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those who have run into some of those irregularities you complain of. This appears, in that some of those, who have been convinced of and penitently bewailed those mistakes, do yet (their former irregularities notwithstanding) walk worthy their professed experience of a saving change, and approve themselves holy, humble, and charitable Christians. And I have the more hope of others, who have not yet been convinced of their mistakes, upon account of their having been seduced into these errors, by such zealous leaders, of whose piety they have so great an opinion. But you will perhaps inquire, what I can say for those leaders who have influenced others to these irregular heats ? To which I must answer, that, as far as I am acquainted with them, I have reason for a much better opinion of the hearts of some of them, than of their heads; and must bear them witness, that they have a zeal of God, though not in every thing according to knowledge.
But supposing, as you suppose, that “ some of the chief of these preachers were very wicked men, who cloaked their evil intentions under a show of zeal and extraordinary piety, the better to ensnare poor unwary souls into their delusions, to promote divisions and contentions in the land, and to compass their covert designs :” my argument is, on this supposal, so much the stronger. Herein the power and love of the great Redeemer are so much the more conspicuous, that he has out-shot Satan with his own bow; and over-ruled those attempts, for the promotion of his own kingdom and interest, which were levelled against it. Nothing is more visible, than that great numbers of poor sinners have been awakened, and
brought to fly to Christ for refuge. Nothing is more apparent, than that the consequence of this has (in numerous instances) been the renovation of their lives and their conversation from a careless, sinful, sensual life, to a life of holiness, righteousness, kindness, and charity. In these, therefore, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is become glorious, whatever covered designs any of the instruments were acted by. If these “preached Christ even of envy and strife, what then ? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ was preached ; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” It is remarkable, that the great doctrines of the Gospel, particularly touching the misery of our natural state, the necessity of an interest in Christ, and the way of salvation by faith in him, were preached by them all, (whatever human imaginations were mixed with them,) and these had their effect in a peculiar manner. Our blessed Saviour has therein blessed his own institutions; and accomplished the designs of his grace, whoever and whatever were the instruments by whom these glorious effects have been produced. As far, therefore, as a sanctifying change in the hearts and lives of men has been effected, so far must we acknowledge this to be a work of God, and a display of the divine power of our blessed Saviour. The miracles of divine grace, which might be wrought by Judas, were as bright a discovery of the Redeemer's power and goodness, as those were which were wrought by the other apostles. But you tell me, that 6
of these new converts pretend to mighty experiences of divine impulses, raptures, ecstasies, and the like; but show
forth no moral virtues, nor true love either to God or man.” Well, Sir, what follows from this ? Are there not many others, who make no pretension to such mighty experiences of divine impulses, raptures, &c. that do show forth all moral virtues, and have a true love both to God and man? Is it a good argument, that because there are some mere enthusiasts, who pretend to such experiences which the Scriptures do not make the character of true Christians, therefore they are all mere enthusiasts, even who pretend to such experience as the Scriptures do make the character of all true Christians ? What, is Christianity concerned with the ecstasies and heats of such men as you speak of? Where are these ecstatical heats described in the Gospel, as the marks of the children of God? Be their experiences allowed to be according to their pretences, what follows from thence, but that, if they have no moral virtues, these men's religion is vain ; it is all enthusiastical, unscriptural, and without any foundation ? But then, on the other hand, the experiences which I have before described, are such as the Scriptures do make the marks and characters of the children of God: and many there are that make no pretences to divine impulses, raptures, or ecstasies, who profess to have had these experiences, and justify their profession, by living in the love both of God and man. Now, I pray, how are such concerned in the enthusiasm of which you complain ? Do not the experiences of these witness for them, as much as the experiences of the others witness against them ? Here is a visible and effectual change wrought in them, (just such a change as the Scriptures describe,) by which they
are brought into a conformity to the divine nature, and live worthy their profession and character. Christ has promised the sanctification of the Spirit to his people, who depend upon him for it; and what greater evidence can there be of the faithfulness of the promise, than to see and feel its accomplishment?
But you further observe, that “the demeanour of many of these pretenders to religious experiences is directly contrary to that morality, beneficence, and charity, which are the ornament and glory of human nature.” And is not this a strong confirmation of my argument ? I appeal to you yourself, Sir, whether you be not acquainted with many others, that pretend to the religious experiences which I have described, who are the brightest patterns of those graces and virtues which are the ornament and glory of human nature. Here, then, is a plain and visible criterion, by which it may be known whose experiences are, and whose are not, from the Spirit of God.
They are (you say) indeed converted, but it is to pride and vanity, to self-esteem and self-applause.". But are there not many others, who are converted to deep humility, self-loathing, and selfcondemning?
They are changed, (you say,) but it is to bitterness, reviling, censuring, and judging their peighbours, who are much better than they.” I allow this charge to be agreeable to their pretended experiences; but then, do not you see (blessed be God, I am sure I have seen) many others changed to meekness, kindness, and love, and brought to esteem others much better than themselves ?
« Their boasted experiences (you add) only animate them to divisions, factions, and separations.” But is this the case of all who make a profession of religious experiences ? No; we have cause to be thankful the case is quite otherwise.
“ They are (you say) often elated with rapturous joys and exults, which seem to be the product of nothing but self-esteem, and an irregular, heated imagination." Here you inquire, “ Must I esteem these to be the joys of the Holy Ghost, of which your last letter speaks? If not, how shall I know that all pretences of this kind are not equally fictitious and imaginary?” This, I confess, deserves some attention. For, perhaps, no one thing has raised such prejudices in the minds of men against spiritual and religious experiences, as those airy raptures, and causeless exults, that in some instances have been seen of late. I would therefore observe to you, that
your own representation of those joyful transports of which you complain, is sufficient to distinguish them from those joys of the Holy Ghost of which I wrote to you. You rightly observe, that these false raptures are the product of an exalted imagination. But you have no room to conclude this to be the case with respect to those spiritual joys and comforts of which I wrote in
last. I have known a wretched, despicable beggar, covered with rags and vermin, who imagined himself a king's son, and expected to be treated accordingly: but how vain and ludicrous soever his imaginations were, I never thought it an argument that there are no kings' sons in the world. He might probably entertain more transporting ap