishes in those towns. The pecuniary sacrifice was heavy. But they have been comforted and enlarged, beyond expectation. There is a favorable change in the moral habits of the adjacent population. The late revival, both in Brighton and Walpole, was a signal work of the Spirit
. After much reflection and prayer, a series of meetings was held in each of these churches, on four successive days, for the ininistration of the word and ordinances. Within the space of a few weeks, fifty in each of these societies' exhibited evidences of deep repentance for sin and submission to God.
The Second Church in Needham is one of the few in this Association, which have come down from the days of the fathers, without convulsion, or contamination. Its retirement may have favored its purity. It has received moderate accessions from time to time. In the autumn of the last year, there was a special -eriousness among the young people, and twenty have united themselves to the church in a public profession of repentance and faith.
The South Church in Dedham was apparently weakened, but actually strengthened, by the secession of those who could not bear sound doctrine. A small Universalist Society was established. The church has since been more harmonious and efficient. It was blessed with a special revival during the last winter, when filiy, in a judgment of charity, were brought to a cordial reconciliation with God,--thirty of whom are now visible members of the church.
The First Church in Dedham, is the only one which remains to be notired. This ancient church has shared largely in the public sympathy. It was established in 1638, and was the fourteenth, in the order of time, among the churches of the Pilgrins, after their landing on the rock at Plymouth. Its five Pastors, whose ministry embraces a period of one hundred and sixty-six years, were able and godly men, who lived and died within its bosom. Its sixtli is now the President of Middlebury Clege, Vt. It shared in the early dow of divine grace on the plantations of New England, and especially in the memorable revival of 1712. There have been times of merciful visitation within a few years, as in 1921, 1927, and 1831, in which about two hundred persons, on a profession of their repentance and faith, were admitted to the church.
3. Characteristics and fruits of these revivals. In the short spice of five years, one thousand individuals in this small
Association, have been admitted to the churehes, giving credible evidence of personal piety. These were mostly recent converts. A large proportion of them were under twenty-five years of age; and thus a pledge is secured, that the influence of the Gospel will be extended down to the next generation.
“The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” These graces and virtues of the Christian character, so far as we are aware, are illustrated, in some good degree, in the life and conduct of the subjects of this work. Instances of apostacy are extremely rare. This might be presumed, as the revival was wholly a rational work, that is, in accordance with the principles of our nature and the dictates of common sense. There was no overwhelming excitement, no loud weeping, 110 exclamation, no fainting, or other physical derangement. The meetings were never protracted to a late hour in the evening, nor interrupted by any disorder. The spirits of the prophets were in subjection to the prophets. Women never expressed a wish to exhort or pray in public meetings.
A period of revival in any church was usually preceded by a spirit of prayer, by much self-examination, and by an increased attendance on the word and ordinances. The Bible, Sabbath, and sanctuary were more valued. The style of conversation among Christians was more spiritual and heavenly. Public preaching became more searching and faithful. The general deportment of the people was usually more thoughtful and sober. The slanders and cavils of infidelity were suspended. God drew near in majesty and grace, to revive his people and to subdue his enemies.
In most instances, the work has extended through several months, and in some through one or two years; but in small and compact societies, it has been chiefly limited to a few weeks.
Respecting the practical effects of these revivals, we are constrained to say, that they are genuine and salutary. Indeed, it is too late an age of the church, in which to speak of the work of the Spirit and the influence of the Gospel on man, by way of apology, or doubtful commendation. We witness a greater ,
a dread of sin, and a more holy reverence toward God. Families, once worldly or profane, are daily assembled for prayer, and children are instructed in the first principles of divine truth. The reformation in respect to temperance extends with every revival. Works of charity are patronized. Contributions are immediately increased in amount. They who find the Bible a treasure, desire to give it to others; and they who have found the Saviour precious, wish to bring all men to see his excel