« PreviousContinue »
the devil's work, was to improve the indiscreet zeal of Christians, to drive them into those three extremes, of enthusiasm, superstition, and severity towards opposers ; which should be enough for an everlasting warning to the Christian church.
Though the devil will do his diligence to stir up the open enemies of religion, yet he knows what is for his interest só well, that in a time of revival of religion, his main strength shall be tried with the friends of it, and he will chiefly exert himself in his attempts upon them, to mislead them. One truly zealous person, in the time of such an event, that seems to have a great hand in the affair, and draws the eyes of many upon him, may do more, through satan's being too súbtle for him) to hinder the work, than an hundred great, and strong, and open opposers.
In the time of a great work of Christ, his hands, with which he works, are often wounded in the house of his friends; and his work hindered chiefly by them ; So that if any one inquires, as in Zech. xii. 6. “ What are those wounds in thine hands ?” He may answer, “ Those, with which I was wounded in the house of my friends."
The errors of the friends of the work of God, and especially of the great promoters of it, give vast advantage to the enemies of such a work. Indeed ihere are many things that are no errors, but are only duties faithfully and thoroughly done, that wound the minds of such persons more, and' are more cross to them, than real errors : But yet one real error gives opposers as much advantage, and hinders and clogs the work as much as ten that are only supposed ones. Real errors do not fret and gaul the enemies of religion, so much as those things that are strictly right; but they encourage them more; they give them liberty and open a gap for them ; so that some that before kept their enmity burning in their own bowels, and durst not show themselves, will on such an occasion take courage, and give themselves vent, and their rage will be like that of an enemy let loose ; and those that lay still before, having nothing to say, but what they would be ashamed of, (agrecable to Tit. ii. 8.) when they have such a weapon put into their hands will fight with all violence. And indeed the enemies of religion would not know what to do for weapons to fight with, were it not for the errors of the friends of it; and so must soon fall before them. And besides in real errors, things that are truly disagreeable to the rules of God's word, we cannot expect the divine protection, and that God will appear on our side, as if our errors were only supposed ones.
Since therefore the errors of the friends and promoters of such a glorious work of God, are of such dreadful consequence ; and seeing the devil, being sensible of this, is so as. siduous, and watchful and subtle in his attempts with them, and has thereby been so successful to overthrow religion here. tofore, certainly such persons ought to be exceeding circumspect and vigilant, diffident and jealous of themselves, and humbly dependent on the guidance of the good Shepherd. i Pet. iv. 7. “ Be sober and watch unto prayer.” And chap, v. 8. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion walketh about.".....For persons to go on resolutely in a kind of heat and vehemence, despising admonition and correction, being confident that they must be in the right, because they are full of the spirit, is directly contrary to the import of these words, be sober, be vigilant.
It is a mistake I have observed in some, by which they have been greatly exposed, to their wounding, that they think they are in no danger of going astray, or being misled by the devil, because they are near to God ; and so have no jealous eye upon themselves, and neglect vigilance and circumspection, as needless in their case. They say they do not think that God will leave them to dishonor him, and wound religion as long as they keep near to him : And I believe so too, as long as they keep near to God in that respect, that they maintain an universal and diligent watch, and care to do their duty, and avoid sin, and snares, with diffidence in themselves, and humble dependence and prayerfulness : But not merely because they are near to God, in that respect, that they now are receiving blessed communications from God, in refreshing views of him ; if at the same time they let down their watch, and are not jealous over their own hearts, by reason of its re
maining blindness and corruption, and a subtle adversary. It is a grand error, for persons to think they are out of danger of the devil, and a corrupt deceitful heart, even in their highest fights, and most raised frames of spiritual joy. For persons in such a confidence, to cease to be jealous of themselves, and to neglect watchfulness and care, is a presumption by which I have known many wofully ensnared. However highly we may be favored with divine discoveries and comforts, yet as long as we are in the world, we are in the enemy's country ; and therefore that direction of Christ to his disciples, is never out of date in this world, Luke xxi. 36, “ watch and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the son of man.”
It was not out of date with the disciples, to whom it was given, after they came to be filled so full with the Holy Ghost, and out of their bellies flowed rivers of living water, by that great effusion of the Spirit upon them, that began on the day of pentecost. And though God stands ready to protect his people, especially those that are near to him, yet he ex. pects great care and labor of all; and that we should put on the whole armor of God, that we may stand in the evil day : And whatever spiritual privileges we are raised to, we have no warrant to expect protection in any other way; for God has appointed this whole life, as a state of labor, to be all, as a race or a battle; the state of rest wherein we shall be so out of danger, as to have no need of watching and fighting, is reserved for another world. I have known it in abundance of instances, that the devil is come in very remarkably, even in the midst of the most exalted, and upon some accounts excel. lent frames : It may seem a great mystery that it should be 80 ; but it is no greater mystery, than that Christ should be taken captive by the devil, and carried into the wilderness, immediately after the heavens had been opened to him, and the Holy Ghost descended like a clove upon him, and he heard that comfortable, joyful voice from the Father, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. In like manner Christ in the heart of a Christian, is oftențimes as it were taken by the devil, and carried captive into a wilderness, pres
ently after heaven has been, as it were opened to the soul, and the Holy Ghost has descended upon it like a dove, and God has been sweetly owning the believer, and testifying his favor to him as his beloved child.
It is therefore a great error, and sin in some persons, at this day, that they are fixed in their way, in some things that others account errors, and will not hearken to admonition and counsel, but are confident that they are in the right of it, in those practices that they find themselves disposed to, because God is much with them, and they have great degrees of the Spirit of God. There were some such in the apostles' days : The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, was sensible that some of them would not be easily convinced that they had been in any error, because they looked upon themselves spiritual, or full of the Spirit of God. 1 Cor. xiv. 37, 38. “ If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowlege that the things that I write unto you, are the commandment of the Lord; but if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
And although those that are spiritual amongst us, have no infallible apostle to admonish them, yet let me intreat them, by the love of Christ, calmly and impartially to weigh what may be said to them, by one that is their hearty and fervent friend, (although an inferior worm) in giving his humble opinion, concerning the errors that have been committed, or that we may be exposed 10, in methods or practices that have been, or may be fallen intu, by the zealous friends or promoters of this great work of God.
In speaking of the errors that have been, or that we are in danger of, I would in the
First place, take notice of the causes whence the errors that attend a great revival of religion usually arise ; and as I go along, take notice of some particular errors that arise from each of those causes.
Secondly, Observe some errors, that some have lately gone into, that have been owing to the influence of several of those causes conjunctly.
As to the first of these, the errors that attend a great revival of religion, usually arise from these three things :
1. Undiscerned spiritual pride.
The first, and the worst cause of errors, that prevail in such a state of things, is spiritual pride. This is the main door, by which the devil comes into the hearts of those that are zealous for the advancement of religion. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind, and mislead the judgment: This is the main handle by which the devil has hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God. This cause of error is the main spring, or at least the main support of all the rest. Until this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal other diseases. It is by this that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light, by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already, he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it. But if this disease be healed, other things are easily rectified. The humble person is like a little child, he easily receives instruction ; he is jealous over himself, sensible how liable he is to go astray ; and therefore if it be suggested to him that he does so, he is ready most narrowly and impartially to inquire. Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach, as humility, and so prepares the mind for true divine light, without darkness, and so clears the eye to look on things, as they truly are. Psal. xxv. 9. “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek he will teach his way." Therefore we should fight, neither with small, nor with great, but with the king of Israel : Our first care should be to rectify the heart, and pull the beam out of our eye, and then we shall see clearly.
I know that a great many things at this day, are very injuriously laid to the pride of those that are zealous in the cause of God. When any person appears, in any respect, remarkably distinguished in religion from others, if he professes