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to see their parishes invaded by these itinerant men, for the declared purpose of producing religious excitements, called revivals-dared to bring in question the propriety or usefulness of these proceedings. It was sufficiently evident to all sober and discreet ministers, whose piety, Christian zeal, and pastoral character could in no respect be impeached, that these revivals, so called, had begun to assume an entire new character, which they could not approve, and which awakened their anxiety. The theory of revivals, from being dependant on Divine influence, which was the universal belief in their earlier history, both among ministers and private Christians, had in the minds and preaching of these men been reversed, and was boldly and publicly affirmed, to be dependant on man ; and that a revival might be had at any time at the will of Christians, in any given community-depending, of course, on a specific set of measures invented and applied for this purpose under their direction and control.
It is important to be observed, that the theory of revivals, as developed in the minds of these men, has undergone this essential modification—this entire change. I say theory—for such undoubtedly it is. The uniform course pursued and the measures applied prove it to be a theory ; and a theory well understood. In any case it is a theory. The simple preaching of Divine truth to awaken religious attention, in the old way, is a theory, and a legitimate, scriptural one.
But in the case now under consideration the theory involves a new and specific moral machinery, or system of measures, to be employed and applied in connexion with the most startling and terrific appeals to the feelings and passions. The acme of the contrivance has been to shock the mind and drive it from the position and basis, on which education and habit had fixed and established it. The theory assumes, that no religious training can be good and rightthat all is wrong--so long as the sinner remains unconverted. To dislodge him, therefore, by whatever means, entirely from his accustomed position, from all his habits of thinking, at whatever anxious and conscientious pains they may have been acquired and established under the
best religious guardians and teachers, and to bring his mind under the influence and control of this new moral machinery, is conversion. This is the theory, and substantially the mode of its application.
They who have philosophized so skilfully in the construction of this theory and in the application of this machinery, must excuse us, if we in turn philosophize in analyzing and exposing it. That theory of morals or religion, which will not endure scrutiny, may justly be suspected as unsound. They who have introduced an entirely new system of religious operations, who have unsettled the public mind, who have disturbed the pastoral relations of the country, and in a multitude of instances entirely broken them up, must have an uncommon degree of assurance, if they could expect to assert and enjoy this right, without having it questioned. The crisis has doubtless arrived, when it will be questioned; it has already been questioned ; and the regular ministry of the country, having long suffered the most grievous ills by these incursions, have at last begun to manifest their sense of duty to the public, to conscience, and to God, by betraying or openly declaring their dissent from, their aversion to, and their abhorrence of these practices. This dissent, this aversion, this abhorrence has been tardy in manifesting itself, because of a conscientious reluctance which all friends of pure and genuine revivals have felt to oppose anything passing under this name ; and in the hope, that these extravagances might be arrested, and the cause of religion redeemed from their blighting influence. The forestalling of these events, which has for several years betrayed itself in superior and discerning minds, feeling the responsibility of their high and influential trust as ministers of religion; the more open expressions of opinion, which have come from the most respectable quarters, in public discussions on this question, and through the medium of the press; the gradual withdrawal of confidence, which had been unadvisedly and with the purest intentions bestowed; and the uninterrupted developments of the religious journals, abundantly demonstrate the prevalent and growing impres
Bions of this new, extraordinary, and unhappy state of our religious world. It is at last found out, that this leaven is so widely diffused through the mass of the community, that nearly all religious excitements, wherever they occur, are corrupted by it; it is next to impossible to have and enjoy a revived state of religious feeling ir any church and congregation without encountering it.
The causes of this remarkable state of things are to my mind sufficiently manifest. First, that grand development or form of Christianity, in the public mind of this country, which has providentially made us, as a people, more susceptible of the energetic influences of religious truth than any Christian nation, has afforded wonderful facilities to the most active religious agencies of whatever kind, that have been brought to bear on the mass of the community. From the beginning of our history and in the structure of our society we have been peculiarly open to sudden irruptions of religious zeal from ignorant and inexperienced persons, and from wild enthusiasts. The early history of Massachusetts proves it; Trumbull's History of Connecticut lays open the same general fact; and later events, over a wider field, confirm it. And lastly, if I may be permitted the suggestion, our defective religious and ecclesiastical organizations have ministered to this result. We have had no. thing of this kind, generally adopted, and sufficiently well provided, compact, and firm, to protect and defend us from these irruptions, or to check and restrain these tendencies. A woman could disturb a church, and a man could overthrow it; a bad and viciously disposed minister could bid defiance to his brethren, and lay waste religious societies for want of authority to arrest his career ; orthodoxy has been exposed for want of a common and generally received creed; and the best and most useful pastors of the land have had their influence destroyed and been broken up by the lawless and rude incursions of those, who are also clothed with the ministerial office and of the same denomination, because there was none that could forbid it. The influences, which govern the
religious world, more generally come up from the lower conditions of life and from the ladies, instead of originating in official stations, whence they ought to proceed from the very design of society and by the ordinance of God. In such a state of things it need not seem strange, that the sacred cause of religious-revivals should have been so extensively blighted by the rash experiments of bold and adventurous spirits, relying on the philosophy of a human theory, rather than on the power of the Spirit of God-inventing and applying machinery of their own, instead of using the legitimate means of Christianity.
But lest I should seem not to pay suitable respect to the fruits of these operations, which, it is averred, are often good, and that there is reason to believe, that numerous souls' are born again through this instrumentality, it may seem incumbent upon me to meet this justification. For this I am fully prepared by the experience I have had and the observation I have made.
I will admit, then, that souls are regenerated and brought into a spiritual union with Christ by this instrumentality; that scores, even hundreds are ; or any number that may be claimed by those who advocate this system, be it more or less; and even on that ground I can see abundant reasons for anxiety and regret, that such a system-such modes of operation have prevailed, or ever been introduced in our religious world :
Because I am reasonably convinced, by the widest scope of this question, and by all the relations and bearings of these práctices, that they are in the way of the spiritual regeneration and salvation of the greater number of souls. Of course I allude to that system of operations, which contrives to get up in any given community the greatest possible religious excitement; which sets out on the principle, that it is possible to accomplish this object in the execution of a specific plan; which goes to work with this view; which, in instances too many to be a subject of conjecture as to their number, has been known to succeed; which has a distinct theory by which
to control and dictate its measures; and which, in its progress, is characterized by great violence.
First, by violence to customary modes of religious operation. However pure, good, and unexceptionable they may have been, it sets them almost entirely aside, and introduces a new system, on the principle, that novelty is an essential element of this moral machinery. It is perfectly philosophical for the end in view. It contrives to take the public mind by surprise, and thus gains an opportunity to descend upon it in an overwhelming manner. Every stage of progress is studied and arranged philosophically, by considering what man is individually and socially, how he is likely to be affected by a given treatment applied to his mind and feelings, as a religious and accountable being. All the preaching, addresses, warnings, entreaties, exhortations, prayers—the time, place, number, and continuous succession of all meetings--are studiously contrived and applied to the great end-excitement. The greater the excitement, the better. And when the object of excitement is gained-when public sympathy is sufficiently roused—the most violent measures are employed to urge and press persons to the state of conversion. Great violence is done to ordinary habits of thinking and feeling, though they may be indifferent or even' approvable as to their character. No matter how good and thorough the Christian education of the subjects of this influence may have been, yet they must be startled -shocked; they must be invaded by some new and unexpected'access to their imaginations, fears, hopes, passions ;-in short, their minds must be entirely dislodged from accustomed positions and from all former ground, however good and proper it may have been, and they must be compelled, in a moment of the greatest possible excitement, to yield themselves entirely-their intellect, their reason, their imagination, their belief, their feelings, their passions, their whole souls—to a single and new position, that is prescribed to them.
Now, I do not deny, that in many—nor do I feel any interest in denying, that in most of these instances, the individuals thus subdued, as it is commonly called, have