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course and confusion of company had produced, my thoughts ran into the contemplation of this subject. I could not pursuade myself that the conversation had been criminal. No character had been lacerated. No individual had suffered the severities of criticism or the cruelties of slander. Neither were the subjects trivial or foolish. I looked at the effects it produced on my own mind, and found that I had been regaling my taste and enlarging my stock of knowledge, but had neglected to feed the fiame of devotion. I felt a vacuity which the pleasures of taste and the enjoyments of refined society could not fill. I carried my reflections into the subject more generally, and at length came to this conclusion, that in circles composed principally of professing christians, where the design of social intercourse is to promote each other's happiness and improvement, some portion of the conversation should be directly on those subjects which involve christian experience and personal feeling, which relate to what is peculiar to the christian life, its temptations and trials, its hopes and its joys. This I found had not been the case in the society above alluded to, and the want of this was the cause of my present state of feeling.
This appears to me by no means an uncommon instance of the 'conduct of christians; and, indeed, happy would it be for many, if their intercourse was not shaded with a darker hue than is here presented. Few, I believe, are the social circles where topics so innocent and useful are introduced. Too often does vain and trivial conversation, or the criminal discussion of character, employ the hours of social intercourse. Religion with all its lovely and interesting associations is too often excluded from the social circle. The name of Christ is seldom heard. The salvation of the soul is rarely mentioned. The special duties of religion and the concerns of eternity find no place in the conversation of most men.
That this should be the case with the men of the world, however lamentable, is not altogether surprising, when we consider the reasons that naturally influence them to this course, while they are destitute of any counteracting principle. Their hopes and desires centre on the objects around them, and these things might be expected to engross their thoughts and conversation. The thoughts of death and judgment and eternity they dread, and therefore determine to forget. A view of their own hearts affords thein no pleasurable emotions, and therefore they turn from the sight. The joys of heaven, the glories of the eternal world, the exalted and lovely character of the Redeemer, and the blessings of the gospel dispensation, present no charms to their minds. The horrors of perdition, which rise up before them as they lift the veil that conceals the future state from their view, drive them from the contemplation of a subject so incompatible with their present peace and enjoyment. And, although they acknowledge the reality and importance of such things, and admit that they must come upon them at last, they banish them from their thoughts and conversation. “ They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” They speak according to the wisdom and maxims of the world.
But “we are not of the world,” and ought not to regulate our intercourse with others according to the taste and practice of the world. The distinction which the scriptures represent as existing between those who love God and those who do not, ought to be visible, not only to the charitable inspection of christians, but to the jealous and watchful eye of those who are always ready to turn every thing to the worst account. When the claims of pre-eminence in the christian character are asserted and men of the world demand these claims to be demonstrated, we are too often under the necessity of resorting to proof which is to be found exclusively in the private experience of christians. This experience is of such a nature, that its influence is unperceived, and its value unappreciated by those who have never drank at the fountain of religious joy. Such arguments, though they may be satisfactory to those who are acquainted with the secret exercises of the christian, can hardly be expected to reach those, who are not only ignorant of these duties, but altogether incapable of discerning their worth. Could all the excellences which really exist in the christian character, be brought to view, they would be found sufficient to silence every objection. Did the disciples of Christ come up to all the exemplary requirements of their profession, their actions would always carry a convincing proof of their claims to distinction. It is a truth, however, which cannot be denied, that christian example reflects the beauty and lustre of religion in an imperfect manner, and sheds too faint and glimmering a light on the rest of the world. Many there are, who form their estimations of religion, almost entirely from what they see of its principles as exhibited in the lives of its professors. But they do not go into the places of their sacred retirement and witness their tears, their humble and fervent prayers, their holy aspirations and ardent breathings after conformity to the image of God. They act out their real characters, and converse upon topics which are most agreeable to them, and they expect others will do the same. They boast of being consistent, and require consistency in others. And is this requirement unreasonable ? Although the inconsistency of the christian affords no just ground of excuse for them to neglect the religion of Christ, have they not a right to expect us to act more in accordance with the principles of our profession?
I do not contend that religious topics ought to engross the whole conversation even in circles exclusively religious. But that this duty is criminally neglected cannot be denied. Our own convictions and observations testify to the truth of this assertion. How often do the hours of social intercourse pass away without a word on this topic! Is not this, indeed, almost the only subject which is excluded from our friendly visits and social circles ? We may indeed hear controversial topics discussed ; sermons, and the style of preaching criticisetl. We may hear christians talk of the success of religious and benevolent institutions, in diffusing the gospel through the dark places of the earth. We may hear them admire the voluntary sacrifices and indefatigable exertions of the missiopary of the cross : but do we hear them converse respecting the wisdom and goodness of God, the matchless love of Christ, the glorious
salvation procured by his sufferings and death, the blessings and privileges of the gospel, and the richness of that grace by which we are to be saved? Do we hear them mentioning the temptations and trials with which they meet, the sweets of communion with their heavenly Father, and the joys and sorrows which they experience ?
There are, indeed, many difficulties to prevent the christian from enjoying that religious intercourse which he might desire. He is necessarily connected with the world in the various scenes of active life. He, as well as others, must lay his plans and form his schemes of worldly business, and he must follow and execute these plans by the same means, and in the same manner with other men. He must mingle in the throng, and pursue his business with attention and industry. But, although there is nothing in this which is inconsistent with the christian character, facts show that this connection with the world in the common and necessary avocations of life, renders it more difficult to preserve a proper distinction.
But most of the difficulties which attend the performance of this duty, may be found either to be in ourselves, or to exist only in imagination. Experience has shown that this can be made a subject of lively interest in conversation, when properly managed. The manner of introducing religious conversation is frequently so improper and disgusting, as entirely to defeat the object. Whenever the subject is alluded to, the character of the persons present, the occasion, the circumstances, and the state of mind the company are in, ought to be taken into consideration. If we studied to render our conversation agreeable on this, as we do on other subjects, that difficulty, which arises from a sort of restraint that makes one awkward when he suspects that what he is going to say will not be well received, would soon vanish.
A neglect to cultivate spiritual mindedness is one great cause of this defect. If our minds were sufficiently engaged in the contemplation of divine things, and elevated to heavenly objects, and engrossed with the concerns of eternity, we should find what now seem to be great difliculties, would be much dininished, if they did not totally disappear. If our hearts were right with God, our conversation would not appear to be an affected and forced effort for the occasion ; but, coming from a pure fountain, it would flow in an easy and natural channel. The good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, bringeth forth good things." He that feels the heavenly influence on his own mind, can hardly fail to manifest something of its spirit in his intercourse with his fellow creatures.
To repel the charge of inconsistency of character, it is necessary for christians to awake from their slumbers and burst the chains which a long continued habit has riveted upon them. We profess to be dead to the world, and to have our treasure in the heavens. It is therefore high time that we begin to act more agreeably to the principles we profess, and to the hopes we cherish ; and by a godly walk and conversation shew to those whose jealous eye is watching our conduct that there is a reality in religion, and that it is worthy their attention. If the disciple of Christ would rise and let
“his light shine” in this respect, how would he be rewarded in his own soul! And who can calculate the benefits of the influence he would thus exert over those around him ? If the church would unite in one general and mighty effort to change the tone of feeling, and the uniform practice in regard to this subject, might we not expect to see the aspect of things changed, and religion appear in her native purity and loveliness?
TO THE EDITOR OF THE PILGRIM.
THOUGHTS ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION.
YOU ask in the first number of the Pilgrim, “What course of conduct and exertions has God most usually blessed in promoting revivals of religion ?"
It is a happy circumstance that in the United States, where revivals are more frequent and more powerful than in any other section of the christian world, we have a facility of communication with which but few countries are favoured. Our religious magazines and newspapers have become so numerous, and their conductors are so desirous of furnishing articles of intelligence, which experience has shewn to be suited to the taste of the public, that accounts of many remarkable events of this nature are annually published, circulated extensively, and read with avidity. The effects produced by this state of things, will probably be more strikingly visible in the character, manners and principles of the rising generation, than they are in the character of those who now fill the busy scenes of life: these grew up with but little knowledge of the practical operations of the Holy Spirit; they heard of them as having taken place at some distant period, or in towns remote and obscure; while the former have felt the heavenly influences upon their own hearts, or have seen reformations among their friends and neighbours so palpable, as to remove every doubt, and so beneficial in their consequences, that they can ascribe them only to the Holy Spirit. If we recal to mind what was the state of this country previous to the year 1790, we shall see reason to believe, that the prophecy is literally fulfilled, “ that many shall run to and fro, and knowledge,” especially concerning religion, “shall be greatly increased.”
There is no speculative opinion, probably, more generally received among christians, and none which is more frequently heard from the pulpit, and in conversation among religous circles, than this, " that the kingdom of God is a kingdom of means. Many persons act, as it respeets their own children and families, as if they placed inplicit confidence in this truth ; and yet if we look for their labours among those who are going on in the broad road that leads to destruction, we shall be compelled, however reluctantly, to fear that many private christians, and some ministers, give assent to this truth with their understandings, while they do not cherish it in their hearts. We know, because our Lord has said it, that God “could of the stones of the street raise up children unto Abraham :" children vastly wiser, better, and happier than ourselves. But he has not chosen to fill heaven in this inanner. He has chosen " by the foolishness of preaching” to save them that believe. It is by the truth, set home to the conscience, that men are now.convinced of sin, as they were on the day of Pentecost. When we look around among the towns and churches of our country, and make the enquiry, when did they have a revival of religion? we find many churches and many towns which appear like a moral desert; where there have been no peculiar displays of divine mercy for fifty years; and many also, where they were never witnessed. If on the other hand, we go to those places where God has visited his people with a time of refreshing from his presence, and make diligent inquisition into the circumstances which preceded those displays of his mercy, we shall learn that brethren of the Christian church and Ministers have been active and energetic in the service of their Lord. Their labours and their prayers have drawn down the divine blessing. If in those cold and sleeping churches first mentioned, the same efforts had been made; if the hearts of christians had been equally warmed and animated ; and in the same manner the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous had ascended for spiritual blessings, have we not the most abundant reason to believe, that the same influences would have been bestowed by the Almighty ? Have we not reason to believe that in a vast many towns, even in New-Eng. land, if christians had done their duty, revivals of religion would have been granted, and hundreds and thousands of those who have been lost, might have become heirs of the heavenly inheritance ?
The great reason why revivals of religion have not been more frequent, is, in my view, not because God was unwilling to add his blessing to the faithful labours of his children ; but because they were unwilling to make use of the means of grace which he has appointed. They did not come fully and heartily to the work. They entered upon it with doubt, and hesitation, and indolence; ministers feeling satisfied if they performed the ordinary duties of the Sabbath and the sanctuary, and brethren of the church feeling that they had nothing to do but to attend on the public worship of God, sit down occasionally at the Lord's table, and pray in their closets and with their families. Neither ministers nor brethren recollecting, that if they expect extraordinary blessings, they must make use of extraordinary efforts. The ordinary labours of ministers and churches are attended with a blessing; they are followed by occasional convictions, and conversions; but if we expect sinners to rusti into the church in great multitudes, as doves to their windows ; if we look for revivals of religion, then will it be found that something more is necessary than preaching on the Sabbath, and the formal and heartless performances in the family and the closet. Whatever impressions are made on the hearts of sinners on the Sabbath, "must,” to use the language of an evangelical and successful minister,“ be followed up during the week.”