We have been prevented, by sickness and other causes, from noticing the religious panic which has for several weeks prevailed in the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Boston and elsewhere, and which, like an infectious epidemic, has found its way into the villages and rural districts of our northern states, and is hailed by the great mass of will-worshipers and Arminians generally, as the dawning of their long looked for millennium. Like every other development of the man of sin, this outburst of delusion and ranting fanaticism is strongly marked with the mystic names which were written on the forehead of her who sat upon the scarlet colored beast, Rev. xvii. 5, “Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.” While this mystery of iniquity shall be clearly distinguished from the pure and undefiled religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, by all who have ears to hear what the Spirit says unto the churches, it is expressly said that they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold this beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Rev. xvii. 8.) The peculiar development of this mystery of iniquity, is foretold by Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 3-12, as the man of sin, and son of perdition, “Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” “Even him whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The church of God is, in the book of Revelation, represented as dwelling in heaven, and not on the earth. (Rev. xii. 12.) As standing in the sun. (Rev. xii. 1.) As standing on Mount Sion. (Rev. xiv. 1.) As standing on a sea of glass, in heaven. (Rev. xv. 2.) But the antichristian organizations are represented as dwelling upon the earth. Their origin being earthly, their doctrines, ordinances, signs and wonders, are all of earth. Their names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Their religion originates in their own earthly nature, and their revivals and excitements differ essentially from those of the saints. Seasons of refreshing descend upon the church of God from the presence of the Lord; but the revivals of antichrist have to be got up. And of this they seem to be aware, for they generally speak of getting up revivals, and of sustaining them by their own human exertions. The present excitement is strongly marked in all these particulars. First, a convention for the purpose is held; a committee of arrangements is appointed, and called the Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association. This Association is composed of all such sectarian denominations as can unite in the enterprise, and their committee is authorized to superintend the getting up of the revival. Meetinghouses are thrown open daily, storehouses and even public theatres are also employed for the same purpose, advertisements are published in the daily papers, and cards of invitation are issued, calling on all who want to get religion to attend the meetings from twelve to one o’clock of each day, and three minutes are allowed for each to pray or exhort.
These meetings are called Union Prayer Meetings; but what is united in them? Presbyterians, Methodists, New School Baptists, Congregationalists and the world in general. The novelty of these meetings serve as a charm to draw crowds together, and when thus assembled every human device is resorted to to excite the animal feelings and passions of the weak and nervous; for the religion engendered by them is not that connected with a faith that works by love and purifies the heart; but it is a kind of faith and religion which only works by fear, by terror and excitement, and which corrupts the heart. For it is a notorious fact, that every convert made in these hot-beds of fanaticism, in their conversion imbibe a deeper and more malignant hatred to the truth as it is in Jesus, to God’s method of salvation by sovereign grace alone, to the order and ordinances of the church of God, and to the real children of God, and to God’s ministers especially, than they ever possessed or evinced before. Like the proselytes made by the ancient pharisees, they make them two-fold more the children of hell.
Are not these things so? What success would be expected at any of these meetings, were the managers of them to cease their efforts to terrify and frighten the people? Nothing is found so effectual as the preaching of fire and brimstone, and death-bed scenes of impenitent sinners, and the unclapping of hell, &c., together with the declaration that this is the last opportunity the unconverted will ever have of getting religion. Hundreds, by this course of treatment, have become so much excited as to deprive them of their reason, and if they have not thereby been fitted for filling up their churches, they have been duly qualified to fill the lunatic asylums. In that salvation which is of God, it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance; but in these excitement meetings, the terrors of hell and torments of the damned are chiefly relied upon to produce what they call repentance.
Again, the religion which is of God, produces in those who are the subjects of it, a love and reverence for the Scriptures, and a sacred regard for what God has said in his word; but it is a remarkable feature in these modern excitement meetings that the Bible is totally disregarded, so far as respects its testimony. The converters and converted, at these meetings, will laugh you to scorn if you attempt to call their attention to the word and testimony of God. Tell them that God has said in his word that sinners are saved by grace, and not by works; that the new birth is produced, not of a corruptible seed, but of an incorruptible; that it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, and what respect will they show to this divine testimony? We might as well read to them an almanac as an inspired message from Jehovah.
Their whole machinery moves upon the presumption that every man has the power to save himself, and that if he neglects to use his power for that purpose, God himself cannot save him. This declaration has frequently been made at these excitement meetings, and the Scripture doctrine, that salvation is of the Lord alone, has been made the theme of ridicule. At a meeting, a short time since, in Burton’s Theatre, in New York, Henry Ward Beecher, of Sharpe’s Rifle notoriety, openly and publicly repudiated the work of the Spirit of God, in the experience of the new birth; and although at a union meeting, and associated with his fellow-craftsmen of the same occupation, many of whom were with him on the stage; not one word of objection or remonstrance was uttered by any of them, to his bold and blasphemous declarations, nor have we, up to this hour, heard of any who is connected with this general excitement, either in city or country, objecting to his sentiment. We will give his own words, as published in the city papers, the Times, and the Tribune, vis:
“The Rev. Mr. Beecher then commenced his expected address. He had not come there to deliver a sermon or a speech, but to converse with the multitude before him as if he had each individual singly with him in some quiet room. It was strange that in this christian county it should seem necessary to go over the same ground as with heathens. Had they not sermons every day in the form of praying parents, the solicitude of converted wives and husbands, and what better sermons could they have? Every man in that crowd was in a position to become a true christian THAT VERY DAY. It had been imagined each individual must first pass through a few days of SERIOUSNESS, then he must be very ANXIOUS, and having passed that Heilgate, perhaps he might in due time lay hold on the christian hope. Shame on such perversions of truth. The work might be done in a moment.”
In our own village, and within a few rods of where we now sit, Union Prayer Meetings, as they are called, have been held daily for several weeks, in which the Old and New School Presbytrians, New School Baptists, Methodists and Congregationalists, all profess to unite, and cards of invitation are sent to almost every family, to draw them out, (not even excepting the editor of this paper) and specially urging the young to come and participate in the performances. Morning prayer meetings have been held, as we are told, at several places; but the grand Union Prayer Meeting has been held from one to two o’clock every day; and at night all the sects who have bells begin at an early hour to ring them in earnest, as though exceedingly fearful that each sect was in danger of not securing a due share of the game. Every trap is set and baited, and every effort is made to draw men, women and children into their nets.
Such are some of the prominent signs of the times among us; how far this delusion is to extend is only known to him “Who now letteth, and who will let, until that Wicked be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.”
May 1, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 85 - 89