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the scripture which c mes to a person's mind, be not so properly a promise, as an invitation; yet if he makes the sudden or unusual manner of its coming to his mind, the ground on which he believes that he is invited, it is not true faith; because it is built on that which is not the true ground of faith. True faith is built on no precarious foundation. But a determination that the words of such a particular text, were, by the immediate power of God, suggested to the mind, at such a time, as though then spoken and directed by God to him, because they came after such a manner, is wholly an uncertain and precarious determination; and therefore is a false and sandy foundation for faith; and accordingly the faith which is built upon it is also false. The only certain foundation which any person has to believe that he is invited to partake of the blessings of the gospel, is, that the word of God declares that persons so qualified as he is, are invited, and God who declares it, is true and cannot lie. If a sinner be once convinced of the veracity of God, and that the scriptures are his word, he will need no more to convince and satisfy him that he is invited; for the scriptures are full of invitations to sinners, to the chief of sinners, to come and partake of the benefits of the gospel. He will not want of God any thing new; what he bath spoken already will be enough with him.
As the first comfort of many persons, and their affections at the time of their supposed conversion, are built on such grounds as these mentioned; so are their joys, hopes, and other affections afterwards. They have'often particular words of scripture, sweet declarations and promises, suggested to them, which, by reason of the manner of their coming, they think are immediately sent from God to them, at that time. This they look upon as their warrant, the main ground of appropriating them to themselves, of their comfort, and the confidence they receive from them. Thus they imagine a kind of conversation is carried on between God and them; and that God, from time to time, as it were, immediately speaks to them, and satisfies their doubts, testifies his love to them, promises thein supports and supplies, and reveals to them clearly their interest in eternal blessings. And thus they are often elevated, and have a sudden and tumultuous kind of joys, mingled with strong confidence, and a high opinion of themselves; when indeed the main ground of these joys, and this confidence, is not any thing contained in, or taught by these scriptures, but the manner of their coming to them, which is a certain evidence of their delusion. There is no particular promise in the word of God made to the saint, or spoken to him, otherwise than all the promises of the covenant of grace are his, and are spoken to him *. Some indeed of these promises may be more peculiarly adapted to his case than others; and God by bis Spirit may enable bim better to understand some than others, and to have a greater sense of the preciousness, glory, and suitableness of the blessings contained in them.
ence: for first a man is a believer, and in Chris', and justified, called, and sancti. fied, hefore the Spirit does witness it; else the Spirit should witness to an uncruth and lie."
But here, some may be ready to say, What, is there no such thing as any particular spiritual application of the promises of scripture by the Spirit of God? I answer, there is doubtless such a thing as a spiritual and saving application of the invitations and promises of scripture to the souls of men. But it is also certain, that the nature of it is wholly misunderstood by many persons, to the great ensnaring of their own souls. Hereby Satan acquires a vast advantage against them, against the interest of religion, and the church of God. The spiritual application of a scripture promise does not consist in its being immediately suggested to the thoughts by some extrinsic agent, and being borne into the mind with this strong apprehension, that it is particularly spoken and directed to them at that time. There is nothing of the hand of God evidenced in this effect, as events have proved in many notorious instances. It is a mean notion of a spiritual application of scripture; there is nothing in the nature of it at all beyond the power of the devil; for there is nothing in the nature of the effect implying any vital communication of God. A truly spiritual application of the word of God is of a vastly higher nature; as much above the devil's power, as it is for him to apply the word of God to a dead corpse so as to raise it to life; or to a stone, to turn it into an angel. A spiritual application of the word of God consists in applying it to the heart; in spiritual, enlightening, sanctifying influences. A spiritual application of an invitation, or offer of the gospel, consists in giving the soul a spiritual sense, or relish, of the holy and divine blessings offered, and also the sweet and wonderful grace of the offerer, in making so gracious an overture, and of his holy excellency and faithfulness to fulfil what he offers, and his glorious sufficiency for it; so leading and drawing forth the heart to embrace the offer; and thus giving the man evidence of his title to, and personal interest in the thing offered. And so a spiritual application of the promises of scripture, for the comfort of the saints, consists in enlightening their minds to see the holy excellency and sweetness of the blessings promised, also the holy excellency of the promiser, bis faithfulness and sufficiency; thus drawing forth their hearts to embrace the promiser, and thing proinised; and by this means, giving the sensible actings of grace, enabling them to see their grace, and so their possessive title to the promise. An application not consisting in this divine sense and enlightening of the mind, but consisting only in the word's being borne into the thoughts, as if immediately then spoken, so making persons believe, on no other foundation, that the promise is theirs; is a blind application, and belongs to the spirit of darkness, and not of light.
* Mr. 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 way 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 aster, when he applies all the threatenings to drive him nearer unto 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.”
When persons have their affections raised after this manner, those affections are really not raised by the word of God; the scripture is not the foundation of them; it is not any thing contained in those scriptures which come to their minds, that raise their affections; but truly that effect, viz. the strange manner of the word being suggested to their ininds, and a proposition from thence taken up by them, which indeed is not contained in that scripture, nor in any other; as that his sins are forgiven him, or that it is the Father's good pleasure to give him in particular the kingdom, or the like. There are propositions to be found in the Bible, declaring that persons of such and such qualifications are forgiven and beloved of God: but there are none declaring that such and such particular persons, independent on any previous knowledge of qualifications, are forgiven and beloved of God. Therefore, when any person is comforted, and affected by any such proposition, it is by another word, a word newly coined,
and not any word of God contained in the Bible *. And thus many persons are vainly affected and deluded.
Again, it plainly appears from what has been demonstrated, that no revelation of secret facts by immediated suggestion, is any thing spiritual and divine, in that sense wherein gracious effects and operations are so. By secret facts, I mean things that have been done, or are come to pass, or shall hereafter come to pass, which do not appear to the senses, nor are known by any argumentation, nor any other way, but only by immediate suggestion of ideas to the mind. Thus for instance, if it should be revealed to me, that the next year this land would be invaded by a fleet from France, or that such and such persons would then be converted, or that I myself should then be converted---not by enabling me to argue these
— events from any thing which now appears in providence; bul-immediately suggesting, in an extraordinary manner, that these things would come to pass: or if it should be revealed to me, that this day there is a battle fought between the armies of such and such powers in Europe, or · that such a prince in Europe was this day converted, or is now in a converted state, or that one of my neighbours is converted, or that I myself am converted; not by having any other evidence of these facts, but an immediate extraordinary suggestion or excitation of these ideas, and a strong impression of them upon my mind : this is a revelation of secret facts by immediate suggestion, as much as if the facts were future; for the facts being past, present, or future, alters not the case, as long as they are secret, hidden from my senses and reason, and not spoken of in scripture, nor known by me any other way than by immediate suggestion. If I have it revealed to me, that such a revolution is come to pass this day in the Ottoman empire, it is the very same sort of revelation, as if it were revealed to me that such a revolution would come to pass there this day come twelve month; because, though one is present and the other future, yet both are equally hidden from
* " Some Christians hare rested with a work without Christ, which is abomidable: but after a man is in Christ, not to judge by the work, is first not to judge from the word. For though there is a word, which may gire a man a dependence on Christ, without seeling any work, nay when he seels 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 Ton Virgins, Part 1. 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 pase ticular persons.” STODDARD'S Nature of saving Conversion, p. 84, 85.
me, any other way than by immediate revelation. When Samuel told Saul that the asses which he went to seek were found, and that his father had left caring for the asses, and sorrowed for him; this was by the same kind of revelation, as that by which he told Saul, that in the plain' of Tabor, there should meet him three men going up to God to Bethel, (1 Sain. X. 2, 3.) though one of these things was future, and the other was not. So when Elisha told the king of Israel the words that the king of Syria spake in his bed-chamber, it was by the same kind of revelation with that by which he foretold many things to come.
It is evident that this revelation of secret facts by immediate suggestion, bas nothing of the nature of a spiritual and divine operation, in the sense fore-mentioned. There is nothing at all in the nature of the ideas themselves, excited in the mind, that is divinely excellent, above the ideas of natural men; though the manner of exciting the ideas be extraordinary. In those things which are spiritual, as has been shown, not only the manner of producing the effect, but the effect wrought is divine, and so vastly above all that can be in an unsanctified mind. Now simply the having an idea of facts, setting aside the manner of producing those ideas, is nothing beyond what the minds of wicked men are susceptible of, without any goodness in them; and they all either have or will have, the knowledge of the greatest and most important facts, that have been, are, or shall be.
And as to the extraordinary manner of producing the perception of facts, even by immediate suggestion, there is nothing in it, but what the minds of natural men are capable of; as is manifest in Balaam, and others spoken of in the scripture. And therefore it appears that there is nothing appertaining to this immediate suggestion of secret facts that is spiritual, in the sense in which it has been proved that gracious operations are so. If there be nothing in the ideas themselves, which is holy and divine, and so nothing but what may be in a mind vot sanctified, then God can put them into the mind by immediate power, without sanctifying it. As there is nothing in the idea of a rainbow of a holy and divine nature; so God if he pleases, and when he pleases, immediately, and in an extraordinary manner, may excite that idea in an unsanctified mind. So also, as there is nothing in the idea or knowledge that such particular persons are forgiven and accepted of God, and intitled to heaven, but what unsanctified minds may have, VOL. IV.