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By Rev. Louis Albert Banks, D.D
Isaiah Ixi. Eevivals of religion are in perfect harmony with the divine conduct of this world. God works by means of fresh impulse. The marvelous chemistry of nature is carried forward on that plan. There is life in root and trunk and branch, in field and forest, all the year round ; but at least once a year a fresh impulse is given to nature, and the hillsides spring forth with a new green, the forests are clothed with a fresh baptism of hopefulness and courage, and the old oak, gnarled and twisted with the storms of five hundred winters, renews its youth. Every springtime is God's revival by which he keeps the old earth young and prosperous, happy and progressive. Men grow in their intellectual and moral lives because they receive, e\evj now and then, fresh impulses which inspire them to still greater exertion. There is not one of us who can not remember times when we had fallen into a rut, and life 260
XLbc Divine SiDe of a tRevivnl 261 seemed monotonous and commonplace, and had lost its zest and appetite ; wlien, from within or without, there came some experience, pleasant or bitter, which stirred our nature to its profoundest depths, and life became new, fresh, and vital. Every thoughtful man and woman can go back over their lives and count the great soul-crises when these new impulses came to them. I have said these things to emphasize the fact that a revival of religion is not something unnatural and artificial. It is in God's order that ever and anon the religious life which has been working its way in our hearts, has been plowing and sowing, growing and yielding harvest, should have a renewal, a springtime revival of its enthusiastic gladness, that will fit it for still greater results. The religious life which has no such experience as this certainly fails in the highest enjoyment of the Christian religion. Now just as surely as it is the divine graciousness that is manifested in the green grass in the pastures, the clothed forests of April, the orchard
bloom of May, so just as surely it is the divine graciousness, the presence of the Holy Spirit in human hearts, which gives the beauty and the rapture and the saving power to a revival of religion. In both cases this heavenly presence comes from the infinite mercy and love of God. Unconsciously
262 B 15ear'0 prai2er*/lReetfng ^alfta. tlie earth prays to God; the frozen soil, the discouraged roots, the buried seeds, the barren branches of the trees, the desolate shrubs, cry out in their very need to the God who has light and warmth and wisdom to touch all these fruitless things into leaf and flower and perfume. Our needs also pray to God, and arouse his longing to bring blessing to us, and he is ever seeking to do so ; but he has made us so much higher than the plants and shrubs — made us so like himself in the power of choice and in the sovereignty of will — that he waits, as does a father for the appeal of childhood, to bestow upon us the fulness of his blessing. If we open our hearts to God, and wait upon him, the divine power will clothe us about as a garment. All human effort is vain without this supernatural anointing ; but that will not fail if there be the proper attitude of soul on our part. It is this divine presence which we must expect, and depend upon, to give power to sermon, testimony, music, and word of exhortation. God has not deserted his world. He has not ceased to be interested in the souls of men. He was not more faithful to Elijah on Mount Carmel when he answered by fire than he will be to us. He is the same God who breathed upon the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel's vision, and caused a living army of invincible power to stand forth. He is the same
Zbc Divine SiOe of a IRevival. 263 God who came as a mighty rushing wind on the day of Pentecost, and enabled a hundred and twenty, in a single day, to win three thousand converts to the cross of Christ. He is as willing to bless our preaching and pleading and persuasion as he was Elijah's or Ezekiel's or Peter's. He loves the sinners in Cleveland with as deep a tenderness as that felt toward any men or women who have ever lived. Let us open our hearts ! Let us surrender our lives to be filled and mastered by the Spirit of the living God ! This divine presence came to the early disciples when they were of one accord in one place. The
Spirit of God has ever required a harmony of spirit on the part of the friends of Christ as a condition of the doing of mighty works in the salvation of souls. It is not enough that the preacher wants a revival ; there must be such a unanimity on the part of the church that the minister will feel sustained, as Peter must have felt on the day of Pentecost. In early Methodist days the people responded in amens and hallelujahs, very much as the Salvation Army does now; and it can not be denied that there is in this an element of power. I do not plead for the vocal amen or the outspoken hallelujah. What I plead for is the same spirit — watchful, alert, yielding itself in harmony to the pleading of the minister, and prayerfully sustain-
264 B l!)ear'0 ipra^er*/IRect(ng tTalfts. ing the message which is being given to the people. My friend, the Eev. Albert J. Hough, has voiced this longing of every preacher whose heart is on fire to save souls in a little poem called "The ' Amen Corner.' " He says that — "In the planning of modern churches, The service of Sabbath days, We have left out the ' amen corner, ' And smothered the soul of praise. There are faces that shine like Stephen's When he saw his Master stand, With a look of love and welcome, In glory, at God's right hand. There are eyes that answer divinely, And hearts that in sympathy beat With all that is grand and holy ; But the service is incomplete. When the light of the Lamb comes filling Faith's rapt and adoring ken. We listen in vain for the ' Glory 1 * And the seraph-souled ' Amen! * ** In the golden days when our fathers The enemy put to rout. All the saints in the ' amen corner ' Pursued him with a shout, While the burdened hearts of the seekers
For pardon and perfect peace, In a flood of their ' Hallelujahs ! * Obtained a swift release ; And oft when the preacher, in battle, Seemed overborne by his foes,
Zbc Divine SlDc of a IRevlval. 365 From the praying souls in the corner A mighty ' Amen ' arose ; And it broke the spell of the tempter ; The heaven ceased to frown ; Faith rose to the throne triumphant, And the glory of God came down. * When the saints in the ' amen corner * Bowed, listening, on their knees, They would hear the sound of a going In the tops of the mulberry trees ; And, bestirring themselves in spirit, They moved with their heavenly host, Stepped out on the promises boldly, And prayed in the Holy Ghost, Till the flame of a grand revival Swept through the land abroad, For the saints in the * amen corner' Kept pace with the march of God. 'We have men in the pulpit filled With the wine of the kingdom new ; There's the life of the grand old Gospel Still flourishing in the pew ; We are singing the songs our fathers Sang in the days of old ; We are telling the wondrous story Their lips so sweetly told ; And the Lord with his church is dwelling In power as he did then ; But the spell of silence is on her.
And she needs the grand ' Amen. '
We are bearing suppressed emotion, Like fire shut in our bones ; Our only relief is in sighing, And in timid undertones. Reestablish the ' amen corner, ' The freedom of ancient days, And the pent-up streams of emotion Shall flood the land with praise. 'When the voice of rejoicing nature The land with its music fills, Not the least in the strange enchantment Is the echoing of the hills ; For the Lord of the whok creation. Who speaks in a thousand ways, Is surrounded with ' amen corners ' That answer his voice with praise ; And when I ascend, at his bidding, To that upper temple fair, I will fly to the ' amen corner, ' For I know he has one there. '*
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