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"The stripling youth of plump, unseared hope.'
to wring • The last sweet drop from sorrow's cup of gall.' Such flowers as these are abundant throughout the work.
The general system respecting God's character and moral government of his creatures, on which the poem is founded, is, as we believe, altogether opposed to truth, and abhorrent to all our better affections and principles, to all that is excellent in our nature. If so, it must be eminently unpoetical. The writer's conceptions of the great objects and events which he means to describe, as for instance of the day of judgment, are after the most ordinary fashion. His philosophy consists, in general, of trite thoughts either false in themselves, or stated so broadly, and so without limitation, as to become false and paradoxical. The miscellaneous materials of his work have little mutual relation, and scarcely more claim to be considered as constituting one poem, than what arises from their being printed consecutively in one volume. What precedes gives no impulse to the reader to go on to what follows. There is no increase of interest as we make progress.
It is only the remarkable popularity of this poem, which could have entitled it to so long a notice. This popularity has probably arisen principally from its theological character. The doctrines, on which it is founded, have, we believe, an equal tendency to debase the understanding, and the powers of genius, to counteract all true refinement of feeling, and to corrupt the taste in literature as well as morals. We ought to add, what we also believe, that this tendency is often controlled by other influences. The poem, perhaps, has found a favorable reception, because it bears a certain religious character, and is at the same time, less wearisome and distasteful, than most other books which present the same views and inculcate the same doctrines.
ART. VI.-1. Letters of an English Traveller to his Friend
in England, on the 'Revivals of Religion' in America. Bos
ton. Bowles and Dearborn. 1828. 18mo. pp. 142. 2. A Sermon, preached in the Presbyterian Church at Troy,
March 4, 1827. By the Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY. Phila
delphia. 1827. 8vo. pp. 16. 3. Letters of the Rev. Dr Beecher and Rev. Mr Nettleton,
on the New Measures' in conducting Revivals of Religion. With a Review of a Sermon, by NovAnglus. New York.
G. & C. Carvill. 1828. 8vo. pp. 104. 4. A Delineation of the Characteristic Features of a Revival
of Religion in Troy, in 1826 and 1827. By J. BROCKWAY, Lay Member of the Congregational Church in Mid
dlebury, Vt., now a Citizen of Troy. Troy. 1827. 8vo. 5. A Contrast of Josephus Brockway's Testimony and Statement. By a BRIEF REMARKER. Troy. 1827. pp:
19. 6. Revivals of Religion, considered as Means of Grace; a
Series of Plain Letters to Candidus, from his friend Hones
tus. Ithaca. 1827. 8vo. 39. 7. The Importance of Revivals as Exhibited in the late Con
vention at New Lebanon, considered in a Brief Review of the Proceedings of that Body. By PHILALETHES. Ithaca. 1827. pp. 19.
THESE publications, with two or three other authorities which we shall cite as we proceed, will enable us to set before our readers some account of the difference which has arisen among the Revivalists, of the merits of the controversy, and of the singular pacification or truce which has been concluded between the parties. In the former series of this journal* we gave some notices of a great religious excitement, which has been agitating the upper counties of New York for the last three or four years; and it is chiefly with a view to continue the history, and bring it down to the present day, that we return to the subject.
We have no reason to suppose that anything we can say will have much effect on the leaders and principal agitators in these religious disturbances; for they are men who seem to have their full share of vanity and ambition, neither of which, they know, can be gratified without keeping up what is termed the Revival System. Probably there are some exceptions, but most of them must certainly be conscious, that they owe their consequence and standing much less to any real superiority of mind, than to the opportunity afforded, in an unnatural and feverish state of society, for the action and display of the only qualities for which they are at all distinguished, a coarse and impassioned eloquence, and some talents for intrigue. Still we trust, that the great body of the people, who cannot be influenced by any of these considerations, and who are generally, at such times, but little more than passive instruments in the hands of their spiritual guides, have not yet so far renounced their good sense and independence, as to be either unwilling or afraid to open their eyes on the evidence, clearer than day, that they have been misled and betrayed. In the moment of excitement, when their passions were up, and they were committed in a thousand
* No. for May and June, 1827.
and in some sense pledged to the measure as a party measure, to have attempted to convince or persuade them would have been labor thrown away.
But now that the fever has subsided, and they have had time to reflect, and look back on the mortifying issue of the revival, and the bitterness and disunion it has generated even among its original friends and supporters, it cannot be that a calm, serious, and impartial discussion of the subject will be lost on a community remarkable for intelligence and sound judgment.
The revival question ought to be treated, and we are convinced will be more and more, as a merely practical question, respecting which Christians who differ most in regard to doctrines, may be perfectly agreed. The Christians, so called, are understood to be with but few exceptions Unitarian; and yet no sect in this country has availed itself to a greater degree of revival measures in gaining influence and numbers; or conducted them, for the most part, more judiciously, or more successfully. The Methodists also are now, and always have been, decidedly and avowedly Arminian; and yet to them belongs the responsibility, not indeed of introducing revivals in the first instance, but of reducing them to a system, and the process of getting them up to a science, and almost to a distinct profession. On the other hand, it is quite a recent thing for the great body of proper Calvinists, either in this country, or in Europe, to look on these local excitements as being any better than a kind of epidemic enthusiasm, favored and promoted by some of the more ignorant and fanatical sects. At this moment the opposition to revivals is far from being confined to the Unitarians of New England, but is carried on, certainly with as much earnestness, and in general, we must think, with less candor and discrimination, by the Catholics throughout the country, by most Lutherans, by the High Church party among the Episcopalians, and by the Quakers and Universalists to a man. Nay, it is believed that a majority of the judicious and well disposed among the Presbyterians and Orthodox Congregationalists, are now convinced that the experiment has been fairly tried, and that the result has proved the measure to be essentially bad, or at least so extremely dangerous, that no enlightened friend of good order and decency can wish to see it repeated. These facts show how much confidence is to be reposed in those, who still persist in maintaining, that revivals are the peculiar and spontaneous fruit of Orthodoxy, that they are never suspected and condemned but by infidels, scoffers, and Unitarians, and that opposition to them always indicates enmity to what are termed doctrines of grace, and vital godliness.
We are aware, that, to some at least, the whole subject is becoming trite and ungrateful; but we entirely accord with a writer in one of the pamphlets before us, a friend of Mr Nettleton, as to all attempts which have been made, or can be made, to hush up this controversy.
"I think that those who are for stopping the discussion, are in a mistake respecting the true policy in the case.
I think much of Cotton Mather's warning: “There was a town called Amyclæ, which was ruined by silence. The rulers, because there had been some false alarms, forbade all people, under pain of death, to speak of any enemies approaching them: so, when the enemies came indeed, no man durst speak of it, and the town was lost. Corruptions will grow upon the land, and they will gain by silence. It will be so invidious to do it
, no man will dare to speak of the corruptions; and the fate of Amyclæ will come upon the land." Letters on the New Measures,'
pp. 24, 25.
Disputes on speculative points dwindle almost into insignificance, in our view, when compared with this momentous question as to the best means by which religion, considered as a practical principle, may be diffused in the community, and its tone elevated and purified. Let none fear that the controversy, if properly conducted, will bring religion itself under suspicion, by lifting the veil from the errors and delusions, with which it has been sometimes associated. Astronomy, chemistry, and medicine did not suffer from an exposure of the follies and absurdities of astrologers and alchymists. Everybody knows, indeed, that the best things may be abused; and also that abuses of the best things are often the worst things. Besides, though the general sentiment at this moment may be against revivals, we cannot be sure it will last; nay, we have no reason to expect it will last long, if founded merely on recent mortification and disappointment, or on sudden disgusts, and not on inquiry and reflection, and a thorough understanding of the whole subject. It is said that these excitements, when managed judiciously, may be made to recur once in about three years, according to some; and once in about seven, according to others; that is, the people, after such an interval, will allow the necessary measures to be repeated, and the same or similar effects will follow. But when they are managed badly, and are attended with great and scandalous excesses, it takes, of course, a much longer time for the people to forget the impositions which have been practised on them, and the utter futility of all such attempts, so far as experience has yet gone, to improve the public morals. We wish to prevent, altogether, periodical returns of a popular delusion of this description; and to do so it is not enough to publish single outrages to which it has led, but we must also show that the system itself is unsound, and that these outrages are its natural and proper results, and not merely incidental.
This bitter and awkward schism among those who are still understood to favor what is termed the Revival Cause, presents moreover an interesting subject of investigation, apart from its moral bearings, and considered merely as a singular revolution in the history of parties, for which we are to account, as we easily can, on philosophical principles. We shall not volunteer our services as umpire in this quarrel, but content ourselves with proving that the more temperate, perhaps we ought to say the more politic party, have made their practice more consistent with reason and propriety, by making it less so with the revival system; and, on the other hand, that their opponents have effectually exposed and refuted the system by showing to what it must lead, if fully and honestly acted out. At the same time it is but justice to the Revivalists of New England to say,