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Again---We learn why churches are sometimes convulsed by revivals of religion. In most churches there are probably more or less hypocrites, who, when revivals are in a measure stripped of animal feeling, and become highly spiritual, are disturbed by the fire and spirit of them, and inwardly and sometimes openly oppose them. But when a part only of the real Christians in a church awake from their slumbers and become very spiritual and heavenly, and the rest remain carnal and earthly in their affections, the church is in danger of being torn in sunder. For as those who are awake become more engaged, more spiritual and active, the others, if they will not awake, will be jealous and offended, and feeling rebuked by the engagedness of others, will cavil, and find themselves the more displeased, as those that are more spiritual rise farther above them. The nearer to a right state of feeling the engaged ones arrive, the farther apart they are; and as they ascend on the scale of holy feeling, if others will not ascend with them, the almost certain consequence will be that these will descend, until they really have no community of feeling, and can no longer walk together, because they are not agreed. This state of feeling in a church, calls for great searchings of heart in all its members, and although greatly to be dreaded and deeply to be mourned, when it exists, is easily accounted for, upon these plain principles of our nature, and is what sometimes will happen, in spite of the sagacity or angels to prevent it.
Again---We see why ministers are sometimes unsettled by revivals. It will sometimes happen, without any imprudence on the part of the minister, that many of his church and congregation will not enter into the spirit of a revival. If his own affections get enkindled, and he feels very much for his flock and for the honor of his master, he will most assuredly press them with truth, and annoy them by his spirit, and pungency, and fire, until he offends them. If they feel wrong, the more powerfully and irresistibly he forces truth upon them, so much the more, of course, unless their feelings alter, he will offend them, and in the end, perhaps, find it expedient to leave them. All this may happen, and be as right and necessary in a minister as it was for Paul to leave places and people, when divers were hardened, and contradicted, and blasphemed, and spoke evil of this way before the multitude.
Another case may occur, where the church and people may awake while the shepherd sleeps and will not awake. This will inevitably alienate their affections from him, and destroy their confidence in him. In either of these cases, they may find themselves unable to walk together, because they are not agreed. In the former case, let the minister obey the command of Christ, and "shake off the dust of his feet, for a testimony against them." In the latter, let the church shake off their sleepy minister; they are better without him than with him. "Wo to the shepherds that do not feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye feed not the flock. Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I am against the shepherds, and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock, neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." Ezek. 34:2,3,9,10.
President Edwards says---
"Though ministers preach never so good doctrine, and be never so painful and laborious in their work, yet if they show to their people that they are not well affected to this work, but are doubtful and suspicious of it, they will be very likely to do their people a great deal more hurt than good. For the very frame of such a great and extraordinary work of God, if their people were suffered to believe it to be his work, and the example of other towns, together with what preaching they might hear occasionally, would be likely to have a much greater influence upon the minds of their people to awaken and animate them in religion, than all other labors with them. Besides, their minister's opinion will not only beget in them a suspicion of the work they hear of abroad, whereby the mighty hand of God that appears in it, loses its influence upon their minds; but it will also tend to create a suspicion of every thing of the like that shall appear among themselves, as being something of the same distemper that is become so epidemical in the land. And what is this, in effect, but to create a suspicion of all vital religion, and to put the people upon talking against and discouraging it, wherever it appears, and knocking it on the head as fast as it rises. We, who are ministers, by looking on this work from year to year with a displeased countenance, shall effectually keep the sheep from their pasture, instead of doing the part of the shepherds by feeding them; and our people had a great deal better be without any settled minister at all, at such a day as this.
"We who are in this sacred office had need to take heed what we do, and how we behave ourselves at this time; a less thing in a minister will hinder the work of God, than in others. If we are very silent, or say but little about the work, in our public prayers and preaching, or seem carefully to avoid speaking of it in our conservation, it will be interpreted by our people, that we who are their guides, to whom they are to have their eye for spiritual instruction, are suspicious of it; and this will tend to raise the same suspicions in them; and so the aforementioned consequences will follow. And if we really hinder and stand in the way of the work of God, whose business above all others it is to promote it, how can we expect to partake of the glorious benefits of it? And, by keeping others from the benefit, we shall keep them out of heaven; therefore those awful words of Christ to the Jewish teachers, should be considered by us, Matthew 23:13. "Wo unto you, for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." If we keep the sheep from their pasture, how shall we answer it to the great Shepherd, who has bought the flock with his precious blood, and has committed the care of them to us? I would humbly desire of every minister that has thus long remained disaffected to this work, and has had contemptible thoughts of it, to consider whether he has not hitherto been like Michael, without any child, or at least in a great measure barren and unsuccessful in his work: I pray God it may not be a perpetual barrenness, as hers was."
Again---We may see that carnal professors and sinners have no difficulty with animal feeling. It is not uncommon in revivals of religion to hear a great deal of opposition made to what they term animal feeling. That much of this kind of feeling is sometimes excited in revivals of religion is not denied, nor is it strange, nay, it is impossible that real religious affections should be excited to any considerable degree, without exciting the animal sympathies and sensibilities; and to wonder at this, or to object to a revival on this account, is perceptibly absurd. But, in most cases, it is not the animal feeling that can give offence, for so far as these feelings are concerned, there is a perfect community of feeling between saints and sinners, and carnal and spiritual Christians. Sinners have as much animal feeling as saints: cold professors have as much of the animal as warm and spiritual Christians. So far, then, as animal feeling goes, they can all sympathize, and indeed we often see that they do. Adopt a strain of exhortation or preaching that is calculated to awaken mere sympathy and animal feeling, and you will soon see that there is a perfect community of feeling amongst cold and warm hearted Christians and sinners; they will all weep and seem to melt, and no one will be offended, and I may add, no one will be convicted or converted. But change your style, and become more spiritual and holy in your matter, and throw yourself out in the ardent and powerful manner, in direct appeal to the conscience and the heart---their tears will soon be dried, the carnal and cold hearted will become uneasy, and soon find themselves offended. So far as animal feeling goes, they walk together, for in this they are agreed; but as soon as feeling becomes spiritual and holy, they can go together no farther; for here they are not, (and while sinners remain unrepentant, and cold hearts remain cold,) they cannot be, agreed.
Again---We may see why unrepentant sinners cannotlike pure revivals of religion. It is because God is in them. They hate God, and this is the reason why God commands them to make to themselves a new heart. This is the reason, and the only reason, why sinners need a new heart. Now, while they are under the influence of "a carnal mind, which is enmity against God," they do, and must, self-evidently, hate everything like God, precisely in proportion as they see it to bear his image. Hence we see, that the more a revival is stripped of animal feeling and of everything wrong, the more it will necessarily offend wrong hearts. The more of God, and the less of human imperfection, there is to be seen in them, the more they will and must excite the enmity of carnal hearts.
Again---We learn how to estimate apparent revivalswhere there is no opposition from the wicked. If persons under the dominion of a carnal mind do not oppose, it must be owing to one of three causes. 1st. Either they are so convicted that they dare not openlyoppose; (and even then they are opposed in heart;) or, 2dly, there is nothing of the Holy Spirit in them; or 3dly, which often happens, from an injudicious application of means to the sympathies of the multitude, the operations of the Holy Spirit are kept out of the sinner's view and covered up in the rubbish of animal feeling. Any thing that keeps out of the sinner's view the work of the Holy Spirit, tends to prevent opposition. And every thing that exposes to the sinner's view the hand of God, will certainly excite the opposition of his unregenerate heart. That excitement, therefore, which does not call out the opposition of the wicked and wrong hearted, is either not a revival of religion at all, or it is so conducted that sinners do not see the finger of God in it.
Hence we see, that the more pure and holy the means are that are used to promote a revival of religion, the more they are stripped of human infirmity and sympathy, and the more like God they are, so much the more, of necessity, will they excite the opposition of all wrong hearts. For, while a man's heart is wrong upon any subject, it is self-evident that he cannot heartily approve of what is right upon that subject; for this would involve a contradiction. It would be the same as to say that he could feel both right and wrongupon the same subject at the same time.
Hence it appears, that other things being equal, those means, and that preaching, both as to matter and manner, which call forth most of the native enmity of the heart, and that are most directly over against wrong hearts, are nearest right (Let it not be thought that we advocate or recommend preaching, or using other means, with design to give offense. Nor that we suppose that the gospel cannot be preached, and that means cannot be used in a wrong spirit, and in a manner that is highly objectionable, and may justly give offence. All such things are to be condemned. But still we do insist that holythings are offensive to unholy hearts, and while heartsremain unholy, they cannot be pleased but with that which is unholy like themselves. The understanding my approve, the conscience may approve, but the heart will not, and, remaining unholy, cannot approve of that which is holy. If, therefore, a sinner who is under the dominion of a "carnal mind," which is "enmity against God," is pleased with preaching, it must be either because the character of God is not faithfully exhibited, or the sinner is prevented from apprehending it, in its true light, by inattention, or by being so taken up with the style and manner as to overlook the offensiveness of the matter. If, therefore, the matter of preaching is right, and the sinner is pleased, there is something defective in the manner; either a want of earnestness, or holy unction, or something else, prevents the sinner from seeing, what preaching ought to show him, that he hates God and his truth).
Hence, we see the folly of those who are laboring to pleasepersons whose affections are in a wrong state upon religious subjects. They cannot be pleased with any thing right and holy while their hearts are in this wrong state, for this we have just seen would involve a contradiction.
This shows why so much wrong feeling stirred up in revivals of religion.
It is the natural effect of pure revivals to stir up wrong feeling in wrong hearts. Revivals of religion on earth, stir up wrong feeling in hell; they will disturb the same spirit, and stir up the same feelings, whenever they come in contact with rebellious hearts, whether in the church or out of it. Whenever the Holy Spirit comes, or is seen to operate, the opposite spirit is disturbed of course. A great degree of right and holy feeling among saints, will naturally stir up a great degree of unholy and wicked feeling in all those hearts that are determinately wrong. The more right and holy feeling there is, the more wrong and unholy feeling there will be, of course, unless sinners and carnal professors bow and submit. They cannot walk together, because they are not agreed: and the more holy and heavenly the saints become in their affections and conduct, the farther apart they will be, until the light of eternity will set them, in feeling and affections, as far asunder as heaven and hell.
This shows that the difference between heaven and hell, as it regards moral character, and happiness and misery, consists in the different state of the hearts or affections of their respective inhabitants.
This demonstrates, beyond all contradiction, that sinners cannot be saved unless they are born again. In other words, it is plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that sinners should walk and be happy with saints and holy angels, without an entire change in their affections. Sinners cannot walk with the saint here. As soon as the saints cease to walk "after the course of this world," sinners think it strange that they run not with them to the same excess of riot, "speaking evil of them." As soon as Christians awake and become spiritual and active, holy and heavenly, and break off from their vain and wicked associations with the world, sinners are uniformly distressed and offended. They try to imagine that it is something wrong in the saints, and in revivals, that offends them. But the truth is, it is the little that is rightin the saints, and that in which there is the most of God in revivals, that offends them most. And were the saints as holy as angels are, or as holy as they will be in heaven, sinners must of course be so much the farther from having any community of feeling with them: and as saints rise in holiness, and sinners sink in sin, they will go farther and farther apart for ever and ever.
I remark, lastly, that this shows why the lives and preaching of the prophets, of Christ and his apostles, and the revivals of the early ages of the church, met with so much more violent oppositionfrom carnal professors of religion, and from ungodly sinners, than is offered to preachers and revival in these days.
It is not to be denied, that the saints in those days "had trials of cruel mocking and scourging, yea, of bonds and imprisonment; they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy;) they wandered in deserts, in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
It is not and cannot be denied, that the preaching of the prophets, of Christ and his apostles, and of primitive ministers, was opposed with great bitterness by many professed saints, and by multitudes of ungodly sinners, more than that of any preachers of the present day. Nor is it to be concealed, that professors of religion were often leaders in this opposition; that they stirred up the Romans to crucify Jesus, and afterwards to persecute and destroy his saints, and crucify his apostles. That even the religious leaders, and learned doctors of the law, endeavored to prejudice the multitude against the Savior, and to prevent their listening to his discourses: "He hath a devil and is mad," said they, "why hear ye him?" They led the way in opposing the apostles in the revivals in which they were engaged. We must admit too, that those revivals made a great deal of noise in the world, insomuch that the apostles were accused of "turning the world upside down:" and that sinners were often greatly hardened by the preaching of Christ and his apostles; "were filled with great wrath," and opposed with such bitterness, that Christ told his apostles to "let them alone." In some places where the apostles preached, "divers were" so "hardened," that they "contradicted and blasphemed, and spake evil of this way," insomuch that the apostles were forced to leave, and go to other places, and sometimes to leave under very humiliating circumstances, but just escaping with their lives. Now these are facts that we need not blush to meet; as they are easily accounted for, upon the principle contained in the text, and illustrated in this discourse. All these things afford no evidence that the prophets, and Christ and his apostles, were imprudent and unholy men; that their preaching was too overbearing and severe; or that there was something wrong in the management of revivals in those day. The fact is, that the prophets were so much more holy in their lives, and so much bolder, and more faithful in delivering their messages; that Christ was so much more searching, and plain, and pungent, and personal in his preaching, and so entirely "separate from sinners" in his life; the apostles were so pungent and plain in their dealing with sinners and professed saints, and so self-denying and holy in their lives, that carnal professors and ungodly sinners could not walk with them. The means that were then used to promote revivals were more holy and free from alloy than they now are. There was less of mere sympathy, and of that hypocritical suavity of manner, and of those embellishments of language, that are calculated and designed to court the applause of the ungodly. "Renouncing the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully," they preached, "not with the enticing words of man's wisdom," but "with great plainness of speech," so that the ungodly, in the church and out of it, were filled with wrath. Stephen was so holy and searching in his address, that the elders of Israel "gnashed upon him with their teeth." But this is no evidence that he was imprudent. The fact, that the revivals of the present day so much more silent and gradual in their progress, than they were on the day of Pentecost, and at many other times and places, and create much less noise and opposition among cold professors and ungodly sinners, does not prove that the theory of revivals is better understood now than it was then, nor that those ministers and Christians who are engaged in these revivals are more prudent than the apostles and primitive Christians; and to support this, would evince great spiritual pride in us. Nor are we to say that the human heart is changed, or that the character of God is become less offensive "to the carnal mind." No! the fact is, the prophets, and Christ, and his apostles, and the primitive saints, were more holy, more bold and active, more plain and pungent in their preaching, less conformed to this crazy world; in one word, they were more prudent and more like heaven than we are; these are the reasons why they were more hated than we are, why their preaching and praying gave so much more offence than ours. Revivals, in their days, were more free from carnal policy, and that management that tends to keep out of the sinner's views the naked hand of God: these are the reasons why they made so much noise than the revivals that we witness in these days, and stirred up so much of earth and hell to oppose them, that they convulsed and turned the world upside down. It was known then, that "men could not serve God and mammon." It was seen to be true, that "if any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, he shall suffer persecution." It was understood then, that if "ministers pleased men, they were not the servants of Christ." The churchand world could not walk together, for thenthey were not agree. Let us not be puffed up, and imagine that we are prudentand wise, and have learned how to manage carnal professors and sinners, whose "carnal mind is enmity against God," so as not to call forth their opposition to truth and holiness, as Christ and his apostles did. But let us know that if they have less difficulty with us, and with our lives, and preaching, than they had with theirs, it is because we are less holy, less heavenly, less like God than they were. If we walk with the lukewarm and ungodly, or they with us, it is because we are agreed. For two cannot walk together except they be agreed.