« AnteriorContinuar »
sense of his favour; and I think this is abundantly evident both by scripture and experience. You must insist on Jonah as a clear instance of the thing you lay down. You observe that he says ch. ii. "I said I am cast out of thy sight, yet will I look again towards thy holy temple." Ver. 5. 7. "When my soul fainted within me; I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came in unto thee, even into thine holy temple." You speak of these words as expressing an assurance of his good state and of God's favour; (I will not now dispute whether they do or not); and you speak of this exercise of assurance, &c. as his practice in an evil frame, and in a careless frame; for he slept securely in the sides of the ship, manifesting dismal security, awful carelessness in a carnal frame. That Jonah was in a careless secure frame when he was asleep in the sides of the ship, I do not deny. But, dear Sir, does that prove that he remained still in a careless secure frame, when in his heart he said these things in the fish's belly, chap. ii. 4, 7.? does it prove that he remained careless after he was awakened, and saw the furious storm, and owned it was the fruit of God's anger towards him for his sins? and does it prove, that he still remained careless after the whale had swallowed him, when he seemed to himself to be in the belly of hell? when the water compassed him about, even to the soul, and, as he says, all God's waters and billows passed over him, and he was ready to despair when he went down to the bottoms of the mountains, was ready to think that God had cast him out of his sight, and confined him in a prison, that he could never escape, the earth with her bars was about him, for ever, and his soul fainted within him. He was brought into this condition after his sleeping securely in the side of the ship, before he said, "I will look again towards thine holy temple, &c.' He was evidently first awakened out of carelessness and security, and brought into distress, before he was comforted.
The other place you also much insist on, concerning the people of Israel, is very much like this. Before God comforted them with the testimonies of his favour, after their backslidings, he first, by severe chastisements, together with the awakening influences of his Spirit, brought them out of their carelessness and carnal security. It appears by many scriptures, that this was God's way of dealing with that people. So Hos. chap. ii. God first "hedged up her ways with thorns, and made a wall that she could not find her paths. And took away her corn and wine, and wool and flax, destroyed her vines and fig-trees, and caused her mirth to cease;" and, by this means, brought her to herself, brought her out of her security, carelessness and deep sleep, very much as the prodigal son was brought to himself. God "brought her first into the wilderness, before he spake comfortably to her,
and opened to her a door of hope." By her distress first brought her to say, "I will go and return to my first husband; and then, when God spake comfortably to her, she called him "Ishi, my husband ;" and God did as it were renewedly betroth her unto him. That passage Hosea ii. is very parallel with Jer. iii. One place serves well to illustrate and explain the other, and that it was God's way of dealing with his people Israel, after their apostacy and carnal security, first to awaken them, and under a sense of their sin and misery, to bring them solicitously to seek his face, before he gave them sensible evidence of his favour; and not to awaken out of security, by first making manifest his favour to them*.
And, besides, I would observe, that in Jer. iii. the prophecy is not concerning the recovery of backsliding saints, or the mystical church, which, though she had corrupted herself, still continued to be God's wife: It is concerning apostate Israel, that had forsaken and renounced her husband, and gone after other lovers, and whom God had renounced, put away, and given her a bill of divorce, (ver. 8.) so that her recovery could not be by giving her assurance of her good estate as still remaining his wife, and that God was already married unto her, for that was not true, and is not consistent with the context. And whereas it is said, ver. 14, "Return, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you, and I will take you one of a city, &c." I am married, in the Hebrew, is in the preterperfect tense; but you know, Sir, that in the language of prophecy, the pretertense is very commonly put for the future; and whereas it is said, ver. 19, "How shall I put thee among the children? And I said, Thou shalt call me my father." I acknowledge this expression here, my Father, and that Rom. viii. 15, is the language of faith. It is so two ways, 1st, It is such language of the soul as is the immediate effect of a lively faith. I acknowledge, that the lively exercises of faith do naturally produce satisfaction of a good state as their immediate effect. 2nd, It is language which, in another sense, does properly and naturally express the very act of faith itself, yea, the first act of faith in a sinner, before which he never was in a good state. As thus, supposing a man in distress, pursued by his enemies that sought his life, should have the gates of several fortresses set open before him, and should be called to from each of them to fly thither for refuge; and viewing them all, and one appearing strong and safe, but the rest insufficient, he should accept the invitation to that one, and fly thither with this language, "This is my fortress; this is my refuge. In vain is sal
*This is evident by many scriptures; as, Lev. xxvi. 40-42. Deut. xxxii. 36-39. 1 Kings viii. 21, 22. chap. i. 4--8. Ezek. xx. 35, 36, 37. Hos. v. 15, with chap. vi. 1--3. chap. xiii. 9, 10. chap. xiv. throughout.
vation looked for from the other. Behold I come to thee; this is my sure defence." Not that he means that he is already within the fortress, and so in a good estate. But this is my chosen fortress, in the strength of which I trust, and to which I betake myself for safety. So if a woman were at once to be solicited by many lovers, to give herself to them in a married state, and beholding the superior excellencies of one far above all the rest, should betake herself to him, with this language, "This is my husband, behold I come unto thee, thou art my spouse." Not that she means that she is already married to him, but that he is her chosen husband, &c. Thus God offers himself to sinners as their Saviour, God and Father; and the language of the heart of him that accepts the offer by active faith, is, "Thou art my Saviour; in vain is salvation hoped for from others that offer themselves. Thou art my God and Father." Not that he is already his child, but he chooses him, and comes to him, that he may be one of his children; as in Jer. iii. 19. Israel calls God his Father, as the way to be put among the children, and to be one of them, and not as being one already; and in ver. 21, 22, 23, she is not brought out of a careless and secure state by knowing that the Lord is her God, but she is first brought to consideration and sense of her sin and misery, weeping and supplications for mercy and conviction of the vanity of other saviours and refuges, not only before she has assurance of her good estate, but before she is brought to fly to God for refuge, that she may be in a good
As to the instance of Job, I would only say this: I think while in his state of sore affliction, though he had some great exercises of infirmity and impatience under his extreme trials, yet he was very far from being in such a frame as I intended, when I spoke of a secure, careless, carnal frame, &c. I doubt not, nor did I ever question it, that the saints' hope and knowledge of their good state, is in many cases of excellent benefit, to help them against temptation and the exercises of corruption.
With regard to the case of extraordinary temptation, and buffetting of Satan, which you mention, I do not very well know - what to say further. I have often found my own insufficiency as a counsellor in such like cases, wherein melancholy and bodily distemper have so great a hand, and give Satan so great advantage, as appears to me in the case you mention. If the Lord do not help, whence should we help? If some Christian friends of such afflicted and (as it were) possessed persons, would, from time to time, pray and fast for them, it might be a proper exercise of Christian charity, and the likeliest way I know for relief. I kept no copy of my former letter to you, and so do not remember fully what I have already said concerning this case. But this I have
often found with such melancholy people, that the greatest difficulty does not lie in giving them good advice, but in persuading them to take it. One thing I think of great importance, which is, that such persons should go on in a steady course of performance of all duties, both of their general and particular calling, without suffering themselves to be diverted from it by any violence of Satan, or specious pretence of his whatsoever, properly ordering, proportioning and timing all sorts of duties, duties to God, public, private, and secret, and duties to man, relative duties, of business and conversation, family duties, duties of friendship and good neighbourhood, duly proportioning labour and rest, intentness and relaxation, without suffering one duty to crowd out or intrench upon another. If such persons could be persuaded to this, I think, in this way, they would be best guarded against the devil, and he would soonest be discouraged, and a good state of body would be most likely to be gained, and persons would act most as if they trusted and rested in God, and would be most in the way of his help and blessing.
With regard to what you write concerning immediate revelations, I have thought of it, and I find I cannot say any thing to purpose, without drawing out this letter to a very extraordinary length, and I am already got to such length, that I had need ask I have written enough to tire your patience.
It has indeed been with great difficulty that I have found time to write much. If you knew my extraordinary circumstances, I doubt not, you would excuse my not writing any more. I acknowledge the subject you mention is very important. Probably if God spares my life, and gives me opportunity, I may write largely upon it. I know not how Providence will dispose of me, I am going to be cast on the wide world, with my large family of ten children.—I humbly request your prayers for me under my difficulties and trials.
As to the state of religion in this place and this land, it is at present very sorrowful and dark. But I must, for a more particular account of things, refer you to my letter to Mr. M'LAUREN, of Glasgow, and Mr. ROBE. So, asking a remembrance in your prayers, I must conclude, by subscribing myself, with much esteem and respect,
Your obliged Brother and Servant,
P. S. July 3, 1750. Having had no leisure to finish the preparation of my letters to Scotland before this time, by reason of the extraordinary troubles, hurries and confusions of my unusual circumstances, I can now inform you, that the controversy between me and my people, that I mentioned in the beginning of my let
ter, has issued in a separation. An ecclesiastical council was called on the affair, who sat here the week before last, who, by a majority of one voice, determined an immediate separation to be necessary; and accordingly my pastoral relation to my people was dissolved on June 22. If I can procure the printed accounts from Boston of the proceedings of the council, I will give order to my friend there to inclose them with this letter, and direct them to you. I desire your prayers, that I may take a suitable notice of the frowns of heaven on me and this people, (between whom was once so great an union,) in bringing to pass such a separation between us; and that these troubles may be sanctified to me, that God would overrule this event for his own glory, (which doubtless many adversaries will rejoice and triumph in,) that God would open a door for my future usefulness, and provide for me and my numerous family, and take a fatherly care of us in our present unsettled, uncertain circumstances, being cast on the wide world.