We now pass to the last item which we think it necessary particularly to notice, viz.: four days or protracted meetings. Before stating our objections to these, however, we would observe that we consider the example worthy to be imitated which the apostles set of embracing every opportunity consistently with propriety for preaching the gospel wherever they met with an assembly, whether in a Jew's synagogue on the seventh day, or in a Christian assembly on the first day of the week; and the exhortation to be instant in season and out of season, we would gladly accept. Therefore, whenever circumstances call a congregation together from day to day, as at an association or the like we would embrace the opportunity of preaching the gospel to them from time to time, so often as they shall come together; but to the principles and plans of protracted meetings, distinguishingly so called, we do decidedly object. The principle of these meetings we cannot fellowship.
Regeneration, we believe, is exclusively the work of the Holy Ghost, performed by his divine power, at his own sovereign pleasure, according to the provisions of the everlasting covenant; but these meetings are got up either for the purpose of inducing the Holy Spirit to regenerate multitudes who would otherwise not be converted, or to convert them themselves by the machinery of these meetings, or rather to bring them into their churches by means of exciting their animal feelings, without any regard to their being born again. Whichever of these may be considered the true ground upon which these meetings are founded, we are at a loss to know how any person who has known what it is to be born again can countenance them.
The plans of these meetings are equally as objectionable; for, in the first place, all doctrinal preaching, or in other words, all illustrations of God's plan of salvation, are excluded professedly from these meetings. Hence they would make believers of their converts without presenting any fixed truths to their minds to believe. Whereas God has chosen his people to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the TRUTH. - 2 Thess. ii.13.
Secondly. The leaders of these meetings fix standards by which to decide of persons' repentance and desire of salvation, which the word of God nowhere warrants, such as rising off their seats, coming to anxious seats, or going to a certain place, &c. Whereas the New Testament has given us a standard from which we have no right to depart, viz: that of bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
Thirdly. They lead the People to depend on mediators other than the Lord Jesus Christ to obtain peace for them, by offering themselves as intercessors for them with God; whereas the Scriptures acknowledge but the one God and one Mediator.
Some may be ready to inquire whether protracted meetings, as such, may not with propriety be held, providing they be held without excluding doctrinal preaching, or introducing any of these new plans. However others may judge and act, we cannot approve of such meetings for the following reasons:
lst. Because by appointing and holding a protracted meeting, as such, although we may not carry it to the same excesses to which others do, yet as most people will make no distinction between it and those meetings where all the borrowed machinery from Methodist campmeetings is introduced, we shall generally be considered as countenancing those meetings.
2nd. Because the motives we could have for conforming to the custom of holding these newly invented meetings are such as we think cannot bear the test. For we must be induced thus to conform to the reigning custom either in order to shun the reproach generally attached to those who will not conform to what is popular, or to try the experiment whether our holding a four days' meeting will not induce the Holy Ghost to produce a revival among us commensurate with the strange fire enkindled by others; or else we must be led to this plan from having imbibed the notion that the Holy Ghost is somehow so the creature of human feelings that he is led to regenerate persons by our getting their animal feelings excited; and therefore that in the same proportion as we can by any measure get the feelings of the people aroused, there will be a revival of religion. This latter motive can scarcely be supposed to have place with any who would not go the whole length of every popular measure.
But 1st. We do not believe it becoming a follower of Jesus to seek an exemption from reproach by conforming to the schemes of men. 2nd. We believe the Holy Ghost to be too sacred a being to be trifled with by trying experiments upon him. And 3rd. We believe the Holy Ghost to be God. We would as soon expect that the Father would be induced to predestinate persons to the adoption of children by their feelings being excited, and the Son be induced to redeem them, as that the Holy Ghost would be thus induced to quicken them. These three are one. The purpose of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost, must run in perfect accordance, and commensurate, one with the other.