« AnteriorContinuar »
thus undoubtedly they received and improved them, and were affected by them. According to the end for which God intended these outward signs, they received by them a great and lively apprehension of the real glory and majesty of God's nature, of which they were signs; and thus were greatly affected, their souls swallowed up, and their bodies overborn. And, I think, they are very bold and daring, who will say that God cannot, or shall not give the like affecting apprehensions of the same real glory of his nature to none of his saints, without the intervention of such external shadows.
Before I leave this head, I would farther observe, that it is plain the scripture often makes use of bodily effects to express the strength of holy and spiritual affections; such as trembling*, groaning, being sick, crying out, pantings, and fainting**. Now if it be supposed, that these are only figurative expressions to represent the degree of affection; yet I hope all will allow, that they are suitable figures to represent the high degree of those spiritual affections; which I see not how they would be, if those spiritual affections are the proper effects, and sad tokens of false affections, and the delusion of the devil. I cannot think, God would commonly make use of things which are very alien from spiritual affections, and are shrewd marks of the hand of Satan, and smell strong of the bottomless pit, as beautiful figures, to represent the high degree of holy and heavenly affections.
It is no sign that affections are truly gracious, or that they are not, that they cause those who have them, to be fluent, fervent and abundant in talking of religious things.
There are many persons, who, if they see this in others, are greatly prejudiced against them. Their being so full of talk, is with them a sufficient ground to condemn them as Pharisees, and ostentatious hypocrites. On the other hand, there are many who, if they see this effect in any, are very ignorantly and imprudently forward, at once to determine that they are the true children of God, under the saving influences of his Spirit, and speak of it as a great evidence of a new creature. Such an one's mouth, say they, is now opened: he used to be slow to speak; but now he is full and free: he is free now to open his heart, and tell his expe
Psal. cxix. 120. Ezra ix. 4. Isa. lxvi. 2, 5. Hab. iii 16. t Rom. viii. 26. Cant. ii. 5 and v. 8. | Psal. lxxxiv. 2. § Psal. xxxviii, 10. and xlii, 1. and cxix. 131 ** Psal. lxxxiv. 2 and cxix. 81.
riences, and declare the praises of God; it comes from him, as free as water from a fountain; and the like. And especially are they captivated into a confident persuasion that they are savingly wrought upon, if they are not only free and abundant, but very affectionate and earnest in their talk.
But this is the fruit of little judgment, and short experience; as event abundantly shew: and is a mistake into which persons often run, through their trusting their own wisdom, and making their own notions their rule, instead of the holy scripture. Though the scripture be full of rules, both how we should judge of our own state, and also how we should be conducted in our own opinion of others; yet we have no where any rule, by which to judge ourselves or others to be in a good estate, from any such effect for this is but the religion of the tongue, and what is in the scripture represented by the leaves of a tree, which-though the tree ought not to be without them, yet-are no where given as an evidence of the goodness of the tree.
That persons are disposed to be abundant in talking of religious things, may be from a good cause, and it may be from a bad one. It may be because their hearts are very full of holy affections; for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh: and it may be because persons hearts are very full of affection which is not holy; for still out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. It is very much the nature of the affections, of whatever kind and whatever objects they are exercised about, if they are strong, to dispose persons to be very much in speaking of that with which they are affected; and not only to speak much, but to speak very earnestly and fervently. And therefore persons talking abundantly and very fervently about the things of religion, can be an evidence of no more than this, that they are very much affected with the things of religion; but this may be, (as has been already shown), without any grace. That which men are greatly affected with, while the high affection lasts, they will be earnestly engaged about, and will be likely to shew that earnestness in their talk and behaviour; as the greater part of the Jews, in all Judah and Galilee, did for a while, about John the Baptist's preaching and baptism, when they were willing for a season to rejoice in his light: a mighty stir was made all over the land, and among all sorts of persons, about this great prophet and his ministry. And so the multitude, in like manner, often manifested a great earnestness, a mighty engagedness of spirit, in every thing that was external, about Christ, his preaching and miracles, being astonished at his doctrine, anon with joy receiving the word. They followed him sometimes night and day, leaving meat, drink, and sleep to hear him; once they followed him into the wilderness, fasting three days going to hear him; sometimes extolling him to
the clouds, saying, Never man spake like this man! being fervent and earnest in what they said. But what did these things come to, in the greater part of them?
A person may be over full of talk of his own experiences; falling upon it every where, and in all companies; and when so, it is rather a dark sign than a good one. A tree that is over full of leaves, seldom bears much fruit. And a cloud, though to appearance very pregnant and full of water, if it brings with it over much wind, seldom affords much rain to the dry and thirsty earth; which very thing the Holy Spirit is pleased several times to make use of, to represent a great shew of religion with the mouth, without answerable fruit in the life, Prov. xxv. 14. Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift, is like clouds and wind without rain. And the apostle Jude, speaking of some in the primitive times, that crept in unawares among the saints, and having a great shew of religion, were for a while not suspected, These are clouds (says he) without water, carried about of winds, Jude ver. 4. and 12. And the apostle Peter, speaking of the same, says, 2 Pet. ii. 17. These are clouds without water, carried with a tempest. False affections, if they are equally strong, are much more forward to declare themselves, than true because it is the nature of false religion, to affect shew and observation; as it was with the Pharisees*.
It is no sign that affections are gracious, or that they are otherwise, that persons did not excite them by their own endeavours.
There are many in these days, who condemn all affections which are excited in a way that seems not to be the natural con
That famous experimental divine Mr. Shepard, says, "A Pharisee's trumpet shall be heard to the town's end; when simplicity walks through the town unseen. Hence a man will sometimes covertly commend himself, (and myself ever comes in,) and tells you a long story of conversion: and an hundred to one if some lie or other slip not out with it. Why, the secret meaning is, I pray admire me. Hence complain of wants and weaknesses: pray think what a broken-hearted Christian I am. Parab. of the ten virgins, Part 1. page 179, 180.
And holy Mr. FLAVEL says thus, "O reader, if thy heart were right with God, and thou didst not cheat thyself with a vain profession, thou wouldst have frequent business with God, which thou wouldst be loth thy dearest friend, or the wife of thy bosom should be privy to. Non est religio, ubi omnia patent. Religion doth not lie open to all, to the eyes of men. Observed duties maintain our credit, but secret duties maintain our life. It was the saying of an heathen, about his secret correspondency with his friend, What need the world to be acquainted with it? Thou and I are theatre enough to each other. There are inclosed pleasures in religion, which none but renewed spiritual souls do feelingly understand." FLAVEL'S Touchstone of Sincerity, chap. II. sect. 2.
sequence of the faculties and principles of human nature, in such circumstances, and under such means; but to be from the influence of some extrinsic and supernatural power upon their minds. How greatly has the doctrine of the inward experience or sensible perceiving of the immediate power and operation of the Spirit of God, been reproached and ridiculed by many of late? They say, the manner of the Spirit of God, is to co-operate in a silent, secret, and undiscernible way with the use of means, and our own endeavours; so that there is no distinguishing by sense, between the influences of the Spirit of God, and the natural operations of the faculties of our own minds.
And it is true, that for any to expect to receive the saving influences of the Spirit of God, while they neglect a diligent improvement of the appointed means of grace, is unreasonable presumption. And to expect that the Spirit of God will savingly operate upon their minds, without the use of means, as subservient to the effect, is enthusiastical. It is also undoubtedly true, that the Spirit of God is very various in the manner and circumstances of his operations, and that sometimes he operates in a way more secret and gradual, and from smaller beginnings, than at others.
But if there be indeed a power, entirely different from and beyond our power-or the power of all means and instruments, and above the power of nature-which is requisite in order to the production of saving grace in the heart, according to the general profession of the country; then certainly, it is in no wise unreasonable to suppose, that this effect should very frequently be produced after such a manner, as to make it very manifest and sensible, that it is so. If grace be indeed owing to the powerful and efficacious operation of an extrinsic agent, or divine efficient out of ourselves, why is it unreasonable to suppose, it should seem to be so, to them who are the subjects of it? Is it a strange thing, that it should seem to be as it is? When grace in the heart indeed is not produced by our strength, nor is the effect of the natural power of our own faculties, or any means or instruments, but is properly the workmanship and production of the Spirit of the Almighty, is it a strange thing, that it should seem to them who are subjects of it, agreeable to truth, and not contrary to truth? If persons tell of effects that seem to them not to be from the natural power or operation of their minds, but from the supernatural power of some other agent, should it at at once be looked upon as a sure evidence of their being under a delusion, because things seem to them to be as they are? For this is the objection which is made: it is looked upon as a clear evidence, that the apprehensions and affections that many persons have, are not really from such a cause, because they seem to them
to be from that cause. They declare that what they are conscious of, seems to them evidently not to be from themselves, but from the mighty power of the Spirit of God; and others from hence condemn them, and determine that what they experience is not from the Spirit God, but from themselves, or from the devil. Thus unreasonably are multitudes treated at this day, by their neighbours.
If it be indeed so, as the scripture abundantly teaches, that grace in the soul is so the effect of God's power, that it is fitly compared to those effects, which are farthest from being owing to any strength in the subject, such as generation, or a being begotten, and resurrection, or a being raised from the dead, and creation, or a being brought out of nothing into being, and that it is an effect wherein the mighty power of God is greatly glorified, and the exceeding greatness of his power manifested*; then what account can be given of it, that the Almighty, in so great a work of his power, should so carefully hide his power, that the subjects of it should be able to discern nothing of it? or what reason or revelation have any to determine that he does so? If we may judge by the scripture, this is not agreeable to God's manner, in his operations and dispensations; but on the contrary, it is God's manner, in the great works of his power and mercy, to make his hand visible, and his power conspicuous, and men's dependence on him most evident, that no flesh should glory in his presencet, that God alone might be exalted, and that the excellency of the power might be of God and not of man, and that Christ's power might be manifested in our weekness, and none might say, mine own hand hath saved me¶. So it was in most of those temporal salvations which God wrought for Israel of old, which were types of the salvation of his people from their spiritual enemies. So, in the redemption of Israel from their Egyptian bondage; he redeemed them with a strong hand, and an outstretched arm; and that his power might be the more conspicuous, he suffered Israel to be brought into the most helpless and forlorn circumstances. So, in the great redemption by Gideon; God would have his army diminished to a handful, and they without any other arms, than trumpets, and lamps, and earthen pitchers. So, in the deliverance of Israel from Goliah, by a stripling, with a sling and a stone. So it was in that great work of God, his calling the Gentiles, after that the world by wisdom knew not God, and all the endeavours of philosophers to reform the world had failed, and it was become abundant evident that the world had no effectual help but the mighty power of God.
Is. i. 11-17. § 2 Cor. iv. 7.
Eph. i. 17-20. || 2 Cor. xii. 9.
+1 Cor. i. 27, 28, 29. Judg vii. 2.