« PreviousContinue »
their hearts, or can be come at by diligent and particular inquiry--this work has all those marks that have been pointed out. And this has been the case in very many instances, in every article; and in many others, all those marks bave appeared in a very great degree.
The subjects of these uncommon appearances, have been of two sorts; either those who have been in great distress from an apprehension of their sin and misery; or those who have been overcome with a sweet sense of the greatness, wonderfulness, and excellency of divine things. Of the mula titude of those of the former sort, that I have had opportunity to observe, these have been very few, but their distress has arisen apparently from real proper conviction, and being in a degree sensible of that which was the truth. And though I do not suppose, when such things were observed to be common, that persons have laid themselves under those violent restraints to avoid outward manifestations of their distress, that perhaps they otherwise would have done; yet there have been very few in whom there has been any appearance of feigning or affecting such manifestations, and very many for whom it would have been undoubtedly utterly impossible for them to avoid them. Generally, in these agonies they have appeared to be in the perfect exercise of their reason; and those of them who could speak, have been well able to give an account of the circumstances of their mind, and the cause of their distress, at the time, and were able to remember, and give an account of it afterwards. I have known a very few instances of those, who, in their great extremity, have for a short space been deprived, in some measure, of the use of reason; but among the many hundreds, and it may be thousands, that have lately been brought to such agonies, I never yet knew one, lastingly deprived of their reason. In some that I have known, melancholy has evidently been mixt; and when it is so, the difference is very apparent; their distresses are of another kind, and operate quite after another manner, than when their distress is from mere conviction. It is not truth only that distresses them, but many vain shadows and notions that will not give place either to scripture or reason. Some in their great distress have not been well able to give an account of themselves, or to declare the sense they have of things, or to explain the manner and cause of their trouble to others, that yet I have had no reason to think were not under proper convictions, and in whom there has been manifested a good issue. But this will not be at all wondered at, by those who have had much to do with souls under spiritual difficulties : some things of wbich they are sensible, are altogether new to them; their ideas and inward sensations are new, and what they therefore know not how to express in words. Some, who on first inquiry, said they knew not what was the matter with them, have on being particularly examined and interrogated, been able to represent their case, though of themselves they could not find expressions, and forms of speech to do it.
Some suppose, thrat terrors producing such effects, are only a fright. But certainly there ought to be a distinction made between a very great fear, or extrenie distress arising from an apprehension of some dreadful truth-a cause fully proportionable to such an effect--and a needless, causeless fright. The latter is of two kinds; either, first when persons are terrified with that which is not the truth ; (of which I have seen very few instances unless in case of melancholy ;) or, secondly, when they are in a fright from some terrible outward appearance and noise, and a general notion thence arising, These apprehend, that there is something or other terrible they know not what; without having in their minds any particular truth whatever. Of such a kind of fright I have seen very little appearance, among either old or young:
Those who are in such extremity, commonly express a great sense of their exceeding wickedness, the multitude and aggravations of their actual sins; their dreadful pollution, enmity, and perverseness; their obstinacy and hardness of heart; a sense of their great guilt in the sight of God; and the dreadfulness of the punishment due to sin. Very often they have a lively idea of the horrible pit of eternal misery; and at the same time it appears to them, that the great God who has them in his hands, is exceeding angry, and his wrath appears amazingly terrible to them. God appears to them so much provoked, and his great wrath so increased, that they are apprehensive of great danger, and that he will not bear witli them any longer ; but will now forthwith cut them off, and send them down to the dreadful pit they have in view; at the same time seeing no refuge. They see more and more of the vanity of every thing they used to trust to, and with which they flattered themselves, till they are brought wholly to despair in all, and to see that they are at the disposal of the mere will of that God who is so angry with them. Very many, in the midst of their extremity, have been brought to an extraordinary sense of their fully deserving that wrath, and the destruction which was then before their eyes. They feared every moment, that it would be executed upon them; they have been greatly convinced that this would be altogether just, and that God is indeed absolutely sovereign. Very often, some text of scripture expressing God's sovereignty, has been set home upon their minds, whereby they have been calmed. They have been brought, as it were, to lie at God's feet; and after great agonies, a little before light has arisen, they have been composed and quiet, in submission to a just and sovereigni God; but their bodily strength much spent. Sometimes their lives, to appearance, were almost gone; and then light has appeared, and a glorious Rideemer, with his wonderful, all-sufficient grace, has been represented to them often, in some sweet invitation of scripture. Sometimes the light comes in suddenly, sometimes more gradually, filling their souls with love, admiration, joy, and self-abasement: drawing forth their hearts after the excellent lovely Redeemer, and longings to lie in the dust before him; and that others inight behold, embrace, and be delivered by him. They had longings to live to his glory ; but were sensible that they can do nothing of themselves, appearing vile in their own eyes, and having much jealousy over their own hearts. And all the appearances of a real change of heart have followed; and grace has acted, from time
U to time, after the saine manner that it used to act in those that were converted formerly, with the like difficulties, temptations, buffetings, and comforts; excepting that in many, the light and comfort have been in higher degrees than ordinary. Many very young children have been thus wrought upon. There have been some instance's very much like those (Mark i. 26. and chap. ix. 26.) of whom we read, that “when the devil had cried with a loud voice, and rent them sore, he came out of them.” And probably those instances were designed for a type of such things as these. Some have several turns of great agonies, before they are delivered; and others have been in such distress, which has passed off, and no deliverance at all bas followed.
Some object against it as great confusion, when there is a number together in such circumstances making a noise; and say, God cannot be the author of it; because he is the God of order, not of confusion. But let it be considered, what is the proper notion of confusion, but the breaking that order of things, whereby they are properly disposed, and duly directed to their end, so that the order and due connection of means being broken, they fail of their end. Now the conviction of
sinners for their conversion is the obtaining of the end of · religious means. Not but that I think the persons thus extra
ordinarily moved, should endeavour to refrain froin such outward manifestations, what they well can, and should refrain to their utmost, at the time of their solemn worship. But if God is pleased to convince the consciences of persons, so that they cannot avoid great outward manifestations, even to interrupting, and breaking off those public means they were attending, I do not think this is confusion, or an unbappy interruption, any more than if a company should meet on the field to pray for rain, and should be broken off from their 'exercise by a plentiful shower. Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off, from their public exercises, with such confusion as this the next sabbath day! We need not be sorry for breaking the order of means, by obtaining the end to which that order is directed. He who is going to fetch a treasure, need not be sorry that he is stopped, by meeting the treasure in the midst of his journey.
Besides those who are overcome with conviction and distress, I have seen many of late, who have had their bodily strength taken away with a sense of the glorious excellency of the Redeemer, and the wonders of his dying love; with a very uncommon sense of their own littleness and exceeding vileness attending it, with all expressions and appearances of the greatest abasement and abhorrence of themselves. Not only new converts, but many who were, as we hope, formerly converted, have had their love and joy attended with a flood of tears and a great appearance of contrition and humiliation, especially for their having lived no more to God's glory since their conversion. These have had a far greater sight of their vileness, and the evil of their hearts, than ever they bad; with an exceeding earnestness of desire to live better for the time to come, but attended with greater self-diffidence than ever: and many have been overcome with pity to the souls of others, and longing for their salvation. And many other things Í might mention, in this extraordinary work, answering to every one of those marks which have been insisted on. So that if the apostle John knew how to give signs of a work of the true spirit, this is such a work..
Providence las cast my lot in a place where the work of God has formerly been carried on. I had the bappiness to be settled in that place two years with the venerable STODDARD; and was then acquainted with a number who, during that season, were wrought upon under bis ministry. I have been intimately acquainted with the experiences of many others who were wrought upon under his ministry, before that period, in a manner agreeable to the doctrine of all orthodox divines. And of late, a work has been carried on there, with very much of uncommon operations; but it is evidently the same work, that was carried on there, in different periods, though attended with some new circumstances. And certainly we must throw by all talk of conversion and christian experience; and not only so, but we must throw by our Bibles, and give up revealed religion, if this be not in general the work of God. Not that I suppose the degree of the spirit's influence, is to be determined by the degree of effect on men's bodics; or, that those are always the best experiences, wbich have the greatest influence on the body.
And as to the imprudences, irregularities, and mixture of delusion that has been observed; it is not at all to be won.
dered at, that a reformation, after a long continued and almost universal deadness, should at first, when the revival is new, be attended with such things. In the first creation God did not make a complete world at once; but there was a great deal of imperfection, darkness, and mixture of chaos and confusion, after God first said, “Let there b= light,” before the whole stood forth in perfect form. When God at first began his great work for the deliverance of his people, after their long continued bondage in Egypt, there were false wonders mixed with the true for a while; wbich hardened the unbelieving Egyptians, and made them to doubt of the divinity of the whole work. When the children of Israel first went to bring up the ark of God, after it had been neglected, and had been long absent, they sought not the Lord after the due order, 1 Chron. xv. 13. At the time wben the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, Satan came also among them. And Solomon's ships, when they brought gold; and silver, and pearls, also brought apes and peacocks. Wben day-light first appears after a night of darkness, we must expect to have darkness mixt with light, for a while, and not have perfect day, and the sun risen at once. The fruits of the earth are first green before they are ripe, and come to their proper perfection gradually; and so Christ tells us, is the kingdom of God. Mark iv. 26, 27, 28. “So is the kingdom of God; as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how: for the earth bringeth forth fruit of herselt; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”
The imprudences and errors that have attended this work, are the less to be wondered at, if it be considered, that chiefly young persons have been the subjects of it, who have less steadiness and experience, and being in the heat of youth, are much more ready to run to extremes. Satan will keep men secure as long as he can; but when he can do that no longer, be often endeavours to drive them to extremes, and so to dis. honour God and wound religion in that way. And doubtless it has been one occasion of much misconduct, that in many places, people see plainly that their ministers have an ill opinion of the work; and therefore, with just reason, durst not apply themselves to them as their guides in it; and so are witha out guides.—No wonder then that when a people are as sheep without a shepherd, they wander out of the way. A people in such circumstances, stand in great and continual need of guides, and their guides stand in continual need of much more wisdom than they have of their own. And if a people have ministers that favour the work, and rejoice in it, yet it is not to be expected, that either the people or ministers, should