The GOSPEL TRUTH
REVIVALS OF RELIGION.
WILLIAM B. SPRAGUE, D. D.
PASTOR OF THE SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN ALBANY, N.Y.
RESULTS OF REVIVALS.
Revelation v. 13.
"Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever"
This is the new song that was heard by John in vision, as a response from the whole creation, to the sublime anthem which had just before trembled on the harps and lips of the general assembly and church of the first-born. The heavenly host, including the angels and the redeemed, shout forth their praises in this noble song: -- "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." All nature instantly becomes vocal, and sends back her amen to this loud, and thrilling, and ecstatic acclamation. -- "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever."
In the series of discourses, of which the present is to form the conclusion, I have endeavoured to present before you what seems to me the scriptural view of most of the leading topics connected with revivals of religion. I have attempted to show the nature of a genuine revival, and the characteristics by which it is distinguished; to defend revivals against the cavils of those who oppose them; to note the circumstances which are unfavourable to their progress; to consider the agency of God on the one hand, and the instrumentality of the church on the other, in carrying them forward; to exhibit an outline of the treatment that is due, both to the awakened sinner and the hopeful convert; and last of all, to guard you against the evils to which revivals, through the weakness and corruption of human nature, are liable to be perverted. It only remains to direct your attention, in the present discourse, to the results of revivals; partly in their gradual and partial development, and partly as they will be seen, when the cause shall have gained its complete triumph. And in taking up this subject, in this connection, we pass from a theme the least grateful, to one that is most grateful to the Christian's heart: we turn our back upon a region of misgivings, and difficulties, and discouragements, and enter a field of hope, and light, and glory.
But you will ask, perhaps, in what manner the glorious hymn of praise which I have selected as a text, can be considered as pointing to the results of revivals of religion? I answer, it is a hymn in which the church on earth may very properly unite, in celebrating the triumphs of God's grace as they have been manifested in the blessed effects of revivals already. It is the tendency of revivals to prepare multitudes for taking up this noble song even here, and continuing to repeat it with increasing melody and rapture for ever. And, moreover, it is the song in which the ransomed in glory are to celebrate, through eternity, the praises of redemption; and of course, the triumph of the cause of revivals, in which the purposes of God's redeeming mercy will have gone so wonderfully into effect. Whether, therefore, we consider this as a song of triumph from the church on earth, or as the everlasting song of the redeemed in heaven, it will, in either case, justify the train of thought into which I purpose to lead you in respect to the results of revivals. These results I will endeavour to present before you as they are developed,
I. In the present world.
II. In the world of glory.
I. In the present world.
The grand result to which revivals are here tending, is the complete moral renovation of the world. This result is to be accomplished,
1 . By their direct influence, in elevating the intellectual, spiritual, and social condition of men.
There is a sluggish tendency in the human mind, which it often requires a severe shock effectually to counteract. Most men choose almost any other labour rather than the labour of thought; and hence, no doubt, many an individual, in whom there is the germ of a noble mind, never actually rises above a very moderate intellectual stature. Now, it is the tendency of a revival of religion to bring the faculties into vigorous exercise. Let the spirit of God be poured out upon a community, and you will find that the public mind there is in a wakeful state; that men seem to have lost their aversion to thinking, and have shaken off their accustomed sluggishness, and are earnest in making inquiries, and cannot rest till those inquiries are answered. There is an intellectual excitement, at such a time, pervading the whole community; for while convinced sinners are set upon a course of deep and earnest thought in respect to their salvation, the minds of Christians are laid under contribution by the demand that is made upon them for counsel and aid; and even those who are not specially awakened by the Holy Spirit, are usually, to a greater or less extent, brought into the posture of reflection or inquiry. And the subject which occupies the mind in this case, let it be remembered, is of the noblest kind. The intellect, no doubt, may be vigorously employed upon subjects of an unimportant character, and the exercise which it thus receives, may serve to develop and quicken its powers; but in a revival of religion, the subject also is fitted not only to develop and quicken, but to elevate; for it brings the mind in contact with higher orders of being, and higher states of existence. Yes; in such a scene, men are not only trained to deep reflection, but to reflection upon matters of infinite moment; and the intellect and the heart get warm together; and while the deep and strong sensibilities of the soul are roused by means of the light that blazes in the understanding, the feelings, in turn, send back into the mind an influence that is fitted to render its perceptions more distinct and vivid. I appeal to the subjects of revivals every where for evidence of the fact, that the mind is never more active than during a season of the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
But revivals of religion are favourable to intellectual culture, not only as they bring the mind at the time into vigorous exercise, but as they originate in the subjects of them moral feelings and habits, which are peculiarly favourable to the acquisition of useful knowledge. Every true subject of a revival has been brought to realize, that his intellectual powers, and all the means he enjoys for their improvement, are a talent from the great Master, for which he will be responsible; and this impression will of course be favourable to the highest degree of diligence. And then, again, that calm state of the affections, which is thereby induced, is peculiarly favourable to a habit of intellectual abstraction, and to all high mental efforts: and hence I should expect, with great confidence, that of two individuals, one of whom had been a sharer in the blessed effects of a revival, and the other was a stranger to the power of religion -- other things being equal -- the former would be far more successful in acquiring any branch of useful knowledge than the latter; besides the fact, that in the one case there would be a security, and in the other none, that the acquisitions which were made would be consecrated to the cause of truth, virtue, and happiness. And what would be true of a single subject of a revival, would be true of its subjects generally; they have experienced an influence which is fitted, more than any thing else, to bring out their intellectual energies, and give them a right direction.
Moreover, as it is the tendency of a revival to impress those who share in it with their obligations to cultivate their own powers, as God gives them opportunity, it is adapted, also, to awaken in them an active desire for the general promotion of useful knowledge. For though they know that knowledge is capable of being perverted to the worst purposes, and renders a bad man a much more formidable enemy to the cause of virtue and happiness than he could be without it, yet they also know, that knowledge, in itself, is an important auxiliary to that cause; and that it were as unreasonable to object to it, because it is occasionally perverted to bad ends, as it would be to call in question the utility of the sun, because, in his march through the heavens, he sometimes lights the path of the robber or the assassin. Hence we find, that, in our own country, at least, many of the most active promoters of useful knowledge, at the present day, are to be found among those who have been practically taught the great lesson of human responsibility in a revival of religion; and it is reasonable to conclude, that, in the progress of revivals, not only religious knowledge, but every other species of knowledge that is fitted to adorn and bless society, will be regularly advanced.
But if revivals serve to elevate the intellectual condition of men, they operate still more benignly, as well as powerfully, upon their spiritual condition. All who are the subjects of them were previously lying under the curse of God, and exposed to his everlasting displeasure. They were polluted in their whole moral nature, were liable not only to the fierce upbraidings of a guilty conscience, but to the tyranny of worldly lusts, and sometimes even to a storm of malignant passion. In the hour of affliction they had no refuge; in the prospect of death, they saw nothing but agony -- to say nothing of the agony of dying for ever! And what has the revival done for them? It has changed their relations to God, and brought them within the arms of his forgiving mercy, and filled their hearts with the spirit of adoption, and opened their lips in thanksgiving and praise. It has clothed them with the beauties of a renovated nature, has delivered them from their bondage to the earthly, and brought them into close alliance with the heavenly; it has secured to them living consolation in all their trouble, and given them a pledge that there shall be nothing to harm them even in the valley of death. And those who had already begun to live for God, it has quickened to a higher tone of feeling and action; impressing upon them more deeply their Redeemer's image, and rendering them more fit to breathe the atmosphere of heaven. This it has done not for a solitary individual, or for a few individuals only, but for a multitude; thus changing the spiritual condition sometimes of entire families, and not unfrequently of a large part of an extensive community. True it is, that this change relates especially to the hidden man of the heart, and is, for the most part, beyond the reach of mortal vision; but it is not the less real, not the less momentous; indeed, it may be considered, in an important sense, as the germ of all the blessing which a revival of religion secures.
Equally true is it, that the influence of a revival extends to the social condition of men. Intelligence and virtue are the two main springs of public happiness. But we have already seen, that it is the tendency of revivals to put the mind into active operation on the one hand, and to purify the fountains of moral conduct on the other. If the heart is changed from the love of sin to the love of holiness, it must necessarily result, that this change will discover itself in all the Christian virtues; in that very course of conduct which makes man a blessing to his fellowman, and converts all his social relations into so many channels of benign and healthful influence. Hence it is found, in point of fact, and in instances almost innumerable, that a revival has renovated not only the moral, but physical aspect of a community -- has driven away vice -- has encouraged industry -- has given a spring to intelligence -- and has caused the social virtues to look forth in smiles, where chilling selfishness, or hateful discord, or unblushing crime, seemed to have established a perpetual reign.
Revivals also exert an influence in favour of social happiness, somewhat less direct, but not less efficient, as they have a bearing on the whole machinery of civil government. This is an engine of tremendous power, and must, almost of course, secure to a people great good, or bring upon them great evil; and which side of the alternative is to be realized, in any given case, must depend on the character of the rulers, on the one hand, and the character of the people, on the other. Revivals number among their subjects not a few men of intellectual distinction, who are qualified for the higher stations in society; and there are many others, equally gifted, whose character they help to form and elevate, who, nevertheless, do not profess to have realized their highest benefit. And while the influence of revivals eminently fits these men for office, by bringing them under the power of moral or Christian principle, it is also some pledge of their elevation to office, as it serves to enlighten and purify moral sentiment throughout the community. And after they are actually elevated to public stations, the same influence will make them honest, and resolute, and faithful to their convictions of duty, even in the worst of times; while, on the other hand, it will cherish in subjects a spirit of obedience, and lead them to co-operate with their rulers for the accomplishment of all the good ends of government. Let the true spirit of revivals prevail through our land, and we shall deserve, in respect to our social and civil interests, far more than we now do, the appellation of "a happy people."
But while such is the immediate effect of revivals upon our own public interests, I cannot resist the impression, that the revivals in this country are destined to exert a more remote influence in advancing the general cause of human society throughout the world. Where is even the superficial observer of human affairs, who does not perceive the signs of the times, in respect to the European nations, tell fearfully of revolution? Who needs be told, that the fabric of society in those nations, which has stood firm amidst the shocks of past ages, begins now perceptibly to totter; and that the day is probably at hand, when their civil institutions will be re-modelled, and the whole face of society receive a new aspect? Now, I do not suppose that I claim too much for our country, when I say that the eyes of the nations will be more likely to be directed to her as a model of social and civil renovation, than any other country on earth. It is no improbable supposition, then, that the influence of our revivals -- these very scenes of divine power and grace in which we are permitted to mingle -- may dart across the Atlantic, and be felt at the very springs of society there. Yes; those institutions, to which, under God, we owe so many of our blessings, and which are sustained, in a degree at least, by the influence which comes from revivals, may be adopted by other nations, until there shall be no nation that does not rejoice in their light. The testimony of God forbids us to doubt, that there is a period approaching, when the social state of man, every where, will have reached a point of improvement, far beyond what has ever yet been attained by any people. When the light of the millennial morning dawns upon the world, it may be easier than now to form an estimate of the results of revivals, in giving proportion, and beauty, and strength, to the edifice of human society. But,
2. Revivals tend towards the complete moral renovation of the world, by enlarging the moral resources, and quickening and directing the moral energies, of the church.
The church is much indebted to revivals for the increase both of her numbers and her graces. -- Observe this influence as it is often exerted in individual cases, and on the spiritual interests of particular communities of Christians. It were no difficult matter to find many instances, which have occurred in these latter years, in which hundreds, during a single revival, have hopefully become the subjects of renewing grace; and a large proportion of them, at least, have subsequently evinced the reality of their conversion, by a holy life. And, in many of these cases, a church, which before barely had an existence, has not only been saved from utter extinction, but has been enlarged, by great accessions to its numbers and influence; and not unfrequently has been enabled to supply itself with what before it did not enjoy -- the stated administration of Christian ordinances. And if the influence of a revival be so great and good as it respects particular instances and individual churches, what shall we say of the influence of all the revivals which take place during a single year -- much more of all which have hitherto existed, as well as those which are hereafter to exist, before the world shall be filled with the glory of the Highest. How many new churches are probably destined to grow up under this influence! How much is the standard of Christian character -- of humility, of zeal, of devotion, of every thing that pertains to practical godliness, yet to be elevated, in consequence of these glorious effusions of the Holy Ghost! What an immense number will have been brought to the table of the Lord, and will have been enlisted actively in his service, and will count it an honour to wear themselves out in his cause, who, but for revivals of religion, might have continued to turn their backs upon the Saviour, and even have openly opposed the interests of his kingdom! And how much is our idea of the influence of revivals heightened, when we recollect that it is constantly accumulative; that those who are the subjects of one revival are prepared to labour, and actually do labour, for the promotion of others; and the subjects of these revivals, in turn, address themselves to the same work; and so on, in an uninterrupted succession, until the Redeemer shall have seen the travail of his soul, and been fully satisfied!
Again, Revivals increase the efficiency of the Christian ministry; both by increasing the qualifications of those who are engaged in it, and by bringing others to give themselves to the work. They serve to raise the tone of ministerial qualification. A minister can learn that in a revival which he can scarcely learn in any other circumstances. There he enjoys advantages which he can have no where else, for becoming acquainted with the windings of the human heart; for ascertaining the influence of different truths upon different states of feeling; for learning how to detect false hopes, and to ascertain and confirm good hopes; and I may add, for getting his soul deeply imbued with the true spirit of his work. Accordingly, it has often been remarked, that ministers, after having passed through a revival, have preached, and prayed, and done their whole work, with far more earnestness and effect than before; and they themselves have not unfrequently acknowledged, that what they had gained, during such a season, has been worth more to them than the study of years.
But revivals contribute also to increase the number of ministers. They are the means of introducing many young men of talents and promise into the kingdom of Christ; not a small part of whom consecrate themselves to him in the ministry of reconciliation. As the population of our own country is so rapidly advancing, and as the church is waking up to the spiritual desolation both of Christendom and of the Pagan world, it is manifest that an immense number of ministers are wanted, and are likely to be wanted, to meet this constantly-increasing demand. Now then, if it were not for our revivals, we can see no alternative, but that the great work must stand still for want of labourers, or else it must be prosecuted by men who lack the most essential of all qualifications. But here, blessed be God, we are saved from both sides of this miserable alternative. We have young men, truly devoted, as well as in many instances eminently gifted young men, offering themselves to the work; and most of the younger ministers of the present generation, as well those who have gone abroad, as those who labour at home, date their conversion to some revival; and as the cause of revivals advances in coming years, we cannot doubt, that there will be a constantly-increasing number directing their eye towards the sacred office, until the Saviour's command shall actually be obeyed, to preach the gospel to every creature.
Revivals also lend an important influence to the support of our benevolent institutions. It is by means of these, especially, that the gospel is to be sent abroad to the ends of the earth, and the kingdom of Christ every where to be established. When you view the inroads which have already been made upon the territories of darkness and sin -- when you cast an eye toward the wilderness, and see it beginning to assume the aspect of moral renovation -- when you look off upon the dominions of Paganism, and see how many idol-gods have fallen from their thrones -- how many have exchanged rites of superstition and cruelty, for a pure and rational worship of the true God -- how many Christian churches and Christian schools are already established -- and how many Bibles and tracts are in circulation, -- when you witness all this, I say, you behold nothing which has not been accomplished by the benevolent institutions, either of this or of other lands! Now, this moral machinery, so far as our own country at least is concerned, is evidently to be sustained and increased chiefly through the influence of revivals. Each individual who is converted to God, is a new labourer in this glorious cause; and the multitudes who already are, or hereafter will be, born into the kingdom, must bring to it an amount of influence of which we can form no adequate conception. Besides, it is the tendency of revivals to make those who are already Christians address themselves with more vigour and efficiency to this work; for while, what they witness and experience in such a scene is fitted to increase their general spirituality, it is especially adapted to make them feel more deeply the value of the soul, and the importance of labouring for its salvation abroad, as well as at home, to the extent of their power. Yes, my friends, it is amidst the effusions of the Spirit of God, that men are trained to engage actively and efficiently in the great enterprise of Christian benevolence: here they are to have their hearts and their hands opened in behalf of those who are sitting in the region and shadow of death: here they are to catch that spirit of zeal, and self-denial, and holy resolution, which will lead them to attempt great things, and by God's blessing to accomplish great things, towards the moral renovation of the world. I hardly need say, that all our great benevolent institutions -- our Missionary, and Bible, and Tract, and Education, and Temperance, and all kindred societies, have flourished most where the influences of God's grace have been most abundantly experienced: and I am sure, that every thing in the aspect of providence indicates that the spirit of revivals, and the spirit of public charity, are hereafter to go hand in hand -- the one being sustained and cherished in a great degree by the other, until the earth shall be filled with the Redeemer's glory.
There is one institution which the church uses with greater effect than almost any other, which, in this country at least, derives its efficiency, in no small degree, from the influence of revivals -- I mean the Sabbath school. In order to impart to this institution the greatest moral energy, it is necessary that there should be a sufficient number of teachers, able and willing to discharge their duty in the best manner, and that all who are the proper subjects for Sabbath school instruction should be brought within its influence. You will easily see how revivals contribute to the accomplishment of both these ends. They multiply the number of adequate teachers, by bringing many persons of intelligence and discretion to a practical knowledge of the gospel; and they not only enlist them in the enterprise, but impart to them a tender concern for the salvation of their pupils, and lead them to regard this, rather than the bare communication of scriptural knowledge -- the ultimate end of their efforts. They serve also greatly to increase the number of those who are brought within the reach of the benefits of this heaven-born institution. Let Sabbath school teachers become deeply imbued with that spirit which a revival is fitted to impart to Christians -- a spirit of love to the Saviour, and love to the souls whom he died to redeem -- and it will carry them out to the hovels of wretchedness, and lead them to gather into this sacred in closure as many as they can: and let parents feel the influence of a revival, either in reclaiming them from a course of backsliding, or in bringing them, for the first time, to an acceptance of the Saviour, and they, too, will stand ready to co-operate in this noble enterprise, by encouraging not only their own children, but all with whom they have influence, to be found regularly in the Sabbath school. It were easy to point to many instances of this institution being first established in consequence of a revival, and that, too, where no effort of this kind could have been made at any preceding period with the least prospect of success; and to many more instances, in which a revival has raised a Sabbath school from a state of extreme depression to that of great prosperity. Its numbers have been greatly increased; its teachers have been rendered more efficient and faithful; the church have come to regard it with renewed interest; and even the world have looked upon it with favour, and extended to it a cordial and cheering patronage.
I must not omit to say, in this connection, that the Sabbath school furnishes a most interesting field for the direct action of a revival. I will say nothing here of the peculiar advantages which this institution furnishes for carrying forward a work of divine grace, having adverted to that in a preceding discourse; but I refer to the fact, that the pupils in the Sabbath school are generally in the morning of life, and that a revival in numbering them as its subjects, secures, in every instance, the influence of nearly a whole life to the cause of truth and piety. We are accustomed to feel, and very properly, that there is special reason for thanksgiving to God, when the man who has nearly worn out his life in sin, is arrested in his guilty career just as he is on the borders of the tomb; but the peculiar interest which we take in such a conversion arises not from any expectation we can have of very extensive subsequent usefulness, but from the fact that it occurs at so late a period, as to furnish a signal instance of sovereign mercy, and to be in a peculiar sense as life from the dead. But when an individual comes into the kingdom, bringing with him the full freshness and vigour of youth, there is occasion for joy, not merely because from an heir of hell he has become an heir of heaven, but because there is reason to hope that he may be long useful in the church, and do much for the advancement of the cause of Christ. And when the dews of divine grace descend copiously upon a Sabbath school, there is an amount of influence secured in favour of the interests of the church, which outruns calculation. There are many youth saved, it may be, from exerting an influence unfriendly to the Redeemer's cause -- possibly from being its open enemies; and they enter at once on a course of vigorous effort for its advancement; and some of them may be destined to high places of trust, and their influence, whether it be greater or less, whether it be exerted for a longer or shorter period, is brought as an humble offering to their Saviour and Lord. It is a delightful thought, that, while the Sabbath school is an important auxiliary to the cause of revivals, revivals in turn do much to direct and increase the influence of the Sabbath school; rendering it a still more efficient helper to all the great and holy interests of the church.
There is yet another way in which revivals increase the moral energies of the church -- I mean by cherishing a spirit of prayer for the success of the gospel. The Christian who has the true spirit of a revival, cannot limit his prayers, anymore than his efforts, to the salvation of those who are immediately around him. As he wakes to a more impressive sense of the value of the soul, and to the fact, that the gospel offers the only effectual remedy for its moral disorders, he feels a stronger desire that that remedy may every where be known and applied, and this desire carries him often to the throne of the heavenly grace. And no doubt the prayers of Christians for the general diffusion of the gospel, which are drawn forth by revivals, have much to do instrumentally in setting in motion, and keeping in motion, the great moral machinery of the age, as well as in securing the blessed effects which we see produced by it. And as it is now, so we have reason to believe it will be in all coming years -- the prayers of the church, which her revivals will secure, will have much, very much to do, in carrying forward the triumph of the gospel, until the church shall be able to recognise the whole world as her habitation, and to record, that the work that was given her to do has been accomplished.
Who then but will acknowledge, in review of this article, that revivals have already, both by a direct and indirect influence, accomplished wonders toward the renovation of the world? And what Christian's heart will not bound with joy in the prospect of what is yet to be done through the same instrumentality? Let your imagination anticipate a period, (how near or how remote I will not venture to say,) in which the wilderness, instead of presenting here and there a spot of moral verdure, shall every where be as the garden of the Lord -- in which Paganism, and Mahomedism, and every other false religion, shall have fled from the world -- in which every hill and valley shall echo to the Redeemer's praises, and the bright light of millennial glory spread itself over the whole earth, -- let that period come, and let the question be asked, whether on earth or in heaven, by what means this glorious triumph has been secured, and it requires no spirit of prophecy to predict that the answer must be, that it has been, in a great degree, by revivals of religion. Such, then, is the grand result of revivals as it respects the present world.
II. And what is it as it respects the world of glory?
It is a vast accession to the felicity of that world. For,
1. Revivals minister directly to the joy of the heavenly inhabitants.
The angels are by no means indifferent spectators of these scenes. Our Saviour himself hath declared, that "there is joy among the angels over one sinner that repenteth." Much more then must they rejoice, when multitudes repent and believe, and have their destiny for eternity reversed. These exalted beings are represented as eagerly penetrating into the mysteries of redemption; as employing their noble faculties to the utmost to become acquainted with this wonderful work; because, more than any other, it brings out to view the perfections of Jehovah. But it is in a revival, especially, that this work as it respects individuals, and even the whole church, advances rapidly towards its consummation. Here the provision which has been made for sinners is appropriated; the remedy is applied and proved to be efficacious. The wisdom, the power, the grace, the faithfulness of God, shine forth amidst every such scene, with a distinctness and an effulgence, which angels cannot contemplate without burning with a loftier and more admiring regard for the divine character. Yes; we have no reason to doubt, that when they cast an eye towards our world, which is the theatre of redemption, and towards our revivals, in which this redemption so wonderfully takes effect, they gain deeper, and brighter, and nobler views of God, than when they look directly at the glories of his throne.
Another reason of their joy on these occasions, is, that the benevolence of their nature leads them to delight in the happiness of men. Though they know nothing by experience of the evils from which the sinner is redeemed, yet they know much of the glory to which he is destined -- they know that he is saved from the miseries of the second death -- that he has a title to an incorruptible inheritance secured to him -- that during his residence on earth, some beams of heavenly glory will be let down into his soul -- and that, ere long, he will be taken up to be their companion, and will advance through everlasting ages, from one degree of purity and bliss to another. Inasmuch as, during a revival, the change takes place in respect to many individuals, which secures to them an exemption from so much misery, and the possession of so much glory, how natural that the angels, in contemplating this change, should rejoice; how reasonable that their native benevolence should lead them to turn an eye of transport toward the earth, while they bend with deeper reverence before the throne, in view of these wonderful displays of divine mercy.
But while revivals are a source of rich joy to the angels, we may suppose that they are so in a still higher degree to that part of the population of heaven who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. It is with them, in common with angels, a reason for joy, that, in these triumphs of divine grace, they gain the most glorious view of the divine character, and also, that they contemplate in them a mighty addition to the amount of human happiness. But there are other circumstances to operate in their case, the influence of which angels cannot be supposed to feel. They know by actual experience the misery of a life of sin, and the danger that is connected with it of being cast off for ever, and the fearful forebodings of eternal torment which have risen under the influence of a waking conscience; and they know too, on the other hand, the sweet hope that accompanies the sense of forgiveness, and the sustaining influences of piety in the hour of trial, and the cheering prospect that greets the eye of faith as it respects the future, and the aid which the soul experiences from the everlasting arm in the valley of death, and finally, they know something of the exceeding and eternal weight of glory in which the sinner's redemption is consummated. They are able, therefore, to form a far more perfect estimate than the angels, of the real importance of a revival of religion, so far as it is connected with the happiness of its subjects; because their experience enables them to put the joy that is gained in more striking contrast with the woe that is avoided. They look back to the hole of the pit from which they were themselves taken, and then consider their present condition as kings and priests unto God, and the gain of bliss and glory which is secured by one revival defies the utmost reach of their labouring conceptions.
Moreover, it is reasonable to suppose, that the joy which the redeemed feel in view of the triumphs of God's grace on earth, must be heightened in many cases by the relations which they have themselves sustained to those who are the subjects of a gracious renovation. Suppose the glorified parent looks down, and sees the children whom he left walking in the broad road to death, turning into the path to life, and setting their faces firmly towards heaven; or suppose the wife beholds her husband, or the sister her brother, for whom she had offered a thousand prayers, but had died without seeing them answered, now waking up to a concern for his salvation, and laying hold on the hope set before him in the gospel, and solemnly dedicating himself to the Lord; or suppose the faithful pastor to have gone down to his grave mourning over the obduracy of hearts which he could never reach, and to look down from Mount Zion above, and see them pierced with conviction, and melted in penitence, and rejoicing in hope: and I ask you whether you do not believe, that, in each of these cases, there would be a new and deeper thrill of joy in the breast of that glorified immortal? Do you not believe that he would strike his harp to a higher and nobler note of thanksgiving, that those whom he loved while he was on earth, and whom he still loves, though he is in heaven, have not only been redeemed by the blood, but renewed by the Spirit of Christ, and are training up to be his companions through ages of happiness, that will know no end?
I may say too, reverently, that Jehovah himself rejoices in a revival of religion; for he beholds in it the most precious of his own works. In such an event, each person in the adorable Godhead is eminently glorified by an exhibition of the various attributes of the divine character. The Father is glorified in the display of that love and wisdom in which the plan of redemption originated: the Son is glorified in the honour which hereby comes to his mediatorial work, and especially in the efficacy which is thus proved to belong to his atoning blood: the Holy Ghost is glorified in the effectual energy of his operation on the heart; in changing stone into flesh -- in new-creating the whole man. Here is power, wisdom, mercy, faithfulness, holiness, every attribute of God, brought out in a living -- I had almost said, a palpable form. If Jehovah rejoices in his own glory, and if that glory is illustrated in the conversion of even a single soul, what shall be said of his rejoicing in view of a revival of religion -- much more of all the revivals which will have taken place when the whole number of the ransomed of the Lord shall be gathered home.
2. Revivals tend to the same grand result, by increasing the number of the heavenly inhabitants.
Who can estimate the number that have already not only had their names written among the redeemed, but have actually entered through the gate into the city, and taken up the anthems of heaven, who, but for revivals of religion, would have had no part nor lot in the matter? Limit your view, if you will, to the result of a single year, and think what a mighty accession to the heavenly host is furnished by one year's revivals. And then, with the promises of God and the signs of the times in your eye, let your thoughts travel down the tract of coming years, and see how much the revivals of each successive year serve to increase the population of heaven. And finally anticipate the time when this earth shall no longer exist as a theatre for the triumphs of redemption, and the ransomed shall all be assembled on the plains of immortality; and behold in that vast community a multitude which no man can number, who date their change of character and destiny to revivals of religion. And then think of what has been done for these myriads of immortals. Fix upon the moment when the scene of dying was over, and the spirit was rushing forth to meet its God; and estimate the importance of the change it has experienced, by all the horror which it henceforth avoids, and all the bliss which it henceforth attains. All this countless multitude have escaped the pollution, and degradation, and wailing of the pit, and have risen to the purity, and glory, and ecstasy of heaven. The day of the resurrection and the judgment, which, but for the renovation they have experienced, would have awakened in them nothing but shame and agony, is a signal for exultation and triumph. They walk in the Light of the Lamb. They know how to use angelic harps. They are kings and priests unto God. They go on from glory to glory, constantly approaching the perfection of the Highest, while immortality endures. Whose mind is not lost in contemplating the amount of felicity, which revivals will secure to their subjects through all the ages of eternity?
Pause now for a moment on the eminence to which we are brought, and so far as you can, let your eye take in at a glance the results of revivals, as they respect both worlds. Under their influence, see the cause of moral renovation advancing, until this earth every where brightens into a field of millennial beauty. Behold, also, the inhabitants of heaven kindling with higher rapture, in view of these wonderful works of God! Not only those who have been subjects of revivals, but those who have not -- not only the ransomed of the Lord, but the principalities and powers in heavenly places -- and even Jehovah, who is over all blessed for ever, -- rejoice, and will eternally rejoice, in these triumphs of redeeming grace. And this joy and glory is not only to be perpetual, but to be perpetually progressive. Say then, whether such results will not justify the church, even now, in beginning her song of triumph? Which of the angels will think she is premature in her praises, if, when she looks abroad, and sees what God has wrought for her already in her revivals, she should begin to ascribe blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb? Be this then the song of the church, as she travels on here in the wilderness, while she rejoices in the smiles, and leans upon the arm, and looks forth upon the gracious triumphs, of her living Head. Be this her song on the morning of the millennial day. Let that bright jubilee be ushered in by the echoing and re-echoing of this hymn of praise all round the arch of heaven. Let the church on that glorious occasion count up, if she can, all the revivals which have contributed to her enlargement, and brought glory to her Redeemer, and say, what so well becomes her as to take this language of thanksgiving upon her lips. Let this be her song when her enemies have all gone into confusion, and taken up an eternal wailing; when she is herself glorified and enthroned on the fields of immortality, and privileged to walk in the full vision of God; when the complete triumph of redemption shall every where be acknowledged, and shall awaken joy or agony that is to endure for ever. From the most distant point in eternity, which an angel's mind can reach, let the church, when she remembers these scenes of mercy through which she is now passing, still shout forth her high praises in the same noble song; and let seraphim and cherubim, and the whole angelic choir of the third heavens, join to increase the melody: -- "Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. Amen!"
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