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in England and America, would only God to bless among them. No one prove that good things may be can be ignorant, that what is profitabused and discredited. By such able in one place, and among one reasoning we can prove that Christ people, may in another place be
came not to bring peace on earth, worse than useless. Some things but a sword :” that his Gospel is our Saviour has commanded, and of evil tendency. After the experi- others he has forbidden, and others ence of many years, the Churchmen still he has left to the discretion of of Rhode Island have not found the his ministers, and other Christians, practice in question of evil tendency: to be done or not, as prudence dictheir members have not gone from tates or circumstances require. In them, nor have they become preach- his own example, too, has he taught ers among other sects. The effect that “all things which are lawful are has been very much the contrary: not expedient.” In some places he many from other denominations have found the people so hardened and inunited with us, and have become disposed to profit by his ministry, firmly attached to the Episcopal that he could not, with wisdom and Church. Of these, several are now fitness, work many miracles among among the most useful ministers them; and his practice was to teach in our Church, and are labouring in the people as they were able to hear. various parts of the United States. His Apostles followed his example, The meetings have been of no little feeding with milk those who were unuse in removing the prejudices against able to receive the stronger meat of this Church, which throughout New the word. As far as truth would adEngland so much and unhappily mit, and circumstances required, their prevail ; in convincing many that our ministry was accommodated to the religion does not consist wholly of ignorance, and state, and prejudices forms and ceremonies ; that we, no of the people: they became all things less than other Christians, have to all men, that by all means they serious concern for the salvation of might save some. St. Paul, especially, ourselves and others.
who excelled in spiritual gifts, and The most candid of those who laboured more abundantly than the are opposed to prayer meetings other Apostles, while with unshaken admit that this subject is “a question fidelity he adhered to the true founof expediency.” That God's word dation of Christ, and in whatever is forbids such meetings, no one pro- sinful was rigid and unaccommodatbably will venture to affirm. That ing, in other things extended the conthe Church forbids them, no one has ciliating system farther than any of been able to shew; and should she us now would deem expedient. Let disapprove, nothing hinders that she us be permitted, at an humble disshould forbid them. And if it be, as tance, to follow the steps of this certainly it is, a question of expedi- “ blessed Apostle ;” and we shall no ency, what judges can be more fit or longer hear the pious members of competent to decide the question our communion condemned or centhan our parochial clergy, each one sured for meeting together to speak in his own parish ? Any clergyman of the Lord's mercies, to pray for who is incapable of judging in this themselves and others, and to exhort case, cannot be qualified for the pas- each other to stedfastness and pertoral charge. Supposing that they severance. are so qualified-and their being con- There is reason to fear that some tinued in that office is a proof that write and speak against these meetthey are so esteemed—to their de- ings more from prejudice than knowcision we may safely leave the ques. ledge. They who have not attended tion. They best know, each one in them, can be no better qualified to his own parish, what the people need, judge of their use than they who and what means and efforts it pleases have not attended our public wor
ship to judge of our Liturgy. By the ed than in Rhode Island. If others latter we are told, and they endea- make an ill use of the ordinance of vour to prove, that our printed pray- preaching, or of the celebration of ers produce, of course, a lifeless for- Christmas, or of conference meetings, mality ; by the former, that prayer let those who are disposed and acmeetings are productive of spiritual customed to make a good use of the pride and many evils. They both same things enjoy these privileges can urge very plausible reasons; but quietly, and without reproach. А we, who judge from long and de- large part of our communicants in cided experience, are convinced that this State do notattend the meetings; both are mistaken. In either case and for this I have never heard them those evils may be, and in too many blamed. If they spend their eveninstances, no doubt, they have been, ings better, we rejoice and bless God. produced; but they are not more Happy would it be did all observe the necessary consequence in the one the most excellent rule of charity case than in the other. If they who given in the fourteenth chapter to frequent our solemn assemblies, and the Romans ! Then“ he that redevoutly use our service, find it life- gardeth the day, would regard it unto less and unsatisfying to a pious mind, the Lord; and he that regardeth not they may with better reason con- the day, to the Lord he would not demn its use : and they who attend regard it:” he would neither prethe prayer meetings, and find in sume nor desire to “ judge another them no religious improvement, may man's servant, but to his own Master well forsake them. And if it be a let him stand or fall.” The evil most known fact, and generally true, that to be feared, and most prevalent they who frequent these meetings among us, is lukewarmness. With are less pious and less humble than shame must we acknowledge, that other Christians; if they are more we incline to be cold rather than hot. worldly, and vain, and wicked; if Enthusiasm is as rare in our churches they are not so constant nor so de- as a scorching sun is in a northern vout at church; if they are less given winter: the mercury of our zeal is to prayer, and often absent from the constantly below the degree of temLord's table ; if they are less regard- perate. ful of the lawful government and The chief object of this communi. “godly admonitions ” of their spi- cation being to apologize for those ritual rulers; if they are not so constant who think it their privilege and find in family prayer, and generally not it profitable to attend meetings for so good Christians; this certainly is prayer and religious conference, by some good proof that the meetings a fair statement of their motives and are of evil tendency; and till this be conduct, and by obviating the obproved, with what truth or justice is jections which are so often and so it affirmed that experience has shewn confidently urged against them, it them to be of evil tendency? If will be proper to bring into view meetings of the like nature in other such other things as are connected, parts have produced bad effects, we or supposed to be directly or indi. are not answerable. After long ex- rectly connected. Of this description perience, we have not, to the Lord's are religious awakenings. praise be it said, discovered any of It is well known, that what are those bad effects which some of our called awakenings, or revivals, or brethren apprehend. A regard for reformations (the name is not matethe Prayer-book has not, in any de- rial), are very frequent, and have for gree, been diminished, but the con- many years been frequent, in various trary: it is the full belief of the pre- parts of the United States, espesent writer, that in no one of the cially in those called New England. United States are the rubrics and By great numbers of Christians these canons of our Church better observ. are viewed as the special outpourings of the Divine Spirit—the ex. subjects, should be of one mind. It traordinary, if not miraculous, work is indispensably our duty to God, to of God. Others think these periods his church, and to ourselves, that of excitement to be the work or de- we consider seriously of the subject; lusion of the adversary, to discredit and when we see our fellow-sinners true religion, and bring into con- with agonizing solicitude and contempt the orthodox faith : or they cern calling on God for mercy, and judge them to be, at best, but the inquiring what they shall do to be natural effects of eloquence or terror saved, so to judge of them, and to operating upon the sympathy or conduct ourselves, that we can anfeelings or passions of weak minds. swer with confidence to our own But, whatever may be our opinion of heart, and to God, who " is greater the cause or the effect of these than our heart, and knoweth all awakenings, whether we suppose things.” After devout prayer to God that they aid or that they injure true to enlighten our minds and direct religion, it is certain that they have our ways, perhaps nothing will be become a subject of serious import- more likely to unite us in opinion, ance, and claim the attention of and in practice, than frankly and all Christians, Episcopalians, among candidly stating our feelings and whom they are less frequent, not views on this subject. It is with excepted. These excitements fre- the humble hope that such in some quently occur in places where we small degree may be the effect, that have parishes, and our people, who mine are now offered. have sympathy and feelings and And they are now offered in conlike passions as other men, are of nection with the subject of prayer course in some manner affected. A meetings, because it is in seasons of part of our people, it may be, view great religious excitement that such these seasons with indifference, car- meetings are most frequent, and are ing for none of these things: others, believed to be most necessary, or we are sorry to say, condemn them most useful ; and because, generally as fanatical delusions, and treat them speaking, and almost perhaps withwith censure, ridicule, and contempt: out exception, they who disapprove but not a few, at such seasons, are of one disapprove of the other, and awakened to a very
consider them as kindred evils. There for the salvation of themselves and can be no doubt but the meetings are others.
often instrumental in exciting reliIt is the intention of the present gious awakenings; and the awakenwriter, if he can rightly judge of his ings multiply the meetings. own motives, to treat this subject Whether such awakenings are the with candour and impartiality. It is Lord's work, caused by some extranot intended to dictate or to judge, ordinary operation of the Divine but to take facts as they are, and Spirit ; or his ordinary blessing and reason from them. This is certainly spiritual aid bestowed upon the a subject which not a little concerns awakened attention and more earour Church. In some instances, nest prayers of his people ; or whepeople are drawn from our commu- ther, as others think, it is a natural nion by these excitements : in others, effect from a natural cause, or an members have in consequence been artifice and work of the adversary, added unto us : and the results, it is to disgrace religion and frustrate believed, have generally been very its salutary effects; are points on much influenced by the conduct of which the opinions of men, even of our people, either in opposing and true Christians, differ. And they censuring the work (as it is called), are points, we may add, on which or in availing ourselves of the ex- it would be well if some were less citement. It is very desirable, to say forward to judge and to decide. the least, that we,on this as on other That the same thing should by some
Christians be extolled as the glo- prevails, and few, if any, are conrious work of God and power of his verted, or added to the church. grace, and by others be denounced And perhaps, had the Lord's word as the artifice of Satan to frustrate gone forward in its steady, uniform, the salvation of men, is a fact of and usual course, a still greater awful consideration, and should, we number would have been added to might reasonably conceive, cause his fold. Suppose, in a large parish, , those who are truly pious to pause during the course of fifty years, and reflect. This extreme difference there are six of these extraordinary of opinion should remind us all how awakenings, and at each season fallible is human judgment respect. (besides all who after fall away) ing the ways of God. It might be one hundred of such as should be well for some of us to hearken to saved are added to the Lord ; yet the advice of Gamaliel : “Refrain it is possible, and perhaps much from these men, and let them alone, more than possible, that, had no lest haply ye be found to fight such excitement occurred, as many, against God.” For are we sure that or still more, might in the same it is not the Lord's work? Should period of fifty years have been the work be His, to oppose it would added to the church. Another evil be to fight against God, to sin resulting from these revivals is, that against the Holy Ghost. When it very many people imbibe erroneous it is considered that these awaken. notions of conversion, and of their ings have seldom, if ever, appeared own duty. They are led to suppose but in modern times, and are now that feelings, and raptures, and strong very limited in their extent; that assurance, are the chief evidence of the Lord has in times past governed, true religion; and (which is still and still does in most parts of the worse) that little or nothing on their world govern, his church, and save part is necessary to a change of the souls of men, without produc- heart and acceptance with God, ing these extraordinary excitements : but to wait till such a work, by the when it is further considered what power of his grace, is wrought upon vain confidence of boasting, what them. Hence the use of means is spiritual pride, what uncharitable much neglected, and in many injudgment, what extravagant enthu- stances despised : and this is one siasm, and gross irregularities, have of the two principal causes of the in some instances unhappily attended coldness which usually follows those these revivals: when also are brought seasons of refreshment. The other into view the numbers converted cause is easily found in that prinwho fall away, or disgrace their ciple of re-action which is natural religious profession; and the cold- to the human passions. ness or low state of religious feeling But all these evils, great and which usually succeeds these extra- numberless and deplorable as they ordinary excitements; it is natural, are, will not authorize us wholly to and certainly seems reasonable, to condemn these awakenings, as being hesitate, and to doubt how far they the work of man only, or of evil are the work of God. And though spirits ; nor as being, all things it is certainly true that vast num- considered, useless. The awakenbers, at such seasons, are converted ing may still be from the Spirit of from infidelity, and reformed from God; the conviction which alarms various vices, and become zealous, the soul, and the anxious concern stedfast, and pious Christians; yet to flee from the wrath to come, may it may well be questioned whether be the fruit of the true seed sown in there are more such Christians in the heart; whilst the evil is to be consequence of the awakenings. ascribed to the opposition and wickGenerally, during the intervals be- edness of men, and to that enemy tween such awakenings, coldness who is ever wakeful and ready to
sow his tares. Be it admitted that infirmities and the wickedness of these excitements are a novelty; men, who often by perverting the that nothing like them was known best things make them the worst. in former times (which, however, is They arise especially from the opnot strictly the fact); still, the Lord, position which some make to the who governs all things, is not, as work; and still more from the very far as we know, restricted to any injudicious efforts of many, on such one mode in the operations of his occasions, to excite terror in those grace. There are many gifts and affected, and work their feelings up ministrations, all by the same Spirit; to enthusiasm. Would it not be and they are accommodated, we better, either to let them alone, have good reason to believe, to times hoping that, if the work is of men, and seasons; to the occasional exi- it will come to nought; or to congencies of his church, and the wants duct those who are awakened into of mankind. At the Reformation the way of righteousness and peace ? there was a great change from what In such seasons of general excitehad long and generally been prac- ment there is less need of preaching tised; but its being a change is the Law, and setting before men itself no good proof that the hand “ the terrors of the Lord :” they of God was not in the work. These should rather be gently conducted awakenings, in many cases certainly, to the arms of his mercy. There is appear to be the effect of human then need to tell them, as Paul did effort. And may not the like be the jailor, Do thyself no harm.” said of all conversions, of all faith, Teach them to hope with fear, and and all religious knowledge? “How to rejoice with trembling; to look shall they believe except they hear, unto God with penitence, unto and how shall they hear without a Christ with faith, and upon all preacher ?” And who does not their fellow-sinners with charity know, that generally, in all ages of and love. Then probably all would the church, according to the zeal be convinced that the work is the with which the Gospel is preached Lord's, however marvellous in our are the fruits of the ministry? Be- eyes. sides, what seems an evil may by a In confirmation of this, the prewise Providence be permitted, and sent writer can bring an instance, more than permitted, to counteract which occurred within his own pera greater evil. Religious fervour, sonal knowledge, in a town where though extravagant, may be much were several religious societies of preferable to coldness. Ignorant various denominations, one of which enthusiasts are made instrumental was Episcopal. There had never in awakening many to righteousness; before been an extraordinary exciteto rouse from their slumbers those ment in that place ; nor was there ministers of Christ who are reposing at the time any such in the vicinity. upon their orthodoxy and correct. No great or unusual efforts had been ness; to teach us that knowledge made to cause, or that might be without zeal is more offensive to supposed to cause, such excitement. God than zeal without knowledge. The Episcopal minister had endeaIf “ the unlearned and unstable voured for many months to preach can by great efforts produce so the doctrines of the cross with seri. much ; still more fruit, and better, ousness and fidelity. What he first would be the effect of as great efforts noticed of any change in his congreguided by better knowledge and a gation was an unusual seriousness; more reasonable faith.
and, especially, that when dismissed And though various irregularities they left the church silent and have attended these awakenings, thoughtful. Observing their inthey are not a necessary effect; and creasing religious concern, he began they must justly be attributed to the to meet with a few of them on one