« PreviousContinue »
tioned principles let loose? When, moreover, these principles are prompted by false joys and comforts, excited by some pleasing imaginations impressed by Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light?
When once a hypocrite is thus established in a false hope, he has not those things to cause him to call his hope in question, that oftentimes are the occasion of doubting to true saints; as, first, he has not that cautious spirit, that great sense of the vast importance of a sure foundation, and that dread of being deceived.
The comforts of the true saints increase awakening and caution, and a lively sense how great a thing it is to appear before an infinitely holy, just, and omniscient Judge. But false comforts put an end to these things, and dreadfully stupify the mind. Secondly, The hypocrite has not the knowledge of his own blindness, and the deceitfulness of bis own heart, and that mean opinion of his own understanding, that the true saint has. Those that are deluded with false discoveries and affections, are evermore highly conceited of their light and understanding. Thirdly, The devil does not assault the hope of the hypocrite, as he does the hope of a true saint. The devil is a great enemy to a true Christian's hope, not only because it tends greatly to his comfort, but also because it is of a holy, heavenly nature, greatly tending to promote and cherish grace in the heart, and a great incentive to strictness and diligence in the Christian life. But he is no enemy to the hope of a hypocrite, which above all things establishes his interest in him. A hypocrite may retain his hope without opposition, as long as he lives, the devil never attempting to disturb it. But there is perhaps no true Christian but what has his hope assaulted by him. Satan assaulted Christ himself, upon this, whether he were the Son of God or no: and the servant is not above his Master, nor the disciple above his Lord. It is enough for the disciple, who is most privileged in this world, to be as his master. Fourthly, He who has a false hope, has not that sight of his own corruptions which the saint has. A true Christian has ten times so much to do with his heart and its corruptions, as an hypocrite. The sins of his heart and practice appear to him in their awful blackness; they look dreadful; and it often appears a very mysterious thing, that any grace can be consistent with such corruption, or should be in such a heart. But a false hope hides corruption, covers it all over, and the hypocrite looks clean and bright in his own eyes.
There are two sorts of hypocrites: one such as are deceiv
ed with their outward morality and external religion; many of whom are professed Arminians, in the doctrine of justification: and the other, such as are deceived with false discoreries and elevations. These last often cry down works and men's own righteousness, and talk much of free grace; but at the same time make a righteousness of their discoveries and humiliation, and exalt themselves to heaven with them. These two kinds of hypocrites Mr. SHEPARD, in his exposition of the Parable of the ten virgins, distinguishes by the names of legal and evangelical hypocrites; and often speaks of the latter as the worst. And it is evident, that the latter are commonly by far the most confident in their hope, and are with the most difficulty brought off from it. I have scarcely known an instance of such an one that has been undeceived. The chief grounds of the confidence of many of them, are impulses and supposed revelations, (sometimes with texts of scripture, and sometimes without) like what many of late have had concerning future events. These impulses about their good estate tbey call the witness of the Spirit; entirely misunderstanding the nature of the witness of the Spirit, as I shall shew hereafter. Those who have had visions and impulses about other things, have generally had such things as they are desirous and fond of, revealed to them: and no wonder that persons who give heed to such things, have the same sort of visions or impressions about their own eternal salvation. Why may they not suppose a revelation made to them, that their sios are forgiven them, that their names are written in the book of life, that they are in high favour with God, &c. and especially when they earnestly seek, expect, and wait for evidence of their election and salvation this way, as the surest and most glorious evidence of it? Neither is it any wonder, that when they have such a supposed revelation of their good estate, it raises in them the highest degree of confidence of it. It is found by abundant experience, that those who are led away by impulses and imagined revelations, are extremely confident.
They suppose, that the great Jehovah has declared these and those things to them; and having his immediate testimony, a strong confidence is the highest virtue. Hence they are bold to say, I know this or that ;-—I know certainly ;I am as sure as that I have a being, and the like: and they despise all argument and inquiry into the case. And it is easy to be accounted for, that impressions and impulses about that which is so pleasing, so suiting their self-love and pride, as Vol. iv.
their being the dear children of God, should make them 'strongly confident: especially when, with their impulses and revelations, they have high affections, which they take to be the most eminent exercises of grace. I have known several persons, who have had a fond desire of something of a temporal nature, through a violent passion that has possessed them; they have earnestly wished it should come to pass, and have met with many discouragements in it; but at last have had an impression, or supposed revelation that they should obtain what they sought. They have looked upon this as a sure promise from the Most High, which has made them most ridiculously confident, against all manner of reason to convince them to the contrary, and all events working against them. And nothing hinders, but that persons who are seeking their salvation may be deceived by the like delusive impressions, and be made confident the same way.
The confidence of many of this sort, whom that Mr. SHEPARD calls evangelical hypocrites, is like the confidence of some mad men, who think they are kings: they will maintain it against all manner of reason and evidence. And in one sense, it is much more immoveable than a truly gracious assurance; a true assurance is not upheld, but by the soul being kept in a holy frame, and grace maintained in lively exercise, If the actings of grace do much decay in the Christian, and he falls into a lifeless frame, he loses his assurance : but this confidence of hypocrites will not be shaken by sin; they (at least some of theni) will maintain their boldness in their hope, in the most corrupt fraines and wicked ways; which is a sure evidence of their delusion *.
And here I cannot but observe, that there are certain doctrines often preached to the people, which need to be delivernamed with more caution and explanation than they frequently
are; for as they are by many understood, they tend greatly to establish this delusion and false confidence of hypocrites,
* Mr. 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 inen in such frames may seem to maintain the consolation of the Spirit, and not suspect their hypocrisy, under pretence 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 of 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 borrid to sature itself." Cases of Conscience, lib. III. Chap. vii.
The doctrines I speak of are those of Christians living by farth, not by sight : their giving glory to God, by trusting him in the dark; living upon Christ and nolupon.experiences immot making their good frames the foundation of their faith. These are excellent and important doctrines indeed, rightly understood, but corrupt and destructive, as many understand them. The scripture speaks of our living or walking by faith, and not by sight, in no other way than these, viz. When we are governed by a respect to eternal things, which are the objects of faith, and are not seen, and not by a respect to temporal things, which are seen; when we believe things revealed; that we never saw with bodily eyes; and also exercise faith in the promise of future things, without yet seeing or enjoying the things promised, or knowing the way how they can be fulfilled. This will be easily evident to any one that looks over the scriptures, which speak of faith in opposition to sight *. But this doctrine, as it is understood by many, is, that Christians ought firmly to believe and trust in Christ, without spiritual hght; even although they are in a dark, dead frame; and for the present, have no spiritual experiences or discoveries. It is truly the duty of those who are thus in darkness to come out of darkness into light, and to believe. But that they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light or sight, is an antiscriptural and absurd doctrine.
The scripture is ignorant of any such faith in Christ of the operation of God, that is not founded in a spiritual sight of Christ. That believing on Christ, which accompanies a title to everlasting life, is a seeing the Son, and believing on him, John vi. 40. True faith in Christ is never exercised, any further than persons behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, and have the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesuis Christ, 2 Cor. iii. 18. and iv. 6. They into whose minds the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, does not shine, they believe not, 2 Cor. iv. 4. That faith, which is without spiritual light, is not the faith of the children of the light and of the day; but the presumption of the children of darkness. And therefore to press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or sight, tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of darkness. Men not only cannot exercise faith without some spiritual light, but they can exer
AS 8 Cor. iv. 18. and v. 7. Heb. xi. 1, 8, 13, 17, 27, 29. Rom. viii. 24, foha xx. 89.
cise faith only just in such proportion as they have spiritual light. Men will trust in God no further than they know him : and they cannot be in the exercise of faith in him, further than they have a sight of his fulness and faithfulness in exercise. Nor can they have the exercise of trust in God, any further than they are in a gracious frame. They that are in a dead
a . carnal frame, doubtless ought to trust in God; because that would be the same thing as coming out of their bad frame, and turning to God: but to exhort men confidently to trust in God, and so hold up their hope and peace, though they are not in a gracious frame, and continue still to be so, is the same thing, in effect, as to exhort them confidently to trust in God, but not with a gracious trust : and what is that but a wicked presumption? It is just as impossible for men to have a strong or lively trust in God, when they have no lively exercises of grace, or sensible Christian experiences, as it is for them to be in the lively exercises of grace, without the exercises of grace!
It is true, that it is the duty of God's people to trust in him when in darkness, even though they remain still in darkness, in one sense, viz. when the aspects of his providence are dark, and look as though God had forsaken them, and did not hear their prayers. Many clouds gather, many enemies surround them, with a formidable aspect, threatening to swallow them up, and all events of providence seem to be against them. All circumstances seem to render the promises of God difficult to be fulfilled, but he must be trusted out of sight, i.e. when we cannot see which way is possible for him to fulfil his word. Every thing but God's mere word makes it look unlikely, so that if persons believe, they must hope against hope. Thus the ancient Patriarchs, and thus the Psalmist, Jeremiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, and the apostle Paul, gave glory to God by trusting him in darkness. We have many instances of such a glorious, victorious faith in the eleventh of the Hebrews. But how different a thing is this, from trusting in God, without spiritual sight, and being at the same time in a dead and carnal frame!
Spiritual light may be let into the soul in one way, when it is not in another; and so there is such a thing as the saints trusting in God, and also knowing their good estate, when they are destitute of some kinds of experience. For instance, they may have clear views of God's all-sufficiency and faithfulness, and so may confidently trust in him, and know that they are his children; aud yet not have those clear and sweet ideas of