Times of Refreshing Illustrated in the Present Revival of Religion.
A GREAT change in religion has come over many parts of our Irish land during the past twenty years. [1840-1860] The light of Divine truth, mingled with the Spirit's power, has extended over numerous spots, now radiant with conversion, where the Lord Jesus Christ is no longer as "a stranger in the land," or "a wayfaring man that turneth aside to tarry'' only "for a night."
So signal and surprising is the present awakening, that we are like men that dream a pleasant dream. Now is our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. As streams in the south, after mighty rains of refreshing, return to their deserted channels; so, in hundreds of sanctuaries in our land, once almost desolate of power and life, there is a river of salvation, the waters of which make glad the city of our God.
I feel humbled and astonished that so much slight has been cast upon this glorious work, and that too, by some good men. Whilst the Lord has been making hundreds of churches, once dead or in a Laodicean state, each one a Bochim—a place of tears—and whilst over five counties, prayer, the Spirit's own breath—has been made without ceasing, numbers of professed Christians and ministers are still standing at a distance, or coldly speculating concerning it. Some who believe in the work as a revival of religion, and rejoice in it, yet compromise and apologize respecting the physical phenomena, as if these, without reserve, should be condemned. I am not ashamed to confess to a different mind. I have seen too much, not to say, in regard to many bodily cases, "This is the finger of God."
With Dr Carson, I have no doubt that the physical agent, whatever it may be, has been sent by God, and for a specific purpose. Such was its effect one night in Coleraine, he remarks, that it was like the day of judgment, when sinners will call on the mountains and the rocks to hide them. "It struck terror to the heart of the most hardened and obdurate sinner. The whole town was in a state of alarm, business was forgotten, and the revival was the only subject of conversation. A French invasion could not have produced so great a panic. I have seen much of the accumulated misery of bodily disease and mental distress, but I never saw anything to be compared to the harrowing scene in the Coleraine Town Hall. It would be quite impossible to imagine any agency more powerful for drawing the attention of men to the state of their souls. I heard many people mocking and scoffing, before that night, about the revival, but when I saw the same parties examining the cases in the Town Hall, their mocking was at an end, and they looked like criminals whose hour was at hand. No other sort of a revival could have had the same effects. If one-half of the inhabitants had been converted in a minute, in the ordinary way, the other half would not have believed it—they would have laughed at it as a vision. It would have had no effect upon them."
Exception has been taken to excesses and extravagances. Excesses and extravagances may be expected, where so vast a surface lies open before the enemy of souls. "Tares" are usually found wherever there is "wheat;" "mire and dirt" will be flung up by the deep "sea” of spiritual conflict with Satan.
But I have seen the most hallowed results in the minds and lives of persons who were stricken under circumstances where no natural cause could be traced.
I said to a young man in the North, who had been lying in a stricken state for three days,—"Did you ever wish to be stricken?" "Never." "Did you ever dread it?" "Never." "When it occurred, were you in a heated atmosphere?" "No." "In a crowd?" "No.” "Under an exciting sermon?" "No.” "How did you feel when lying in a stricken state?” "Of the external world I knew nothing. Internally, I felt a dreadful load of sin.'' "Had you never suspected it before?" “Never. I had always thought that I was a Christian, and others thought me to be a Christian.'' "How was your mind occupied during the long period in which you were stricken?" "I had a dreadful conflict. The idea of being a Christian was like a voice within contending that I was such; but the dark load of sin on my soul, like another self, declared that I was not. I felt utterly lost, and, laying aside the notion that I was a Christian, as a sinner I cried to God to have mercy upon me." "How did your relief come?" ''On the third day, I heard the archdeacon pray, 'Lord, lay not this sin to his own charge, but lay it to the charge of Him whose blood cleanseth from all sin.' That substitutionary truth concerning sin and its removal by Christ, I at once embraced, and the dreadful sense of its curse was gone; and then, though my bodily strength was completely prostrate, I felt a peace of mind which passeth all understanding—a joy unspeakable and full of glory." "Should you ever lose that sense of peace and joy, how would you feel?" "Oh! I could not lose it; if I were to, I should feel humbled, yet still I should have Christ."
One thing in this case struck me most forcibly, and, I may add, solemnly. I said, "As a supposed Christian, you were in the habit of the daily perusal of the Bible?" "Yes, daily; but I read it because I wished to know it, and because it was only consistent for me to study it, and, also, that I might understand its truths in relation to surrounding controversies; but," he added, "I now know that I never loved it—that I never, until now, had any sense or intelligence of its true value and blessedness." Alas! I thought, how many are like this! they think they are Christians, they appear such to others, but they are not so in reality.
And now, turning from this case, I have the most precious remembrance of two little girls, both of whom had, along with some others, been stricken in a school. They were very poor, and very young—one nine and the other seven years of age. I said to her, "Mary, you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, do you?" Thinking that I had denied the fact of her love to the Saviour, the tears broke down her face, and her hands were clasped in the greatest earnestness, whilst she replied, "O sir, I do love the Lord Jesus Christ! I do, I do love Him!" "How long is it since you commenced to love Him?" "O sir, ever since we first began to seek Him." "Nay, nay, dear," said her little companion, a thin, a pallid-faced child of dark intelligent eyes—"Nay, nay, dear; we did not first seek the Lord Jesus. He it was who first sought us."
Wonderful! I thought. What "praise" is this that I hear thus from the mouths of babes and sucklings, and what truth! How sound its theology! How suggestive and comprehensive! I said, "Mary, would you like me to pray with you?" adding, "Remember you must pray for each other." Ere I had risen from my knees, this little disciple, taking me at my word, began in a low, soft tone to warble such a prayer as I had never heard. She prayed for her companions, then for her poor neighbours. She said, "Lord Jesus, Thou hast come into our hearts with Thy love; wilt Thou not go into all their hearts with Thy love?" She then extended her requests for our country, that all its people may know the Lord Jesus; and to the whole world, that the poor heathen especially may soon hear of Him and love Him. Having prayed most fervently for the whole human race, she concluded by saying, "And now, Lord Jesus, (or, dear Lord Jesus), I have nothing more to say. Amen."
Do you ask, Whence this great change in religion? I answer, From the out-pouring of the Spirit of God. And especially of late, on the truth faithfully preached. God has not set aside but revived the preaching of His Word. He has taught that the preaching which He honours, is not that of mere philosophy, but of Christ. The one may be attractive and costly, as the offering of Cain; but the other, like the acceptable service of Abel, is valuable for the simple manifestation of "the blood." But whilst such as Paul must preach, and Apollos water, it is the work of the Elijahs of the Church to pray down the increase.
My earnest prayer, then, is, that God, in mercy to our condition, may deepen this work, and extend it. Especially blessed would it be if it were to come to our own beloved city—so come, that all the little streams and pools of our separate and divided life in religion may be lost, in one vast flood of Divine awakening, of spiritual union, of life abounding in all true Christians, and sincere love towards all saints. May the Lord the Spirit give it! And may He lead His people to desire it, and to seek it!
OUR OWN AWAKENING.
For the sake of our children, and for the perusal of a darker day, should it ever come, I now record this line of "Ebenezer" respecting what is doing at home. The same attraction which draws, through this awakening, the thousands in the North to the arms of Jesus, now draws a multitude of souls to the same arms in our own sanctuary. A wonderful spirit of prayer has been poured out. Men who, not long since, were Sabbath-breakers, drunkards, and profane, are now publicly praying in the house and service of God. Fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers, servants and little children, are in deep anxiety about their souls; many who have passed before men as Christians declaring, with sadness and alarm, that they were never truly converted.
"From this day will I bless you," (Hag. ii 19) were the words from which I preached my first sermon after the enlargement of our sanctuary. The Great Promiser has honoured this promise. From that time, there has been one continued blessing. During the past six months especially, there has not been a single service in which there has not been manifested His convincing and converting power.
It was in September last, that the Lord gave a new spirit for prayer, which, along with the truth, were the forerunners of the blessing. Alternately, for weeks the church and the Express boats in the harbour became the scenes of a calm, tearful, and almost silent awakening. The most striking of these was an afternoon in September, when the Cambria, crowded to excess, was flooded with emotion, for which sobs, and not words, were the natural expression. The whole ship was a scene of tears; yet utterance came. After a solemn appeal from the words, "Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," the spirit of prayer descended as an overpowering flood, and, amidst deep sobbings and tears, the crew of the ship, and Christians from shore, continued for a long time in one unbroken series of earnest and devout supplication. On the previous Lord's-day, on board the Telegraph, after a sermon on the words "Say to the people, that they go forward," applying the sentiment to such as were inquiring after salvation, to such as were agreeing together to pray, and to such as were feeling the nearness of the pilgrimage to its rest, the most solemn and appropriate prayer was offered by numerous persons, who evidently were deeply moved to pray for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Four individuals, then convinced of sin, are now professing their conversion to God. Many others were powerfully awakened.
October and November were months never to be forgotten. At every meeting, persons who came from mere custom or curiosity, remained to ask for salvation. At every service, sinners came for peace in Christ, and found it. Besides adults of both sexes, and citizens, and strangers, many of our children now manifested symptoms of concern for their souls.
Though all the meetings at this time were well attended, yet it was remarkable, that when storm or perpetual rain occurred, the work seemed to become deeper as the numbers were fewer. I may cite the meeting on Hallow Eve. A dreadful storm was raging over sea and land; the meeting was small. As with Gideon, so perhaps with us, the people "were too many." The Lord saved us from glorying in the flesh. Never was there at any of the meetings a mightier manifestation of the spirit of prayer. The heavens seemed penetrated and opened, so that, as one confessed, we seemed to see Jesus, as once of old, Stephen saw Him, at the right hand of God.
An eye-witness thus describes:—
"Souls under conviction visited the pastor in the vestry; after which a special request was made for him, by a gentleman, through his son, to visit a house suddenly thrown into spiritual anxiety. To this house I went with him, and we were led down-stairs into the kitchen. Here, amidst the deepest solemnity, an interesting family of various ages, from five to twenty-five years, were surrounding the Roman Catholic servant. She was leaning back in a chair, with her head supported by her kind Christian master; she was in a 'stricken' state—had suddenly and unexpectedly become so at her work—and as it was the first case I had seen, I shall be the more particular in describing it. For a little while she was quiet—still as in sleep; but soon she rallied a little; yet, with closed eyes, clasping her hands together, and gradually raising them to her head, she began, in such a tone, with such agonies and throes of soul, to pray—"O my God, have mercy!—have mercy upon me a sinner! Do forgive me my sins. I have sinned against Thy law. I have sinned against Thee—against Thee, my Lord! Save me, O Lord Jesus! Jesus, save me a sinner—I have sinned against Thee.” Again she swooned away, and all was still as death, save the sighs and sobs of those who were spectators. She was prayed with and for and appeared to breathe assent to each petition put up on her behalf. Then precious portions of Scripture suited to her case were spoken to her, such as, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour,' &c. Again all was silent; she seemed prostrated by the severe mental conflict she was enduring. Again, the spirit struggled to be free from the grasp of Satan and sin, and she prayed much as before, with this addition—'Lord Jesus, teach me the way in which I should go, and I will walk in it with an honest heart.' Another of the company was now deeply affected, though not in the same manner; the burden, however, was sin—sin on the heart, on the soul—and she requested prayer also. Although a stranger, I could not but entreat the whole family, with assembled friends, to yield themselves to Christ, to obey the gospel, yield the obedience of faith at once, and not compel God, as it were, to break them down.
"It was eleven o'clock P.M. ere we returned home to talk over the wondrous things we had heard and seen, and, in telling them to others, to see them also melted down to concern and tears on their own behalf.
THE EXPRESS BOATS.
It may be interesting here to give a more explicit account of the Express boats. Not long ago, the crews of the Telegraph and Cambria were for the most part as sheep going astray. How delightful the change! It would be impossible to describe all the happy scenes on board these boats.
Lord's-day, December 3, will be long remembered. It was the day when Roman Catholic Kingstown was assembled in sympathy for the Pope. There was, within sound of that meeting, one in the open air, convened for prayer. There, on the bended knee, and beneath the chill skies of December, the newly-awakened and converted were pouring forth their warm, loving prayers, that God, in mercy to us, would send forth His own Spirit into the hearts of all—Protestant, Nonconformist, and Romanist alike. This meeting was held at the New Pier. There was no prearrangement. Providence alone had driven it to the open air. The scene on board and on shore was one of great interest. Only an enemy to prayer could have taken exception to it. There was no noisy excitement, no declamatory violence, no cold formality, no pharisaic sense of sect or party, but one calm and continued manifestation of the Spirit of God in prayer. An earnest and solemn appeal was made by one of the speakers, on the value of the human soul, the brevity of time, the nearness of eternity, of heaven and hell; on the value of the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the preciousness of its present experience, as well for life as for death. A letter to the captain was read, and a short sermon preached.
At the evening service, one man became inconsolable respecting his sin, and wanted publicly to declare his state, so absorbed was he about the salvation of his soul. Some Roman Catholics came, and found that the religion of Christ is not a religion of hatred, but of love to them, as it is to all.
On the 11th of the same month, a still more remarkable day was given to the friends of prayer on board the Llewellyn, city of Dublin steamship, as she lay alongside the quay near the railway station. It is thus described by one of our city clergymen:—
"The service on board this boat commenced about three o'clock. The fore-deck was filled, and a large company of all ranks and creeds ranked themselves along the pier, who listened with marked attention to the addresses and prayers. Special mention was made in prayer of the case of a person who had just manifested deep anxiety for her soul on board the other boat. Kingstown, Dublin, the vessels in the harbour, and especially the officers and crew of the Llewellyn, were made the subjects of earnest prayer, and that a blessing might be granted to the word that day publicly preached for the first time on board that boat; portions of the 3d chapter of St John's Gospel forming the subject of the gospel addresses. This service concluded at half-past four o'clock, when the Llewellyn crew joined the crew of the Express boat, and sang hymns together, one of the Llewellyn sailors bursting forth into prayer. The weather was peculiarly favourable for this open-air service, and many came away rejoicing at what the Lord was doing. A minister of the Established Church offered up prayer at the close. It was mentioned at the noon prayer-meeting, by the president of that meeting, that he had seen more of the distinct manifestation of the Spirit's work in Kingstown, since the previous Sabbath, than he had seen in his whole life before, excepting the last three months, when the revival may be said to have commenced there."
The happy condition of these dear sailor-brethren is thus characteristically referred to by one who was lately crossing with them, an observant passenger:—
"The most pleasing thing I have seen is this. Hervey once said, 'Each floating ship a floating hell.' Of all classes of men, the sailor has been supposed to be the man least likely to be reached by the gospel. In crossing over from Holyhead to Dublin and back, I spent the most pleasant hours that I ever spent. The first vessel that I entered, I found my hands very heartily shaken by the sailors. I thought, 'What can these sailors know of me?' and they were calling me 'brother.' Of course, I felt that I was their brother, too; but I did not know how they came to talk to me in that way. It was not generally the way for sailors to call ministers brother; and when I made the inquiry, 'What makes you so kind?' 'Why,' said one, 'because I love your Master the Lord Jesus.' I inquired, and found that out of the whole crew, there were but three unconverted men; that though the most of them had been before without God, and without Christ, yet by a visitation of the Spirit of God, they had all been converted. My heart was lifted up with joy, to think of a ship being made a floating church—a very Bethel for God. When I came back by another ship, I did not expect to see the like, but it was precisely the same. The same work had been going on. They told me a story of a gentleman who stood laughing when a hymn was being sung, and one of the men proposed that they should pray for him. They did, and that man was suddenly srnitten down, and began on the quay to cry for mercy, and plead with God for pardon. 'Ah! sir,' said the sailors, 'we have the best proof that there is a God here, for we have seen this crew marvellously brought to a knowledge of the truth; and here we are, joyful and happy men, serving the Lord.'''
LETTERS OF THE SANCTUARY.
And now to return to the sanctuary. With the close of the old year and opening of the new, the work became more extended. So many were the conversions, and so great the concourse of those who attended the public services, especially of such as were seeking salvation, that it did not seem as if the old year were dying, or the new year one of promise merely, but already one of harvest. The letters received form a book of life; and if published, would afford to the "winner of souls" unspeakable joy. They lie piled up in my library, a precious monument of this time of awakening.
On one evening, twenty were read from persons who described themselves as having "found peace." "I have found," says one, "a Saviour, last Sabbath, I did not know Jesus, but now I know Him. I came to Him just as I was. I said, I will throw myself at the foot of the Cross. Then this text came to my mind, 'Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.' I can say, 'I believe it,' and. 'Jesus is mine.' "
On another evening, lately, letters were read recording the conversion of sixty-nine, mostly men. A day or two before, six children wrote declaring their conversion. Every week some, more or less, do the same. To give even a selection from these letters would require a volume.
One writes,—"Oh, it is a great change! My heart is too full to express itself, but I do want you to know and to thank God for it, but what I could not say before, I can say now, 'I believe it, I believe it,' that Jesus was lifted up on the Cross; that it was Jesus whom my soul needed, that 'Jesus is mine.' "
But oh, what an array of letters of a very different kind!—letters written as it were in tears, as if penned in sight of Sinai, or in view of the "outer darkness" itself—letters which I dare not transcribe, and which I could not characterize, so full are they of deep anguish of soul on account of sin, and fearful dread of predicted and coming wrath. And now, having merely glanced at these letters of the sanctuary, let me record a word respecting—
THE LODIANA WEEK. (January 8, 1860)
One would have thought that the Christians of Lodiana had foreknown the state of prayerfulness in the year 1860. It was in November 1858, that they were large and bold enough in their faith to ask for a week of prayer all over the world; and never since it was a world, was it so ripe for such a week. Who can doubt but it was HE who does "foreknow,'' that created in them this desire? This is the dispensation of the Spirit. And His MIND, He gives to His Church. Hence, this call for prayer was in perfect keeping with what that mind was about to do.
Our own week can never be forgotten. Along with it came the children's prayer-meetings, the special meetings of the Sabbath school, the Tuesday and Friday evening meetings for those recently converted, the business-young-men's meeting at night in the organ-gallery, with other sources of awakening and refreshing, which are no longer occasional, but continue.
It makes one happy to think of the sixteen public services of' this week, in all of which the people, solemn, and tenderly susceptible of impression, scarcely seemed to separate. They were days of heaven upon the earth. Who of us can ever forget the Thursday evening meeting?
After the crowd had dispersed, the church bore the aspect of an hospital,—so many were the souls stricken with a sense of sin, and under desire for salvation. It was the same next day from twelve o'clock to four; and the same again in the evening, from half-past seven to near one in the morning, at which services, after the majority had left, the aisles of the church, the vestry, the organ-loft, the spaces under it, and those around the pulpit, were all occupied by souls anxious for salvation. The last in the church was led out near one o'clock, under sore and heavy distress of mind—no faith, no hope. Such, too, were others, whilst many had gone to their homes rejoicing, saying, "We have seen strange things to-day."
During these services, and subsequently, numbers of children were awakened, some of whom have since been received into the fellowship of the Church. But at almost every service, young men have been converted; they are now a goodly band of hope.
THE LAMBS OF THE FOLD.
The work among the children has exceeded all expectation. In the Sunday school, where the revival is extending, so striking is the scene on the Sabbath morning, whilst singing the last hymn, that, instead of mere listlessness or carelessness in any of the young, they look like a little sea of open mouths and upturned faces, all joyful, unanimous, and happy in their song of praise—a song which proves a delightful prelude to the more public services of the day.
But how wonderful is the work itself! TWO BELOVED MOTHERS who lately came to our neighbourhood, having the conversion of their children in view, and who are now rejoicing in the desire of their hearts, thus write:—
"God gives to His servants the privilege of planting for Him, of watering, too; but, oh! at a moment like this, when we behold with wonder the DAILY additions to the Church, we exclaim—'God giveth the increase.' Precious travail of Thy soul, Lord Jesus!
"Many have been the songs of grateful and heart-felt praise ascending from the mothers amongst and around us lately, to whom the Lord has given the longest wish of their hearts, in their children's salvation.
"How happily can they NOW clasp these loved ones! In the blessed consciousness that they are doubly united—yea, everlastingly united—the same home in the heavens preparing for them. What a burden falls from that mother's heart, who possesses not an unconverted child! We read of the Christians in days past being 'with ONE ACCORD in ONE PLACE,' with 'one accord' making their requests known unto God. Thus, it is now with us. Do the answers come? They DO COME! Sometimes but a few hours, sometimes a few days, after these breathings and utterances for some beloved son or daughter still 'in the far country.'
"We may specially speak of a meeting of remarkable interest, two days since, at the close of which several (varying in age from four to sixteen) were with weeping and supplication seeking Jesus. They were NOT disappointed. Hours rolled on, and the little ones that mourned in tears of pardoning love could sing.
"We ask you to notice in this group, one sweet child, four years of age, the striking melody of whose voice often attracted us. See him now, whilst others sing, with CLOSED lips and earnest eye. What does this mean?
"He does not now" sing, as in days and weeks past, 'Jesus is MINE.' He asks for prayer. 'What shall we pray for?' say those around him. The answer comes 'That I may find Jesus.' Now the little one himself prays, 'That the Holy Spirit may be poured UP and DOWN upon me.' How overwhelming the sight! Two days had still to pass ere that little eye resumed its accustomed brightness, and the little tongue was loosed to sing His SAVIOUR'S praise.
"One little boy, well known to us, not more than seven years old, who, after a long struggle, reached the 'Good Shepherd's' arms, was asked by his mother, some days after, if he was happy. 'Yes; said he', 'I have peace, but not much joy. His mother, fearing a passing cloud overhung his peace, reminded him of the safety of the Israelites under the shelter of 'the blood.' ‘Ah! ' said he, 'I know THAT; but the Israelites had also to EAT THE LAMB (John vi. 53). that night.' Then glanced on to the 'marriage supper of the Lamb.' "
"I have again and again asked you, and God's believing people in Northumberland Avenue, to pray for the conversion of my dear sons. You and they have, even more frequently than I asked, poured out your souls, and wrestled with God in prayer for them, and, like Jacob of old, you have had power with God, and prevailed; and now we have good reason to know that four of them are converted, and rejoicing in the truth as it is in Jesus.
"I cannot express the gratitude I feel to my heavenly Father for the mercy and grace manifested towards my family, and my sorrow that I ever doubted His goodness."
"We own, with thankfulness, the blessing we have received this last week. I put in my request for my four boys, and God has given me three of them new-born in Christ. I asked for much, but when it came so soon and so full, it seemed too big for us; but God is working so widely and so wonderfully, that our hearts have been strengthened to believe it all, and to bless Him. We do bless Him, and unite with you all in thanksgiving, not only for our own, but for yours, and the blessing of all, and pray that it may spread and increase more and more to His glory, and the precious name of Jesus."
In closing this word on the lambs of the flock, I may add, that from among the dear children who have mingled in these scenes of conversion, some few have fallen asleep in Jesus, and are now safely "folded" on that "shining shore," of which, with their companions on earth, they so often sung.
Whilst I write, two of them are being laid in their narrow beds. One of them had been only once at these meetings, yet that once was enough for the Good Shepherd, who brought him to His arms. The hymn, "O Lamb of God, I come," made a deep impression on his mind. Pointing with his dying arm upwards, as if Jesus were visible, he said—"And now, O Lamb of God, I am coming; I am coming!"
THE SERVICE OF SONG.
Speaking of the hymns sung at these meetings, a Syrian pastor writes—"If I could introduce them to my friends in Mount Lebanon, they would be sung often by many who will ultimately unite with you and your dear people in singing the glories of the Redeemer in Heaven. Those I wish most are, 'Jesus is mine'— 'Joyfully, joyfully onward we go' —'Just now, He will save you'—'I do believe, I will believe.' "
These and other hymns, made dear to us as the means of conversion, such as "Jesus is here"—"He breaks the power of cancelled sin"—"I have a Father in the promised land"—"Shall we ever all meet again?"—have sometimes more than divided the interest with the prayers and exhortation. A time of spiritual life and growth has from the first been one of "psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." ''Religious reformations," remarks the pastor of Plymouth Church, "seem always to have developed singing. Under Luther's administration, and Calvin's government, singing became so general and characteristic, that psalm-singing and Protestant heresy were synonymous terms. The great revival under the Wesleys and Whitfield was marked by the outburst of religious music. When revivals of religion visit communities, their presence is attested by new zeal in singing. All exhibitory music is dropped as dead and sapless, and the heart feels after hymns of deep emotion, and after tunes born of the heart, and not of the head."
I may here cite a remarkable conversion arising out of the singing of the hymn, "Now I have found a friend, Jesus is mine.'' Seeing a young person singing whom I knew, I said to her, "Can you say 'Jesus is mine?” The question, responded to in the negative, rankled as an arrow in her conscience, until, days after, being in "a stricken state," and the whole household having gathered around her, she poured forth her soul thus,—"O Lord God, have mercy upon me, have mercy upon my poor soul! O Lord, I cannot say, 'Jesus is mine!' I am too wicked. Satan has for a long time been leading me astray. He was making me very wicked, but do Thou, O Lord God, wash away my sins! Oh, my poor soul, my poor soul! Oh, my dreadful sins! what shall I do with them? I would like to tear them from my soul, and cast them at the foot of the Cross, so that Jesus might drop His blood on them, and wash them all away."
I told her that the great awakening which was working in her was from God. To this she replied, "Oh, I could die if I had my Saviour now! O God, what would become of me were I to die now? O God, have mercy on me! Oh, if I could on]y say, 'Jesus is mine!' These sins are pressing on my soul. I cannot bear them. O blessed Saviour, take them away with Thy precious blood!"
I prayed with her, and said that, before an hour expires, perhaps you may be happy, and enabled to say, "Jesus is mine." "Oh, I cannot yet sing those dear, precious words! Oh, these dreadful sins oppress me and keep me down! Oh, the devil has fast hold of me! Oh, what shall I do to get this awful load off my soul, my poor soul!"
I said, "Cast your burden on Him who is able and willing to bear it. He invites you—'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. He will save you, and He will give you rest. Remember what He has said, ‘Though your sins be as scarlet,' " &c. Having sung the hymn, "There is a fountain," &c., she seemed much impressed with one verse, which we sung over and over again. It is that one beginning with—"The dying thief rejoiced to see." She now began to be peaceful, and it seemed as if Satan were giving up the struggle in despair, and resigning her to the arms of Jesus, but not without, like the evil spirit that our Saviour cast out, having rent her sore before he departed.
No pen could describe the anguish of this poor soul. But, oh, what a change was on her now! "Where before the blackness of despair had reigned, all seemed peace and joy; and her smile was that of Heaven, when she said, "Now I can say, 'Jesus is mine.' I have a hold of my Saviour now; He has taken away this load of sins off my poor soul."
"Where are they gone?" I asked. She answered, "Down, down, down beneath my feet; and they will never now rise up in judgment against me." Oh! it was delightful to hear the thankful outpourings of her heart to God for taking away her sins and relieving her sin-stricken soul. This scene shewed in true colours the dread reality of sin.
Many other instances might be given of persons being convicted by the words of the hymns, or whilst in the act of essaying to sing. At such times, the work of the Spirit of God seems greatest, not in opening, but in closing the lips. It is very solemn when many in a congregation are so convicted. The tearful eye, the silent voice, the drooping head, the trembling limb, are visible to all.
During last spring, a young Christian mother, a widow, took up her residence for a while on one of the more retired shores of our bay. She had her two little ones with her. One of them, five and a-half years old, is thus described:—“Her lips CLOSED at the words, 'Heaven is my home;' for she said, 'I am not sure that Heaven is my home.' She was first awakened on board the Cambria one Sabbath afternoon, when her conviction became very deep. For days after, instead of dreaming falsely of Heaven, she thought only of being lost. To her mother she said, ‘Mother, I am afraid I am going down to hell; I'm afraid I shall be lost.' She wished her mother to pray, and then she said, 'I'll pray, but only a fisper' All her mother could catch was, 'Lord, bless me;' 'Lord, bless me,' in a craving little voice. She arose calmer, but her face looked saddened over with emotion. Her mother gave her that passage, 'Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out;' and she eagerly caught at the word for her own need, saying, 'HER that cometh to me,' &c. 'I long to come to Jesus,' she would say, 'for He says, NOW, NOW, NOW.' "
Her mother also quoted, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." These texts she asked to have repeated to her over and over again, while accompanying her mother to the train. On her way, she begged a large Testament, and she found the name of Jesus with great delight.
Some days after, with a bright face, she said, "Mother, I've no greater joy than to love Jesus. He loves me. While you prayed beside me this morning, I first knew Jesus loved me; and now I know 'earth is a desert drear,' because 'Heaven is my home.' "
Such, then, is the beginning of this time of awakening; its end is not yet; the cloud is increasing on every hand, and some riper day may indicate the result. Meanwhile, these are but parts of a great whole. The spiritual awakenings are all the work of the God of all grace and are parts of the one great scheme in which are united, according to the everlasting covenant, the blessing of man and His own supreme glory.
A solemn voice comes from this subject, of deep concern to professors. Life as well as light makes manifest. It is in grace as in nature. In the depth of winter, all the trees of the forest appear alike; but when spring comes, and summer puts on its leafy glory and beauty, the dead are revealed—monuments of desolation.
Thus an awakening in religion shews who are cold and who warm—who are "neither cold nor hot;" and this not by visions or dreams, but by the existence of realities, in contrast with which mere semblances are as nothing. The semblance of divine peace, or joy, or assurance, is seen to be such in the presence of reality.
A voice of equal solemnity and significance comes to the unconverted. For if the righteous are scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear? How can they escape if they neglect so great salvation? The door of salvation was never more open to them than now. But the day is far spent, and the night is at hand. When once the Master of the house hath risen up and shut to the door, it will be too late to say, "Lord! Lord! open to us." Ah! then that one word, "us," will indicate reality; but, oh! a dreadful reality will it be then; for—
"The day of grace is past and gone;
Trembling they stand before His throne,
All unprepared to meet Him."
Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation. Come to Jesus; His arms are yet outstretched. They will ere long be closed. If within their embrace, all is well; if not, dreadful, dreadful! He now invites, saying, "Come to ME." Yes, "Come TO ME," is the voice of the Saviour to you now, in this time of refreshing.
Oh, then, "whilst ye have the light, believe in the light, and ye shall be children of the light."
And now, in conclusion, what shall we say who are instruments in this work? What but lie down in the very dust before the precious rain from the presence of the Lord, admiring the actual power of the Holy Spirit, and loving and praising the great and "worthy" name of Jesus. For, oh! it is all of Him, and to Him we would adoringly ascribe it.
What can we do but sit at His Cross, declaring, with "the chosen vessel" of old, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." What shall we do but add to our sense of union with Christ, the close and constant joy of communion? Many, through Divine grace, have union with Christ, who know but little of communion with Him. It is in communion with Jesus that we may expect to be made the channels of that grace and mercy which come from Him, and which He gives through His people for the salvation of perishing men.
J. DENHAM SMITH, KINGSTOWN, DUBLIN.
"Authentic Records of Revival..." Wm. Reid 1860