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DR. W. AS A REVIVALIST ; THE INSTRUMENTALITIES AND
MEASURES BY WHICH HE PROMOTED AND CONDUCTED SUCH
Admiration of God's character, and surpassing love of his dominion and glory, interpenetrated and heightened with his desire for the exaltation of Christ as the infinite and only possible Mediator; combined with his views, often overwhelming, of the greatness of the human soul on its interminable career of ever-increasing development, and the ineffable value of its salvation to the honor of the adorable Redeemer,-- quickened and deepened his interest in these special visitations of mercy.
“ The Revival ” formed the centre in which his holy activities converged and rose in one intense flame. The fact that his own Christian life began and received its first direction in a revival ; that his theological education was, in part, prosecuted in such a scene of divine power; and that the reviving influences witnessed in the earlier part of his ministry had proved the source of such signal forces of spiritual growth to individuals and the church, connected with their tender and hallowed associations, which still lingered around them, as fragrance from the celestial plains, - all conspired to strengthen his aspirations to see sinners broken-hearted and trembling in view of their just deserts, bowing in crowds at the Saviour's feet, and the church laboring and praying as if the fires of the Holy Ghost were kindling and guiding their Christian zeal. Revivals had an interest to him surpassing the grandest results of human enterprise. In view of the rising cloud, though indicative to him of wearying work, of great anxiety, of corrosive care, perhaps of sleepless nights, his soul leaped for joy. True, he discriminated between the genuine and the false
AN EARNEST REVIVALIST.
in revivals, as between the genuine and the spurious in individual conversions. The mere religious excitement, the mere exhilaration of the natural sympathies, not even meeting's crowded nor hopes fast multiplying, answered his ideal of a pure revival. The revivals which he anticipated with joy were exclusively the work of the Holy Spirit, — the thorough conviction of sin, the profound sense of ruin, of utter helplessness without interposing grace and entire consecration to Christ - works characterized by impressive stillness; producing the solemn consciousness of the actual presence of God in his convicting and converting power. He sought revivals which are glorious to God alone; not mainly to their promoters ; revivals, which, like tributary streams, will swell the volume of the church's influence, deepening and broadening its channel for generations to come ; nay, which will be felt in the choral symphonies of saints and angels in the glorified spheres of immortality.
He said on one occasion : “It is not certain that you are favored with a genuine revival of religion, because you witness an uncommon excitement on the subject; because religious meetings are numerous, and thronged with listening crowds; and a religious sympathy, swift and resistless as lightning, pervades all classes. The passions may burst forth like the lava of a volcano, and their effects in the moral world be scarcely less destructive than is the influence of this latter terrible agent of nature on the field waving with harvest, and the populous, busy village, suddenly overwhelmed in ruin. ..
“ At the foot of Sinai, the children of Israel gave to the golden calf the glory which belonged to the true God, and joined to their costly offerings the most vehement expressions of zeal for the worship of their contemptible idol. The servants of Baal, in the time of Elijah, manifested an ardor of feeling which could hardly have been exceeded. At a time when a stupendous miracle was expected, to attest the divinity of the true object of worship, they
called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. And they cried aloud,' — they were not content with cold devotions, L'aud cut themselves after their manner, with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.' ...
“The ferocious spirits of Munster, the French prophets, the Fifth-Monarchy men, the followers of Ann Lee, and hundreds of other sects, afford the most incontrovertible evidence that a high degree of boasted illumination, great zeal, and indefatigable endeavors to propagate what is called religion, may exist where the first principles of real Christianity are unknown or disregarded.
“ Your first duty, then, is to judge according to scriptural rules, whether that which claims to be a revival of religion be worthy of the name ; since it is scarcely less sinful, lightly to ascribe to the IIoly Spirit what is the work of man, or of Satan, than to attribute to human or infernal agents the effects produced by the Holy Spirit. We are required in the Bible, that infallible rule of our faith and practice, to distinguish between true religion and false ; and we are as much bound to reject the latter, as to acknowledge and receive the former. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are rarening wolves.'
" While the doctrines of the church remain pure, it will be the effort of the prince of darkness to mingle the evil with the good ; and he will always seek to render the counterfeit as exact an imitation as possible of the genuine coin, without imparting to it the smallest portion of what is truly valuable. Ile will admit the reality and importance of religion, while he distorts it out of all proportions, and seeks to push it into notice — a monster, towering above, and trampling down, the symmetrical, unobtrusive form of pure Christianity. * A pharisee's trumpet,' says an old divine, “shall be heard to the town's end.'
“ A real work of the Spirit in a general revival, as well
THE CHARACTER OF A TRUE REVIVAL.
as in individual cases of professed conversion, may be known by its fruits. Much seriousness, and many extraordinary effects may take place, without any special divine agency. Some effects are ambiguous, others are decisive indications of the Spirit's gracious presence; and on the latter we should chiefly rely in judging of the character of what is denominated a revival of religion."
A revival, in his view, was the origination and increase of personal religion and church-life, -of a deeper and purer devotion, the enkindling of a more constant and intense Christian fervor. To produce such grand and far-reaching results, — results of which we shall catch but glimpses this side the veil, — he believed the gospel must be presented in its depth and entireness. Especially did he believe that people must be made in some measure to comprehend those underlying truths of the mediatorial kingdom, which, shining up from beneath, illuminate and give life to every precept, promise, condition, invitation, and threatening of the gospel; otherwise they would fail to understand it in its fulness; and failing to understand it in its fulness, they would fail to apprehend the distinguishing peculiarities of the Christian graces; and that revivals thus promoted by defective presentations of the gospel would themselves be defective, and in the end weaken rather than strengthen the churches. With the intent of keeping before the mind the distinctive characteristics of the Christian graces, and thus the prevention of false hopes, he believed it as profitable to present the divine side of truth as the human, to inculcate the passive graces, the internal realization of those truths which put God on the throne and place man a dependent suppliant at his feet; as to press a sense of personal obligation, and arouse to personal activity. He had no fear that those truths which show the sinner's entire dependence, even moral helplessness, and thus the magnitude of God's tender compassion in saving him, would at all retard a work which is the product of that tender compassion ; nor that enforcing
the dependence of both saint and sinner on the Spirit, would have any tendency to check the work of the Spirit.
Mrs. Patton, his niece, who resided in his family during one such season of refreshing, says : “ I think my father” (Rev. Vinson Gould) " and uncle sympathized entirely in their doctrinal views.
“ Professor B. B. Edwards, in a notice of my father, wrote:
" In his ministry he gave great prominence to the doctrines of total depravity, the supreme divinity of our Lord, the perfect atonement accomplished by his sufferings and death, the absolute and holy sovereignty of God, election, the necessity of regeneration by the special influences of the Holy Spirit, and their kindred truths. “He exhibited them fearlessly in his sermons, in his extempore lectures, and in his conversation. In revivals he enforced them with remarkable pungency, not fearing lest they should mar the work." This might describe my uncle's course. I recollect it especially in times of revival; and the measures he adopted were much like those of my father. Deep solemnity and stillness marked the meetings, which were often held during the week in private houses in the different neighborhoods. Frequently the professing Christians were praying in one room, while my uncle held an inquiry-meeting in another, conversing with the anxious privately and endeavoring to meet their difficulties, much in the manner of Dr. Nettleton. Deep convictions of sin and sense of utter helplessness marked the exercises of the anxious inquirers. Even in revivals my uncle used to be very earnest in his exhibitions of the attributes and government of God, that the young convert might not delude himself with the belief that he loves a Being who is the creature of his own imagination instead of One of infinite purity, righteousness, and sovereignty.'”
But happily we have his own settled convictions on this important subject, and expressed in his own language.
“ The first evidence I shall notice of the genuineness of a revival, is an increased attention, and attachment to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. Spurious excitements are commonly connected with hostility, or at least indifference to these doctrines. A single faithful sermon, in which God is exalted, and the pride of man laid low, may, in some instances, prove sufficient to destroy a false revival. It has been said that one discourse of that powerful advocate of