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PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, NORTH HAVEN, CON.
A PERPETUAL REVIVAL,
“The Lord is with you while ye be with him.”—2 Chron. xv. 2.
This is a part of the message which the Lord sent to Asa and his army as they were returning in triumph after their battle with the Ethiopians. Soon after the pious King ascended the throne, and began to break up the idolatrous practices of the people, war was waged against him by Zerah at the head of the Ethiopians. An host of a thousand thousand and three hundred chariots came out against him. King Asa cried unto the Lord for help, and went forth leaning upon his almighty arm. He gained the victory over his numerous and powerful enemies; and now on his return home, he is told how he may continue to enjoy the favor of that Being who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight,-“ And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded : And he went out to meet Asa, and he said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin : The Lord is with you while ye be with him.” The King and his subjects are thus taught how they may continue to enjoy the presence and blessing of God their Savior. This is a precious truth for God's people in every age. It is applicable to us.
The Lord has been among this church and people of late. He hath blessed the labors of his faithful children, and caused them to result in the hopeful conversion of some souls. Some that were enemies have been taken captive, and led to the feet of Jesus. They were made willing in the day of God's power. By the manifestations of his presence, his power, and his grace, the Lord hath made many of you glad. And now the question is,-Shall the blessed work of the Divine Spirit go forward ? Shall the Lord remain among us? Shall He walk in us, and dwell in us, and be our God, and we be his people? Shall we have a perpetual revival ? Shall we feed the fire that has been kindled on God's altar, so that it shall burn with increasing brightness as long as we live ? Say not that this is too much. The word of prophecy declares that such a state is before the church, and why not come into it now? The progress of God's kingdom in the frequent outpourings of the Spirit, vouchsafed to the church within the last twenty years, should lead us to labor for, and expect great things of the Lord-even such a revival as shall last till the end of time. Indeed, there are some churches already that, for years together, have not passed a communion season without having some added to their numbers. The dews of heaven have been gently distilling, and the fruits of righteousness continually springing forth. Why may it not be so with all our churches, and that till the world's redemption is accomplished ?
My subject this morning, is a perpetual revival of religion. By a perpetual revival, I mean such a state of the church as shall see cure the presence of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of his continued operations.
I. This is desirable.
All who are the children of God must, it seems to me, be united in this. A genuine revival of religion spreads the atmosphere of heaven around. The church that is baptized and pervaded by the spirit of it, much resembles the general assembly and church of the first-born in heaven. Those who go forth, like King Asa, trusting in the Lord, and holding communion with him, are richly blessed. Their peace is like a river, and their righteousness like the waves of the sea. Satan, for the time, flees from them; temptation has little or no power over them. To them the Bible, with all its instructions and promises, is very precious. They are prepared to say of this book of God :"I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.” It is the theme of their meditation all the day long. Heaven seems very near to them; its holy objects they dwell upon with great delight. The things of this world no longer perplex them with cares, nor charm them with fancied good. In the work of the Lord they have great delight. They go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, and come again rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. 0, how desirable it is to continue in such a frame-to dwell under the shadow of the Almighty! How desirable thus to live above the world, having our affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. How desirable to have such fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ, month after month, and year after year-even till we drop this earthly house of our tabernacle and go up to dwell in a brighter world. How desirable to live evermore devoted to that service which returns to us a rich reward even while engaged in it. “Be ye steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord;"—not in vain, if your own spiritual prosperity alone be considered.
The health and growth of such as have been recently born of God, require a state of devotedness on the part of the church. Great responsibility rests on us with reference to them. Being guided and assisted by the Holy Spirit in our prayers and efforts, we have had, as we hope, great influence in bringing them to Christ. To those who have been their spiritual fathers, they will naturally look for example and direction. But how can we illuminate their path with the light of a holy life, if the Lord be not with us? And how can we instruct them aright, when we refuse ourselves to listen any longer to the heavenly Teacher ? If we grieve away the blessed Spirit—lose the true revival spirit, we shall ourselves walk in darkness. We shall be blind leaders of those who look to us for help in their spiritual infancy. If we go away from God, we ourselves shall feed on nothing better than husks and gravel; and how shall we be able to feed those who are babes in Christ, with the sincere milk of the word? If we would be useful to souls, after having travailed in birth for them, we must cherish the presence of God. Many a church, after a season of refreshing, has sunk down into coldness and apathy, and starved her spiritual children. Hence it is that we find so many dwarfs in the family of Christ. The church becomes worldly, and neglects her children refuses to cherish, feed and clothe them; and were it not for the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, they would die. But He gathers them in his arms, and carries them in his bosom, and keeps them alive, in spite of the neglect and cruelty of their motherthe bride, the Lamb's wife.
If a young convert is to be healthy, vigorous, growing, and useful, he must be cherished in the bosom of a warm-hearted church. He must be remembered in the prayers of that church, receive the benefit of her counsels, and be cheered on by her shining example. Old and experienced soldiers always give character to the army. They stand in the first ranks, and by their courage and fidelity, incite others to deeds of noble daring. Well tried soldiers of the Cross, how desirable is it for the sake of those who have just enlisted, that you always stand firm at your post, and fight manfully the good fight of faith!
A perpetual revival is desirable for the good of the church. When a revival of religion commences, but few at first are found to be engaged in it; but few feel the worth of souls, and pray and labor for their salvation ; but few in the prayer-meeting, and by personal efforts, show that they are prepared for the work of the Lord. But as the good work advances, what a change comes over the church. One professor and another who had backslidden, so far as to live even without the forms of godliness, is quickened to newness of life. The long-neglected closet is now opened—the family altar is reared the prayer-meeting is visited, and the tongue is loosed in earnest plead
ing with sinners to become reconciled to God. Thus the leaven of divine influence is spread from one member to another, till the face of the church is entirely changed. The voice of confession, tears of repentance, songs of deliverance, fervent supplications, and faithful warnings, now take the place of that formality or death-like apathy that reigned before the Spirit was poured out from on high. Let the revival be protracted, and all who have the grace of God in any measure, will be awakened from their spiritual slumbers, and brought out on the Lord's side. Christians might as well sleep in heaven as sleep in a perpetual revival. Large bodies are a long time getting in motion; much time is needed to infuse life and animation into all the members of the body of Christ.
When the Spring opens, the snow that covers the plains and fields exposed to the sun, soon disappears; but that which is deposited by the fences and in the forests, remains for a long season. So in a revival. Some come at once directly under the influence of the Word and Spirit, and quickly feel their renewing power; others keep aloof for a time, but if the revival continues, they, at lepgth, are warmed and melted down by the fires of Divine love. In this way Christ purgeth every branch that is in him, that it may bring forth more fruit.
To another class in the church a protracted revival is useful; I mean such as have a name to live, but are dead. Hypocrites and deceived persons cannot bear the test of a genuine revival
. For a time they can look on with indifference, and feel safe, saying, “ It is nothing but a temporary excitement.” But let the work continue many months ; let it spread from house to house, till they see their neighbors and friends, and perhaps the members of their own families, seeking the salvation of their souls, and how do they feel? Sensible of their deadness to every thing of a spiritual nature, they are constrained to look upon themselves, while they know they are viewed by others, as an island of ice in a sea of fire.” They are like the snows on the Alps that are never removed. Some such persons are brought to realize their state in revivals of short continuance. Would they not all be exposed-exposed to themselves, and exposed to others, in a perpetual revival ? Would it be possible for a hypocrite to live in the church? And is it not desirable that such persons should be brought to a sense of their real condition—that their character should stand out as it is? In this way they may be led to feel their want, and seek the Lord while he may be found. By sifting out hypocrites in this way, their deadly influence, in shutting up the kingdom of heaven against others, will be destroyed. They will no longer be regarded as christians, but as hypocrites, having merely the name and form of godliness.
I see not how any christian can pass through a protracted revival -witness its progress, and breathe its atmosphere, and not be roused up to prayer and effort. That professor who cannot come to a prayer-meeting, or an evening meeting—who cannot take sweet counsel
with his brethren, and rejoice with the young convert--who cannot pour out his soul in prayer, and stretch forth a helping hand to save lost men, let not that professor regard himself as a christian. He separates himself from God, and sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face; and I hear the voice of the Lord declare concerning him :-“I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezek. xiv. 8.) If we wish to have a church freed of its hypocrites, and filled with devoted members, we should desire a perpetual revival.
The good of the impenitent certainly calls for such a state of the church. How much they are restrained and held in check by a revival. Their sinful pleasures and habits of open vice are interrupted, if not forever abandoned. Sometimes I am aware they are frantic with rage, and are mad upon their idols; but this is usually a desperate effort that soon ceases. Go with me into a community where God is pouring out his Spirit, and his church is abounding in his service. What Sabbath-day stillness and solemnity characterize the people. The idle jest and profane oath you seldom hear. The ball-room and card-table are forsaken. The intoxicating cup is used only by such as wish to drown the convictions of conscience. Almost all seem to be thinking about their souls, and preparing for the world to come. The iniquities of former times are exposed ; deeds that were performed in the dead of night are now brought to light; and that which was spoken in the ear seems to be proclaimed upon the house-top. This revelation strikes terror through the ranks of transgressors. They see the band of God; and those who do not submit to him, stand in awe, and tremble in his presence. And though the revival soon declines, its restraining power is seen and felt for years. That community which is most frequently blessed with revivals, is most distinguished for its good order and heathful morality. What then would be its condition in a perpetual revival ? Let the heart of a church be ever full of love to God and love to men—that love which would rebuke iniquity, and point forward to death and a judgment to come ; sinners would be comparatively silent and harmless. The chain of holiness would be laid upon Satan, and his works, if not destroyed, would be acted out on a small scale.
But good morals are not all we wish to secure. The impenitent have souls of untold worth. If not washed in the blood of Jesus, they must perish. To their ranks some are daily added ; and from them some are daily summoned away to the retributions of eternity. The work of death goes steadily on.
It is not occasional and temporary, and why should revivals
' be. O for that strong and steady influence from above, which shall secure the second birth of all who touch on these shores of probation !
The wants of the world render it desirable that there should be a perpetual revival in the church. Christ hath left the church a very