In giving this account to the press, the writer is reminded of his pledge, at the opening of the year, to prepare a different work for publication. He trusts the account itself will form his apology for delay; since it will show that it became impracticable to redeem his pledge without neglecting, in a measure, the voice of Providence and the supreme claims of pastoral duty. He entertains the hope of fulfilling his intention during the ensuing spring.
It is now a century since the Revivals of America first excited the attention of the wise and pious in our own land. Happily, we have preserved to us a record of what occurred, and of the impression it produced, in the Correspondence of Watts and Guyse, of Coleman and Edwards. The most remarkable circumstance in the review, is, that while the interest created was so considerable, the practical results in Our churches, were so few and unimportant.
This may be accounted for, in some measure, on the general admission that the subject was not then understood. This led to a two-fold evil. Revivals, on the one hand, ran into fearful extravagance, and the prudent were disgusted. On the other hand, they were contemplated as spectacles to inspire wonder and admiration, rather than as examples to be imitated. *
Our fathers were too much disposed to regard the conversion of the world, and the more rapid advance of religion as the act of God, for which they were patiently to wait, not as a gracious event which they were to expect and seek in the diligent use of prescribed means. Even the work of Edwards, philosophical as it is, is written under this impression, and has contributed to cherish it extensively both in his and in our country.
Again, the attention of the churches is awakened to the great subject. With improved knowledge and experience, and with encouragements to faith and action, such as our fathers never knew, may we not hope, through the divine blessing, for better results? Is it not time that we should know our duty and our privilege Is it not time that what is deemed remarkable in a particular congregation, should cease to be so, by its becoming the common state of Religion? Religion has long been crucified between Indifference and Extravagance; is it not time that she should be exalted and glorified between that Wisdom and Charity which come from above?
To the Associated Pastors and Ministers of the Congregational Order in the County of Lancashire.
MY ESTEEMED AND BELOVED BRETHREN,
I REMEMBER with gratitude to our Father in heaven, the opportunities I enjoyed in the Spring of this year of conference and prayer with you. I have often, however, regretted that the account which I gave, at your request, of the state of religion in my own charge was so very defective; and I have as often desired that I could present a subject in which you took such a solemn interest, in a more digested and profitable form. Illness and the pressure of daily duty have been some check to this desire; but, chiefly, I have been withheld from the delicacy of treating on matters which relate so immediately to oneself, and to one's own connections.
Still, the interest you would take in the effort, and the spirit of kindness in which I knew you, at least, would receive it, dwelt on my mind. More recently, the inquiries which have been made by my brethren in various parts of the kingdom, and which, by private correspondence, it was not possible for me to answer satisfactorily; together with the increasing importance attached to the whole subject of revivals in this country; have led me to fear that I might be neglecting a sacred duty, if I did not offer my testimony on a case of which the Divine Providence had made me a witness. I purpose, therefore, to set before you, in order and simplicity, so much of all that has lately occurred amongst us, as may relate to the question of revivals, and as may assist you in the formation of correct conclusions. Happy 'shall I be, if, while discharging to you a pleasant debt of friendship, I may hope that the statement will contribute, in our own denomination, and elsewhere, to awaken apathy, to dissolve prejudice, and to restrain the spirit of incipient extravagance, which, I fear it must be said, is already working.
I.—STATEMENT. It should be understood that my charge is situated in the east of London, in the parish of Stepney; that it is surrounded by a large, but not very dense population, and that this portion of the metropolis is supplied with a larger number of places for divine worship than perhaps any other spot of like dimensions in the kingdom. I have held my pastoral relations to it above a quarter of a century, and it is my maiden charge.
The chapel we now occupy has been built about eight years. Our former place had long been evidently too small for us, from this circumstance alone, that the church had become full one-half the size of the congregation. For several years, the church sustained about this proportion to the congregation; and it was plain that the church did not grow more rapidly because the congregation could not grow. This, therefore, with other circumstances, determined us to look to new arrangements.
The efforts which were thus called forth were themselves a means of grace to us, and my concern was to make our new circumstances a new era in our spiritual advancement. We obtained in the new chapel accommodation for five hundred additional persons, and the expected results soon began to appear. The church again advanced on the enlarged congregation; and, two years since, they were bearing about the same numerical relation that they did formerly.
In the summer of last year it was necessary to close our chapel for repairs. My health and voice were failing through labour, and I was directed to seek rest and change of air. I went on the Continent; and, having wandered farther than I intended, I could not reach home at my appointed time. What with my longer absence from my flock, and the place having been shut up for one month, which deprived the people of a point of meeting, I found them, not in a bad state, but not in so good a one as usual. They had been scattered; and, although they quickly returned to their accustomed seats, it was, to a great extent, with a diminished state of religious feeling, which an anxious pastor is quick to discern and to deplore.
I saw that there was a work to do, and had at least a concern, that it might be so done as to bring benefit to the pastor and people. For some time I satisfied myself with ob. serving the actual state of the congregation; and, as the season advanced, I began, as I usually do, to digest my plans for the winter. Generally, I saw that there was room for some special efforts to revive and advance true religion amongst us; and without tying myself up to methods beforehand, I silently adopted the purpose to use them if they should be necessary.
Previous to the first Sabbath in October, I met the deacons for an exercise of prayer. This I have been accustomed to do for many years. They were all present. As ten persons had to engage, I sought to bring the exercise within limit, and give a variety to it, by proposing that they should pray in couples. We were engaged three hours, and no one felt it long. We never had a more serious meeting. To me it was a grateful omen.
On the following Sabbath morning, under the influence of this meeting, I was led to preach on secret prayer. There was much more of feeling in the congregation than I had witnessed since my return. In the afternoon we met around the table of our common Lord. In the closing address I referred to the subject of prayer, and invited the members of the church to set apart, during the season, one hour in the week for special prayer; and especially for the revival of religion in themselves, and for the gathering of others to the fold of Christ. They had been used to such a request, and my only concern was to clothe it with fresh and present importance.
I had for two or three years desired to deliver a course of lectures on the advancement of religion but had been prevented by the uncertain state of my health and other circumstances. I now saw that they might be made to harmonize with my design, and I committed myself to them. They were ten in number, and on the following subjects:— the Advancement of Religion desirable; its advancement in the person—by personal effort—in the family—by the ministry—in the church, two lectures—in the nation—in the world—the certainty and glory of the consummation. They were to be delivered on the Sabbath evening; and I commenced them at such a time that they might just take me to the close of the year.
I soon saw that they were awakening a serious interest amongst the people, and I was encouraged to move quietly forward. I endeavoured to make the morning exercises contribute to the same results, and sought to improve the tone of earnestness in our social prayer-meetings. After the Friday evening prayer-meetings, most of the deacons would come to my vestry on one subject or other; and before we separated, I made some passing reference to our state, and asked one of them to engage in prayer. This quietly inspired hope and brought the officers and minister into a common state of feeling.
Similar efforts were made, during the same period, to awaken every other instrumentality of the church. I met the members of the Christian Instruction Society, the teachers of the Sabbath schools, and the praying men of the congregation. On these occasions we met, not for business, but for prayer and exhortation. By the exhortation I sought briefly to affect their mind with what most affected my own, to revive hope of better things, and to impress them with the power entrusted to them for good or for evil, in their engagements and connections.
As we advanced, I was satisfied that I might move as I originally intended. All our services were well and seriously attended; and much of prayerful desire had been awakened amongst the people, for an improved state of religion in themselves, and for its power to be felt on the world around them. I drew up, therefore, the following notice of services:—
Special Services for the Advancement of Religion.
Monday, Dec. 31.-Service in the evening, at seven o'clock; subject—The Improvement of the Old Year. Prayer Meeting to follow.
Tuesday, Jan. 1 Day of Special Humiliation and Prayer. Prayer Meeting at nine. Ditto at three.—Service in the evening at seven o’clock.-The Claims of the New Year.
Wednesday Evening, Jan. 2.--Service at seven.—Sermon to Professors.
Thursday Évening Jan 3.-Service at seven o'clock.-Sermon to the Young.
Friday, Jan. 4.—Afternoon at three.—Meeting of the Maternal Societies. Evening at seven—Public Church Meeting.—Candidates received to fellowship.
Lord’s Day Evening, Jan. 6.—Sermon to the Unconverted.
I now saw my deacons and submitted to them my desires and intentions. I found them delightfully prepared to concur in the object and to promise co-operation, and we committed our plans and efforts afresh to God by prayer.
I was leaving town for three or four days, to fulfil an engagement at a distance; and I arranged in the interval for a meeting of the praying men, to inform them of the design, and to request them to lead the way, by offering their services to visit the heads of families. A considerable number were engaged for this work. The object was especially to see those persons of the church and congregation, who might seem most to require the aid of special services. The plan was, that they were to visit in couples, and brief written directions were supplied to regulate them. The purport of the directions was, that the visit was to be short, official, and strictly religious. They were to decline taking refreshments and to avoid conversation on trivial and worldly subjects. They were to seek, by exhortation and prayer, to awaken attention afresh in those visited, to their personal salvation, and to the salvation of others; and they were to be urged to use the proposed services to this end.
On the evening of the last Sabbath in the year, I made the announcement of the proposed services to the congregation. Two or three particulars were urged on them. That they would use the first day in the year, as suggested, filling in the intervals of public service by private devotion; and giving as little of it as possible to the calls of appetite, and of the world. That as some of the services were to be adapted to the unconverted, I should rely on their efforts to bring such persons under their influence; and especially that it was no part of the design to engage the attention or attendance of such as were in the habit of worshipping at other places; it was to interest and save those who worshipped nowhere.
My reason for preferring the week for these services which opened and closed the year was twofold. 1. That I have always found religion receive some check at this period. The festivities of Christmas have often led those who do not professedly observe them, into levities, indulgences, or at least negligences, which have either hardened or distressed the conscience. The object was not to destroy the social and domestic intercourse which then prevails but to sanctify it by that holy joy which the world cannot give, and does not know. 2. That this period seemed of itself almost to warrant the engagements we were about to observe. Though often forced to other purposes, there is scarcely a mind that may be deemed rational, that is not invited to serious reflection by the termination of one year of our frail life and the commencement of another. It might justify to most minds an extra invitation to prayer and reflection. In what was proposed, too, there was little to tax time or to feed curiosity. Two of the evening services in the week would have happened in course, and the others, in addition, were only enough to give them a special character. I am far from saying that every engagement of the kind requires to be thus guarded and justified; I am merely assigning reasons for the preference which was here given. The object was, to do enough to awaken attention, and not to do so much as would excite or sanction prejudice. This end was, at least, secured.
On Monday evening, therefore, the last evening in the year, I preached from the words, “Give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him, and tell me now what thou hast done.” My object was particularly to address the Church, and to generate a spirit of humiliation in the remembrance of past deficiency and sin. The service was well attended, and the people very serious. It was followed by a prayer-meeting. I closed the first service completely, and retired to the vestry, before I commenced this exercise, as a test of the disposition of the people. All had the opportunity of leaving, but nearly all chose to stay. This was a good sign. I took care to keep the exercise within moderate limits. All seemed much engaged. The temper of the prayers and of the people was that of penitence and humility.
On the following day we observed the order proposed. The prayer-meetings at nine and three were held. They were kept short, that the most busy might not be hindered; while all were exhorted to redeem as much of the day as possible, if not the whole, for secret and domestic exercises. I adopted a little variety, in giving the address before the prayers. My object was to quicken attention by the change, and especially to break up that round of formal petition on all subjects which may prevail in free as well as in written prayer. The occasion was special, and I wished the fervour of prayer to be directed chiefly to the subjects most congenial with the design of our meeting. In seeking a revived state of religion, nothing needs more attention. I have seen a common-place prayer, which might be called good, destroy the finest impression on a whole people. Nothing is more difficult to get right than this. The remedy is not in prescribing a particular topic for each supplicant; it is in quickening him into a right state of feeling and getting him to pray as he feels. The little variation to which I have referred was a considerable help to us. The prayers were very feeling—very appropriate; the meetings well attended, and the effect serious and solemn.
In the evening we had a full attendance. The text was: —“First gave themselves to the Lord.” My address was still to the church. As they had reviewed the past with humble confessions, they were now exhorted, at the opening of another period of life, to renew their dedication, and to do this first, before all other things.
The people received the word with fixed attention. When the service was closed, I passed to my study. After a few minutes the deacons came to me, to say that the people were unwilling to disperse; that they desired a prayer-meeting. None had been announced, and none intended. In the declared arrangements, my concern had been not to exhaust desire and feeling, but to nourish them. This was the first indication of success. I hastened, therefore, to return amongst them. And truly it was so; nearly all the congregation were staying and quietly seated, as though a service were about to commence, not as if one had just terminated. You can perhaps judge of the solemn delight with which I led the prayer-meeting to its close. Many a revived Christian, I trust and believe, then presented his vows afresh to God in the midst of his sanctuary, and before all the people.
On the evening of the next day, I preached to professors. The text chosen was:—“Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” The object was to show how many were comprehended under this denomination, who were ready to exclude themselves from its responsibility, and then to make an earnest appeal to them under three classes. The service was more solemn than any we had had; and trembling and tears were with many, who have been too used to trifle with the awful in religion, often to tremble, or often to weep.
After dismissing the congregation, I was summoned again from the study to lead a prayer-meeting. The people all kept their places, and their silent pleadings were not to be refused. Our minds turned on many amongst us whom we loved, who had long been with us, and borne no fruit, shown no life; and the prayers of the people were very tender, very earnest.
The next day was devoted to the welfare of the young. Spiritual feeling, which had been awakened amongst us, showed itself to be getting stronger as we advanced.
The fathers in the congregation had shown their interest in the day, and in their families, by previously applying for a father's prayer-meeting before the evening service. This was very pleasant to me. At six they met; and while I was in one room silently preparing to meet the young of my flock, they were in the other, audibly wrestling for the blessing promised, not only to them but to their seed after them. This was not all; their prayerful affection made them afterwards busy in the chapel, in accommodating the young, and gave to their manner that serious interest, which is itself a means of grace, when directed from a parent to a child.
The place was full; the subject was the claim of the Saviour on the young:-" Give me thine heart.” The endeavour was to show, with simplicity of speech, what was claimed, and then to press the acknowledgement of the claim by submission, immediate submission. The appeal was sustained by silent-breathing prayers and was not in vain.
At the close of the sermon, I saw that I might move. I, therefore, invited such young persons as were seriously disposed to submit to the claim made on them, to meet me in the vestry after the service, for exhortation and prayer.
The vestry was overflowing. A wish was expressed that we should occupy the chapel again. This, however, I neglected; it did not suit my present views. I wished to put them in new circumstances and to get nearer to them than the pulpit and a large place would allow.
The more serious were now brought sensibly and closer together. The effect was stronger and more visible. The appeal was renewed with more simplicity and power. Now that the teacher was so near and speaking to them alone, they could scarcely look on him for their tears. They were invited to unite in prayer; and, if sincerely desirous, in prayer, of yielding themselves to God, to show it by kneeling. They all sank down on the forms, and many hearts that night were given to Him who alone has a rightful claim to them. Not less than two hundred stayed, and some came to the pastor afterwards, in tears, for direction.
On the afternoon of Friday I was to meet the mothers of the Maternal Societies in the vestry; but a great many others, who had never connected themselves with these Associations, being quickened to additional concern for their offspring, attended, and, in many cases, brought their younger children. We had therefore to adjourn to the chapel. It was an affecting service. Mothers looked on their children and wept, and then prayed to heaven and wept. All of us present had children, and most of us some children of whom as yet we had not the evidence of true conversion.
The evening of this day was our church-meeting. I met the deacons at five for prayer and business, and at seven we passed to the chapel. To our surprise the whole area was filled and overflowing, and we were obliged to open the galleries. Twelve candidates professed and were admitted to fellowship. The addresses were somewhat longer than usual, and an appeal was especially made to those who had not professed Christ. The meeting was as good as any we had enjoyed. I united afterwards with the deacons in prayer with thanksgiving.
As I could not answer for the three services on the first Sabbath, my son took the morning engagements. It was the first occasion on the Lord's day that he did so. He was enabled to fulfil the duties acceptably, and the effect was remarkable. The people were mostly taken by surprise; he had been little before them, and time had slipped away, and they were not prepared to think that he could, as yet, minister in holy things. Very many who were present thought of him as a youth, and could recur to the time of his baptism and birth: now that they listened to his teachings, and were led in worship by his lips, they were overtaken with astonishment. Some who had led an unprofitable course, self-convicted, were constrained to exclaim—“And what have I been doing all this time?” while others, who recollected that on the evening of his birth, they had joined in a spontaneous act of social prayer, that he might be born of God and a minister in his house, literally lifted up their hands in praise. Much tenderness came over the people—the effect was very happy.
In the afternoon I met the church at the communion. You should understand that with us this is a separate and complete service and that it is as fully attended as any we have. This gives it its due importance, allows us to “show forth” the Lord's death, and supplies a fine opportunity to address spectators. On this occasion we were full below and crowded in the galleries.
The people were well prepared to gather around the table, and the meeting was very solemn. I referred their attention to the subject of the first evening of the year; and invited them at this time, and by the present seals, to renew and ratify their covenant with God, to be wholly His and to glorify him by seeking their own and others' salvation.
In the second exhortation, I appealed to spectators—on past delay—decision—and the encouragement to take hold on this covenant. There was great seriousness, and many overcome, bowed down their heads, and wept.
I can always judge of the state of the congregation, as distinct from the church, by the state of the galleries at the communion. I was now satisfied that a good work was beginning with many. Particularly I was struck by the number of young persons who were present. I thought they might have been exhorted to come; when, on inquiry, I found that it was their own free act, it became to me a certain indication for good.
In the evening of the day, I preached to the unconverted. The place was very full, and many were brought under the word of truth, who were little accustomed to hear it. The subject chosen was—the command, “To repent.” The endeavour was to preserve its unity and force and to induce the hearers to a present act of repentance. Great silence and solemnity prevailed. An appropriate hymn was given out at the close of the sermon. The people could not sing: comparatively only a few voices united, and these were subdued and feeble, from sympathy with the silence around.
It is fine to witness a pious congregation, after a sermon they have enjoyed, throw the living spirit into a suitable hymn; but there is one thing finer, more thrilling than this, and that is—to find that they cannot sing. To know thus sensibly that the hearts of a whole people are full beyond utterance, and to feel that one's own is in sympathy with theirs—what is like it?
To myself, while this was a moment of inexpressible feeling, it was necessary that it should be one of action. I saw there was a state of mind that must not be neglected, and that would justify some special effort. I at once determined on my course. Before offering the last prayer, I addressed the class to whom the discourse had been directed. I solicited them to grant me one request—that they would set apart one hour that evening to review the subject, to confess their sins, to submit to God and the righteousness of his Son.
I then announced, that on the morrow evening I should reach again to the unconverted, to assist them in cherishing the subject. That on Tuesday evening I should at. tend in the vestry, to see such as might be under concern for their salvation, and might wish to confer with me. That on Wednesday evening I should preach to the church; and that on Friday evening the prayer-meeting would be made special, to recognise and honour the agency of the Divine Spirit, in connexion with the past services. This course grew out of the state of things and was not in my intentions when I entered the pulpit.
The interesting, but exhausting engagements of the day, and the state of the unconverted, filled my waking and sleeping thoughts through the succeeding night. On awaking in the early morning, I found these words on my lips, “I gave her space to repent, and she repented not.” A plan of thought soon suggested itself, and I determined to preach On it in the evening of the day. Although that evening was twelfth-night, and the evening after the great storm, we had a good attendance: the impression, too, was deep and Solemn.
I ventured, therefore, to invite the concerned to an exercise of prayer and exhortation in the vestry. We had a crowded room. Many came in whom I little expected to see. The child and the father in years were there together, asking the way of life. There was much weeping and much prayer.
On Tuesday evening I attended the vestry at six o'clock, to see such as wished to meet me. A great many came. I saw them all separately: some of the cases were affecting, inexpressibly affecting. Three of the deacons were with those who waited in the vestry, and united with them from time to time in conversation, singing, and prayer. I was fully engaged from six till past ten o'clock; and went home very weary, but very joyful.
On Wednesday evening, January 8th, I preached to the church. I had already paid the first attention to the church, and our present circumstances seemed to require it. Sympathy spreads quickly through a small body of Christians in retired situations; but in London, and in a large community, it is very difficult to impart to all what is known and felt by some. Hitherto a great part of the church, readily falling in with the prescribed movement, were but slightly affected by the grace of life; and were in some danger of finding satisfaction in the observance of two or three extra services. Many, too, laboured under the disadvantages of being ignorant of the state of things amongst them; and only a very few could know the results which were now coming to my knowledge.
But, in fact, beyond what I have stated, or can state, things were putting on an encouraging appearance, and calling on us not to pause, but to advance in our course. Many Christians discovered a greater readiness for any good work than at first; the young men connected with the church, and preparing at different colleges for the ministry, became interested and active; and, in one of the colleges, an early prayer-meeting was instituted, for the revival of religion amongst the students. A circulating lecture in the Poorer streets around us was set up; tracts were now freely obtained and distributed; little companies of Christians met together for prayer. A band of the elder children in the day-school had spontaneously agreed to meet every morning, from eight till nine, for the reading of Scripture and prayer; and many individuals who preferred to be alone with God set apart seasons for solitary intercession on behalf of their families, the young, or the church and neighbourhood.
At such a time, without glancing at particulars as I now do, I felt it necessary to appeal to the church on her duties and responsibilities. The motto for this appeal was— “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
On Friday evening, at the special prayer-meeting, I sought to advance any good impression that had been made. As it was desirable the prayers should take a particular direction, I gave the address first. The subject was—The Holy Spirit a fountain of life to us and others. The service was good and prayerful.
Afterwards, I met the teachers in the vestry. The schools had never brought that measure of spiritual fruit which the time and care expended might seem to warrant. Considerable pains had been taken, within the last twelve months, to get them into order, and under the care of pious teachers; and I was now very desirous of finding good in these nurseries of the church. I expressed my mind to the teachers, apprised them of the encouraging indications which had come to my own knowledge, and entreated them not to neglect the occasion. I reminded them that they must either be hindrances to the work, or helpers; and urged them to look less at secondary, and more at primary objects—most at the one primary object of their salvation. There was evidently much preparation of heart on their part, to unite with the prayers and address of the occasion. I left them with a request, that they would mark the state of their children, and communicate with me, that I might have an opportunity of meeting such as were under religious concern.
On the evening of the Sabbath, January 12th, I preached to young men. We had a very large attendance; and the great number present of the class to be addressed, discovered the diligence of many of the church in preparing a congregation. The subject of discourse was the resistance of the Holy Spirit—“Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye.” The impression was exceedingly solemn. A suggestion was made to follow the service with a prayer-meeting; but I declined it, and gave notice, that I would meet such as were concerned for their spiritual welfare on the following evening, for an exercise of prayer and exhortation.
On that evening, we had a crowded vestry, and those who were present were full of feeling. Some had not before been to an engagement of the kind and were strangers. They were drawn, perhaps, to the service of the previous evening, and were concerned to strengthen impression by the exercise of this night. They are, I trust, in other connections, bearing fruit unto perfection. Many saw me after the meeting and gave me their addresses.
Wednesday 16th was the usual lecture. The subject“Examine me, O Lord,” accommodated to the state of the inquiring.
Friday 18th.-Met the children, who were considered by their teachers thoughtful on their religious interests. There were thirty-six. They were taken in two classes, of eighteen each. I did not seek to force conversation, but gave them a short exhortation, and united with them in prayer. They were all serious, and some of them much affected. I made them feel, at parting, that they were at liberty to come to me for separate conversation, whenever they chose.
This engagement was followed by our prayer-meeting, which was numerously attended, and very refreshing.
The succeeding Lord's day was a memorable one. The morning exercise was on the prayer, “O that thou wouldst rend the heavens, and come down.” I directed attention to the obstacles which stood in our path, and to their removal, by the Divine presence and power, in prayer. The design was to constrain dependence on Divine power, in the face of difficulties, and to glorify the Divine power alone, in the case of success. It was not in vain that the people humbled themselves before God, and renewed their supplications to see his glory and his power in his sanctuary.
In the evening the subject was "decision," How long halt ye between two opinions?” The wish was to bring the many who were awakened and inquiring, and some who had lingered long and sinfully, to a stand-that they might not satisfy themselves with thinking about religion, without deciding on it. It was evidently suitable to many, and spread solemnity overall. The finger of God was searching the conscience; some trembled on their seat, and some bowed down their heads, overwhelmed with concern.
When the hymn was given out, I saw more fully how it was the people could not sing. I gave notice, therefore, that at the close of the regular service, there would be a short prayer-meeting, for those who wished to remain. Up. wards of a thousand persons stayed. I presided. I was difficult to advance in the service, there was so much feeling in the place—seen but not heard. Profound silence pre: vailed in prayer, only interrupted by the half-suppressed sigh and sob, which, in common circumstances, were still too low to be heard. I received several letters from persons afterwards, on the state of their mind.
The next evening, the 21st, I proposed to meet those under concern from six to eight. But they began to come at five, and I was fully engaged from five till ten, and could not see the whole. My deacons cheerfully assisted me and had exercises of singing and prayer with those who were waiting.
On the evening of the 22d, I met the deacons for prayer and attention to the awakened. The other services of this week were good but call not for particular remark.
On Lord's day, the 27th, in the morning, I improved the death of a member. The passage which had been chiefly useful to her mind was, “Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me, and he shall make peace with me.” It was just the subject one would have chosen in the state of the congregation, and I endeavoured to use it as a direction to the inquiring.
In the evening I sought to maintain the impressions of the previous Sabbath. The exhortation was, “Strive ye to enter in at the strait gate.” It had very similar results. It was as a nail fastened in a sure place by the Master of Assemblies. Some, however, who trembled, have not yet submitted to God.
On the Thursday following, I again met those under concern, and was fully engaged from six till nine.
Friday, Feb. 1st, was our church-meeting. I met the deacons for conference and prayer. Afterwards attended the prayer-meeting, which was followed by the church meeting. Nineteen persons were proposed for fellowship. These were cases on which, from lengthened knowledge, or other circumstances, we could well rely. Many more might have been named, but they were withheld for fuller satisfaction. It seemed right, in our circumstances, to move with extra caution.
Everything was now bearing a pleasing and promising aspect, and calling for increased attention on the part of The careful pastor. But at this period, several occurrences transpired in my connections, of an afflictive or perplexing character, which I feared, if they did not interrupt my pursuits, might yet disturb that oneness of mind so essential to feel aright, and act efficiently in such circumstances. Two of these events were cases of domestic affliction. My mother-in-law, and a young friend, chiefly under my guardianship, were suddenly seized with dangerous illness. The one, trembling with age and sickness, whom we thought to lose, was spared; and the other, of whom her youth made us hope to the last, sunk under the power of disease, and died. Margaret Keith was the orphan child of Mr. and Mrs. Keith, who found an early grave in the missionary field. She also had the missionary spirit, and stood pledged to missionary service, in partnership with one who is now pursuing his solitary, but not desolate, course to China. She was united to our church; she taught in one of the classes, and was known and beloved by many of the young people.
In Margaret's illness, which I did not connect with death, I feared only a diversion of feeling and action from my paramount object; but in her unexpected decease, I saw at once a Providence which ought to be improved, and which might possibly aid the work I was concerned to do.
Margaret's remains were to be buried in the ground attached to our chapel. The only day on which I was at liberty to take the service was the Wednesday, and in the afternoon. In the evening of the day, the regular lecture occurred; but as I desired the occasion to be useful, it seemed a pity to divide the attention and attendance of the people by two separate services. I therefore proposed that there should be one, and that the funeral service should take the place of the usual evening service.
This arrangement had an effect beyond expectation. I. had sought to concentrate and strengthen attention amongst the congregation; but it created attention where it had not existed. The little but unusual variation of time excited attention in many, who would have been unmoved by the real solemnities of death; and the chapel was crowded by an eager and excited assembly.
The procession arrived. The corpse was borne up the aisles—the deacons joining and following as mourners, for Margaret was the child of the church. The whole rested beneath the pulpit. I arose for the service, and all was still. The Word of life was read, the earnest address was given.
The place was full of feeling. Many mourned for one so young, so kind, so parentless, so devoted,—cut off like the flower of the field; and many mourned for themselves as likely to die, and not so prepared to die, as Margaret.
The funeral hymn was sung, which spoke of death, and judgment, and the world to come. The body wound its way again through the aisles and passed to the grave. The prayer of hope and resignation was again offered; the multitudes departed; the torches were extinguished, and Margaret was left alone in her resting-place. And yet not alone: for to this day her grave is a point of attraction, and the young and the serious may be seen exploring her epitaph, and cherishing the recollection of her name and her virtues.
On the following Sabbath evening, the funeral sermon was preached, and the chapel was overflowing long before the time. An arrangement was made to receive the surplus in the school-rooms opposite, and still, some hundreds were left without accommodation. The service in the school was conducted by my son, assisted by some of the deacons, I addressed the principal congregation from these words:– “Follow thou me: let the dead bury their dead.” You may judge of the nature of the appeal from the text;-it was meant to be pointed; I am sure it was plain, affectionate, earnest. The people were prepared for it, and the hand of God was with them. Fixed attention, profound stillness, and solemnity prevailed. As the service came to its close, many heads were bowed down, and many tears were shed, but without breaking the silence. I gave out the verse of a suitable hymn, it was raised by a few voices. This was too much for the people: invited to one expression of feeling, they seemed to lose the power of subduing other and more congenial emotions. Their suppressed feelings burst forth. Some found relief in weeping freely; others sunk down in their seats in silent prayer, and a few were affected hysterically. Three or four were conveyed to the vestry, and the service went on to its close. I had determined to invite the congregation to a short prayer meeting but now judged it prudent to relinquish the intention. The hysterical symptoms which appeared were treated as signs of human infirmity, and not as signs of religion, and they soon disappeared. On the whole, I never witnessed such a state of feeling in this country, and only once in America. , Nor was the feel. ing transient: not a few refer to the service of this evening is the period of the first exercises of spiritual life.
You will readily conclude that these occurrences were an assistance to the good work and that the claims on the minister were increasing, rather than diminishing. But I have stated enough in detail to indicate the course pursued and must throw what I have still to communicate into an abbreviated form. The claims on pastoral attention were, indeed, at this time daily increasing, and they must have been overwhelming, but for two circumstances. The one was, that those who were my helpers had now increased readiness for the work; and my maxim was, not to do what others could do as well. The other was, that instead of creating extra services, I endeavoured to carry the extra spirit of life and action into the ordinary services; and this gave to them a special character, and prevented the people from undervaluing them. But after all, the excess of work to be done made it necessary to give an unusual measure of time and attention.
My concern was to look afresh and carefully to the existing state of things, and to adjust the proceedings to them. I felt that the right adaptation of the services of the Lord's day was of the first importance. For the morning exercises I arranged to preach on a state of grace, as illustrated by Scripture expressions. This would supply the opportunity of exhibiting the nature and signs of spiritual life and true conversion.
On the evening of the day, the sermons were chiefly directed to awaken the conscience or to unfold the great salvation. The services of the Wednesday and Friday were regulated with regard to the same end. Twice or thrice afterwards I adopted the short prayer-meetings, as I have described, but cautiously, and on the urgency of the case. Particularly it was done on one Sabbath evening, after a discourse from these words:—“Notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you,” which God seemed equally to bless with any exercise named. All the services were now delightfully attended by an earnest and willing people. The area of the chapel was mostly filled, not only to the Wednesday lecture but also at the prayer-meeting. Attention was awake, the heart was tender, and tears were common. No meetings had more of this character than our prayer-meetings. The reading of a hymn would be sufficient to bring tears from many. I shall never forget the effect of reading, on one occasion, that hymn:
“Alas! and did my Saviour bleed—”
With all the economy of means and time at this period. there was a large extra demand to do the work of the day, Four, and frequently five, evenings of the seven, were now given to it. One evening in the week was devoted to those under concern and seeking fellowship, and I was frequently engaged from five till ten o'clock. The teachers were seen afresh for conference and prayer. The young persons at the Bethnal-green schools, under serious impressions, were met for exhortation and prayer. The Christian Instruction Society was called together, and it was proposed to preach to all those who could be convened from their districts who worshipped nowhere. They were to be admitted by tickets, and none others were permitted to attend. This gave a new service to the visitors. They took it up with spirit. The large schoolroom was filled; from three to four hundred were present. It was affecting to look on them as the admitted despisers of God and his worship. I never had an audience more attentive, Besides this, I was in full communication with those who were my best supports in this work, so that I could feel the state of the congregation.
Things advanced in this way to the close of March. The Good Friday, as a day of leisure, we had often partly or entirely devoted amongst ourselves or with others, to religious exercises. We set apart, therefore, the evening of this day for special thanksgiving and prayer under our circumstances. The deacons and pastor met at three, both for prayer and business. The people met at seven. Nearly a thousand persons were present. The exhortation was given first, referring to our circumstances, as demanding special gratitude and special prayer. Five engaged in short exercises; it was a refreshing service.
The following Friday was our church-meeting. We met, as pastor and deacons, at five. Our business was to report and confer on the candidates. Our rule is to name no one without perfect unanimity of opinion. Notwithstanding the previous steps taken, we could not conclude our business by seven and were compelled to arrange for the service to proceed without us. At eight we met the church. Seventy-one persons were proposed as candidates. Large as it was, no list had ever had more attention than this. I had seen all the candidates several times; some four and some five; besides the attention, others had given. Never had we more satisfaction with a list, and never was more caution used. Full twenty others might have been named with equal hope, but they were kept back, either because they were younger, or we had not found equal opportunity of communicating with them.
This evening, as you will think, is a memorable one to us. Although nothing from the pulpit had led the people to expect anything unusual, an impression had necessarily prevailed that the number of candidates was likely to be more than ordinary, and there was a full attendance of the church. The officers, from a feeling interest in all that had come to their knowledge, had difficulty in making their report, and some did it with tears of gratitude, and the church was filled with silent admiration and praise.
The night of their reception to the one fold of the One Shepherd was equally memorable. This was public, and the attendance was very large. All had an awakened and general interest in the profession of so many, and most had a special interest; it was their sister, or brother, or parent, or child, or friend, that was professing Christ and entering the church. It was a means of grace equal to any we enjoyed and carried conviction or decision to the hearts of many.
Thus the good work was advancing through May, so as scarcely to allow me to do anything else, and into June. But, in June, my health, and that of one of my deacons, gave way. This threw me aside entirely for ten days and afterwards allowed me to return only in part to my interesting engagements, for a time. The most painful circumstance was, that one was deprived of doing anything where so much was to be done, and the fruit of former toil to be reaped. But a gracious Providence over-ruled this also, in aid of the work. The sudden disappearance of the pastor and one of his best assistants affected the people greatly. Many blamed themselves for not participating more fully in the work of God, and many reproached themselves for not having improved the season of mercy. The people met with renewed earnestness to confess sin and to intercede for the Divine favour; and many were asking themselves what they might yet do, to share the labour, prevent the evil, and secure the expected good.
Things continuing in this state, I could not bring myself to the thought of leaving for rest, although it was strongly urged. I remained through June and proposed to go in July. But July came, and there were the same calls to remain. August came, and it was still the same. However, I had no prospect of meeting the winter fit for labour, without change, and I arranged to go. Up to the last, everything was full of hope. In one of the closing services, I met the young who were under concern for their salvation, and there was an overflowing vestry. Full two hundred persons stayed, and at no time was there more apparent feeling and seriousness. Never did I know such regret in leaving my charge for a season.
Before I close this portion of the statement, you will expect that I should refer, at least, to the numerical results. At this early period, this is not so easy to do, especially as none have been urged to a premature profession. The attention has been simply directed to the great act of submission to Christ, leaving everything else to follow. It may be stated, however, that since the opening of the year, more than three hundred persons have spontaneously seen me, separately and alone, under concern for their salvation; and that the number of those who have been received to the bosom of the church by profession, or will be propounded as candidates before this month (Nov.) closes, may be stated as above two hundred. Besides these, there are, within my observation, upwards of one hundred, of whom I think with hope that they have passed from death unto life; and appearances would fully justify the conclusion, that there are not fewer who have found profit, though they are slower to communicate their mind to others. These results, it should be remembered, occur, not in a district, but in a single congregation; that congregation having previously full one-half of its number in communion, and without making one addition to itself from any neighbouring community.
II.-REMARKS ON THE STATEMENT.
I HAVE been thus particular in detailing occurrences and in the order in which they occurred, because I regard them, simple as they are, as essential to a right judgment of the case. As often as I have read the account of President Edwards, which is still the best account we have of a revival, I have much regretted the absence of such details as would unfold his course, step by step, to the view. He gives, on the one hand, distinctly enough, the previous state of declension and decay into which the church had lapsed; and, on the other hand, with almost a surplus of labour and acuteness, he supplies us with the results, in all their variety; but, for the most part, he disposes of what is casual and instrumental, by a general reference to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. While I have united with him in giving all honour to that Divine Agent, I have still longed for such an account as would have allowed one to follow him from Sabbath to Sabbath, and day to day, and text to text; as would have shown him to us in the midst of his people, and of his methods for their welfare.
In seeking to supply a deficiency which I have felt in this and other instances, I may, perhaps, have run into excess. I will study brevity while I refer you to such remarks as may illustrate or spring from this statement.
1. Moral results-They are general or particular. The general results over the whole church and congregation were striking and good. Christians were raised to a higher state of knowledge, feeling, and action. There was a more ready attendance on appointed means, more solemnity in worship, more interest for themselves, more concern for others. There was also restraint cast on those who, for the present, do not believe. They often trembled and strove, but did not take offence. Their conscience justified what their hearts did not approve. Of the saved, it may be said, that there were “diversities of operations, but the same Spirit.” They were of every age, of various condition, and of various attainment and character. Some were above seventy years of age, and some were in the midst of life, while some were fourteen, twelve, and even of fewer years. Some had been trained in the courses of piety, and some had been brought up in the world and had been for the first time brought under the sound of the gospel. Some were awakened from a long and hollow profession, and others were awakened in the exclusive attention to the world, and led literally to exclaim—“What have I been doing all my life?” Some were chiefly subdued by the authority of the truth, and some chiefly by its mercy; but the work that began in fear ended in love. Many received the truth at once; others resisted it long; some are struggling now. Generally, the difficulty and delay were with those who had professed longest. Many who listened to the gospel for the first time, received it as news from heaven.
But with all this diversity, there was a charming agreement in the great results. All were brought to see something of the character and claims of the Divine government —the consequent evil of sin—the ruin brought on their condition by sin—the necessity and adequacy of the great atonement for sin—the importance of believing in this atonement for the “saving of the soul"—and of yielding themselves gratefully to Christ, as those who are washed in his blood, and alive from the dead.
Some professors of religion, and members of the church, who had maintained a good conversation, lost their hope and were urged to the conclusion that they had never been converted. They were amongst the more distressed and difficult cases. They were urged not to linger on the past in doubt; but to begin afresh, by present repentance and present faith in Christ, and the end has been happy. They might have been right or wrong in the conclusion against their former profession; but who can avoid the reflection, that if the additional light and conviction of such a period destroy the hope of many, what will the day of judgment do?
Some who were reached by these services had grievously backslidden from the profession of Christ. By the rumour of what was taking place, or by the efforts of Christian friends, and, in some cases, by a remarkable providential arrangement, some such were brought once more within the range of the means of grace. Their recollections and sorrows were stirred within them, while everything seemed to ask of them—“Where is the blessedness of which ye spake?" These cases, of course, required peculiar care; and, I trust, it may be said of such as came within my own knowledge, that they are restored to God by his own hand, to wander no more.
Some two or three cases were remarkable for the high degree of alarm and terror which attended them, and this effect not chiefly produced by the ordinary means. One young man, especially, who attended only occasionally, and then with little concern, for he was living in sin, was startled from a sound sleep, in the dead of night, by the most pungent convictions of sin, and the most appalling terror of immediate punishment. He remained in this state for days and nights. Much attention has been given to this case, and there is some hope in it. But, generally, this class of cases brings with it less promise than many others.
But, unquestionably, the most remarkable circumstance in the work which was now advancing, is the number of young persons who are interested. As I have observed already, our schools had, from one cause or other, brought us far less fruit than, from the culture bestowed, and the blessing promised, might reasonably be expected; and this, indeed, may be one reason of success, as the field for effort and hope was the larger. I was very desirous that they should now bear their part in the good work, and the teachers were mostly animated with the same mind. Nor has the effort and prayer been in vain. Some fruit has already been matured; and the schools were at no time so full of promise and preparation for the future, as they are at this time.
Such young persons as have advanced so far as to make profession, have stood connected chiefly with our Bible classes. The elder children of the schools, and the more hopeful young persons in the congregation, are thrown into these classes. Such as fall under my own notice and require training, are disposed of for a time in this way; so that these classes contain what is most hopeful among the young throughout the congregation. It was a matter of great consequence to get these into good action at this time. With the male department, there was not all the preparation that is needful, and mostly the fruits are at least delayed. The female class has been for years under the training of Mrs Reed; at this season, that she might be at liberty for other services, it was placed under the care of Mr William Milne, who has since left us for the missionary field in China. This was a happy circumstance, and the effects were happy. Altogether, the young persons from this class, and other classes, including such as were connected with the schools at Bethnal-green, amount to not less than thirty. We have not made age a standard of piety; but of those who have been received to fellowship, most are above sixteen years, none have been below fourteen; although there are many below that age in whose character I have confidence.
I can hardly satisfy myself with relinquishing this head of remark without observing, that I know of none amongst us, who seemed to have derived more benefit from these exercises than such as are preparing for the Christian ministry and are in fellowship with us. They gave a ready assistance from the first; and, as they advanced, profit came not only to others by them but to themselves also. You will well remember the feeling statements of Mr Milne amongst yourselves on this subject; and the effect was similar on others, They had fine opportunities of exercising their graces, as well as their gifts, and of marking the reality of religion, the power of the gospel, and the operation of the Spirit of God. when searching the hearts of men. In them I had much joy, and do still exceedingly rejoice.
It must not be concealed or forgotten, that in the very state of quickened life to which these statements refer, there are yet many, far too many, who give no sufficient signs of conversion to God. They have been in an element of life, have participated in the solemnity which has reigned over a whole people, and, for a time, have humbled themselves as others, and wept as others; but on this, as on former occasions, conviction has been resisted, light has been shut out, and they remain without hope in Christ, without happiness in the world. Amidst our causes for joy, gratefully acknowledged, this shall be to us a reason of humiliation and grief—the fear, the awful fear, that many we know and love, shall, after all, go down to perdition, and never see light.
2. Means to the end. These, I think, have been in some measure intimated in the statement made. They have been of a most simple, and, I hope it may be said, of a scriptural character.
The preaching of the truth may be first named. The truths chiefly exhibited have been such as are primary in order and importance. Repentance, conversion, a state of spiritual life, and the evidence of that state. The sovereignty, righteousness, and holiness of God; the fall of man, and the condemnation of the world for sin; and the discovery of the rich and spontaneous grace of God, in the promulgation of the gospel. The purity and spirituality of the commandment; the alienation and enmity of the heart of man; his obligation to repent and believe the gospel; his unwillingness to do so; and the consequent aggravation of his guilt and misery. His need of an infinite Saviour to atone for his sin, and of an infinite Sanctifier to renovate him in the love of God, and raise him to the life of heaven. There was no arrangement to withhold the gospel, till the work of the law was fulfilled in terror; but the attempt was by a just exhibition of the gospel, to aggravate the evil of unbelief, and to strengthen the motives to immediate repentance. Nothing was said to flatter the sinner in an opinion of his own resources, but everything to reduce him to a state of deep and willing humiliation. It was thought nothing was done, till, in deep self-abasement, he was prepared to acknowledge his whole ruin to be from himself, and his full salvation to be with God, and with God alone.
Prayer was much relied on, as a means to the end. Nothing was looked to more than this. The spirit of prayer was regarded as the spirit of revival; and by an earnest reference to our wants, and to the opulence of the Divine promises, it was sought to strengthen its exercise. As this was felt to be important, so nothing is more difficult than to bring even Christians to pray in their prayers. Although we have much to learn on this subject, there was certainly a large measure of the spirit of grace and supplication amongst the people.
Visitations may be used with great advantage. They were so on this occasion; although the arrangements for this particular service were rather too hastily made to be so complete and efficient as I should have liked to see them. When not made by the pastor they should not be promiscuous or universal, but select; with regard to the persons visited, and the persons visiting. They should be short, and strictly religious, and should find their reason in a special case.
The general efforts of the church are an important means to the end. Particularly this class of means is necessary to obtain the attention of the thoughtless and ungodly to the ministration of the word of life. The pastor has, in fact, no other way, frequently, of reaching them. If the field of ministration was enlarged at this time, it was chiefly in this manner. Pious members of the church took an interest in the state of their friends and neighbours, who were living without God in the world, and urged them to attend; saw them comfortably accommodated, when they came, even by yielding their own seats; prayed silently that they might not come in vain,_hear in vain; surrounded them by the sympathies of their charity; and rested nov till they got them to see the minister, and, in many cases, to offer themselves for fellowship. This is the principal of the manifold ways in which an awakened people may contribute to awaken those who still slumber, and are felt to slumber on the brink of death. The Sabbath evening which falls in the period of the Fairlop Fair is one in which floods of people are abroad, sacrificing themselves to thoughtlessness and dissipation. Thirty of our young men banded themselves together, to purchase and distribute 30,000 tracts amongst them; 29,000 were distributed that evening and in the spirit of prayer that they might not be given in vain.
While I seek to illustrate the subject, by referring to what was done by many of my beloved charge, I have deep regrets in admitting how much more might have been affected if the whole had acted in the same spirit as a portion of it did. All, perhaps, took a measure of interest in the state of things, and came occasionally, under a common influence; but certainly not one half conscientiously and deliberately inquired what they gold do in their connections, B for the salvation of men, and made what they could do the measure of what they ought to do, and were resolved to do, without delay. Oh, if they had, I might freely cherish the hope that the effects would have been three-fold what they are!
The conversion of others should be noticed as certainly a means of benefit to many. Some have been first reduced to sober thought and earnest prayer or brought to wait with diligence on the ministry, by an evident change of conduct in a child, a brother, or a wife. Many, by witnessing the profession of others, have been reproached for delay, or condemned for unfitness. Indeed, the occasions of admission to the church have been amongst our most affecting and profitable services. Our people are not unaccustomed to these admissions, and in considerable numbers; but when some sixty or seventy persons make profession, the ties of kindred and affection, which bind them to others, run through a whole congregation, and create a high degree of beneficial feeling. The occurrence has been a means of grace to many. Our sacramental occasions too, have been solemn and interesting; and many have connected with these the full resolve to give themselves to the Lord, and to his people.
3. There is nothing in the means thus used that comes under the denomination of new measures. In so expressing myself, I do not mean to condemn every plan which has fallen under that name; I state the fact; there were none such. There was no use of the anxious seat; my opinion of this test is sufficiently before the public, in the report on American Revivals. There was no inquiry meeting. When most deeply engaged, I saw the reason, and almost the necessity, for its adoption. But although it would have greatly lightened the burden of labour, I preferred seeing each person alone, as better suited to the habits of society, and as much more favourable to sincerity and unrestrained communication. Much has been said on the aids of sympathy in connection with the work of revivals, and I readily admit that there are cases in which they may be legitimately employed. But I confess I have thought it the safer course to be jealous of human sympathy, as an independent means to a divine change, and have chosen to rely on the simple power of truth on the single mind.
The means used will, indeed, be scarcely deemed worthy of the name of a protracted meeting, in the modern acceptation of that term. If that phrase must now mean the separation of four, seven, or fourteen days exclusively and absolutely, to create a revival without due regard to the state of the people, it certainly does not apply; but if it means such an adjusted and extra use of means as may be sufficient to awaken and protract attention on the great subject of our redemption, it may well describe what has taken place amongst us on this and on other occasions.
On the whole, my judgment is decidedly in favour of a discreet use of extra means; but then it is on such principles as the following:—
That they be as simple as possible, so that they may not divide the attention with the end proposed.
That they be as few as possible; for, provided the end be fully attained, economy in the means is the highest proof of wisdom and efficiency.
That they be specially used for a special and declared purpose, and laid aside when it is accomplished, and not allowed to run into such as are ordinary. For want of this, many ministers have committed themselves to too much, and have either broken down under their burdens, or given occasion for the hasty remark, that they had abandoned plans which, but a few weeks previously, they proclaimed as indispensable to success.
That they be adopted, with some slight variations; or if repeated in the same way, they will lose their special character. Such variation will always occur if the methods are only wise, and really spring out of the existing circumstances of the case.
That the ordinary means be considered as far more important than those which are special, as food is more precious than medicine: that the ordinary ought to be sufficient for life and godliness; and that when the special are necessary, as often they may be, it is our reproach, and not our praise.
4. Another circumstance which you thought worthy of particular remark when I was with you in conference, is, that the principal human agency in this work was that of the pastor alone. I have, I trust, as much pleasure in uniting with my brethren in common service as others, and have frequently done so in the district where I labour, with gratification and profit. But in this matter I purposed if Providence should sustain me, to act without foreign assistance. I saw clearly what was wanted. I knew my people better than others and could feel for them more. Besides which, if I brought in strangers, my people would be necessarily at a greater distance, and under more restraint; and a great object was to get them near me, and warm them into united action and prayer. If indeed, my health had failed me in the midst of my course, my intention was to invite the aid of some brother who was likely to have a ready sympathy with the object, and to whom I could best impart the state of the congregation, and the results that were sought. It was my privilege to find strength equal to my day; and I have now a deeper conviction than ever, that the pastor has advantages of which none can possess themselves, in seeking the true revival of religion in his church and neighbourhood. There will be exceptions to this declaration, as to others; but this is the rule.
The palpable recommendations of this plan are, that wherever there is a congregation and a minister true to his vocation, it may readily be put in action; and that it is not so liable to reaction. If, on the contrary, it comes to be thought that eight or ten ministers are necessary to a revival in a particular congregation, it will evidently fail in practicability; and the places which perhaps most need it, will either not be able or not willing to seek it.
But it will fail generally, in comparison with the simpler method, in point of efficacy. Where ten or twelve persons are called together for a special exercise, all of them more or less distinguished, attention will certainly be excited, but it will be diverted from the subject to the persons. Although the subjects be arranged for discussion, there will be no unity in act or feeling. Where each feels himself responsible only for his part of the service and arrives with difficulty to fulfil it, and hastens away when it is done, there can be no knowledge of the case, and no adaptation. A certain amount of preaching and of prayer, if in a right spirit, may indeed be expected to produce some good, but scarcely the success which should arise; and there may be reason to fear that when the stirring services have passed away, the people who have been mostly auditors and spectators, not participants and actors, will return to the pastor of their choice, and the ordinary means of life, with diminished appetite.
If therefore, there are cases in which the pastor needs aid, or thinks he does, it should, by all means, be limited to one, or at most two, of his brethren, whom he esteems, and in whom he can confide; who can give the needful time and attention to become one with him in conference and prayer; and by an acquaintance with the real state of the church and neighbourhood, be qualified to agree on one plan, and look believingly to one result. No two cases in which a revival of religion may be desirable will be alike, and frequently they will be in extreme opposition. In some, the chief attention will be required for the church; in others, for the ungodly. In some there may be a cold orthodoxy without life; in others, life, but life languishing for want of a richer exhibition of the Word of life. To offer the same remedy for every disease, without any regard to the character of the malady, or the state of the patient, is a species of empiricism which has long been exploded elsewhere, and must not be revived, where wisdom and experience should especially lead the way.
Few and simple as were the means used on the occasion under our notice, I feel that some of them found their reason and their justification only in the particular state of the people.
5. True revivals may occur in our country and our times.— Many have doubted this, and many still doubt. The doubt has made the difficulty. A revival of religion must spring from holy faith, and holy action rising from faith: doubt and fear make it impossible.
It must be admitted that many attempts which have been made have, in the judgment of a discreet mind, amounted to failure. But then, may not the failure be attached to the attempts rather than to the issue?
A revival may have been sought through the medium of a protracted meeting, when, perhaps, the remedy might have been in the minister's seeking a fresh field of labour.
Or it may have been used as a remedy for long-standing personal differences, and the personal motive may have deprived it of all its sacredness.
Or it may have been used as a hasty substitute for past negligence, and a present substitute for patient, noiseless, and persevering labour; when, in fact, there is no royal road to success in religion, any more than there is in figures. “The hand of the diligent,” not of the impatient, “maketh rich;” and, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”
Apart from such and similar instances of failure, which may be deplored, but must be expected to exist, is there anything to discourage the expectation of these seasons of refreshing— of revival—from the presence of the Lord? There is nothing in our religious history; there is nothing in our habits; there is nothing in our state;—except, indeed, our iniquities are such, and our insensibility to the mercy such as to come between us and the more glorious emanations of the Divine favour.
Is there not, in fact, much in the state of our churches to nourish expectation? I cannot expect the case now before us to carry the same measure of living conviction to other minds as it does to my own; but, apart from it, I do know that there are many churches spread over the kingdom, which have every property of genuine revival except the name. And when their state is spoken of distinctively, the very name must be used, until we can agree in one more significant of our meaning.
6. A genuine revival may exist, free from any admixture properly objectionable.—Whatever may be the merits of the case now submitted to attention, the writer is happy in knowing that no objections have been taken, no disgusts created against the methods which were adopted; and now that not only the results but the process are candidly reported, he would hope that the course adopted will not be thought open to fair objection;–that nothing was done but what a pastor might well do, who knew intimately the state of the case, and was truly concerned for the salvation of his people.
What is objectionable, then, is no necessary part of revivals; and we must not be told, somewhat recklessly, “that we must expect some evils where a great good is sought.” We should indeed expect evils to arise, from the prevalence of human infirmity; yet it should be, not to tolerate them, but to guard against their appearance.
The prudent and thoughtful mind has stood away from that kind of effort which comes under the general name of revivals, chiefly, perhaps, on three points of objection:-that they are liable to reaction,--that they run into extravagance, —and that they are periodical. These, however, are not the necessary companions of revivals; they are, in fact, contrary, and not casual to the good we seek.
Reaction will only appear where there is excess. But a revival is to be sought, not in an excessive, but in a just use of means to the proposed end.
Revivals, it must be conceded, have often been marked by fearful extravagances. Yet these extravagances, so far from being a necessary adjunct of them, have been their shame and their hindrance; and, in truth, they have been chiefly connected with efforts of a spurious and ostentatious character. Our inclination generally, at this time, is rather to extra caution than to extravagance; but still, nothing requires to be more fully deprecated. If in the present time of hope, this evil should appear in some half dozen instances, it would disturb the inquiries and confirm the fears of thousands.
Abuse a great truth, and you shall hear nothing more of it for fifty years to come.
As to the periodical form which revivals have taken, no one can have a stronger objection than myself. But this form is artificial and extraneous, and not essential. It is an evil in the land where it prevails and is so regarded by the wisest and best, and it would be a greater evil if imported hither.
We ask not for the revival which has death before it and death after it; which allows men to slumber through years, if they will be awake now; which urges them to do too much at one time, as an indemnity for doing nothing afterwards. We ask for that revival which is a decided improvement on a state of comparative deficiency; and which retains what it has acquired as a platform for higher advancement still. We ask for that revival which shall give to the saint a clearer perception, a stronger hand, a warmer heart for the future. We ask that revival which shall carry life to the dead in sin that they may live-live progressively—live forever. We ask that revival which, like the flowing tide, rises and still rises on itself in eddying circles unto perfection: which, like the early light, shines brighter and brighter, warmer and warmer, unto the perfect day.
Let me finally remark here, that those who raise objections to revivals from the evils thus referred to, do not look deep enough. The capital evil of revivals so marked is, that the spirit is wrong. Objectionable revivals, for the most part, are such, because they spring from vanity, seek for applause, run into extravagance, and end in confusion. But a true revival, and in proportion as it is so, has for its inspiring and predominant spirit, humility, and prayer. Where these are, and where they reign, there will be nothing essentially wrong; and where they are not, there will be either method without life or disorder animated by wild and unholy passion.
7. Genuine revivals of religion are most desirable.—After the explanations and qualifications given, can anyone stand back for this admission? If, in many cases, it is the recovery of a people from a diseased and dormant state to health and activity; if in every case it is an advancement of life where it is, and the freer bestowment of life to such as are still dead in sins—must it not be most desirable? Unless the minister has attained to a state of spiritual perception and spiritual feeling which admits of no improvement on earth, is it not desirable? Unless our churches are so holy that they need not be increasingly sanctified to God; unless our congregations are converted and are merged in the church by a common profession; unless the influence of our example and labour is felt as fully by the world around us as may be reasonably expected; is it not most desirable—the one thing that is really necessary?
If by a revival we understand not only an improved state of religion, but this state realized on a larger scale, and in a shorter time than is usual; must it not still be allowed that it is equally desirable and indispensable? Is not everything else advancing with accelerated speed? Shall art and science, and every interest of temporal life leave religion behind in the race? To keep pace with these, should not every Christian live for Christ and heaven; and should not the number of conversions from the world increase twenty-fold? Can we otherwise meet the claims of the times, or act in accordance with the illustrious testimony of prophecy, or even justify the profession, that our holy religion is the sole remedy for the miseries and sins of a lost world?
8. A true revival of religion in the church and the world is from God—It has been chiefly necessary for me in this statement to refer to means and processes, and I am persuaded no one will regard such reference as derogatory to the sovereignty and power of Divine grace. The means, equally with the end, are from God; and therefore the right and successful use of the means is to the higher glory of his name.
A revival is life, life improved or life imparted; but life, and all the resources of life, are with God. Its sustentation and increase is just as fully with him as is its creation. Life of every class inclines to exhaustion, and is ready to die: it requires to be renovated perpetually from that fountain which only hath life in itself.
Never does the mind receive a more emphatic conviction of this truth than in a state of revival. The hand of God is made bare, and nothing is seen besides. In our own case, of nothing have I a deeper or more willing conviction than that all that was done might have been done without a single instance of conversion, or edification. The means were used because they were commanded, and they were used in faith and hope, because a promise was given that they should not be used in vain; but the means are from God, the disposition and power to use them are from God, and the attendant blessing is from God. Nothing could give me so much grief as to find that any sentence in this statement could receive any other construction. In the good work to which I have borne my testimony, there has been a mixture of frailty and evil. The evil belongs to us; but for all the good that has been achieved, the arm of the Lord—the arm of the Lord hath done it!
III.-CASES ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE STATEMENT.
LET me endeavour to give additional clearness to the statement by a brief reference to a few of the cases which have occurred, in connexion with this interesting work. They are produced, not as superior to others, but because I happen to have preserved better recollections of them, or because there is less inconvenience in naming them. Already, it will be seen, death in several cases has intervened between their conversion and this report of it. Such of them as may seem to require it are inserted with the knowledge of the parties concerned.
1. Nancy Candler—This child belonged to the infant Bible-class, which is a selection from the infant-school and meets one hour on the Sabbath for religious instruction. It was at this time under the care of Mrs Reed. She was only seven years of age; but though so young, she was sure to win attention by her intelligent smiling countenance and sweet open manners.
The most remarkable circumstance was the interest she took in religious instruction. Whatever related to her state of sin—the love of Christ to sinners—and her need of salvation through him, fixed her attention. Her prevailing temper seemed to be a hatred of sin. To show her what was sinful, was enough to secure her avoidance of it and even her effort that others should avoid it also. On one occasion, when the nature and evil of sin was the subject of discourse, she was deeply concerned. When, amongst other things, it was said that swearing was sin, “Teacher,” said the child, with a full heart, “my brother swears; and when I tell him it is sin, he will not leave off.” “Well," said the teacher, “tell him what Jesus Christ says, “Swear not at all.’” She went home and told her brother what Jesus Christ said, and entreated him not to swear. Her brother listened and swore no more. This was not enough for her; she won her brother to attend the Sunday-school.
In the same way it was remarked, that it was sin not to keep the Sabbath. “Teacher,” she said, “my father and mother do not keep the Sabbath; they stay at home all day, and never go to chapel.” The matter rested on her mind: now that she saw her parents were living in sin, she could not be satisfied. She not only told them what she had learned; but, with the winning power which her sweetness of temper gave her, she persuaded her father to go to chapel on the Sabbath evening. She succeeded, and there were no bounds to her joy.
Still, her mother did not go, and she was not content. She pleaded with her. Her mother said, she could not leave the children. Nancy had sense to feel the force of this and was perplexed. She could not, however, let her mother rest: it was sin not to keep the Sabbath. At length she summoned courage to propose that her mother should go, and let her stay at home and take care of the baby; “You can trust me, mother?” she said, appealing to her. What was her joy to hear her mother say,*Yes, I can trust you, Nancy;” and prepare to go with her father, for the first time, to chapel. Here, then, was a child, who had, at seven years of age, acquired so much the confidence of her parents, that she could be trusted with the care of the little family, and in that family a child in arms!
In April this dear child was absent from her class. It was at once thought that some of the family was ill, and an elder child was requested to call and inquire. But it was Nancy herself who had become suddenly unwell, and of fever. Apprehensions were not at first entertained of the issue; but after its first power was subdued, it lingered on her till she sank at last exhausted.
She retained in sickness and in death the same interest in religion, and the same trust in Christ, as she had previously done. Her medical attendant, after attending to her case, asked her, if she was afraid to die.
“Oh, no,” she replied, “I should then go to Jesus Christ, and be happy.”
A young friend called to see her, and found her intelligent, peaceful, and happy. She began to repeat to her a stanza of a favourite hymn :—
“Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour,
Once became a child like me;
Nancy took up the verse, and continued—
“O that in my whole behaviour,
He my pattern still may be!”
Mrs Reed visited her; she found her very low, and suffering frequently severe pain; but prayerful, patient, and resigned. On entering the room she was asleep, but she quickly awoke and turning her eyes on her, she once more sweetly smiled, and stretched out her little thin hand, saying,
—“Do kiss me, teacher.”
“So,” said her teacher, “you are glad to see me, are you? and you think that I love you, do you?” “O yes, teacher.”
“But who is it that loves you much more than I?”
“Jesus Christ, teacher.”
“How did he show his love?” “By dying for me!”
“Do you think that you love him?” “Yes, teacher, very much.”
“Are you willing to die, that you may go to him, and live with him?” “Yes.”
“What has he said, to encourage you to come to him?”
“He has said—“Suffer little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
“Besides going to him by dying, how else can you go to him " “By prayer, teacher.”
“What do you chiefly pray for?” “A new heart.”
“What do you mean by a new heart!”
“A heart that loves Jesus Christ more and more.”
Just before the event of death, she smiled and said— “Mother, He is come—Jesus is come, with open arms, to take me home!”
“Then,” said the anxious mother, “you are happy, my child?”
“O yes—O yes!” It was all she could say; but when her voice failed her, she waved her little hand; and it was in the very act of waving the hand, as in victory, that her spirit sprang to immortality.
Her memory is sweet to all who knew her, and it is still blessed to her parents. They both attend the means of religion; and while influenced, we trust, by higher motives, they still find a tender lesson in the requests of their departed child. On one occasion, when bitterly lamenting their loss, the afflicted mother exclaimed,—“O, it is hard to give her up! Such a child I never saw. Such a loving heart, so kind, so thoughtful, so patient;-she did us all good.”
"Well, my dear,” said the father, “you know this family is God's garden, and he has a right to come into it and pluck any flower that pleases him best.”
The parent who uttered this beautiful sentiment was as ignorant of all religion as any person I ever knew. I have seen him many times, and I trust he is hearing the Word of life unto life.
Thus is a little child of seven years of age made a blessing in the midst of her family. Her brother is rebuked for sin, and drawn to the Sabbath-school; and her sweet affections win on her parents to wait on the means of grace, by which they also may be saved; and with the hope that salvation has already come to one, if not to both.
2. The next instance I would give is that of a child of twelve years of age. Her connexions are not with us. She was first interested by the correspondence of a child in one of our families, of her own age. She attended as frequently as she could in the Bible-classes, and on our services at the opening of the year.
She had an understanding above her years, with much of the simplicity and candour of childhood. I first saw her in the vestry. She came of her own accord, for conversation. As I took her by the hand, she looked up composedly, but earnestly, and said, “Sir, I have come to you with a heart burdened with sin, to ask if you can tell me how I may find relief,”—and the tears sprang from her eyes.
“You speak,” I said, “of the burden of sin. Did you always feel it to be a burden?” “No, Sir.”
“Is it long since—months or weeks?” “Weeks, I think.”
“Do you distinctly see what sin is?”
“It is offending God, is it not, Sir?”
“If you avoided bad actions would that be sufficient?”
“No, my heart would still be sinful.”
“Have you seen what sin deserves?” “Yes—death.”
“God would then be just and good if he punished you for sin?” “O yes!”
“And have you then any hope of being saved from the punishment due to sin?” “I hardly know, Sir.”
“If you were to be called out of this world to-night, would you die without any hope?”
“I trust not, Sir-some hope.”
“Where would that hope be resting?”
“On Jesus Christ!”
“Do you think you see what he has done for our salvation?” “He has died for us.”
“If I had died for you, would that have been sufficient?”
“Why, then, does his dying save us?”
“He is God as well as man, and therefore can save us from Our sins.”
“You could not trust in my death; can you trust in his?”
“I desire to trust, and he has said I may.”
“If I had offered to die for you, though it would not have saved you, it would have been a great proof of love, would it not?” “O, yes!”
“And you would love me for it?” “Yes.”
“And do you love Jesus Christ for his love?”
“I hope so. I did not.”
“What gives you hope that you now love him?”
“I love to think of him—I love to pray to him—I wish to give my sinful heart to him—and to be his.
“Do you think that you have seriously when alone, endeavoured to give yourself up to him—to be his child, and to honour him as your Saviour?” “O yes!”
I paused. She looked on me with earnestness, and said, “Do you think, Sir, I am right? Will Jesus Christ receive me?”
I said a few things in direction and encouragement and dismissed her full of admiration and of hope.
That hope has not suffered any check hitherto, nor will I expect it. I have seen this dear child subsequently, and hope has been confirmed. She has been separated from the means which had chiefly contributed to her change of mind. She has been exposed to the banter and ridicule of her equals at school, and of servants at home, but she retains her constancy and pursues her course with steadfastness. There are those who love her, and who by prayer commit her to Him in whom the fatherless findeth mercy.
3. Isabella Winchester.—She was the child of the church; her parents were both in fellowship; and she was, at the time referred to, thirteen years of age. I can hardly connect her renewed character with the services of the period I am illustrating, for she was mostly too weak to attend them; nor can I certainly refer to the precise time of its occurrence; but it revealed itself to us, and, perhaps, was formed at the time in question; and very much by the visits paid, and the prayers offered for her.
Isabella had grown rapidly; her frame was delicate; her mind in advance of her years; and, from infancy, there had been indications of consumptive tendency.
From infancy, too, she had discovered a gentle and affectionate spirit; had been fond of reading hymns and the Scriptures, and had often shown a serious habit of thought.
In the summer of 1838, she passed some time at Gravesend, for change of air; and had some profitable conversations with the Rev. Mr Tibbuts, of that place. She left for school; but, in the autumn, returned home much worse, and labouring under the effects of a cold which she had taken.
I saw her at this time and was surprised at the sudden change which had taken place. All the signs of what is most interesting and alarming in the state of the young consumptive were but too evident. I do not sufficiently recollect the conversation to report it. From too readily expecting, perhaps, that such a child could say but little, it was chiefly on one side; and my concern was to refer to her delicate state, and the necessity in any state, and at any age, of seeking an interest in the religion of the Saviour, and the favour of God. The effect of the intercourse was gratifying to my own mind.
It was, however, to her mother, who had been always with her, that she could best communicate. It appeared as her disease advanced, her mind became more serious and reflective. Conscience was awakened; a strong sense of sin came over her, with a fear of death; and her spirit trembled for some weeks between the hope and fear of her salvation.
On one occasion, when very unwell, her mother said to her,
“I fear, my dear, the Lord is going to take you from us.” “I fear so, mamma.”
“Do you not think then, my dear, that you are prepared to die?”
“No −I need my sins to be forgiven, and a new heart.”
“But you can pray to God to give you these, and he has promised to do so.”
“I do pray, and I do ask for forgiveness.”
On another occasion, a mother's eye saw that she was inwardly sorrowful, and she said—
“My dear Isabel, you seem very unhappy.”
“Yes, mamma, I feel I have a sinful heart; but still I have some hope—and my hope is in the promises of God. He has said, “Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
Conversation with her parent, the visits of friends, and her own continued meditations and prayers, conducted her, by the Divine blessing, into peace. She was enabled to say— “O mamma! all these precious promises bear me up; I trust, I have sought and found pardon through Christ—his blood cleanseth from all sin.”
As her bodily life was now hastening to decay, so her spiritual life was renewed day by day, to the gratification of those who knew her. She could do but little so that her time was chiefly engaged in the reading of the Scriptures, and hymns adapted to her state; and she made rapid progress for a child, in knowledge and faith.
Though deprived of attending at chapel with her parents, she took a lively interest in all that was doing and even assisted in the good work. She conversed freely with those who, about her own years, called to see her; and to some of them wrote earnest letters on the subject of immediately giving up the world, and believing in Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
Isabella had one sister, a little younger than herself; she was now much concerned for her. She instructed her and warned her, and by every endearment sought to engage her affections in religion.
“Clara,” she said, on one of these occasions, “will you not be one of God's lambs; Satan, our enemy, never sleeps, but is always going about to see what mischief he can do; but if you are one of Christ's lambs, he will pen you in his fold, and take care of you, and no harm shall come to you.”
A person at one time calling on the family spoke of her state of trouble and said she did not know where to look for comfort.
The child looked up at her, and said, “What does the Word of God say—‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest: don't you know what that means?'
The person said, she supposed it meant, we were to go to God in our worldly troubles.
“So then,” the child said, “you do not know what it is to be troubled for sin”
On the morning of the 24th March, she was somewhat revived; and her mother said—
“Can you spare me this morning, my dear, to go to chapel?"
“Yes, mamma; and soon you will be able to go always.”
“Ah, my dear, you are thinking of death and the grave!”
On the return of the family home, she had written the following verses: I give them exactly as they are left by her. self, in a fair clean hand. I have every reason to think that they are entirely her own, excepting the difficulty of believing that a child so young could compose so well.
Tell me not of that narrow bed,
'Tis sad and drear to me!
Tell me not of the peaceful dead,
And their sleep from remembrance free:
But tell me of their living rest,
Far—far from this earthly scene;
And tell me, too, of Jesu's breast,
The place on which they lean.
Tell me not of the darksome tomb,
And the quick corrupting clay;
The last sad moment’s shadowing gloom;
The soul's untrodden way!
But let me hear of those seats on high,
And the holy, happy throng;
Of the palm, and crown, and victory,
And the archangel’s song.
Oh! tell me of those laurelled choirs,
That are hymning before the throne;
The harmonies of those golden lyres,
And symphonies here unknown |
And the Saviour's face, without a veil,
Amid his native skies;-
This shall cheer the heart, when the cheek grows pale,
With glory's sweet surprise.
On the following day she was worse. She said, “I think, mamma, I shall soon be in heaven!”
“You are still happy, then, my child?”
“O yes, mamma, Jesus is with me. He has been with me all through, and he will not now forsake me. He has promised, when I pass through the waters, to be with me, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow me.
“Ah, my dear, the waves are coming fast!”
“Yes; but as my day is, my Saviour has promised my strength shall be.”
“O what is sin and sickness too, While up to Paradise I go, With glory full in view!”
“Then, are you willing to leave us?”
“Yes—I can leave all I love to go to Jesus.”
To her father she said, “Dear father, you are my earthly parent; God is my father now. I shall soon be with him. He has prepared a white robe and a golden harp for me.”
Early on the following morning, she sent for her sister. She rose on her pillow, and, with a smiling aspect, but with great difficulty and with pauses said:—
“Clara, I sent for you to talk with you; I am going to heaven. Read your Bible, dear, and pray to God to give you grace, and a new heart. Clara, you are not too young to die; I am dying. What a dreadful thing it will be if you do not meet me in heaven!... Seek Christ while he may be found. Do not put it off till the eleventh hour. Where should I have been if I had done so?
“Pray, dear Clara, to be one of Christ's lambs; then he will say, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.’ Oh, what joy it will be to see you entering into heaven!
“Remember, Clara, these are the words of your dying sister; and if you should forget, look on my likeness, and then think of what I said. But don't look at it as me, but remember it is like what she was, who said these things to you.
“O Clara, I shall soon be gone !—I am waiting for the summons! I am like one who is expecting to see a grand sight!”
After extreme pain, she requested to be lifted from her bed to the easy chair. Being seated, she looked round and camly said, “Aunt—mamma—papa–I am so happy!”
“Are you, my dear?” replied the afflicted father.
She lifted up her hands, and solemnly said, “In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am you may be also. Come dear Jesus! quickly come;—I long to be with thee!”
The dear child suffered greatly from want of sleep. She had passed five sleepless nights. “Oh,” she said, frequently, but patiently, “that the Lord would grant me a little sleep!” She slept an hour and a half. She awoke surprised. “O, mamma, I thought I should not wake again! I thought I should sleep in Jesus, and awake in heaven. Is the sun up, and am I here? But the Lord's will be done, not mine.”
“My dear,” said her mother, “the Lord permits you still to suffer much.”
“O mamma, it is not I that suffer; it is Christ who suffered. He sweat blood for me—he that knew no sin; and shall I murmur, so sinful as I am? No: it is good for me to be afflicted; it has brought me to Jesus.”
Her time of departure was now come. She begged Clara to read portions of the 43rd and 55th chapters of Isaiah. As the sister read the 3rd verse of the 55th chapter, she wept; and the dying child smiled to her mother, as gratified with this proof of sensibility.
She then begged to be raised and washed, and moved to the window for air; and then, unable to endure the posture, requested to return to bed.
Life was ebbing out. The tongue could no longer speak for the soul. “If Christ:” said the anxious mother, “is still precious to you, my dear, press my hand.” The hand was affectionately pressed. A little time elapsed: the mother still sought to be re-assured. The hand again pressed its parent's, and then relaxed into the weakness of death!
The event happened on the 20th of May, 1839, and when she was thirteen years and eleven months old.
4. Mr Jeffreys, a young man, about twenty-three years of age, residing with his mother and sisters, came, in the first instance, indirectly to my knowledge. One of his sisters came to me under concern for her salvation, and with a desire, if thought suitable, to make profession of her faith in Christ. The opportunity was taken of inquiring of the religious welfare of her family. I learned that she had a brother who was unwell, to whom she was devotedly attached, and for whose safety she was deeply concerned. I sent a message to him; and lent her a book, begging her to read it as for her own benefit, but in the hearing of her brother. She did so; he got better and came to me.
He was a young man of good education, correct habits, superior intelligence, the hope of his attached family. He gave, however, the usual signs of the alienation of the carnal mind from God and his service. Conscience did not permit him wholly to neglect the means of religion, but he gave a heartless, and therefore a very lax attendance. He would go or stay away as he was disposed; and in the same way he would o from place to place, seeking amusement in change, since e had no real interest in divine worship. He preferred, on the whole, an earnest and evangelical ministry; but he thought himself not immediately concerned, and resisted such appeals as were calculated to disturb his cherished indifference.
It happened on a Sabbath evening, in the close of the year, he heard my esteemed friend, the Rev. Mr Farrar, of the Methodist connexion, preach on the subject of eternity. The preacher was in earnest. Mr Jeffreys's attention was more than usually awakened. This conviction seized his mind at the close of the sermon—“If the minister is so concerned for me, ought I not to be concerned for myself?” He was thoughtful and went home.
It pleased Providence to bring the sickness on him to which reference has been made. His thoughtfulness was thus preserved. Hardy's Letters to the Afflicted fell into his hands. He read them with feeling and much conviction.
His sister now read aloud the little book I had lent her. It was James' Anxious Inquirer. Many parts of it met his case and were of great service to him. Now that he was recovered to health, and put himself with a new state of mind under the means of grace. It was at a time when the subjects were most likely to be suitable. His mind had been long, perhaps willingly, perplexed by the nature of the atonement and the work of Christ as available for sinners. Now all difficulty vanished. Seeing what he was, and what he needed, he saw wisdom, mercy, and power in the method of salvation. His whole heart was open to the gospel message, and he drank in the water of life as the parched ground drinketh in water, and it was life to his soul.
He freely communicated his state of mind to me; he offered himself for fellowship with the church and was received with thanksgiving.
It was well that he did not delay this act of profession; for he had only two opportunities of communion at the table of his Lord. The disease, which had been subdued, left bad effects behind. The action of the heart became disordered and diseased; and after some weeks of distressing suffering, dropsy was brought on, and there was no hope of his recovery.
Nothing was so remarkable through every stage of his affliction, as his confirmed Christian character. For the short time that he had been instructed in religion, he had been a diligent attendant on the ministry, and an eager student of the Holy Scriptures, and it once more became evident that they were able to make the docile inquirer wise unto salvation. He instructed his teachers and comforted his comforters.
On one occasion, a deacon visited him. He stretched forth his hand and said, “My dear sir, give me the right hand of fellowship. Time has been when you have instructed me in the things that belong to my peace. I was dark; I could not see the necessity and fitness of the atonement made to take away sin, but I trust I now see. I can look to the cross of my Saviour as my only hope, and I desire that others should look to him and be saved. The world knows not what it loses by living without God. Communion with him, I find, is heaven on earth.”
That passage opened on his mind with a flood of light, - “God, in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” He saw in it the great method of reconciliation as worthy of the Divine government and of the sinner's confidence, and at once built his hope on it as on a rock. “I am not going to be saved,” he said; “I trust I am saved already. When my Saviour said, ‘It is finished!' on the cross, the price was paid —the work was done.”
His chief source of regret and humiliation was, that he had so long and so sinfully neglected his privileges. “Once,” he would say, “they were mine, and I despised them; now, when I value them above all things, they are mine no longer.”
He was exceedingly desirous to warn others of the evils into which himself had fallen. “Tell the young,” he said, “not to delay—by no means to delay, as I did—their salvation. Tell them what I suffer for having neglected it so long.”
In like spirit, he sent messages, as “from a dying man,” to his acquaintance, and exhorted the members of his family and all who visited him at once to seek the favour of God in Christ, that they might live.
“I have no wish,” he said, “to recover, and I had rather not rise from this bed if I should again offend against God; but if I should be raised up, I think I should be ready to go from door to door, to warn my fellow-men, and to tell them of the Saviour I have found; for I can now say, “Whereas I was blind, now I see.”
When the subject pressed heavily on his mind, and he could do no more, he earnestly prayed that the example of negligence and folly which he had given to others might not only be forgiven but that the injurious effect might be removed. Such prayer was often offered separately for his young acquaintance, some of whom he had little known and had not seen for years.
As his tribulation increased, so did his consolation abound. When someone remarked on his state of suffering, he said, “Yes, I suffer very much; but it is nothing to what I deserve, and I can bless the Lord for it. He is dealing mercifully with me—he chastens me with a father's hand. These afflictions are not joyous for the present; nevertheless, he can enable me patiently to bear this and more, for I can do all things through Christ strengthening me, and all night I was able to sing that hymn,
“My God, in every mortal grief,’ &c.”
After a most afflictive and distressing night, he was asked how he did? “Oh!” he said, “I have had a most delightful night. I have not slept, indeed, but I have enjoyed the presence of God and my Saviour. I now understand what it is to eat of the hidden manna!”
When in deepest suffering, and yet contemplating his favourite subject—God in Christ saving sinners, he exclaimed, “I am full of joy—yes, too full of joy considering how little my poor body can bear!”
“Oh!” said he to a friend who visited him, “I wish you had brought some sinner with you, that he might see my sufferings—that I might tell him of my joy—of Christ crucified for sinners; I think he would be convinced that there was something in religion.”
I was from home when his serious illness came on. As soon as I returned I saw him. I was surprised. I never saw the body reduced to a greater state of suffering; I never saw the immortal spirit raised more fully above it.
He saw my surprise. “Yes,” he said, “it is very bad; but I am well.”
“You are prepared, then, not only to suffer but to die?”
“Yes—to die—with hope and confidence; I know in whom I have believed.”
“To rest there is to rest on a rock.”
“Yes; on an everlasting rock.”
“How great a mercy it is that you were brought to rest here before this final affliction.”
“It is—it is; what should I do if I had now a God and *a Saviour to seek?”
“And you find your hope in God sufficient for you?”
“Yes; more than sufficient. I have religion as an anchor to my soul, sure and steadfast; and besides,” referring to the affectionate attentions of his mother and sisters, “I have every other comfort. I now know the truth of that promise, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’”
“Are you never able to lie down or change your posture?”
“No,” he said, “it is very trying; but I am not sad. I have nothing to ask—nothing to be sad about. I can rather sing than pray.”
He was now near the end of his sufferings. The last night was one of great pain and prostration; but his peace and joy remained unbroken. Within an hour of his death he devoutly committed himself to God, and prayed that he would take him to himself—not so much that he might cease to suffer, but cease to sin; and then sang with a power of voice above his strength, the praises of the Lamb who had died for him.
A friend, who saw most of him throughout his affliction, remarks, “I cannot forbear my astonishment at the correct knowledge and matured religious experience of Mr. Jeffreys. Religion influenced him in everything. He breathed its spirit; was sustained by its hopes; and seemed clothed with immortality, while he yet remained in the body. I went to speak to him, but was more inclined to listen; I went to comfort but was myself comforted and profited. I never left him without the silent exclamation,- Truly, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee!’”
5. The next case I would mention is that of a young man of a speculative cast of mind, and whose thoughts had been more engaged with religion than either his conscience or his affections. He had been trained in the ways of religion; but since he had been at his own control, he had got into an unprofitable course both of hearing and of thinking.
He attended some of our special services; his convictions, though still feeble, were strengthened, and he was led to meet me at the vestry.
“I have had,” said he, “a wish to speak with you, and yet I hardly know what to speak about.”
“You are under some concern, I suppose, for your salvation?”
“Yes, I hope so; but not always. It comes and goes at times.”
“Have you been always as careful as you should be to cherish it by a regular and prayerful use of the appointed means?”
“I fear not, but I have sought and sought, and seem no better, and am disheartened.”
“I fear you will not be better till you feel yourself worse. Let me remind you that you admit you have not used the means as you should.”
“I have sometimes: I remember once especially, that one night I resolved to pray in earnest, and if ever I did pray, it was that night; and yet I was no better.
“And you were angry with God that he had not heard such good prayers ?” “I thought he would hear them.”
“He is under no obligation to hear true prayer, except what his promise creates, and I fear yours was not true prayer. True prayer is as humble as it is earnest. It asks what it wants; but confesses it deserves nothing.”
“But if I do my best, is it my fault?”
“Do you really wish to blame God?”
“No: but if I do all that I can, can I do more?”
“It is pretty clear that you cannot do more than you can; but it is not so clear that you are willing to do what you can.”
“I hope I am.”
“Let us see. What did you chiefly pray for on that occasion ?’ “ To be converted.”
“Do you think you are converted?"
“No, I fear not; I cannot convert myself.”
“Very true; there is an affecting sense in which you cannot convert yourself, but I think this is not your sense. What is conversion?”
“It is turning from the world to God.”
“Very well; now tell me what it is that hinders you from turning to God with all your heart this moment?”
“Does God hinder you?” “No."
“Does anything out of yourself hinder you?”. “No."
“What is it in yourself that does hinder you?”
“I can hardly tell.”
“Is it anything—can it be anything but your unwillingness that hinders you?” “I wish to be converted.”
“Do not deceive yourself by an exchange of words. We are speaking of being willing; and let me tell you, that to be .really willing to be converted, is to be converted. To will to be converted, and not to be converted, is a contradiction in terms—an absurdity.”
There was a pause.
I continued, “If, then, you would be truly converted, if you were truly willing, is the fault of your conversion with God or yourself?”
“With me, if it is only my unwillingness.”
“Be honest with yourself, I beseech you. Do not say if, unless you have some other reason to assign besides your unwillingness. If you were truly willing at this time to turn to God and to love and serve him, is there anything to prevent you?”
“I know of none, but I need the grace of God to help me.”
“Exactly so; but still be careful not to mistake. This, grace you cannot claim; it is freely promised, You cannot turn to God because you will not; this unwillingness is your chief sin—it is rebellion; and if you are left to yourself, this unwillingness you will cherish to your eternal ruin.”
“What can I do, then?
“What can you do? Let me entreat you to retire to your closet this night; meditate deeply on the subject of conversation; humble yourself to nothing before God; confess your pride, your unwillingness, and alienation from him; place yourself in his hands as a creature deserving to perish, and that must perish without his help; look up to him, through the only Saviour, for a mind to love and honour him, and the life and peace you have forfeited by sin.”
I have reason to think that in a good measure this request was complied with. The case has more recently had considerable attention; and though not at first of the most hopeful class, and requiring care in the treatment, it may now be referred to with grateful confidence.
6. Another case that may perhaps be profitably named, is that of a member of the church, whose hope broke down during the services of the winter. She had been for many years in honourable fellowship, and in her early profession active and useful. She came to me in much bitterness of spirit: her conviction was that she had never been converted; that she had been a hypocrite; and that there was no hope for her.
I inquired whether her conscience accused her of living in any known but hidden sin!
“No,” she said, “I am not conscious of that.”
“What, then, is the source of your fear?”
“I have been so prayerless; I have had so little love to God; I have done so little for his glory, and have had of late years so little enjoyment of religion, that I doubt whether I have really had any; and, oh, if I should have been a deceiver all this time, what must become of me?”
“Yours, my dear friend, is a serious case, and let us look at it seriously. I do not think with you as to the past, for I have had reason to think well of your profession. But it is possible that you may be right, and that your past profession has been formal and defective. If this is the case, it should be a matter of thankfulness that light has broke on your mind and revealed to you, before it is too late your real condition. Whether this be so or not, my advice is brief and plain, but of great importance. Do not perplex yourself, do not sacrifice your time by seeking for evidence on the past. Refer to it only as a means of humiliation and present earnestness. Whether you have been right or wrong, begin your course afresh; repent as if you had never repented; believe as if you had never believed; give yourself afresh and fully to God as though you had never truly done so. If you are sincere and earnest, light will come, and then peace.”
These simple directions were not at once effectual. They required to be repeated and strengthened, and the surprised and anxious spirit required time to be conscious of a new state of action and feeling, and then joy came. The individual is now running, with renewed hope and strength, the race that is set before her.
My judgment of the case would be, that there was true piety from the beginning; but that she had insensibly sunk down under worldly influences, from her first love and first works. The searching power of the word of God had startled her from her slumbers and revealed her deficiencies, and her first fearful cry was—The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved.
7. Another case was that of an unbeliever. It came to my knowledge soon after the special services. It was that of a person who had been well trained and carefully initiated in the knowledge and service of religion. He commenced business on his own account, and with much encouragement from kind friends. He was successful for a length of time, beyond his expectations. He was elated with worldly prosperity and thought of nothing but getting on in life. Temptations crossed his path from which he had hitherto been carefully protected. He gradually withdrew from his religious connexions and sought the society of the worldly and the gay. His Bible was a forsaken book; the Sabbath was given to pleasure and the heart to covetousness. Religion was little in his thoughts, and when there, it was only to trouble him. His temptation was to stifle the voice of conscience or to deny its authority. He had now nothing to gain from religion, but everything to fear. He was too willing, in the presence of boon companions, to bring it into contempt. He persuaded himself that religion was priestcraft and that the Bible was untrue. He denied a Providence, and said, “God will not require it.” Yea, with the fool he was tempted to say, in his heart, “There is no God.”
God both saw and heard it, and came out of his place to rebuke his sinful creature. Providence changed its aspect: instead of a continued course of prosperity, reverses came. They were of a marked character, and most painful in their nature. Sickness, losses, disappointments, bereavements came, and fell like blow after blow, on a heart made callous by years of sinful indulgence. His dream of worldly success and pleasure was broken; his conscience was awakened and inflamed; every visitation seemed to say, There is a Providence—there is a God.
He could not deny the truth, but he found no comfort in it, and in the midst of his trials his heart rose in angry rebellion against the God who was chastening him for his sins.
It happened that I had to deliver a lecture in the neigh. bourhood for the Christian Instruction Society. the subject was “The Reasonableness of a Divine Revelation.” The advertisement caught his eye, and he determined to attend His affliction, though it had not subdued him, had disposed him to reflection. He had never before weighed the evidence in favour of revelation, and it now appeared to be overwhelming. He left the service with the conviction that a revelation from God to man was necessary, and that the revelation given in the Scriptures was worthy of God to bestow.
He now renewed his attendance on divine worship and felt that the design of his affliction was to correct him for his sins and restore him to his right mind. He found decided benefit from the services at the opening of the year. He saw me, and explained his past and present state of mind, and professed a desire to acknowledge and honour the Saviour he had denied. His testimony and conduct gave us full satisfaction, and himself and his wife were received to the fellowship of the saints.
8. Another was a very affecting case, which I shall treat with brevity. It was that of a minister who had stood with honour amongst his brethren, and laboured with acceptance in the church of God.
On one evening, after special services, a member of the church came to me to state that a person, apparently a stranger, had sat next to him, who was evidently in great distress, as he was weeping and sobbing during most of the service. I made inquiries of him but could learn nothing. I there. fore begged my informant to watch for him on the next occasion, should he come; and to offer my respects, and say that I should have pleasure in speaking with him.
On the next evening, he was present; and affected in like manner. My friend introduced himself and gave my message. He came to me. With his face half-hidden in his hands, he said,—
“Do you know me?”
“Yes, certainly I do. How are you?”
“Have you not then heard of me?”
“No; not lately. Some time since I heard some rumour, not to your favour; but I passed it by, as I am not in the habit of taking up rumours against brethren.”
“You see before you a fallen—fallen brother, one utterly unworthy now to be called a brother;” and he buried his face in his hands, and wept bitterly.
Some time elapsed before we were sufficiently tranquil for conversation. He told me in broken sentences what had occurred; that he had at once resigned his charge and the ministry; and that he had removed with his family into our vicinity as a part where he was least likely to be observed. He had seen the notice of the special services; and he thought, as the attendances were likely to be full, that he might be there, and yet entirely concealed from observation. “The subjects of discourse,” he said, “seemed intended for me; my feelings became uncontrollable; I have been discovered when I meant to be hidden. I have obeyed your kind invitation; but had you known what you now know, you would not have invited me.”
“Indeed I should!”
“Thank you. But I have lost the esteem, the love of all.”
“You claim the sympathy, the help, the prayers of all; and you shall have mine.”
“You cannot tell,” he said, “what I have suffered.”
“God,” I remarked, “is a holy God, and punishment follows sin.”
“And though I perish,” he said, “let him be holy still. I would not that he were less holy or righteous than he is!”
“Thank God that you can say so!”
“It is my deliberate mind, come what may. But oh! to have cast myself down from such a station of honour and usefulness as God was pleased to assign me; to have been false to my trust and my vows; to have brought such misery on myself—on my beloved family; to have cut myself off. from the church of God and christian intercourse; the thought of it drives me to the verge of madness; it makes life intolerable, and hope—hope—almost impossible!”
“Do not say so. Despair will harden your heart, and offend God—you do not wish to offend him still?”
“Oh no, no! I am sick of sin. I have desired death that I might escape sin. I would lie down at his feet, that he may do with me as seemeth good in his sight.”
“Do not despond. There is peace in penitence—pardon in Christ. You may yet live to hope, to usefulness. Is it not a motive to live, to redeem your error and to bless your family?”
And still he wept.
It will be concluded that such a case could not be neglected. If it asked for attention, it demanded caution. It has had both, and the results have been happy. Our brother has shown all the evidence of true penitence by which man can assure his fellow-men; and after some months of trial, has been restored to the communion of the church, amidst the tears and prayers of the people.
9. Another remarkable case was that of three sisters. They had been brought up in worldly circles and had not been accustomed to hear the gospel. They had recently come into the neighbourhood and came to us when these was much of the power of religion amongst the people. They were soon observed by their constant and serious attendance; and after a time were encouraged to see me They seemed graciously prepared to receive the gospel, so soon as it was presented, with humility and joy. There was but slight difference in their state of mind. The eldest sister had had two years previously strong convictions of sin, but she had been induced to resist them and to seek relief in worldly amusements. This recollection now filled her with a sense of guilt and unworthiness and led her to fear that she had grieved the Holy Spirit and that repentance was too late. However, two are better than one; she was not left to pore over her desponding thoughts in solitude. He sisters were always with her; they walked in the hope and comfort of the gospel, and she was partaker of their joy. They gave us much pleasure, and in May were together admitted to church communion.
10. Let us make one other reference to two persons, who are in the class of such as are advanced in life. Both of them had exceeded seventy years of age.
The one of these persons had been brought up well and had in his early life professed religion. But for many years he had cast it off, refusing even to attend any place of divine worship. He pretended to make the inconsistencies of professors his reason of conduct. He had a daughter who sickened and died, but not without giving delightful proof of the power and grace of religion, and his wife became pions and united with the people of God; but he remained as ho was, entirely neglectful of all appeals, and even rough and churlish to those who professed an interest in his spiritual welfare. However, when our winter exercises were on, and Christians were looking abroad, he was thought of. A friend sent him a note, urging him to attend on the following Sabbath evening, and promising to supply him with a eat. To the surprise of the writer, and of all who knew him, he came. To their greater surprise, his attention was fixed; and before the service was ended, the tears were flowing silently down his furrowed cheeks. He became at once regular and eager attendant on the means he had so long despised; and, as many observed him, with his lips open, his eyes glistening, and the tears starting from time to time from their lids, they glorified God in him—“for the man on whom this miracle was done, was more than forty years old.”
His character and temper, abroad and at home, seemed at Ince changed. Recollections of early life were mixed with the remembrance of sin. A fund of religious poetry which le had then learned, and which had been locked up from himself and others, was broken open. He now delighted in using it to embody his present feelings and opinions. To my astonishment, the first way I heard of him was by a folio letter entirely filled with such passages, and exceedingly well fitted to impart his probable state of mind. The intercourse had with him was highly gratifying; and after the usual delay, he was admitted to unite with his wife in the common privileges of the kingdom of heaven.
The other person was Mrs Gregory. She was drawing to the close of life, and in the confirmed neglect of religion, after many struggles with her own conscience. She was Visiting her daughter, who resides in the vicinity of the chapel, for two or three days. Her daughter pressed her to go with her on the evening that the second sermon to the unConverted was preached. She came. The text was read— “I gave her space to repent, and she repented not.” It was to her as a voice from heaven. “It means me,” she said, “it means me!” She was full of distress during the night and the following day. In the evening she came to me, still full of distress. The word of God pierced her heart, and it was sharper than any two-edged sword. Again she exclaimed, "It means me, it means me! It was not your voice, sir, it was the voice of God. He has given me space to repent, and I repented not.” I never witnessed a deeper sense of sin, "Or more brokenness of heart on its account in the first exerclses of Christian life. I heard all she wished to say and gave the best counsels I could; and directed her to see me again.
Once more she came from the distance of her home, but it was her last time. That interview gave me much plea. sure. She sickened after this; and having lingered some weeks in weakness and suffering, she was called to another life. One of my deacons gave her kind attention to the last, and he has assured conviction of her sincere repentance and faith in Christ. She was not spared publicly to profess his name on earth, but we trust that she is “written amongst the living in Jerusalem.”
She seemed to have been brought on a visit of three days into this neighbourhood, for the purpose of her conversion before she died, after having lived seventy-two years in negligence of the means of salvation. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Thus have I endeavoured, as to brethren beloved, to submit a brief account of what I must deem on the whole the most interesting period of my ministry. At this moment, in looking back on the report I have made, I see no reason to qualify what has been stated. We have still much to deplore and much to do; but not in consequence of any reaction. Our present state is a decided advance on our previous state, and this without the previous state being one of declension and barrenness. Nor do I apprehend, as the consequence of what has been done, any relapse. There are no signs to feed such apprehensions now; nor have there been any on former occasions of great, but of less considerable, interest. I am far from concluding that every blossom will ripen into perfect fruit, or that all who have solemnly professed religion within the period, will continue steadfast and unwavering to the end; but I have a full confidence that those who have professed the Saviour within the period, will wear as well, or better, than the same number of admissions spread over a larger space of time.
Some interruption did occur, as I have stated, in the summer months; but with no results that are to be deprecated. We are once more moving on in our vocation, and have great reason for abiding and humble gratitude. The Word is evidently not preached in vain, and the spirit of prayer yet rests on the people, and much with the young. Our church is now considerably more than one half of the congregation.
As means of usefulness amongst us, we have book societies and school libraries. A Bethesda Society, for visiting and relieving the sick poor; a Mother and Infant Friend Society, for the relief of married women in their confinement; and two Maternal Societies. A Christian Instruction Society, with a paid agent; and about seventy visitors. A. Young Men's Society, chiefly with us, though of a general character. A Dorcas Society, to work for the deserving and distressed poor. Two Juvenile Societies, to work for missionary stations. An Adult School, with about 120 pupils; a Female Day School, with 130 scholars; an Infant School, with 120; Sabbath Schools, with about 450 scholars. Four stations for preaching and schools, besides the principal; and four Bible classes. In all, the number of persons under instruction in our schools may be put at about 1100; and if we include the schools at Bethnal-green, which are as closely connected as the distance allows, it will be about 1500.
Our chapel and school-rooms have been erected about eight years, at a total cost, without reckoning the ground on which they stand, of nearly £8000. Our friends are proposing that an effort shall be made to liquidate the remaining portion of the debt before this year expires; and if this be done, the average payment will have been on this account alone about £1000 per annum. We look to this the more earnestly, as it will allow us to act with more decision in favour of those objects, which are general and not local; and which are identified with the advancement of religion at home and abroad.
Dear brethren, pray for us, that we may walk as those who have seen the Lord; that there be no occasion of reproach in us; and that we may still abide under those influences which are life, purity, and peace. Rest assured of our sincere prayers, that the same grace which we crave for ourselves may be with you, and much more abundantly. Let us unitedly and earnestly seek this blessing from above, for the advancement of pure and undefiled religion amongst us. This is what we need, and we need nothing besides it. Do not our present circumstances of trial direct our attention this way? Now that attempts are strenuously made to unchurch our societies, and to invalidate our ministry, by reviving old, exploded, and popish opinions; should we not seek our single and sufficient reply in regenerated and holy communities, and in a spiritual, earnest, unworldly, and successful ministry? Who shall condemn whom God approves by the special signature of his favour?
With sincere respect, and fraternal affection, ANDREW REED.
HACKNEY, November 14th, 1839.