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Revivals of religion will certainly be corrupted, until there is a great advance in liberality of views and spirituality of feeling among the ministers and churches of Jesus.
There is, however, a gradual approximation towards a better day. No outbreak of disorder which has occurred in the last thirty years, can be compared to the violence and confusion which existed in some parts of this country, soon after the middle of the last century. The war of the revolution was not entered upon with more earnestness than the contest which occupied the belligerant Old and New Lights, during the period of Governor Law's administration in Connecticut. But few men in modern times have acquired a more unenviable notoriety than this same governor on the one side, and John Davenport on the other."
The great lessons which are taught at such periods, are forbearance, meekness, candid judgment, moderation, and a resolute determination on the part of every Christian not to be prejudiced by hearsay reports or partisan evidence. Human nature, in such circumstances, betrays a deplorable weakness. This is true, not only of the moral part, but of the boasted intellectual powers. It is melancholy to reflect, how men of sound mind and of liberal education will fall into errors, and become the dupes of follies which, if it were possible, would disgrace Matthias the prophet, or the Mormon heresiarch.
Revivals of religion will partake, inevitably, of the general character of the times. The religion of our countrymen, in the last century, and in the present, too, has been fundamenially affected by the mode of admission to the church which was practised and defended by such men as Increase Mather and Solomon Stoddard. The revivals, in our days, are colored by passing events and existing opinions. There is, unquestionably, a deficiency in doctrinal knowledge, or a tendency to superficial investigation, or to loose habits of study, not universal, but, nevertheless, far too common. The circumstances of a new country, which is rapidly filling with inhabitants; the acrimonious political contests; the boundless and reckless spirit of adventure; the unsettled nature of the great monied concerns of the country; the frequency, and consequent ferment, of our popular elections ; the opening of the eyes of men, suddenly, to certain great moral evils; the emigration to this country of men enter
taining all sorts of religion, and many of them entertaining no sort at all; these, and various other causes, inevitably tinge, if they do not radically corrupt, the revivals of religion which prevail. The Christian carries his political, or his money making spirit into the meeting for praise and prayer. If it be suppressed for a time, it is sure, ai length, to break out, and show its bitter fruits.
Such facts, however, do not disprove the Divine origin of these influences. The fountain is pure; the conduit is earthen. The effects are mixed, because man, after his spiritual transformation, remains, to a lamentable extent, under the power of error and sin. The effects of these revivals, nevertheless, are great and salutary. The number of pious persons now living, is, undoubtedly, much greater than at any former period. Many of them are not superficial religionists, but they know in whom they have believed, and understand, to some extent, the hope of their calling. They cherish a fraternal affection for each other. With the miserable sectarian divisions of the times, they have little sympathy. Some of thein are prevented by ecclesiastical barriers from manifesting their charity, but the true feeling burns in their breasts, and, at the proper time, it will flame forth. One genuine result of these revivals is seen in the upholding of the benevolent enterprises of the day. We say upholding, for they might be commenced in a mere temporary excitement. But that spring-time has passed away. The trial and the burden of the hot and long summer days are now to be borne. And there is no shrinking from the dust and the sun. The feelings which multitudes have exhibited in every part of the land in respect to the embarrassments of our principal benevolent societies are wortliy of particular observation. It shows an undying attachment to the work. It
many Christians have embarked in the cause for life and for death.
We are impressively taught, by the signs of the times, the importance of maintaining a calm and serene trust in God. There is no occasion for excessive anxiety. We are not to conclude that strange things are happening to us.
Neither the world nor the church have ever been free, for any con. siderable time, from great excitement. If we imagine that our generation is more remarkable, in this respect, than
any which has preceded it, we only shut our eyes to tho light of history. It is not to be compared, for instance, with the period when our Saviour was on the earth. The Jewish state was near its final catastrophe. The heavy tread of the invading Roman legions could be heard in the distance, Fearful signs were just ready to break forth in the carth and in the skies; and men's hearts were failing them for fear. At this eventful crisis, our Saviour was perfectly undisturbed, while he addressed to his disciples this most weighty admonition: in your patience possess ye your souls. He is a poor soldier who is scared by the shaking of a leaf.
The duty of exercising a kind and courteous spirit is equally obvious. No manner or degree of ill-treatment will justify those bitter retorts, and cutting invectives, which are 80 common. If one feels called on to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, let it be his object to win over the caviller, or skeptic, to the cause of truth. It is certainly possible to defend what is right, with those deep convictions of its importance, with that dignity and decorum, with that serenity of mind and candor of judgment, which will do more to commend Christianity, ihan all which the arts of the most practised logician can accomplish without them. We are to show that our religion is what it claims to be-urbane, generous, harmonizing whatever it touches, and shutting away no living thing as an outlaw from its sympathy. On the other hand, there is no occasion for wavering, fickleness, veering now to one extreme and then to its opposite. We may not shrink from a manly avowal of opinions which we honestly entertain. The most laudable enterprise is liable to imperfection; the most praiseworthy undertaking may be mismanaged. We are not justified in renouncing the right because of the wrong, in abandoning the great good because of the collateral and subordinate mischief. When there is a mad rush to one extreme, none but a fool will precipitate himself to the other.
Once more, we are bound to cherish confident and cheering hopes of the ultimate and universal spread of truth and righteousness. The world, indeed, lieth in wickedness, Its dark places are full of the habitations of cruelty. The great empire of darkness seems to be hardly entered. A few outposts only have been captured. Civilization --- with a nominal Christianity-has its attendant vices, some of them
of deep root and of enormous growth. Improvements in the arts and sciences open wider channels for corruption, and more expeditious modes for doing mischief. The extension of our settlements westward is connected with flagrant injustice to the aborigines. We cheat them out of their land one day, and murder them with our whiskey the next The ends of the land are brought together by means which are destroying the sanctity of the Sabbath day. Our canvass is said to whiten every sea, but too frequently it wafts that poison which strows every shore, that it touches, with dead men's bones.
But we must not dwell exclusively on these dark pictures. Men are not predestinated to do wrong. It is very possible to linger so long on the sad condition of ruined human nature, that we shall becoine inisanthropic seers of evil, and nothing but evil, perpetually brooding over the degeneracy of the age, unfitting ourselves, and all around us, for the world in which we live. God has spread out before us encouragements of the most ample import. For instance, there are certain wants which men feel, which all men feel, which no ingenuity of skepticism can eradicate, nor, for any long time, darken. These wants exist in the nature of man, and they must remain. The need of an atonement, and of an almighty, sanctifying Spirit, are not arbitrary, conventional matters. They do not depend on law, or agreement, or fashion. They are as indestructible as the soul of mao, while he exists in a state of probation. From such facts as these, we draw strong encouragement. They are, in a sense, safeguards, in respect to fatal error. They remonstrate against him who seeks to drown his conscience in any specious delusion.
Besides, Christianity is making progress. She is effecting some advance every year. This can be said of no false religion, Islamism and Paganism do not hold their own. Every change in them is for the worse. Every alteration is a deterioration. The Christian nations are gradually becoming stronger and more united, growing into an aggre. gate that nothing on earth can resist. The countries which are principally affecting Pagan and Mohammedan nations, are Great Britain and the United States. To these, Divine Providence seems to have intrusted, in a great measure, the destinies of the unevangelized world.
The more we look on general movements, abstracting our eyes from particular evils, we shall be encouraged and filled with hope. Under the guidance of an Almighty Providence and a regenerating Spirit, powers are at work which no malice of men or of devils can arrest. The world is given to Jesus, and his it shall be.
INQUIRIES RESPECTING FREE AGENCY.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE.—BY THE EDITOR.
The author of the following “ Inquiries" is unknown to ourselves. They are, however, furnished by a highly respected correspondent, who urges their publication in the present No. of the Repository, and assures us of the sincerity and candor with which they are propounded by the writer. They are addressed to the Rev. Dr. Woods, and appear to have been principally suggested by his article on the same subject in our last No., page 174, seq. As we hope to hear again from Dr. W. on this subject, we presume that he will gladly avail himself of the hints here presented in regard to several points, on which the positions maintained in his former article are supposed, by some, to be vulnerable. We cannot doubt that he will be gratified with the publication of these Inquiries at the present stage of the discussion. They will furnish him with an occasion to present more fully his views on the points referred to, and we doubt not that he will answer them in the same spirit of candor with which they are here urged upon his attention. He will also excuse us for presenting them, in compliance with the request of our correspondent, and for the reasons urged by the writer, anonymously.-EDITOR.
To the Editor of the American Biblical Repository: Sir,
I understand that one of your rules as an editor is, that no anonymous composition shall be printed in your Miscellany. But this rule, as one might reasonably expect, is not like the law of the Medes and Persians; for you have already pub