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BY REV. NORMAN MACLEOD, D.D.
HE Publishers of this volume in Scotland have done me the honour of requesting me
to introduce it by a short notice explanatory of its contents and of its value to us, who are living amidst all the signs of a “revival.”
The volume contains what we believe to be a perfectly accurate history of the origin and progress of a prayer-meeting, held daily for years in the Old South Chapel of Boston, Massachusetts. Selections are also given from the many narratives which have from time to time been there related, illustrative chiefly of the power of prayer. One meeting is reported in detail, with every verse sung and prayer offered up, so that the reader may thus receive as truthful an impression as words can convey, of the usual proceedings of one of the most famous and influential unions for prayer held in the United States, in connection with “the revival.” The book has, therefore, an interest to us as a mere historical record of facts, and as a faithful tran
script of what is really taking place among our brethren in the United States, during a deeply interesting crisis in their religious life. Viewed in this light, it requires no introduction from us beyond an assurance, founded upon good information derived from various American clergymen, that the volume is authentic, and that its details may be relied upon.
We need not say that we cordially recognise this “ Revival” in America as a most glorious work of the Spirit of God, and that we unite with millions in giving Him the praise, with thankful and glad hearts, for this visitation of mercy to lost sinners and to praying saints. We do this with peculiar gratitude, because we are partaking in Scotland and Ireland of the inexhaustible riches of God's grace; and can now, with stronger faith and warmer love, exclaim, “ Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven : for Thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory !” But, instead of dwelling on the revival in its general aspects, we rather confine our remarks to one or two points, anong many of practical importance suggested to us by the perusal of this volume.
(1.) One thought is the Christian caution which is required, with reference to the judgment we pass as to the manner in which the Spirit of God may be pleased to operate in the conversion of sinners.
There is a tendency to prescribe, as it were, to the Spirit, how He shall act,-or rather to assume, with a confidence which we think unwarranted by the Word of God, that He must work in this way or that, in order to produce those spiritual results in human character, which every Christian recognises to be from Him. We are too apt to form a mould in our own minds, in accordance with which the living Spirit must express or manifest Himself in the souls of individuals or of congregations; and to assume that a certain process of thought and feeling, corresponding, probably, to what we ourselves have experienced or observed, must characterise the history of every one in whom a genuine work of grace has been begun. Thus, one person may insist upon the day or date of conversion being known ; and another, upon a certain series of convictions, fears, hopes, and joys, necessarily occurring, according to a stereotyped succession ; while a third is jealous of any change which can be connected in memory with a sudden transition from darkness to light, accompanied, it may be, by such a storm as shakes both mind and body.
Now, it is well for us to remember that the personal Spirit, who is perfectly wise, loving, righteous, and sovereign, acts towards individuals, congregations, and countries, just as “ He will,” when seeking to glorify the Lord Jesus in human souls. He will not be fettered by man's preconceived and ignorant views as to the best means of accomplishing His purposes. He alone knows the state of each heart, congregation, and country; and, therefore, He alone can determine how His great work can be begun and finished in each or all. What we should consider, rather, is not the how and the when, but the grand fact of the soul's conversion. 6 Grace be with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," must be the sincere expres
sion of every Christian heart, whatever method God's Spirit adopts to produce this blessed result. Accordingly, we see in the New Testament the most varied histories of the conversion of sinners, and which illustrate those that come under our own observation. Thus some persons we have known seem to be Jike John the Baptist, as if holy even from their mother's womb; or like Samuel the child of prayer, to have been "planted” from infancy “in the courts of our God." The Divine seed of a new nature has been planted, we know not when ; and it has grown up, we "know not how.” Some are brought to Christ, like the shepherds of Bethlehem, amidst songs of joy that accompany the proclamation of the glad tidings, and at once praise and bless God for the things they have heard; while others, like Paul going to Damascus, or the jailer at Philippi, are suddenly arrested in their wickedness amidst scenes of terror; or are converted, in instances more rare, at an eleventh hour, like the dying thief but a few minutes after praying to the Saviour on the cross, and almost immediately before meeting Him on the throne. Many have the light suddenly flashed upon them, like the Ethiopian eunuch, while reading the Scriptures; or are led to Christ as Timothy was, who knew the Scriptures from a child, and possessed an “unfeigned faith, which dwelt first in his grandmother Lois, and his mother Eunice.” The Spirit may, again, convert thousands in a few hours ; or “add daily to the Church such as should be saved;" or for a time permit a congregation, “whose number was twelve,” to remain ignorant of almost the elements