« PreviousContinue »
REVIVAL OF RELIGION
Shewing that the extraordinary Work that has of late been going on in this Land, is a glorious Work of God.
THE error of those who have had ill thoughts of the great religious operations on the minds of men, that have been carried on of late in Newengland (so far as the ground of such an error has been in the understanding, and not in the disposition) seems fundamentally to lie in three things;
First. In judging of this work a priori. Secondly. In not taking the holy scriptures as an whole rule whereby to judge of such operations.
Thirdly. In not justly separating and distinguishing the good from the bad.
I. They have greatly erred in the way in which they have gone about to try this work, whether it be a work of the Spirit of God or no, viz. in judging of it a priori ; from the way that it began, the instruments that have been employed, the means, that have been made use of, and the methods that have been taken and succeeded, in carrying it on. Whereas, if we duly consider the matter, it will evidently appear that such a work is not to be judged of a priori, but a posteriori : We are to ob serve the effect wrought; and if, upon examination of it, it VOL. III.
be found to be agreeable to the word of God, we are bound, without more ado, to rest in it as God's work ; and shall be like to be rebuked for our arrogance, if we refuse so to do til God shall explain to us how he has brought this effect to pass, or why he has made use of such and such means in doing of it. Those texts are enough to cause us with trembling to forbear such a way of proceeding in judging of a work of God's Spirit, Isa. xl. 13, 14. “ Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel ? And who instructed him, and who taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding ?” John iii. 8. « Phe wind bloweth where it listeth ; and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth.” We hear the sound, we perceive the effect, and from thence we judge that the wind does indeed blow ; without waiting, before we pass this judgment, first to be satisfied what should be the cause of the wind's blowing from such a part of the heavens, and how it should come to pass that it should blow in such a manner, at such a time. To judge a firiori, is a wrong way of judging of any of the works of God. We are not to resolve that we will first be satisfied how God brought this or the other effect to pass, and why he hath made it thus, or why it has pleased him to take such a course, and to use such and such means, before we will acknowledge bis work, and give him the glory of it. This is too much for the clay to take upon it with respect to the Pot
God gives not account of his matters : His judgments are a great deep: He hath his way in the sea, and his fath in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known ; and who shall teach God knowledge, or enjoin him his way, or say unto him, what doest thou? We know not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child ; even so we know not the works of God, who maketh all. No wonder, therefore, if those that go this forbidden way to work, in judging of the present wonderful operation, are perplexed and confounded. We ought to take heed that we do not ex. pose ourselves to the calamity of those who pried into the ark of God, when God mercifully returned it to Israel, after it had departed from them.
Indeed God has not taken that course, nor made use of those means, to begin and carry on this great work, which men in their wisdom, would have thought most advisable, if he had asked their counsel ; but quite the contrary. But it appears to me that the great God has wrought like himself, in the manner of his carrying on this work; so as very much to show his own glory, and exalt his own sovereignty, power, and allsufficiency, and pour contempt on all that human strength, wisdom, prudence, and sufficiency that men have been wont to trust, and to glory in ; and so as greatly to cross, rebuke, and chastise the pride and other corruptions of men ; in a fulfilment of that, Isa. ii. 17. “ And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day."
God doth thus, in intermingling in his providence so many stumbling blocks with this work ; in suffering so much of human weakness and infirmity to appear ; and in ordering so many things that are mysterious to men's wisdom : In pouring out his Spirit chiefly on the common people, and bestowing his greatest and highest favors upon them, admitting them nearer to himself than the great, the honorable, the rich, and the learned, agreeable to that prophecy, Zech. xii. 7. “ The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David, and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, do not magnify themselves against Judah." Those that dwelt in the tents of Judah were the common people, that dwelt in the country, and were of inferior rank. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were their citizens, their men of wealth and figure : And Jerusalem also was the chief place of the habitation or resort of their priests, and Levites, and their officers and judges ; there sat the great Sanhedrim. The house of David were the highest rank of all, the royal family, and the great men that were round about the king. It is erident by the context that this prophecy has respect to something further than the saying the people out of the Babylonish captivity
God in this work has begun at the lower end, and he has made use of the weak and foolish things of the world to carry on his work. The ministers that have been chiefly improved, some of them have been mere babes in age and standing, and some of them, such as have not been so high in reputation among their fellows as many others; and God has suffered their infirmities to appear in the sight of others, so as much to displease them; and at the same time it has pleased God to improve them, and greatly to succeed them, while he has not so succeeded others that are generally reputed vastly their superiors, Yea, there is reason to think that it has pleased God to make use of the infirmities and sins of some that he has improved and succeeded ; as par, ticularly their imprudent and rash zeal, and censorious spirit, to chastise the deadness, negligence, earthly mindedness, and vanity, that have been found among ministers, in the late times of general declension and deadness, wherein wise vir gins and foolish, ministers and people have sunk into such a deep sleep. These things in ministers of the gospel, that go forth as the ambassadors of Christ, and have the care of immortal souls, are extremely abominable to God; vastly more hateful in his sight than all the imprudence, and intem. perate heats, wildness, and distraction (as some call it) of these zealous preachers. A supine carelessness, and a vain, carnal, worldly spirit, in a minister of the gospel, is the worst madness and distraction in the sight of God. God may also make use at this day, of the unchristian censoriousness of some preachers, the more to humble and purify some of his own children and true servants, that have been wrongfully censured, to fit them for more eminent service, and future honor that he designs them for.
II. Another foundation error of those that do not acknowledge the divinity of this work, is not taking the Holy Scriptures as an whole, and in itself a sufficient rule to judge of such things by. They that have one certain consistent rule to judge by, are like to come to some clear determination ; but they that have half a dozen different rules to make the thing they would judge of agree to, no wonder that instead of justly and clearly determining, they do but perplex and darken themselves and others. They that would learn the true measure of any thing, and will have many different measures to try it by, and find in it a conformity to, have a task that they will not accomplish.
Those that I am speaking of will indeed make some use of scripture, so far as they think it serves their turn; but do not make use of it alone, as a rule sufficient by itself, but make as much, and a great deal more use of other things, diverse and wide from it, to judge of this work by. As particularly,
1. Some make philosophy, instead of the Holy Scriptures, their rule of judging of this work ; particularly the philosophical notions they entertain of the nature of the soul, its facul. ties and affections. Some are ready to say, “ There is but little sober, solid religion in this work : It is little else but flash and noise. Religion now a days all runs out into transports and high flights of the passions and affections.” In their philosophy, the affections of the soul are something diverse from the will, and not appertaining to the noblest part of the soul, but the meanest principles that it has, that belong to man, as partaking of animal nature, and what he has in common with the brute creation, rather than any thing whereby be is conformed to angels and pure spirits. And though they acknowledge that a good use may be made of the affections in religion, yet they suppose that the substantial part of religion does not consist in them, but that they are rather to be looked upon as something adventitious and accidental in Christianity.
But I cannot but think that these gentlemen labor under great mistakes, both in their philosophy and divinity. It is true distinction must be made in affections or passions. There is a great deal of difference in high and raised affections, which must be distinguished by the skill of the observer. Some are much more solid than others. There are many exercises of the affections that are very flashy, and little to be depended on ; and oftentimes there is a great deal that appertains to them, or rather that is the effect of them, that has its seat in animal nature, and is very much owing to the constitution and frame of the body ; and that which sometimes more especially ob