Chapter IV e

The Evils Attending the Revival

Spurious Religious Feelings

These passages give a melancholy account of the results of the great religious excitement now under consideration. In the preceding estimate, Edwards does not speak of those who were merely awakened, or who were for a time the subjects of serious impres­sions, but of those who were regarded as converts. It is of these, he says, that only a small portion proved to be genuine. If this be so, it certainly proves that, apart from the errors and disorders universally reprobated by the judicious friends of the revival, there were serious mistakes committed by those friends themselves. If it was difficult then, it must be much more so now, to detect the causes of the spurious excitement which then so extensively prevailed. Two of these causes, however, are so obvious that they can hardly fail to attract attention. These were laying too much stress on feelings excited through the imagination, and allowing, and indeed encouraging the free and loud manifestation of feeling during public or social worship.

It is one office of the imagination to recall and reconstruct conceptions of any object which affects the senses. It is by this faculty that we form mental images, or lively conceptions of the objects of sense. It is to this power that graphic descriptions of absent or imaginary scenes are addressed ; and it is by the agency of this faculty that oratory, for the most part, exerts its power over the feelings. That a very large portion of the emotions so strongly felt, and so openly expressed during this revival, arose not from spiritual apprehensions of divine truth, but from mere imaginations or mental images, is evident from two sources; first, from the descriptions given of the exercises themselves ; and, secondly, from the avowal of the propriety of this method of exciting feeling in connection with religious subjects. Had we no definite information as to this point, the general account of the effects of the preaching of Whitefield and others would satisfy us that, to a very great extent, the results were to be attributed to no supernatural influence, but to the natural powers of oratory. There is no subject so universally interesting as religion, and therefore there is none which can be made the cause of such general and powerful excitement; yet it cannot be doubted that had Whitefield selected any worthy object of benevolence or patriotism, he would have produced a great commotion in the public mind. When therefore he came to address men on a subject of infinite importance, of the deepest personal concern, we need not be surprised at the effects which he produced. The man who could thaw the icy propriety of Bolingbroke; who could extort gold from Franklin, though armed with a determination to give only copper; or set Hopkinson, for the time being, beside himself; might be expected to con­trol at will the passions of the young, the ignorant, and the excitable. It is far from being denied or questioned that his preaching was, to an extraordinary degree, attended by a divine influence. That influence is needed to account for the repentance, faith, and holiness, which were in a multitude of cases the result of his ministrations. It is not needed, however, to account for the loud outcries, faintings, and bodily agitations which attended his course. These are sufficiently explained by his vivid descriptions of hell, of heaven, of Christ, and a future judgment, addressed to congregated thousands of excited and sympathizing hearers, accompanied by the most stirring appeals to the passions, and all delivered with con­summate skill of voice and manner. It was under such preaching, the people, as he tells us, soon began to melt, to weep, to cry out, and to faint. That a large part of these results was to be attributed to natural causes, can hardly be doubted; yet who could discriminate between what was the work of the orator, and what was the work of the Spirit of God ? Who could tell whether the sorrow, the joy, and the love expressed and felt, were the result of lively imaginations, or of spiritual apprehensions of the truth ? The two classes of exercises were confounded; both passed for genuine, until bitter experience disclosed the mistake. It is evident that Whitefield had no opportunity of making any such discrimina­tion; and that for the time at least, he regarded all meltings, all sorrowing, and all joy following his fervid preaching, as evidence of the divine presence. It is not, however, these general accounts so much as the more particular detail of the exercises of the sub­jects of this revival, which shows how much of the feeling then prevalent was due to the imagination. Thus Edwards speaks of those who had a lively picture in their minds of hell as a dreadful furnace, of Christ as one of glorious majesty and of a sweet and gracious aspect, or as of one hanging on the cross, and blood running from his wounds. Great stress was often laid upon these views of “an outward Christ,” and upon the feeling resulting from such conceptions. Though Edwards was from the beginning fully aware that there was no true religion in such exercises; and though in his work on the Affections, written in 1746, he enters largely on the danger of delusion from this source, it is very evident that at this period he was not properly impressed with a sense of guarding against this evil. Just after stating how commonly such mental pictures were cherished by the people, he adds, “surely such things will not be wondered at by those who have observed, how any strong affections about temporal matters will excite lively ideas and pictures of different things in the mind.” In his sermon on the distinguishing marks of a work of the Spirit of God, he goes much further. He there says, “Such is our nature, that we can­not think of things invisible without some degree of imagination. I dare appeal to any man of the greatest powers of mind, whether he is able to fix his thoughts on God, or Christ, or the things of another world without imaginary ideas attending his meditation.” By imaginary ideas, he means mental images, or pictures.” In the same connection, he adds, “the more engaged the mind is, and the more intense the contemplation and affection, still the more lively and strong will the imaginary idea ordinarily be.” Hence, he insists, “that it is no argument that a work is not a work of the Spirit of God, that some who are the subjects of it, have been in a kind of ecstacy, wherein they have been carried beyond them­selves, and have had their minds transported in a train of strong and pleasing imaginations, and a kind of visions, as though they were rapt up even to heaven, and there saw glorious sights.”

It is not to be denied that there is a legitimate use of the imagination in religion. The Bible often addresses itself to this faculty. The descriptions which it gives of the future glory of the church, and of heaven itself, are little else than a series of images; not that we should conceive of the millennium as of a time when the lion and lamb shall feed together, or of heaven as a golden city, but that we may have a more lively impression of the absence of all destructive passions, when Christ shall reign on earth, and that we may learn to think of heaven as a state of surpassing glory. In all such cases, it is the thought which the figure is meant to convey, and not the figure itself, that the mind rests upon in all truly religious exercises. When, on the other hand, the mind fixes on the image, and not upon the thought, and inflames itself with these imaginations, the result is mere curious excitement. So far then as the imagination is used to render the thoughts which the under­standing forms of spiritual things distinct and vivid, so far may it minister to our religious improvement. But when it is made a mere chamber of imagery, in which the soul alarms or delights itself with spectres, it becomes the source of all manner of delusions.

It may still further be admitted, that images borrowed from sensible objects often mix with and disturb the truly spiritual contemplations of the Christian, but this is very different from teaching that we cannot think of God, or Christ, or spiritual subjects, without some pictorial representations of them. If such is the constitution of our nature that we must have such imaginary ideas of God himself, then we ought to have and to cherish them. But by the definition, these ideas are nothing but the reproduction and varied combinations of past impressions on the senses. To say, therefore, that we must have such ideas of God, is to say that we must conceive of him and worship him under some corporeal form, which is nothing but refined idolatry, and is as much forbidden as the worship of stocks or stones. It certainly needs no argument to show that we cannot form any pictorial representation of a spirit, and least of all, of God ; or that such representations of Christ or heaven cannot be the source of any truly religious affections. What have such mental images to do with the apprehension of the evil of sin, of the beauty of holiness, of the mercy of God, of the merits of Christ, or with any of those truths on which the mind acts when under the influence of the Spirit of God?

From the accounts of this revival already quoted, from the detail given of the experience of many of its subjects, and especially from the arguments and apologies just referred to, it is evident that one great source of the false religion, which, it is admitted, then pre­vailed, was the countenance given to these impressions on the ima­gination and to the feelings thus excited. It was in vain to tell the people they must distinguish between what was imaginary and what was spiritual; that there was no religion in these lively mental images, when they were at the same time told that it was necessary they should have them, and that the more intense the religious affection, the more vivid would these pictures be. Under such instruction they would strive to form such imaginations; they would doat on them, inflame themselves with them, and consider the vividness of the image, and the violence of the consequent emotion, as the measure of their religious attainment. How deeply sensible Edwards became of the evil which actually arose from this source, may be learned from his work on the Affections. When an “affection arises from the imagination, and is built upon it, as its foundation, instead of a spiritual illumination or discovery, then is the affection, however elevated, worthless and vain.” And in another place he says, “When the Spirit of God is poured out, to begin a glorious work, then the old Serpent, as fast as possible, and by all means, introduces this bastard religion, and mingles it with the true ; which has from time to time, brought all things into confusion. The pernicious consequence of it is not easily imagined or conceived of, until we see and are amazed with the awful effects of it, and the dismal desolation it has made. If the revival of true religion be very great in its beginning, yet if this bastard comes in, there is danger of its doing as Gideon’s bastard, Abimelech, did, who never left until he had slain all his threescore and ten true‑born sons, excepting one, that was forced to flee. The imagination or phantasy seems to be that wherein are formed all those delusions of Satan, which those are carried away with, who are under the influence of false religion, and counterfeit graces and affections. Here is the devil’s grand lurking place, the very nest of foul and delusive spirits.”

If Edwards, who was facile princeps among the friends of this revival, could, during its early stages, fall into the error of countenancing the delusions which he afterwards so severely condemned, what could be expected of Whitefield and others, who at this time, (dates must not be neglected, a few years made a great difference both in persons and things,) passed rapidly from place to place, neither making nor being able to make, the least distinction between the effects of an excited imagination, and the exercises of genuine religion? That they would test the experience of their converts by its fruits, is not denied; but that they considered all the commotions which attended their ministrations, as proofs of the Spirit’s presence, is evident from their indiscriminate rejoicing over all such manifestations of feeling. These violent agitations produced through the medium of the imagination, though sufficiently prevalent, during the revival in this country, were perhaps still more frequent in England, under the ministrations of Wesley, and, combined with certain peculiarities of his system, have given to the religion of the Methodists its peculiar, and, so far as it is peculiar, its undesirable characteristic.

Outcryings, Faintings, Bodily Agitations, Etc.

Another serious evil was the encouragement given to loud out­cries, faintings, and bodily agitations during the time of public worship. It is remarkable that these effects of the excitement prevailed generally, not only in this country, but also in Scotland and England. The fanatical portion of the friends of the revival not only encouraged these exhibitions, but regarded them as proofs of the presence and power of the Spirit of God. The more judicious never went to this extreme, though most of them regarded them with favour. This was the case with Whitefield, Edwards, and Blair.

The manner in which Whitefield describes the scenes at Nottingham and Fagg’s Manor, and others of a similar character, shows that he did not disapprove of these agitations. He says he never saw a more glorious sight, than when the people were fainting all round him, and crying out in such a manner as to drown his own voice. Edwards took them decidedly under his protection. He not only mentions, without the slightest indication of disapprobation, that his church was often filled with outcries, faintings, and convulsions, but takes great pains to vindicate the revival from all objection on that account. Though such effects were not, in his view, any decisive evidence of the kind of influence by which they were produced, he contended that it was easy to account for their being produced by a “right influence and a proper sense of things.” He says, ministers are not to be blamed for speaking of these things “as probable tokens of God’s presence, and argu­ments of the success of preaching, because I think they are so indeed. I confess that when I see a great outcry in a congregation, I rejoice in it much more than merely in an appearance of solemn attention, and a show of affection by weeping. To rejoice that the work of God is carried on calmly and without much ado, is in effect to rejoice that it is carried on with less power, or that there is not so much of the influence of God’s Spirit.” In the same connection he says, that when these outcries, faintings, and other bodily effects attended the preaching of the truth, he did not “scruple to speak of them, to rejoice in them, and bless God for them,” as probable tokens of his presence.

The Boston ministers, on the other hand, appear to have disapproved of these things entirely, as they mention their satisfaction that there had been little or nothing of such ” blemishes of the work” among their churches. The same view was taken of them by President Dickinson, William Tennent, of Freehold, and many others.

That the fanatics, who regarded these bodily agitations and out­cries as evidences of conversion, committed a great and dangerous mistake, need not be argued ; and that Edwards and others, who rejoiced over and encouraged them, as probable tokens of the favour of God, fell into an error scarcely less injurious to religion, will, at the present day, hardly be questioned. That such effects frequently attend religious excitements is no proof that they pro­ceed from a good source. They may owe their origin to the cor­rupt, or at least merely natural feelings, which always mingle, to a greater or less degree, with strong religious exercises. It is a matter of great practical importance to learn what is the true cause of these effects ; to ascertain whether they proceed from those feelings which are produced by the Spirit of God, or from those which arise from other sources. If the former, we ought to rejoice over them ; if the latter, they ought to be repressed and discountenanced.

That such bodily agitations owe their origin not to any divine influence, but to natural causes, may be inferred from the fact that these latter are adequate to their production. They are not con­fined to those persons whose subsequent conduct proves them to be the subjects of the grace of God; but, to say the least, are quite as frequently experienced by those who know nothing of true religion. Instead, therefore, of being referred to those feelings which are peculiar to the people of God, they may safely be re­ferred to those which are common to them and to unrenewed men. Besides, such effects are not peculiar to what we call revivals of religion; they have prevailed, in seasons of general excitement, in all ages and in all parts of the world, among pagans, papists, arid every sect of fanatics which has ever disgraced the Christian church. We are, therefore, not called upon to regard such things with much favour, or to look upon them as probable tokens of the presence of God. That the bodily agitations attendant on revivals of religion are of the same nature, and attributable to the same cause, as the convulsions of enthusiasts, is in the highest degree probable, because they arise under the same circumstances, are propagated by the same means, and cured by the same treatment. They arise in seasons of great, and especially of general excitement; they, in a great majority of cases, affect the ignorant rather than the enlightened, those in whom the imagination predominates over the reason, and especially those who are of a nervous temperament, rather than those of an opposite character. These affections all propagate themselves by a kind of infection. This circumstance is characteristic of this whole class of nervous diseases. Physicians enumerate among the causes of epilepsy “seeing a person in convulsions.” This fact was so well known, that the Romans made a law, that if any one should be seized with epilepsy during the meeting of the comitia, the assembly should be immediately dissolved. This disease occurred so frequently in those exciting meetings, and was propagated so rapidly, that it was called the morbus comitialis. Among the enthusiasts who frequented the tomb of the Abbe Paris, in the early part of the last century, convulsions were of frequent occurrence, and never failed to prove infectious. During a religious celebration in the church of Saint Roch, at Paris, a young lady was seized with convulsions, and within half an hour between fifty and sixty were similarly affected. A multitude of facts of the same kind might be adduced. Sometimes such affections become epidemic, spreading over whole pro­vinces. In the fifteenth century, a violent nervous disease, attended with convulsions, and other analogous symptoms, extended over a great part of Germany, especially affecting the inmates of the convents. In the next century something of the same kind prevailed extensively in the south of France. These affections were then regarded as the result of demoniacal possessions, and in some instances, multitudes of poor creatures were put to death as demoniacs.

The bodily agitations attending the revival, were in like manner propagated by infection. On their first appearance in Northampton, a few persons were seized at an evening meeting, and while others looked on they soon became similarly affected; even those who appear to have come merely out of curiosity did not escape. The same thing was observable at Nottingham, Fagg’s Manor, and other places, under the preaching of Whitefield. It was no less obvious in Scotland. It was exceedingly rare for any one to be thus affected in private; but in the public meetings, when one person was seized, others soon caught the infection. In England, where these affections were regarded at least at first, by Wesley, as coming from God, and proofs of his favour, they were very violent, and spread with great rapidity, seizing, at times, upon opposers as well as friends. Thus on one occasion, it is stated, that a Quaker who was present at one meeting, and inveighed against what he called the dissimulation of these creatures, caught the contagious emotion himself, and even while he was biting his lips and knitting his brows, dropt down as if he had been struck by lightning. “The agony he was in,” says Wesley, ” was even terrible to behold; we besought God not to lay folly to his charge, and he soon lifted up his head and cried aloud, ‘Now I know thou art a prophet of the Lord.” On another occasion, under the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Berridge, a man who had been mocking and mimicking others in their convulsions, was himself seized. “He was,” says the narrator, “the most horrible human figure I ever saw. His large wig and hair were coal black, his face distorted beyond all description. He roared incessantly, throwing and clapping his hands together with his whole force. Some of his brother scoffers were calling for horsewhips, till they saw him extended on his back at full length; they then said he was dead; and indeed the only sign of life was the working of his breast, and the distortions of his face, while the veins of his neck were swelled as if ready to burst. His agonies lasted some hours; then his body and soul were eased.” “At another meeting,” he says, “a stranger who stood facing me, fell backward to the wall, then forward on his knees, wringing his hands and roaring like a bull. His face at first turned quite red, then almost black. He rose and ran against the wall, till Mr. Keeling and another held him. He screamed out, ‘Oh ! what shall I do ! what shall I do! oh, for one drop of the blood of Christ!’ As he spoke, God set his soul at liberty; he knew his sins were blotted out; and the rapture he was in seemed too great for human nature to bear.” “One woman tore up the ground with her hands, filling them with dust and with the hard trodden grass, on which I saw her lie as one dead. Some continued long, as if they were dead, but with a calm sweetness in their looks. I saw one who lay two or three hours in the open air, and being then carried into the house, continued insensible another hour, as if actually dead. The first sign of life she showed, was a rapture of praise intermixed with a small joyous laughter.” These accounts, however, must be read in detail, in order to have any adequate conception of the nature and extent of these dreadful nervous affections. Wesley at one time regarded them as direct intimations of the approbation of God. Preaching at Newgate, he says, he was led insensibly, and without any previous design, to declare strongly and explicitly, that God willed all men to be saved, and to pray that, if this was not the truth of God, he would not suffer the blind to go out of the way; but if it was, he would bear witness to his word. “Immediately one and another sunk to the earth ; they dropt on every side as thunderstruck.” “In the evening I was again pressed in spirit to declare that Christ gave himself a ransom for all. And almost before we called upon him to set to his seal, he answered. One was so wounded by the sword of the Spirit, that you would have imagined she could not live a moment. But immediately his abundant kindness was shown, and she loudly sang of his righteousness.”

The various bodily exercises which attended the Western revivals in our own country, in the early part of the present century, were of the same nature, and obeyed precisely the same laws. They began with what was called the falling exercise; that is, the person affected would fall on the ground helpless as an infant. This was soon succeeded, in many places, by a species of convulsions called the jerks. Sometimes it would affect the whole body, jerking it violently from place to place, regardless of all obstacles; at others, a single limb would be thus agitated. When the neck was attacked, the head would be thrown backwards and forwards with the most fearful rapidity. There were various other forms in which this dis­ease manifested itself, such as whirling, rolling, running, and jump­ing. These exercises were evidently involuntary. They were highly infectious, and spread rapidly from place to place; often seizing on mere spectators, and even upon those who abhorred and dreaded them.

Another characteristic of these affections, whether occurring among pagans, papists, or protestants, and which goes to prove their identity, is, that they all yield to the same treatment. As they arise from impressions on the nervous system through the imagination, the remedy is addressed to the imagination. It consists in removing the exciting causes, that is, withdrawing the patient from the scenes and contemplations which produced the dis­ease; or in making a strong counter-impression, either through fear, shame, or sense of duty. The possessions, as they were called, in the south of France, were put a stop to by the wisdom and firmness of certain bishops, who insisted on the separation and seclusion of all the affected. On another occasion, a strange nervous agitation, which had for some time, to the great scandal of religion, seized periodically on all the members of a convent, was arrested by the magistrates bringing up a company of soldiers, and threatening with severe punishment the first who should manifest the least symptom of the affection. The same method has often been successfully resorted to. In like manner the convulsions attending revivals have been prevented or arrested, by producing the conviction that they were wrong or disgraceful. They hardly ever appeared, or at least continued, where they were not approved and encouraged. In Northampton, where Edwards rejoiced over them, they were abundant; in Boston, where they were regarded as “blemishes,” they had nothing of them. In Sutton, Massachusetts, they were “cautiously guarded against,” and consequently never appeared, except among strangers from other congregations. Only two or three cases occurred in Elizabethtown, under President Dickinson, who considered them as “irregular heats,” and those few were speedily regulated. There was nothing of the kind at Freehold, where William Tennent set his face against all such manifestations of enthusiasm. On the other hand, they followed Davenport and other fanatical preachers, almost wherever they went. In Scotland, they were less encouraged than they were here, and consequently prevailed less. In England, where Wesley regarded them as certainly from God, they were fearful both as to frequency and violence. The same thing was observed with regard to the agitations attending the Western revivals. The physician already quoted, says: “Restraint often prevents a paroxysm. For example, persons always attacked by this affection in churches where it is encouraged, will be perfectly calm in churches where it is discouraged, however affecting may be the service, and however great the mental excitement.” It is also worthy of consideration that these bodily affections are of frequent occurrence at the present day, among those who continue to desire and encourage them.

It appears, then, that these nervous agitations are of frequent occurrence in all times of strong excitement. It matters little whether the excitement arise from superstition, fanaticism, or from the preaching of the truth. If the imagination be strongly affected, the nervous system is very apt to be deranged, and outcries, faintings, convulsions, and other hysterical symptoms, are the consequence. That these effects are of the same nature, whatever may be the remote cause, is plain, because the phenomena are the same ; the apparent circumstances of their origin the same; they all have the same infectious nature, and are all cured by the same means. They are, therefore, but different forms of the same disease: and, whether they occur in a convent or a camp-meeting, they are no more a token of the divine favour than hysteria or epilepsy.

It may still be said, that, although they do sometimes arise from other causes, they may be produced by genuine religious feeling. This, however, never can be proved. The fact that undoubted Christians experience these effects, is no proof that they flow from a good source; because there is always a corrupt mixture in the exercises of the most spiritual men. These affections may, therefore, flow from the concomitants of genuine religious feelings, and not from those feelings themselves. And that they do in fact flow from that source, may be assumed, because in other cases they certainly have that origin; and because all the known effects of true religious feelings are of a different character. Those apprehensions of truth which arise from divine illumination, do not affect the imagination, but the moral emotions, which are very different in their nature and effects from the feelings produced by a heated fancy. This view of the subject is greatly confirmed by the consideration, that there is nothing in the Bible to lead us to regard these bodily affections as the legitimate effects of religious feeling. No such results followed the preaching of Christ, or his apostles. We hear of no general outcries, faintings, convulsions, or ravings in the assemblies which they addressed. The scriptural examples cited by the apologists of these exhibitions are so entirely inapplicable, as to be of themselves sufficient to show how little countenance is to be derived from the Bible for such irregularities. Reference is made, for example, to the case of the jailer at Philippi, who fell down at the apostles’ feet; to Acts ii. 37, (“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?”) and to the conversion of Paul. It is, however, too obvious to need remark, that in no one of these cases was either the effect produced, or the circumstances attending its production, analogous to the hysterical convulsions and outcries now under consideration.

The testimony of the Scriptures is not merely negative on this subject. Their authority is directly opposed to all such disorders. They direct that all things should be done decently and in order. They teach us that God is not the God of confusion, but of peace, in all the churches of the saints. These passages have particular reference to the manner of conducting public worship. They forbid every thing which is inconsistent with order, solemnity, and devout attention. It is evident that loud outcries and convulsions are in­consistent with these things, and therefore ought to be discouraged. They cannot come from God, for he is not the author of confusion. The apology made in Corinth for the disorders which Paul condemned, was precisely the same as that urged in defence of these bodily agitations. We ought not to resist the Spirit of God, said the Corinthians ; and so said all those who encouraged these convulsions. Paul’s answer was, that no influence which comes from God de­stroys our self‑control. “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” Even in the case of direct inspiration and revela­tion, the mode of communication was in harmony with our rational nature, and left our powers under the control of reason and the will. The man, therefore, who felt the divine afflatus had no right to give way to it, under circumstances which would produce noise and confusion. The prophets of God were not like the raving Pythoness of the heathen temples; nor are the saints of God converted into whirling dervishes by any influence of which he is the author. There can be little doubt that Paul would have severely reprobated such scenes as frequently occurred during the revival of which we are speaking. He would have said to the people substantially, what he said to the Corinthians. If any unbeliever or igno­rant man come to your assemblies, and hear one shouting in ecstacy, another howling in anguish; if he see some falling, some jumping, some lying in convulsions, others in trances, will he not say, Ye are mad ? But if your exercises are free from confusion, and your discourses addressed to the reason, so as to convince and reprove, he will confess that God is among you of a truth.

Experience, no less than Scripture, has set the seal of reprobation upon these bodily agitations. If they are of the nature of an infectious nervous disease, it is as much an act of infatuation to encourage them, as to endeavour to spread epilepsy over the land. It is easy to excite such things, but when excited, it is very difficult to suppress them, or to arrest their progress ; and they have never prevailed without the most serious mischief. They bring discredit upon religion, they give great advantage to infidels and gainsayers, and they facilitate the progress of fanaticism. When sanctioned, the people delight in them, as they do in all strong excitement. The multitude of spurious conversions, the prevalence of false religion, the rapid progress of fanaticism, and the consequent perma­nent declension of religion immediately after the great revival, are probably to be attributed to the favour shown to these bodily agita­tions, as much as to any one cause.


Besides the errors above specified, which were sanctioned by many of the best friends of the revival, there were others which, though reprobated by the more judicious, became, through the patronage of the more ardent, prolific sources of evil. There was from the first a strong leaven of enthusiasm, manifesting itself in the regard paid to impulses, inspirations, visions, and the pretended power of discerning spirits. This was decidedly opposed by Edwards, by the Boston clergy, by Tennent, and many others. Whitefield, on the contrary, was, especially in the early part of his career, deeply infected with this leaven. When he visited Northampton, in 1740, Edwards endeavoured to convince him of the dangerous tendency of this enthusiastic spirit, but without much success. He had such an idea of what the Scriptures mean by the guidance of the Spirit, as to suppose that by suggestions, impressions, or sudden recollection of texts of the Bible, the Christian’s duty was divinely revealed, even as to the minutest circumstance, and that at times even future events were thus made known. On the strength of such an impression he did not hesitate publicly to declare that his unborn child would prove to be a son. ”An unaccountable but very strong impression,” that he should preach the gospel, was regarded as a revelation of the purpose of God respecting him. The question whether he should return to England was settled to his satisfaction, by the occurrence to his mind of the passage, When Jesus was returned, the people gladly received him. These few examples are enough to illustrate the point in hand.

In Whitefield there was much to counteract the operation of this spirit, which in others produced its legitimate effects. When Davenport was asked by the Boston ministers the reason of any of his acts, his common reply was, God commanded me. When asked whether he was inspired, he answered, they might call it inspiration, or what they pleased. The man who attended him he called his armour-bearer, because he was led to take him as a follower, by opening on the story of Jonathan and his armour-bearer. He considered it also as revealed, that he should convert as many persons at a certain place, as Jonathan and his armour-bearer slew of the Philistines.

This was the only one of the forms in which this spirit manifested itself. Those under its influence pretended to a power of discerning spirits, of deciding at once who was and who was not converted; they professed a perfect assurance of the favour of God, founded not upon scriptural evidence, but inward suggestion. It is plain that when men thus give themselves up to the guidance of secret impressions, and attribute divine authority to suggestions, impulses, and casual occurrences, there is no extreme of error or folly to which they may not be led. They are beyond the control of reason or the word of God. They have a more direct and authoritative communication of the divine will than can be made by any external and general revelation. They of course act as if inspired and infallible. They are commonly filled with spiritual pride, and with a bitter denunciatory spirit. All these results were soon manifested to a lamentable extent during this revival. If an honest man doubted his conversion, he was declared unconverted. If any one was filled with great joy, he was pronounced a child of God. These enthusiasts paid great regard to visions and trances, and would pretend in them to have seen heaven or hell, and particular persons in the one or the other. They paid more attention to inward impressions than to the word of God. They laid great stress on views of an outward Christ, as on a throne, or upon the cross. If they did not feel a minister’s preaching, they maintained he was uncon­verted, or legal. They made light of all meetings in which there was no external commotion. They had a remarkable haughtiness and self-sufficiency, and a fierce and bitter spirit of zeal and censoriousness.

The origin and progress of this fanatical spirit is one of the most instructive portions of the history of this period. In 1726, a religious excitement commenced in New Milford, Connecticut, which was at first of a promising character, but was soon perverted. Its subjects opened a communication with the enthusiasts of Rhode Island, and began to speak slightly of the Bible, especially of the Psalms of David, and to condemn the ministers of the gospel and civil magistrates. They organized themselves into a separate society, and appointed officers not only to conduct their meetings, but to regulate their dress. They made assurance essential to faith; they undervalued human learning, and despised the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper. They laid claim to sinless perfection, and claimed that the standing ministers were unfit to preach, and that the people ought to leave them. One of the leaders of this company was a man named Ferris, who entered Yale College in 1729. A contemporary writer says of this gentleman, He told me he was certain not one in ten of the communicants in the church in New Haven could be saved ; that he should have a higher seat in heaven than Moses; that he knew the will of God in all things, and had not committed any sin for six years. He had a proud and haughty spirit, and appeared greatly desirous of applause. He obtained a great ascendency over certain of the students, especially Davenport, Wheelock, and Pomeroy, who lived with him most familiarly. He remained in college until 1732, and then returned to New Milford. He ultimately became a Quaker preacher.

Such was the origin of that enthusiastical and fanatical spirit, which swept over the New England churches. Messrs. Wheelock and Pomeroy seem soon to have escaped from its influence ; but Davenport remained long under its power, and was the cause of incalculable mischief. He was settled as pastor of the church in Southhold, Long Island. In March, 1740, he became satisfied that God had revealed to him that his kingdom was coming with great power, and that he had an extraordinary call to labour for its advancement. He assembled his people on one occasion, and addressed them, continuously, for nearly twenty-four hours; until he became quite wild. After continuing for some time his exciting labours in his own neighbourhood, he passed over into Connecticut. The best and most favourable account of his erratic course, is given by the Rev. Mr. Fish, who knew him intimately. The substance of this account, given nearly in the language of its author, is as follows. The good things about him, says this writer, were, that he was a fast friend of the doctrines of grace; fully declaring the total depravity, the deplorable wretchedness and danger, and utter inability of men by the fall. He preached with great earnestness the doctrines of man’s dependence on the sove­reign mercy of God; of regeneration; of justification by faith, &c. The things that were evidently and dreadfully wrong about him were, that he not only gave full liberty to noise and outcries, but promoted them with all his power. When these things prevailed among the people, accompanied with bodily agitations, the good man pronounced them tokens of the presence of God. Those who passed immediately from great distress to great joy, he declared, after asking them a few questions, to be converts; though numbers of such converts, in a short time, returned to their old way of living, and were as carnal, wicked, and void of experience, as ever they were. He was a great favourer of visions, trances, imaginations, and powerful impressions in others, and made such inward feelings the rule of his own conduct in many respects. He greatly encouraged lay exhorters, who were soon, in many cases, preferred by the people to the letter-learned rabbies, scribes, pharisees, and unconverted ministers, phrases which the good man would frequently use with such peculiar marks not only of odium, but of indication, as served to destroy the confidence of the people in their ministers. The worst thing, however, was his bold and daring enterprise of going through the country to examine all the ministers in private, and then publicly declaring his judgment of their spiritual state. This he did wherever he could be admitted to examine them. Some that he examined, (though for aught that appeared as godly as himself.) were pronounced in his public prayer, immediately after the examination, to be unconverted. Those who refused to be examined, were sure to suffer the same fate. By this tremendous step many people, relying on his judgment, were as­sured they had unconverted ministers; others became jealous of their pastors; and all were told by this wild man, that they had as good eat ratsbane as hear an unconverted minister. In his zeal to destroy idolatry, that is, pride in dress, he prevailed upon a number of his followers in New London, to cast into a fire, prepared for the purpose, each his idol. Whereupon some article of dress, or some ornament, was by each stripped off and committed to the flames. In like zeal to root out heresy, a number of religious books, some of them of real excellence, were cast into the fire.

When he visited Saybrook in August, 1741, he requested Mr. Hart to grant him the use of his pulpit. Mr. Hart replied, that be wished to know, before he could decide on his application, whether he had denounced many of his fathers and brethren in the ministry as unconverted. He said he had, and that his object was the purification of the church, and that he freely urged the people not to attend the ministry of those whom he had thus judged. The pulpit was of course refused him. He then rose and calling to his adherents, said, Come, let us go forth without the camp, after the Lord Jesus, bearing his reproach. Oh this is pleasant to suffer reproach for the blessed Jesus, sweet Jesus! How true to nature this is! The man who was going about the country denouncing ministers, and overturning congregations, complains of persecution, because a pastor shuts his pulpit against him.

Mr. Davenport went to Boston in June, 1742. He attended the morning service upon the Sabbath, but in the afternoon absented himself “from an apprehension of the minister’s being unconverted, which,” says Mr. Prince, “greatly alarmed us.” The following day the ministers had a friendly conference with him, which led to their publishing a declaration testifying against his depending on impulses, his condemning ministers, his going through the streets singing, and his encouraging lay exhorters. This declaration was signed by fourteen ministers of Boston and Charlestown. Mr. Davenport denounced the pastors, naming some as unconverted, and representing the rest as Jehoshaphat in Ahab’s army, and exhorting the people to separate from them. This, adds Mr. Prince, put an effectual stop to the revival.

The same year he was arrested and taken before the legislature of Connecticut, on the charge of disorderly conduct. The Assembly judged that although his conduct had a tendency to disturb the peace, yet as “the said Davenport was under the influence of enthusiastical impressions and impulses, and thereby disordered in the rational faculties of his mind, he is rather to be pitied and compassionated, than to be treated as otherwise he might be.” They therefore ordered that he should be transported out of the colony, and handed over to his friends. The solution here given of Davenport’s conduct, is certainly the most charitable. That any young man should go about the country to examine grey-headed ministers on their experience, denouncing such as would not submit to his inquisition; declaring some of the best men in the church to be unconverted ; exhorting the people to desert their ministry ; making religion to consist in noisy excitement, and trampling on order and decency in the house of God, can only be accounted for on the assumption of insanity or wickedness. Davenport’s subsequent retractions, his altered conduct, and the judgment of his contemporaries, are all in favour of the former solution.

After having pursued his disorderly and destructive course for a number of years, he was convinced of his errors, and published a confession, in which he acknowledged that he had been influenced by a false spirit in judging ministers; in exhorting their people to forsake their ministry; in making impulses a rule of conduct ; in encouraging lay exhorters; and in disorderly singing in the streets. He speaks of the burning the books and clothes at New London, as matter for deep and lasting humiliation, and prays that God would guard him from such errors in future, and stop the progress of those who had been corrupted by his word and example. This latter petition was not granted. He found it easy to kindle the flame of fanaticism, but impossible to quench it. “When he came,” says Mr. Fish, “to Stonington, after his recantation, it was with such a mild, pleasant, meek, and humble spirit, broken and contrite, as I scarce ever saw exceeded or equalled. He not only owned his fault in private, and in a most Christian manner asked forgiveness of some ministers whom he had before treated amiss, but in a large assembly made a public recantation of his errors and mistakes.” This same writer informs us, however, that those who were ready to adore him in the time of his false zeal, now denounced him as dead, as having joined with the world and carnal ministers. The work of disorder and division, therefore, went on, little hindered by Mr. Davenport’s repentance; and the evils continue to this day. Davenport afterwards removed to New Jersey, and settled at Pennington, within the bounds of the Presbytery of New Brunswick. His remains lie in a grave-yard attached to a small church, long since in ruins.


The censorious spirit, which so extensively prevailed at this period, was another of those fountains of bitter waters, which destroyed the health and vigour of the church. That it should characterize such acknowledged fanatics as Davenport and his associates, is what might be expected. It was, however, the reproach and sin of far better men. Edwards stigmatizes it, as the worst disease which attended the revival, “the most contrary to the spirit and rules of Christianity, and of the worst consequences.” The evil in question consists in regarding and treating, on insuffi­cient grounds, those who profess to be Christians, as though they were hypocrites. The only adequate ground for publicly discrediting such profession, is the denial of those doctrines which the Bible teaches us are essential to true religion, or a course of conduct incompatible with the Christian character. There are, indeed, cases where there is no want of orthodoxy, and no irregularity of conduct, in which we cannot avoid painful misgivings. But such misgivings are no sufficient ground on which to found either public declarations, or public treatment of those who may be the object of them. Does any one dare, on any such ground, to declare a man of reputable character a thief, or a drunkard, or to surmise away the honour of a virtuous woman? Such conduct is not only a sin against God, but a penal offence against society. Yet in no such case is the pain inflicted, or the mischief occasioned, comparable to what arises from taking from a minister his character for piety, and teaching the people to regard him as a hypocrite. This is often done, however, with heartless unconcern. It was by the dreadful prevalence of this habit of censorious judging during the revival, that the confidence of the people in their pastors was de­stroyed, their usefulness arrested, their congregations divided, and the firebrands of jealousy and malice cast into every society, and almost into every household. It was this, more than any thing else, that produced that conflagration in which the graces, the peace, and union of the church were consumed. Though this censorious spirit prevailed most among those who had the least reason to think themselves better than others, it was to a lamentable degree the failing of really good men.

It is impossible to open the journals of Whitefield without being painfully struck, on the one hand with the familiar confidence with which he speaks of his own religious experience, and on the other with the carelessness with which he pronounces others to be godly or graceless, on the slightest acquaintance or report. Had these journals been the private record of his feelings and opinions, this conduct would be hard to excuse; but as they were intended for the public, and actually given to the world almost as soon as written, it constitutes a far more serious offence. Thus he tells us, he called on a clergyman, (giving the initials of his name, which, under the circumstances completely identified him,) and was kindly received, but found “he had no experimental knowledge of the new birth.” Such intimations are slipped off, as though they were matters of indifference. On equally slight grounds he passed judgment on whole classes of men. After his rapid journey through New England, he published to the world his apprehension “lest many, nay most that preach do not experimentally know Christ.” After being six days in Boston, he recorded his opinion, derived from what he heard, that the state of Cambridge college for piety and true godliness, was not better than that of the English universities, which he elsewhere says, “were sunk into mere seminaries of paganism, Christ or Christianity being scarce so much as named among them.” Of Yale he pronounces the same judgment, saying of it and Harvard, “their light is now become darkness, darkness that maybe felt.” A vindication of Harvard was written by the Rev. Edward Wigglesworth, a man “so conspicuous for his talents, and so exemplary for every Christian virtue,” that he was unanimously appointed the first Hollis professor of divinity in the college. The President of Yale, at that time, was the Rev. Dr. Clap, an orthodox and learned man, ” exemplary for piety,” and zealous for the truth. Whitefield was much in the habit of speaking of ministers as being unconverted; so that the consequence was, that in a country where “the preaching and conversation of far the bigger part of the ministers were undeniably as became the gospel, such a spirit of jealousy and evil surmising was raised by the influence and example of a young foreigner, that perhaps there was not a single town, “either in Massachusetts or Connecticut, in which many of the people were not so prejudiced against their pastors, as to be rendered very unlikely to be benefited by them. This is the testimony of men who had received Mr. Whitefield, on his first visit with open arms. They add, that the effect of his preaching, and of that of Mr. Tennent, was, that before he left New England, ministers were commonly spoken of as Pharisees and unconverted. The fact is, Whitefield had, in England, got into the habit of taking it for granted, that every minister was unconverted, unless he had special evidence to the contrary. This is not to be wondered at, since, according to all contemporaneous accounts, the great majority of the episcopal clergy of that day did not profess to hold the doctrines of grace, nor to believe in what Whitefield considered experimental religion. There was, therefore, no great harm in taking for granted that men had not, what they did not profess to have. When, however, he came to New England, where the great majority of the ministers still continued to profess the faith of their fathers, and laid claim to the character of experi­mental Christians in Whitefield’s own sense of the term, it was a great injustice to proceed on the assumption that these claims were false, and take it for granted that all were graceless who had not to him exhibited evidence to the contrary.

The same excuse cannot be made for Mr. Tennent ; and as his character was more impetuous, so his censures were more sweeping and his denunciations more terrible than those of Whitefield. It has been already mentioned, that in 1740 he read a paper before the Synod of Philadelphia, to prove that many of his brethren were “rotten-hearted hypocrites;” assigning reasons for that belief, which would not have justified the exclusion of any private mem­ber from the communion of the church. About the same time he published his famous sermon on an unconverted ministry, which is one of the most terrible pieces of denunciation in the English language. The picture there drawn, he afterwards very clearly intimated, (what was indeed never doubted,) was intended for a large portion of his own ministerial brethren. As, however, this conduct was one of the main causes of the schism in the Presbyterian Church, which occurred in 1741, it will more properly come under consideration in the following chapter.

The great sinfulness of this censorious spirit, and his own offences in this respect, Mr. Tennent afterwards very penitently acknowledged. In a letter to President Dickinson, dated February 12, 1742, he says, “I have had many afflicting thoughts about the debates which have subsisted for some time in our Synod. I would to God the breach were healed, were it the will of the Almighty. As for my own part, wherein I have mismanaged in doing what I did, I do look upon it to be my duty, and should be willing to acknowledge it in the openest manner. I cannot justify the excessive heat of temper which has sometime appeared in my conduct. I have been of late, (since I returned from New England,) visited with much spiritual desertion and distresses of various kinds, coming in a thick and almost continual succession, which have given me a greater discovery of myself, than I think I ever had before. These things, with the trial of the Moravians, have given me a clear view of the danger of every thing which tends to enthusiasm and division in the visible church. I think that while the enthusiastical Moravians, and Long-Beards, or Pietists, are uniting their bodies, (no doubt to increase their strength, and render themselves more considerable,) it is a shame that the ministers, who are in the main of sound principles of religion, should be divided and quarrelling. Alas, for it, my soul is sick for these things! I wish that some scriptural healing methods could be fallen upon to put an end to these confusions. Some time since I felt a, disposition to fall upon my knees, if I had opportunity, to entreat them to be at peace. I add no more at present, but humble and hearty salutations ; and remain, with all due honour and respect, your poor worthless brother in the gospel ministry.

“P. S. I break open the letter myself, to add my thoughts about some extraordinary things in Mr. Davenport’s conduct. As to his making his judgment about the internal state of persons, or their experience, a term of church fellowship, I believe it is unscriptural, and of awful tendency to rend and tear the church. It is bottomed upon a false base, viz.: That a certain and infallible knowledge of the good estate of men is attainable in this life from their experience. The practice is schismatical, inasmuch as it sets up a new terns of communion which Christ has not fixed.

“The late method of setting up separate meetings upon the sup­posed unregeneracy of pastors of places, is enthusiastical, proud, and schismatical. All that fear God ought to oppose it, as a most dangerous engine to bring the churches into the most damnable errors and confusions. The practice is built upon a two-fold false hypothesis, viz.: Infallibility of knowledge, and that unconverted ministers will be used as instruments of no good to the church.

“The practice of openly exposing ministers who are supposed to be unconverted, in public discourse, by particular application of such times and places, serves only to provoke them, instead of any good, and to declare our own arrogance. It is an unprecedented, divisial, and pernicious practice. It is lording it over our brethren to a degree superior to what any prelate has pre­tended since the coming of Christ, so far as I know, the pope only excepted ; though I really do not remember to have read that the pope went on at this rate.

“The sending out of unlearned men to teach others, upon the supposition of their piety, in ordinary cases, seems to bring the ministry into contempt; to cherish enthusiasm, and bring all into confusion. Whatever fair face it may have, it is a most perverse practice. The practice of singing in the streets is a piece of weakness and enthusiastical ostentation.

“I wish you success, dear sir, in your journey; my soul is grieved for such enthusiastical fooleries. They portend much mischief to the poor church of God, if they be not seasonably checked. May your labours be blest for that end. I must also express my abhorrence of all pretence to immediate inspiration, or following immediate impulses, as an enthusiastical perilous ignis fatuus.”

A few years later, when the evils arising from the rash denunciation of professing Christians and ministers had become more apparent, Mr. Tennent protested against it in the strongest terms. “It is cruel and censorious judging,” he says, “to condemn the state of those we know not, and to condemn positively and openly the spiritual state of such as are sound in fundamental doctrines, and regular in life. The way to obtain quickening grace is the path of duty, and not the scandalous practice of that God-provoking, church-rending iniquity, rash judging. This may quicken indeed, but not to any thing good, but to backbiting, slandering, wrath, and malignity, and all manner of mischief. Oh that a gra­cious God would open the eyes of the children of men, to see the inexpressible baseness and horrors of this detestable impiety, which is pregnant with innumerable evils.” He even denies the right of any man to judge of the spiritual state of others on the ground of their inward experience, or to make such judgment the ground of his public conduct towards them. “The terms of Christian fellowship,” he says, “which God has fixed, are soundness in the main doctrines of religion, and a regular life. I know of no pas­sage of the Bible that proves converting grace, or the church’s judgment of it, to be a term of Christian communion, of divine appointment.” And in another place, he says, “I desire to know where Almighty God has given any of the children of men the right to inspect into the spiritual experiences of others, so as to make our judgment of them, abstract from their doctrine and life, the ground of our opinion concerning the state of their souls, and of our public conduct towards them. For my part, I know of no place in Scripture which gives such a power to any of the sons of men, and much less to every man.” Yet this good man allowed himself publicly to denounce as graceless, multitudes of his brethren, whom he admitted to be sound in the faith and orderly in their lives, and thus greatly aided in producing that state of confusion and strife which he afterwards so strenuously laboured to correct.

The extent to which the sin of censoriousness prevailed during this revival, may be inferred, not only from the complaints of those who were unrighteously condemned, but from the frequency with which it was testified against by the best friends of religion, and the confessions of those who had most grievously offended in this respect. One great evil of this spirit is, that it is contagious, and in a sense, hereditary. That is, there always will be men disposed to rake up the sins and errors of these pious denouncers; and on the score of these deformities, to proclaim themselves the Tennents and Whitefields of their own generation. If the fruit of the Spirit of God is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, then may we be sure that a proud, arrogant, denunciatory, self‑confident, and self-righteous spirit is not of God; and that any work which claims to be a revival of religion, and is characterized by such a spirit, is so far spurious and fanatical. All attempts to account for, or excuse such a temper on the ground of uncommon manifestations, or uncommon hatred of sin, or extraordinary zeal for holiness and the salvation of souls, are but apologies for sin. The clearer our apprehensions of God, the greater will be our reverence and humility; the more distinct our views of eternal things, the greater will be our solemnity and carefulness; the more we know of sin, of our own hearts, and of Jesus Christ, the more shall we be forbearing, forgiving, and lamb­like, in our disposition and conduct. “Gracious affections do not tend to make men bold, noisy, and boisterous, but rather to speak trembling. When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel.” The evidence from Scripture is full and abundant, “that those who are truly gracious are under the government of the lamb‑like, dove‑like Spirit of Jesus Christ, and this is essentially and eminently the nature of the saving grace of the gospel, and the proper spirit of true Christianity. We may therefore undoubtedly determine that all truly Christian affections are at­tended with this spirit, that this is the natural tendency of the fear and hope, the sorrow and joy, the confidence and zeal of true Christians.”

Ecclesiastical Disorder

Another of the evils of this period of excitement, was the disregard shown to the common rules of ecclesiastical order, especially in the course pursued by itinerant preachers and lay exhorters. With respect to the former, no one complained of regularly or­dained ministers acting the part of evangelists; that is, of their going to destitute places, and preaching the gospel to those who would not otherwise have an opportunity of hearing it. The thing complained of was, that these itinerants came into parishes of settled ministers, and without their knowledge, or against their wishes, insisted on preaching to the people. This was a thing of very frequent, almost daily occurrence, and was a fruitful source of heart­burnings and divisions.

It is the plain doctrine of the Scriptures and the common understanding of the Christian church, that the pastoral relation is of divine appointment. Ministers are commanded to take heed to the flocks over which the Holy Ghost has made them overseers. If the Holy Ghost has made one man an overseer of a flock, what right has another man to interfere with his charge? This relation not only imposes duties, but it also confers rights. It imposes the duties of teaching and governing; of watching for souls as those who must give an account. It confers the right to claim obedience as spiritual instructers and governors. Hence the people are com­manded to obey them that have the rule over them, and to submit themselves. They have indeed the right to select their pastor, but having selected him, they are bound by the authority of God, to submit to him as such. They have moreover, in extreme cases, the right to desert, or discard him ; as a wife has in extreme cases, the right to leave her husband, or a child to renounce the authority of a parent. But this cannot be done for slight reasons, without offending God. In like manner, as a stranger has a right, in extreme cases, to take a child from the control and instruction of a father, or withdraw a wife from the authority and custody of her husband, so also there are cases, in which he may interfere between a pastor and his people. Interference in any one of these cases, is a violation of divinely recognized rights ; and to be innocent, must, in every instance, have an adequate justification.

Mr. Tennent admitted these principles to their fullest extent ; he justified his conduct and that of his associates, on the ground that the ordinary rules of ecclesiastical order cease to be obli­gatory in times of general declension. When the majority of ministers are unconverted men, and contentedly unsuccessful in their work, it was, he maintained, the right of any one who could, to preach the gospel to their people, and the duty of the people to forsake the ministrations of their pastors. Admitting the correctness of this principle, when can it be properly applied? When may it be lawfully taken for granted, that a minister is uncon­verted and unfit for his office ? According to Tennent’s own sober and deliberate judgment, this could be rightfully done only when he either rejected some fundamental doctrine, or was immoral in his conduct. And even when this was the case, the obviously cor­rect course would be, to endeavour to have him removed from office by a competent authority. Not until this had been proved to be impossible, would any man be justified in trampling upon the rights of a brother minister. The conduct of Mr. Tennent and that of his associates, cannot stand the test of his own principles. They not only made no effort to have those ministers removed from office, whom they regarded as unregenerate or unfaithful, but they chose to assume them to be unconverted, and on the ground of that assumption, to enter their congregations, and to exhort the people to forsake their ministry, though they admitted them to be sound in all the main articles of religion, and regular in their lives. This disorderly course was, in many cases, productive of shameful conflicts, and was in general one of the most crying evils of the times.

Whitefield far out-did Mr. Tennent, as to this point. He admitted none of the principles which Mr. Tennent believed, in ordinary times, ought to be held sacred. He assumed the right, in virtue of his ordination, to preach the gospel wherever he had an opportunity, “even though it should be in a place where officers were already settled, and the gospel was fully and faithfully preached. This, I humbly apprehend,” he adds, “is every gospel minister’s indisputable privilege.” It mattered not whether the pastors who thus fully and faithfully preached the gospel, were willing to consent to the intrusion of the itinerant evangelist or not. “If pulpits should be shut,” he says, “blessed be God, the fields are open, and I can go without the camp, bearing the Redeemer’s reproach. This I glory in; believing if I suffer for it, I suffer for righteousness’ sake.” If Whitefield had the right here claimed, then of course Davenport had it, and so every fanatic and errorist has it. This doctrine is entirely inconsistent with what the Bible teaches of the nature of the pastoral relation, and with every form of ecclesiastical government, episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational. Whatever plausible pretences may be urged in its favour, it has never been acted upon without producing the greatest practical evils.

As soon as this habit of itinerant preaching within the bounds of settled congregations, began to prevail, it excited a lively opposition. The Synod of Philadelphia twice unanimously resolved that no minister should preach in any congregation without the consent of the presbytery to which the congregation belonged. As soon, however, as the revival fairly commenced, Mr. Tennent and his associates refused to be bound by the rule; and, for the sake of peace, it was given up. The legislature of Connecticut made it penal for and minister to preach within the bounds of the parish of another minister, unless duly invited by the pastor and people.

The General Association of Connecticut, in 1742, after giving thanks for the revival, bear their testimony against “ministers dis­orderly intruding into other ministers’ parishes.” The conven­tion of ministers of Massachusetts, in 1743, declared this kind of itinerant preaching, “without the knowledge, or against the leave of settled pastors,” to be “a breach of order, and contrary to the Scriptures, and the sentiments of our fathers, expressed in their Platform of Church Discipline.” And the assembly of pastors held at Boston, July, 1743, in their testimony in behalf of the revival, express it as their judgment “that ministers do not invade the province of others, and, in ordinary cases, preach in another’s parish, without his knowledge and consent.” Notwithstanding this general concurrence among the friends of religion, in condemning this disorderly practice, it prevailed to a great extent, and resulted in dividing congregations, unsettling ministers, and introducing endless contentions and confusion.

As to lay preaching, though of frequent occurrence, it found little favour with any but the openly fanatical. Tennent in a letter to Edwards, written probably in the autumn of 1741, says, “As to the subject you mentioned, of laymen being sent out to exhort and teach, supposing them to be real converts, I cannot but think, if it be encouraged and continued, it will be of dreadful consequence to the church’s peace and soundness in the faith. It is base presumption, whatever zeal be pretended to, notwithstanding, for any persons to take this honour to themselves, unless they be called of Cod, as was Aaron. I know most young zealots are apt, through ignorance, inconsideration, and pride of heart, to undertake what they have no proper qualifications for; and through their imprudence and enthusiasm the church of God suffers. I think all that fear God should rise and crush the enthusiastic creature in the egg. Dear brother, the times are dangerous. The churches in America and elsewhere are in great danger of enthusiasm; we need to think of the maxim principiis obata.” This irregularity was freely condemned also by the association of Connecticut, the convention of Massachusetts, and the assembly of pastors in Boston, in the documents already referred to. Yet it was through the influence of these lay exhorters, encouraged by a few such ministers as Davenport, and Mr. Park, of Westerly, Rhode Island, that fanaticism and false religion were most effectually promoted among the churches.

This is a formidable array of evils. Yet as the friends of the revival testify to their existence, no conscientious historian dare either conceal or extenuate them. There was too little discrimination between true and false religious feeling. There was too much encouragement given to outcries, faintings, and bodily agitations, as probable evidence of the presence and power of God. There was, in many, too much reliance on impulses, visions, and the pretended power of discerning spirits. There was a great deal of censoriousness, and of a sinful disregard of ecclesiastical order. The disastrous effects of these evils, the rapid spread of false religion, the dishonour and decline of true piety, the prevalence of erroneous doctrines, the division of congregations, the alienation of Christians, and the long period of subsequent deadness in the church, stand up as a solemn warning to Christians, and especially to Christian ministers in all times to come. It was thus, in the strong language of Edwards, the devil prevailed against the revival. “It is by this means that the daughter of Zion in this land, now lies in such piteous circumstances, with her garments rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in nowise able to rise, and this so soon after her late great joys and hopes.”

Though this, being true, should be known and well considered, that the guilt and danger of propagating false religion and spurious excitement may be understood, yet we are not to forget or under­value the great good which was then accomplished. In many places there was little of these evils, especially in New Jersey and Virginia. Dickinson and Davies successfully resisted their inroads within the sphere of their influence. And in many other places the soundness of the doctrines taught, the experience detailed, and the permanent effects produced, abundantly attest the genuineness of the revival. To the Presbyterian Church, particularly, it was the commencement of a new life, the vigour of which is still felt in all her veins.