LECTURES ON REVIVALS OF RELIGION
The following Lectures were delivered during the preceding autumn and winter, to the congregation with which the author is connected, in the ordinary course of his public ministrations. The grand object at which he has aimed has been to vindicate and advance the cause of genuine revivals of religion; and in doing this, he has endeavoured to distinguish between a genuine revival and a spurious excitement; to defend revivals against the cavils of their opposers; to show the causes which operate to prevent or retard them; to exhibit the agency of God, and the instrumentality of men, by which they are produced and sustained; to guide the inquiring sinner and establish the young convert; to guard against the abuses to which revivals are liable, and to anticipate the glorious results to which they must lead. In the hope that the Lectures may prove a seasonable offering to the American church, at an interesting and critical period, the author has concluded to send them forth through the press; and in doing this it is a pleasure to him that he is complying with a request from the session and trustees of the church of which he is pastor, as well as acting in accordance with the wishes of several respected and beloved brethren in the ministry with whom he is more immediately associated.
In the Appendix the reader will find a series of letters on the same subject, from a number of the most distinguished clergymen of our country, and from six different religious denominations. The object in requesting these letters has been twofold--First, to obtain authentic history of our revivals, in which unhappily we have hitherto been greatly deficient; and, Second, to ascertain the manner in which revivals have been conducted by men whose wisdom, experience, and standing in the church must at least entitle their opinion to great consideration. It was originally the author's intention to have republished the well-known letters of Doctor Beecher and Mr. Nettleton written several years ago, in which the same general views which this volume inculcates, are defended with great zeal and ability. But upon examination he finds they are so much identified with the occasion in which they originated, that he thinks it best to omit them. He allows himself to hope that whatever the decision of the public may be in respect to the Lectures, they will find in the Letters which follow, much authentic and important information; and he doubts not that the testimony on this momentous subject of such a representation from our American church, will not only be gratefully received, but considerately and earnestly pondered. If the volume should, by the blessing of God, be instrumental, even in a humble degree, of promoting such revivals as those for which Edwards, and Dwight, and Nettleton, and a host of others both among the living and the dead, have counted it an honour to labour, the best wish of the author of the Lectures, and no doubt of the writers of the Letters also, will be answered.
W.B. Sprague, Albany, NY, May 1, 1832.