“And what am I?
My soul, awake,
And an impartial survey take.
Does no dark sign, no ground of fear
In practice or in heart appear?
“What image does
my spirit bear?
Is Jesus formed and living there?
Ah, do His lineaments divine
In thought and word and action shine?
“Searcher of hearts, O search me still;
The secrets of my soul reveal;
My fears remove; let me appear
To God and my own conscience clear.”
We might have closed our studies of the Way of Salvation with Sanctification, without giving any attention to the subject of Revivals. We remember, however, that, in the estimation of many, revivals are the most essential part of the Way; so much so that, in certain quarters, few, if any, souls are expected to be brought into the way of life, otherwise than through so-called “revivals of religion.” According to this widespread idea, the ingathering of souls, the upbuilding of the Church, her activity, power and very life, are dependent upon the revival system.
In view of all this, we have concluded to bring our studies to a close with an examination of this system. Before we enter upon the subject itself, however, we desire to have it distinctly understood that we intend to discuss the system, and not the people who believe and practice it. There doubtless are very excellent Christian people who favor a religion built up and dependent on such movements, and there may be very unchristian people who oppose it. With this we have nothing to do. We are not discussing persons, but doctrines and systems. The advocates of modern revivalism claim the right to hold, defend and propagate their views. We only demand the same right. If we do not favor or practice their way, our people have not only a right to ask, but it is our duty to give grounds and reasons for our position.
In discussing this subject, we intend, as usual, to speak with all candor and plainness. We desire to approach and view this subject, as every subject, from the fair, firm standpoint of the opening words of the Formula of Concord, viz.: “We believe, teach and confess that the only rule and standard, according to which all doctrines and teachings should be esteemed and judged, are nothing else than the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.” We wish to test it by the infallible Word. By it, we are willing to be judged. According to it, our views and doctrines must stand or fall.
What then is a revival? The word revive means to bring back to life. It presupposes the existence of life, which for a time had languished or died. Life was present, it failed and was restored.