« PreviousContinue »
spair, and hope in Christ. The former is a pre-requisite to the latter. I therefore aim, in the first place, to increase their convictions of sins, especially of the great, damning sin of unbelief. If they ask, what shall we do? I never dare give them any other answer, than that given by Christ and his apostles: "Repent, and believe the gospel." I insist much on the character of God; the strictness, extent and spirituality of his law; the various artifices, deceptions, and excuses of the heart; the false hopes of sinners and hypocrites, the nature of true and false conversion, and the great danger of being deceived. I also frequently warn them of the dreadful consequences of delaying repentance, grieving the Spirit, losing their convictions, or resting on false hopes, like the stony ground hearers. I labor especially to convince them that all the difficulties which oppose their salvation lie in their own hearts; that Christ is willing to save them, but they are unwilling to be saved in his way, and are, therefore, without excuse. This is a very important point. I have seen none go back who appeared to be truly convinced of this. In addition to this, I say much of the glory, beauty, and sufficiency of Christ, and of the perfect freeness of the blessings which he offers, and endeavor to show them the horrid pride, ingratitude, &c., of neglecting to accept of them. These are some of the principal subjects on which I preach to inquirers. You will easily determine what are the most proper texts from which to explain and enforce them.
With respect to our inquiry meetings, I can only tell you, that we have them once a week, afternoons for females, evenings for males. It is difficult to persuade them to converse as freely as might be wished. You will find, however, as your experience increases, that it is of little consequence whether they say much or not, as a single sentence will often give you as perfect a view of their character and feelings, as you could acquire from the longest conversation. But if you wish them to converse with you with freedom, you must visit them at home.Your greatest danger will be in comforting them too soon. All comfort is dangerous, till they surrender unconditionally to the sovereign grace of God. It is much safer to err on the other side,"
The extract, which follows, describes the origin of a meeting that was long continued, and signally blessed."
Nov. 14, 1814.
old-"I must be close of the serwere fully deterFather's work, to
"Three weeks since, I preached to the young, from the words of Christ, when twelve years about my Father's business." At the mon, I invited all the young men, who mined to engage immediately in their meet me in the evening; and, at the same time, told them I was not confident that any of them would come. However, about forty attended. After stating to them the difficulties, and temptations they would meet with, and the sacrifices they must make in a religious course, I advised them to consider of it a fortnight; and, if they still felt resolved to persevere, to meet me again. About thirty came the second evening; and though I cannot calculate upon all, or even the major part of them becoming Christians, yet I hope some of them will."
Two or three times, during his ministry, he adopted what would be generally regarded as bold measures; and they would have been absolutely rash and injurious, had they not originated in a sincere and glowing zeal for God, and the eternal welfare of men. It would be hazardous for another to imitate him herein, without some portion of his spirit. Yet who, that estimates the worth of the soul, will dare to censure his conduct, or say that the importance of the object was not, at least, commensurate with his zeal?
"We have a great revival commencing. We have been expecting it, some time; and, a few weeks since, at the close of a suitable sermon, I informed the congregation that I believed God was about to bless us; and told them that the quarterly Fast of the church was at hand, and that, if they would consent to unite with the church in the Fast, we would meet in the meeting house, instead of the conference room, where we usually assemble on such occasions. At the same time, I invited those, who were willing to meet the church, to signify it by rising.
About two thirds of the congregation instantly rose. was a most solemn scene. The church, to whom the measure was altogether unexpected, were almost overwhelmed with various emotions, and scarcely knew whether to be glad or sorry, to hope or fear. You may well suppose, that the interval between the Sabbath and the Fast was a trying season to me. I felt that I had completely committed myself; that my all was at stake; that if a blessing did not attend the measure, every mouth would be open to condemn it; and it seemed as if I could hardly survive a disappointment. I should not have taken such a step, had I not believed I had sufficient reason for trusting that God would bear me out in it; and I thought, if he did not bear me out, I never should again know what to expect, never should feel confidence to pray. I expected severe trials, but had few fears of the event. The trials came; but they did not come in the way that I expected, and, therefore, I was surprised and overcome by them. The day of the Fast was the most dreadful day of my life; the day, in which I had most dreadful proofs of more than diabolical depravity of heart. The meeting house was full, but things did not go on in the manner I had hoped and expected. I thought all was lost; and I now wonder that I lived through it; that a broken heart, as, Mr. Newton says, disappointed pride and madness are called, was not the consequence. For some days, I saw and heard nothing encouraging, and my distress was unabated; but, at the next inquiry meeting, I found more than sixty inquirers. This number, within a week, was considerably increased, and eight or ten have obtained comfort.The prospect is now more encouraging, than it has been since my settlement."
Below is an incidental mention of the multiplicity of his labors, from which may be inferred the despatch, with which he habitually executed his appropriate work.
May 21, 1816.
"My avocations were never so numerous. I have two sermons, which I wish, if possible to prepare for the press, but fear I never shall find time. I have also three ordi
nation sermons to preach within two months-sermons before two missionary societies within the same time, and on the second Sabbath in July I have an engagement to preach in Portsmouth, before the Managers of the Female Asylum. Besides this, I preach four sermons and attend two inquiry meetings weekly, &c. &c. Judge, then, whether I am not worn out, and whether I do not need your prayers more than ever. As to a revival, my wishes for it are not, cannot be too strong, if they are disinterested, and not selfish. Though I am wearing myself out, it is, I sometimes fear, rather in the service of self, than in the service of God, and this reflection embitters every thing I do. It would be heaven to labor for God; but it is misery to labor for one's self. As to the slang you heard about a revelation, I need not tell you that there is no truth in it. However, I hope the Lord has some people yet to be gathered in here. We have admitted thirty-three, since the year came in, and nine stand propounded; the number of inquirers about one hundred, and slowly increasing."
April 13, 1820.
"We have some encouraging appearances, as we have often had before, but nothing decisive. Last Sabbath, I invited the male part of the parish, who were willing to be considered inquirers after religion, to meet me in the evening. Between thirty and forty attended; but I fear that very few of them are deeply impressed. We have about the same number of females, who are in a similar state; and it seems, as it has for a long time, that if God would work a little more powerfully, there would be a great revival. But I desire to wait."
August 6, 1821.
"As to my desires for a revival, I have not, and never had the least doubt that they are exceedingly corrupt and sinful. A thousand wrong motives have conspired to excite them. Still I do not believe, that my desires were ever half so strong, as they ought to be; nor do I see how a minister can help being in a "constant fever," in such a town as this, where his Master is dishonored, and souls are destroyed in so many ways. You can scarcely con
ceive how many things occur, almost daily, to distress and crush me. All these are nothing, when my Master is with me; but when he is absent, I am of all men most miserable. But now he is with me, and I am happy.
We have just set up a meeting on a new plan. Notes, to this effect, are put into a box at the door: "A member of this church desires prayers for the conversion of a husband, a child, a parent, &c., as the case may be." These notes are then read, and prayers are offered. We have had but one meeting. The evening was rainy; but nearly forty notes were given in, and it was the most solemn meeting we have had for a long time. Among the notes were two from persons, who think they were deceived, when they made a profession of religion, desiring prayers that they may be truly converted. The church has also had a day of thanksgiving, lately, to acknowledge what God has done for us, and it was a comfortable season.These things give me some encouragement, but we have been so often disappointed, that I scarcely dare to hope.”
A letter to a young Clergyman, written soon after the preceding extract, contains a still more complete sketch of his labors at this time. It has been extensively copied by the religious periodicals of the country, one of which professes to be 'shocked at his expressions in relation to revivals,' as indicating 'that temerity which would rely on the impotent arm of the creature.' If his language is sus ceptible of such a construction, it most unhappily misrep resents his judgment and his heart. For, though he was "abundant in labors," no man ever ascribed less efficiency to means, or felt more entirely his exclusive dependance upon the Holy Spirit.
"Portland, Aug. 17, 1821.
"MY DEAR BROTHER,—I have just received your kind letter, and hope it has done me some good. I thank you for it, though the perusal of it has given me much pain. It is evident that you think far more favorably of me than I deserve; and your applying to me for advice, shames and mortifies me exceedingly. But I dare not say what I feel on this subject, lest you should think me humble-which is far enough from being the case. Be