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fruits which might have followed a revival stinted or marred, by any imbecile or ill-judged procedures !
With these views of revivals, and of their importance as a subject of religious study, when the publishers of the present volume applied to me, last summer, for advice in selecting a book which would be seasonable and ac, ceptable in the present revived state of things, I could think of no one so appropriate as Edwards on Revivals. I was struck also with the coincidence, when on making inquiry of several individuals, whose opinion in such a case is of great weight, they spontaneously, and without any suggestion from me, designated the same work, as one which it was particularly desirable to have circulated in the churches at the present time. If any further evidence were needed, it may be found in the testimonials to the value of these writings, which the publisher has obtained and prefixed to this volume. Coming as they do, from ministers of different evangelical denominations, and men who are known to différ in many particulars, the unanimity of their approbation, and the unqualified terms in which they have given it, are worthy of particuand grateful notice. It augurs, well for revivals, that a work so full, efficient, and thorough, should have united such suffrages in its favor.
Probably no uninspired man was ever qualified for such a work, like President Edwards. To a very clear, discriminating, and philosophical mind, he added a habit of patient study and diligent research, excited and governed by a love of truth. The clearness, which in others is so often cold and dull, in him was warmed and enlivened by an experience in religion, singularly deep and spiritual. Having been most thoroughly trained in theology, and received practical instruction from his father, and from his grandfather Stoddard, respecting revivals, he was privileged to be the instrument of producing one of the most genuine and powerful revivals on record in modern times, the first in a series of revivals, of great extent and power. These things conspired to put in' requisition all the powers of his copious mind, and employ them on the subject of revivals. His piety, zeal, faith, judgment, courage, integrity, were all tried, and not found wanting. He wrote these works with all the savor of the revivals fresh upon his soul. His mind was full of revival influence. He felt that revivals were thė great interest, which ought to enlist the zeal, and. absorb the sensibilities of the church. Indeed, these writings are so pervaded with the revival spirit, that they cannot be properly appreciated, but by one who partakes of the same heavenly influence. There is spirituality, a thoroughness, a devotedness to the subject, a delicacy of discrimination, which no man can duly understand, whose mind is in a cold, worldly, unbelieving, caviling state. None but a revived Christian can rightly coinprchend, or judiciously apply, the various principles and rules which are here developed. He who reads this, and does not feel himself moved to prize, and seek, and pray for revivals, is poorly qualified to use the book, in its applications to others.
The account given by President Edwards himself, of the work in 1735, in the first portion of the subsequent volume, is so full and authentic, that it is only needful to mention this as the first in a series or cluster of revivals,
which extended over our whole country during a space of twenty years. The “ Thoughts concerning the Revival,” which occupy the principal part of the book, is a more labored work. · It was written in 1742, during the progress of a very extensive revival, which commenced in Connecticut.and Massachusetts, and continued for several years. This is what is generally known by the name of the great revival.” I gather from Trumbull's History, that it began in Connecticut, early in the year 1740. Its rise in Massachusetts is traced to the first visit of Mr. Whitefield, who reached Boston in September of that year. The Boston minister's seem to have entered zealously into the work, with the exception of Dr. Chauncey, who afterwards wrote a book against it.* Rev. Gilbert Tennent, a preacher of great eloquence and remarkable success, also visited New England soon after Mr. Whitefield, and spent upwards of two months in Boston. He likewise labored in Connecticut. The work. was more powerful in the years 1740, 1741, and 1742, in Connecticut than in Massachusetts.. The ministers who labored with most extensive effect were Messrs. Mills, Pomeroy, Wheelock, and Bellamy, who preachod in all parts of the colony, and in Massachusetts, wherever their brethren would admit them.. Some of the leading ministers, however, were bitter enemies of the revival ; and about the time that this book was written, 1742, their hosiility had reached its height. Dr. Trumbull says, it was the “plan of the old lights, or Arminians, both among the clergy and civilians, to suppress, as far as possible, all the zealous and Calvinistic preachers.” The most severe laws were passed against them, and rigorously executed. As the consequence of this withdrawment of so many leading ministers, and the opposition which was made to the work, the zeal of many degenerated to enthusiasm, discord and fanaticism crept in, and in the subsequent years, many grievous separations and other evils took place in the churches. Still, however, the work of genuine revival seems to have gone steadily forward, notwithstanding these mixtures of human infirmity, so that by the year 1748, the balance of public opinion was entirely changed, the oppressive laws were repealed, and the ministers who had been punished for laboring in revivals, were restored to their rights. Much has þeen said about the disorders which attended these revivals ; but Dr. Trumbull says, “Of these, in most of the churches, there was little or nothing; and perhaps they were not greater in any, than were found in the church at Corinth, even in the apostolic age.” “It was estimated that in two or three years of the revival, thirty or forty thousand.souls were born into the family of heaven, in New England, besides great numbers in New York and New Jersey, and in the more southern provinces.”
President Edwards wrote his “Thoughts on the Revival,in 1742, the most critical period of this interesting history, when the work seemed to be balancing, as it were, between the deadly opposition of some, and the extravagancies of athers. And how admirably calculated was this man, how evidently was he raised up, to hold the scales in such a juncture. To be duly estimated, the work should be judged of in connection with the circumstances under which it was produced. The manner of laying out his plan, and the topics introduced, the practices which he either defended or censured, the wisdom with which he conducted his subject, are much more apparent, to those who will make themselves familiar with the historical facts by which it is illustrated.
* He subsequently avowed blmself a believer in universalism.
Trumbull, aist. Conn. Book II. Chap. 8.
It would be out of place here, to attempt an extended review of this celebrated treatise. The general plan will be seen from the table of contents. He begins his work, by showing very clearly which side he espoused of the main question at issue, and by avowing his full conviction that the excitement then in progress was a great and glorious work of God. He had no sympathy at all with those who doubted on this point, or who were so forever harping upon real or fancie
errors, connected with the work, that they had no heart to rejoice in its blessed results. He explains, in a masterly manner, how these errors, so far as they had a real existence, were not only compatible with
a genuine work of grace, but might well have grown out of the work itself, from the greatness and the novelty of the excitement, the opposition encountered, the weakness of the instruments, (modestly including himself,) and the imperfection of knowledge and grace in those who were engaged in the work. And he expresses, in no measured terms, but with equal kindness, his sense of the offensiveness of their conduct, who stood aloof at such a day of the espousals of the church, minding nothing but defects and blemishes. After all their cry about madness and enthusiasm, the worst madness in the sight of God, was to remain cold and inactive at such a time. Nothing can exceed the acuteness with which he handles the objections of those, who would pretend to judge of revivals by philosophy, or custom, or their own shallow experience. Would that it might ever be so, that those who feel called upon to promote the purity of revivals, should begin by such a triumphant vindication of them, as the glorious work of God's Holy Spirit. Were the principles here laid down duly considered, men would be slower than they are to discredit the genuineness of a revival, or the piety or orthodoxy of those who labor in it, merely because it appears to them to be attended with indiscretions or irregularities.
Part second, in which he enforces the obligation of all to be actively engaged in promoting the work, is full of the most solemn and weighty considerations. The principle is fully brought out, that a time of revivals calls for special efforts, to fall in with the designs of the Spirit, and promote and extend: the work. It is difficult to conceive how a minister can read this part, and while revivals are prevailing all around him, still quiet his conscience without putting forth some special efforts to have his people share in the passing mercy. There are some passages in this part which have an awful solemnity, and ought to be deeply pondered by those, who are not adopting any special measures to promote and extend the work of grace now going on in our land. Those especially, who allow themselves to speak slightingly of these excitements, and to deride or abuse the instruments that God sees fit to employ, should take heed to some of the admonitions, which come with so much force, as well as discrimination, from the pen of Edwards.
Having exhibited the danger of not acknowledging and promoting the work of revival, in a way calculated to carry trembling to the hearts of those that stand aloof from revivals, because they are carried on in a way which does not exactly. coincide with their views, he next shows the blessedness that must necessarily attend a hearty co-operation in the work. Two principles are clearly. maintained; that it is at their peril if men fail to acknowledge a real revival of religion, through any false notions, or a priori reasonings of their own ;
and that a time of revival imposes a special duty upon ministers and others, to go out of their ordinary course, and do something more than what is usual, to honor and advance the work. Men may be in fact opposers of the work, who.do not directly speak against it as a whole ; who even acknowledge, in general-termis, that there is a good work carried on in the country ; but whose habitual conversation shows that they are in fact more out of humor with the state of things, and enjoy themselves less than they did before the work began. Such are known, by being more forward to take notice of what is amiss than of what is good in the work. And there can be no doubt their influence, on the whole, is unfavorable to the revival. If men viewed things in a just light, the conversion of numbers of siuners would so engage their attention, and engross their hearts, that they would not be in a humor to dwell perpetually upon the errors of the instruments.
In the third part, we have a very discriminating and hearty defense of the subjects and zealous promoters of the work, from many groundless charges which had been brought against them. He vindicates zealous preachers from the charge of appealing exclusively to the passions. There is no dan- • ger of raising the affections too high in religion, if they are raised in view of the proper objects. Neither are ministers to be blamed for preaching terror to awakened sinners, if it is truth, and if proper pains are taken to enlighten them, and show them what they must do to be saved. And in regard to frequent meetings, and the like, he mentions that it is to the honor of God, when people are so much employed in outward acts of religion, as to carry a public appearance of engagedness in it, as the main business of life. And though it is not true, ordinarily, that the time occupied by religious meetings encroaches seriously upon men's worldly business, yet it may often be highly proper and useful to do so. And on the subject of frequent preaching, in reply to the objection that one sermon will crowd out another from people's minds, this great master of assemblies avers, that the main benefit of preaching is by impressions made upon the mind in the time of it, and not by any effect that arises from the subsequent remembrance of it.
Having shown in what way, and to what extent, effects on the body are to be regarded as probable tokens of God's presence and power ; considered how far it is proper to use means for increasing the excitement in an assem
and justified the earnestness of those whose hearts are full of the love of Christ, the practice of frequent singing, and the religious meetings of children, under proper regulations; he then proceeds, in part fourth, to point
out what things ought to be corrected or avoided, in promoting the revival. If any evidence were wanting, to prove the remarkable integrity and singleness of heart of this eminent servant of Christ, it may be fouud in the plain, pointed, and faithful manner in which he has treated this part of the subject. It required no small measure of grace to acknowledge, and of firmness to point out to public notice, the faults, errors, and delinqueneies of those whom he had just been strenuously engaged to uphold and defend.
He begins with remarking, that the last resort of the devil to overthrow. a revival of religion, is to corrupt it, or carry it to cextremes ; and that the errors of its friends and promoters furnish him with his greatest advantage. It is a great mistake for Christians' to think, that even in the seasons of their highest spiritual enjoyment, they are out of danger from the adversary. These errors are traced to spiritual pride; the adoption of some wrong principles, respecting the guidance of the Spirit, the prayer of faith, or some other point; and ignorance of Satan's devices.
No enemy of the revivals could have done this part of the work with a more unsparing hand than Edwards. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. And every one, especially every minister, who is actively engaged in revivals, and successful in promoting them, should make himself familiar with this part of the book, as the chart of his constant dangers and easily besetting sins. He will find many'around him, who are fond of throwing these things in his teeth ; aud the only just defense is, so to live and labor that they shall not be true. In regard to the use which is lawfully to be made of this part, it is proper to observe, that the points here agitated, are points which concern only those who are themselves actively and cordially engaged in promoting revivals, to be settled among themselves. Those who are unbelieving and inactive, will find matters enough to occupy their attention, in the previous pages. Indeed, it would be no bad rule, and would condụce much to the peace of the church, to have it understood, that no person should make use of this part, in discussing points connected with revivals, until he had read, marked, inwardly digested, and cordially approved and adopted the previous portions. It would silence many complainers, and might awaken some sleeping consciences.
In commenting thus freely upon the evils which will sometimes be found among those who are earnestly engaged in promoting the revival, Edwards shows that it was no part of his principles to cover up such things, or to pal- . liate them. He does not admit the doctrine, that speaking of these things, in a friendly way, and for the purpose of correcting them, and of doing good to those who have fallen into them, will stop the revival. But it ought to be done by those who are actually engaged themselves in the revival, and not by those who are looking on, and taking no part nor responsibility in the work.
The pride, false principles, censoriousness, and other things which he has. pointed out as errors, have not ceased from the church. And this part of the book still needs to be studied. Probably the views of our most judicious and warm hearted men are a little altered in regard to the importance which should be allotted to strong bodily emotions ; and their ideas.considerably