« PreviousContinue »
often attended by a diseased state of the body, which gives the enemy of souls peculiar advantage in harassing them with terrifying thoughts. These persons are often in other respects conscientious, benevolent, and amiable: yet they are uncomfortable themselves, and troublesome to their fellow Christians; and they require peculiar attention, patience, gentleness, and tenderness from their pastors. Yet, amidst all their fears, and doubts, and dejections, they are very far from agonizing despondence.' They possess a hope, often fluctuating and feeble, which yet they would not exchange for the whole world. They have also their seasons of consolation; and these are often such as many would censure for being too rapturous : many of them also meet death, not only with serenity, but even with exulting joy. Now is not even this case (which, more than almost any other, gives occasion to the tragical apprehensions of religious melancholy,) immensely more safe, happy, and reasonable, than the heedless apathy of most professed Christians, in the grand concern of their immortal souls?
Again, real Christians do indeed believe every part of the word of God, as far as they know and understand it, both as it relates to themselves and to others. In their intercourse therefore with beloved relatives and friends, who do not appear to them truly earnest, in a scriptural manner, about the concerns of their souls, the thought of the danger, the awful danger to which they cannot but consider them as exposed, produces in them a degree of thoughtfulness and painful reflection, notwithstanding their efforts to the contrary, which they are not always able to conceal. This, united with the circumstance, that the favourite topic of their cheerful conversation must either be wholly refrained from, or introduced as unwelcome to the company, and perhaps doing harm instead of good; causes them to appear to far less advantage in this respect than they otherwise would do. They even sometimes seem much dejected: and they are so; yet not on their own account, but on account of the objects of their tender solicitude. They feel what the sacred writers often express :1 “ How “can I endure to see the destruction of my kin“ dred?” “Rivers of waters run down mine
eyes, “ because they keep not thy law.” “I beheld the
transgressors and was grieved, because they kept “ not thy word.” But the whole is, by those who are not aware of the cause, charged to the account of their religion ; and this, whether they be Calvinists or not. Indeed it is a lamentable fact, that, among vast multitudes of professed Christians, all serious reflection upon eternal things; not merely that which interrupts rational sober cheerfulness, but whatever damps levity and frivolous mirth; is regarded as religious gloom and melancholy. But surely, in this view, the words of Solomon must approve themselves to every one who would be regarded as a rational agent : “ Sorrow is better “ than laughter; for by the sadness of the coun“ tenance the heart is made better." 2 Or those of a greater than Solomon : “Blessed are ye
for ye shall laugh :" “ Wo be to you that
Esth. viii. 6. Ps. cxix. 136, 158. Jer. ix. 1. xiii. 17. Luke xix. 41. Rom. ix. 1-3.
? Ec. vii. 3.
“ laugh now, for ye shall mourn and weep.” Cheerfulness, contentment, thankfulness, hope and joy in the Lord, are our duty and privilege; and melancholy and despondency are effects of seriousness of mind, which may not be altogether avoidable, but which should never be indulged, but, always watched against with persevering prayer ; not only as the bane of our comfort, but as tending greatly to prejudice those around us against our holy religion itself.
The obnoxious and unfounded doctrine of human merit, held by the church of Rome, fosters pride and presumption. The equally erroneous and baneful doctrine of moral incapacity, in the extent unhappily adopted by Calvin, tends to produce hopeless melancholy, or hardened profiigacy. The former exalts too high, the latter depresses too low, the powers of man.'ı
Are then the supposed errors of Calvin, as to the degree of human depravity, ' equally' obnoxious with the doctrine of human merit held by the church of Rome? Is this the deliberate judgment of any among the pastors and rulers in our protestant Church? If this be the case, what is become of our reformation from popery, and our protestations against it?
1 Ref. 78.
The real orthodox divine-rejects all pretensions to instantaneous and forcible conversion.'!
İt is here implied, that these pretensions to instantaneous conversion' arise especially from the tenets of Calvinists. Yet if they, who call themselves · The Arminians,' and entitle their Magazine, "The Arminian Magazine,' be not Calvinists, narrations of sudden conversions will not be found even chiefly among either the modern Calvinists or their predecessors. But, however that may be, some remarks on the subject may not be improper.
'The new proselytes amounted to three thou- sand souls, whom St. Luke represents, as by degrees converted before they received the Holy Ghost. The astonishment of these men was at 'first excited, and their attention fixed, by observing that the apostles were instantaneously enabled to speak a great variety of languages : ' and their belief was more fully established by lis'tening to the discourse of Peter, in which he called to their recollection the mighty works of Jesus, and appealed, in a strain of persuasive * reasoning, to those very scriptures which they acknowledged to be divinely inspired. This ‘miracle, and these arguments, by their united
" Ref. 73.
Acts ii. 37-41.
'force, gradually removed all prejudice and hesi
tation, and at length convinced them that the same Jesus, whom their countrymen' had cru
cified, was “both Lord and Christ,” that is the expected Messiah. The faith therefore of these 'men was not suddenly communicated, by the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost, but was the natural and progressive effect of what 'they saw and heard, upon their understandings.'2
The subject of 'supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost' has been considered : but, if this was the natural effect of what they saw and
heard, it does not appear that the Holy Spirit did any thing towards their conversion, either in convincing them of sin, or in glorifying Christ, in their minds and hearts.3
It is not requisite to enlarge on this point: but, if the above be a proper description of a gradual and progressive conversion; the whole of which was completed in a few hours, and at one season of assembling ; I have scarcely read, in modern journals, of any conversions which can be called 'sudden.' The conversion of these Jews was indeed effected in a manner suited to awaken, alarm, convince, and instruct rational creatures; and, though the several steps in the process may seldom be so distinctly discernible, yet the same may be said of many 'sudden' conversions in later ages. Sudden conversions, however, if no rational account can be given of the way in which the
Peter said, “ Ye have taken and with wicked hands have “ crucified and slain.” Acts ii. 23. ? Ref. 22, 23.
3 John xvi. 8. 15. VOL. VII.