صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Here it will not be amifs, briefly to glance at the true caufe of the various mistakes about religion in general, and experience in particular.-We are taught in the word of God, that while man retained his original rectitude, he beheld his Maker's glory in the works of creation; and worshiped him with purity of affection, as far as God had made himself manifeft in thofe vifible objects. Moreover, man was framed to hear his Sovereign's voice and obey it; and that he might know, that his happinefs depended upon his hearing and obeying the word of God: that to obey was life, and to transgrefs, death; a teft of his loyalty and dependance was given him, when he was placed in Paradise, Gen. ii. 16. 17.-His understanding being clear, his will under fubjection to the divine word, and his affections pure; his enjoyment, or experience of what he knew and believed, was a pure ftream of felicity, flowing from the fountain of happiness itfelf. But human nature being corrupted by the poifon of the ferpent, that first apoftate from holinefs, being infused into it, man became vain, foolish and difobedient. That buman nature is corrupted, I take for granted, rather than fet myself formally to prove not for want of evidence to demonstrate the awful fact; but because it is too ftubbornly fupported by fcripture and experience, to be denied with any tolerable fhow of truth; and notwithstanding fome may find themfelves difpofed to maintain, the dignity of human nature, by fubftituting the flowers of rhetoric, or mere romance, in the place of evidence; the ftreams will indubitably prove the true qualities of the fountain, Mark vii. 20, 23.

Man's fafety and happiness lay in his dependance on, and obedience to the word of his Maker; and therefore, the feducer's grand aim, was to draw him off from that; which we find he went about to do, by representing to him, that God withheld fomething from him, which if enjoyed would greatly add to

his felicity; and to gild the fatal fnare, perverted the divine word; which scheme but too well an fwered his defign. Hereby he robbed man of the principle of truth, and fo of the divine image, and of courfe of his fafety and happiness. The false doctrines of Satan, ye shall not furely die, and ye shall be as gods, having entered into, and corrupted the mind, the enemy thereby drew his own hateful image, confifting of pride, enmity, and deceit upon him. This is the fad fource of all that irregularity, both in the powers of body and mind, that daily experience manifefts, and of all that atheism, idolatry and ungodliness, which fo awfully prevail in the world. In confequence of this, it is become natural for man to fin with hope of impunity, and to feek happiness independent of God. If then we do but confider, what principles man is naturally un-. der the dominion of, if we but reflect that his un derstanding is darkness, through the ignorance that is in him, the will enmity, and every affection difordered and defiled; and moreover, that man voluntarily gives up himself, to be led by the fpirit of error and felf-dependance, we fhall fee the true cause of the various branches of idolatry, and shall be able to account for all that felf-flattery, felf-exaltation, and felf-confidence, which men are fo prone to: nor fhall we wonder, that the experience of many, under a profeffion of religion, is legal, enthufiaftic, or even diabolical. The corruption of human nature, and the lead which the spirit of error takes in directing the mind in religious concerns, are the two grand fources of all error and delufion. But it fhould alfo be obferved, that fatan, in all ages, has had his agents among men, who have industriously propagated his doctrinal tares, and thereby, while they have fealed their own deftruction, have promoted: that of their fellow creatures. Such our Lord ftiles blind guides, and leaders of the blind, and warns his difciples to take care of them, because their de- : lufions

lufions would be fo ftrong as to deceive, if it were poffible, even the very elect. The apoftles point them out, (especially in the Epiftles of Peter and Jude, and alfo in the Revelations) as the worst of enemies to mankind, We are informed that many would follow their pernicious ways, in confequence of which, fuch different forts of churches would be framed, from thofe which were gathered by the influence of the apostles doctrine, that they would be governed by different rules, and united by different principles from what the first churches were. Such


agree to give their power to the beaft, and fupport the kingdom of the deftrayer: for however fhocking it might appear, there is fcarce any thing in which people are fo willing to deceive and be deceived, as in their eternal concerns! This the Lord by the Prophet complains of, Jer. v. 30. 31. A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land, the prophets prophecy falfely, and the priests bear rule by their means, and the people love to have it fo; and what will do in the end thereof? This obfervation to perfons famous for a liberal way of thinking, may feem exceedingly uncharitable; but we have feen that he who can neither deceive nor be deceived, has declared that fo it is. Nor was this horrible thing confined to Jeremiah's day our Lord and his apostles, as above hinted, bid us expect fuch things, even under the Arictest pretenfions to Chriftianity, and to guard against the cunning craftiness of men, who lie in wait to deceive, and who PRIVILY would bring in damnable herefies, Eph. iv. 14. 2. Peter, ii. 1. But the Proteftant reformed churches are ready to imagine that error, deception, &c. are confined to ROME, and fome few fchifmatics, while Proteftant diffenters maintain that error and delufion are infeparable with national churches: the very conftitution of them being antifcriptural; and each party thinks every other fect is tainted with heterodoxy, but them felves; when alas! falfe joys, arifing from falfe con


fidence, are but too manifeftly amongst the various profeffions of our day, which fhould lead every man, in the first place, to fufpect himself, and then, to look with a jealous eye on all making pretenfions to christianity about him. Yet there have gone forth fuch abundant effufions of the tpirit of catholic charity, that nothing is deemed more rude, than to intimate the leaft fufpicion of our neighbor's creed being found, and therefore, nothing more generally cenfured as bigotry, party fpirit, and a narrow way of thinking. But ftrange to tell, though undeniably true the fact, this fame catholic charity has it in her nature (happy for the friends of Jefus that it is not at prefent in her power) to perfecute unto strange cities, and even unto death, those who dare refuse subscription to her dogmas! Though the above reprefentations are nothing more than the fcripture foretels, the writer of thefe Effays is far from thinking, that every one who is in error, and rejoicing in a thing of nought is intentionally striving to deceive. Far be any fuch thought from him. No : It is to be lamented that many fincere perfons are ignorantly led aftray; and even some who are born of God, in their infantile ftate, may be in bondage to the rudiments of this world, not knowing the depths of fatan. There are alfo degrees in chriftian experience, even as there are in knowledge and faith: for, the path of the just is as the shining light, that fbineth more and more unto the perfect day. Though it fhould be carefully obferved, that even the new born babe defires the fincere milk of the word, that he may grow thereby, and fo, the breathings of the heaven-born babe, are effentially and visibly different from the fwelling imaginations of the flesh, which are manifested in a certain kind of canting, whining, voluntary humility. In fine, the smallest degree of real gofpel experience is, in its nature, foundation, and effects, not only diftinct from, but directly oppofite to, that which goes under the borrowed name of chriftian

chriftian-experience, but which, in fact, is nothing more than the fluctuation of the paffions, generally fet in motion by fome enthufiaftic rant, and is without foundation either in fcripture, fenfe, or reafon-a mere caftle in the air!

[blocks in formation]

Wherein fome kinds of DELUSIVE EXPERIENCES, and the USE made of them, are laid open and exposed.


reflecting upon

HE pleasure and fatisfaction perfons take, in the advances they have made towards the ports of blifs, according to their refpective schemes of religion, and the influence this has upon their conduct, may be termed their experience. Not to enlarge upon the experience of the Pagan, the Mahometan, the Jew, or the Papift, who have all enjoyments fuitable to the nature of their own creed; Í fhall briefly notice that kind of experience, which is talked of amongst Proteftants.

First: Since the nations of the world have been denominated chriftian, it has been no uncommon thing to find those who renounce the fcripture as idle fiction, bearing the chriftian name. Such however have a scheme of religion, and of confequence have experience fuitable thereto. Their scheme may be briefly fummed up thus: The notices of God and reafon, which all men by the light of nature have, or at least may have, by the mere improvement of their natural abilities, without revelation, are fufficient to direct them in the way to eternal bleffednefs-fatisfy them that fuch a state is attainable-and point out the way how it is to be obtained; fo that by a practical compliance with thefe notices, which man in his prefent ftate is capable of, he may certainly attain to acceptance with God, pleafe him, and obtain eternal happiness. So much for the doctrine. Now for the correfponding


« السابقةمتابعة »