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conceit of familiar intercourse with God: because they shew that our gracious and reconciled God and Father does admit his true worshippers to very near and encouraging communion with him; though not to that which renders reverence and humility in any respect less proper otherwise would be.
Upon the whole we consider it as impossible “ to sow in tears and reap in joy;"I to “tremble” with the gaoler, and then in a short time to "re‘joice in God;”? or in a variety of other things to be like minded with the accepted servants of our common Lord, without experience; nay, without a sensible operation of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. We are unreservedly willing, that the nature of the things experienced, and the effects of our experience, should be brought into judgment according to the rule of the sacred scriptures. We would distinguish what Herod experienced, when “ he heard John Baptist gladly, “and did many things;" and what Felix and Agrippa, when the apostle addressed them; from that experience of the power of divine truth, by the grace of God's Spirit, on the conscience, mind, and heart, which produces true conversion, a sober, righteous, and godly life, and fruitfulness in every good word and work. We would not allow any experience to warrant our confidence, as to acceptance with God, except that which produces holy and permanent effects on our lives. We would also remember that, even if we have rejoiced in “ the testimony of the Holy Spirit with our spirits,
· Ps. cxxvi. 5.
? Acts xvi. 29, 34.
“ that we are the children of God;" yet by sin and unwatchfulness we may grieve our holy Comforter, and lose this holy consolation : nor can we then expect the restoration of it, except by renewed repentance and faith, and the obedience of faith and love.
Many other distinctions, cautions, and limitations we would gladly admit, and strenuously insist upon : but still we conclude that, while a religion supported by presumptuous and fallacious experiences is enthusiasn, a religion without experience is dead and worthless formality.
On Religious Distresses.
It is to encourage true zeal, vital piety, and • Christian humility, without incurring the dangers of wild fanaticism, listless indolence, dangerous security, or agonizing despondence.'1
This is a specimen of that way of making either express or implied charges against those whom the writer would oppose, in a manner suited to produce deep and extensive effect; yet so as almost to exclude the accused party from attempting a defence. For so much, and that so emphatically expressed, is contained in two lines, that it is impossible to give any thing like an answer to it, without almost writing a treatise ; and then prolixity destroys the effect.
Most of the expressions, however, have been in
Ref. 74, 75.
some degree considered, and the implied charge obviated. But, in connexion with internal · feelings' and ' experiences,'' agonizing despon*dence' requires a few distinct remarks.
Whether the tenets, called Calvinism, are more calculated to lead some, on the one hand, into dangerous security,' and some on the other hand into agonizing despondence,' than Anti-Calvinistic doctrines are, I shall not here dispute. It is sufficient to observe, that they cannot lead any man either into the one or the other extreme, except as misunderstood, and wrested from their true meaning; and that the scriptures themselves may thus be wrested to men's destruction. It is, however, certain, that numbers profess to be exceedingly alarmed on our account, and dream frightful dreams concerning us. This is often expressed and enhanced in such tragical language, and in so piteous a manner, as might even excite a smile in us ; did it not, alas ! prejudice multitudes, not only against some of our tenets, but also against a life of earnest religion and entire devotedness to God: and this demands the tear of commiseration. Would they, however, who regard us as such melancholy desponding mortals, come near enough to observe and distinguish, they would in general find that “the voice of joy and thanks
giving is in our dwellings ;” and cheerfulness an inmate in our families, and a guest at our social meetings. Calvinists, in this day, as well as others who profess something more than a customary, fashionable, and decent regard to religion,
generally separate from the scenes and places of dissipated amusement; and refuse to join in those pleasures, without which numbers consider life as cheerless and melancholy. These persons, therefore, may perhaps think them gloomy; because they themselves, if constrained thus to live, would be dull and uncomfortable. But pious persons, whether Calvinists or not, separate from those scenes, not merely “ for conscience' sake,” but because they have lost their relish for such pleasures; and because, in the intervals of labour, business, or professional duties, they find much higher satisfactions in the exercises of devotion, in pious and intelligent conversation, in reading the scriptures, and in visiting and relieving the sick and affiicted, than they ever experienced in those dissipations which they have now renounced. If they “ walk not in the counsel of the ungodly, “ and stand not in the way of sinners,” it is because “ their delight is in the law of God, and in his “ law do they meditate day and night.”Provided we be, so to speak, in our element, we are easy
and satisfied: the student in his retirement; the Christian in his closet, and in the society of his brethren ; at least equally with those who are in their element at the theatre or the assembly, or in more plebeian scenes of dissipation or riot.
The consideration of this renunciation of worldly pleasures may probably prepare the minds of many to expect, that very religious persons, or those who' affect much religion,' are a gloomy and uncomfortable company; and induce them to im
"Ps. i. 1, 2.
bibe, with more readiness, the assertions of those who report it as a fact that this is the case, especially with Calvinists. But other more immediate causes or occasions for the sentiment may be discovered.
There are many, both among Calvinists and Anticalvinists, who are of a melancholy constitution, or turn of mind : and this morbid state, whether of body or soul, may certainly be augmented by the religious tenets which a man embraces: nay it will predispose him to receive those tenets which are most congenial to his turn of mind, and to view even that doctrine as dismaying, which leads another man to rejoice and hope. Now, when any one, whatever were his previous creed, is so “ convinced of sin,” that he considers himself as exposed to the wrath of God and final condemnation, all his former confidence being torn from him, and new grounds of hope and confidence not yet appearing, or appearing but obscurely; he cannot but experience terror and distress: he must, he ought, to tremble and to cry out, “What must I do to be saved ?” Every review of the past, every prospect as to the future, every reflection on God, on death, on judgment, on eternity, suggests alarm: and it would be wonderful if the subtle enemy of souls did not endeavour, at such a crisis, to urge him to conclude his sins to be unpardonable, his day of grace and mercy expired, or himself, by something peculiar in his case, excluded from hope. The more distinct his views become of ETERNITY, and of the awful alternative of eternal happiness or eternal misery, the more intense must be his solici