The religious excitement which has engrossed the public mind to an unusual degree for the past few months, is called a Revival, and we have no objection to its being so designated, if it be clearly distinguished from those seasons of refreshing which the Lord is pleased to send from time to time, from his presence, to revive his saints; causing the north wind to awake, and the south wind to blow upon his garden, or church, that the spices may flow out. To reanimate, or produce activity in anything, may be called a revival, and so the term is applied to commerce, science, agriculture, &c., and may be as properly applied to the revival of the corruptions of anti-Christ, as to the refreshing seasons which come to the Zion of God when his presence is sensibly felt and enjoyed by the saints. Paul speaks of the revival of sin, and gives solemn warnings to the saints of these latter days, of perilous times for the saints, when the revivals of the powers of darkness prevail. In the present revival, (for so we will call it,) there is no new life or new principle developed. Some new resolutions to give some new direction to the fleshy powers and energies before in possession are apparent. Among the great multitude recently revived, which are counted by thousands, we have not yet heard of a single instance of any being brought to the knowledge of the truth, or to a knowledge of the true God, much less to a love of truth, and reverence for what God has spoken. So far as our personal knowledge of the revived extends, they have simply been converted from the state of Gallio, who cared for none of these things, to that of bitter opposers of the gospel of Christ, the sovereignty of God, and of all who contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. This may truly be a revival, but it is nothing new; the world, the flesh and the devil were always opposed to the cause and people of the living God.
The Redeemer, when with his disciples on the Mount of Olives, admonished them to beware of false prophets, and the apostle John says that many of them had at that day gone out into the world. The Redeemer also intimates that they wear the guise of sheep, or of christians, but they are none the less savage and destructive when they, by deception, gain the confidence of the flock of the Good Shepherd. The simple rule laid down, Matthew vii. 16-20, is applicable in all cases, and throughout all time, for the detection of wolves when they come in sheep's clothing: "Ye shall know them by their fruits." It is not said, Ye shall know them by their dress, by their professions, or by their respectable standing in the world, but simply by their fruits. "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." In attending to this admonition of our Lord, three points require special attention.
First. What are we to understand by good and evil fruits?
Second. The total inability of false prophets to produce good fruits.
Third. That the children of God shall, no others can, detect false prophets by this rule.
Good fruits in a gospel sense, are fruits of that spirit which is born, not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. The fruits of that spirit are love, joy, peace, gentleness, faith, &c. On the other hand, the fruits, or works of the flesh, are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings and such like. The true prophet of the Lord cannot bring forth these, nor can the false prophets bring forth the fruits of the Spirit. As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the Sons of God, and produce fruits unto holiness, the end of which is everlasting life. But, "If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his," and all the fruit he can bear is the fruit of the flesh. The good fruits of the good tree are produced as a consequence, and are an evidence that the tree has first been made good, by vital and conjugal union with Christ, as the apostle instructs us, Romans vii. 4, 5: "Wherefore, my brethren, ye are also become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death." Hence we learn the impossibility of carnal men who are in the flesh, and serving religiously only in the oldness of the letter; bringing forth any other fruit than that which is unto death. And as all men are by nature in the flesh, and strangers to that Spirit of which Christ said, "Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him." - John xiv. 17, they are without ability to bring forth fruit unto God. Lastly we designed to notice the qualification of those who are exclusively truly born of God, (and not of the will or works of man, or of the flesh,) and who are led by that Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, to detect false prophets, by their fruit. Unto them it is given to know the things of the Spirit, the mysteries of Christ's kingdom, but unto them which are without it is not given. To all those who only possess the wisdom of this world, all these things of the Spirit are in parables. The apostle John says concerning these false prophets, "They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." - 1 John iv. 5, 6.
The prophet Habakkuk, in his prayer expresses the desire of all who know the Lord: "O Lord revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy." But the revival of God's work is infinitely beyond the control, management or comprehension of men.
The popular revival, which is now in its full blast in many places, is only, as far as we can perceive, a revival of the works of men. Hence the clerical engineering of its whole machinery. We use but their own language, which they publish to the world, when we say, They can get these revivals up and maintain them by their own agency, and when they contend that the number of the saved and of those who finally perish, depends upon the efforts and contributions of men. But when God quickens the dead, that birth which is by his power, is as far removed from the power, influence and agency of men, as is the blowing of the wind: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou [Nicodemus] hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." - John iii. 8. But such is very far from being the case in the revivals which are gotten up by men. This wind bloweth as they direct, and they know whence it cometh, for they can sow to the wind, and reap the whirlwind.
June 1, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe