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excluded. The heart is kept fixed upon God; the cross of Christ is exhibited so constantly that its subduing dissolving influence is felt; the utter ruin of the sinner is held up so clearly, and his guilt so unceasingly urged upon him, that he is led to ask, What shall I do?
These meetings are to be regarded as extra means ; and if they are repeated so frequently as to lose that character, their peculiar efficacy will be lost; nay, they may produce a contrary effect, and throw a revival off to a greater distance.
'The most judicious and tried friends of true revivals have felt, that there is some danger to be apprehended from these protracted meetings. They are a powerful means of awakening animal feeling, of rousing the public mind. Such means, like the press, or like the power of steam, in the natural world, are to be used with great discretion, and under a deep sense of responsibility to God.
VI. Another mean of promoting a revival is PASTORAL VISITATION. We must do to the world at home what the church is commanded to do to the world abroad, preach the gospel to every creature. Divine truth must be made to bear upon every heart. Men throw a shield around them when they hear the messages of God in the sanctuary; they take shelter as it were behind the crowd; there is a sort of distribution going on in a large assembly, by which an individual receives only a certain portion of the message, or takes to himself only a share of the reproof and warning, the whole of which he needs. Multitudes never enter the house of God; and of those that do, many do not realize that the gospel is an overture presented in the name of Christ, a word of salvation sent to them from heaven. If taste is gratified, or the understanding instructed, it is all that was expected ;-the heart remains unmoved, the dominion of sin is unbroken, the castle of the strong man is undisturbed.
To remedy an evil so great, and accomplish the object aimed at in the appointment of gospel institutions, the salvation of the soul, men must be followed to the fireside, to the place of retirement;, they must be pursued " through every lane of life;" and the claims of God must be urged upon the heart with a directness and point which cannot be evaded. The private ear must be obtained, and eternal truth uttered in it so honestly that conscience will respond Bo the charge, thou art the man.
More especially is private dealing necessary to deepen the impression that may have been made by the public ministration of truth. If the preaching of the Sabbath be not followed up in the week by frequent visits, the seed sown will either be caught away or choked; or, to adopt another illustration of Scripture, the goodness that began to appear will pass away like the morning cloud and early dew. If repeated application of truth cannot be made, it is often wise not to aim to strike a blow; for a heart tempered by such a process of Boftening and hardening may soon become like adamant.
I have never known a course of faithful afectionate visitation, pursued and persisted in, that did not result in a blessing to the church. The kindly feelings of the heart are awakened: the soil is thus prepared to receive the good seed. And sinners are made to feel their individual responsibility.
Family visitation is indispensable in a system of means to build up the church of Christ. Nor is this to be confined to the pastor alone. So many souls are agitating the great question, so many causes operate to divert the attention and remove impressions of seriousness, that the duty of personal instruction and warning must be performed by all the faithful. This is a most difficult duty. If it is practicable, each individual of a family should be particularly addressed and isolated from the others. These solemn visits should be short, and usually closed with prayer; if good impressions cannot be left, (for it is more important to leave a good impression than even to produce one), it is often injudicious to make an appeal.
It is infinitely desirable that the pastor and his helpers should strive together ;
that their views of truth and duty should harmonize; that they should hold the same language in respect to the sinner's guilt and danger, and his immediate duty to repent. It is especially necessary that they be perfectly agreed in conversing with those who are inquiring the way to Zion.
Even pious, well-intentioned persons often encourage anxious sinners to remain impenitent without being aware of it. This is done not unfrequently by expressing unqualified joy at seeing their solicitude about the salvation of their souls. This often relieves the pressure upon the conscience, induces a belief that they are not in immediate and imminent danger, or such expressions of joy would not be made. The very countenance of a Christian-ought to preach to the sinner, no matter how anxious, and say to him that there is great reason to fear he will perish. For many anxious sinners have perished; they have waited, refused to obey God, and thus grieved the Spirit: their deep distress has never ended in true joy; and who knows that it may not be so with the sinner before us? Can we encourage a rebel heart for a moment? Up to the point of submission it is enmity against God.
Again, others are encouraged by telling them that they are in a good way. While they are impenitent, however many tears they may shed, they are in their sins, they are resisting the light: how, then, can they be said to be in a good way? Is it good to withhold the heart from God ?--to reject Jesus Christ? Is it good to prolong a controversy with God, and contend still longer with their Maker? They are not in a good way; and it is neither scriptural nor safe to tell them so.
We must not consult our sympathies, but the oracles of God, in dealing with the souls of men. If the surgeon yielded to his feelings, rather than to his sense of duty and the convictions of his judgment, he might often sacrifice life.
Some are told to persevere; this may be equally dangerous advice; for if they are now cherishing opposition, if they are now finding fault with the law, (which is true of every unsubdued heart), how can they be told to persevere in such a state? Wo to him that striveth with his Maker. All that can be said is, this is a fearful controversy. God will never surrender his claims, nor lower his terms.
If it do not end in unconditional submission, it will end in eternal destruction. Until the sinner cease to contend, the work is not done. O how hard to give God the throne. Proud man would have his own way—but this is bis ruin.
Sometimes injury is done, inadvertently, by telling weeping inquirers that either yourself or some established Christian of their acquaintance were much longer under conviction than they have been—thus justifying their delay, palliating their rebellion, or flattering a vain hope of future repentance while cherishing an unsubdued spirit
. The Bible makes no distinction. Its language to all is, to-day-after so long a time, after so many messages rejected, so many mercies abused, so much light resisted-to-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.
God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent. VII. I ought not to omit in this enumeration of means to carry forward a revival of religion, the appointment of MEETINGS FOR SERIOUS INQUIRERS.
These meetings should not be commenced too soon, upon every appearance of quickened attention ; nor should they be deferred too long. Their efficacy has been so fully tested, that there can be no doubt of their value.
These meetings, unless very injudiciously conducted, become awfully solemn by the presence of God's Holy Spirit, seen in the deep silence, the tearful countenance, the fixed posture of the awakened and burdened sinner. They should be short, and be made the place of special instruction to that class who visit them,
But after all, these special means must be left to the wisdom and experience of those who are employed as instruments in the hands of God of carrying forward his work. One taught of the Spirit and ardently devoted to the cause of Christ will resort to no measures which are not believed to be warranted in the Scriptures, and which are found to be exceptionable or injurious. A time of refreshing is a period of great responsibility to those who watch for souls. Direction as well as help must be sought from God, who made heaven and earth, who will give liberally, and without upbraiding.
And now, brethren, is it not time for us to seek the Lord till he come and rain righteousness upon us? Do not men make void God's law? Are not sinners hastening rapidly to ruin? Have we not slept long enough over the interests of Zion ? Have not the vows of God which are upon us been neglected long enough? Is it not high time to awake out of sleep?
Is there not encouragement to seek the Lord? Are there not indications of good in many places ? Is there no evidence that Jesus is willing to pass this way? Are there not some waiting for him? Why then do we fold our hands ? Let us arise and call upon God, lest the curse of Meroz fall upon us, because we come not up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against themighty:
Let us arise and build ; the God of heaven he will prosper us. Can we be indifferent at such a time, when such mighty movements are visible both in the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of darkness ? No. By all that is desirable in the salvation of souls, by all that is binding in the authority of Jehovah, by the love of the Spirit, I beseech you, strive together in prayer and effort for advancing the work of God. AMEN.
BY MARK TUCKER, D.D.
ALARM TO THE CARELESS.
Isa. xxxii. 11.-Be troubled, ye careless ones. CARELESSNESS, indifference to religion in a rational being, cannot but excite surprise and occasion grief in every serious mind. Religion is an infinite reality; the gospel is a true record, and worthy of all acceptation ; its claims are high and paramount to every other; the doctrine of immortality is clearly brought to light in it; we are fully taught that the present life is a probationary season, and we cannot but know that in an unexpected moment we may be called to give an account of the deeds done in the body. And can any be found in these solemn circumstances indifferent to their highest interests ? What shall be said of the man who cares for none of these things which the infinite God has revealed, into which the angels desire to look, which are not vain-either doubtful or unimportant; but of unutterable value, and will stand when heaven and earth shall pass away? It makes the heart of a minister sad to know that there are those
his flock who neglect their souls; nor can he be faithful to them without dropping a note of warning upon their ear. Let us inquire, then, with great plainness,
1. Who are the careless ones ?-and, II. Why should they be troubled ?
1. Those are careless ones who neglect the Bible. This precious volume is the voice of God to a perishing world, Its main object is to rouse the attention of sinners to the subject of salvation. It leaves philosophy to the learned the arts to the ingenious—and comes, in solemn tones and with awful authority, to the heart and conscience on the great business of life and immortality. It
claims and it deserves attention. It requires us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Those who disbelieve this message and they who suffer it to be unopened and unexamined are in the same condemnation.
That man must be indifferent to the welfare of his country who never examines the principles of its constitution, nor reads the journals of its history; who is ignorant of the character of its laws, and the doings of its legislators. And is he not a careless one, on the most momentous of all subjects, who seldom reads the record of eternal life; who is at no pains to become acquainted with his duty and his destiny? The man who neglects the Bible can never be regarded as a serious man. The views it gives of God, of Christ, of accountability, of our relations to other beings and other worlds, cannot fail to affect the heart. The very reason why many read it so little, is to avoid reflection on these great subjects.
2. Those are careless ones who neglect prayer. This is exclusively a religious observance : all who have any proper feelings towards God must regard it as a solemn duty. Even the light of nature teaches its necessity and import
In the sacred Scriptures it is enjoined with great earnestness. directed to pray always with all prayer and supplication. Soon as the Holy Spirit awakens any deep solicitude about salvation, we think of prayer. Prayer is the language of dependance and of want; and whenever we think of either we are disposed to pray. The man, therefore, who casts off fear and restrains prayer before God, who neglects his closet, who never or seldom bows his knees before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a careless one.
3. Those who neglect the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.
It was appointed for his convenience and for his spiritual good. Apart from its beneficial influence upon society and upon every temporal interest, it is an institution of unspeakable importance from its bearing upon eternity. In fact, there is no religion without it. The neighborhood, the family, the individual that wilfully violates the Sabbath is destitute of religion. You perceive with what propriety they are denominated careless ones who disregard this holy day, who pervert its sacred design by attending to secular concerns, who waste the day in indolence, or spend it in riding or walking, in reading newspapers or novels.
4. Those who neglect the institutions of the sanctuary. It is a faithful saying that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The special object of the means appointed by the great Head of the Church is to secure that high end. The design of the ministry of reconciliation is mentioned in the commission given to Paul, to open blind eyes, and turn men from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Whenever any become anxious to know what they must do to be saved, they begin to prize the preaching of the gospel, and will be at any pains to hear the words of eternal life. On the other hand, just in proportion as the interest in religion declines will be indifference to the means of grace. See you a man who makes his attendance upon the services of God's house a matter of convenience, who avails himself of almost any excuse—a short distance, a slight variation in the weather, a trifling bodily indisposition—to be absent from the place of worship, who is there but irregularly, be assured he gives unequivocal proof that religion has very little hold upon him,-he is a careless one. And the same is true of himn who through the entire week is so absorbed in the pursuits of this life that he has neither leisure nor disposition to attend the place of social worship.
5. In a word, those are careless ones who live in impenitence and unbelief. Repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ are indispensable to salvation. They are the distinguishing duties of the gospel. The great interests of the soul cannot be secured without them. No man can be said to take heed to the things that belong to his peace, while living in disobedience to. the first and great commands of Christ to repent and do works meet for repentance--and with the heart to believe on the Son of God.
II. We proceed to inquire why such ought to be troubled.
In entering upon this part of the subject we are met with a discouragement. Those who are indifferent are disposed to remain so—carelessness perpetuates itself. So long as you continue thus, no matter how deeply we feel, or how earnestly we preach, we must return to our closet and inquire, with a sad spirit, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?
Still it is by prophesying over dry bones that they are to live. I entreat your serious attention while I present some reasons why you ought to be troubled.
1. The fact that you are careless is a ground of alarm. It is evidence that you do not reflect upon God; for no sinner can think of Him and not be troubled. One hour's deep and solemn meditation upon his omniscience, his purity, and righteousness, would break up your apathy. Did you think of your relation to Him, his goodness to you, your obligations to Him, you could not be at ease. Ought you not to be troubled that you are surrounded by Jehovah, that you are in his hands, every moment liable to be summoned to his bar, and still indifferent, asleep in your sins ? Your carelessness is evidence that you are ignorant of your true condition in the sight of God; for who, that realizes the guilt and exposure of transgression, the holy nature and fearful penalty of the law, and feels that he has broken that law and incurred that penalty, will not tremble? There is something truly frightful in false security, where the danger is real and great. Who does not pity the poor deluded victim of intemperance, who has just passed the line that decided his character as a drunkard ? He still cries there is no danger-he dreams of happiness and respectability, while the hand of death is upon him ; his fancied security is the most alarming symptom : could he be made to feel his danger there would be hope; but this he will not see, and his indifference is the touch of death.
Who, that had seen the prodigal in the midst of his cups and revels, forgetful of his father's prayers and reckless of his approaching ruin, would not have wept over his guilty thoughtlessness? If just then he had been admonished of his danger, he would doubtless have replied in anger, as the sinner often does, “ Your sympathy is uncalled for, your solicitude is needless ; my resources are not yet exhausted, nor do I intend to become the slave of indulgence; an occasional liberty may be taken without hazard."--Ah! how little did the wayward youth know of the wiles of the destroyer. He was then undone, but he had not yet come to himself to see it.
And such is your condition, careless sinner, but you know it not. A disease which no human skill can remove is upon your soul; it infects your blood, has penetrated your nature through ; and yet you are whole in your own estimation, and need not a physician. Your apathy is the dark symptom in your case. You are condemned, the sentence of death lies against you; and yet you are
Just in proportion to the character of the sentence, the nearness and certainty of its execution, is the fearfulness of the indifference you manifest. If it were a temporal loss, or the abridgment of personal liberty for life, it could be borne, apathy would not be so appalling ; but when we remember that the sentence that lies against you is eternal death, imprisonment in hell—that God is the Judge who pronounced it—that this very night your soul may be required of you, we know not how to express our sense of the deep criminality of such carelessness. O be troubled, ye careless ones !
2. Another reason of alarm is, that this indifference indicates a state of mind in which every blessing will be abused, and every warning neglected.
The sinner's heart is represented by the barren heath of the desert, which knoweth not when good cometh—that receives the sweet showers of heaven, but makes no return. While this apathy remains, the goodness of God may be