32 Tim. 1:7.
4Eph. 3:7, 20.
5Psal. 119:120. Ezra 9:4. Isa. 66:2, 5. Hab. 3:16.
7Cant. 2:5, and 5:8.
9Psal. 38: 10, and 42:1, and 119:131.
10Psal. 84:2, and 119:81.
11That famous experimental divine, Mr. Shepherd, says, "A Pharisee's trumpet shall be heard to the town's end; when simplicity walks through the town unseen. Hence a man will sometimes covertly commend himself (and myself ever comes in), and tells you a long story of conversion; and a hundred to one if some lie or other slip not out with it. Why, the secret meaning is, I pray admire me. Hence complain of wants and weaknesses: Pray think what a broken-hearted Christian I am." Parab. of the Ten Virgins. Part I. pages 179, 180.
And holy Mr. Flavel says thus: "O reader, if thy heart were right with God, and thou didst not cheat thyself with a vain profession, thou wouldst have frequent business with God, which thou wouldst be loth thy dearest friend, or the wife of thy bosom should be privy to. Non est religio, ubi omnia patent. Religion doth not lie open to all, to the eyes of men. Observed duties maintain our credit; but secret duties maintain our life. It was the saying of a heathen, about his secret correspondency with his friend, What need the world be acquainted with it? Thou and I are theatre enough to each other. There are inclosed pleasures in religion, which none but renewed spiritual souls do feelingly understand." Flavel's Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. II. Sect. 2.
131 Cor. 1:27, 28, 29.
152 Cor. 4:7.
162 Cor. 12:9.
18Mr. Stoddard in his Guide to Christ, speaks of it as a common thing, for persons while in a natural condition, and before they have ever truly accepted of Christ, to have Scripture promises come to them with a great deal of refreshing: which they take as tokens of God's love, and hope that God has accepted them; and so are confident of their good estate. Pages 8, 9. Impression anno 1735.
19Agreeable to this, Mr. Stoddard observes, in his Guide to Christ, that some sinners have pangs of affection, and give an account that they find a spirit of love to God, and of their aiming at the glory of God, having that which has a great resemblance of saving grace; and that sometimes their common affections are stronger than saving. And supposes, that sometimes natural then may have such violent pangs of false affection to God, that their may think themselves willing to be damned. Pages 21, and 65.
20"Associating with godly men does not prove that a man has grace: Ahithophel was David's companion. Sorrows for the afflictions of the church, and desires for the conversion of souls, do not prove it. These things may be found in carnal men, and so can be no evidence of grace."--Stoddard's Nature of Saving Conversion, p. 82.
21Mr. Shepard speaks of "men's being cast down as low as hell by sorrow and lying under chains, quaking in apprehension of terror to come, and then raised up to heaven in joy, not able to live; and yet not rent from lust: and such are objects of pity now, and are likely to be the objects of terror at the great day."--Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 125.
22"The way of the Spirit's working when it does convince men, is by enlightening natural conscience. The Spirit does not work by giving a testimony, but by assisting natural conscience to do its work. Natural conscience is the instrument in the hand of God to accuse, condemn, terrify, and to urge to duty. The Spirit of God leads men into the consideration of their danger, and makes them to be affected therewith; Prov. 20:17; "The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly." Stoddard's Guide to Christ, p. 44.
23The famous Mr. Perkins distinguishes between "those sorrows that come through convictions of conscience, and melancholic passions arising only from mere imagination, strongly conceived in the brain; which, he says, usually come on a sudden, like lightning into a house."--Vol. I. of his works, page 385.
24The venerable Mr. Stoddard observes, "A man may say, that now he can justify God however he deals with him, and not be brought off from his own righteousness; and that some men do justify God from a partial conviction of the righteousness of their condemnation; conscience takes notice of their sinfulness, and tells them that they may be righteously damned; as Pharaoh, who justified God, Exod. 9:27. And they give some kind of consent to it but many times it does not continue; they have only a pang upon them, that usually dies away after a little time."--Guide to Christ, p. 71.
25Mr. Stoddard, who had much experience of things of this nature, long ago observed, that converted and unconverted men cannot be certainly distinguished by the account they give of their experience; the same relation of experiences being common to both. And that many persons have given a fair account of a work of conversion, that have carried well in the eye of the world for several years, but have not proved well at last.--Appeal to the Learned, p. 75, 76.
26Mr. Shepard, speaking of the soul's closing with Christ, says, "As a child cannot tell how his soul comes into it, nor it may be when; but afterwards it sees and feels that life; so that he were as bad as a beast, that should deny an immortal soul; so here."--Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part II. p. 171.
"If the man do not know the time of his conversion, or first closing with Christ; the minister may not draw any peremptory conclusion from thence, that he is not godly."--Stoddard's Guide to Christ, p. 83.
"Do not think there is no compunction, or sense of sin, wrought in the soul, because you cannot so clearly discern and feel it, nor the time of the working, and first beginning of it. I have known many that have come with their complaints, that they were never humbled, they never felt it so; yet there it hath been, and many times they have seen it, by the other spectacles, and blessed God for it.--Shepard's Sound Believer, page 38. The late impression in Boston.
27"O professor, look carefully to your foundation: 'Be not high minded, but fear.' You have, it may be, done and suffered many things in and for religion; you have excellent gifts and sweet comforts; a warm zeal for God, and high confidence of your integrity: all this may be right, for aught that I, or (it may be) you know: but yet, it is possible it may be false. You have sometimes judged yourselves, and pronounced yourselves upright; but remember your final sentence is not yet pronounced by your Judge. And what if God weigh you over again, in his more equal balance, and should say, Mene Tekel, 'Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting?' What a confounded man wilt thou be, under such a sentence! Quae splendent in conspectu hominis, sordent in conspectu judicis; things that are highly esteemed of men, are an abomination in the sight of God: He seeth not as man seeth. Thy heart may be false, and thou not know it: yea, it may be false, and thou strongly confident of its integrity."--Flavel's Touchstone of Sincerity, chap. 2. Sect. 5.
"Some hypocrites are a great deal more confident than many saints"--Stoddard's Discourse on the Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy, p. 128.
28"Doth the work of faith, in some believers, bear upon is top branches the full ripe fruits of a blessed assurance? Lo, what strong confidence, and high built persuasions, of an interest in God, have sometimes been found in unsanctified ones! Yea, so strong may this false assurance be, that they dare boldly venture to go to the judgment seat of God, and there defend it. Doth the Spirit of God fill the heart of the assured believer with joy unspeakable, and full of glory, giving him, through faith, a prelibation or foretaste of heaven itself, in those first fruits of it? How near to this comes what the Apostle supposes may be found in apostates!"--Flavel's Husbandry Spiritualized, chap. 12.
29Mr. Shepard speaks of it, as a "presumptuous peace, that is not interrupted and broke by evil works." And says, that the "spirit will sigh, and not sing in that bosom, whence corrupt dispositions and passions break out." And that "though men in such frames may seem to maintain the consolation of the Spirit, and not suspect their hypocrisy, under pretense of trusting the Lord's mercy; yet they cannot avoid the condemnation of the world"; Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 139.
Dr. Ames speaks of it as a thing, by which the peace of a wicked man may be distinguished from the peace a godly man, "that the peace of a wicked man continues, whether he performs the duties of piety and righteousness or no; provided those crimes are avoided that appear horrid to nature itself.' Cases of Conscience, Lib. III. Chap. vii.
30Men do not know that they are godly by believing that they are godly. We know many things by faith, Heb 11:3. 'By faith we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God.' Faith is the evidence of things not seen, Heb. 11:1. Thus men know the Trinity of persons of the Godhead; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; that he that believes in him will have eternal life; the resurrection of the dead. And if God should tell a saint that he hath grace, he might know it by believing the word of God. But it is not this way, that godly men do know they have grace. It is not revealed in the word, and the Spirit of God doth not testify it to particular persons.' Stoddard's Nature of Saving Conversion, p. 83, 84.
31Men may have the knowledge of their own conversion: the knowledge that other men have of it is uncertain, because no man can look into the heart of another and see the workings of grace there." Stoddard's Nature of Saving Conversion, chap. 15 at the beginning.
32Mr. Stoddard observes, that "all visible signs are common to converted and unconverted men; and a relation of experiences, among the rest." Appeal to the Learned, p. 75.
"O how hard it is for the eye of man to discern betwixt chaff and wheat! And how many upright hearts are now censured, whom God will clear! How many false hearts are now approved whom God will condemn! Men ordinarily have no convictive proofs, but only probable symptoms; which at most beget but a conjectural knowledge of another's state. And they that shall peremptorily judge either way, may possibly wrong the generation of the upright, or on the other side, absolve and justify the wicked. And truly, considering what has been said, it is no wonder that dangerous mistakes are so frequently made in this matter." Flavel's Husbandry Spiritualized, chap. 12.
33"Be not offended, if you see great cedars fall, stars fall from heaven, great professors die and decay: do not think they be all such: do not think that the elect shall fall. Truly, some are such that when they fall, one would think a man truly sanctified might fall away, as the Arminians think: 1 John 2:19, They were not of us. I speak this, because the Lord is shaking; and I look for great apostasies: for God is trying all his friends, through all the Christian world. In Germany what profession was there! Who would have thought it? The Lord, who delights to manifest that openly, which was hid secretly, ends a sword and they fall." Shepard's Parab. Part 1. p. 118, 119.
"The saints may approve thee and God condemn thee. Rev. 3:1, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." Men may say, There is a true Nathanael, and God may say, There is a self-cozening Pharisee. Reader, thou hast heard of Judas and Demas, of Ananias and Sapphira, of Hymeneus and Philetus, once renowned and famous professors, and thou hast heard how they proved at last." Flavel's Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. 2. Sect. 5.
34A time of outpouring of the Spirit of God, reviving religion, and producing the pleasant appearances of it, in new converts, is in Scripture compared to this very thing, viz., the spring season, when the benign influences of the heavens cause the blossoms to put forth. Cant. 2:11, 12.
35Husbandry Spiritualized, Chap. 12.
36The way to know your godliness is to renew the visible exercises of grace.--The more the visible exercises of grace are renewed, the more certain you will be. The more frequently these actings are renewed, the more abiding and confirmed your assurance will be.
The more men's grace is multiplied, the more their peace is multiplied; 2 Pet. 1:2, "Grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord." Stoddard's Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy, p. 139 and 142.
37Conceits and whimsies abound most in men of weak reason, children, and such as are cracked in their understanding, have most of them; strength of reason banishes them, as the sun does mists and vapors. But now the more rational any gracious person is, by so much more is he fixed and settled, and satisfied in the grounds of religion; yea, there is the highest and purest reason in religion; and when this change is wrought upon men, it is carried on in a rational way. Isa. 1:18, John 19:9." Flavel's Preparation for Sufferings, Chap. vi.
38"If any man should see, and behold Christ really and immediately, this is not the saving knowledge of him. I know the saints do know Christ as if immediately present; they are not strangers by their distance: if others have seen him more immediately, I will not dispute it. But if they have seen the Lord Jesus as immediately as if here on earth, yet Capernaum saw him so; nay, some of them were disciples for a time, and followed him, John 6. And yet the Lord was hid from their eyes. Nay, all the world shall see him in his glory, which shall amaze them; and yet this is far short of having the saving knowledge of him, which the Lord doth communicate to the elect. So that though you see the Lord so really, as that you become familiar with him, yet, Luke 13:26: 'Lord have we not eat and drank,' &c.--and so perish." Shepard's Par. of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 197, 198.
39Satan is transformed into an angel of light: and hence we have heard that some have heard voices; some have seen the very blood of Christ dropping on them, and his wounds in his side: some have seen a great light shining in the chamber, some have been wonderfully affected with their dreams; some in great distress have had inward witness, 'Thy sins are forgiven;' and hence such liberty and joy, that they are ready to leap up and down the chamber. O adulterous generation! this is natural and usual with men, they would fain see Jesus, and have him present to give them peace; and hence Papists have his images. Woe to them that have no other manifested Christ, but such a one." Shepard's Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I, p. 198.
40"Consider how difficult, yea and impossible it is to determine that such a voice, vision, or revelation is of God, and that Satan cannot feign or counterfeit it: seeing he hath left no certain marks by which we may distinguish one spirit from another." Flavel's Causes and Cures of Mental Terrors, Cause 14.
41There is a remarkable passage of Mr. John Smith, in his discourse on the shortness of a Pharisaic righteousness, p. 370, 371, of his select discourses, describing that sort of religion which is built on such s foundation as I am here speaking of. I cannot forbear transcribing the whole of it. Speaking of a sort of Christians, whose life is nothing but a strong energy of fancy, he says: "Lest their religion might too grossly discover itself to be nothing else but a piece of art, there may be sometimes such extraordinary motions stirred up within them, which may prevent all their own thoughts, that they may seem to be a true operation of the divine life; when yet all this is nothing else but the energy of their own self-love touched with some fleshly apprehensions of divine things, and excited by them. There are such things in our Christian religion when a carnal, unhallowed mind takes the chair and gets the expounding of them, may seem very delicious to the fleshly appetites of men; some doctrines and notions of free grace and justification, the magnificent titles of sons of God and heirs of heaven, ever flowing streams of joy and pleasure that blessed souls shall swim in to all eternity, a glorious paradise in the world to come always springing up with well scented and fragrant beauties, a new Jerusalem paved with gold, and bespangled with stars, comprehending in its vast circuit such numberless varieties, that a busy curiosity may spend itself about to all eternity. I doubt not but that sometimes the most fleshly and earthly men, that fly in their ambition to the pomp of this world, may be so ravished with the conceits of such things as these, that they may seem to be made partakers of the powers of the world to come. I doubt not but that they might be much exalted with them, as the souls of crazed or distracted persons seem to be sometimes, when their fancies play with those quick and nimble spirits, which a distempered frame of body, and unnatural heat in their heads, beget within them. Thus may these blazing comets rise up above the moon, and climb higher than the sun, which yet, because they have no solid consistence of their own, and are of a base and earthly alloy, will soon vanish and fall down again, being only borne up by all external force. They may seem to themselves to have attained higher than those noble Christians that are gently moved by the natural force of true goodness: they seem to be pleniores Deo (i.e., more full of God) than those that are really informed and actuated by the divine Spirit, and do move on steadily and constantly in the way towards heaven. As the seed that was sown in stony ground, grew up, and lengthened out its blade faster, than that which was sown in the good and fruitful soil. And as the motions of our sense, and fancy, and passions, while our souls are in this mortal condition, sunk down deeply into the body, are many times more vigorous, and make stronger impressions upon us, than those of the higher powers of the soul, which are more subtle, and remote from these mixed animal perceptions: that devotion which is there seated, may seem to have more energy and life in it, than that which gently and with a more delicate kind of touch spreads itself upon the understanding, and from thence mildly derives itself through our wills and affections. But however the former may be more boisterous for a time, yet this is of a more consistent, spermatical and thriving nature. For that proceeding indeed from nothing but a sensual and fleshly apprehension of God and true happiness, is but of a flitting and fading nature, and as the sensible powers and faculties grow more languid, or the sun of divine light shines more brightly upon us, these earthly devotions, like our culinary fires, will abate their heat and fervor. But a true celestial warmth will never be extinguished, because it is of an immortal nature; and being once seated vitally in the souls of men, it will regulate and order all the motions of it in a due manner the natural heat, radicated in the hearts of living creatures, hath the dominion and economy of the whole body under it. True religion is no piece of artifice, it is no boiling up of our imaginative powers, nor the glowing heats of passion, though these are too often mistaken for it, when in our jugglings in religion we cast a mist before our own eyes: but it is a new nature, informing the souls of men; it is a Godlike frame of spirit, discovering itself most of all in serene and clear minds, in deep humility, meekness, self-denial, universal love to God and all true goodness, without partiality, and without hypocrisy, whereby we are taught to know God, and knowing him to love him, and conform ourselves as much as may be to all that perfection which shines in him.
42Mr. Stoddard in his Guide to Christ, p. 8, says, that "sometimes men, after they have been in trouble a while, have some promises come to them, with a great deal of refreshing; and they hope God has accepted them:" and says that, "In this case, the minister may tell them, that God never gives a faith of assurance, before he gives a faith of dependence; for he never manifests his love, until men are in a state of favor and reconciliation, which is by faith of dependence. When men have comfortable Scriptures come to them, they are apt to take them as tokens of God's love: but men must be brought into Christ, by accepting the offer of the gospel, before they are fit for such manifestations. God's method is first to make the soul accept of the offers of grace, and then to manifest his good estate unto him." And p. 76, speaking of them "that seem to be brought to lie at God's foot, and give an account of their closing with Christ, and that God has revealed Christ to them, and drawn their hearts to him, and they do accept of Christ," he says: "In this case, it is best to examine whether by that light that was given him, he saw Christ and salvation offered to him, or whether he saw that God loved him, or pardoned him: for the offer of grace and our acceptance goes before pardon, and therefore, much more before the knowledge of it."
Mr. Shepard, in his Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part II. p. 15, says, that "Grace and the love of Christ (the fairest colors under the sun) may be pretended; but if you shall receive, under this appearance, that God witnesseth his love, first by an absolute promise, take heed there; for under this appearance you may as well bring in immediate revelations, and from thence come to forsake the Scriptures."
And in Part I. p. 86, he says, "Is Christ yours? Yes, I see it. How? By any word or promise? No; this is delusion." And p. 136, speaking of them that have no solid ground of peace, he reckons "those that content themselves with the revelation of the Lord's love without the sight of any work, or not looking to it." And says presently after, "The testimony of the Spirit does not make a man more a Christian, but only evidenceth it; as it is the nature of a witness not to make a thing to be true, but to clear and evidence it." And p. 140, speaking of them that say they have the witness of the spirit, that makes a difference between them and hypocrites, he says, "the witness of the Spirit makes not the first difference: for first a man is a believer, and in Christ, and justified, called and sanctified, before the spirit does witness it; else the spirit should witness to an untruth and lie."
43Mr. Shepard, in his Sound Believer, p. 159, of the late impression at Boston, says, "Embrace in thy bosom, not only some few promises, but all." And then he asks the question, "When may a Christian take a promise without presumption, as spoken to him?" He answers, "The rule is very sweet, but certain; when he takes all the scripture, and embraces it as spoken unto him, he may then take any particular promise boldly. My meaning is, when a Christian takes hold, and wrestles with God for the accomplishment of all the promises of the New Testament, when he sets all the commands before him, as a compass and guide to walk after, when he applies all the threatenings to drive him nearer to Christ, the end of them. This no hypocrite can do; this the saints shall do; and by this they may know when the Lord speaks in particular unto them."
44Some Christians have rested with a work without Christ, which is abominable: but after a man is in Christ, not to judge by the work, is first not to judge from a word. For though there is a word, which may give a man a dependence on Christ, without feeling any work, nay when he feels none as absolute promises: yet no word giving assurance, but that which is made to some work, he that believeth or is poor in spirit, &c., until that work is seen, has no assurance from that promise." Shepard's Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 86.
"If God should tell a saint that he has grace, he might know it by believing the word of God: but it is not in this way that godly men do know that they have grace: it is not revealed in the word, and the Spirit of God doth not testify it to particular persons." Stoddard's Nature of Saving Conversion, p. 84, 85.
45The late venerable Stoddard, in his younger time, falling in with the opinion of some others, received this notion of the witness of the Spirit, by way of immediate suggestion; but, in the latter part of his life, when he had more thoroughly weighed things, and had more experience, he entirely rejected it; as appears by his treatise of the Nature of Saving Conversion, p. 84: "The Spirit of God doth not testify to particular persons, that they are godly.--Some think that the Spirit of God doth testify to some; and they ground it on Rom. viii. 16, 'The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.' They think the Spirit reveals it by giving an inward testimony to it; and some godly men think they have had experience of it: but they may easily mistake when the Spirit of God doth eminently stir up the spirit of faith, and sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, it is easy to take it for a testimony. And that is not the meaning of Paul's words. The Spirit reveals things to us, by opening our eyes to see what is revealed in the word; but the Spirit doth not reveal new truths, not revealed in the word. The Spirit discovers the grace of God in Christ, and thereby draws forth special actings of faith and love, which are evidential; but it doth not work in way of testimony. If God but help us to receive the revelations in the word we shall have comfort enough without new revelations."
46See Chamber's Dictionary, under the word ENGRAVING.
47"After a man is in Christ, not to judge the work, is not to judge by the Spirit. For the apostle makes the earnest of the Spirit to be the seal.--Now earnest is part of the money bargained for, the beginning of heaven, of the light and life of it. He that sees not that the Lord is his by that, sees no God of his at all. Oh, therefore, do not look for a Spirit, without a word to reveal, nor a word to reveal, without seeing and feeling of some work first. I thank the Lord, I do but pity those that think otherwise. If a sheep of Christ, Oh, wonder not." Shepard's Par. Part I. p. 26.
48"There is a natural love to Christ, as to one that doth thee good, and for thine own ends; and spiritual, for himself, whereby the Lord only is exalted." Shepard's Par. of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 25.
49"There is a seeing of Christ after a man believes, which is Christ in his love, &c. But I speak of that first sight of him that precedes the second act of faith, and it is an intuitive, or real sight of him as he is in his glory." Shepard's Par. of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 74.
50Dr. Owen, on the spirit, p. 199, speaking of a common work of the spirit, says, "The effects of this work on the mind, which is the first subject affected with it, proceeds not so far as to give delight, complacency and satisfaction, in the lovely spiritual nature and excellency of the things revealed unto it. The true nature of saving illumination consists in this, that it gives the mind such a direct intuitive insight and prospect into spiritual things, as that in their own spiritual nature they suit, please, and satisfy it; so that it is transformed into them, cast into the mould of them, and rests in them."
51"To the right closing with Christ's person, this is always required, to taste the bitterness of sin, as the greatest evil: else a man will never close with Christ, for his holiness in him, and from him, as the greatest good. For we told you, that that is the right closing with Christ for himself, when it is for his holiness. For ask a whorish heart, what beauty he sees in the person of Christ; he will, after he has looked over his kingdom, his righteousness, and all his works, see a beauty in them, because they do serve his turn, to comfort him only. Ask a virgin, he will see his happiness in all; but that which makes the Lord amiable is his holiness, which is in him to make him holy too. As in marriage, it is the personal beauty draws the heart. And hence I have thought it reason, that he that loves the brethren for a little grace, will love Christ much more." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 84.
52"Many that have had mighty strong affections at first conversion, afterwards become dry and wither, and consume, and pine, and die away: and now their hypocrisy is manifest; if not to all the world by open profaneness, yet to the discerning eye of living Christians by a formal, barren, unsavory, unfruitful heart and course; because they never had light to conviction enough as yet."
53Calvin, in his Institutions, Book I. Chap. 9: section 1, says, "It is not the office of the Spirit that is promised to us, to make new and before unheard of revelations, or to coin some new kind of doctrine, which tends to draw us away from the received doctrine of the gospel; but to seal and confirm to us that very doctrine which is by the gospel." And in the same place he speaks of some that in those days maintained the contrary notion, "pretending to be immediately led by the Spirit, as persons that were governed by a most haughty self-conceit: and not so properly to be looked upon as only laboring under a mistake, as driven by a sort of raving madness."
54Chambers' Dictionary, under the word TASTE.
55"The imagination is that room of the soul wherein the devil doth often appear. Indeed (to speak exactly) the devil hath no efficient power over the rational part of a man: he cannot change the will, he cannot alter the heart of a man. So that the utmost he can do, in tempting a man to sin, is by suasion and suggestion only. But how doth the devil do this? Even by working upon the imagination. He observeth the temper, and bodily constitution of a man; and thereupon suggests to his fancy, and injects his fiery darts thereinto, by which the mind will come to be wrought upon. The devil then, though he hath no imperious efficacy over thy will, yet because he can thus stir and move thy imagination, and thou being naturally destitute of grace, canst not withstand these suggestions: hence it is that any sin in thy imagination, though but in the outward works of the soul, yet doth quickly lay hold on all. And indeed, by this means, do arise those horrible delusions that are in many erroneous ways of religion; all is because their imaginations are corrupted. Yea, how often are these diabolical delusions of the imagination taken for the gracious operation of God's Spirit! It is from hence that many have pretended to enthusiasms: they leave the Scriptures and wholly attend to what they perceive and feel within them." Burgess on Original Sin, p. 369.
The great Turretine, speaking on that question, What is the power of angels? says, "As to bodies there is no doubt but that they can do a great deal upon all sorts of elementary and sublunary bodies, to move them locally and variously to agitate them. It is also certain, that they can act upon the external and internal senses, to excite them or to bind them. But as to the rational soul itself, they can do nothing immediately upon that; for to God alone, who knows and searches the hearts, and who has them in his hands, does it also appertain to bow and move them whithersoever he will. But angels can act upon the rational soul, only mediately, by imaginations." Theolog. Elench. Loc. VII. Quest. 7.
56Calvin in his Institutions, Book II chap. 2. section 11, says "I was always exceedingly pleased with that saying of Chrysostom. "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and yet more pleased with that of Augustine: "As," says he, "the rhetorician being asked, what was the first thing in the rules of eloquence, he answered, pronunciation; what was the second, pronunciation; what was the third, still he answered, pronunciation. So if you shall ask me concerning the precept of the Christian religion, I would answer, firstly, secondly, and thirdly, and forever, humility."
57Albeit the Pythagoreans were thus famous for Judaic mysterious wisdom, and many moral, as well as natural accomplishments, yet were they not exempted from boasting and pride; which was indeed a vice most epidemic, and as is were congenial, among all the philosophers; but in a more particular manner, among the Pythagoreans. So Hornius Hist. Philosoph. L. III. chap. 11. The manners of the Pythagoreans were not free from boasting. They were all such as abounded in the sense and commendation of their own excellencies, and boasting even almost to the degree of immodesty and impudence, as great Heinsius, ad Horat. has rightly observed. Thus indeed does proud nature delight to walk in the sparks of its own fire. And although many of these old philosophers could, by the strength of their own lights and heats, together with some common elevations and raisures of spirit (peradventure from a more than ordinary, though not special and saving assistance of the Spirit), abandon many grosser vices; yet they were all deeply immersed in that miserable cursed abyss of spiritual pride, so that all their natural, and moral, and philosophic attainments, did feed, nourish, strengthen, and render most inveterate, this hell-bred pest of their hearts. Yea, those of them that seemed most modest, as the Academics, who professed they knew nothing, and the Cynics, who greatly decried, both in words and habits, the pride of others, yet even they abounded in the most notorious and visible pride. So connatural and morally essential to corrupt nature, is this envenomed root, fountain, and plague of spiritual pride; especially where there is any natural, moral, or philosophic excellence to feed the same. Whence, Austin rightly judged all these philosophic virtues to be but splendid sins. Gale's Court of the Gentiles, Part II. B. II. chap. 10: section 17.
58"There be two things wherein it appears that a man has only common gifts, and no inward principle. 1. These gifts ever puff up, and make a man something in his own eyes, as the Corinthian knowledge did, and many a private man thinks himself fit to be a minister." Shepard's Parable Part 1. p.181, 182.
59Calvin, in his Institutions, B. III. chap. 12 section 7, speaking of this Pharisee, observed "That in his outward confession, he acknowledges that the righteousness that he has, is the gift of God but (says he) because he trusts that he is righteous, he goes away out of the presence of God, unacceptable and odious."
60Luther, as his words are cited by Rutherford, in his Display of the Spiritual Antichrist, p. 143, 144, says thus: "So is the life of a Christian, that he that has begun, seems to himself to have nothing; but strives and presses forward, that he may apprehend: whence Paul says, I count not myself to have apprehended. For indeed nothing is more pernicious to a believer, than that presumption, that he has already apprehended, and has no further need of seeking. Hence also many fall back, and pine away in spiritual security and slothfulness. So Bernard says, 'To stand still in God's way, is to go back.' Wherefore this remains to him that has begun to be a Christian, to think that he is not yet a Christian, but to seek that he may be a Christian, that he may glory with Paul, 'I am not, but I desire to be;' a Christian not yet finished, but only in his beginnings. Therefore he is not a Christian, that is a Christian, that is, he that thinks himself a finished Christian, is not sensible how he falls short. We reach after heaven, but we are not in heaven. Woe to him that is wholly renewed, that is, that thinks himself to be so. That man, without doubt, has never so much as begun to be renewed, nor did he ever taste what it is to be a Christian.
61It is an observation of Mr. Jones, in his excellent treatise of the canon of the New Testament, that the evangelist Mark, who was the companion of St. Peter, and is supposed to have written his gospel under the direction of that apostle, when he mentions Peter's repentance after his denying his Master, does not use such strong terms to set it forth as the other evangelists; he only uses these words, "When he thought thereon, he wept," Mark 14:72; whereas the other evangelists say thus, "he went out and wept bitterly," Matt. 26:75, Luke 22:62.
62"This spirit ever keeps a man poor and vile in his own eyes, and empty.--When the man hath got some knowledge, and can discourse pretty well, and hath some taste of the heavenly gift, some sweet illapses of grace, and so his conscience is pretty well quieted: and if he hath got some answers to his prayers, and hath sweet affections, he grows full: and having ease to his conscience, casts off sense, and daily groaning under sin. And hence the spirit of prayer dies: he loses his esteem of God's ordinances, feels not such need of them; or gets no good, feels no life or power by them.--This is the woeful condition of some; but yet they know it not. But now he that is filled with the Spirit the Lord empties him; and the more, the longer he lives. So that others think he needs not much grace, yet he accounts himself the poorest." Shepard's Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part II. p. 132.
"After all fillings, be ever empty, hungry, and feeling need, and praying for more." Ibid., p. 151.
"Truly, brethren, when I see the curse of God upon many Christians, who are now grown full of their parts, gifts, peace, comforts, abilities, duties, I stand adoring the riches of the Lord's mercy, to a little handful of poor believers, not only in making them empty, but in keeping them so all their days." Shepard's Sound Believer, the late edition in Boston, p. 158, 159.
63"I would not judge of the whole soul's coming to Christ, so much by sudden pangs as by inward bent. For the whole soul, in affectionate expressions and actions, may be carried to Christ; but being without this bent, and change of affections, is unsound." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 203.
64"It is with the soul, as with water; all the cold may be gone, but the native principle of cold remains still. You may remove the burning of lusts, not the blackness of nature. Where the power of sin lies, change of conscience from security to terror, change of life from profaneness to civility, and fashions of the world, to escape the pollutions thereof, change of lusts, may quench them for a time: but the nature is never changed in the best hypocrite that ever was." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 194.
65"Do you think the Holy Ghost comes on a man as on Balaam, by immediate acting, and then leaves him, and then he has nothing?" Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 126.
66Mr. Shepard, speaking of hypocrites affecting applause, says, "Hence men forsake their friends and trample under foot the scorns of the world: they have credit elsewhere. To maintain their interest in the love of godly men, they will suffer much." Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 180.
67"These are hypocrites that believe, but fail in regard of the use of the gospel and of the Lord Jesus. And these we read of, Jude 3, viz., of some men that did turn grace into wantonness. For therein appears the exceeding evil of man's heart, that not only the law, but also the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus, works in him all manner of unrighteousness. And it is too common for men at the first work of conversion, Oh then to cry for grace and Christ, and afterwards grow licentious, live and lie in the breach of the law, and take their warrant for their course from the gospel!" Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 126.
68Dr. Ames, in his Cases of Conscience, Book III. chap iv., speaks of a holy modesty in the worship God as one sign of true humility.
69"Renewed care and diligence follows the sealings of the Spirit. Now is the soul at the foot of Christ, as Mary was at the sepulcher, with fear and great joy. He that travels the road with a rich treasure about him, is afraid of a thief in every bush." Flavel's Sacramental Meditations, Med. 4.
70Dr. Owen (on the Spirit, Book III. Chap. 2 Sect. 18), speaking of a common work of the Spirit, says, "This work operates greatly on the affections: we have given instances, in fear, sorrow, joy, and delight, about spiritual things, that are stirred up and acted thereby: but yet it comes short in two things, of a thorough work upon the affections themselves. For first, it doth not fix them. And secondly, it doth not fill them."
"There is (says Dr. Preston) a certain love, by fits, which God accepts not: when men come and offer to God great promises, like the waves of the sea, as big as mountains: oh, they think they will do much for God! But their minds change; and they become as those high waves, which at last fall level with the other waters."
Mr. Flavel, speaking of these changeable professors, says, "These professors have more of the moon than of the sun: little light, less heat, and many changes. They deceive many, yea, they deceive themselves, but cannot deceive God. They want that ballast and establishment in themselves, that would have kept them tight and steady." Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. 2 Sect. 2.
71The Lord is neglected secretly, yet honored openly; because there is no wind in their chambers to blow their sails, and therefore there they stand still. Hence many men keep their profession, when they lose their affection. They have by the one a name to live (and that is enough) though their hearts be dead. And hence so long as you love and commend them, so long they love you; but if not, they will forsake you. They were warm only by another's fire, and hence, having no principle of life within, soon grow dead. This is the water that turns a Pharisee's mill." Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 180.
"The hypocrite (says Mr. Flavel) is not for the closet, but the synagogue, Matt. 6:5, 6. It is not his meat and drink to retire from the clamor of the world, to enjoy God in secret." Touchstone of Sincerity, Chap. 7 Sect. 2.
Dr. Ames, in his Cases of Conscience, Lib. III. Chap. v., speaks of it as a thing by which sincerity may be known, "That persons be obedient in the absence, as well as in the presence of lookers on; in secret, as well, yea more, than in public:" alleging Phil. 2:12, and Matt. 6:6.
72"Truly there is no work of Christ that is right (says Mr. Shepard) but it carries the soul to long for more of it." Parable of the Ten Virgins, Part I. p. 136.
73Deut. v. 29; Deut. 32:18, 19, 20; 1 Chron. 28:9; Psal. 78:7, 8, 10, 11, 35, 36, 37, 41, 56, &c.; Psal. 106:3. 12-15; Psal. 125:4, 5; Prov. 26:11, Isa. 64:5, Jer. 17:13, Ezek. 3:20, and 18:24, and 33:12, 13; Matt. 10:22, and 13:4-8, with verses 19-23, and 25:8, and 24:12, 13, Luke 9:62, and 12:35, &c., and 22:28, and 17:32; John 8:30, 31, and 15:6, 7, 8, 10, 16; Rev. 2:7, and 40:22; Col. 1:22, 23, Heb. 3:6, 12, 14, and 6:11, 12, and 10:35, &c.; James 1:25; Rev. 2:13, 26, and 2:10; 2 Tim 2:15; 2 Tim 4:4-8.
74Matt. 5:29, 30; chap. 6:24; chap. 8:19-22; chap. 4:18, to 22; chap. 9:37, 38, 39; chap. 13:44, 45, 46; chap. 16:24, 25, 26; chap. 18:8, 9; chap. 19:21, 27, 28, 29; chap. 10:42; chap. 12:33, 34; chap. 14:16-20, 25-33; chap. 16:13; Acts 4:34, 35, with chap. 5:1-11; Rom. 6:3-8; Gal. 2:20; chap. 6:14; Philip 3:7.
75"To profess to know much, is easy; but to bring your affections into subjection, to wrestle with lusts, to cross your wills and yourselves, upon every occasion, this is hard. The Lord looketh that in our lives we should be serviceable to him, and useful to men. That which is within, the Lord and our brethren are never the better for it: but the outward obedience, flowing thence, glorifieth God, and does good to men. The Lord will have this done. What else is the end of our planting and watering, but that the trees may be filled with sap? And what is the end of that sap, but that the trees man bring forth fruit? What careth the husbandman for leaves and barren trees?" Dr. Preston of the Church's Carriage.
76No unregenerate man, though he go never so far, let him do never so much, but he lives in some one sin or other, secret or open, little or great. Judas went far, but he was covetous; Herod went far, but be loved his Herodias. Every dog hath his kennel, every swine hath his swill; and every wicked man his lust." Shepard's Sincere Convert, 1st edition, p. 96.
77"The counterfeit and common grace of foolish virgins after some time of glorious profession, will certainly go out and be quite spent. It consumes in the using, and shining, and burning--Men that have been most forward, decay: their gifts decay, life decays. It is so, after some time of profession: for at first, it rather grows than decays and withers, but afterwards they have enough of it, it withers and dies. The spirit of God comes upon many hypocrites, in abundant and plentiful measure of awakening grace: it comes upon them, as it did upon Balaam, and as it is in overflowing waters, which spread far, and grow very deep, and fill many empty places. Though it doth come upon them so, yet it doth never rest within, so as to dwell there, to take up an eternal mansion for himself.--Hence it doth decay by little and little, until at last it is quite gone. As ponds filled with rain water, which comes upon them; not spring water, that riseth up within then; it dries up by little and little until quite dry." Shepard's Parable, Part II. p. 58, 59.
78Scripture Doctrine of Salvation, Sermon I. p. 11
79"Look upon John, Christ's beloved disciple and bosom companion! He had received the anointing to know him that is true, and he knew that he knew him, 1 John 2:3. But how did he know that? He might be deceived; (as it is strange to see what a melancholy fancy will do, and the effects of it; as honest men are reputed to have weak brains, and never saw the depths of the secrets of God;) what is his last proof? 'Because we keep his commandments.'" Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 131.
802 Cor. 8:2; Heb. 11:36; 1 Pet 1:7; chap. 4:12; Gen. 22:1; Deut. 8:2, 16; chap. 13:3; Exod. 15:25; chap. 16:4; Judges 2:22; chap. 3:1, 4; Psal. 66:10, 11, Dan. 12:10, Rev. 3:10; Job 23:10; Zech 13:9; James 1:12, Rev. 2:10; Luke 8:13; Acts 20:19; James 1:2, 3; 1 Pet. 1:6.
81"I am persuaded, as Calvin is, that all the several trials of men are to show them to themselves, and to the world, that they be but counterfeits; and to make saints known to themselves the better, Rom. v. 5. Tribulation works trial, and hope, Prov. 17:3. If you will know whether it will hold weight, the trial will tell you. Shepard's Parable, Part I. p. 191.
82Dr. Sibbs, in his Bruised Reed, says, "When Christ's will cometh in competition with any worldly loss or gain, yet, if then, in that particular case, the heart will stoop to Christ, it is a true sign. For the truest trial of the power of grace, is in such particular cases as touch us the nearest for there our corruption maketh the greatest head. When Christ came home to the young man in the gospel, he lost a disciple of him."
83"It is a sure rule," says, Dr. Preston, "that, what the Scriptures bestow much words on, we should have much thoughts on: and what the Holy Ghost urgeth most, we should prize most." Church's Carriage.
84"That which God maketh a rule of his own judgment, as that by which he judgeth of every man, that is a sure rule for every man to judge himself by. That which we shall be judged by at the last day, is a sure rule to apply to ourselves for the present. Now by our obedience and works he judgeth us. 'He will give to every man according to his works.'" Dr. Preston's Church's Carriage.
85"Our real taking Christ appears in our actions and works: Isa. 1:19. 'If ye consent and obey, ye shall eat the good things of the land.' That is, if ye will consent to take JEHOVAH for your Lord and King: if ye give consent, there is the first thing; but that is not enough, but if ye also obey. The consent that standeth in the inward act of the mind, the truth of it will be seen in your obedience, in the acts of your lives. 'If ye consent and obey, ye shall eat the good things of the land;' that is, you shall take of all that he hath that is convenient for you; for then you are married to him in truth, and have an interest in all his good." Dr. Preston's Church's Carriage.
86"The more these visible exercises of grace are renewed, the more certain you will be. The more frequently these actings are renewed, the more abiding and confirmed your assurance win be. A man that has been assured of such visible exercises of grace, may quickly after be in doubt whether he was not mistaken. But when such actings are renewed again and again, he grows more settled and established about has good estate. If a man see a thing once, that makes him sure; but, if afterwards, he fear he was deceived, when he comes to see it again, he is more sure he was not mistaken. If a man read such passages in a book, he is sure it is so. Some months after, some may bear him down, that he was mistaken, so as to make him question it himself; but, when he looks, and reads it again, he is abundantly confirmed. The more men's grace is multiplied, the more their peace is multiplied:" 2 Pet. 1:2, "Grace and peace he multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and Jesus our Lord." Stoddard's Way to know Sincerity and Hypocrisy.