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tude: and, should he in this state of mind hear of the divine decrees, (a subject which he cannot at present rightly understand,) these might become an occasion of augmented distress, and even of permament agonizing despondence.'
This may be the case: but I can truly declare, that in all the years of my observation in these things I have not met with one clear instance of it. Of the numbers under distress of soul, with whom I have conversed, there have scarcely been any who did not, after a short time, either revert to their former state of careless security, often with increased insensibility ; or," having sown in “ tears, reap in joy,” and obtain permanent hope and prevailing peace. The transition has been, generally, less immediate and marked from terror and distress to joy and confidence, than in the cases recorded in scripture; but in other respects not materially different, either in its nature or its subsequent effects. And let it be also observed, that this joy and confidence, as well as the preceding alarm and distress, were, almost in every instance, previous to the persons concerned being at all instructed in those doctrines which are more properly called Calvinistic, and, in many instances, while they continued entirely unacquainted with them.
The above statement evidently accords to the narratives contained in scripture; and it is also coincident with the general experience of mankind in temporal concerns. The near prospect of ruin in a man's outward circumstances, of which he had not been before aware; the imminent danger of death by some disease which he had not
previously thought at all dangerous ; necessarily excites alarm, and often causes much dejection. So long as the evil seems irreparable, the case hopeless, and the dreaded calamity intolerable, the dejection commonly increases. Incidental circumstances, trivial in themselves, or even foreign to the main concern, may, from the state of the sufferer's mind, enhance his dismay and despondency; and it is well known, in what awful ways “ the sorrow of the world worketh death." On the contrary, when unexpected deliverance dawns on the mind, it inspires hope : yet uncertainty prolongs anxiety : “ hope deferred maketh “ the heart sick ; but when the desire cometh it is “a tree of life.”! And, when the deliverance is attended and followed with many other agreeable circumstances, the joy and exultation of the person concerned bears proportion to his preceding dismay and despondency. If it be thus in “ things
temporal,” why should it not be so in “ things “ eternal ?” Except the promises and threatenings of scripture be either disbelieved or forgotten, how can we be indifferent about obtaining the one and avoiding the other? Surely the apathy of men in these infinitely important concerns, when contrasted with their eagerness about the things of time and sense, is far more wonderful and more lamentable, than the temporary, even though excessive, distress of comparatively a small number, about the awful concerns of eternity!
This first distress, however, is far from universal : for considerable numbers discover “ the
· Prov. xiii. 12.
refuge,” even “ the hope set before them" in the gospel, nearly at the same time that they become acquainted with their need, as guilty and ruined sinners, of such a refuge. So that, from the time when their thoughts are turned decidedly to the concerns of religion, they experience little alarm, but hope and confidence generally prevail.
But there are in most congregations, where the grand doctrines of Christianity are preached ; and where the preachers“ by manifestation of the “ truth commend themselves to every man's con“ science in the sight of God;" persons so far informed and convinced, that their minds are very uneasy in an irreligious course of life, or in the practice of known sin. Yet they are not led to
repent and do works meet for repentance :” they wait for a more “ convenient season.” They are however greatly agitated with the dread of dying before that change which they know to be indispensably requisite, but which they are conscious has not taken place in them, is effected. Their convictions, terrors, irresolution, and inconsistent conduct render their whole life a warfare between conscience and inclination ; between known duty and actual practice. These men
are truly wretched : and, after all their pains to conceal it, they often make it appear, especially in times of danger, or in the prospect of death, that they are “consumed with terrors,” and live on the very brink of dire despair. Religion, however, is no more than the occasion of their distresses, from which ignorance or erroneous principles might have exempted them ; for the want of religion is the real cause. Yet these, associating with zeal
ous Christians, or attending at the same places of of worship with them, are, by superficial observers, confounded with them, and so involve the whole company in one common charge of melancholy.
In some instances, indeed, the peculiar tenets of Calvinism may combine with other things in enhancing this distress. *For curious and carnal ' persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have be'fore their eyes the sentence of God's predestinastion is a most dangerous downfal, whereby the · devil doth thrust them down into desperation, or into recklessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.'1 This case however has scarcely fallen in my way. I have known many quieted, after deep convictions of sin, by a perverted use of the Calvinistic principles; and some, even in ‘ recklessness of unclean living,' wresting these doctrines, as well as the scriptures on other subjects, to their own destruction. But not one clear instance has been noticed by me, in which a man's distress of conscience, because of living in sin in defiance of conviction, has been permanently augmented by the tenets of Calvinism, or diminished by ignorance of them or opposition to them. Of those who are in the way of learning a Calvinistic creed, while living in an ungodly and worldly course of life, most, when they become in earnest about religion, have temporary difficulties, and sometimes distresses, from that source ; yet these seldom continue long. But of those who returned back from some religious profession, “ like
· Art. xvii.
“ the sow that is washed to her wallowing in the
mire,” most, if not all, either perverted these tenets into an opiate, or renounced them with the rest of their religion.
Again, even true Christians, if they become negligent, or yield to temptation, not only lose their comfort, but experience deep distress, often far beyond that of their first alarms : and thus it ought to be. David's groans and anguish of spirit still form a warning voice to all “who have ears to hear.” But the peculiarities of Calvinism are seldom much thought of, by the more conscientious part of those who are disquieted on this ground. The doubts and dejections of this class, and even of those who, through error of judgment, a melancholic temperature, obscure views, or weak faith, may seem, without any visible cause in their conduct, to be associated with them, is scarcely ever about their election, whether they hold or do not hold the doctrine, but about their conversion ; about the sincerity of their repentance, their faith, and their love; or about something in their past lives, or their present conduct, which they are tempted to conclude cuts them off from sharing the benefits of the gospel along with other men. They indeed seldom question, (though they are often misunderstood,) whether the Saviour is able and willing to save all true believers without exception ; but they doubt whether they themselves be true believers, or come for salvation in the right manner.
In most religious companies, there are likewise individuals of feeble and imaginative minds, in which ideas, that have no necessary connexion, become inseparably associated together. This is