« PreviousContinue »
the last day, in the glory of his father, every eye shall see him in that glory, (in this respect, that they shall see his terrible majesty,) and they also that pierced him, Rev. i. 7. Both those devils and wicked men, which tormented and insulted him when he appeared in meanness and ignominy, shall then see him in the glory of his Father.
It is evident, therefore, that a sense of God's terrible majesty is no certain evidence of saying grace: for we see thatwicked men and devils are capable of it; yea, many wicked men in this world have actually had it. This is a manifestation which God made of himself in the sight of that wicked congregation at Mount Sinai, which they saw, and with which they were deeply affected, so that all the people in the camp trembled.
3. Devils and damned men have some kind of conviction and sense of all attributes of God, both natural and moral, that is strong and very affecting.
The devils know God's almighty power : they saw a great manifestation of it, when they saw God lay the foundation of the earth, &c., and were much affected with it. They have seen innumerable other great demonstrations of his power;
as in the universal deluge, the destruction of Sodom, the wonders in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness; causing the sun to stand still in Joshua's time, and many others. And they had a very affecting manifestation of God's mighty power on themselves, in casting all their hosts down from heaven into hell; and have continual affecting experience of it, in God's reserving them in strong chains of darkness, and in the strong pains they feel. They will hereafter have far more affecting experience of it, when they shall be punished from the glory of God's power, with that mighty destruction, in expectation of which, they now tremble. So the devils have a great knowledge of the wisdom of God: they have had unspeakably more opportunity and occasion to observe it in the work of creation, and also in the works of Providence, than any mortal man has ever had; and have been themselves the subjects of innumerable affecting manifestations of it, in God's disappointing and confounding them in their most subtle devices, in so wonderful and amazing a manner. So they see and find the infinite purity and holiness of the divine nature, in the most affecting manner, as this appears in his infinite hatred of sin, in what they feel of the dreadful effects of that hatred. They know already, by what they suffer, and will know hereafter to a greater degree, and far more affecting manner, that such is the opposition of God's nature to sin, that it is like a consuming fire, which burns with infinite vebemence against ít. They, also, will see the holiness of God, as exercised in his love to righteousness and holiness, in the glory of Christ and his church; which, also, will be very affecting to
devils and wicked men. And the exact justice of God will be manifested to them in the clearest and strongest, most convincing, and most affecting light, at the day of judgment; when they will also see great and affecting demonstrations of the riches of his grace, in the marvellous fruits of his love to the vessels of mercy; when they shall see them at the right hand of Christ, shining as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, and shall hear the blessed sentence pronounced upon them; and will be deeply affected with it, as seems naturally implied in Luke xiii. 28, 29. The devils know God's truth, and, therefore, they believe his threatenings, and tremble in expectation of their accomplishment. And wicked men, that now doubt his truth, and dare not trust his word, will, hereafter, in the most convincing, affecting manner, find bis word to be true in all that he has threatened, and will see that he is faithful to his promises in the rewards of his saints. Devils and damned men know that God is eternal and unchangeable; and, therefore, they despair of there ever being an end to their misery. Therefore, it is manifest, that merely persons having an affecting sense of some, or even of all God's attributes, is no certain sign that they have the true grace of God in their hearts.
OBJECT. Here, possibly, some may object against the force of the foregoing reasoning, That ungodly men in this world are in exceeding different circumstances from those in which the devils are, and from those which wicked men will be in at the day of judgment. Those things which are visible and present to these, are now future and invisible to the other; and wicked men in this world are in the body, that clogs and hinders the soul, and are encompassed with objects that blind and stupify them. Therefore, it does not follow, that because the wicked in another world have a great apprehension and lively sense of such things, without grace, ungodly men in their present state may have the same.
Ans. To this I answer: It is not supposed, that ever men in this life have all those things which have been mentioned, to the same degree that the devils and damned have them.—None suppose, that ever any in this life have terrors of conscience to an equal degree with them.
It is not to be supposed, that any mortal man, whether godly or ungodly, has an equal degree of speculative knowledge with the devil. And, as was just now observed, the wicked, at the day of judgment, will have a vastly greater idea of the external glory of Christ, than ever any have in the present state. So, doubtless, they will have a far greater sense of God's awful greatness and terrible majesty, than any could subsist under in this frail state. So we may well conclude, that the devils and wicked men in hell, have a greater and more affecting sense of the vastness of eter
nity, and, (in some respects,) a greater sense of the importance of the things of another world, than any here have; and they have, also, longings after salvation to a higher degree than any wicked men in this world.
But yet it is evident, that men in this world may have things of the same kind with devils and damned men: the same sort of light in the understanding; the same views and affections, the same sense of things, the same kind of impressions on the mind, and on the heart. The objection is against the conclusiveness of that reasoning which is the apostle's, more properly than mine. The apostle judged it a conclusive argament against such as thought their believing there was one God, an evidence of their being gracious, that the devils believed the same. So the argument is exactly the same against such as think they have grace, because they believe God is a holy God, or because they have a sense of the awful majesty of God.The same may be observed of other things that have been mentioned. My text has reference, not only to the act of the understandings of devils in believing, but to that affection of their hearts which accompanies the views they have; as trembling is an effect of the affection of the heart. Which shows, that it men have both the same views of understanding, and, also, the same affections of heart that the devils have, it is no sign of grace.
And as to the particular degree to which these things may be carried in men in this world without grace, it apppears not safe to make use of it as an infallible rule to determine men's state. I know not where we have any rule to go by, to fix the precise degree in which God by his providence, or his common influences on the mind, will excite in wicked men in this world, the same views and affections which the wicked have in another world ; which, it is manifest, the former are capable of as well as the latter, having the same faculties and principles of soul; and which views and affections, it is evident, they often are actually the subjects of in some degree, some in a greater, and some in a less degree. The infallible evidences of grace which are laid down in scripture are of another kind : they are all of a holy and spiritual nature; and therefore things of that kind which a heart that is wholly carnal and corrupt cannot receive or experience, 1 Cor. ii. 14. I might also here add, that observation and experience, in very many instances, seem to confirm what scripture and reason teaches in these things.
The second use may be of self-examination.
Let the things which have been observed put all on examining themselves, and inquiring, whether they have any better evidences of saying grace, than such as have been mentioned.
We see how the infallible Spirit of God, in the text, plainly represents the things of which the devils are the subjects, as no sure sign of grace. And we have now, in some instances, observed how far the devils and damned men go, and will go
in their experience, their knowledge of divine things, their belief of truth, their awakenings and terrors of conscience, their conviction of guilt, and of the justice of God in their eternal dreadfal damnation, their longings after salvation, their sight of the external glory of Christ and heavenly things, their sense of the vast importance of the things of religion, and another world; their sense of the awful greatness and terrible majesty of God, yea, of all God's attributes. These things may well put us on serious self-examination, whether we have any thing to evidence our good estate, beyond what the devils have. Christ said to his disciples, “ Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven:" so the Spirit of Christ, in his apostle James, does in effect say, in my text, Except what you expericnce in your souls go beyond the experiences of devils, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of God.
Here, it may be, some will be ready to say, I have something besides all these things ; what the devils have not, even
love and joy.
I answer, You may have something besides the experiences of devils, and yet nothing beyond them. Though the experience be different, yet it may not be owing to any different principle, but only the different circumstances under which these principles are exercised. The principles from whence the fore-mentioned things in devils and damned men arise, are these two, natural understanding and self-love. It is from these principles of natural understanding and self-love, as exercised about their own dispositions and actions, and God as their judge, that they have natural conscience, and have such convictions of conscience as have been spoken of. It is from these principles that they have such a sense of the importance of the things of religion, and the eternal world, and such longings after salvation. It is from the joint exercise of these two principles that they are 80 sensible of the awful majesty of God, and of all the attributes of the divine nature, and so greatly affected with them. And it is from these principles, joined with external sense, the wicked, at the day of judgment, will have so great an apprehension of, and will be so greatly affected by the external glory of Christ and his saints. And that you have a kind of love, or gratitude and joy, which devils and damned men have not, may possibly not arise from any other principles in your heart different from these two, but only from these principles as exercised in different circumstances. As for instance, your being a subject of the restraining grace of God, and under circumstances of hope.
The natural understanding and self-love of devils possibly might affect them in the same manner, if they were in the same cir. cumstances. If your love to God has its first source from nothing else than a supposed immediate divine witness, or any other supposed evidence, that Christ died for you in particular, and that God loves you ; it springs from no higher principles than self-love ; which is a principle that reigns in the hearts of devils. Self-love is sufficient, without grace, to cause men to love those that love them, or that they imagine love them, and make much of them ; Luke vi. 32. " For if ye love them which love you, what thank have you? For sinners also love those that love them.” And would not the hearts of devils be filled with great joy, if they, by any means, should take up a confident persuasion that God pardoned them, and was become their friend, and that they should be delivered from that wrath of which they now are in trembling expectation. If the devils go so far as you have heard, even in their circumstances, being totally cast off, and given up to unrestrained wickedness, being without hope, knowing that God is, and ever will be their enemy, they suffering his wrath without mercy: how far may we reasonably suppose they might go, in imitation of grace and pious experience, if they had the same degree of knowledge, as clear views, and as strong conviction, under circumstances of hope, and offers of mercy; and being the subjects of common grace, restraining their corruptions, and assisting and exciting the natural principles of reason, conscience, &c. ? Such things, or any thing like them, in the heart of a sinner in this world ; at the same time that he, from some strong impression on his imagination, has suddenly, after great terrors, imbibed a confidence, that now this great God is his Friend and Father, has released him from all the misery he feared, and has promised him eternal happiness: I say, such things would, doubtless, vastly heighten his ecstacy of joy, and raise the exercise of natural gratitude, (that principle from whence sinners love those that love them,) and would occasion a great imitation of many graces in strong exercises. Is it any wonder then that multitudes under such a sort of affection are deceived ? Especially when they have devils to help forward the delusion, whose great subtilty has chiefly been exercised in deceiving mankind through all past generations.
Ing. Here possibly some may be ready to inquire, If there be so many things which men may experience from no higher principles than are in the minds and hearts of devils ; what are those exercises and affections that are of a higher nature, which I must find in my heart, and which I may justly look upon as sure signs of the saving grace of God's Spirit ?