Is the Spirit of the Lord Straitened?
A Plea for a National Outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Octavius Winslow, 1858
"Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" Micah 2:7
A voice of more thrilling power than the flash of the ocean's telegraph has crossed the Atlantic, conveying the intelligence that "the Lord is there" — moving among His American church in such wonders of saving power, in such marvelous displays of divine grace, in such extraordinary manifestations of the quickening Spirit, as that land — distinguished for its spiritual and marvelous awakenings — has never before witnessed. Not restricted to one church, city, or state — the whole republic seems moved to its center, by one mighty impulse, on the momentous subject of religion. It is, in truth, a great national awakening on all-important, all-engrossing claims of eternity!
The history of the world, probably, could not supply a parallel to this movement. The day of Pentecost, marked as was its manifestation of spiritual life and wide-spread as was its result, would seem to have been but the faint type of this extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit. That revival of religion counted its thousands of converts to Christ — this, its tens of thousands! In one town the entire population, it is said, without exception, have become converted (Simsbury, Connecticut).
The further progress of this quickened interest in religion has proved this to be by no means a solitary instance of its growing power. Many villages and towns have presented the extraordinary spectacle of the entire adult population hopefully converted to God, and becoming members of the Church. And still the mighty work has not reached its culminating point. It is extending like a prairie fire — the conflagration finding fuel as it spreads. In places where apparently it had not been thought of, certainly where no special efforts had been made to court it — suddenly the holy contagion appears, and in a moment the entire community is awakened and aroused.
Everywhere, in all places and on all occasions — the subject of religion is the common topic of conversation. On the railway, in steamboats, in hotels, in the drawing-room, in the counting-house, and on Exchange — one all-commanding, all-engrossing theme engages the attention, absorbs the sympathy, and employs the tongue of all! A traveler, journeying from the state of Ohio to the state of Illinois, says that he found a string of prayer-meetings all along the way.
The characteristics of this great national religious awakening are all in favor of its being the work of the Holy Spirit. The excitement and extravagance — the sounds of outcry, faintings, and convulsions — which marked and defaced the great religious awakening in the times of Jonathan Edwards, and which gave rise to his masterly work on the Religious Affections — form no features of the present increment. Nothing in its character awakens a suspicion in the most skeptical mind of its genuineness and reality. The high-wrought feeling which in former days associated the term "revival" with exhibitions of wild and unrestrained fanaticism, and which held them up to satire and ridicule — has, in the present instance has been traced by great sobriety, deep solemnity, a calm, unimpassioned, and intelligent presentation of truth, and a fervent, profound, and universal spirit of prayer.
Indeed, if one feature were selected more distinctive and prominent than another as marking the excitement, it would he the solemn and united spirit of prayer with which the whole work is carried on. With prayer it began, and by a deepening spirit of prayer it has been sustained and advanced to the present moment. In fact, this wonderful movement of the national mind has been "baptized in the sea and in the cloud" of the most enlightened, spiritual, and fervent devotion — a taking hold of God, by a nation's prayerful heart.
There is another and not less striking feature of this great revival of religion, which at this stage of our remarks we forbear to enlarge upon. But we must not entirely overlook even here, the total absence of sectarianism which has traced the work — all Christian denominations: Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregational, Wesleyan, Moravian, Baptist, and other branches of the one Church of God, not only sharing alike in the largeness of this heaven-descending blessing — but, in the exercise of a spirit of Christian unity, at once an evidence of its divinity, as a result of its bestowment — uniting together in the public religious meetings, from which all attempt at proselytism is excluded, and in which no sectarian prejudices or denominational distinctions are allowed to appear.
Nor should we, while thus glancing at some of its characteristics, pass by the fact that this religious interest has extended into a large portion of the higher classes of society, with a depth and power not surpassed by the interest awakened among the poor. The splendid mansion of the Fifth Avenue, alike with the humble abode of the hard-working mechanic — has contributed to swell the numbers who crowd the midday prayer-meetings, and has resounded with the praises of souls newly converted to Christ.
But at this point of our narrative we suspend for the present our observations on this remarkable movement, and pause to propound the inquiry: Why may not Britain experience a similar baptism of the Spirit? That there have been "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord" — periods of religious revival, of spiritual quickening, in which large masses have been simultaneously and powerfully wrought upon, concerning the great concerns of eternity, and have become hopefully converted to God, we freely and gratefully admit. England and Scotland, Ireland and Wales — can tell of the gentle dew and of the small rain, if not of the heavier showers of the Spirit, which have fallen, grateful and fertilizing, upon the churches.
But when or where have we experienced an awakening of the national mind in the transcendent interests of religion equal to this? It is for this we plead, and for nothing less than this. Nor does the pen that traces these pages hesitate to record the sentiment that, in answer to the united "prayer of faith," such a great NATIONAL REVIVAL would be seen!
We proceed to justify the assertion. Our argument and expectation are based upon an inquiry and expostulation which God addresses to His Church, in Micah 2:1. When that inquiry and expostulation were originally spoken — God's Church was in a depressed and languishing condition. National sins abounded, and the witnessing Church had fallen into a state of more than Laodicean coldness. God rises to vindicate His great and holy name from all responsibility in a state so detrimental to their spiritual interests, and so dishonoring to Himself.
He first recognizes the honorable title they bore — "Should this be said, O house of Jacob?" Called though they were after a man of God so distinguished, alas! How had they degenerated! Where was the spirit of the holy patriarch, the wrestling, the expectation which grasped the angel of the covenant, and who would take no denial?
God then proceeds to expostulate with them, "Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" Is the Spirit of God straitened in His ministers? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened in His word? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened in His means? Is there any degree of limited power and love in the Spirit, that this depressed state of things should exist? "No!" implies the question. It is not the Spirit of the Lord who is straitened — it is the Church that is straitened in herself. There is indeed a straitening, a limiting, a withholding — but it is all on the part of the people, and not on the part of their God. They were straitened in themselves . . .
their insensibility to their lethargic state,
their cold indifference,
their aggravated backslidings,
their blindness to national corruption,
their false peace and security,
their lack of prayerfulness and faith,
none stirring himself up to take hold upon God,
none believing that the Spirit of the Lord was prepared to make good His promises of special blessing — were the sad and powerful causes of this spiritual and melancholy declension which everywhere prevailed. "Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
Predicating our statement upon the unlimited power and love of the Spirit, we proceed to inquire, "Why have we not a national revival of religion? Why are not the Church and the land baptized by the Holy Spirit? Why is there not a general and powerful awakening of men's minds to the great, the solemn, the all-commanding claims and interests of eternity? Why should we, as a Church and as a people — continue in our cold religious formalism, our worldliness and infidelity — when there is no straitness in the Spirit of the Lord, why He should not open the windows of Heaven and pour us out a blessing, so that there should not be room enough to receive it?"
"Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for Your name's sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against You. O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should You be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? Why should You be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save? Yet You, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by Your name; do not leave us!" (Jeremiah 14:7-9)
Such is the theme which will now engage the reader's devout and solemn attention — the unlimited power of the Holy Spirit — our encouragement for asking and expecting a similar religious awakening to that which is now distinguishing God's American Israel; the sound of which, as the voice of many waters, has crossed the Atlantic, breaking like its own mighty billows in solemn music upon our shores.
We commence with the proposition that it is utterly impossible, from the nature of the case, that there should be any essential straitness in, or limitation of, the power of the Holy Spirit. To those who admit that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Person in the blessed Trinity, this proposition requires no labored argument in its support. The unbounded love and grace of the Holy Spirit spring from His essential Deity.
His power is what it is — illimitable;
His love is what it is — fathomless;
His grace is what it is — boundless;
His energy is what it is — invincible;
because He in what He is — Divine!
If we can circumscribe infinity, or set bounds to Deity, then may we say to the living water of the Holy Spirit's influence, grace, and power — deepening, rising — "Thus far shall you go, and no farther." Were the Spirit of the Lord . . .
an influence — and not a Person;
an attribute of God — and not God;
a creation — and not the Creator;
an emanation of life — and not Essential Life,
then might we bind Him with the chains of our restrained prayer and atheistic unbelief, and say, "We are stronger than you!" But, because the Holy Spirit is GOD, possessing the Divine perfections of eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence — attributes pertaining of Deity alone — then there is no essential restraint in His power, nor limit to His depthless, boundless, fervent love!
Beware, my reader, how you limit and fetter the Holy Spirit in the blessings He would bestow upon you, by any secret doubt in your mind, concerning His personal dignity. The latent suspicion of His Divine Personality — the nourished distrust of His essential Deity — the slightest withholding of the confidence, the love, and the worship due to His relation to the Godhead — will wither your spirituality, be-dwarf your Christianity, and rob your soul of all that is vital and comforting and sanctifying in religion. In fact, there cannot, in the nature of things, be real spiritual life in the soul where there is the absolute rejection of the Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit.
Thus, then, we plead for a national outpouring of the Spirit on the ground of His essentially deity and illimitable power. There is no straitness in Him, why He should not flood this land with the rain of His reviving, quickening, and gracious influence. Arise, British Christians, composing the one Church of God — the temple of the Holy Spirit — and with united prayer ask the blessing, and expect the blessing, and receive the blessing — since He whom you ask, of whom you expect, and from whom you will receive — is God over all, and is therefore able and willing to bestow it!
Let us briefly illustrate the boundless power of the Spirit of God by a reference to some essential parts of His work in the economy of grace.
Take, for example, His work of CONVERSION. Here the Divine and boundless power of the Holy Spirit is demonstrably established.
What is conversion? We mean not sacramental conversion — baptismal conversion — subscription to creeds — observance of religious rites and ceremonies. All these things you may observe and do, conscientiously and rigidly — and yet remain unconverted; and dying so, be forever lost.
We speak of the conversion taught in Scripture — of that vital, spiritual, transforming state through which you must pass before you can enter Heaven. "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again — he cannot see the kingdom of God."
What, then, is this saving conversion? It is a passing from death unto life — it is a new creation — it is the impartation of the Divine nature — it is the renewing of the spirit of our mind — it is the total spiritual renovation of all the moral and intellectual faculties and powers of the soul — it is the implantation in the heart of the germ of holiness — it is to become a child of God — to trust implicitly in the atonement of His Son for acceptance — to love the Savior. In a word, conversion is to be a "new creature in Christ Jesus, old things passing away, and all things becoming new."
Now by what power, other than that of the Spirit of the Lord, is this great change effected? Religious education, moral persuasion, ministerial instruction — are all valuable as aids. But they are powerless as to producing conversion.
"The Spirit gives life — the flesh counts for nothing." The opposition which presents itself in antagonism to this work of spiritual renewal, is too mighty for any other agent to overcome — than an Almighty Spirit.
The enmity of the carnal mind,
the rebellion of the human will,
the power of sin in the human heart,
and the citadel of Satan in the soul —
all are too strong for any other power to cope with and conquer, than a power divine.
It follows, then, that what is called "sacramental grace," or baptismal regeneration, is a monstrous fiction — as dishonoring to God, as it is fatal to man. In all true, spiritual saving regeneration — the Holy Spirit is the sole, efficient agent. And all who are reposing in any other renewal than that of which He is the author, are involved in a delusion and a snare!
Oh, of what infinite importance is it, my reader, that you should be quite clear as to the nature and reality of your conversion to God! It is for your life! Your eternal destiny hangs upon it — either a state of endless woe, or of interminable happiness. Trifle not with interests so precious; hazard not a destiny so solemn. Lay not to your soul the flattering myth of a sacramental change. The doctrine of baptismal regeneration may do to live upon — but a will not do to die upon.
Remember, that to renew you in the spirit of your mind, and thus to fit you for a Heaven of perfect holiness and of ever-enduring happiness — there are demanded the power and the grace and the love of an unlimited Spirit — a Spirit whose nature and resources are infinite and Divine! Such a provision for the regeneration of our nature being made — there is no case of hardness and obduracy through the power of sin, which He cannot create anew.
There is no impenitence which He cannot soften.
There is no unbelief which He cannot remove.
There is no rebellion which He cannot subdue.
There is no mind which He cannot enlighten.
There is no soul which He cannot convert.
Could this be affirmed by any power other than that to which God refers in His solemn appeal, "Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
But here let us pause and inquire, "Is there no straitening of the Spirit of the Lord on the part of the Christian Church — in its expectation of conversions? Are we not looking for individual and isolated cases of conversion only — rather than for the conversion of numbers, of the multitude, of the masses?"
Ascribing all sovereignty to the Divine Spirit, "the wind" of whose converting grace "blows where it wills" — yet, since He is not straitened in His power and grace — then why should we be straitened in our expectations, and so straiten Him in His workings? Why should we not look for conversions as multiplied in number, and marked in their character — as those which took place on the Day of Pentecost — and which at this moment meet the eye and make glad the heart of our American brethren? If the Spirit of the Lord is able to convert one soul — then He is able to convert a hundred; and if a hundred — then why not a whole congregation?
Oh, are not our stinted faith, our low expectations, our languid desire — the causes of the few, the very few, conversions to God which result from the preaching of the gospel in the present day? Jesus "did not do many mighty works there — because of their unbelief." In the face of this declaration, will you assert that it was His secret decree, His Divine sovereignty — which restrained Him? It was the wicked unbelief of the people! By a parity of argument we are justified in maintaining that, but for the unbelief, the restrained prayer, the low expectations of the Church — we should hear multitudes, moved by one common, irresistible influence of the Spirit, exclaim, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved!"
We forget not the electing love, nor the discriminating grace, nor the Divine power of the Spirit — in the great matter of the soul's conversion; yet, remembering that His power is infinite and therefore unrestrained by nothing but His own decree, we unhesitatingly and earnestly ask, "Why should we not look for the spiritual quickening of many — as for a single soul?" We see nothing to forbid it, but our straitness; nothing to prevent it, but our unbelief.
The Holy Spirit, who alone works these great marvels in man, is prepared, in answer to the prayer of faith — the faith that honors Him by asking and expecting great things — to shed upon us an influence so Divine, a power so irresistible, a blessing so far-reaching — that beneath the same overshadowing cloud of covenant mercy — a whole family, a congregation, a city, a nation shall be born again in a day!
Ministers of the gospel, the appeal is to you. The Spirit of the Lord is not straitened! What, then, is to forbid your expectation of like results, from a single, faithful, earnest, solemn sermon — to that which followed the famous Enfield sermon of Jonathan Edwards — when, as Trumbull informs us, "before the sermon was ended, the assembly appeared deeply impressed, and bowed down with an solemn conviction of their sin and danger. There was such a breathing of distress and weeping, that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people, and desire silence, that he might be heard."
Is there anything in the Bible that contravenes the fact — or that discourages the expectation? Why should not conversion be immediate? Is there anything in its nature to lead us to the belief that it must necessarily be a gradual, progressive, protracted process?
Sanctification, we grant, is progressive. But conversion, we maintain, may be instantaneous. Must there be certain stages of conviction — and certain stages of feeling — and certain degrees of knowledge — and certain phases of experience — before a sinner, alarmed by the law — is comforted by the gospel, wounded by one touch of the Spirit, and healed by one look of Christ? We hold to a doctrine opposite of this. We maintain that spiritual quickening may be in a moment. That spiritual life may dart into a soul "dead in trespasses and sins" as quick and powerful as the electric spark!
An individual may enter a sanctuary the slave of Satan and the servant of sin — and believe in the Savior, be wounded and healed, become the subject of repentance toward God and of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the enlightening, convincing, converting power accompanying a single sermon. The Bible is rich and ample in examples of immediate conversion — let us not affect to be wiser than God's word.
In one moment — Saul of Tarsus was converted.
In one moment — the Philippian jailer was converted.
In one moment — Lydia was converted.
In one moment — Zaccheus was converted.
In one moment — the thief on the cross was converted.
In one moment — the three thousand under Peter's sermon were converted.
All these are examples of the rapid work of grace, which, under the especial baptism of the Spirit and in the exercise of His unlimited sovereignty — may pass within the soul.
The promise, primarily relating to the closing scene of the world's drama, finds yet a partial fulfillment even now: "For the Lord will carry out His sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." Oh, do we not foster in our convinced hearers, rebellion and unbelief — thus keeping them back from the freedom the gospel confers and withholding the glory that faith belongs to Christ — by representing to them conversion as a gradual change — rather than as an immediate and present change; and by dwelling upon the necessity of a protracted conviction — rather than an immediate looking to Christ!
We dare not affirm that all who are truly converted are converted suddenly. We admit the majority of cases are against the idea; that, under the ordinary operations of the Spirit, conversions are ordinary. But what we plead for, is that in the especial and extraordinary baptisms of the Spirit — conversion is, in most instances, of an immediate and rapid character. In proportion to the measure and intensity of the Holy Spirit's presence and power — is the rapidity with which the work of converting grace in the heart is begun and finished.
And should the Spirit, in answer to our supplications, visit our beloved country with His extraordinary outpouring — this will be the type of conversion which will most assuredly come. Before one breath of the "mighty rushing wind," by one blast of the gospel's all-Divine, all-commanding, all-powerful voice — the strongholds of impenitence and unbelief, of sin and self, of the world and of Satan — will in one instant fall, and Christ will enter, claiming for Himself the throne, the sovereignty, the empire of the soul!
My reader, are you a wounded, convinced sinner? Is the arrow of conviction, winged from the quiver of God's Word, by the arm of the Spirit — transfixed in your heart? Then why demur, reason, or hesitate? We confront you with the cross of Jesus, even as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; and as he said to the wounded Israelites, with a yet stronger confidence we say to you, "Look to Jesus and live!"
Nothing interposes between you and that cross — but your unbelief. The atoning blood is shed; redemption's work is finished; the great price is paid; the ransom is found: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!"
Oh, if there descended upon you now the same overshadowing Spirit which moved the hearts of the three thousand Pentecostal penitents, and led them to look upon Him whom they had pierced — then in one moment and by one act of faith in the same Savior, you shall drop your burden of sin and enter into the rest to which Jesus invites the weary and heavy laden. "Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
We cite the Spirit's work in sanctification — as affording another illustration of His illimitable power. The work of holiness in the soul is pre-eminently the product of the Holy Spirit. He is the author of all true holiness in the regenerate heart. Now, in carrying forward this work of sanctification in the soul — there is no straitness in the Spirit.
What do we mean by this? That such is the power of the Holy Spirit, He can so far mature the work of grace in your soul — as that you shall become transcendently more holy, more spiritually-minded, more godly, more Christlike than you are now. That He can so imbue you with the mind of Christ, so build up the structure of grace — the foundation of which He has laid in your heart — so purify your affections, sanctify your nature, fill you with the love of God, and seal you unto the day of Christ — that you shall stand "complete in all the will of God."
Oh, why is our personal holiness so defective? Why is our standard of entire and unreserved consecration so low? Why is our spiritual knowledge so shallow? Why are our spiritual attainments so dwarfish? Even because we limit the Holy Spirit in the great work of personal sanctification.
Is there a corruption in our hearts — which He cannot subdue.
Is there an infirmity — which He cannot conquer.
Is there an impediment to our growth in grace — which He cannot remove.
Is there a weight that bears us down, or a sin that easily besets us — over which He cannot triumph?
Oh, no, beloved! Then why limit the power of the Spirit in our deeper holiness? Why fetter, limit, and straiten Him? He is prepared richly . . .
to anoint us with fresh oil,
to scatter to the winds our doubts and fears,
to intensify our desires for holiness, our thirsting for God, our longings for Christ,
and to replenish us with Himself, "filled with all the fullness of God."
"Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
In the Spirit's revelation of Christ to us — we find another confirmation of His boundless grace. It is especially the office of the Spirit to make us acquainted with the Lord Jesus, "He will bear witness about Me" is the gracious promise of the Savior. All that we truly, spiritually, and savingly know of the Lord Jesus — is the result of the Holy Spirit's teaching. To Him we are indebted . . .
for every ray of spiritual light,
for every degree of divine comfort,
for every spring of holy joy,
for every rill of sacred peace,
for every precious glimpse of Jesus, and
for every assured evidence that we are the children of God.
And is He not prepared — is He not able — to show us greater things than these? Oh, what clearer, more comprehensive, and precious views of Christ — can He impart to us! Such views of the Savior as will inconceivably . . .
enlarge our knowledge of God,
widen the scope of our spiritual perceptions,
impart a more vivid realization of eternal realities,
confirm our faith in the great salvation, and
raise us superior to the assaults of Satan and the self-condemnation of our own hearts.
Beloved, all spiritual blessing flows through a knowledge of Christ. Were you to withdraw your mind from the investigation of every other subject and concentrate your whole study upon this great body of divinity — the Lord Jesus Christ — then the preciousness of the result would reward, as the greatness of the theme would justify — the exclusive attention to a subject that will engage the contemplation of the glorified through eternity!
The measure of your elevation above the region of doubt and fear and cloud — will be the extent of your knowledge of Christ. The more distinctly you see the Lord Jesus as your Surety Head — as entirely forgiven by His blood, as completely justified through His righteousness, and as possessing in Him all strength and grace, sanctification and blessing . . .
the more perfect will be your peace,
the more deep will be your joy,
the more bright will be your evidences,
the more simple will be your faith, and
the more stable will be your hope of glory.
Oh, who can give you these luminous, enlarged, boundless views of Jesus — but the unlimited Spirit of the Lord? "He will take what is Mine — and show it to you."
A deeper baptism of the Holy Spirit will produce like results to those which followed the descent of the self-same Spirit on the minds of the apostles after the ascension of Christ into glory — when a new revelation of Jesus burst with all its deepening effulgence upon the mind. Never did they see Christ — never had they such clear, spiritual, enlarged views of His Person, work, and kingdom, as they had then — filled as they were with the Spirit.
For similar effects we are to look! Hitherto standing but as on the shore washed with the waves of Christ's love — we shall enter into the ocean and descend into its depths. Hitherto, cherishing dim and crude conceptions of His atoning work — we shall emerge from the renewed baptism of the Spirit with more scriptural, enlarged, and settled views of His great and finished salvation. With more luminous conceptions of its completeness, its freeness, its power . . .
to neutralize our doubts,
to allay our fears,
to sanctify our hearts,
and to comfort our minds
— we shall . . .
walk more happily,
live more holily,
labor more zealously, and
anticipate Heaven with more ardent and restless longings!
We feel no hesitation in attributing all that is . . .
erroneous in doctrine,
depressed in vital Christianity,
low in the spirituality of the Church,
lax in the walk of religious professors
— to a defective and shallow knowledge of Christ and His work — of the Savior and of His salvation.
"This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
This is what the Church of God deeply needs in the present day — more exalted views of the pre-eminence of the Lord Jesus in His personal dignity and His sacrificial work. Let negative views of these two essential points prevail — and farewell to all vital religion in the land! Then will . . .
the gospel lose its transforming power,
the Church lose its conservative influence, and
the world lose the blessing both were designed to impart.
O God! Forbid such a result! What is to save us — but the outpouring of the Spirit?
Oh, what a quickening power will go forth from the pulpits of this land beneath an outpoured Spirit! Then will the ministers of Christ's gospel become as "new threshing instruments having teeth"; they shall thresh the mountains of error, false teaching, and worldliness — and beat them small! Then they shall "make the hills like chaff." Oh, then, let us not limit the Holy Spirit. Let us ask His deeper baptism, His especial renewing, His copious outpouring, animated by the gentle rebuke of God, "Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
Nor must we overlook the teaching of the Spirit, as affording another and conclusive proof of His illimitable power. The Spirit is promised as our "Guide into all truth" — and under His immediate and Divine inspiration, the apostle assures us that the Spirit "searches all things, even the depths of God." A teacher with limited capacities of instruction, could not meet our case. He must not only possess the power of conveying instruction — but also the power of imparting the capacity to receive it.
Such is the Holy Spirit. He Himself is acquainted with all Divine truth — therefore He is able to "search all things, even the depths of God." Who but this Divine Spirit is able . . .
to unravel the web of sophistry,
to unbind the chain of unbelief,
to remove the cloud of ignorance and guilt
— by which the human soul is held? No logical reasonings, nor philosophical arguments, nor rhetorical arts, nor moral persuasions — can divest . . .
the skeptic of his doubts,
the caviler of his objections, or
the humble learner of his difficulties —
and induce him to receive the gospel of Jesus as a little child. "The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him." "These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God."
Reader, are you a sincere and earnest inquirer for the truth that is in Jesus? Do you sigh to burst from the thraldom by which error holds you — and from the perplexing doubts by which unbelief enchains you? Bow yourself as a little child upon the teaching of the Holy Spirit — and He will guide you into all truth. He can . . .
unlock the mysteries,
harmonize the discrepancies,
unveil the beauties, and
apply the truth of God's revealed word to your mind, and with such power as to . . .
emancipate you from every doubt,
quell your every fear, and
bring your soul into joy and peace in believing!
It only remains that we make an APPLICATION of the leading truth we have been seeking to illustrate in these pages to the subject which more especially suggested it. The Church of God in this land needs yet to have its skepticism and its blindness removed on the subject of religious revival. It is our decided and solemn conviction that this is the "present truth" which the Great Head of the Church is now forcing upon the consideration of His people, in a way that must command their profound, solemn, and universal attention.
The doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit, though revealed to us in the Bible — is as yet a new doctrine to many Christians in this land. We have had the baptism of fire — the martyrs' ashes have sprinkled our land and floated on our rivers. We have the baptism of water — with a single exception, each branch of the Christian Church recognizes and observes the sacred rite. But we have never had, as a nation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit! To this doctrine God, is now impelling our solemn attention.
He comes forth as from the "secret place of thunder" and by the authoritative voice of His Word, and by the touching, thrilling echoes of His providence as from the distant shores of the Atlantic! He confronts and confounds our ignorance, prejudice, and unbelief: "Should this be said, O house of Jacob? Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?"
There being, then, no straitness in the Spirit, other than that which His own sovereign will imposes — then why should we not look for such an extensive revival of religion, such a national baptism of the Spirit, as that which at this moment prevails in the United States?
That this remarkable religious movement in America is, in its main features, the gracious work of the Holy Spirit — is now generally acknowledged. The most skeptical and prejudiced — the most worldly and indifferent — the most determined and violent opponents — are compelled to admit that upon no natural causes can they account for a phenomenon so extraordinary, and for results so unmistakable. The secular press, and the pseudo-religious journals — Tractarian and Unitarian — which at the first laughed it to scorn and sought to cover it with ridicule — are marvelously changed, and now speak of it with reverence, vindicate its character, and chronicle its movements.
Oh, it is a mighty work, and God is in it of a truth! "Like a mighty rushing wind" — yet as gentle as the evening gale — the Holy Spirit is sweeping over the land, bearing eternal blessings on His wings. As of old, the Spirit of God is now moving upon the face of the land, and society everywhere is receiving a new and Divine mold — emerging from its cloud and depression, arrayed in all the freshness, beauty, and luster of a newborn creation!
Furnished, as the writer is, both with private and public communications from the immediate scene of the great awakening — he proceeds to cull from these reliable sources a few facts and incidents illustrating and authenticating the character, power, and reality of this remarkable movement. The following extracts are from a letter addressed to him by a relative in New York:
"Thus says the Lord Almighty: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord Almighty.'" This was the word given to the people yesterday at one of the grand and now daily gatherings of the people at the midday hour, in the very heart of this large commercial city. The leader of the meeting held in his hand the telegraphic communication, just received from the city of Hartford, in these words: "Brethren, today we begin in this city our midday hour of prayer. Pray for us."
Then there arose a minister just from Philadelphia, who said, "Brethren, the hallelujahs of thousands seem yet to swell upon my ear, as I heard them in the gathering for the midday hour of prayer yesterday in Philadelphia, when your telegraphic dispatch was received and read in the great congregation, asking for united prayer." He said that thousands were at that meeting, and sent up a shout of praise for such a bond of union between the two cities.
Then up rose a young brother of our church, secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association, and said, "I hold in my hand letters from ten different cities received today — ministers, parents, friends — telling of the good work going on in their midst, and requesting our Christian care, and visiting of sons and brothers, who have come to this great city to seek the gold that perishes — entreating us to tell them of the gold which shall never canker! The fields are white unto the harvest. Truly it seems, as my beloved pastor said, 'You had but to place your finger here and there and everywhere — the touch reveals springs ready to gush forth from the Fountain of Divine love and life. We live in the dawn of that day, the meridian splendor of which shall cover the earth with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Assuredly this Dayspring on high has visited us!' It was remarked of at the midday prayer-meeting yesterday, 'We believe that the first use of the ocean telegraph will be the transmission of such a telegraphic dispatch as this which we hold in our hand, only dated, London — Paris!'"
"Every day we have an hour of prayer at our church (the Church of the Puritans, New York) for females. There Christians of all denominations meet to pour out their heart's agony for husbands and sons, for brothers and friends! It is often an hour of weeping and strong supplication, and we do feel these prayers have gone up before the throne of God — perhaps to be answered when we are entered into our rest."
"A young man, seeing our church open for a week-day meeting, strolled into it, and yesterday called upon my dear pastor, and said, 'If ever Satan walked this earth incarnate — it has been in my form! But I am convinced of my sin, and wish to lead a new life.'"
"Yesterday our female prayer-meeting was one of praise — for God was doing such wonders all around, that we could not but praise Him for His goodness to the children of men. And truly it does seem as if the very stones would cry out if we held our peace."
"Yesterday was a day indeed to be remembered. A theater was opened as a place of noonday prayer. At twelve the place was filled, there being no more standing room. The venerable Dr. Lyman Beecher, aged about eighty-two, was the first to take his place on the stage, and soon it was filled with ministers and zealous laymen. The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the worthy son of that most worthy patriarch, led the meeting. First, was the reading of the Word and singing. Then a touching request from a widow was offered for her son religiously trained, but having gone far astray. Mr. Beecher himself followed this petition, with a few warm, solemn, loving words of prayer. One or two others succeeded with strong cryings and supplications for the widow's son. Then came a father to thank God in the great congregation, for the birth of a son of fourteen into the kingdom of Heaven. Then a dear youth stood up, and looking around at the hundreds or youthful earnest faces gazing upon him — thanked God for a praying mother, and besought his companions also to declare
themselves on the Lord's side. An aged man of eighty then arose, and, in tremulous yet distinct tones, heard throughout that mighty assemblage — said for sixty years he had served the Lord, and had never seen cause to regret it one day, and he could recommend this God to all around. An inexpressibly touching incident took place. In the pause of a moment, we heard the faint echoes of a hymn. Mr. Beecher came forward and said, 'Hush! Listen! Do you hear that sound? That voice of praise to the Most High God comes from the former bar room!' In an area of a quarter of a mile, some four or five thousand were at the same hour, in the heart of this mammon-loving city, holding up holy hands in prayer. Oh, what a thought!"
"The Lord is doing great things for us, whereof we are glad. The work goes on calmly, steadily, powerfully — without excitement, but like a mighty rolling river. And truly we had need of it."
From published documents which have been forwarded to the writer, the following incidents of the revival are gleaned, without any particular reference to their classification. As an evidence of the elevated point in society, to which this extraordinary feeling has extended — it may be remarked that many members of the New York legislature during the sittings of the body, have been holding meetings for prayer in the capital at Albany, which have gradually increased in number, as they have deepened in profound and lively interest.
Oh, what a sublime spectacle would present itself to this nation, what untold and far-reaching blessings might result — were the members of our Parliament, professing the religion of Christ, to assemble each day in one of the rooms of that magnificent structure, for the purpose of united prayer and praise to the God of this great nation! Why should it not be? God hasten it in His own time!
Origin and Characteristics of the Work
"In this city (New York) the ground was prepared for a rich harvest, by the systematic visitation of families, conducted under the auspices of the New York Sunday School Association. The religious needs of the city were thus brought distinctly into view, and the prayers and efforts of Christians were directed toward these. But the most efficient agencies in the present work of grace have been the prayer-meeting, and personal conversation with the impenitent by private Christians. No grand machinery of effort at revival has been set in motion; no professed revivalists have been employed; no combinations for union have been formed — but Christians have come together, with one heart, for prayer and praise. Those who have heretofore labored for Christ only by proxy — have begun personal efforts for the salvation of souls. This new development of Christian activity, and of the resources of the churches in the piety and zeal of their individual members, must be of lasting benefit. Indeed, if these efforts shall continue in the spirit of humility and faith — we see not why the scenes of New Testament Jerusalem and Samaria and of Antioch should not be renewed in New York.
"One of the most cheering indications in this wide-spread reformation, is the resemblance which it bears to similar scenes in the early history of the Christian Church. It did not arise, nor is it carried forward, by the agencies which have often been regarded as indispensable. There has been no great movement of the popular mind by the fervid appeals of an eloquent preacher, whose fame might attract thousands to the sanctuary, and thus bring them under the influence of the gospel. But, from the first, it has been sustained and carried on, almost solely, by the power of prayer. The hearts of all Christians seem to have been drawn to the place of supplication, where their united cry might go up for the descent of the Spirit — who alone could save their children, friends, and neighbors. And even the impenitent have not evinced so much a desire to hear stirring sermons from the pulpit, as to assemble with those who will pray for them — that they may have grace to do what they have so long known to be their duty, and yet have so wickedly neglected.
"The more fully this spirit is manifested by the members of our churches, the more nearly will they resemble the primitive Church, and the better will they accomplish the glorious work for which the Christian Church was established. To it, Christ committed those great truths for which He laid down His life, to be nourished in the hearts of His followers, and to be extended by them to all those under the dominion of sin. And it is by understanding and complying with this design of the Redeemer, that Christians will acquire that spiritual power, which is the only true life of the Church. This, fully realized and practiced by all who bear His name — would insure a perpetual revival of religion in our own and other lands, and as a consequence, the speedy coming of that day when Christ shall reign supreme from shore to shore!"
Reverend McIlvaine's Opinion of the Revival
"In Cincinnati, every hour in the day has its prayer-meetings, commencing at sunrise, and ending at bedtime. At a prayer-meeting held at the First Presbyterian Church in that city, a few days ago, Rev. McIlvaine, of the Episcopal Church, said 'My official duties have prevented me from being present at any of the meetings until this morning. In my experience in religious matters, including the great revival of the present century, I have, perhaps, the advantage of the great majority of this vast assembly, extending back, as it does, about fifty-five years. I must say that the present revival is essentially different from all others that I have witnessed in that time — because in them a large amount of human machinery was manifest; while in this revival, human agency seems to be entirely ignored, and the Spirit of God alone, it would appear, is the moving power.'"
We have in these pages ventured some observations upon an immediate work of grace in conversions — as the result of an especial and enlarged outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are fully and solemnly convinced that, when the Holy Spirit shall descend upon our ministers and congregations, as we most devoutly pray, conversion-work will assume a far more characteristic, impressive, and decided type — than that which marks the faint and sluggish work of grace in the present day. The following facts in the American Revival will sustain this view:
"A young man, who had not previously been in a Church for nine years, was induced, a few days ago, to attend the prayer-meeting held in the Thirty-Fourth Street Church, in this city, where prayers were offered for his conversion. In the evening of the same day, he attended a similar meeting in the North Presbyterian Church, Ninth Avenue, where his case was also mentioned, and he was made the subject of special prayer. On the following day he again attended the meetings held in both these places — and on that evening experienced conversion.
"A young man, in a store in Park Place, was met by a stranger, who asked him the question, 'Are you a Christian?' to which on his replying 'No' — the stranger said to him, 'If you will pray tonight, I will pray for you.' Next morning the stranger met him in the same place, and after a salutation, was surprised to learn that he had been converted since the previous day.
"A young man attending a Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn received a copy of the tract-circular of the Young Men's Christian Association, accompanied with the printed card of invitation to the John Street prayer-meeting. A day or two afterward, at this meeting, he introduced himself to a member of the Association and stated that he had experienced conversion through the instrumentality of that tract.
"A law student in this city was handed a tract, by a person before unknown to him, who also gave him a card containing his address. Shortly afterward, the distributor received a note from the student, saying, 'I feel very serious on the subject of religion, and I hope I may be soon converted. Pray for me.' His conversion took place immediately afterward.
"A young man, formerly a Sunday-school scholar, recently received a tract from a gentleman, who enclosed in it a note, with a request to attend someone of the noon payer-meetings. Shortly afterwards he wrote, 'I received your kind tract. I have been often warned of the dangers of city life, and have been trying to come to the Savior. I hope I may soon be changed in heart.' In a day or two afterward he called upon the person who sent him the tract and said, 'I have found God.'
"A resident of New Haven, formerly a clerk in a bank in New York, while on a temporary visit to this city, was converted through the agency of one of the mid-day religious meetings. On his return to New Haven, he interested himself in the spiritual condition of a younger brother, who within a week was also converted. They are sons of a prominent minister in that city.
"A gentleman who is greatly interested in the progress of the revival recently called at the store of a friend to whom he wished to present the claims of religion. His friend was not in; yet he, being unwilling to go away without having accomplished some good, spoke to one of the clerks — a young man about eighteen years of age — to whom he was a stranger, on the same subject, and after a few days was apprized of his conversion through the instrumentality of this conversation.
"A New York merchant, residing in a town in the vicinity of the city, on returning home recently after having attended a crowded prayer-meeting, determined to make an effort for the spiritual good of some of his friends and neighbors. One of these was a man who called himself an infidel. A prayer-meeting was organized, to which this man, with others, was invited; and after several days' attendance, rose on one occasion, and requested that prayer should be made in his behalf. To the surprise and almost astonishment of his acquaintances, he shortly afterward renounced infidelity, embraced the Christian religion, and is soon to become a member of a church. The cousin of this man was recently converted in this city, through attendance at the prayer-meetings, and two brothers and two sisters in the same family have followed his example.
"A young man stated at a prayer-meeting, some weeks ago, that he had just experienced conversion. On being asked what had first arrested his attention on the subject of religion, he replied that it was the reading of the account of the general revival of religion contained in the Tribune of of last Monday."
"Two or three weeks ago, a returned foreign missionary from the Syrian mission made an address to a Sunday-school in Pittsburgh, Pa., in which he said he would put into the hands of the superintendent a little box, made of the wood of a 'cedar of Lebanon,' to be given to the scholar that should commit and repeat in Sabbath-school the next two Sabbaths the greatest number of verses from the Bible. The prize was taken by a little girl, thirteen years of age. About the same time, two members of her class were converted and united with the church; and the ceremony of their admission made such an impression on her mind, that she said that she ought to have been with them. In a few days afterward, she was converted, after which she was suddenly attacked with scarlet fever and died."
The Telegraph and the Revival
The employment of the electric telegraph, as a sanctified agent for transmitting the glad tidings of the work of grace from one city and from one state to another, is not the least striking and interesting feature of this mighty movement. Never was the electric spark converted to a more appropriate or sacred end. Why should not science be the handmaid and auxiliary of religion? Our beloved and honored brethren in America are teaching us a lesson on the use of this the most marvelous discovery of modern science. Let the following facts testify:
"It is not surprising, perhaps, that many of the large number of conversions every day occurring should be reported by telegraph as well as by letter to the friends and relatives of the persons on whom the revival has wrought a spiritual change. At many of the telegraph offices in this city, as also in other places, messages have been sent to all parts of the country, announcing conversions, and that many of them have been exceedingly tender and touching. Some have been as follows:
'Dear Mother, the revival continues, and I, too, have been converted.'
'My dear parents, you will rejoice to hear that I have found peace with God.'
'Tell my sister that I have come to the cross of Christ.'
'At last I have faith and peace.'
Many young men engaged in business in this city have sent such news to their homes in New England. Many of the dispatches mention that letters, containing more full information and details, will follow by mail."
Revival in a Printing Office
"Prayer-meetings have been held daily at one of the large printing offices in this city since the 6th of March, with increasing interest. At the commencement of the meetings there were but four or five converts, with very few participants in the exercises, and now the number ranges as high as twelve or fourteen. The interest manifested at these meetings is very event. One of the recent converts says, 'What are we to expect when printing offices are converted into religions chapels? It is, as far as my knowledge extends, unprecedented in the history of any country, and will, no doubt, astonish many a reader.' As the meetings are held between the house of 12 and 1 o'clock, some of the men go without their dinner for the sake of attending them."
The Revival a Promotive of Temperance
"We have mentioned the revival in New Bedford, Mass., which has resulted in over 600 conversions. As one of the effects of this work, one of the converts, who had been a liquor dealer, stated in a recent meeting that he had renounced the liquor traffic, and had resolved neither to sell nor to drink a drop of liquor. A gentleman said he knew of a distiller in this city, who, a day or two ago, became uneasy as to the condition of his soul. He went to his minister and asked him what he must do to be at peace with God. 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,' was the reply. 'I cannot; I am a distiller,' was the response. 'Well then,' said the minister, you must give up your salvation — or your distillery.' He went home, slept, and in the morning informed his partner that he must give up his distillery and save his soul. This man is now living a different life, believing in God, and trusting in Him to supply all his needs."
Conversion of a Prize Fighter and Trainer of Boxers
"We dropped into the John Street meeting on Friday noon, and enjoyed the pleasure of hearing a few simple, earnest, fervent remarks from the converted boxer, Gardner. He made an unaffected reference to his own recent experience of converting grace, which had so suddenly transported him, while riding in his wagon, from the horrors of conviction to a blissful view of Jesus, that he instantly cried out, 'Hallelujah!' in a tone so loud as to frighten his horse and nearly to have produced a disaster. Said he, 'Yes, I shouted hallelujah then; I shout hallelujah now; I expect to die shouting hallelujah; and by God's grace I hope to shout hallelujah to all eternity!'"
Another: "It seems that the present revival of religion is reaching all classes of the community. I noticed few days ago that 'Awful Gardner,' the celebrated prize fighter, was among the converts, and could scarcely believe it. But what was my surprise last evening, on entering the Baptist Church in this city, to find among the seekers after grace, Old William Harrington, one of the most notorious prize fighters of the day. The man had been here on a visit, and was induced to attend the meetings for several evenings previous, and last night I am happy to say that he professed justification by faith, before the meeting closed. He was heard to say, 'I have fought with men all my life — the rest of it I will fight for Jesus.'"
An Old Man's Prayer Answered
The Rev. Taylor of Newark, N. J., at one of the meetings, related the following thrilling fact as an encouragement to parents to pray for the conversion of their children:
"Many years ago, an old man, a devoted Christian, started a prayer-meeting, which is still continued, having resulted in many and glorious fruits. As a pastor, it was my privilege to be with him, particularly during his last illness. In several visits made to his house, I found him on the mount, looking over on to the Land of Promise. Finding nothing seemingly to mar his comfort or interrupt his joy, one morning as I went to his dwelling (he was a poor man and lived in straitened circumstances), I determined to satisfy myself whether there was nothing that gave him any trouble of heart. On entering his chamber I asked him in simple terms, 'How are you this morning?' 'Oh, Sir,' said he, 'I am well; why should I not be well? I am near home. Yes, I am near home — near Heaven.' I took the opportunity to ask him, 'My dear Sir, has there been nothing of late resting upon your heart as an occasion of trouble?' He spoke not a word, but turned his head over to the wall, and lay so for some fifteen minutes; then he rolled his head back upon his pillow, with his face toward me, and I saw the tears streaming down his cheeks.
'Oh yes, Sir,' said he, 'there is one great trouble.' 'What is it?' I inquired. 'Speak your whole mind to me freely.' 'Well,' said he; 'I have ten children, and I have prayed to God for more than thirty years that I might see one or more of them converted before I die; but He has denied me. They are grown up, as you know, but are not yet Christians.'
'How do you get over that trouble?' I asked. 'Ah,' he replied, 'I get over it as I get over all other troubles — by rolling it over upon Christ. I know that God means to answer my prayers, but He means to wait until I am gone. But He will do it; I know He will; my children will be converted.'
"This man has been in his grave for fifteen years, and I have watched over his children ever since his death; and now today I am able to say that seven out of the ten have been born into the kingdom of God, and that the eighth has also just experienced conversion. This is the answer to his prayer! God did not forget; He only waited; and in like manner He will answer the prayers of all parents who pray in faith for the conversion of their children. Let us, therefore, take courage, and lay hold upon the precious promises of God!"
Young Men's Christian Association — to Parents in the Country
"The Committee on Devotional Meetings of the New York Young Men's Christian Association have issued a circular addressed to parents in various pits of the country, who have children in business in this city. The object of the circular is to gain from the parents the address (either business or residence) of young men who are not connected with the Christian Association or with any of the churches of the city, and who would be profited by a friendly call from some member of the Committee, for the purpose of religious conversation. If any father or mother will send a letter giving the necessary directions, the petition designated will receive a personal invitation to attend the daily noon prayer meetings, and similar meetings held at other hours of the day in various parts of the city, for the benefit of young men. The committee say in their circular, 'Information from any of our friends at a distance, as to what is being done among them, sent to the above address, will be gratefully received by us as tokens that we are remembered, and will much increase our zeal.'"
The Revival in Colleges
The extension of the Great Awakening to the colleges in the United States — those important fountains of learning and influence, in which are training the men to whose hands, in the Church and the state, are to be confided the future destinies of the great republic — is a feature too interesting in its character and too momentous in its consequences, to be overlooked. Oh, what a day will dawn upon this land — a day full of hope to England — when our universities, our colleges, our military and naval institutions, shall be baptized by the Holy Spirit; when our "young men shall see visions" of spiritual awakening, of prayer, and conversion to God, within the walls of these venerable institutions, such as never before met the eye; and when these time-honored institutions shall become the spiritual birthplaces of the ministers of Christ and rulers who are to form the future shields of England's true greatness and glory.
Let there be especial and united prayer for our universities, and then shall we behold such spiritual results as those described in the following account of the revival in Yale University, one of the most venerable and influential academic institutions in the United States, long distinguished as the scene of President Dwight's labors.
"The work in college scarcely finds a parallel in the whole history of the institution. Many and fervent prayers have ascended to the throne of mercy in behalf of the college, both in this city and in other places; and they have been answered by the most copious blessings. The whole number of hopeful conversions during the three weeks preceding the close of the term amounted to at least one hundred and eight persons. In the sophomore class, which contains one hundred and seventeen members — only fifteen remain without hope of salvation. The professed followers of Christ connected with the college have evinced a hearty interest in this work — most of them have been affected with a continual flow of healthful zeal, doing what their hands found to do, and thus practically acknowledging the principle that God answers the prayers of His children, to some extent at least, through their own efforts.
"We have never witnessed such a free and happy inter-communication between the students and their instructors as of late. The rooms of the tutors have been thronged with anxious inquirers, and both tutors and professors have been active in seeking out individual cases, and meeting their difficulties. Most of those young converts have gone to their homes to spend the vacation, some to meet unbelieving parents and to be exposed to trial and temptation. It is hoped that all Christians interested in the religious welfare of Yale College will remember these cases in their prayers."
Brown University, Providence, R.I. The Watchman and Reflector of Boston says: "We are happy to learn from a correspondent that a powerful revival of religion is in progress in this venerable seat of learning. Meetings for prayer and spiritual conference are held daily among the students, and the interests of the soul form the all-absorbing topic of conversation. Backsliders have been reclaimed, and many of the students, including some of the heretofore most reckless and indifferent, have been hopefully converted to Christ. The president, whose younger son is among the recent converts, gives himself to the work with zeal and earnestness, as indeed do his associates in the faculty. Parents and the friends of the university generally should now offer unceasing prayer that the Holy Spirit may visit yet more and more an institution so important to the best interests of learning and religion."
Yale University. The New Haven Register says: "The revival in the college is probably without a precedent, so far as numbers interested are concerned. In fact, it is said to include nearly all the students; among the converts are some who have been very bitter scoffers, and who were tolerably well armed with the philosophy of the infidel."
Genesee College. "The Genesee College and Wesleyan Seminary of Lima, N. Y., have recently been visited with marked tokens of the Spirit's presence. During the last four terms, nearly 240 students have united with the churches of the place."
Oglethorpe University. President Talmadge writes: "On Sabbath night, March 7th, a young missionary (Rev. Humphrey, late of the Columbia Seminary) employed by the Hopewell Presbytery to preach to destitute churches and neighborhoods, being providentially present, preached a sermon to our students. A powerful impression was made. On the following (Monday) night one of the professor's lecture-rooms was opened for religious worship. That meeting has been kept up every night since, without intermission, and with steadily and powerfully increasing interest. Last night the scene was thrilling and overpowering. The dense crowd, the solemn stillness, the heaving sigh, the tearful eye — all told that God was in the midst of us with power. There was scarcely a student on the campus absent, excepting two or three who have been in feeble health. I doubt whether there is a solitary young man on the grounds who is not, in some degree, under conviction of sin. Some twelve or fifteen are entertaining hope of the pardon of their sins. About forty remained last night, after the meeting was dismissed, for religious conversation and prayer, and others went away to their rooms to weep alone."
"Of the senior class in Jefferson College, which consists of seventy-six members, all but thirteen are now members of the church, or profess to entertain a hope in Christ. It is thought that at least forty members of the class will enter some theological seminary in the fall."
President Stearns of Amherst College, says, "Nearly three-quarters of our number were previously professors of religion, about twenty of them having taken their stand publicly on the side of Christ some months before. Of the remainder, between forty and fifty have been hopefully converted during the term, leaving less than twenty in the whole college undecided. Besides these, ten or twelve who had once been professors, some of them giving little, if any, evidence of piety — were awakened and converted anew, while nearly the whole body of Christian students seemed to receive a fresh baptism of the Spirit. Of the senior class, but three or four remain who have not openly commenced the Christian life. Of the junior class but one, and he a serious inquirer, if not a Christian. Of the sophomore class, four or five. Of the freshmen, nine or ten."
"In the Female College at Oxford, Ohio, it is said that all but four or five out of one hundred members have been converted."
"At New Lebanon Academy, Indiana, nearly all the students have been converted."
Conversion of an Actor and Actress
The dedication of a theater as a place of prayer would seem to be a spiritual invasion of the enemy of souls in his strongest hold; a casting of the salt of Divine influence into one of the most prolific sources of social evil. In connection with this startling fact, we have an interesting account of the conversion to God of an actor and an actress. Oh, what a day, when the Holy Spirit shall condescend to hover over our theaters, and turn them from the temples of Satan and of sin — into the sanctuaries of God, and oratories of prayer and of praise!
"A gentleman made some comments on the building of theaters. When he had concluded, Mr. Pardee of the Sunday School Union related a couple of anecdotes of theatrical people. One was of a lady, who, while watching with a sick friend, had her attention awakened by a tract she there saw, and was ultimately converted. Her husband and two daughters were all members of a theatrical company in this city, and were playing an engagement at that time, but through her instrumentality they have been all converted, and have left the stage. The other anecdote was of an actress who herself was sick, and while on her sick bed, was brought to believe in the truths of the gospel, has since become a member of the church, and has induced several others to leave the theatrical profession. Said the gentleman in conclusion, 'These things prove conclusively that actors and actresses are not beyond the reach of our prayers.'
"A young man in the gallery announced that he had heard that the greatest actor in New York, Mr. Edwin Forrest, had lately been converted, and expressed a hope that we may yet live to see the day when the Academy of Music shall be turned into a house of prayer."
Revival in a Magdalen Asylum
"This man receives sinners" was one of the honorable reproaches that fell upon our Lord when He dwelt in the flesh. But like His own magnanimous apostle, "He took pleasure in reproaches," when those reproaches illustrated the power of His grace and truth in saving the lost. That this remarkable cloud of mercy should pause in its course, and unbosom a portion of its heaven-sent treasure of grace upon the refuge of the outcast, including in the number of its happy recipients — many who have been thus rescued from sin — is an evidence and characteristic of the Divine nature of the work. Its gracious and saving effects among this much-neglected class are thus given:
"A friend, who is actively connected with the Magdalen Asylum, assures us that the sacred influence of the Holy Spirit which is now so extensively pervading the community, has reached even the abode of the Magdalen! For the last few weeks an unusual religious interest has been manifest among the inhabitants of the asylum; and some who have been brought under the religious instruction of the Magdalen Society, give cheering evidence of conversion to God. In this favored institution, they drew the first breath of spiritual life. Here they deliberately and solemnly consecrated themselves to the service of their Maker. Some of them were Papists, and strongly tinctured with the false dogmas of their religion; but by the illuminating influence of the Divine Spirit, they now see and acknowledge their errors.
"The work is silently, and without extravagance, progressing. The anxious countenance and the tearful eye — indicate the deep emotions within and inspire hope that salvation is near, and that God is graciously bringing up from the depths of infamy — those who shall become illustrious examples of the sovereign, saving grace in this world, and in the world to come!"
THE SHOPMAN'S PRAYER-MEETING
"In connection with the shops and counting-rooms of several of our most prominent merchants — private prayer-meetings have been organized within a few weeks past for the benefit of the clerks and other employees. They are held in some retired place in the building, secure from public intrusion, and have been of great interest and profit to those who have attended.
"Some years ago, a young man from New England came to this city and was employed as a clerk in a large dry-goods house downtown. Shortly after his engagement, he came to his employer with the statement that some of the clerks were seriously interested in the subject of personal piety, and requested that a small upper room in the building might be set apart and furnished, to be used exclusively as a place of retirement to which the various individuals connected with the establishment might resort for religious conversation, reading of the Scriptures, and prayer. This request was immediately granted, and the room was used for years for only this purpose, resulting in the conversion of a large number of the persons who during that time came in and went out of the employ of the establishment. The similar facts to which we have just referred are an indication that the present prevalent revival is taking an unusually strong hold upon the mercantile community."
THREE HUNDRED FISHERMEN CONVERTED
Our blessed Lord selected the first founders of His religion from among the fishermen of Galilee. And still has He thoughts of love and mercy toward the members of this lowly craft, as the following facts, which will be read with interest, show:
"In Rockaway, R.I., the revival, which has been for some time in progress, has had such an influence on the community that there are not more than half-a-dozen adult persons in the place who have not become members of churches. Among those who have been converted, are three hundred fishermen.
"A similar work has been in progress at Mamaroneck, Westchester County, in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Under the care of the Rev. Hollis, one hundred and thirty persons have been received within a few months past. Of these about forty were heads of families, and four or five of the number were over sixty years of age, while a large number had not been inside a place of worship for many years, including some of the worst characters in the place! One of the recent converts, a fisherman, said at a meeting, 'When we used to go down to the creek to fish, we used to curse and use all sorts of profane language; but now we go out in our boats, and songs of praise are wafted from one boat to another!'"
TOUCHING CONVERSION OF A SAILOR
Not less remarkable is the work of grace among sea-faring men. That far out upon the ocean, remote from the influence of religious excitement and means, a work of grace should appear among officers and crews of vessels making for their different ports, is a fact of profound interest and instruction. Regarding this work among sailors, we find the following delightful facts:
"It is stated that the captain and entire crew, of thirty persons, of a ship lately arrived at New York, had been converted upon the sea, without any special human instrumentality. Five ships arrived at the same port whose captains had been brought to Christ upon the ocean. The following thrilling narrative of the conversion of a sailor when at sea, as given by himself, will be read with deep emotion. Let Christian parents, whose children may have gone to sea, read it, thank God, and take courage.
"At one of the recent prayer-meetings in this city, a sailor arose and narrated to the congregation the circumstances of his conversion, as follows. He was a young man, a native of England, with an intelligent face and an impressive manner of speech, and his remarks were received with great attention. He said, 'I am a stranger here, and such a scene as this is one that until very recently would have been altogether new to me. Nine weeks ago I was converted, and since then have become in some degree familiar with prayer-meetings and church services, though before that I knew very little of either. I have been a very wicked man. For one so young, I have gone into almost incredible dissipation, and have committed almost every sin. I can hardly imagine a person to have gone a greater round of wickedness than I. I am the youngest of a large family of children. My father is dead, but my mother is living. She is an old woman now, more than seventy-five years of age. She is a devoted Christian, and has always tried to bring up her children to be like her, and some of them have followed her example. Several of my brothers and sisters are earnest and sincere Christians who, with her, have oftentimes prayed for my salvation. But I could never endure a single thought of religion. Whenever the subject was mentioned to me, I immediately repelled it, and repelled it often with a horrid curse. The thought that the members of the family prayed for me always made me angry. I was warned against my dissipation, but went more into it the more I was warned. I grew more and more wicked every day, out of spite, and I tried to be a great sinner. At last I determined to leave home. I wanted to get away from the influence of a praying mother. I wanted to be free from all restraints, so that I might indulge myself in whatever sin I chose, to my own satisfaction. My mother implored me not to go. I told her I was going to sea, and would go. Her eyes filled with tears, and she could say nothing more. With whatever sins I had, I had some love for my mother, and I gave way before her tears. She asked me to promise her that I would never go to sea until I could first obtain her consent. I assented, and remained awhile at home. A young man, who was any companion in sin, left England and came to this country, and after he had been here a short time returned in the same ship. He told me that I could enjoy myself grandly if I would go away from home as he had done, and that there was all manner of pleasure in New York. I again determined to go to sea in company with him. My mother, seeing that I was bent on going, could not bear the thought that I would leave without her consent, and so she gave it. I accordingly made preparations to ship at Liverpool.
"Just before I started, which was about the first of last December, my mother gave me a sealed letter and a small Bible to put in my trunk, and told me not to open the letter until the 21st of December. That was her birthday, when she would be 75-years-old. She gave me her blessing, which I shrank from receiving, and I went off. As soon as I got clear of home, I felt at liberty. I said to myself, "Now there will be no one to pray for me, and I shan't be annoyed with Bibles and texts." I left home without any sadness, but rather with a kind of wicked pleasure. When I got on board ship, I soon forgot all about mother and brothers and sisters. After we had set sail, and were well on with the voyage, a storm arose that was very violent. Just about this time I was taken very sick with a dangerous fever. I lay in my bunk, tossing about with the ship, as wretched and miserable as a man could be. The doctor told me that I was at the point of death, and that if I had any preparation to make for eternity, I had better make it, for I had not long to live. This he repeated also in the cabin among the passengers, one of whom, an aged man, came to see me. I remember his face; it was all kindness, but I hated the sight of him. He came with a book in his hand, and said to me, "Young man, you are almost gone; I have come to read to you something out of the word of God." I looked up at him a moment and said, in a rage, "Hand me the book"; and when he offered it to me I took it and put it to my lips, and made a solemn oath that I would have nothing to do with God or with religion. I told him that if he read to me I would not listen, and bid him with a curse to leave me alone. He then went away, and I lay stark alone in my bunk.
"It seemed to me that I was at that moment more miserable than I had ever been before in all my life; I do not refer to my bodily sickness, but to my distress of mind. It was evening, and there was no light near me, but all was as dark as midnight. Suddenly the thought came over my mind that it was the 21st of December, and I remembered my mother's letter. I could not rise and get it, for I was not able, and my first impulse was to call one of my mates to get it for me. But I remembered that it was between the lids of my Bible. I was ashamed to let anyone know that I wanted the Bible; and I did not want that, but my mother's letter. I lay for some time, and at last determined to call someone. One of my mates came at the call; I asked him to get a lantern and to go to my trunk and get a Bible with a letter in it. "Ah," said he with a sneer, "now you're sick, you begin to be a coward; what do you want with that book?" "I don't want that book, but the letter in it," I replied.
"In a few minutes he brought a lantern, opened my trunk, and handed me the Bible and letter. He then left the lantern on my bunk and went away. I sat up a little in the bed and opened the sealed package. The very first words that I caught brought tears to my eyes. They were my mother's words — "My dear Tom." I read the letter carefully from beginning to end. It was a mother's prayer for the conversion of her son. I had been miserable before, but those words made me more wretched than ever. I then began for the first time to feel remorse for my filthiness, and to have a fear and dread of judgment. I turned about in my bunk in agony which I cannot describe. I had been told that I could not live — and now I was afraid to die! What could I do? I began to pray!
"This was what I had always had a horror of before, but I was forced to come to it at last. I prayed to God to let me get well again, and made a solemn promise to Him, on my bed, that if He would only raise me up — then I would reform my life. The burden of my sins almost crushed me. Even if I had not been sick, it seemed as if I would have died of these. I continued to pray, and when it was expected that I would die, I was still alive, and was kept alive; and instead of growing worse, I grew better.
"The doctor told me then that I had had a narrow escape, and that I had been lying at death's door. As I got better I got more and more comfort. The light gradually dawned in upon my dark soul, and its darkness was dispelled. At last, one day there came a sudden joy — a sweet peace — that wrapped me round like sunshine. My heart was happy, and while I was wondering what it was — the mercy of Christ was made known to me. I felt the consciousness that my sins were pardoned. I began to be stirred with a new life. Whereas before I hated my home — now my heart yearned toward it. My mother — oh, I wanted to see her, and to put my arms around her neck. I wanted to tell her that I had read her letter, and what I had found in it. And my brothers and sister — I had no more desire to be separated from them, but with my whole soul I longed to see them, and to tell them that I had found the Savior. My joy continued, and I told my shipmates of it. Some of them laughed at me, but i didn't care for that; I knew in whom I believed.
"At last we came into port; it was on a Saturday morning. On the next day I found the Mariners' Church — and, my kind friends, I have been here ever since. I am happy to be here, and can only thank God that He has led me to Himself, and has led me to you in so wonderful a way. I am waiting here to go home and see my aged mother. She is very near the grave, and I want to throw myself upon her neck before she dies, and thank her and thank God for her prayers for a wayward son!'
RAILWAY PRAYER MEETING
"The Jersey City Courier says that the employees of the New Jersey Railroad Co. have held prayer-meetings in the office of the assistant superintendent in that city, for several mornings past, but, owing to the increased attendance, the accommodations are insufficient, and the meetings will he held in the office attached to the company's machine shop hereafter, at half-past noon. The religious interest has exhibited itself among the engineers of this road especially, and the feeling exhibited among all the employees is highly gratifying."
"A pious merchant in Chicago who was doing business with a country customer, unconsciously pulled out his watch and said, 'It is almost 12 o'clock — almost time for the prayer-meeting.' 'What!' said his astonished customer, 'you have a prayer-meeting at this hour?' 'Yes, for businessmen, at Metropolitan Hall — will you go?' They went together. The sinner was awakened. He returned home — was converted — his partner was converted — a clerk was awakened — a noon prayer-meeting started there, and the future results of the simple remark, 'It is almost time for the prayer-meeting,' are known only to God.
"At a noon prayer-meeting in Chicago, it was lately stated that a pious gentleman had been out of town and was returning in the railway cars. He was introduced to a lady, and among other topics of conversation, he spoke about the welfare of her soul. Not more than ten minutes were taken up with this subject — and yet impressions were made on her mind never to be effaced. They separated, and in a few days the gentleman received a letter from the lady informing him of her conversion, and saying that his short conversation with her was blessed by God to this happy result. 'How glad you must feel,' said a friend to him, 'that you improved that opportunity!' 'Yes,' he replied, 'but how ashamed I am that I have lost so many opportunities equally good.'"
"The revival prospers all over Upper Canada; in Lower Canada it is chiefly confined to Quebec and Montreal. In Montreal prayer-meetings are held as often as three times a day. Union prayer-meetings are held at Hamilton, St. Thomas, and other places; at St. Catherine's there have been over 100 conversions.
"At Waverley, Tioga County, the Union prayer-meetings led to evening preaching, and in a few days so deep a solemnity pervaded the whole community, that a grand ball, at which 1000 dollars in presents were to have been distributed, and which was to have come off in the large hall now occupied by the daily morning meetings, was by public consent abandoned, the proprietors refusing the hall, and the public, almost to an individual, refusing to attend."
Triumphant Death of a Clergyman in the midst of the Revival
While the Holy Spirit has been quickening with spiritual life, as we trust, thousands of the community — death has removed to yet higher scenes of spiritual enjoyment and a nobler sphere of service, one of the most zealous and earnest ministers of Christ engaged in this great revival. The Rev. Dudley A. Tyng — the subject of this notice — was rector of the Church of the Covenant, Philadelphia. He took a prominent part with others of the Episcopal clergy in the United Prayer-meeting which forms so striking a feature in religious movement, and was as eminent for his fine abilities and sound evangelical views. In the last sermon which he preached, he apologized if he had in his earnestness said anything to offend his congregation, but he added, "I must tell my Master's errand, and I would rather that this right arm were amputated at the trunk — than that I should come short of my duty to you in delivering God's message." In a few days afterwards, while observing the movements of a thrashing machine, a part of his coat was caught in the wheels of the apparatus, drawing in his right arm, lacerating it in a frightful manner, and severing the main artery. It was found necessary to amputate the limb close to the shoulder joint; on the following day, however, he sank under the effects of the injuries and operation. The triumphant closing scene is thus described by his venerable father, the Rev. Dr. Tyng, rector of St. George's Church, New York:
"His calmness and placidity were characteristic through the whole of this week's trial and sorrow — and yet they were most remarkable. Early on the Monday morning, after a feeble and wakeful night, he said to his mother, 'Dear mother, you are nursing my poor, torn, and wounded body — but angels will guard and nurse my torn and suffering soul.' When his beloved and faithful physician had returned from a short absence from the house, a little before ten o'clock, he said to him, 'Doctor, my friends have given me up; they say I are dying; is that your opinion?' The doctor, after a few moments' examination, answered him in the affirmative, 'Then,' said he, 'Doctor, I have loved you much as a friend; I long to love you us a brother in Christ Jesus. I cannot repay the obligations I am under to you, unless I am permitted to bring you to a Savior's feet. Let Me entreat you now to come to Jesus, that you may be to me forever a dear brother in Christ, and that you may be far more useful than I have ever been.'
"Much exhausted by such effort, he sank at these intervals into perfect quietness; and then again, he suddenly aroused and said to us, 'Sing! Sing! Can you not sing?' We hesitated — he saw it was impossible, when he himself struck the words, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me!" and we followed him, and we sang together the first two verses of that hymn, but he could sing no more — no more could we — sorrow silenced us all. In reference to his own death, he said, 'I wish to say in regard to this afflictive dispensation, I am perfectly satisfied — I have not one fault to find with it. I say it emphatically, I have not one fault to find with it. I desire only that it may be abundantly sanctified to us all.' His beautiful private personal address to his wife, and two addresses to his family, and particularly to his little children, who were each brought to him, and to whom he gave separately a father's parting kiss and blessing — these were all so spiritual, so sweet, so solemn, that they can never be effaced from the memory of those who heard and saw the remarkable scene.
"But the power of life was now fast going, and he seemed no longer conscious of our presence. I aroused him again and asked him, 'Do you see me, my dear son?' 'No.' 'Do you hear me?' 'No.' 'Do you not know your father's voice?' 'No.' His wife made the same attempts, but with no other result.
"I then said, 'My darling son, do you know Jesus?' 'Oh, yes!' said he, in a voice of wonderful strength and deliberation, 'Oh, yes! I know Jesus — I have a steadfast trust in Jesus — a calm and steadfast trust.' He spoke it with astonishing distinctness.
"This was, perhaps, within an hour of his departure. After this he could say no more connectedly; yet, one half-hour afterwards, perhaps, I thought he might still be conscious to my voice, and I asked him, 'Are you happy, my dear son?' And he answered me very distinctly, 'Oh, perfectly, perfectly!'
"From that moment he gently sobbed away his life like an infant who had fallen asleep in crying. His sobs became fainter and fainter, until the last one gently passed, and all was quietness and rest."
REMARKABLE WORK OF GRACE AMONG THE LAWYERS
A gentleman, writing from New Haven, says: "The most marked and striking exhibition of God's power is to be seen in the glorious work accomplished among the members of the bar. There is not now a single lawyer who has not united with the church; not only this, but they are the most actively engaged in spreading the word of life. Prayer-meetings have been held in the courtrooms every morning and evening for a month past; the able judge of the district court (C.A. Ingersoll) has always had prayers offered up before entering upon the duties of the day, and has frequently led in prayer.
"But on last Sunday a most remarkable meeting was held in one of the largest churches, crowded to its utmost capacity, in which three sermons were preached by three eminent lawyers. In the morning Judge Blackman preached from the text, 'I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was hungry, and you fed me.' In the afternoon Mr. Yateman delivered a touching and beautiful discourse. In the evening, Judge E. K. Foster, one of the most eloquent men in the state, addressed the congregation from a passage in the Lord's Prayer: 'Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors."'
A CONVICT'S CONVERSION
"A clergyman from Philadelphia stated in the John Street meeting, that at one of the great union meetings in his own city, a request for prayer was sent in by one of the convicts in the Eastern Penitentiary. In his cell, with no monitor but his Bible and the influence of the Holy Spirit, he had been awakened and convicted of sin. In a week or two more, his thanksgiving for converting grace was read before the same meeting. A skeptical acquaintance of the speaker was appealed to, to acknowledge the supernatural character of the event. He replied by denying the fact. The speaker then procured a permit, and repaired to the cell of the converted convict. The iron door closed upon him in the narrow dungeon, alone and face to face with the converted criminal; the moment that he caught his beaming eye and heard his fervent welcome, he felt that he was in the presence of a child of God.
"Said the converted man: 'I am happier here than I ever was in the world outside, and I feel that I never would be as happy there as here. There, men will point at me as a branded and disgraced convict; but here, I am alone with One who will never reproach me — who has removed all my transgressions as far as the east is from the west. My joy is more than I can keep to myself, and I have witnessed to the prisoners on my right and on my heft, through the stone wall, and have given them a passage to read in their Bibles every day.' The result of this movement of the Spirit upon the soul of the solitary convict was soon seen in the conversion of ten or twelve other convicts, and the anxious awakening of not less than twenty."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the words of the Holy Spirit, "What shall we then say to those things?" Shall we gainsay and impugn them — denouncing them as delusions, and rejecting them as lies — or shall we believe and welcome them — seeing in them the work of the Spirit of the Lord, and hailing them as tokens of like precious blessings to ourselves? Confronted by these facts, appealed to by these statements, will any Christian, sober mind affirm — "I do not believe in it?" God forbid that any to whom the Holy Spirit has been given, should pronounce upon a religious awakening, so marked by a Divine and supernatural power — an opinion so rash, a verdict so condemnatory.
We do not ask the Christian reader of these pages to pledge his faith to a perfect work — a work entirely free from all admixture of human imperfection. To accept the movement as having nothing in it of man, were as unwise and presumptuous as to reject it as having nothing in it of God. There may appear, when more searching tests are applied, to have been the admixture of some alloy with the precious gold, and some chaff with the pure wheat. Nevertheless, if from among the tens of thousands roused to the state of their eternal welfare, hopefully converted and added to the ranks of God's Israel — a few thousands, or even hundreds only, give evidence of spiritual life, there has been so much accession to the kingdom of Christ, and so much gain to the cause of God and of truth in the world, and we will exclaim, "The Lord has done great things for us! Therefore we are glad!"
Let us not, then, treat with flippancy or reject with skepticism — this remarkable phenomenon, lest haply we be found to speak against the Holy Spirit. Rather let as give praise and acknowledge, "Rain in abundance, O God, You shed abroad! You restored your inheritance as it languished."
Nor must we allow our honest and just indignation against a peculiar domestic institution of the southern states of America, and what we might term the existence of a certain species of cast in the northern states — to prejudice our minds against this extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit. That slavery should exist in a land so favored and so fair — is the deepest, darkest spot upon its national escutcheon! But if we are to expect, in Divine sovereignty, no blessing upon a people until all national sins are annihilated — then alas! for our own beloved country!
God, by these very national revivals, is working the destruction of American slavery. We destroyed British slavery by physical means — God will destroy American slavery by spiritual means. Inquire not, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" America is a great country — an infant Hercules honored and blessed of God — and destined to be the world's asylum, and the Church's home. God is working out some great problems of His moral and providential government in that land.
This revival is not of man — God's finger is in it, and by it He is developing His secret purposes of mercy, wisdom, and righteousness. A few more such outpourings of the Spirit — a few more such national convulsions of the Holy Spirit — and slavery will fall, and America will be the greatest nation on the globe!
Let us, then, beware how we attempt to justify our own coldness, formality, and unbelief in the doctrine of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit — by allowing a just abhorrence of man's sin to veil from our eye, the wonder-workings of God's power. We must guard against unreasonable prejudice — we must overcome evil with good — we must not call down fire to consume — but, in imitation of our Divine Master, ask the Holy Spirit to bless. If the Great Head of the Church sees fit to bless America, despite its great national evil, with the Holy Spirit — then who are we to point a finger or to move a tongue against it?
But from God's American Israel, we turn with earnestness and solemnity to the Church of Christ — the one Israel of God — in our own Britain. Brethren beloved, our appeal is to you! Shall we, or shall we not — have a like outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What hinders the blessing? What withholds the showers? Why are not the windows of Heaven opened? Do we not live in the same spiritual dispensation? Have we not the same Holy Spirit? Are not the Savior's assurances and promises of enlarged bestowment of blessing, of especial outpourings of the Spirit, equally ours? Have we not possessed the "former rain moderately," earnests and first fruits of the "latter rain abundantly"? Is the Spirit of the Lord so straitened that latitudes and longitudes restrict Him — that geographical limits bound Him — that national character influences Him — that ecclesiastical institutions obstruct Him? Is He so straitened that He cannot cross oceans — reach continents — overcome difficulties — and, spreading like a cloud full of mercy over the land, unveil its brightness and unbosom its treasure of heaven-sent and heaven-alluring blessing in our midst?
True, we see much to chill expectation, to discourage hope, and to grieve, repel, and force back a waiting, yearning, advancing Spirit. Everywhere and on either hand we are confronted by the growing ungodliness of the world, and by the increasing unbelief of the Church — "the children of the night" reveling in their darkness, and the "children of the day" slumbering in their light. What a sad moral picture does the history of our country for the last few years present! What startling crimes — what commercial frauds — what mad financial speculation — what reckless expenditure — what violations of trust — what invasions of domestic happiness — what trampling upon the weak — what grinding of the poor — what tyranny, oppression, and injustice have blackened the annals of our national criminal jurisprudence!
And still, the melancholy fact of our jails and prisons, and our penal colonies, drawing a portion of their degraded and expatriated population from the ranks of the elite of society, and from the very altars of the Christian Church — the elements of evil exist — deep, rife, potent as ever! Human nature is as corrupt — the thirst for pleasure is as intense — the fondness for show is as eager — the love of money is as strong as it ever was. Nay, it is impossible to cast the most superficial glance over society, and not be impressed with the conviction that, as speculation increases, and the facilities for accumulating rapid and vast fortunes multiply, the desire to "make a fair show in the flesh" — the parade of dress, the love of display, the costliness of living, the vulgar imitation and lacquered self-importance of lordly dignity — increase in the same alarming ratio!
And still, as we have remarked, these latent evils in society exist, and are, at the present moment, vigorously and silently in operation. By and by they will force their way up to the surface, and the country will again be electrified by some new tragedy in crime, or some new commercial fraud yet more appalling and startling.
What will meet the case? What moral check, what potent restraint, what remedial process — will arrest these growing evils and avert these impending calamities? Ministers of Christ! Senators! Political Economists! Reformers! Listen! The salvation of England — the hope of the Christian Church — is a national revival of pure and undefiled religion! The outpouring of the Holy Spirit alone can save us. Society must be regenerated — and there is no regenerating influence but in a Divine, sanctifying Spirit. Christianity has molded us as a people to what we are — nationally great — politically and religiously free — intellectually powerful — commercially affluent; and the diffusive influence of Christianity — a Christianity not encased in a cold, heartless ritualism, but instinct with Divine life and power — can alone shield these blessings, and preserve and perpetuate to us these privileges inviolate.
And what power is to reach the dense masses around us of immortal beings living in sin and folly and worldliness and utter oblivion of eternity? By what commanding influence shall we call off their eager chase of these earthly vanities, and bid them think of the future — the solemn, interminable future? How few of the thousands who pass before us are seriously living as sane, rational, dying, and yet deathless beings! "Madness is in their heart while they live."
We endeavor to compass their case. We use means, and resort to many expedients to rouse Christians from their lethargy, and the unconverted from their vain infatuations. We build sanctuaries, engage ministers, open public halls, multiply instrumentalities, employ agents — but alas, the remedies are inadequate!
There is . . .
no thorough awakening of the national mind,
no deep impression upon the masses of the people,
no quickened movement,
no spiritual life breathing upon the great "valley of dry and inanimate bones."
We have numerous places of worship — commodious in space, beautiful in architecture. We have able, learned, and eloquent preachers, attracting around their pulpits, many of them, the crowded and admiring audience. But where is the great awakening among the people? From what assembly arises the earnest cry, "What shall we do to be saved?"
Where is the Spirit of the Lord? Is He among us, or not? Does He fill our sanctuaries with His manifested presence? Does He brood over our congregations with His quickening influence? Does He speak from our pulpits with divine, irresistible, converting power? Who, in reply to these interrogatories, can say that it is so?
Ministers of the gospel! We, above all others, need the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! Ours is the most honorable and important, as it is the most solemn and perilous — office that God has entrusted to created beings. Our mission is to unfold the mysteries of God's Word, to preach Christ, and to save souls from eternal death. Waving the smoking censor, we stand between the living and the dead, between Hell and Heaven, seeking to intercept the downward progress of sinners to the one, and allure them up to the other.
Hell or Heaven must be the eternal abode of our hearers! We are preaching for another world. Every sermon we deliver bears upon the changeless destiny of those who listen to us. Ears that hear us now — will be forever filled with the anthems of the redeemed, or vibrate with the wail of the despairing and the lost. Eyes that gaze up into ours, while from our pulpit we proclaim to them the salvation of Christ — will soon see the Judge of all the earth. Who is sufficient for a work so great, for duties so holy, for responsibilities so overwhelming — but he who is filled with the Spirit?
How should we, the instant we cross the threshold of that solemn place, our pulpit — prostrate ourselves before the mercy-seat, and in silent, fervent prayer seek to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit! Then when we rise to deliver the message of God to the people, the word we speak will be with power. Without this Divine anointing, what are we as preachers of Christ's gospel? Just as ignorant, as sinful, and as weak as others. We receive not the Holy Spirit, simply in virtue of our office. Our investiture with the high functions of the Christian ministry — the laying on of the hands that solemnly set us apart to our holy work — conveyed not a particle of the Divine Spirit to our souls. It is the sole prerogative of the Chief Shepherd of souls, to breathe the blessing with the words, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
Oh, if we possess no more of this sacred anointing than that which man has conveyed — then alas for our people, alas for our ministry, alas for our own souls at the great day of account!
As ministers of Christ, then, let us cherish a deep conviction of our absolute need of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In vain are our talents, our learning, our intellectualism, our eloquence, our deeply-thought, well digested, carefully-prepared, and gracefully-delivered discourses — all, all will be fruitless of real good without the unction and power and demonstration or the Holy Spirit. Is it not written — written as if especially for us who are Christ's ministers — "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord"? Oh to preach the gospel with the unction of Holy Spirit!
Do we plead for a national outpouring of the Holy Spirit? When was it ever more needed? Everywhere we are confronted by an ungodly world, growing in ungodliness. Everywhere we behold the Christian Church reposing upon the lap of human reason and spiritual slumber, from whence the locks of her moral strength are severed. Nevertheless, the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened. Descending upon us in Pentecostal outpourings-He can sweep away all this worldliness, infidelity, and sinful indolence. He can remove this laziness, prayerlessness, and unbelief! And, despite our iniquities and ingratitude as a nation — and our coldness and divisions as a Church — He can drench this land with the showers of His grace.
Listen to the Divine promises which pledge the blessing: "Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things!" "Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given the early rain for your vindication; He has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before." "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." (Joel 2:21, 23, 28).
This glorious prediction of a universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, although inserted with the gospel dispensation and enrolled among the New Testament promises — did not receive its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost. It remains to be fulfilled in these "last days." Brighter days are before the Church — a more glorious era is to dawn upon the world — the whole creation "waits for the manifestation of the sons of God." The Holy Spirit shall come down "as showers that water the earth." "The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations." "The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad — the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus." "For the Lord comforts Zion; He comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song."
And what a remarkable promise of the enlarged bestowment of the Spirit is that in Isaiah 44:3: "For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit upon your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams. This one will say, 'I am the Lord's,' another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, 'The Lord's,' and name himself by the name of Israel."
Oh, how does the Lord in these remarkable words rebuke our stinted desires, our weakened expectations, our limiting the Holy One of Israel, concerning the bestowment of the outpouring of the Spirit. We have been thinking only of the gentle shower — God says He will "pour". We have been expecting but a limited supply — God promises that it shall be as a "flood." How should we be humbled under a sense of the dwarfishness of our expectations and the largeness of God's promises! What blessings will descend, when the outpouring of the Spirit, thus affluent and boundless — shall sanctify and bless the families of this nation. His promise, "I will be the God of all the clans of Israel" (Jeremiah 31:1), should ever be coupled in our earnest pleadings with the Divine pledge, "I will pour My Spirit upon your offspring and My blessing on your descendants."
Christian parents! These Divine assurances appertain to you. What encouragement they afford you to seek the immediate conversion of your children! God stands prepared to make them good in your experience. Hold Him to their fulfillment by the unyielding grasp of faith. "He cannot deny himself." "It is impossible for God to lie." Plead them even while the cloud, weighted with covenant blessing, is passing by. Who knows but He will return and leave a blessing behind?
The New Testament warrant for asking and expecting the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, is not less distinct and encouraging. Let it ever be remembered in all questions of theological discussion, that it is not accumulation of evidence which we are to seek; but that it is a rule in the study of God's word that a single, clear, and positive proof is sufficient authority for our full belief of any doctrine or precept of revealed truth.
Now, concerning the doctrine of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that one declaration of John the Baptist is a sufficient warrant to expect the extension of this precious, inestimable blessing to this whole land. "I have baptized you with water — but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." Does not this promise yet await its literal and extended fulfillment? It was not addressed by John to a particular section of the Christian Church, but to the nation — "Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him." To these, including the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to his baptism, he declared, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." And this is the baptism we now would ask at His hands!
Has He not, in those touching words appealing to the deepest love of our nature, encouraged us to ask for it. " If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children — then how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" And then, in subsequent periods of His instructions, how does the theme grow upon Him, gathering interest, importance, and glow — from the circumstance of the approaching glory within whose splendors He was so soon to disappear!
It might be expected that some suggestions as to the instrumentalities to be employed in securing the national revival of religion for which we plead — would be a befitting and acceptable conclusion to these pages. But on this point, we must confess that our jealousy for the Lord's glory in the work leaves us but little to offer.
We seek not a religious excitement produced by a ponderous and complicated machinery of religious means. The history of a Christian revival proves that all real, spiritual awakenings of the national mind — have been those in which God, and not man, has been the prime mover. The great awakening in the United States, the news of whose unabated power has reached us while penning these closing pages — was not a forced movement, stirred up for the occasion. There, doubtless, had been at work under-currents of feeling and secret, silent agencies, tending to prepare the popular mind for some simultaneous and extraordinary religious impulse. And when the great commercial crisis arrived, and men's hearts were failing them in view of the instability of all earthly possessions — bank after bank stopping — house after house falling — fortune after fortune vanishing — God the Holy Spirit, employed this event in Divine providence for the accomplishment of His gracious purposes.
Among the means thus quietly at work, especial reference may be made to a course of systematic home visitation, which appears to have been fraught with eminent success, and constituted a powerful preparation to the great awakening. It is thus referred to by a historian of the work, writing from the spot:
"Some time ago, a plan was set foot, which was adopted by a large number of churches of various denominations in New York and Brooklyn, for the purpose of promoting attendance at Divine service on the Sabbath, by systematic visitation of assigned neighborhoods. Each church that entered into the enterprise was allotted a certain area, of which it was the center, in which every house was to be visited and the religious condition of every family inquired into. The districts at first chosen to be visited were chiefly poor and base neighborhoods, where both the temporal and the spiritual destitution of the people was painfully apparent.
Parents were solicited to go either to the church in the district, or to some other out of it — which they might prefer instead, and to send their children to the Sunday schools and the mission schools. In this way thousands of persons, many of whom were formerly degraded and vicious, have been reclaimed to a better moral character and a higher social standing. Gradually this scheme of visitation was extended so as to include the respectable and fashionable streets — as well as the poor highways and hedges. The results of these efforts, as seen among the higher classes of society, have been of equal interest with those in the lower. The number of rich people, in high life, who were found never to attend any church, was enormous; though, of course, not so large are of the poor; for not only are our poor people in the majority in these times, but in upper circles religion is to a certain degree 'fashionable' and church-going is taken is an evidence of 'respectability.'"
Such facts as these are full of significance. Do we marvel that such holy zeal and painstaking for souls, should have been so honored of God, that there actually occurred in a single week, in all parts of the country taken together — as many as many as fifty thousand hopeful conversions to Christ? Oh, no! God is a God of means, and when we diligently and perseveringly "make the well," He will cause "the rain also to fill the pools" (Psalm 84:6). Were such a system of home visitation set on foot in our different congregations, parishes, and districts — who can estimate the result? We must tread in our Master's steps, and "go after those who are lost" until we find them. We must leave our stereotyped plans — and go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.
Those who are engaged in the work of systematic tract distribution, have it greatly in their power to further this plan. Your work, beloved, is but half done when you have simply handed out your little silent messenger. With it, you must yourself enter; make affectionate inquiries of the inhabitants, and, in the character of the Lord's police, seek for the lost goods of your Sovereign, and "apprehend" souls for Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12).
But the grand instrument in this great revival was PRAYER — and this must be our instrument as well! Here lies the great secret of a national outpouring of the Spirit. Let the Christian Church arise as one man and take hold of God's strength — and the blessing is ours! Let the hand of faith touch those mysterious wires which link earth to Heaven, which bind a humble suppliant on God's footstool to God on His throne in glory — and there shall be an immediate fulfillment of the promise, in a rich outpouring of the Spirit. "Before they call, I will answer: and while they are yet speaking, I will hear."
The electric current will not transmit your thoughts across the Atlantic with such rapidity — as the prayer of faith will waft your petitions up to the throne of God! So ready, so eager is God to respond — He condescends to anticipate the prayer you offer and to say, "Before they call — I will answer."
And when with this encouragement to prayer, it is remembered that the Great Intercessor is in Heaven; that, "being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit," He is prepared to endorse every petition we offer, to back every suit we present, and to receive and bestow the precious blessing we ask — then surely we may draw near the mercy-seat, come boldly to the throne of grace, and ask of our Heavenly Father that He would baptize this land, and His Church within its borders, with the Holy Spirit. Oh, the mighty power of prayer with God! Brethren, we have yet to prove it! Let us prove it now!
But we wish to urge upon the serious consideration of the Church of God and her ministers, not prayer simply in its individual or denominational character — but prayer in its collective and corporate form — united prayer for an outpoured Spirit. We employ the expression advisedly and emphatically — united prayer. Denominational prayer will secure great blessings — but united prayer will secure yet greater blessings! It was unity that obtained the Spirit in olden time. "And it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord: 'For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!' The house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God!" 2 Chronicles 5:13-14).
What a glorious day for God's Church was this! It was the Old Testament day of Pentecost, a type of all subsequent outpourings of the Spirit. There was unity of mind, of heart, and of voice — and this unity brought down the blessing. The instruments of music were indeed various — there was the harp and the cymbal and the dulcimer and the cornet and the flute and the sackbut; and to these were added the varied modulations of the human voice; and yet there was no discord — not a jar nor a dissonant sound marred that anthem of praise — but the most perfect and exquisite harmonious melody. And why? Because their hearts were all one, attuned to the same key-note of thanksgiving to the Lord. And thus it should be now!
Here we learn how God overrules and employs our different minds, gifts, graces, and modes of worship — to the construction of that harmony of the soul in which the real unity of His Church is most seen. That uniformity is not unity — is a sentiment which the history of the Church has long illustrated. And that the most perfect unity of spirit may exist with the most perfect liberty of judgment and of conscience — is a truth not less confirmed. Let, then, the varied gifts and modes of thought and of worship in the house of God all be united to secure the one great blessing which all need, and which will be alike the enriching possession of all — the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Thus each branch and section of the Christian Church, differing in government and discipline and mode of worship — may yet be as one in urging the petition once breathed by the eloquent and pious Howe, "Behold, O Lord, a poor company of creatures gasping for life! Your Spirit is vital breath — we are ready to die if Your Spirit breathe not. Pity Your own offspring, O Father of mercies. Take from us, keep from us whatever You will — but, oh withhold not Your own Spirit."
We have, too, in the history of the first revival of religion in the New Testament Church, another and striking illustration of the power of Christian unity, in securing the outpouring of the Spirit. When the disciples "were all together in one place," looking to the same Atoning Lamb, and waiting for the same Divine blessing, "suddenly there came from Heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit."
Now it is for this unity in prayer for the Spirit for which we earnestly plead. Our Lord encourages it. "I say unto you, if two of you agree on earth about anything that they ask — it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven." We ask, then, that in supplicating the outpouring of the Spirit upon this nation, there may be agreement in prayer — united prayer among the Lord's people, who are moved to meet together in no other than the one sacred name which all hear — the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. What should prevent the flock of Christ of different pens, yet of one fold, assembling together to ask at the hands of their Shepherd the one blessing, which all alike feel as essential to the revival and promotion of their spiritual life?
O beloved brethren, in view of this precious blessing — how insignificant in their value, and unimportant as insignia — do appear the denominational distinctions that mark and sunder us. Say not — let the members of the establishment meet as such, and let the members of nonconformist communions meet as such — each preserving its own ecclesiastical distinction. This were to grieve and wound the Spirit deeply. This were to rob you of one of the sweetest and most sacred privileges of the Church militant. This were to enfeeble your strength, to chill your devotions, and to check and withhold the very blessing you have met to ask.
What, if upon our exclusive, separate, and narrowed gatherings — no dew of the Spirit should fall — the fleece all dry! Would it not be a rebuke for our selfishness — most righteous and deserved? But were the Spirit to descend, it would be impossible to arrest the flow of Divine influences, and restrict within the bounds of a circumscribed limit, the flood-tide once set in. Its progress must be onward. A revival of vital godliness in one parish, district, town, or country — would transmit the Divine spark to an adjacent one; and thus spreading, touch, enkindle, and encircle, as with an electric belt, the entire nation. To it we alone look with confidence for the destruction of sectarianism throughout the Church of God. Our denominational foot-prints, alas — too visibly track the path over which we toil. But when the Spirit shall be poured upon us from on high, the gentle waves of love will flow over these shallows of our sectarianism, covering and effacing every unseemly trace of our party and divided interests. When the trumpeters and singers are as one to make one sound to be heard — then we may look for the glory of the Spirit of the Lord to descend and fill the house of God!
And oh, what scenes of blessedness will follow the baptism of the Holy Spirit! It will be as though a nation were born in a day. Saints revived — sinners converted — churches united — sanctuaries filled — ministers preaching the Word of the Lord as with tongues of fire. A new impetus will be given to the cause of God, of truth, and of Christian benevolence. The strongholds of sin will tremble — Satan will relinquish his prey. Error will shrink away abashed — false teaching will be banished from the pulpit and fall powerless from the press. Gold and silver will flow abundantly into the treasury of the Lord. Rank, time, and talent will be consecrated to the high ends for which they were given. Home evangelization and foreign missions will be quickened with a new and extraordinary impulse. But what mind can conceive, or imagination paint, or pen describe — the results to this people, nay, to the world, of a National revival of religion in this land!
Oh, let is give God no rest, until we obtain the blessing! In the spirit of the Lord's prophet let us exclaim, "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not be quiet — until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch."
If this revival is to take place, it must commence where judgment will begin, "at the house of God." God deals first, both in the way of mercy and of judgment, with His Church. Both are designed to refine and purify — that she, thus beautified and sanctified, may go forth in all her unshaded luster and unimpaired strength, "beautiful as the morn, bright as the sun, awesome as an army with banners" — blessed and blessing.
Oh, who will not lay down these pages with the prayerful, solemn resolution that from this moment he will seek the outpouring of the Holy Spirit — first for his own soul, and then for the souls of others? God challenges us! "Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. And thereby put Me to the test, says the Lord Almighty, if I will not open the windows of Heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need."
Come that blessed day! Let these eyes behold the sight, then close in death!