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fully of a conviction of the justice of God in their condemnation; others more of their consenting to the way of salvation by Christ; some more of the actings of love to God and Christ; some more of acts of affiance, in a sweet and assured conviction of the truth and faithfulness of God in his promises; others more of their choosing and resting in God as their whole and everlasting portion, and of their ardent and longing desires after God, to have communion with him; others more of their abhorrence of themselves for their past sins, and earnest longings to live to God's glory for the time to come; some have their minds fixed more on God, others on Christ, as I have observed before, and am afraid of too much repetition; but it seems evidently to be the same work, the same thing done, the same habitual change wrought in the heart; it all tends the same way, and to the same end; and it is plainly the same spirit that breathes and acts in various persons. There is an endless variety in the particular manner and circumstances in which persons are wrought on, and an opportunity of seeing so much of such a work of God, will shew that God is further from confining himself to certain steps, and a particular method in his work on souls, than it may be some do imagine, I believe it has occasioned some good people amongst us, that were before too ready to make their own experiences a rule to others, to be less censorious and more extended in their charity, and this is an excellent advantage indeed. The work of God has been glorious in its variety, it has the more displayed the manifoldness and unsearchableness of the wisdom of God, and wrought more charity among his people.
There is a great difference among those that are converted as to the degree of hope and satisfaction that they have concerning their own state. Some have a high degree of satisfaction in this matter, almost constantly: And yet it is rare that any do enjoy so full an assurance of their interest in Christ, that selfexamination should seem needless to them; unless it be at particular seasons, while in the actual enjoyment of some great discovery, that God gives of his glory, and rich grace in Christ, to the drawing forth of extraordinary acts of
grace. But the greater part, as they sometimes fall into dead frames of spirit, are frequently exercised with scruples and fears concerning their condition.
They generally have an awful apprehension of the dreadfulness and undoing nature of a false hope; and there has been observable in most a great caution, lest in giving an account of their experiences, they should say too much, and use too strong terms: And many after they have related their expe riences, have been greatly afflicted with fears, lest they have played the hypocrite, and used stronger terms than their case would fairly allow of; and yet could not find how they could correct themselves.
I think that the main ground of the doubts and fears that persons, after their conversion, have been exercised with about their own state, has been that they have found so much corruption remaining in their hearts. At first their souls seem to be all alive, their hearts are fixed, and their affections flowing; they seem to live quite above the world, and meet with but little difficulty in religious exercises; and they are ready to think it will always be so....Though they are truly abased under a sense of their vileness by reason of former acts of sin, yet they are not then sufficiently sensible what corruption still remains in their hearts; and therefore are surprised when they find that they begin to be in dull and dead frames, to be troubled with wandering thoughts in the time of public and private worship, and to be utterly unable to keep themselves from them; also, when they find themselves unaffected at seasons in which, they think, there is the greatest occasion to be affected; and when they feel worldly dispositions working in them, and it may be pride, and envy, and stirrings of revenge, or some ill spirit towards some person that has injured them, as well as other workings of indwelling sin: Their hearts are almost sunk with the disappointment; and they are ready presently to think that all this they have met with is nothing, and that they are mere hypocrites.
They are ready to argue, that if God had indeed done such great things for them, as they hoped, such ingratitude would be inconsistent with it: They cry out of the hardness and
wickedness of their hearts; and say there is so much corruption, that it seems to them impossible that there should be any goodness there: And many of them seem to be much more sensible how corrupt their hearts are, than ever they were before they were converted; and some have been too ready to be impressed with fear, that instead of becoming better, they are grown much worse, and make it an argument against the goodness of their state. But in truth, the case seems plainly to be, that now they feel the pain of their own wound; they have a watchful eye upon their hearts that they do not use to have: They take more notice what sin is there, and sin is now more burdensome to them; they strive more against it and feel more of the strength of it.
They are somewhat surprised that they should in this respect, find themselves so different from the idea that they generally had entertained of godly persons; for though grace be indeed of a far more excellent nature than they imagined, yet those that are godly have much less of it, and much more remaining corruption, than they thought. They never realized it, that persons were wont to meet with such difficulties, after they were once converted. When they are thus exercised with doubts about their state through the deadness of their frames of spirit, as long as these frames last, they are commonly unable to satisfy themselves of the truth of their grace by all their selfexamination. When they hear of the signs of grace, laid down for them to try themselves by, they are often so clouded, that they do not know how to apply them: They hardly know whether they have such and such things in them or no, and whether they have experienced them or not: That which was sweetest and best, and most distinguishing in their experiences, they cannot recover a sense or idea of.... But on a return of the influences of the spirit of God, to revive the lively actings of grace, the light breaks through the cloud, and doubting and darkness soon vanish away.
Persons are often revived out of their dead and dark frames, by religious conversation; while they are talking of divine things, or ever they are aware, their souls are carried away into holy exercises with abundant pleasure. And oftentimes,
While they are relating their past experiences to their Christ ian brethren, they have a fresh sense of them revived, and the same experiences in a degree, again renewed. Sometimes while persons are exercised in mind with several objections against the goodness of their state, they have scriptures one after another, coming to their minds, to answer their scruples and unravel their difficulties, exceeding apposite and proper to their circumstances; by which means their darkness is scattered; and often before the bestowment of any new remarkable comforts, especially after long continued deadness and ill frames, there are renewed humblings, in a great sense of their own exceeding vileness and unworthiness, as before their first comforts were bestowed.
Many in the country have entertained a mean thought of this great work that there has been amongst us, from what they have heard of impressions that have been made on persons imaginations. But there have been exceeding great misrep resentations, and innumerable false reports, concerning that matter. It is not, that I know of, the profession or opinion of any one person in the town, that any weight is to be laid on any thing seen with the bodily eye: I know the contrary to be a received and established principle amongst us. I cannot say that there have been no instances of persons that have been ready to give too much heed to vain and useless imagination, but they have been easily corrected, and I conclude it will not be wondered at, that a congregation should need a guide in such cases, to assist them in distinguishing wheat from chaff. But such impressions on the imagination as have been more usual, seem to me to be no other than what is to be expected in human nature in such circumstances, and what is the natural result of the strong exercise of the mind, and impressions on the heart,
I do not suppose that they themselves imagined that they saw any thing with their bodily eyes; but only have had within them ideas strongly impressed, and as it were, lively pictures in their minds: As for instance, some when in great terrors, through fear of hell, have had lively ideas of a dreadfal furnace. Some when their hearts have been strongly imVOL. III.
pressed, and their affections greatly moved with a sense of the beauty and excellency of Christ, it has wrought on their imaginations so, that together with a sense of his glorious spiritual perfections, there has risen in the mind an idea of one of glorious majesty, and of a sweet and gracious aspect : So some, when they have been greatly affected with Christ's death, have at the same time a lively idea of Christ hanging upon the cross, and of his blood running from his wounds; which things will not be wondered at by them that have observed how strong affections about temporal matters will excite lively ideas and pictures of different things in the mind,
But yet the vigorous exercise of the mind does doubtless. more strongly impress it with imaginary ideas in some than others, which probably may arise from the difference of constitution, and seems evidently in some, partly to arise from their peculiar circumstances: When persons have been exercised with extreme terrors, and there is a sudden change to light and joy, the imagination seems more susceptive of strong ideas, and the inferior powers, and even the frame of the body, is much more affected and wrought upon, than when the same persons have as great spiritual light and joy afterwards; of which it might, perhaps, be easy to give a reason. The forementioned Rev. Messrs. Lord and Owen, who, I believe, are esteemed persons of learning and discretion where they are best known, declared that they found these impressions on persons imaginations, quite different things from what fame had before represented to them, and that they were what none need to wonder at, or be stumbled by, or to that purpose.
There have indeed been some few instances, of impressions on persons' imaginations, that have been something myste-] rious to me, and I have been at a loss about them; for though it has been exceeding evident to me, by many things that appeared in them, both then (when they related them) and afterwards, that they indeed had a great sense of the spiritual excellency of divine things accompanying them; yet I have not been able well to satisfy myself, whether their imaginary ideas have been more than could naturally arise from their