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3. This brings me to my third topic, in which, after all, lies the main strength of the argument, viz. the direct Scriptural evidence of a great and general outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days.
The following is, perhaps, the most remarkable passage bearing on this subject, in the word of God. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days, will I pour out my Spirit. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be delivered.” The apostle Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, declares this passage to be a prediction of events, which were to happen under the Christian dispensation. Referring his hearers to the outpouring of the Spirit and the wonderful events they then saw, he says, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;” and then he quotes the whole passage above cited. He means, that the time on which they were then entering was the time referred to by the prophet, that the events they then saw were the kind of events foretold, and that this remarkable prophecy began then to receive its fulfilment. Then commenced the dispensation of the Spirit. It was, however, only the commencement of that dispensation. The grand progress, the glorious consummation, was reserved for other days. The pouring out of the Spirit on all flesh, with that universal, overwhelming influence described by the inspired bard in figurative language drawn from prophetic raptures and oriental warfare, is a blessing the world is yet waiting for. It is to be an all-subduing agency of the Almighty Spirit
. When coming in its power and fulness, it will be to the whole church, with the exception of miraculous gifts, what it was to the small company of disciples assembled in the upper room on that memorable day; and it will be to the whole world, what it was to the three thousand that wept and repented under the preaching of Peter. Then was seen, though on a small scale, what is yet to be seen on the broad scale of the universal church and the entire earth. Then was seen the beginning of the fulfilment of a prediction, that looks mainly at that last great shock in the mighty conflict, which is to be followed by voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever!
But there is another source of proof, still more convincing, in the results foretold, as to follow from the reign of the Messiah and the publication of his gospel, every one of which presupposes an extraordinary putting forth of divine power. I can quote only a very few of the many predictions. “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing ; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” “And they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; na
tion shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” “ The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed, their young ones shall lie down together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain ; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries also of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. In his days shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace so long as the moon endureth.” “For thus saith the Lord, behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.". “The kingdoms of this world [shall] become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." "And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.”
Now these results are to happen on earth, under the reign of the Messiah; and who does not perceive that they are what has never yet been? Yet, making due allowance for figurative language, they are what would certainly follow from such an outpouring of the Spirit as is foretold by the prophet Joel. But in vain shall we look for them, either in the church or in the world, without such a visitation. All that we now see, and all that we read of down from the apostolic times, whether in the church or out of it, are scarcely the dawn of the glorious day predicted in the passages just quoted. In the church Ephraim is then no more to vex Judah, nor is Judah to vex Ephraim; because the spirit of sect will then cease to exist, if not its very form and reality, under the almighty influence of the Spirit of truth and love. The world, too, is to become thoroughly pacific, and to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. On the most moderate supposition, its inhabitants will then be blessed with a religious education, and with a general prevalence of piety. Now there are said to be as many as ninety-five thousand teachers of schools in the United States, and not less than fifteen thousand preachers of the gospel. To supply the world, therefore, with means of instruction no better than our own country possesses, would require (to say nothing of books) that in some way a million of preachers be furnished, every twenty years, for the pulpit, and more than six millions of teachers, every five years, for the school-room. And to bring the world under such a holy and blessed influence as the word of God predicts, even within the space of a century, the church must hear of not less than twenty millions of souls brought into the kingdom of Christ every year, or what on an average shall be equivalent to that. All this and far more would take place, if the Spirit were to be poured out upon all flesh; for the great body
of these teachers, both for the school-room and the pulpit, are not to be sent from Christian lands, but raised up on the spot; they are to be of native growth. But without such an outpouring, the greatest possible array of means could be regarded with no feeling of hope. Nor must we for one moment forget the lamentable truth, that the very same outpouring of the Spirit is as necessary to procure the means, as it is to make them effectual.
With the same unwavering confidence, therefore, with which we do actually look forward to the universal triumph of the gospel on the earth, do we anticipate this universal outpouring of the Spirit. This certainly is yet to come. All that has been seen of his agency in the world hitherto, has been in the first instance to plant and then to preserve a church upon the earth, rather than to make that church universal. His presence has been as it were local and occasional, rather than general and constant. The church has looked to this grandly decisive outpouring as yet to come, rather than rejoiced in it as already happened. As, under the old dispensation, the church waited and waited long for the promised Messiah to make redemption for the world; so now, under the new dispensation, the church waits, and has waited long too, for the promised Spirit to come and appropriate to the world the blessings of that redemption. Yes, we now stand in the interesting attitude of waiting for the coming of the Spirit, just as the saints of old did for the coming of the Savior. And let us wait with prayer, with hope, with joyful expectation. For he will surely come. We are disposed to believe he will come suddenly—it may be not every where at once, but wherever there are the due preparations for his operating on the minds of men. It may be that he will come first into his church, his spiritual temple, and cast out thence the spirit of the world, and fill it (blessed day!) with the beauty and glory of his celestial influence.
4. We now proceed another step, and show how this advent of the Spirit is even now indicated by certain remarkable preparatory mea
Some of these preparatory measures result from direct efforts of the church, and others and those the most important from great providential movements in human society.
The unprecedented efforts made by the church to multiply the number of preachers of the gospel in Christian lands, to plant new churches, and to extend the benefits of a Christian education, are all so many preparations for the Divine Spirit to exert his power. The Spirit operates on the minds of men by means of the truth, and therefore whatever is done to increase the amount of religious knowledge, prepares the way for his coming and agency. This is the object of the Christian ministry; and, I need not say, this is the object of Christian missions to the heathen. Missionaries go as the forerunners of the Spirit, as pioneers, as heralds. Their whole prescribed duty is to make proclamation of the truth. They are answerable only for making this proclamation faithfully. He who sends them forth says to cach of them, as he does indeed to every preacher of the gospel,
“Son of mån, if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness; nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Christian missionaries have executed their commission when they have made all possible efforts to bring the gospel in contact with the minds of men. They can do no more. The hearing ear, the awakened conscience, the understanding heart, the willing obedience, are all the appropriate work of the Holy Spirit. Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase.
Now there has been a commencement of preparations of this sort in very many of the benighted nations and tribes of men. In hundreds of dark places the truth begins to shine; in most very feebly, nevertheless it shines, and there is a gradual and constant increase of the light of life. Some millions of immortal minds are no longer in the total darkness they once were; and all that is necessary to make full preparation for the Spirit among the heathen, is to have these lights multiplied and increased in brightness, so as to throw the rays of truth over all nations.
The other preparations, resulting from providential movements in society, are on a far more extended scale. God, by means of a thousand causes, is fast throwing the world open to his people, and is even bringing large portions
of it either under the government or the controlling influence of Christian nations. He is furnishing his people with means for making the gospel bear on the minds of men, far more powerful than he saw fit to bestow on his people in former ages; and he is taking away the impediments to traveling, and making access easy to almost all parts of the world. In a word, who can look over the earth, and not believe that providential preparations are in progress on a vast scale for the coming of the Spirit ? While the preparatory agency of good men is beheld only here and there, providential preparations are going on, at this moment, throughout the habitable earth. And doubtless there are, too, preparatory influences of the Spirit himself on the minds of men, even where the gospel is not known, and where there is no truth except a few rays of the light of nature. But on this I shall not now dwell.
To do justice to this part of the subject, I must call attention to one other cheering indication, namely,
5. In some recent events in heathen lands, which seem like forerunners to this advent of the Spirit.
Perhaps the most remarkable of these events is the recent outpouring of the Spirit at the Sandwich Islands. Such an outpouring as that was in connection with all the other protestant missions now in the heathen world, would bring millions of souls into the visible church in a single year. And it is well known that many of the islands in the South Pacific ocean, where English missionaries are laboring, have been blessed with similar gracious visitations. In Tinnevelly, a district in southern India, there was an awakening, a few years since, which, had it extended with like power over all India, would have subverted the great Braminic system of idolatry, and made Christianity the nominal religion at least of a hundred millions.
Even the recent awakening at Krishnagur, in Bengal, with only a very small amount of the light of truth, needed only to become general to overturn the superstitions of that populous province. There have also been outpourings of the Spirit in South Africa, which, if they had been more diffused, would have christianized the entire Hottentot and Caffre races. The same remark may be made respecting the Karens of Burmah, the Greenlanders, and the North American Indians. Among some small portions of the Oriental churches also, there are, at present, operations of the Spirit, which, were they extended to all portions of those churches, would raise them from their spiritual death.
Now these several agencies of the Spirit, viewed in connection with the preparatory measures already mentioned, seem like forerunners of that universal outpouring, which is to change the moral aspect of the world. They encourage the hope of such a blessing, and they may perhaps be regarded as the first fruits of it.
And it is interesting to observe how, in these events, there are diversities of operations, but the same God working all in all; how the agency of the Spirit presents itself to our view in different aspects, but all tending to the same result. The several operations that have been referred to as forerunning events, have each their distinctive traits; from the “great and strong wind," rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks, as at the Sandwich Islands, to the “ still small voice," as among the Oriental churches.
I have gone through with the argument, which seems to me fully to establish the fact, that there is yet to be a great and universal outpouring of the Spirit upon the church and the world. And can there be any reasonable doubt on the subject? May we not yield our faith to the delightful anticipation ? Believing that we may, let us now take a brief survey of the EFFECTS of this outpouring of the Spirit.
And, first, in the CHURCH. The real people of God will be induced to enlist fully in the work of preparing the way of the Lord in every part of the habitable earth. There will be no longer any reserve, any holding back. A mighty result! but it is one which the Holy Spirit can perform with infinite ease. He has only to exert an influence upon the spiritual discernment of the soul, and upon its powers of feeling, and the work is done. Then the spiritual world opens and spreads out in glorious prospect, as Canaan did to Moses on the top of Pisgah. The whole heart, the whole man yields, voluntarily, joyfully. Where now is the fascinating, bewildering power of riches, or of the honors and pleasures of the world ? Gone! Fled before the presence of him, whose prerogative it is to proclaim liberty to spiritual captives. Ambition, pride, vanity, and the love of the world disappearing, let go their avaricious hold upon millions of wealth. God's people are made willing in the day of his power, and there is a liberal hand and a full treasury. Men come up to their duty, and feel it to be a privilege. What the amount will be of individual prayer and labor, and what the proportion will be of individual contribution to help onward the cause of Christ in that day, I pretend