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He is able again to sit up, then to stand, next to walk, at last to go abroad, and then
“ The meanest floweret of the vale,
The simplest note which swells the gale,
To him are opening paradise.”
In none of these cases can we tell how the life returns, where it has been, whence it cometh, or whither it goeth. Not by any human science or effort is the life of nature revived in the spring; not by any effort of man does the rain come after drought, or, coming, renew the vegetable life of nature. The wise physician knows that he cannot procure the healing life which is to renew the failing frame ; he can only remove impeding obstacles, and make the channel for it ready, and the way smooth.
As with physical life, so with intellectual and moral life. In the souls of individuals, in society, in nations, there are great seasons of refreshing, when mind and heart are everywhere revived. We cannot tell how they come or go. But the law of waves holds here also.
What thinker, what student, what writer, but knows that there are propitious hours when his intellect is full of life, when it does not work mechanically, but dynamically, — when it sees clearly, and can express what it sees exactly, — when it sees and foresees, has a prophetic power, and is half inspired. The nobler the faculty, the more subject is it to this involuntary influx and withdrawal of life. Thus Dryden says somewhere: “ We, who are priests of Apollo, have not the inspiration when we please, but must wait till the god comes rushing on us and invades us with a fury we are not able to resist, which gives double strength while the fit continues, and leaves us spent and languishing at its departure. We swim with the tide, and the water makes us buoyant."
So when we speak of the age of Elizabeth, of Augustus, of Pericles, of Louis XIV., we speak of times each of which was a revival of letters, when genius became common, and all minds partook of the same intellectual enthusiasm.
So in the political world, and in the public life of nations, there are periods in which the love of liberty revives, and other periods in which it grows cold. At times a great en. thusiasm flows over a nation, and it arouses itself, and does deeds of heroic daring. The Arabs remained unnoticed in their deserts for two thousand years. Then they arose, and swept over Asia and Africa, and into Spain, in one triumphant wave of conquest. So it was with England in the days of the Commonwealth, as Milton describes her.*
If, then, this law applies to all other kinds of life, - if each has i's period when it flows in and mounts up, and again periods of ebb when it retires, — why should not that be also the case with spiritual life? If there are revivals in nature, in the intellect, in society, in nations, why not revivals of religion? So far as religion is work, it can be done as other work is done, by force of will. But so far as it is life, it comes according to the laws of life. It comes from influences and sources above man's knowledge, and above man's will. The poet toils in vain till the season of refreshing comes. Mazzini and Kossuth struggle in vain till the hour of reviving national life arrives. And so Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God who gives the increase.
The Spirit quickeneth or vitalizes, — only the Spirit, - and vital religion comes where the Spirit comes, and nowhere else.
A revival of religion, then, is a time in which there is a more wide and tender feeling of spiritual things than at other times. And such a revival exists now.
But a revival may be bad or good, according to its character and quality. This is admitted by those who defend revivals, that their quality may be such that the harm shall exceed the good. So far as they are revivals of spiritual life, they are good; so far as they are revivals of animal feeling and earthly excitement, they are unhealthy. Or, to be more particular, —
* We refer especially to the famous passage in the Areopagitica, beginning, " Methinks I see," &c.
A revival is bad so far as it is a panic.
A panic in religion is like a panic in business, – it de. notes a want of confidence. The great business panic which has just passed, came from want of confidence in man. Over-trading and speculating had gone so far, that men had lost confidence in each other, knowing that they were all going beyond their ability. A religious panic comes from a want of confidence in God, from losing sight of the divine goodness. Those who are not dwelling in the love of God are always liable to a religious panic. But this is not a Christian revival, since love casts out fear.
Now it is a peculiar feature of the present revival, as compared with that thirty years ago, that it is not a panic. The appeals are mostly made to reason and conscience, and not to fear. There is very little said about hell, and a great deal said about duty.
A revival is bad so far as it does not come from conviction, or a new sight of truth. For truth is the root, without which it can neither live, thrive, nor grow. The sight of truth gives that deepness of earth which is necessary to prevent the plant from withering away. It is to be feared that the amount of truth communicated in the various meetings is not very large. This is probably the chief defect in this revival, as in all revivals.
A revival is bad which ends in emotion, and does not go on into action. For action is the continent which receives emotion, and gives it solidity. The life of the spring must pass on into the fruit of autumn, or it ceases to have value. Epictetus says, that “the sheep do not bring back to the shepherd the grass which they have eaten, to show him what they have received, but rather show it to him in the form of wool.” So religion which consists in repeating over again past experiences, instead of carrying them forward into life, amounts to very little. Christian sheep should not bring to their teachers the opinions they have received and the feelings which have been impressed on their hearts, but should show these transformed into noble conduct and a beautiful life.
In this respect, also, the present revival is a great advance on previous ones. There is comparatively little mere emotion, and little attempt to produce it. The whole movement is tranquil, and undisturbed by gusts of passion.
Believing, therefore, that the evils incident to revivals in times past have been greatly diminished at the present time, we see no reason why Unitarians and other Liberal Christians should not cordially welcome such influences. They can do us no harm, but only good. The theology of a revival is in accordance with ours; and the result of a revival is inev. itably to liberalize the Christian Church.
For, if there are any people to whom they will do no harm, it is we. We are in no danger of panics, of too much emotion, of the absence of deliberate thought. We are not likely to lose our sense of the regular and orderly methods of divine influence, to be swept away by enthusiasm, or hardened by fanaticism. Management does not belong to us. The religious excitement which, in other sects, may be a raging fire, is tempered when it reaches us into a gentle warmth. We shall never suffer, probably, from an excess of sympathy, or from too little individualism. And will it not do us good to be brought into communion and sympathy with a larger body of Christians, by sharing the feelings of those who are looking to God for a divine influence? In the midst of business and the cares of this world, there has come to men a sense of spiritual things which makes them real. Men feel that God is something more than a law of the universe, or than an abstract power. He becomes, for a time at least, a personal friend, near at hand. Of this sentiment it is certain that we cannot easily have too much.
that mequently, the ne
Then, the theology of a revival accords with a rational Christianity. The essential features of Calvinism disappear; for the doctrine of total inability must be put aside, if not openly rejected, by the conductors of a revival. They must teach that man has the power to repent, and that im. mediately. Consequently, revivals prevail the most among the churches which adopt the new divinity; and all the leaders in such movements are men of progressive minds. Though they may all embrace the popular theology, they cannot lay stress upon it, and do not. Occasionally a reg. ular dogmatist may preach about the Trinity, but it is felt to be out of place. Dogmatic theology disappears in a revival. The necessary subjects are those connected with sin and salvation, and must be treated, not in a speculative, but in
And the result of a revival is toward liberality of opinion and practical goodness. Of course many things may be said and done of a narrow and sectarian character; but the tendency is manifestly in the opposite direction. We lately heard of its being said by an eminent philanthropist and reformer, that, about the year 1830, he gave lectures on various subjects of reform; and he found that, through the whole region where revivals had prevailed, the people were more ready to listen and to be interested in such subjects than anywhere else. Were we at liberty to mention the name of this gentleman, it would be admitted that his testimony is of the highest value. And it is easy to see that such a result is very natural. In a revival, men's minds are awakened, and the mental activity, being once aroused, will go on and apply itself to other questions ; in a revival, the laity take part, and exercise their minds independently, escaping from the guidance of their theological guides; in a revival season, men ascend out of dogmas into that life of the spirit which is higher than all dogmas, and in which alone the fellowship and unity of the Church are to be found. Fanaticism may come in sometimes, sanctifying its malignant VOL. XIX.