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the Sixth Anniversary has just now been celebrated with the voice of supplication, thanksgiving and praise.”
OUR REVIVAL SKETCHES PROCEED.
“The fire from heaven that kindled the flame then, spread rapidly in all directions. The call to prayer became louder throughout the city than it ever was before. It daily filled some of the largest churches; it gathered thousands into one of the vast theatres ; it reached the Free Academy; the fire and the police departments opened their doors for daily prayer.
Rooms were opened by merchants in their stores, in which their clerks met for prayer; and the waiters in one of the large hotels had their daily prayer-meeting. Even Jews participated in the great revival movement, and attended the meetings in various parts of the city. Such, in brief, was the commencement of this marvellous work of the Spirit. The oldest Christians stood still and exclaimed, 'We never saw it on this fashion;' and may I not ask, Who ever did ? Of such a simultaneous movement we have no recorded example.
“2. They were Union prayer-meetings, attended by all who chose, without respect to denominational differences. This was a new feature in the revival. The middle walls of partition had never before been so thoroughly broken down. Evangelical Christians of every name found they could come together and pray for the outpouring of the Spirit without any sacrifice of church order, and were astonished that they had not sooner found out 'how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity' at a throne of grace. O, how it liberalized the sectarian spirit! how it enlarged the heart! how it tended to unite the whole household of faith in one common brotherhood! Let it be our united prayer, that Satan may never more get an advantage of us by rebuilding the walls which have so long kept us apart to our mutual discredit and loss. Have we not all one Lord, one faith, one God and Father, who is above all, through all, and in us all? And shall we ever hesitate to unite in praying for the descent of the Holy Spirit, whenever and wherever we can enjoy the privilege ?
“3. Another remarkable feature in this revival, is the rapidity with which the spirit of united prayer spread from city to city, and from State to State, gathering the vast multitudes who, in a few weeks, were everywhere seen crowding the meetings, giving unmistakable evidence that God was in the midst of them. His presence and power were manifest as never before, in making New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and almost all our large cities centres of this great movement, radiating the spiritual light and warmth which they were first to enjoy, upon all the regions round about. Thus the united prayer-meetings and the revivals spread with wonderful rapidity to hundreds of places, from the centre to the circumference. It has been variously estimated that there were within one year, between three and five hundred thousand converts.
“ 4. The earth came in and helped the woman as never before since she fled from the great red dragon into the wilderness. Thirty years ago, it was difficult to get even a short paragraph of religious intelligence into a secular city paper. Such a thing as a notice of a revival, we may almost say, was never heard of through such a channel. The best that could be done was chiefly accomplished with singular tact and perseverance by a minister well and widely known at the time, as bent on doing good in every possible way. At first it was a volunteer and gratuitous service, collecting and writing out short articles, handing them to the editors, and getting them inserted more as special favors to the man, than to their readers and patrons. Finding how much good he was doing in this way, a number of religious men contributed moderate sums to sustain him, and this was all that could be done to reach the masses of newspaper readers. I believe I might say it took a whole year to get the amount of two columns into any secular city paper, when revivals in almost every part of the country were going on with mighty power.
"But how astonishing the change! Scarcely had the Union prayer-meetings been set up in New York, Boston, and other cities, when the same papers, of their own accord, devoted whole, closely-crowded columns, weekly and daily, to this new religious phenomenon, vying with each other who should most minutely chronicle the progress of these meetings, and spread the news widest. In fact, for some time, they took the lead of the religious papers in this department of intelligence. The change was so sudden and so surprising, that we could hardly believe our own eyes in reading the dailies. This was a great advance upon what had ever before been witnessed."
We remember, very distinctly, that, when in the convention at Xenia, Ohio, May, 1858, a reporter from Cincinnati, for the Gazette, manifested a deep interest in the proceedings of the meeting, especially in the religious devotions. With commendable respect for the worship, he always laid down his pencil and took part with the worshipers in the prayers and singing. Often he appeared delighted to ecstasy. So much was he moved by the songs of praise, in which he with earnest and full voice joined, that during an interval of the convention he called in a book store, and asked for a copy of the soul-moving hymns sung in the meetings. The bookseller replied, “Sir, you have those hymns in your Bible. They are just the Book of Psalms in an old metrical version, used by the churches represented in the convention." Here he remarked with deep interest, that he had never heard sung songs so fully appropriate to revival meetings. Every morning we had full and interesting reports of the doings of every preceding day's sessions of the convention.
These things presented to us, and, so far as we know, to every member of the hundreds of the convention, a new and strange feature of the times-strange to see so deep and earnest an interest in the political press in those solemn and soul-stirring exercises. And this was the more remarkable, as that period was one of most intense political excitement.
And here we feel constrained to add to the sketch of the times immediately preceding this revival as drawn by the author of Revival Sketches, as already so largely quoted. That was an epoch not only of financial excitement, greatly absorbing the public mind, turning it away from the concerns of eternity and the soul; but it was a time of deep, intense, and all-absorbing political stir. Perhaps never since the French Revolution was religion so put to the test as by the political agitations from 1850 to 1860. Much as financial interests affect the human mind, and much as Mammon can steal away the heart from Christ, yet there is one other thing which more deeply and more firmly takes hold of human nature as an absorbing and controlling power, which sometimes overrides all other temporal interests. The love of gain could never have plunged this country into the late rebellion and civil war. But the maddening spell of political excitement did so involve this country. She was in the whirlpool of an incipient civil struggle, just at the very time the Spirit of God was poured out on this land, so that just from the scenes of the prayermeeting were hundreds of our brave sons summoned to the sanguinary field of fratricidal carnage.
Let it be remembered that the period from 1850 to 1860 is styled by historians as “the era of slave hunting." It was the era of “the Nebraska-Kansas struggle.” It was the era of “ the Dred-Scott case in the Supreme Court.” It was the era of “the pistol and the bludgeon,” in high places and low. It was the era of “Sumner and Brooks' gutta-percha logic,” of blood-stained floor of an American Senate, and freedom of speech lying prostate at the feet of the slave-dealer, in the halls of American legislation. It was the era of “the Impending Crisis,” and of the “Irrepressible Conflict.” It was the era of "the John Brown raid,” and summary execution. It was the era of fierce and war-boding presidential campaigning-Lincoln and Douglas, and Breckenridge and Bell.
How could such a time be favorable to revival and the prayer-meeting? Only as the journey to Damascus, with a heart madly set on the blood and the life of innocent men and women, was an acceptable time with God for the display of the power of his grace in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, a chief sinner.
Yet God chose that dark hour for the display of his grace in reviving the churches--in calling the earnest attention of all classes, in all departments of society-in many countries on the high seas, and in the armies and navies of many nations, to the prayer-meeting; and in such way that the public mind was everywhere turned to those meetings as the centres of interest and influences everywhere felt and acknowledged. From various sources we have abundant testimony to the happy influences of the prayer-meeting among the soldiers of the Union army. The reports of chaplains, of delegates of the Christian Commission, and from many visitors, both ministers and laymen, furnish abundant materials for the history of revival and the inseparable prayer-meeting.