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minds of others; their refinings, and nice discerning, are in God's sight, but refined foolishness, and sagacious delusion. Here are applicable those words of Agur, Prov. xxx. 5, 6. Every word of God is pure: he is a shield to them that put their trust in him; add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Our wisdom and discerning, with regard to the hearts of men, is not much to be trusted. We can see but a little way into the nature of the soul, and the depths of man's heart. The ways are many whereby persons' affections may be moved without any supernatural influence: the natural springs of the affections are various and secret. Many things have oftentimes a joint influence on the affections; the imagination, natural temper, education, the common influences of the Spirit of God; a surprising concourse of affecting circumstances, an extraordinary coincidence of things in the course of men's thoughts together with the subtle management of invisible malicious spirits. No philosophy or experience will ever be sufficient to guide us safely through this labyrinth and maze, without our closely following the clue which God has given us in his word. God knows his own reasons why he insists on some things, and plainly sets them forth as what we should try ourselves by, rather than others. It may be it is because he knows that these things are attended with less perplexity, and that we are less liable to be deceived by them than others.— He best knows our nature, and the nature and manner of his own operations; and he best knows the way of our safety. He knows what allowances to make for different states of his church, different tempers of particular persons, and varieties in the manner of his own operations; how far nature may resemble grace, and how far nature may be mixed with grace; what affections may rise from imagination, and how far imagination may be mixed with spiritual illumination. And therefore it is our wisdom not to take his work out of his hands; but to follow him, and lay the stress of the judgment of ourselves there, where he has directed us. If we do otherwise, no wonder if we are bewildered, confounded, and fatally deluded. But if we had got into the way of looking chiefly at those things which Christ, his apostles, and prophets chiefly insisted on-while judging of ourselves and others, chiefly regarding practical exercises and effects of grace, not neglecting other things-it would have been of manifold happy consequence. This would above all things tend to the conviction of deluded hypocrites, and to prevent the delusion of those whose hearts were never brought to a thorough compliance with the strait and narrow way which leads to life. It would tend to deliver us from innumerable perplexities, arising from varions inconsistent schemes about methods and steps of experience; it would greatly tend to prevent professors neglecting strictness of life, and tend to pro
mote their engagedness and earnestness in their Christian walk; and it would become fashionable for men to shew their Christianity, more by an amiable distinguished behaviour, than by an abundant and excessive declaring of their experiences. We should then get into the way of appearing lively in religion, more by being lively in the service of God and our generation, than by the forwardness of our tongues, and making a business of proclaiming on the house-tops the holy and eminent acts and exercises of our own hearts. Then Christians who are intimate friends, would talk together of their experiences and comforts, in a manner better becoming Christian humility and modesty, and more to each other's profit; their tongues not running before their hands and feet, after the prudent example of the blessed apostle, 2 Cor. xii. 6. Many occasions of spiritual pride would be cut off, and so a great door shut against the devil; and a great many of the main stumbling-blocks against experimental and powerful religion would be removed. Religion would be declared and manifested in such a way as-instead of hardening spectators, and exceedingly promoting infidelity and atheism-would above all things tend to convince men that there is a reality in religion, and greatly awaken them, and win them, by convincing their consciences of the importance and excellency of religion. Thus the light of professors would so shine before men, that others seeing their good works, would glorify their Father which is in Heaven!
TO THE TREATISE OF THE AFFECTIONS, IN TWO LETTERS.†
To Mr. GILLESPIE, in answer to Objections.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
NORTHAMPTON, SEPT. 4, 1747.
I RECEIVED your letter of Nov. 24, 1746, though very long after it was written. I thank you for it, and for your offering me a correspondence with you. Such an offer I shall gladly embrace, and esteem it a great privilege, more especially from the character I have received of you from Mr. Abercrombie, who I perceive was intimately acquainted with you.
As to the objections you make against some things contained in my late book on Religious Affections, I am sorry you did not read the book through, before you made them; if you had, perhaps the difficulties would not have appeared quite so great. As to what is contained in the 74th and 75th pages, I suppose there is not the least difference of opinion between you and me, unless it be concerning the signification and propriety of expressions. I am fully of your mind, and always was without the least doubt of it; "that every one, both saint and sinner, is indispensibly bound, at all seasons, by the divine authority, to believe instantly on the Lord Jesus, and that the command of the Lord, 1 John iii. 23, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, as it is a prescription of the moral law, no less binds the sinner to immediate performance, than the commandment not to kill, to keep the Sabbath-day, or any other duty, as to the present performance of which, in way of duty, all agree the sinner is bound; and that men are bound to trust the divine faithfulness,
These Letters were first printed in the Quarterly Magazine, Edinburgh.
be their case with respect to light and darkness, sight, &c. what it will; and that no situation they can be in, looses them from obligation to glorify the Lord at all seasons, and expecting the fulfilment of his words; and that the sinner that is without spiritual light or sight is bound to believe, and that it is a duty at that very time incumbent on him to believe." But I conceive that there is a great deal of difference between these two things, viz. its being a man's duty that is without spiritual light or sight to believe, and its being his duty to believe without spiritual light or sight, or to believe while he yet remains without spiritual light or sight. Just the same difference that is between these two things, viz. its being his duty that has no faith to believe, and its being his duty to believe without faith, or to believe without believing. I trust there is none will assert the latter, because of the contradiction that it implies. As it is not proper to say, it is a man's duty to believe without faith, because it implies a contradiction, so I think it equally improper to say it is a man's duty to believe without these things that are essentially implied in faith, because that also implies a contradiction. But a spiritual sight of Christ or knowledge of Christ is essentially implied in the very nature and notion of faith, and therefore it is absurd to talk of believing on Christ without spiritual light or sight. It is the duty of a man that is without these things, that essentially belong to faith, to believe, and it is the duty of a man that is without these things that essentially belong to love, to love God; because it is an indispensible obligation that lies on all men at all times, and in all circumstances, to love God: but yet it is not a duty to love God without loving him, or continuing without those things that essentially belong to his love. It is the duty of those that have no sense of the loveliness of God, and have no esteem of him, to love him, and they be not in the least excused by the want of this sense and esteem, in not loving him one moment; but yet it would be properly nonsense to say it is their duty to love him without any sense of his loveliness or any esteem of him. It is indeed their duty this moment to come out of their disesteem and stupid wicked insensibility of his loveliness, and to love him. I made the distinction, (I thought) very plainly, in the midst of those sentences you quote as exceptionable. I say expressly, p. 74, "It is truly the duty of those who are in darkness to come out of darkness into light and believe; but, that they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light or sight, is an anti-scriptural and absurd doctrine." The misunderstanding between us, dear Sir, I suppose to be in the different application of the particle without, in my use of it, and your understanding of it, or what we understand as spoken of and supposed in the expression, without spiritual light or sight. As I use it, I apply it to
the act of believing, and I suppose it to be very absurd to talk of an act of faith without spiritual light and sight, wherein I suppose you will allow me to be in the right. As you understand it, it is applied to duty or obligation, and you suppose it to be not at all absurd to talk of an obligation to believe without spiritual light or sight, but that the obligation remains full where there is no spiritual light or sight, wherein I allow you are in the right. I think, Sir, if you read what I have said in my book on this head again, it will be exceeding apparent to you, that it is thus that I apply the preposition without, and not as you before understood it. I thought I had very plainly manifested that what I meant by being in darkness was a being in spiritual blindness, and so in a dead, stupid, carnal, and unchristian frame and way, and not what is commonly called a being without the light of God's countenance, under the hidings of his face. We have a great number of people in these parts that go on that supposition in their notions and practice, that there really is such a thing as such a manner of believing, such a kind of faith as this, viz. a confident believing and firm trusting in God in the dark, in the sense mentioned, that is to be sought after, and is the subject matter of divine prescription, and which many actually have; and indeed there are innumerable instances of such as are apparently in a most senseless, careless, negligent, apostate, and every way unchristian and wicked frame, that yet, encouraged by this principle, do retain an exceeding strong confidence of their good state, and count that herein they do their duty and give much glory to God, under the notion of trusting God in the dark, and hoping against hope, and not trusting on their own righteousness; and they suppose it would shew a legal spirit to do otherwise. I thought it would be manifest to every reader that I was arguing against such a sort of people.
You say, "It merits consideration whether the believer should ever doubt of his state, on any account whatever, because doubting, as opposed to believing, is absolutely sinful." Here, Sir, you seem to suppose that a person's doubting of his own good estate is the proper opposite of faith, and these and some other expressions in your letter seem to suppose that doubting of one's good estate and unbelief is the same thing, and so, that being confident of one's good estate and faith are the same thing. This I acknowledge I don't understand; I don't take faith, and a person's believing that they have faith, to be the same thing. Nor do I take unbelief, or being without faith, and doubting whether they have it, to be the same thing, but entirely different. I should have been glad either that you had taken a little more notice of what I say on this head, p. 76, 77, or that you had said something to convince me that I am wrong in this point. The exercise of faith is doubtless the way to be delivered from darkness, deadness,