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It is admitted, that no passage in the Christian Scriptures actually prohibits slavery; for Christianity, as Paley remarks on this subject, 'soliciting admission into all nations of the world, 'abstained, as behoved it, from intermeddling with the civil in'stitutions of any.' Nor did it denounce the tyranny of Nero. But it expressly forbade the Christian freeman to become a slave by voluntary contract; it authoritatively enjoined the Christian slave to aspire to become a freedman, as well as to glory in his spiritual liberty *; it raised the bond to the same level, in moral dignity, with the free; it immediately multiplied manumissions, and ' operated as an alterative' upon the social system; and, had not its influence been counteracted by those causes which paralysed its own native energy, by deteriorating its purity, it would still more rapidly have produced the extinction of an evil involving the most enormous injustice and the most fatal impolicy.
The influence of slavery upon the social character of the Romans, Mr. Blair shews to have been, in various respects, prejudicial and degrading; and the State was directly exposed, at different periods, to serious dangers from the slaves. He concludes his erudite Inquiry with remarking, that 'on the whole, if 'we consider that several of those corruptions by which Rome • was undermined had their chief source in the institution of 'Slavery, we must necessarily look upon it as one of the main 'causes of the decay of her empire.'
* Nature created man free,' says Bishop Warburton, 'and 'Grace invites him to assert his freedom.' A golden sentence! Christianity has extinguished the Roman slavery and the feudal servitude. Wherever it has had free course, it has vindicated its heaven-born character, by proclaiming liberty to the captive and redemption to the slave. It shall yet triumph over West Indian heathenism and American prejudice; over the strength of avarice and the pride of caste. It will redress the wrongs of the slaves, and compel a recognition of the equal claims of the blacks. If it could loosen the bonds of pagan slavery, shall we doubt the issue of its conflict with the injustice and infatuation of Christian slave-holders?
Art. II. Lectures on Revivals of Religion. By William B. Sprague, D.I).- Pastor of the second Presbyterian Church in Albany. With an Introductory Essay, by the Rev. George Redford, A.M., and the Rev. John Angell James. 12mo. pp. xxiv. 456. Price 5*. 6rf. Glasgow. 1832.
~VTOTHING that the world has ever witnessed, equals the
rapid growth of America. There, in a temporal, us well as
a spiritual sense, a nation is ' born in a day.' The changes which
* Gal. iii. 28. 1 Cor. vii. 22, 23.
men have undergone during the slow lapse of several thousand years, are there seen co-existing, in the same place, and at the same moment. The savage hunter pursues his rude and primitive occupation in the vicinity of the civilization of the nineteenth century. Towns rise up as if by enchantment in the midst of the sylvan wilderness; and rivers that were crossed only by the canoe, are traversed by vessels more wonderful than the self-impelled galleys of Rhadamanthus, that reached their destined haven in spite of the opposition of the winds and the waves.
With a population so rapidly increasing, and so extensively scattered, over boundless tracts of fertility, which are ever luring the wanderers to plunge still deeper into their solitudes, it is difficult to frame institutions, whether civil or religious, that can keep up with a growth so sudden and so unrestricted.
The religious instruction of Europe is stationary, like its population. America, to remain even nominally Christian, requires an advancement of religion, like its victorious progress during the first centuries of primitive Christianity. In Revivals of Religion, the Americans have found a supply adequate to their peculiar wants. And if, with them, the progress of population is wonderful, the multiplication of vital Christians is more wonderful still.
The nature of American Revivals is well described within a short compass, in a passage which occurs in the interesting life of Mr. Bruen; a publication which, in this country, contained some of the earliest notices of Revivals.
'Mr. Whelpley's Church,' Mr. Bruen writes, 'is now greatly revived, and many are under powerful exercises of conviction, and some rejoicing in hope. You will understand the whole matter, if you read what Edwards has written. The occasion of this change in the Wall Street church, has been a day of fasting and prayer, which was appointed in view of the desolations of Zion. They sent their Christian salutations and invitations to other churches, that they might join with them in this observance and free-will offering unto the Lord. On the day appointed, the church was filled to overflow, for six successive hours without intermission. The greater part who were there, we may hope the grace of conversion had taught to pray. The ministers, in succession, gave a brief view of the state of religion in their respective churches, and prayed for an effusion of the Holy Spirit. Such breathless, solemn attention I can scarcely hope again to see in my life among so vast a multitude. When Air. Whelpley arose to address this assembly, in that unpremeditated manner to which he was not used in the pulpit, there was in his whole aspect a bearing and significance, like that of a man consciously in the presence of God. His look was that of one worn out by early labour; the beamings of his countenance were those of a Christian who beheld the throbbings of many Christian hearts. The very tones of his voice, if he had spoken in an unknown tongue, would have been intelligible. He presented to the audience the desolations of that portion of the field of Zion which he cultivated. He besought them to regard the condition of that church, which, as a fruitful bough, had sent its branches over the wall, which were now bearing fruit all around, while at the root there was decay of moistness and verdure. The appeal was so instinct with energy and pathos, that aged men lifted up their voice and wept. This was one of the most solemn seasons I ever witnessed. A blessing has manifestly and immediately followed.'
Mr. Bruen, in the above quotation, refers to Mr. Jonathan Edwards, and with justice, as the standard authority on the subject of Revivals. All works on this subject, written in America, pre-suppose an acquaintance with his writings. Indeed, when Providence was preparing a new opening for the spread of genuine religion, that admirable divine appeared raised up on purpose to separate the precious from the vile, by applying the test of Scripture to the various appearances of conversions. Proceeding on the principles of inductive philosophy, he formed his judgement of causes by the fullest examination of their effects, and has thus bequeathed the most valuable legacy to after times; since the later revivals differ from those witnessed by Edwards, only in having a wider range and more frequent recurrence.
The later American Revivals have hitherto been known in Britain chiefly by detached and broken accounts of them, occasionally extracted from newspapers and magazines. Though received by some persons with the interest due to the importance of the subject, these distant and imperfect rumours were treated by others with a mixture of indifference and incredulity. What all seemed to require, were facts. At this time, 'the History and Character 'of American Revivals' by Mr. Colton, appeared: 'a work,' as has been remarked, 'of which the most objectionable part is the 'title-page,' which was probably 'conferred upon it by some 'bookseller,' not much to the advantage of the publication itself, as it led to the disappointment of many readers, and very unfairly to the Author, who avows in the preface, that, for * a general 'historical narrative,' he was 'altogether unfurnished with the 'necessary documents.' Mr. Colton's is, in truth, an able and spirited work, full of original thought and of heart stirring views of the approaching glories of the kingdom of heaven. It may he so far considered as historical, that it traces the influence of Religious Revivals in America, at the present day, to the noble and devoted spirit of the 'Pilgrim Fathers' of New England, who followed the call of duty and of Providence to a land unknown, and who accounted the promises of God a sufficient portion for themselves and their posterity.
'Indeed, ' observes Mr. Colton,' when I have looked at the flight of the Puritans, as they have been ignominiously termed,—or of our Pilgrim Fathers, as we have reverently called them,—from these shores to that far-off, uninviting, inhospitable continent, as then it was,—I have at
Vol. ix.—N.s. N n
the same time been reminded of the woman in the Apocalypse, who, her child being caught up to God and His throne, herself fled into the wilderness, where she had a place prepared for her of God, that they should feed her there. God has indeed brought a vine out of Egypt, and cast out the heathen, and planted it. He has prepared room before it, and caused it to take deep root. And lo! it has filled the land. The hills are covered with the shadow of it, and the boughs thereof arc like the goodly cedars. She hath sent out her boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river.' Am. Revivals, 2d. ed., pp. 42— 43.
One thing may be remarked of Mr. Cotton's book, that it is evidently the work of one who has seen religion under more favourable circumstances than we have had the opportunity to do. His views are too glowing for our colder climate, as yet; but Mr. Colton is on the progressive and victorious side. What is an over-estimate now, will become the sober truth in the lapse of twenty or thirty fleeting years. In the prophetic writings, the present and the future are blended, fur the commandment is gone forth, and the corresponding event must follow. The following observations on Public Opinion are as eloquent as they are just. The conclusion is not altogether applicable to our country: we wish it may be so to America.
'If there be anything in this lower creation with which men have to do, and which has to do with men, and yet too ghostly to be made the subject of a definition, it is Public Opinion. Though we cannot tell what it is, no one doubts its existence: though it does not present itself in palpable forms, all men feel it. Its secret and invisible influence operates on every mind, and modifies every one's conduct. It has ubiquity, and a species of omniscience; and there is no power on earth so stern in its character, so steady, so energetic, so irresistible in its sway. Every other power must do homage at its altar, and ask leave to be. The thrones of kings stand by its permission, and fall at its beck. It is a power that lives, while men die, —and builds and fortifies its entrenchments on the graves of the generations of this world. With every substantial improvement of society, itself improves; with every advancement of society, itself plants its station there, and builds upon it, and never yields. Time and the revolutions of this world are alike and equally its auxiliaries, and contribute by their influence to its maturity and increasing vigour. And this is the power which has adopted Christianity, and sets itself up its advocate and defender, in the hands of an Almighty Providence!' Am. Revivals, 2d. ed., p. 143—144.
In Dr. Sprague's "Lectures on Revivals," we possess a work of the highest authority. Dr. Woods may be considered as speaking not only his own sentiments, but the opinion of the American divines in general, when he writes: 'I regard it as a 'circumstance highly auspicious to the cause of revivals, and to 'all the interests of religion, that the Author has, through the * grace of God, been enabled to write and preach a series of 'lectures so judicious, candid, and impressive, and what is still 'more important, so scriptural; and that he has consented to give 'them to the public.' The only fault we have to find with Dr. Sprague, is, that he has no faults. It is the business of a critic to find fault, but, as far as Dr. Sprague is concerned, our occupation is gone. As this work is likely to become classical upon the subject, and, both from its own merits and from the attractive form in which it is here presented to the British public, with two admirable essays prefixed by Mr. James and Mr. lledford, promises to have as general a circulation in this country, as it has obtained in America, there is the less need that we should make many extracts from it; but a few portions we cannot resist the pleasure of citing. The summary of former revivals is excellent for its brevity and clearness.
'You have already seen, that, instead of being of recent origin, they go back to an early period in the Jewish dispensation; and, passing from the records of inspiration, we find that revivals have existed, with a greater or less degree of power, especially in the later periods of the Christian Church. This was emphatically true during the period of the reformation in the sixteenth century. Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, the Low Countries and Britain, were severally visited by copious showers of Divine influence. During the season of the plague in London in 1665, there wag a very general awakening; in which many thousands are said to have been hopefully born of the Spirit. In the early part of the seventeenth century, various parts of Scotland and the north of Ireland were blessed, at different periods, with signal effusions of Divine grace, in which great multitudes gave evidence of being brought out of darkness into marvellous light. During the first half of the last century, under the ministrations of Whitfield, Brainerd, Edwards, Davies, the Tennants, and many other of the holiest and greatest men whose labours have blessed the church, there was a succession of revivals in this country, which caused the wilderness to blossom as the rose, and the desert to put on the appearance of the garden of the Lord. And when these revivals declined, and the church settled back into the sluggish state from which she had been raised, then commenced her decline in purity, in discipline, in doctrine, in all with which her prosperity is intimately connected. And this state of things continued, only becoming worse and worse, until, a little before the beginning of the present century, the spirit of revivals again burst forth, and has since that period richly blessed, especially, our American Church.' Sprague on Revivals, pp. 56, 57
The following is a conclusive answer to objections which prevail still more in Britain, than in America.
'But let us enquire a little further, why the old and quick way, as it is often represented, of becoming religious, is the best. If you mean that you prefer that state of religion in which the dews of Divine