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the Christian religion is laid open to the understanding: by the latter, it is made matter of sensible experience in the heart. That the glorious Redeemer may enable you to feel the force of this reasoning, to your unspeakable comfort here, and happiness hereafter, is the prayer of,
SOME OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE INTERNAL EVI.
DENCES OF CHRISTIANITY CONSIDERED AND
I do not wonder to find you prejudiced against 6 the extravagant claim to extraordinary experiences in religion, lately made by some who are evidently under enthusiastic heats and delusions." But I cannot see any force at all in your reasoning, that
, " because there are many eminent professors of late, who really have nothing in them but heat and show, and yet make as high pretensions to the divine influences, and to special experience of the operations of the Spirit of God in their hearts, as any others can do; therefore, all pretences of that kind may justly be suspected to flow from the same cause, and to be the offspring of a like irregular fancy and imagination.”
Do you indeed think it just arguing, because some men make vain and false shows of what they really
are not, that therefore all other professors of religion are hypocrites as well as they ? Will it follow, because some men pretend to literature which they have not, that therefore there are no men of learning in the world ? · Your discovery of false pretenders to religious experiences does indeed give you just reason to presume, that some others may, but no reason to conclude that all others must, in the same manner, impose upon the world, by mere delusive appearances. If you have discovered any to be false and deceitful, in their profession of religious experiences, it must be because you see something in their conduct which contradicts their profession. But what reason does this give you to suspect those in whose conduct you see nothing which contradicts their profession? If you have reason to conclude the hypocrisy of the former sort, from the evidences which appear against them, you have also reason to conclude the sincerity of the latter sort, from the evidences which appear in their favour, and which testify the reality of the change they profess. If you have ground to suspect the careless, the loose, the sensual professor, because he is such; by the same way of reasoning, you have ground to conclude in favour of the serious, the watchful, and mortified professor of religion, because he is such. If the licentious and profane, the fraudulent and unjust, the censorious and uncharitable, the despisers and calumniators of their brethren, are therefore to be suspected of a false pretence to the divine influences ; by the same argument, they who are so changed as to become remarkably holy and righteous, meek and humble, charitable, benevolent, and beneficent, have
a just claim to be esteemed sincere, and to be credited in their profession of religious experiences. There are (through the mercy of God) numbers of such yet among us, all of whom have this change, in its visible effect, obvious to the world; and though some of them may be doubtful of their own state, yet all of them declare that they have received all their attainments from the Lord Jesus Christ; they have looked to him, and depended upon him for them all; and have always found, that their progress in piety towards God, and in justice, kindness, and charity towards men, has borne proportion to their cheerful dependence upon Christ for righteousness and strength. If some men are liars, yet others are credible, and may be trusted, especially when they give us undoubted evidences of their truth and fidelity. Even so in the present case, if some men are hypocrites, and evidence themselves to be such, we have no reason from thence to suspect the truth of others' profession and experiences, whose wonderful change of life, and whole future conversation, are a continual testimony to the sincerity of the profession they make, and to the credibility of the experiences which they relate.
But it seems you are especially prejudiced against religious experiences, by the “ irregular fancy and heated imagination” which you have observed in some pretender to extraordinary attainments in religion; from whence you seem to argue, that because some of their “pretended experiences are extravagant flights of a disturbed brain, and evidently flow from pride, self-esteem, and uncharitableness towards others, and end in faction, division, and alienation
of affection," that therefore, since some other of their pretences are manifestly false and airy imaginations, you have just reason to conclude, that all the rest of their pretences are of the same sort, and flow from the same depraved mind.
I acknowledge, Sir, this is one of the most plausible objections that ever I heard of, against the internal evidences of Christianity; and, no doubt, our grand adversary the devil has had an especial hand in blowing up this false fire, that he may turn away our eyes from the glory of the Lord arisen upon Zion. No doubt, “Satan hath transformed himself into an angel of light,” in the late extravagant heats which have appeared in some places, that so by overdoing, he might undo, and might bring reproach on the wonderful work of divine grace, which has made such a glorious progress in these parts of the world. A permission of these dreadful delusions may be esteemed a just judgment of God upon such as have remained careless and secure in a remarkable season of grace; who have resisted the calls of the Gospel, the convictions of their consciences, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit; that they might thereby be hardened in their prejudices against vital and experimental religion, and perhaps finally stumble and fall.
But how plausible soever your objection may be, your reasoning is far from conclusive. What inconsistency is there in the supposal, that a true convert may have some very false apprehensions and imaginations ? that the same person may have a sanctified heart and confused head ? and that he may build upon the true foundation such wood, hay, and stubble, as must be burnt up? Our blessed Saviour
has undertaken to sanctify the hearts of all those who sincerely trust in him, but has never promised to make them infallible in all their conduct. If, therefore, from a principle of love to God, these men should zealously endeavour to serve him, and yet, through heated imaginations, or erroneous apprehensions of their duty, in some cases, they should mistake their way, and suppose that they are doing God good service, when they are acting counter to the true interest of Christ's kingdom, what then? Is it an absurdity to suppose that they may act from a right principle, though in a wrong manner ? The error is in their opinions, but not in their wills. Their hearts are engaged in God's service, though their heads mislead them. They may have experienced a real change (in the manyer described in my last letter), though, through ignorance and mistake, their endeavours to serve God are in some instances irregular and sinful. They may have had real experiences in true and vital piety at present, though their imaginations are imposed on by enthusiasm and delusion. These allowances may be made, and ought to be made, for those who hold fast the fundamental principles of Christianity and practical godliness, and for none but those. There ought to be such allowances made for those; because there is nothing in their character inconsistent with true and vital piety: yet there ought not to be such allowances made for any but those; because Christ has undertaken to lead his sincere followers into all ne
I think I have good reason to conclude, that the case is truly, and in fact just a I have here described it, with respect to numbers of