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to burst forth in ungovernable fury. The recent revolutions of France, Belgium, and Poland, furnish an illustration of the character not to be mistaken. The course of Prussia and Holland show conclusively that the despotism of Europe is shaken, that its advocates are alarmed, and are making violent efforts to prostrate the spirit of liberty and intelligence which has been directly efficient in the popular excitements. Force opposed to force always produces great political excitement; but power opposed to intelligence and the spirit of freedom, brings all the passions into unrestrained commotion. It is impossible to foresee the result of such high excitement in the political concerns of the old world. Almost the whole population of Europe seem wrought up to a state of intense feeling, just ready for some violent and tremendous catastrophe.
There is also much excitement arising from the atheism, infidelity, and superstition of the people in Europe. The papal superstition is assailed by the advocates of atheism and infidelity in France, and by the rationalists of other countries. The pure principles of Christianity are assailed by all the devotees of licentiousness, exciting all the feelings which can be brought under their influence. In truth, there is no interest of a general or public character, that can be long unconnected with the agitations of the times. Such a day of excitement on all subjects, Europe has never before seen.
There is scarcely any country, inhabited by civilized men, free from some general agitating excitement. Our own country feels deeply from its centre to its extremities, agitating and absorbing excitements, which nothing can allay until their causes be removed, the public mind becomes wearied, or what is more probable, because it more commonly occurs, some other subjects, involving deep and general interest, shall be substituted in the place of those which have kindled the excitement. It cannot be denied that the political state of our country is in great agitation. From what cause or causes, it is not our purpose now to inquire, but the fact is obvious to all. There is no question of public interest calmly discussed in Congress, or in State legislatures. No election takes place without high popular excitement; and an impartial discussion in the political journals of the times is unlooked for, and seldom, if ever found. On this topic, a word is sufficient for our purpose.
There is an impulsive influence felt in all the walks of life, and in all the enterprizes of our country. The very movements of travellers, their impatience of delay, and the constant efforts to increase their speed—the impetuous efforts of men in the occupations and in the ordinary business of life, illustrate the character. Arts and sciences are pursued under some strong impulse, and inventions are constantly multiplied, professing to discover some short method to gratify the impatient in their pursuit of knowledge. These are a few of the common and obvious manifestations of excitement pervading the country. But there are other illustrations of a more important estimation for good or evil. The public improvements in our country, in canals, railroads, labour saving machinery, and applications of steam power, are all moving forward with unexampled celerity. Indeed, there is nothing done which merits the name of improvement or enterprize, except under the influence of high excitement. Any man or set of men might as well sleep as undertake the accomplishment of any important object, without “getting up" an excitement of an impressive character. But under its influence, funds can be collected an hundred fold more for any given purpose, than could have been done a few years ago for precisely the same object. A road, a canal, steamboat, or some publication will furnish a topic of fruitful remark, anxious speculation, and liberal pecuniary contribution. It is evident from these objects and others of a more speculative character, what excitements are constantly agitating the country.
Atheism, infidelity, and religious errors are also exerting influences that produce turmoil and agitation. The spirit of excitement, for such it may be called, mingles with religious objects as well as with the policies and temporal interests of
Indeed, it is the most important object of our design to connect a proper view and estimate of religious excitements in our own country. In these, the character of the age is as fully developed as in any other department, while its importance is much greater in such a sphere, and comes more directly within the objects of our periodical, than any other illustration.
A spirit of sectarian zeal and proselytism is now connected with great excitement, and no efforts are spared to promote a religious party. Without attempting to decide which, of all the denominations professing to be Christian, exhibits most sectarian zeal, it may be safely said, that there is an increasing influence of party excitement in the visible Church throughout this land. All the efforts to unite, of which there have been many, have not even approximated the object, but have served to divide the more. Not that we suppose there is any thing wrong, or adverse to the spirit of religion in union; but a difference in ecclesiastical order, and diversity in exposition of doctrine, at such a time as this, are quite sufficient to call forth strong pertinacious feelings. It is our deliberate opinion, that denominational lines are becoming more distinct, and sectarian divisions wider, notwithstanding all the cry of catholicism and union. Contrary to the intention, the great propensity to make our public, charitable institutions national in name and influence, has had, in most cases, a divisive effect. The Bible Society stands alone, an exception to their divisive influence, in a greater or less degree. It is true, that in times which are passed, the exciting efforts seemed to have an influence favourable to the union of all parties and sects; and it was often predicted with great confidence, that the spirit of the times would soon prostrate all sectarian interests, and bind men together in one great, harmonious brotherhood -that the day of millennial peace was at hand, when the watchmen of Zion should see eye to eye, and nothing be found to disturb in all the Church militant. All such predictions have failed, and high hopes been blighted, by an unexpected increase of sectarian zeal. It would not be right to ascribe this divisive result to efforts for union, nor to the fact of excitement obtaining; but all efforts to produce union, which fail, will ever become the occasion of wider division. And when once excitements are connected with party interests, schism and proselyting zeal become more conspicuous.
Denominations of the same name and ecclesiastical connexion are divided into parties, distinguished by some speculations of doctrine, or measures of expediency. No sect of considerable extent can be found in our land peacefully united. Local jealousies, struggles for pre-eminence, criminations, and recriminations are every where witnessed, developing the great excitability of men's feelings. No Christians belonging to parties can be indifferent to the shibboleth of their distinction; and, however good and moderate men may unite to resist the extremes of party influence, they soon catch the spirit of the age, and act like others under the pressure of high excitement. Nothing, except an icy indifference, is proof against the prevailing spirit of party excitement and proselyting zeal. It would seem, therefore, that every man must take his side on
VOL. IV. No. I.-Q
all religious doctrines and measures; and it is well if he can avoid the extremes of speculation, feeling, and action.
The benevolent exertions, to promote the cause of Christ, and benefit man, which are the glory of our country, are awakened and sustained by high excitement. Sober calculations, acute reasonings, and philosophical speculations can accomplish little. However important such calculations and reasonings may have been in times that are past, or may now be considered, they must be combined with some strong impressive influence, which pervades the community, or they are utterly inefficient. Ask a man to engage in any benevolent enterprize, and commend it to his understanding, it is equivalent to leaving him altogether out of the engagement. Some impulse must reach his feelings, and excite them to a high tone, or his habits of action are not complied with, and he will do comparatively nothing. If a Bible, Tract, Sabbath School, or Missionary enterprize is to be accomplished, people must be collected together, highly wrought and exciting representation must be made, until the tone of feeling is highly raised, resolutions are passed, and pledges made under the highest possible excitement. It is not necessary to follow out the details of those enterprizes or any other charitable efforts; the facts are prominent, and the character most distinctly illustrated. We are not now estimating the value or disadvantage of this characteristic of the times, but only alluding to the facts of its exhibition and prevalence. But it seems proper to recur for a moment to the missionary cause, which is associated with this excited agency. Both domestic and foreign missions receive little aid except under the influence of some exciting impulse to the feelings. We speak now of the aid received from the Christian public, and not of those devoted, self-denying men, who, taking their lives in their hands, have gone to the destitute and the heathen. To us it seems evidently more a matter of impulse than of principle in most cases, when much is done for the missionary cause. Generally, unless there be some excitement more than common, nothing is done for the noble enterprize.
There is one exhibition more, of this character, which deserves some particular attention-we mean in what are popularly called revivals of religion. Since the commencement of the present century, these have been of more frequent occurrence than at any other period for centuries past. But within two years past their prevalence has been remarkable; probably
more than two thousand congregations have felt a powerful revival influence, and the number is daily increasing. It has come to be almost a universal fact, that religion is considered as declining in every place where the excitement is not felt. Few are added to any branch of the Church except in these revivals. The common style of speaking associates religious prosperity only with a highly excited state of feelings. It is true, that there are some ministers and professors of religion, who oppose all these excitements, and all the means and measures which are supposed to be peculiarly adapted to promote the revivals in question. But ihis opposition seems to be fast melting away before the heat, which glows in revival feelings and measures. It has, certainly, become a characteristic of the Church, in this country and age, to manifest frequent variations from low and discouraging languor, to high, and in very many instances, convulsive excitement. And there seems to be a state of things approaching, when excitement will be considered as the whole of vital religion. Persons and communities must be wrought up to such a state of feeling and action as to task every capacity to its utmost; and there is some danger that men and churches will feel as if they had accomplished the duties of a year in a month, and that they may slumber the rest of the time.
We here state, not the avowed sentiments of any, but what seems to be the practical tendency of the course and state of things when revivals have been enjoyed at one time, and succeeded by a most lamentable coldness at another. This has been called an age of revivals; and in our land it certainly is an age of wonderful religious excitement. It is quite common to hear, in the familiarity of intercourse, of revival men and preaching, while others are spoken of as not of a revival character. The same is true of sentiments and measures. The pulpit and the Christian parlor, the seminary and the press, all furnish illustrations of this character in the religious interests of the Church.
The preceding allusions and illustrations are sufficient for our purpose; and if we have not misapprehended, or misrepresented the facts, they show conclusively the truth of our declaration. But if there should be thought some misapprehension, or defective statements in the illustrations, we think every reflecting mind will perceive, from his own observation, enough to justify the declaration concerning the age in which we live.