« PreviousContinue »
ed in this affair, and that we should improve our utmost strength in it, however vain human strength is without the power of God; and so he no less requires that we should improve our utmost care, wisdom and prudence, though human wisdom, of itself be as vain as human strength. Though God is wont to carry on such a work, in such a manner, us many ways, to shew the weakness and vanity of means and human endeavors, in themselves; yet at the same time, he carries it on in such a manner, as to encourage diligence and vigilance, in the use of proper means and endeavors, and to punish the neglect of them. Therefore in our endeavors to promote this great work, we ought to use the utmost caution, vigilance and skill, in the measures we take in order to it. А great affair should be managed with great prudence : This is the most important affair that ever Newengland was called to be concerned in. When a people are engaged in war with a powerful and crafty nation, it concerns them to manage an affair of such consequence with the utmost discretion. Of what vast importance then must it be, that we should be vigilant and prudent, in the management of this great war that Newengland now has, with so great a host of such subtle and cruel enemies, wherein we must either conquer or be conquered, and the consequence of the victory, on one side, will be our eternal destruction, in both soul and body in hell, and on the other side, our obtaining the kingdom of heaven, and reigning in it in eternal glory? We had need always to stand on our watch, and to be well versed in the art of war, and not to be ignorant of the devices of our enemies, and to take heed lest by any means we be beguiled through their subtilty.
Though the devil be strong, yet in such a war as this, he depends more on his craft than his strength : And the course he has chiefly taken, from time to time, to clog, hinder and, overthrow revivals of religion in the church of God, has been by his subtle, deceitful management, to beguile and mislead those that have been engaged therein ; and in such a course God has been pleased, in his holy and sovereign providence, to suffer him to succeed, oftentimes, in a great measure, to overthrow that, which in its beginning appeared most hopefud and glorious. The work that is now begun in Newengland, is, as I have shown, eminently glorious, and if it should go on and prevail, would make Newengland a kind of heaven upon earth : Is it not therefore a thousand pities, that it should be overthrown, through wrong and improper management, that we are led into by our subtle advers ry, in our endeavors to promote it?
In treating of the methods that ought to be taken to promote this work, I would,
1. Take notice, in some instances, wherein fault has been found with the conduct of those that have appeared to be the subjects of it, or have been zealous to promote it, (as I apprehend) beyond just cause.
2. I would shew what things ought to be corrected or avoided.
3. I would shew positively, what ought to be done to promote this glorious work of God.
I. I would take notice of some things, at which offence has been taken without, or beyond just cause.
One thing that has been complained of, is ministers addressing themselves, rather to the affections of their hearers, than to their understandings, and striving to raise their passions to the utmost height, rather by a very affectionate manner of speaking, and a great appearance of earnestness, in voice and gesture, than by clear reasoning and informing their judgment : By which means it is objected, that the affections are moved, without a proportionable enlightening of the understanding.
To which I would say I am far from thinking that it is not very profitable, for ministers in their preaching, to endeavor clearly and distinctly to explain the doctrines of religion, and unravel the difficulties that attend them, and to confirm them with strength of reason and argumentation, and also to observe some easy and clear method and order, in their discourses, for the help of the understanding and memory ; and it is very probable that these things have been of late, too much neglected, by many ministers ; yet, I believe that the objection that is made, of affections raised without enlightening the inderstanding, is in a great measure built on a mistake, and confused notions that some have about the nature and cause of the affections, and the manner in which they depend on the understanding. All affections are raised either by light in the understanding, or by some error and delusion in the understanding ; for all affections do certainly arise from some apprehension in the understanding; and that apprehension must either be agreeable to truth, or else be some mistake or delusion ; if it be an apprehension or notion that is agreeable to truth, then it is light in the understanding. Therefore the thing to be inquired into is, whether the apprehensions or notions of divine and eternal things, that are raised in people's minds, by these affectionate preachers, whence their affections are excited, be apprehensions that are agrecable to truth, or whether they are mistakes. If the former, then the affections are raised the way they should be, viz. By informing the mind, or conveying light to the understanding. They go away with a wrong notion, that think that those preachers cannot affect their hearers, by enlightening their understandings, that do not do it by such a distinct, and learned handling of the doctrinal points of religion, as depends on human discipline, or the strength of natural reason, and tends to enlarge their hearers learning, and speculative knowledge in divinity, The manner of preaching without this, may be such as shall tend very much to set divine and eternal things, in a right view, and to give the hearers such ideas and apprehensions of them as are agreeable to truth, and such impressions on their hearts, as are answerable to the real nature of things : And not only the words that are spoken, but the manner of speaking, is one thing that has a great tendency to this. I think an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them ; but on the contrary a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dull, indifferent way of speaking of them. An appearance of affection and earnestness, in the inanner of delivery, if it be very great indeed, yet if it be agreeable to the nature of the subject, and be not beyond a proportion to its imports ance, and worthiness of affection, and there be no appearance of its being feigned or forced, has so much the greater tendency to beget true ideas or apprehensions in the minds of the hearers, of the subject spoken of, and so to enlighten the understanding: And that for this reason, that such a way or manner of speaking of these things, does in fact, more truly represent them, than a more cold and indifferent way of speaking of them. If the subject be in its own nature, worthy of very great affection, then a speaking of it with very great affection, is most agreeable to the nature of that subject, or is the truest representation of it, and therefore has most of a tendency to beget true ideas of it, in the minds of those, to whom the representation is made. And I do not think ministers are to be blamed, for raising the affections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected with, be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with. I know it has long been fashionable to despise a very earnest and pathetical way of preaching; And they, and they only have been valued as preachers, that have shown the greatest extent of learning, and strength of reason, and correctness of method and language : But I humbly conceive it has been for want of understanding, or duly considering human nature, that such preaching has been thought to have the greatest tendency to answer the ends of preaching; and the experience of the present and past ages abundantly confirms the same. Though, as I said before, clearness of distinction and illustration, and strength of reason, and a good method, in the doctrinal handling of the truths of religion, is many ways needful and profitable, and not to be neglected, yet an increase in speculative knowledge in divinity, is not what is so much needed by our people, as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light and have m heat: How much has there been of this sort of knowledge; in the Christian world, in this age ? Was there ever an age, wherein strength and penetration of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound? And yet was there ever an age, wherein there has been so little sense of the evil of sin, so little love to God, heavenly mindedness, and holiness of life, among the professors of the true religion ? Our people do pot so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, that has the greatest tendency to do this.
Those texts, Isa. Iviji. 1. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.” And Ezek. vi. 11. 6 Thus saith the Lord God, smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, alas, for all the evil abomination of the house of Israel !" I say these texts, (however the use that some have made of them has been laughed at) will fully justisy, a great degree of pathos, and manifestation' of zeal and fervency in preaching the word of God : They may indeed be abused, to justify that which would be odd and unnatural, amongst us, not making due allowance for difference of manners and customs, in different ages and nations ; but let us interpret them how we will, they at least imply, that a most affectionate and earnest manner of delivery, in many cases, becomes a preacher of God's word.
Preaching of the word of God, is commonly spoken of in scripture, in such expressions, as seem to import a loud and earnest speaking; as in Isa. xl. 2. “ Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned.” And ver. 3. “ The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Ver. 6. 6 The voice said cry: And he said, what shall I cry? All Nesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof, as the flower of the field.” Jer. ii. 2. “ Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, thus saith the Lord, &c.” Jonah i. 2. “ Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it.”. Isa. Isi. 1, 2. « The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord lrath anointed me, to
VOL. III. 2 A