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We now inquire for the causes of this character and its prominence in this country? In answer to this question, we have only time and room for some general observations concerning those causes, which operate in our own country, with some more particular reference to the prominence in religious revivals. With some modification, however, a part of our remarks might be applied to other countries: but the genius of this nation has doubtless undergone changes, which have prepared the people for strong emotions and excited action. We might look for the causes in the genius and circumstances of the people; but we might look beyond these, and ask, what has formed such an excitable character ?
Education obviously has the most prominent and controlling influence in forming the character. Our children and youth are taught to cherish freedom of thought and action to take an interest in every enterprize and concern of importance-to be tenacious of their own opinions and interests—and to feel strongly on all subjects of general welfare. There is one great defect in the education of children and youth, which has indirectly a decisive influence to form the character in ques. tion: we mean the neglect to restrain the passions, and accustom children to cheerful submission and self-control. This neglect is equivalent to educating the passions and teaching self-gratification. A habit of indulging the feelings and seeking unrestrained gratification, forms a character of great excitability, and prepares the mind to be governed more by impulse than principle. We think this defect is so general in early education, as to have an influence all over the land in forming the character of society. To this we may add the character of our government and free institutions, which are calculated to cherish high notions of independence in feeling and action. Under proper direction, and appropriate instruction, the influence of our free institutions would develope the most amiable, firm, and valuable character; but perverted by defective education, it contributes to produce the same excitability as stated above. This fact illustrates the principle, that the best advantages, perverted and abused, often form the worst character. It is not the fault of free institutions, but the tendency of human nature to cherish under them a licentious, uncontrolled feeling. But the prosperity of our country has a controlling influence in forming a character of unrestrained feelings and calculations. National and individual prosperity in this land and age is unexampled in the world's history. Its obvious and immediate effect is a rashness and extravagance of feelings, carried with all their exciting influence, into the enterprizes of social and individual effort. It kindles up all the passions and energies of men, and hurries them on with accumulating fervor and accelerated force. To stand still is out of the question, and to move sluggishly is equally impossible. When a people, so conditioned and educated, feel and act, it must be under a strong impulse.
The social temperament, cherished and gratified, with almost no restraint, has an agency in forming the character. We have so much time and means, consequent upon our prosperity, that we can cultivate the social principle at pleasure. Intercourse is so easy and so exhilarating, that it is constantly indulged. The rapidity and convenience of travelling annihilate distance, and bring distant cities and towns into immediate neighborhood. The variety and abundance of intelligence so rapidly transmitted, tempt to constancy of intercourse, and keep up a feverish anxiety, which prepares us to feel high and varied excitement.
We wish now to submit a few remarks on modern religious revivals, as modified by the above causes. Carry the above thoughts to the examination, and we shall perceive that revivals appear just what we might expect to see them-just what they must be from the genius and character of this whole people. Our early education, our popular institutions, our prosperity, our social habits, and the rapid circulation of intelligence, have formed a character which must be developed in every thing that affects our present or future interests. If such a people become religious, it must be by impulse; if they act religiously, it will be zealously; if they employ means to promote revivals, they must be such as are adapted to the genius and character of the people. On the means actually employed at the present day to promote revivals of religion, we ought to remark, both to illustrate the character of the age and to delineate some causes of those high religious excitements
. Let it here be premised that the only agency, which can produce a real revival of pure and undefiled religion, is the special influence of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of God alone can renew the heart, enlighten the mind, sanctify and cheer the soul in the gospel hope of salvation. The out-pouring of the Holy Spirit's influence must always be acknowledged and sought in religious revivals. This being understood, instrumental agencies may regulate the visible character of genuine religious excitements. There may be counterfeits of this good work, with which the Holy Ghost has no agency, both in the excitement of individuals and of communities. These we will not now attempt to describe. But so far as our observation has extended, the aspect of religious revivals has corresponded with the character of the means employed, and the manner of using them. They have presented a scene of still, solemn, and powerful emotion, or of noisy, lively, and superficial excitement, just in accordance with the means: and we think the revivals are genuine, doubtful, or extravagant, according to the character of their instrumental agency. This fact is easily explained. When the Spirit of God awakens sinners, their minds are very tender and excitable; they are ready to catch at any thing which affords the least prospect of relief from their anxiety. If the truth of the gospel be preached in a faithful, plain, solemn, affectionate, and appropriate manner, the thoughts and feelings, consequently the visible aspect, will be still, solemn, and one which indicates deep feeling. If the conversation and prayers be kind, affectionate, and earnest, the whole appearance will correspond in character. But if the preaching be exhortatory and boisterous, mingled with invective, and addressed mainly to the passions and animal sympathies; if the conversation and prayers be of a corresponding character, the scenes will be confused, noisy, and enthusiastic. Perhaps these remarks are sufficient to explain what we mean by regulating the external appearance of religious revivals. We have no doubt that sometimes strong excitements of the animal sympathies are mistaken for renewing grace and religious feelings: and it is quite possible that the Spirit of God is sometimes grieved away by violent measures to excite mere animal sympathies, shortly after what seemed a hopeful commencement of his gracious visitation. On the other hand, we have as little doubt that the Spirit sometimes brings men un. der the influence of truth when the sympathies have, in the first instance, been highly excited.
The means which are now popular, in this land, for promoting revivals, are such as are calculated to give an agitating character and high excitement to them. The style of preaching, praying, and exhorting is adapted to the genius and habits of the people; meetings are frequent and long protracted, and an expectation is cherished that extra services will be attended with extra excitement. We take the liberty of stating here, by the way, our opinion, that frequent and protracted religious meetings are in themselves proper and vastly important. As far as we can perceive, no valid objection can be made against what are now called three or four days' meetings. The Divine Lawgiver commanded his ancient people to hold, annually, at least three public convocations of eight successive days each, in which religious solemnities were daily celebrated. Large convocations were frequently held for days together in the time of Christ. On two occasions, our blessed Saviour wrought miracles to feed the fasting multitudes, who had attended for several successive days at those meetings. Besides, it seems to us right, and calculated for great benefit, that God's people should occasionally set apart three or four days for coming together unitedly to entreat the special blessing of the Holy Spirit, and listen, with absorbing and undivided attention, to the precious truths of the gospel. If there be any objection it can only lie against the manner in which they are sometimes conducted. But this is only an objection against their abuse. We are fully aware that there is a tendency in our character, as a people, to extravagance in almost every thing, and on such occasions there is danger of its indulgence. Add to this the tendency, mentioned in our former No. to excess of speculation and self-confidence, and we shall perceive a danger, that is doubtless often realized. There is a liability on these occasions, therefore, to a great evil in the manner of conducting the exercises. It consists in cherishing a sentiment of man's ability to convert himself to God. We fear this is too often done, not only at such meetings, but in the ordinary instructions from the pulpit. We greatly fear the effect of such addresses as would teach sinners to place confidence in their own ability. It is dangerous in the extreme, for a sinner to imbibe false sentiments of his own power, because it tends to inflate him with pride, grieve the Spirit of God, and suggest peace when there is no peace. Much, very much importance should be attached to the manner in which means are employed. Extra meetings and religious services are demanded by the genius of the people, rendered necessary by the unrestrained and highly exciting efforts of the licentious to oppose truth and righteousness, and sanctioned by the special blessing of God. But they undoubtedly show the excitable character of the people, and tend to promote high and agitating excitement in religious revivals.
A question may now be asked, what is the proper estimate of such an age? In forming our estimate of any age, we take the prominent characteristics, inquire into their influence over present interests and future prospects, and especially their moral influence. Take the excitement of the present age, which certainly has a controlling influence in forming the whole character, giving efficiency to enterprize and improvement, spreading with great rapidity whatever principles with which it is associated, and we shall be led to attach high importance to it, and perceive that this age may form a crisis in the world's history. We cannot confidently say that the crisis is already come, but that the world is approximating a momentous crisis, we think is very evident. The present highly excited state of Europe, indicates a turning point greatly in favour, or against civil and religious liberty-for the establishment of Popery or its desolation—for the triumph of atheism and infidelity, or their prostration. Of prospective scenes we cannot speak definitively; but that great changes must follow such high excitement seems unavoidable. The result may not be so near as we apprehend, and it is impossible to decide whether calamity or glory be most probable. It is, however, a just estimate to say, that the excitements of this age are fraught with great danger to the best interests of man. We cannot here give any illustrations of prophecy, but we have no apprehension that we stand amid scenes introductory to the millennium. We do not believe that those bright spots in the political or ecclesiastical horizon, are occasioned by the millennial dawn.
To the Church of God in this land, the present excitements portend fearful or happy results beyond any thing before witnessed. Those religious revivals so frequently and extensively occurring, so generally cherished and earnestly sought, must have an unprecedented influence upon the interests of religion in the land. We fully believe that, under the continued influence of such high excitement, revivals are to be the salvation or prostration of Christianity for a long time to come. There is no standing still; the whole Church is in accelerated motion; if rightly directed, the result will be glorious and triumphant; but if otherwise, the result will be most fearful and disastrous. The influence of religious men, now exerted, will be felt with unabated force by ages to come. The next generation can bear no such proportion of good and evil as the past and present.
We do not forget the consoling truth that the Lord reigns; and the gates of hell shall not