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NATIONAL RENOVATION:

ITS SOURCE, ITS CHANNELS, AND

ITS RESULTS.

BY

WILLIAM R. WILLIAMS.

NEW YORK:

ANSON D. F. RANDOLPH

No. 683 BROADWAY.

1863.

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NATIONAL RENOVATION:

ITS SOURCE, ITS CHANNELS, AND ITS RESULTS.

UNTIL THE SPIRIT BE POURED UPON US FROM ON HIGH, AND THE WILDERNESS BE A FRUITFUL field, and the fruitful FIELD BE COUNTED FOR A FOREST. THEN JUDGMENT SHALL DWELL IN THE WILDERNESS, AND RIGHTEOUSNESS REMAIN IN THE FRUITFUL FIELD. AND THE WORK OF RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL BE PEACE; AND THE EFFECT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS QUIETNESS AND ASSURANCE FOR EVER. ."-ISAIAH Xxxii. 15-17.

On the opening Sabbath of a new year it is not only natural, my friends, but it is almost inevitable that we should look forward-it may be with eager hope or it may be with overmastering solicitude-to the character of the history which that year is to write for ourselves, and our homes, and our native land. Steering, as the ship of State is, amid the howling tempest and boiling surges of war, through most perilous straits, both as regards its home and its foreign policy, it would be lack of patriotism and sheer hardness of heart to whistle off, in utter levity, the memory of the tremendous emergencies and responsibilities that envelop, darken, and agitate us. Yet vast as is the State, and dread as is the crisis of the national destiny, the soul of each one of us has a longer lease of being than any empire, merely secular, which the earth has seen or is ever to see. And through the

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commingling battle of Sin and of Grace, of Temptation whose maelstrom sucks the keel downward, and of Redemption, which shoots the bark heavenward, each child and each man of us is, whether or not we be conscious of it, struggling for a mightier stake than empires ever contested on the field of battle. Crowns and sceptres are veriest baubles and idle pageantry compared with the intrinsic worth of a human soul. Angels and devils survey with profoundest interest the steps and results of your spiritual career. The realms of Christ and Abaddon sway, so to speak, to and fro over the disputed prize of your soul, lightly as you may regard it; and habitually as you may forget the fact of that dread arbitrament, which settled once is settled irrevocably and forever. The year of grace, 1863, will, beyond all question, be "a year of the right hand of the MOST HIGH." But will that right hand smite us down with its mailed gauntlet of vengeance to depths of inconceivable wretchedness; or, lift us in its blessed grasp of rescue to the heights of the heavenly glory, and the secure hold of the victor's palmbranch?

Religion and Patriotism should, my beloved hearers, alike make us thoughtful, as we place in uncertainty our feet over the threshold of a new year which may bring to us so much of blessing beyond all estimation, or as much of woe, incalculable and irreparable. It was the lot of Isaiah to lift up the voice of his herald prophesying in a day of rebuke, declension and blasphemy. The crimes and impiety of Ahaz his king, interrupted indeed by the reign of the godly Hezekiah, but resumed and aggravated by the next successor Manasseh,-the tauntings and cursings of Rabshakeh and the war-trump and imperial menaces of Sennacherib, must, all in their turn, have beaten heavily on the burdened heart of the pro

phet. But with what an overmastering gladness does his soul dart through the lower and ominous cloud-rack to reach the upper skies, ever serene and golden. Let us implore the aid of that grace which he so steadily proclaimed, and so richly and sweetly experienced, in order that we too may no longer be "of doubtful minds;" but trust and fear not, with the Eternal God as our stay and as the rock of our salvation. Bring the year what it may, if the Lord, its Sovereign Governor, be the habitation of our souls, its worst storms shall but dash us on His faithfulness, and waft us at the last into His rest and beatific vision.

The Christians of many a remote shore, and using many various dialects of the earth's divided tongues, have agreed to make this opening week, as commenced by the present Sabbath, and as rounded by the next succeeding Sabbath, a season of special, unremitted and unanimous. intercession for the descent of the SPIRIT OF GOD. This, which is their theme of prayer, is in our text brought forward by Isaiah, as being in his time, and for all after times, the basis of the Church's hope, and the only source of true and lasting renovation for any people and for the entire race. As Ezekiel, from amongst the white and disjointed bones of the Valley of vision, seemingly the spoils of some neglected and unguarded cemetery, and a spectacle that in itself preached only perplexity and despondency, was bidden to look up, and to prophesy for the four winds of Heaven-the emblem of the Omnipresent and All-grasping Spirit of God—to come down and shoot life into the rattling fragments; so Isaiah, before him, bade us raise our eyes heavenwards, amid all scenes of gloom and toil, in our expectation of aid only from God's good Spirit, and in our passionate, importunate entreaties for its quickening descent.

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