« AnteriorContinua »
with formalists, and traditionary Papists on the one side, but men that pretended themselves to be inore enlightened than the reformers were on the other side: Hence they called those that did adhere to the scripture, and would try revelations by it, Literists and Vowelists, as men acquainted with the words and vowels of the scripture, having nothing of the Spirit of God: And wheresoever in any town, the true doctrine of the gospel brake forth to the displacing of Popery, presently such opinions arose, like tares that came up among the good wheat; whereby great divisions were raised, and the reformation made abominable and odious to the world; as if that had been the sun to give heat and warmth to those worms and serpents to crawl out of the ground, Hence they inveighed against LUTHER, and said he had only promulgated a carnal gospel.”. Some of the leaders of those wild enthusiasts, had been for a while highly esteemed by the first reformers, and peculiarly dear to them.--Thus also in England, at the time when vital religion much prevailed in the days of King Charles I. the interregnum, and Oliver Cromwell, such things as these abounded, And so in New England, in her purest days, when vital piety Aourished, such kind of things as these broke out. Therefore the devil's sowing such tares is no proof that a true work of the Spirit of God is not gloriously carried on.
IX. It is no argument that a work is not from the Spirit of God, that it seems to be promoted by ministers insisting very much on the terrors of God's holy law, and that with a great deal of pathos and earnestness. If there be really a hell of such dreadful, and never-ending torments, as is generally supposed, of which multitudes are in great danger - and into which the greater part of men in Christian countries do actually from generation to generation fall, for want of a sense of its terribleness, and so for want of taking due care to avoid it-then why is it not proper for those who have the care of souls to take great pains to make men sensible of it? Why should they not be told as much of the truth as can be ? If I am in danger of going to hell, I should be glad to know as much as I possibly can of the dreadfulness of it. If I am very prone to neglect due care to avoid it, he does me the best kindness, who does most to represent to me the truth of the case, that sets forth my misery and danger in the liveliest manner.
I appeal to every one, whether this is not the very course they would take in case of exposedness to any great temporal calamity? If any of you who are heads of families saw one of your children in a house all on fire, and in imminent danger of being soon consumed in the fames, yet seemed to be very insensible of its danger, and neglected to escape after you
had often called to it-would you go on to speak to it only in a cold and indifferent manner? Would not you cry aloud, and call earnestly to it, and represent the danger it was in, and its own folly in delaying, in the most lively manner of which you was capable? Would not nature itself teach this, and oblige you to it? If you should continue to speak to it only in a cold manner, as you are wont to do in ordinary conversation about indifferent matters, would not those about you begin to think you were bereft of reason yourself? This is not the way of mankind in temporal affairs of great moment, that require earnest heed and great haste, and about which they are greatly concerned. They are not wont to speak to others of their danger, and warn them but a little ; or in a cold and indifferent manner. Nature teaches men otherwise. If we who have the care of souls, knew what hell was, had seen the state of the damned, or by any other means had become sensible how dreadful their case was and at the same time knew that the greater part of men went thither, and saw our hearers not sensible of their danger-it would be morally impossible for us to avoid most earnestly setting before them the dreadfulness of that misery, and their great exposedness to it, and even to cry aloud to them.
When ministers preach of hell, and warn sinners to avoid it in a cold manner-though they may say in words, that it is infinitely terrible—they contradict themselves. For actions, as I observed before, have a language as well as words. preacher's words represent the sinner's state as infinitely dreadful, while his behaviour and manner of speaking contradict it-shewing that the preacher does not think so-he defeats his own purpose ; for the language of his actions, in such a case, is much more effectual than the bare signification of his words. Not that I think that the law only should be preached : ministers may preach other things too little. The gospel is to be preached as well as the law, and the law is to be preached only to make way for the gospel, and in order that it may be preached more effectually. The main work of ministers is to preach the gospel : “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness." So that a minister would miss it very much if he should insist so much on the terrors of the law, as to forget his Lord, and neglect to preach the gospel ; but yet the law is very much to be insisted on, and the preaching of the gospel is like to be in vain without it.
And certainly such earnestness and affection in speaking is beautiful, as becomes the nature and importance of the subject. Not but that there may be such a thing as an indecent boisterousness in a preacher, something besides what naturally arises from the nature of his subject, and in which the matter and manner do not well agree together. Some talk of VOL. III.
of it as an unreasonable thing to fright persons to heaven; but I think it is a reasonable thing to endeavour to fright persons away from hell. They stand upon its brink, and are just ready to fall into it, and are senseless of their danger. Is it not a reasonable thing to fright a person out of a house on fire? The word fright is commonly used for sudden, causeless fear, or groundless surprise; but surely a just fear, for which there is good reason, is not to be spoken against under any such name.
What are distinguishing Scripture Evidences of a work of the
Spirit of God?
Having shewn, in some instances, what are not evidences that a work wrought among a people, is not a work of the Spirit of God, I now proceed, in the second place, as was proposed, to shew positively what are the sure, distinguishing scripture evidences and marks of a work of the Spirit of God, by which we may proceed in judging of any operation we find in ourselves or see among a people without danger of being misled. And in this, as I said before, I shall confine myself wholly to those marks which are given us by the apostle in the chapter wherein is my text, where this matter is particularly handled, and more plainly and fully than any where else in the Bible. And in speaking to these marks, I shall take them in the order in which I find them in the chapter.
1. When the operation is such as to raise their esteem of that Jesus who was born of the Virgin, and was crucified without the gates of Jerusalem ; and seems more to confirm and establish their minds in the truth of what the gospel declares to us of his being the Son of God, and the Saviour of men; is a sure sign that it is from the Spirit of God. This sign the apostle gives us in the 2d and 3d verses: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God; and every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” This implies a confessing not only that there was such a person who appeared in Palestine, and did and suffered those things that are recorded of him, but that he was Christ, i. e. the Son of God, anointed to be Lord and Saviour, as the name Jesus Christ implies. That thus much is implied in the apostle's meaning, is confirmed by the 15th verse, where the apostle is still on the same subject of signs of the true spirit: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." And it is to be observed that the word confess, as it is often used in the New Testament, signifies more than merely allowing: it implies an establishing and confirming of a thing by testimony, and declaring it with manifestation of esteem and affection; so Matt. x. 32. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Rom. xv.9." I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.
And Phil. ii. 11. “That every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of. God the Father. And that this is the force of the expression, as the apostle John uses it in the place, is confirmed in the next chapter, ver. 1. “ Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." And by that parallel place of the apostle Paul, where we have the same rule given to distinguish the true spirit from all counterfeits, 1 Cor. xii
. 3. " Wherefore I give you to understand that no man speaking by the Spirit of God, called Jesus accursed, (or will shew an ill or mean esteem of him ;) and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost."
So that if the spirit that is at work among a people is plainly observed to work so as to convince them of Christ, and lead them to him—to confirm their minds in the belief of the history of Christ as he appeared in the flesh—and that he is the Son of God, and was sent of God to save sinners; that he is the only Saviour, and that they stand in great need of him; and if he seems to beget in thein higher and more honourable thoughts of him than they used to have, and to incline their affections more to him ; it is a sure sign that it is the true and right spirit; however incapable we may be to determine, whether that conviction and affection be in that manner, or to that degree, as to be saving or not.
But the words of the apostle are remarkable; the person to whom the Spirit gives testimony, and for whom he raises their esteem, must be that Jesus who appeared in the flesh, and not another Christ in his stead ; nor any mystical, fantastical Christ; such as the light within. This the spirit of Quakers extols, while it diminishes their esteem of and dependence upon an outward Christ-or Jesus as he came in the flesh-and leads them off from him ; but the spirit that gives testimony for that Jesus, and leads to him, can be no other than the spirit of God.
The devil has the most bitter and implacable enmity against that person, especially in his character of the Saviour of men; he mortally hates the story and doctrine of his redemption ; he never would go
about to beget in men more honourable thoughts of him, and lay greater weight on his instructions and commands. The spirit that inclines men's hearts to the seed of the woman, is not the spirit of the serpent that has such an irreconcilable enmity against him. He that heightens men's esteem of the glorious Michael, that prince of the angels, is not the spirit of the dragon that is at war with him.
II. When the spirit that is at work operates against the interests of Satan's kingdom, which lies in encouraging and establishing sin, and cherishing men's worldly lusts; this is a sure sign that it is a true, and not a false spirit. This sign we have given us in the 4th and 5th verses. “ Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” Here is a plain antithesis: it is evident that the apostle is still comparing those that are influenced by the two opposite kinds of spirits, the true and the false, and shewing the difference ; the one is of God, and overcomes the spirit of the world; the other is of the world, and speaks and savours of the things of the world. The spirit of the devil is here called," he that is in the world.” Christ says, “ My kingdom is not of this world.” But it is otherwise with Satan's kingdom ; he is "the god of this world."
What the apostle means by the world, or "the things that are of the world,” we learn by his own words, in the 20 chapter of this epistle, 15th and 16th verses. “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father ir not in him ; for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” So that by the world the apostle evidently means every thing that appertains to the interest of sin, and comprehends all the corruptions and lusts of men, and all those acts and objects by which they are gratified.
So that we may safely determine, from what the apostle says, that the spirit that is at work amongst a people, after such a manner, as to lessen men's esteem of the pleasures, profits, and honours of the world, and to take off their hearts from an eager pursuit after these things; and to engage them in a deep concern about a future and eternal happiness which the gospel reveals-and puts them upon earnestly seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and the spirit that convinces them of the dreadfulness of sin, the guilt it brings, and the misery to which it exposes, must needs be the spirit of God.
It is not to be supposed that Satan would convince men of sin, and awaken the conscience; it can no way serve his