« AnteriorContinuar »
"ness ;" and to " prove all things, and hold fast "that which is good." There may however be reason to question, whether even the deluded enthusiast be in greater danger than the selfrighteous self-admiring Pharisee; or than the formal high churchman, the rigid dissenter, or the self-wise rationalist. I cannot but judge, from the arrogant and intolerant effects produced in it, that the church of Rome has exceeded all others (as a large body) in spiritual pride; that the formalists even in that church have exceeded the fanatics; that probably the Jesuits have exceeded the Jansenists. It must be my opinion, that Calvinistic principles, well understood, and producing their genuine effects, are the only radical cure of this hateful disease: but I do not expect others to agree with me. One thing I would observe—that a spiritually proud Calvinist is, in his heart and conduct, more diametrically at hostility with his creed, than any other spiritually proud man in the world can be.—But it is in vain to deny or retort the charge: the decision must be left to the day of judgment; and I would counsel my brethren, who think themselves aggrieved by it, to endeavour by their conduct to refute it; especially by bearing with meekness and calmness the many injurious accusations which are continually brought against us. "Thou shalt answer for me, O Lord "my God."
Bad men, of the most discordant opinions, in almost every thing, have 'fostered an unwarranted 'conceit of familiar intercourse with God.' It would indeed be doing important service, to distinguish ' an unwarranted conceit' of intercourse with God, from that " fellowship with the Father "and with his Son Jesus Christ," of which the apostle speaks :l but no good can be done by general censures, which serve to render all professions of ' communion with God,' suspected, and to expose them to the shafts of ridicule. 'The 'rapturous flights of a heated imagination' are more easily censured than defined, and solidly distinguished from genuine " fervency of spirit "in serving the Lord."—' Familiarity,' in such a connexion, we would protest against: and it must be allowed that numbers, and among them same truly pious men, both among Calvinists and Anticalvinists, have countenanced and sanctioned a familiarity of language in worship, under the idea of " the spirit of adoption," which is not only incompatible with " the reverence and godly "fear" with which we ought to serve " our God, "who is a consuming fire;" but with that reverential frame of spirit, which becomes the children of God, in their nearest access with holy " bold"ness" into the presence of their heavenly Father. It is in vain to deny that these evils have existed, and do exist; and, in present circumstances, it is perhaps vain to hope that they will not in some measure continue to exist, whenever or wherever large companies are brought to be decidedly in earnest about religion. No considerable companies, which rise above the level of mere cold formal worshippers, are wholly free from it: but it does not abound more among modern Calvinists, than among many who decidedly avow themselves Arminians; if I am at all competent to judge, from frequently hearing the sermons, and carefully reading the books, and sometimes conferring with the ministers, of most of those different companies in England, where peculiar attention is professed to be paid to the religion of the holy scriptures.
It is highly important that, in guarding men against these and similar evils, we should be very careful not to lead them to think that all fervour of devotion is a delusion. We are commanded to "come boldly to the throne of grace." The scripture speaks of our " walking with God," "leaning "on him," "lifting up our souls to him," "pouring "out our hearts before him, and " following hard "after him." "He delights in the prayer of the "upright;" he invites his servants "to cast their "care on him," to " cast their burden on the "Lord." "Because ye are sons, God hath sent "forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, "crying, Abba, Father:" this must imply confidence, and hope, and love, as well as submission and reverence. Our Lord encourages importunity by a word, which our translators did not judge it advisable to translate literally, i And, when Jacob wrestled with God, saying, "I will "not let thee go except thou bless me;" it was answered, "Thou shalt no more be called Jacob, "but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with "God and with man, and hast prevailed." 2
These things should not be kept out of sight, in cautioning men not to 'foster an unwarranted 'conceit of familiar intercourse with God:' because they shew that our gracious and reconciled God and Father does admit his true worshippers to very near and encouraging communion with him; though not to that which renders reverence and humility in any respect less proper than they otherwise would be.
1 'kvduitmv, Luke xi. 8. 'Gen. xxxii. 24—34.
Upon the whole we consider it as impossible "to sow in tears and reap in joy;"l to " tremble" with the gaoler, and then in a short time to " re"joice in God;" 2 or in a variety of other things to be like minded with the accepted servants of our common Lord, without experience; nay, without a sensible operation of the Holy Spirit on our hearts.—We are unreservedly willing, that the nature of the things experienced, and the effects of our experience, should be brought into judgment according to the rule of the sacred scriptures. We would distinguish what Herod experienced, when "he heard John Baptist gladly, "and did many things;" and what Felix and Agrippa, when the apostle addressed them; from that experience of the power of divine truth, by the grace of God's Spirit, on the conscience, mind, and heart, which produces true conversion, a sober, righteous, and godly life, and fruitfulness in every good word and work. We would not allow any experience to warrant our confidence, as to acceptance with God, except that which produces holy and permanent effects on our lives. We would also remember that, even if we have rejoiced in "the testimony of the Holy Spirit with our spirits, "that we are the children of God;" yet by sin and unwatchfulness we may grieve our holy Comforter, and lose this holy consolation: nor can we then expect the restoration of it, except by renewed repentance and faith, and the obedience of faith and love.
1 Ps. cxxvi. 5. 'Acts xvi. 29, 34.
Many other distinctions, cautions, and limitations we would gladly admit, and strenuously insist upon: but still we conclude that, while a religion supported by presumptuous and fallacious experiences is enthusiasm, a religion without experience is dead and worthless formality.
'It is to encourage true zeal, vital piety, and
* Christian humility, without incurring the dan
* gers of wild fanaticism, listless indolence, dan'gerous security, or agonizing despondence.'l
This is a specimen of that way of making either express or implied charges against those whom the writer would oppose, in a manner suited to produce deep and extensive effect; yet so as almost to exclude the accused party from attempting a defence. For so much, and that so emphatically expressed, is contained in two lines, that it is impossible to give any thing like an answer to it, without almost writing a treatise; and then prolixity destroys the effect.
Most of the expressions, however, have been in
1 Ref. 74, 75.