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ple been his guide, he would have lived, happy and beloved, a blessing to his parents and to the world.
Oh that this example might influence every parent to be more faithful in the religious education of his children.! For without this, they have no real security from the dangers of the world, and the blandishments of vice; no pilot to preserve them, amid the turbulence of youthful passion, from the vortex of dissipation; and faint is the hope that they will ever arrive at the haven of eter. nal rest.
THOUGHTS ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION.
IN my former number it was mentioned, that I should hereafter consider, with some minuteness, those kinds of labour which have been particularly blessed by an effusion of the Holy Spirit.
When we attentively consider the great events which have taken place within the last thirty years, it seems as if a new era in the christian church had commenced. The former state of listlessness and sloth has given way to activity and exertion. Within this period we have seen the christian nations waking up from the slumber of ages, to the great duty of distributing the Bible to the poor and destitute. This distribution has been made, not only to the poor among themselves, but also to the heathen nations, who were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death ; on whom the Sun of righteousness has never shined. These efforts to spread the Scriptures, which have extended throughout most of the nations of Europe, and the United States of America, are altogether new and unprecedented. Should they continue for fifty years, and go on increasing as they have done, there is no reason to doubt, but by that time, the people of every natiou and kingdom will be able to read the words of eternal life, in the language in which they were born. This new era is distinguished by another feature not less prominent; it is an era of Missions. In the year 1792, the London Missionary Society, the first in point of time, and of importance, among modern institutions of this character, was established. The intelligence of this fact soon reached our shores; and in various parts of our country, Missionary Societies sprang up, by the energetic exertions of christians, under the smiles of Divine Providence. I'hese Societies, in this country and in Europe, have continued to the present period. They have become permanent; they have increased in numbers: they have increased in usefulness. This tree has taken deep root; it has grown and become strong ; the height thereof has reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof unto the ends of the earth ; upon it, the rain from heaven has descended, and the beams of the Sun of righteousness have shone, imparting to it warmth and vigour ; much fruit has been gathered from it; and
the leaves of the tree shall be for the healing of the nations. A third characteristic of the present age of the church, is the efforts which have been made, and which have been multiplied to a prodigious extent, for the education of pious young men for the Gospel Ministry, particularly those who have been found in the humble walks of life, and have been depressed by poverty. Should these exertions continue for a few years, most of those places in our country, which are able and willing to support the ministry of the gospel, will be supplied with Pastors who have been well educated, and who are not novices.- I can only glance at these subjects, and must proceed to mention a fourth circumstance by which the present period is distinguished. I refer particularly to those labours and efforts of christians, which, accompanied by the prayer of faith, have preceded revivals of religion, and have been effectual in drawing down the blessing from on high. In examining the signs of the times, this one, is not the least remarkable, which is brought to our notice. It is new. Until lately private christians have been satisfied that they were in the path of duty, in leaving the work to be all done by their ministers. But their ministers were weak and feeble, and soon becaine exhausted. They were unable, without assistance, to gather in a considerable harvest. I rejoice that private christians are getting new light upon this subject; that they are beginning to open their eyes to the importance, to the absolute necessity of personal effort. I rejoice that christians are beginning to feel that they are bound to be active in their Master's service; and to build up his cause and kingdom in the world. “I thank God," says Professor Stuart, “that I have lived to see the day in which laymen are beginning to feel as if they had something to do, as well as ministers, in propagating the truths of the gospel. This did they in primitive days. . (See Acts viii. 1-4.) It is a most preposterous thing, for a man to suppose, that he is not under obligation, to use all his powers in the service of the church."
It is desirable to give a clear exposition of the nature of those efforts which have been blessed in promoting revivals of religion.In order to do this, I know of no method more satisfactory, than to state what has been done in particular instances where revivals have taken place : for although the labours have varied in different places, in the degree of ardour with which they have been carried on, yet they have been substantially of the same general character. It may be useful to divide this subject into two parts; those labours which are intended for collections of people, and those which are solitary and addressed to an individual.
Where the gospel is regularly preached on the Sabbath, and where this is done in a plain and pungent manner, it will usually be found that the congregation will be willing to hear; an attention will be excited which ought by all means to be encouraged. This attention is increased in a remarkable manner, by the establishment of conferences and prayer-meetings. These meetings are held by ministers, and by private christians. In the town of W***** a hearing ear generally existed in the fall of 1821, when two brethrers
* See letter of Professor Stuart, in the Christinn Spectator, July; 18.1.
from a distance were invited by the minister to visit his church, and attempt to rouse them to the performance of their appropriate duties. It was urged on the church, that they should immediately go to work, and labour earnestly for a revival of religion ; that the brethren should establish conferences and prayer-meetings, and that this should be done systematically; and that the sisters in every little neighbourhood should form circles for prayer among themselves, particularly that their children and husbands might be brought into the ark of safety. Soon after this, a meeting of the brethren of the church was called, and the question was asked, how many would strive to promote a revival by taking an active part in conferences and prayer-meetings. Only four were willing to engage to labour in these services. This small number came to the following resolution; that they would appoint two conferences weekly, on the same evening, in different parts of the town ; those two brethren who laboured in the northern district this week, to go the the southern next week. This plan had been pursued but a little season, before a marked solemnity was observed on the minds of many of those who attended; and the audiences became more and more numerous. A short time after, two or three instances of pungent conviction occurred; and soon, several began to rejoice in the hope that their sins were pardoned. The brethren and minister redoubled their efforts; three or four meetings were held every week. The revival spread, and enlarged, and extended to neighbouring towns. Conversions became frequent. Several old and ob stinate offenders were brought to submit to the Lord Jesus. The flame spread not only from house to house, but from village to village. Help from the neighbouring churches was solicited, and obtained; and the glorious result has been, that about one hundred souls have, as there is the best reason to believe, been born again, and have passed from death unto life. Thus has the Lord in W***** blessed the labours of his children, and inade them the instruments of unspeakable good to the souls of men.
In the Spring of 1821, a christian brother removed from the city of N*******, where he had been long an inhabitant, to a town at a distance. He found a church of Christ, and a minister, in the place which he had fixed upon as a future residence; but they were asleep. The wise and the foolish virgins slumbered together, and they had slumbered for many years. Seeing this state of apathy in the christian church, and that sinners were dead in trespasses and sins, he immediately began, by conference and prayer-meetings, and by conversation, to endeavour to arouse those about him, to a sense of duty and a sense of danger. After much effort, one and another of the brethren began to wake up, and after a time the minister gave signs of spiritual life. It was soon observed that sinners were under conviction of sin, and conversions were multiplied. A great revival comInenced, which still continues, and nearly one hundred are counted as the fruits of it. In this case, there can be no doubt, that if our brother had gone to sleep on his arrival, that the church and people would have remained in the same state in which he found them, and no revival would have esisted. Here, one man, whose manner of labouring was by conversation, by prayer, and by exhortation, was made by the Almighty the honoured instrument of waking up a church, and arousing them to prayers and labours, and in this way of saving many souls from death, and of hiding a multitude of sins.
As a third example, of the manner in which brethren have laboured, and of the divine blessing attendant upon their exertions, I will state some facts which occurred during the revival in the town of New-Haven. I shall do this the more cheerfully, as no minute account of the beginning of that revival has ever been presented to the public. In the month of May, 1820, several of the younger brethren of the two Congregational churches, held prayermeetings to supplicate Almighty God for an out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. They visited one of their ministers, and conversed with hím concerning the manner in which they had hitherto performed their duties as christians; and after examining themselves, they acknowledged before God, and to each other, their sloth and supineness in the cause of Christ; and formed resolutions of new obedience, and more vigorous efforts for the salvation of sinners. At that time, there were no appearances in the town peculiarly encouraging, yet they had strong faith that the divine blessing would be granted, and that they should soon feel its refreshing influences.Individual christians were called upon, and roused to action, and conferences and prayer-meetings were commenced. Soon after this period, it became certain, even the most incredulous were convinced, that God in very deed was in this place, and that he was awakening many, and calling them from darkness to light, and from the power of sin and Satan unto himself. The revival soon became powerful, and the ministers of the Congregational churches, together with Rev. Mr. Nettleton, Rev. Dr. Beecher, and several brethren, had full and constant employment in visiting and conversing with those who were under convictions of sin, and in attending conferences, prayer-meetings, &c. The two ministers [ have named, after staying several weeks, and labouring abundantly and successfully, were obliged to leave the town. Soon after this time, when it was found that the usual conferences were overflowing, and that many were unable to get in and hear, about thirty of the brethren organized themselves, and subscribed a written agreement, to be in readiness every Thursday evening, for the purpose of conducting conferences in various parts of the town. The number of these meetings were from ten to twelve, on that evening, every week. It was customary for three brethren to be attached to each conference; and they were all under the direction of one of the deacons, who located them in the manner he thought most useful. Besides these Thursday evening conferences, there were six or eight stations in the neighbouring villages, at the distance of from two to five miles, under the superintendance of another deacon, where meetings have been held by the brethren for exhortation and prayer usually twice a week. In these villages, there has been, during the revival, but little ministerial labour, yet God has granted his blessing in a signal manner; about one hundred and seventy
five having been converted to the faith. Enquiry meetings were held on Monday evening of each week, when those who had been awakened to a sense of their guilt and danger, were assembled to converse with their pastors on the great subject of the salvation of their souls. During the time that these anxious meetings were held, many of the brethren and sisters of the churches, passed the time in prayer, supplicating a blessing on the labours of the ministers. It seemed as if on all these efforts the blessing from heaven descended, and persons of all characters, to the number of at least seven hundred, including all denominations of christians, have come out from the world and enlisted under the banners of the great Captain of our Salvation. Those who were decent in their lives, and the scoffing infidel, have alike bowed the knee, and professed Christ before angels and men. One part of the plan of labours remains to be mentioned. Every Saturday evening, the brethren who had laboured during the week met together, and made a report of what had been done. This reporting meeting was customarily opened by two short prayers. Verbal statements were then made of each conference which had been held during the week, not only in the town, but in the villages and neighbouring places; and any remarkable circumstances which had occurred were related. These narrations were animating, and listened to with great attention by the brethren present. The appointments were then given out for the ensuing week; two or three prayers offered to the throne of grace; and the meeting closed, by all present rising, and singing the hymn, beginning with,
“Blest be the tie that binds,
As long as the reporting meetings were held in a private room, the numbers assembled were from fifty to eighty. After they agreed to meet in the conference room, there has generally been collected from two to three hundred brethren and sisters of the churches.These meetings are still continued ; and if any one measure has had a tendency to keep the brethren who labour, and the members of the churches generally, awake and active, it has been this weekly meeting for reports.
One happy result from the union of effort among the brethren of the Congregational churches has been, to a remarkable degree, the prevalence of brotherly love. The intercourse has been so intimate and long continued, that it is often difficult to determine whether a brother belonged to one church or the other. It ought to be observed, that the brethren of New-Haven are fully convinced, that long prayers, and long exhortations are tedious and unprofitable ; while short prayers, and exhortations of moderate length, are satisfactory and edifying. It ought likewise to be remarked, that reading printed or written sermons, has not been found to be so enlivening and useful, as delivering extemporaneous addresses, which come warm from the heart, and which are spoken in an earnest and impressive manner.