The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From The Baptist Pulpit of the United States, 1860
The providence of God developed his purpose of mercy, and called forth human action. The agency of the church followed in the wake of Divine influence. In all these precious seasons of ingathering to the church of God, he led the way. He put his own sheep forth, but he went before them, and it was their joy and pleasure to follow him.
The agency of the Holy Spirit was signally manifest in preparing the saints for their duty, and delightful labor in these revival seasons, and in reproving sinners for their unbelief, and in quickening and raising them up, prepared to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
The means employed were prayer, the ministration of the gospel, and ordinances of God's house, and exhortations, both from experienced Christians and young-converts. All this was combined with united extensive Christian effort put forth in visiting from house to house, connected with personal appeals and fervent prayer, as far as practicable in every family.
The saints in addresses to the people, whether in the public exhibitions of the gospel, or in their social exhortations in the conference room and family visits, did not approach them in a menacing tone, bearing down upon the impenitent, or backsliders, with a fault-finding, or even commanding style; but with that penitent subdued, affectionate, and expostulating manner, which reached the heart through the understanding. Or, if it did not reach the heart at once, it convinced the judgment, that the appeal was made by a friend, and from the best motives, while it was sustained by the most weighty reasons.
Instead of descending on the soul like an avalanche, carrying all before it with frowns and terrors, the address seemed to come up with the breathings of a heart stationed tear the cross, or throne of God, with melting accents of kind entreaty, showing they were prompted by the Holy Spirit; so the proud sinner was reached, like Zaccheus in the tree, and called upon to come down, while the spirit and humble demeanor of the person who addressed him, presented a striking contrast to his own character, and seemed to challenge imitation.
The preaching in those revivals was distinctly marked with that truth which vindicated God's government over his creatures, and charged the sinner with the guilt of violating his holy law. It was that kind of preaching which seemed more careful to please God than to be approved of men - which showed the sinner that while his misery was the result of his own choice, his salvation and ultimate happiness depended entirely on God's choice. Of course, it was his only hope and indispensable duty to repent and believe the gospel, and look to God through the atonement of Christ for pardon and justification as an act of his sovereign grace.
Convictions of sin were deep and pungent, both in saints and sinners, and at times it was hard to know in which they excelled, for backsliders returned in deed and in truth, and not in word only. The conviction of the sinner arose at first from a sight of his life. He had done wrong, and he feared justice, and awfully trembled in view of hell. But he soon saw his heart was worse, much worse than his life had been, and was the seat of the difficulty.
For it was enmity against God—that the imaginations of the thoughts of the heart were evil, and had been evil continually, and therefore there was no hope but in the mercy of God. Truth led them to discover that nothing but the righteousness of Christ imputed to them could give them such a character as they needed for acceptance with God, and even to enjoy pleasure themselves.
The length of time conviction of sin continued, and varied from one day to three weeks—generally from one to two weeks. It was not a common thing for a convicted sinner to find peace of mind in public meetings. Few, it is believed, dated their conversion in the conference room, or while others were praying with them. The greater number gained evidence of pardon from God, against whom they had sinned, while they were alone in humble prayer, reading the Bible, or in silent meditation.
The prevailing exercises of the converted were love, joy and peace. Love to God, as the Sovereign of the world; to Christ, as the Saviour of sinners; to the Bible, the people, and service of God. The holy law of God, which was their chief trouble before, now afforded exquisite delight. That very law which they found to be unto death, was now adopted as the rule of life, as the only rule by which they desired to walk; and its statutes became their song. They would often say, "O, how love I thy law, it is my meditation all the day."
But Christ, the blessed Christ, was the theme on which all loved to dwell. Each seemed to vie with the other in adoring, extolling, honoring, loving, and praising Christ. He seemed to occupy most of the thoughts and affections, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth spoke. Christ formed the ground of encouragement, and constituted the chief argument in prayer.
Christ crucified occupied a large place in all the exhortations and addresses, in which the saints gave vent to their feelings in the public assembly, and by which they ought to win back their fellow-sinners from the paths of the destroyer.