Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

distinguishing it from counterfeits that arise from a natural spiritual self-love-is, that the Christian virtue of humility shines in it; that which above all others renounces, abases, and annihilates what we term self. Christian love or true charity, is a humble love. [ Cor. xiii. 4, 5. ☆ Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.” When therefore we see love in persons attended with a sense of their own littleness, vileness, weakness, and utter insufficiency; and so with self-diffidence, self-emptiness, self-renunciation, and poverty of spirit; these are the manifest tokens of the Spirit of God. He that thus dwells in love, dwells in God, and God in bim. What the apostle spraks of as a great evidence of the true spirit, is God's love or Christ's love; as ver. 12—“ his love is perfected in us." What kind of love that is, we may see best in what appeared in Christ's example. The love that appeared in that Lamb of God, was not only a love to friends, but to enemies, and a love attended with a meek and bumble spirit. “ Learn of me,” says he, « for I am meek and lowly in heart.”—Love and humility are two things the most contrary to the spirit of the devil, of any thing in the world; for the character of that evil spirit, above all things, consists in pride and malice.

Thus I have spoken particularly to the several marks the apostle gives us of a work of the true spirit. There are some of these things which the devil would not do, if he could : thus he would not awaken the conscience, and make men sensible of their miserable state by reason of sin, and sensible of their great need of a saviour; and he would not confirm men in the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, and the Saviour of sinners, or raise men's value and esteem of him: he would not beget in men's minds an opinion of the necessity, use fulness, and truth of the holy scriptures, or incline them to make much use of them; nor would he shew men the truth, in things that concern their soul's interest ; to undeceive them, and lead them out of darkness into light, and give them a view of things as they really are. And there are other things that the devil neither can nor will do: he will not give men a spirit of divine love, or Christian bumility and poverty of spirit: nor could he, if he would. He cannot give those things he has not bimself: these things are as contrary as possible to his nature. And therefore when there is an extraordinary influence or operation appearing on the minds of a people, if these things are found in it, we are safe in determining that it is the work of God, whatever oiber cir. cumstances it may be at'ended with, whatever instruments are used, whatever methods are taken to promote it; whatever means a sovereign God, whose judgments are a great deep,

employs to carry it on; and whatever motion there may be of the animal spirits, whatever effects may be wrought on men's bodies. These marks, that the apostle bas given us, a are sufficient to stand alone, and support themselves. They plainly shew the finger of God, and are sufficient to outweigh a thousand such little objections, as many make from oddities, irregularities, errors in conduct, and the delusions and scandals of some professors.

But here some may object to the sufficiency of the marks given, what the apostle Paul says, in 2 Cor. xi. 13, 14. “ For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ; and no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”

To which I answer, that this can be no objection against the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true from the false spirit, in those false apostles and prophets, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light, because it is principally with a view to them that the apostle gives these marks; as appears by the words of the text, “ Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God;" and this is the reason be gives, because many false prophets are gone out into the world : viz. “ There are many gone out into the world who are the ministers of the devil, who transform themselves into the prophets of God, in whom the spirit of the devil is transformed into an angel of light; therefore try the spirits by these rules that I shall give you, that you may be able to distinguish the true spirit from the false, under such a crafty disguise.' Those false prophets the apostle John speaks of, are doubtless the same sort of men with those false apostles, and deceitful workers, that the apostle Paul speaks of, in whom the devil was transformed into an angel of light: and therefore we may be sure that these marks are especially adapted to distinguish between the true spirit and the devil transformed into an angel of light, because they are given especially for that end; that is the apostle's declared purpose and design, to give marks by which the true spirit may be distinguished from that sort of counterfeits.

And if we look over what is said about these false prophets, and false apostles, (as there is much said about them in the New Testament,) and take notice in what manner the devil was transformed into an angel of light in them, we shall not find any thing that in the least injures the sufficiency of these marks to distinguish the true spirit from such counterfeits. The devil transformed himself into an angel of light, as there was in them a shew, and great boast of extraordinary knowledge in divine things; Col. ii. 8. 1 Tim. i. 6, 7. and chap. vi. 3, 4, 5. 2 Tim. ii. 14-18. Tit. i. 10, 16.

Hence their followers called themselves Gnostics, from their great pretended knowledge: and the devil in them mimicked the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, in visions, revela. tions, prophecies, miracles, &c. Hence they are called false apo tles, and false prophets: see Matt. xxiv. 24. Again, there was a false shew of, and lying pretensions to great holiness and devotion in words : Rom. xvi. 17, 18. Ephes. iv. 14. Hence they are called deceitful workers, and wells, and clouds without water. 2 Cor. xi. 13. 2 Pet. ii. 17. Jude 12. There was also in them a shew of extraordinary pirty and righteousness in their superstitious worship: Col. ii. 16-23. So they had a false, proud, and bitter zeal; Gal. iv. 17, 18. 1 Tim. i. 6. and chap. vi. 4, 5. And likewise a false shew of humility, in affecting an extraordinary outward meanness and dejection, when indeed they were 6 vainly puffi-d up in their fleshly mind :" and made a righteousness of their humility, and were exceedingly lifted up with their eminent piety : Col. ii. 18, 23. But how do such things as these, in the least injure those things that have been mentioned as the distinguishing evidences of the true spirit ?-Besides such vain shews which may be from the devil, these are common influences of the spirit, which are often mistaken for saving grace; but these are out of the question, because though they are not saving, yet are the work of the true spirit.

Haying thus fulblled what I at first proposed, in considering what are the certain, distinguishing marks, by which we may safely proceed in judging of any work that falls under our observation, whether it be the work of the Spirit of God of No; I now proceed to the APPLICATION.

SECT. III.

Practical Inferences:

I. From what has been said, I will venture to draw this inference, viz. That the extraordinary influence that has lately appeared, causing an uncommon concern and engagedness of mind about the things of religion, is undoubtedly, in the general, from the Spirit of God. There are but two things that need to be known in order to such a work's being judged of, viz. Facts and rules. The rules of the word of God we have had laid before us ; and as to facts, there are but two ways that we can come at them, so as to be in a capacity to compare them with the rules, either by our own observation or by information from others who have had opportunity to observe them.

As to this work, there are many things concerning it that are notorious, and which, unless the apostle Jolin was out in his rules, are sufficient to determine it to be in general the work of God. The spirit that is at work takes off persons' ' minds from the yanities of the world, and engages them in a deep concern about eternal bappiness, and puts them upon earnestly seeking their salvation, and convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin, and of their own guilty and miserable state as they are by nature. It awakens men's consciences, and makes them sensible of the dreadtulness of God's anger, and causes in them a great desire and earnest care and endeavour to obtain his favour. It puts them upon a more diligent improvement of the means of grace which God has appointed; accompanied with a greater regard to the word of God, a desire of hearing and reading it, and of being more conversant with it than they used to be. And it is notoriously manifest, that the spirit that is at work, in general, operates as a spirit of trulb, making persons more sensible of what is really true in those things that concern their eternal salvation; As, that they must die, and that life is very short and uncertain ; that there is a great sin-bating Goil, to whom they are accountable, and who will fix them in an eternal state in anotber world, and that they stand in great need of a Saviour. It makes persons more sensible of the value of Jesus who was crucified, and their need of him; and tbat it puts them upon earnestly seeking an interest in him. It cannot be but that these things sbould be apparent to people in general through the land; for these things are not done in a corner; the work has not been confined to a few towns, in some remoter parts, but has been carried on in many places all over the land, and in most of the principal, the popu. lous, and public places in it. Christ in this respect has wrought amongst us, in the same manner that he wrought his miracles in Judea. It has now been continued for a considerable time; so that there has been a great opportunity to observe the manner of the work. And all such as have been very conversant with the subjects of it, see a great deal more, that by the rules of the apostle, does clearly and certainly shew it to be the work of God.

And here I would observe, that the nature and tendency of a spirit that is at work, may be determined with much greater certainty, and less danger of being imposed upon, when it is observed in a great multitude of people of all sorts, and in various places, than when it is only seen in a few, in some particular place, that have been much conversant one with another. A few particular persons may agree to put a cheat upon others, by a false pretence, and professing things of which they never were conscious. But when the work is spread over great parts of a country, in places distant from

one another, among people of all sorts and of all ages, and in multitudes possessed of a sound mind, good understanding, and known integrity; there would be the greatest absurdity in supposing, from all the observation that can be made by all that is heard from, and seen in them for many months together, and by those who are most intimate with them in these affairs, and have long been acquainted with themthat yet it cannot be determined what kind of influence the operation they are under, has upon people's minds: can it not be determined whether it tends to awaken their consciences, or to stupify them ; whether it inclines them more to seek their salvation, or neglect it; whether it seems to confirm them in a belief of the scriptures, or to lead them to Deism; whether it makes them have more regard for the great truths of religion, or less ?

And here it is to be observed, that for persons to profess that they are so convinced of certain divine truths, as to esteem and love them in a saving manner; and for them to profess, that they are more convinced or confirmed in the truth of them, than they used to be, and find that they have a greater regard to them than they had before, are two very different things. Persons of honesty and common sense, have much greater right to demand credit to be given to the latter profession, than to the former. Indeed in the former, it is less likely that a people in general should be deceived, iban some particular persons. But whether persons' convictions, and the alteration in their dispositions and affections, be in a degree and manner that is saving, is beside the present question. If there be such effects on people's judge ments, dispositions, and affections, as have been spoken of, whether they be in a degree and manner that is saving or no, it is nevertheless a sign of the influence of the Spirit of God. Scripture rules serve to distinguish the common influences of the Spirit of God, as well as those that are saving, from the influence of other causes,

And as, by the providence of God, I have for some months past, been much amongst those who have been the subjects of the work in question; and particularly, have been in the way of seeing and observing those extraordinary things with which many persons have been offended;—such as per. sons crying out aloud, shrieking, being put into great agonies of body, &c.—and have seen the manner and issue of such operations, and the fruits of them, for several months together; many of them being persons with whom I have been intimately acquainted in soul concerns, before and since; so I look upon myself called on this occasion to give my testimony, that-s0 far as the nature and tendency of such a work is capable of falling under the observation of a by-stander, to whom those that have been the subjects of it have endeavoured to open

« ZurückWeiter »