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MY DEAR E.
I have a few suggestions more to offer, with respect to the manner of conducting revivals. While your meetings should generally be open to everybody, who can be persuaded to attend, there are some decided advantages in occasionally mecting different classes of the unconverted by themselves. You can address them with more freedom apart, and adapt your remarks better to their peculiar circumstances, than in a prouniscuous assembly. It will require but very few experiments, fully to convince you of this. Some of your congregation you will find it very difficult to reach in any other way. Men in active business will be apt to excuse themselves by the plea, that your meetings and their necessary engagements often interfere. This objection you can obviate, by ascertaining when they are most at leisure, and making particular appointments to suit their convenience. I shall always remember a weekly meeting of this sort, for merchants and other business men, in the city of B-which I had the privilege of
I attending some twenty years ago, while assisting a respected brother in a revival. A large number met in rotation at each others houses, and I believe a majority of them ultimately professed religion.
What are sometimes called parlor meetings for ladies have also been found highly useful in large
towns like L- Many individuals have been induced to attend such meetings, and have been savingly benefited, who could not otherwise have been brought out to hear the gospel.
During the great revival in P—, to which allusion has already been made, I held a stated meeting for some time at my own house, for the aged of my congregation, who were not professors, and I believe much good was done, which could hardly have been hoped for, had no such meeting been established.
During a revival, much more depends upon what would be called little things, than is generally supposed. Mr. N-, who understood this whole subject better than any other man I ever knew, and whose labors were wonderfully blessed for fifteen years or more, till his health failed, used to advise the people at the close of his meetings to go home as still as possible—to say nothing to each other on the way, about the sermon, or anything else, but to
commune with their own hearts and be still." There was philosophy as well as religion in this advice. Many, I have no doubt, talk away religious impressions with their companions, before they get home, who might have them deepened and made permanent by silent reflection. Mr. N-would rarely close his most solemn evening meetings with singing, because, he said, it was apt to divert the thoughts of enquirers from the sermon.
Never protract your meetings to a late hour in the evening. Dismiss the people in season for family and secret devotions, before they retire to rest, and so that they may retire and rise early. No part of
the day is worth so much to a troubled soul, as the morning, when the nerves are composed and the mind is clear.
When young friends and companions are simultaneously awakened, advise them to suspend their social intercourse, till the great question is settled. They can neither help, nor instruct each other. It is at best “the blind leading the blind.” By conversing together and “comparing themselves among themselves, they are much more likely to get bewildered, and lose their impressions, than to find the path to heaven. I knew a case, in which several young females were awakened under the same sermon, and who, instead of going home to their chambers, sat down and wept together till their alarm nearly subsided, and in a few days they were as stupid as ever. Nothing can be more unprofitable, and hardly any thing can be more dangerous, than for anxious sinners to spend much time in condoling with one another. Their chief intercourse should be with their pastor and other judicious christian friends.
The length of your several interviews with the careless and the awakened, during a revival, should vary indefinitely according to the state in which you find them. Sometimes you will find it necessary to say a great deal, and at others very little ; and you can never determine how much, before hand. I once called upon a very intelligent member of my congregation about eight o'clock in the morning, intending to say a few words to him about what the Lord was doing in the place, and pass on. I did not know that his mind was at all impressed. But I found him in such a peculiar state, that I could not safely leave him till nearly noon. The Spirit of God was evidently beginning to strive with him, but nothing was right within, or without. He was prepared to dispute every inch of ground. It seemed, at first, as if there would be no end of his cavilling. As soon as one objection was answered, or one excuse was taken away, he had another ready. He saw that he could not stand against the claims and denunciations of God's law, but he fought on the retreat, if I may so express it, like a chafed lion. It was encouraging, however, to find that every argument and appeal told upon his conscience. He yielded one position after another, till at his own request we were upon our knees at the throne of grace in his behalf. From that time his distress increased, till he found relief by unconditional submission, as he hoped, to God. Had this man been left at the end of the first or the second hour, he would have felt as if he had gained the victory, and might have held out to his dying day.
Sometimes, where you expected to have a hard struggle, you will find that the Spirit of the Lord has gone before you, and taken away every excuse, so that very little needs to be said. Your deligthful privilege will be rather, to “stand still and see the salvation of God."
In the progress of a revival, you ought to see awakened and enquiring sinners as often as once in two or three days, if possible ; so as to follow up every good impression which may have been made, with suitable exhortations and advice. Many, there is reason to fear, “ draw back ” and perish, in consequence of being neglected too long, particularly in the critical stages of their religious concern. A lady, now of very devoted piety, has often told me that when her attention was first arrested in a short visit which I made at her father's house, she has no doubt her impressions would have worn off, if I had not called again the same week.
When you find an awakened sinner in great distress, the first and all important thing is, to ascertain the true cause of his distress. If it arises from an impression that the day of grace is past, that he has committed the unpardonable sin by so long resisting the Spirit, or from any other erroneous view of his condition, he needs instruction. Distress of this sort does no good. Were it to last for a month or a year it would leave him as far from the kingdom of heaven as it found him. Whatever relief, therefore, you can give him by correcting his mistakes, you ought most promptly and cheerfully to render. But if
you find that his distress arises from genuine conviction of sin; from clear and scriptural views of the true ground of God's controversy with him—if it is the “sword of the Spirit, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, of the joints of the marrow," beware how you attempt to comfort him. Comfort is not what he needs, but a still deeper sense of his lost and guilty condition. a rebel, and “ there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” The Holy Spirit is striving to bring him to repentance and submission, and he is resisting
He is yet