صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

can trace its genuine fruits and efficacious influences, in a renewed heart and life.

I have thus laid down several particulars, which appeared to me important, in order to illustrate that diversity which is observable in the methods of the divine operation on the heart: And they will naturally lead us to these three reflections, with which I shall conclude my present discourse.-Let us not make our own experiences a standard for others; nor the experiences of others a standard for ourselves;-nor let us be unwilling, in a prudent manner, to communicate our spiritual experiences to each other.

[1.] Let us not make our own experiences a standard for others.

Let us remember that there is, as we have heard, a diversity of operations; and that many a person may be a dear child of God, who was not born just with those circumstances which attended our own regeneration. Others may not so particularly have discerned the time, the occasion, the progress of the change: They may not have felt all that we felt, either in a way of extraordinary terror or extraordinary comfort; and yet perhaps may equal or even exceed us in that holy temper to which it was the great intention of our heavenly Father, by one method or another, to bring all his children. Nay I will add, that christians of a very amiable and honourable character may express themselves but in a dark, and something of an improper manner, concerning the doctrine of regeneration, and may, in conscience, scruple the use of some phrases relating to it, which we judge to be exceeding suitable; and yet, that very scruple which displeases us may proceed from a reverence for God and truth, and from such a tenderness of heart as is the effect of his renewing grace. We should therefore be very cautious how we judge each other, and take upon us to reject those whom perhaps God has received.

I remember good Dr. Owen, whose candour was in many respects very remarkable, carries this so far, as somewhere to say, "that some may perhaps have experienced the saving influences of the holy Spirit on their hearts, who do not in words acknowledge the necessity, or even the reality of those influences." Judging men's hearts, and judging their states, is a work for which we are so ill qualified, that we have reason to be exceeding thankful it is not assigned to us. And when we are entering into such an examination of their character, as our duty may in some particular circumstances seem to require, we should be very solicitous that we do not lay down arbitrary and

to a more experimental manner of preaching, as well as in many instances discover those, before unknown, tokens of success which may strengthen their hands in the work of their great Master.

It is by frequent conversations of this kind, that I have learnt many of the particulars on which I have grounded the preceding discourse. I hope therefore you will excuse me, if on so natural an occasion I have borne my public testimony to what has been so edifying to me, both as a minister and a christian. And the tender regard which I have for young persons training up for the work of the ministry, and my ardent desire that they may learn the language of Sion, and have “those peculiar advantages which nothing but an acquaintance with cases, and an observation on facts can give," has been a farther inducement to me to add this reflection, with which I conclude my discourse; humbly hoping that what you have heard upon this occasion will, by divine blessing, furnish out agreeable matter for such conversation as I have now recommended, to the glory of God, and to the advancement of religion among you. Amen!



Directions to awakened Sinners.

Acts ix. 6.And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

THESE are the words of Saul, who also is called Paul*, when he was stricken to the ground as he was going to Damascus: And any one who had looked upon him in his present circumstances, and known nothing more of him than that view, in comparison with his past life, could have given, would have imagined him one of the most miserable creatures that ever lived upon earth, and would have expected that he should very soon have been numbered amongst the most miserable of those in hell. He was engaged in a course of such savage cruelty, as can, upon no principle of common morality, be vindicated, even though the Christians had been as much mistaken, as he rashly and foolishly concluded they were. After having dragged Many of them into prison, and given his voice against some that were put to death, he persecuted others into strange cities ; and had now obtained a commission from the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem to carry this holy, or rather this impious war into Damascust, and to bring all the proselytes to the religion of the blessed Jesus, Bound from thence to Jerusalem; probably that they might there be animadverted upon with greater severity than could safely have been attempted by the Jews in so distant a city, under a foreign governor.

But, behold, as he was In the way, Jesus interposes, cloathed with a lustre exceeding that of the sun at noon §. He strikes him down from the beast on which he rode, and lays him prostrate on The ground, calling to him with a voice far more dreadful than that of thunder, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me||? Any one would have imagined, from the circumstances in which he now beheld Saul, that divine vengeance had already

Acts xiii. 9.

† Acts xxvi. 10—12.

+ Acts ix. 2.

precise time of your conversion, or how to trace the particular steps by which it has been brought to pass; for As thou knowest 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 thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all*. But though you cannot trace the process of the operation, the effects of it are such as you may feel within you, and By its fruits it will be knownt. It is indeed desirable, to be able to give an account of the beginning and the progress of the work of God upon your souls, as some that are regenerate can do ; but this is not necessary to evidence the truth of grace. Happy is he who in this case can say, as the blind man in the gospel, One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see. For as you know that there is fire when you see the flame, though you know not how or when it began: So also it may be discerned, that you have really undergone a saving change, though you know not how or when it was wrought in your hearts. If you answer the characters I laid down in the preceding discourses, as essential to the truly regenerate, which are all comprehended in repentance and faith, producing an unfeigned love and uniform obedience, you may trace the cause from the effect with far greater certainty than you could have traced such an effect, as what would infallibly follow from any cause, which you could have perceived in your mind previous to it. mind previous to it. There may be great awakenings, violent terrors, and ecstatic joys, where there is no saving work of God on the soul: But where the divine image is produced, and the soul is actually renewed, we are sure, as was before observed, that grace has been working, though we know not when, or where, or how.And therefore on the whole, guarding against both these extremes, and to cure them both.

[3.] Let christians, in a prudent and humble manner, be ready to communicate their religious experiences to each other.

God undoubtedly intended that the variety of his operations should be observed and owned in the world of grace, as well as in that of nature; and as these things pass in the secret recesses of men's hearts, how should they be known, unless they will themselves communicate and declare them? And let me caution you against that strange averseness to all freedoms of this kind which, especially in persons of a reserved temper, is so + John ix. 25.

* Eccl. xi. 5.

Matt. vii 20.

ready to prevail. Let not any think it beneath them to do it. You well know that David, who was not only a man of an admirable genius, but a mighty prince too, was far from thinking it so; on the contrary, deeply impressed with the divine condescension in all the gracious visits he had received from him, he calls, as it were, the whole pious world around him, that they might be edified and comforted by the relation: Come, says he, and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul. He proclaimed it, not with his voice and harp alone, but with his immortal pen: And many other noble and excellent persons concurred with him; and the invaluable treasure of their experiences, in as great a variety of circumstances as we can well imagine, is transmitted to us in the book of psalms. Can any just reason then be assigned, why they who live under a nobler dispensation, and a more abundant communication of the Spirit, should be entirely silent on this subject?


There may indeed be an over-forwardness which is the parent effect of pride and self-conceit, and which, with thinking people, may bring even the sincerity of the speaker into question, or put his indiscretion beyond all possibility of being questioned. But it would be very unreasonable to argue, that because a thing may be done ill, it cannot possibly be done well.

Why may not intimate friends open their hearts to each other on such delightful topics? Why may not they who have met with any thing peculiar of this kind communicate it to their minister! And though I must in conscience declare against making it absolutely and universally a term of communion, yet I am well assured, that in some instances, a prudent and serious communication of those things to a christian society, when a person is to be admitted into fellowship with it, has often answered very valuable ends. By this means God has the honour of his own work; and others have the pleasure of sympathizing with the relator, both in his sorrows and his joys; they derive from hence some additional satisfaction as to his fitness for an approach to the Lord's table; they learn with pleasure the divine blessing which attends the administration of ordinances among them; and make observations and remarks which may assist them in offering their addresses to God, and in giving proper advices to others who are in circumstances like those related. To all which we may add, that the ministers of Christ do, in particular, learn what may be a means of forming them

« السابقةمتابعة »