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prehensions of his imagined royalty, than they who really possess that dignity which he so vainly pretended to. But must these latter be rejected as vain pretenders, because of the crazed imagination of such a miserable vagary?
To apply this to the present case, I readily allow that all those joys and comforts which flow from the imagination only, are always but airy and chimerical, false and delusive. Thus, for instance, some will rejoice and triumph, from only imagining themselves favourites of heaven; some from being able to paint upon their imaginations the miracles, sufferings, resurrection, or ascension of Christ; some from an imaginary idea of the final appearing of Christ, and their own future glory, and the like; yet all this while the poor souls forget that there is one thing wanting, in order to make their joys reasonable and substantial; and that is good evidence of their interest in that Saviour, and his glorious salvation, of which they entertain such pleasing imaginations. They who have this evidence in the manner described in my last,) have a substantial foundation of comfort and joy, from having that salvation actually begun in their souls, which is the pledge and earnest of their eternal inheritance; while the others are like to find themselves as much deluded in their expectation of future happiness, as they are in the foundation of their hopes.
You further represent these rapturous joys to be the effect of self-esteem; and I readily acknowledge that where it is so, it is always deceitful and vain. The divine influences are always humbling to the soul which enjoys them. They, therefore, are horribly
profane, who impute their own pride and vanity to the Spirit of God; and, consequently, they are miserably deceiving themselves, whose joy and comfort flow from a high opinion of their imaginary attainments in religion. They are a smoke in God's nostrils, who are saying, “ Stand by thyself, come not nigh me; for I am holier than thou.” But then, on the contrary, when the humble soul is lying at God's foot, self-abasing and self-condemning, adoring the infinite richness of God's free grace to such a vile, worthless worm, and “rejoicing in Christ Jesus without confidence in the flesh,” these blessed effects are worthy of the Spirit of God, by whom they are wrought. And it is always true, that the believer's sense of his own vileness, pollution, and unworthiness, bears proportion to his joyful evidences of the divine favour.
You further object against the false pretenders you mention, “that their conduct does not justify their joyful assurance.” This is indeed a good evidence against their high pretensions to extraordinary attainments in religion : for, I believe, every Christian does certainly make the same progress in holiness as he does in well-grounded comfort and joy. The objection, therefore, can no ways affect those with whom this is an experienced truth, who always find, that their hope and joy quicken them in their spiritual course, invigorate their duties, and enlarge their desires and endeavours after a conformity to the whole will of God.
I must now leave this matter to your own reflections; you yourself must judge the validity of your exceptions. Compare the picture you have drawn
of some empty, enthusiastical pretenders to religious experiences, with the description I have given you of those who have indeed experienced the divine life; and consider whether there be any real similitude in any marks and lineaments of their countenances. In those is found pride and petulance; but in these, humility and self-abasement. In those, censoriousness and uncharitableness are the distinguishing characters; in these, a charitable preferring others to themselves. There, you see schism, contention, and faction; here, is kindness, peace, and brotherly love.
There, imaginary impulse; but here, the word of God alone is considered as the rule of life. There, joy and comfort are considered as the evidence of a good state; here, they are considered as the fruit of good evidence of faith in Christ, and of a renewed nature. There, religion is supposed to consist in rapture and ecstasy; here, in spiritual affections, and in a heavenly conversation. There, we find men building their hope and comfort on their imaginary attainments; but here, we find them making Christ Jesus their only refuge and hope. And, to sum up all in a word, there, are high pretences to religious experiences, without the fruits of holiness ; but here, the happy effects of this change appear in the heart and life, and justify the profession to be true, and the experiences to be indeed what they are pretended to be.
Upon the whole, there is nothing more certain, than that the Scriptures do represent what I have set before you, as the real characters of the children of God. It is equally certain, that, as an actual experience of the renewing change is, from the nature
of things, absolutely necessary to salvation, so a sense of this change wrought in us is requisite to true peace and comfort; and there can be nothing but a want of due attention to this experience, or ignorance of the quality of that change they have sensibly experienced, which keeps believers in darkness and doubts about their state. The subjects of this work can therefore have no greater evidence that it is from God, than sensibly to feel that it every way answers the original description. What greater evidence can they have of the truth of the Gospel, than a sensible experience of its doctrines, and the truth of its promises, by this wonderful work of grace in their own hearts, which so visibly carries the divine signature both in its operation and effects, and is so manifestly distinguished from all false appearances and pretences. For my own part, I cannot but look upon the irregular heats you speak of, as affording some convincing evidence in favour of the cause I am pleading. These things are foretold in the Scriptures. By these things Satan is endeavouring to support his own kingdom, as we may reasonably expect he would do. He knows that he is most likely to play the surest game, when he “transforms himself into an angel of light.” And these false appearances serve for a foil, to discover the greatest lustre in a true and real work of divine grace.
The only objection against all this, which I can foresee, is, that I am philosophizing upon the golden tooth, and that the persons I am characterizing exist no where, save in my descriptions of them. But I need add no more to what I have said upon this already, than my attestation, that I have the comfort
of an inward and intimate acquaintance with considerable numbers of such as those whom I have described. And if you, Sir, would seek out such for your chosen companions, your objections would die of themselves, and the argument I have insisted upon would appear in its proper light and strength.
I know not what more can be needful to be added upon this subject, but my hearty prayers, that the Spirit of truth would lead us both into all truth; and that we may know, by sensible experience, “ what is the hope of Christ's calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,” which has been justly, though but weakly and very imperfectly, represented in these letters, from,
THE DOCTRINE OF GOD's SOVEREIGN GRACE VIN
DICATED, AND SOME EXCEPTIONS AGAINST IT
You cannot imagine how much comfort you have ministered to me by your last. I greatly rejoice to hear, that “ the more strictly you examine the cause, the greater evidence you find of the undoubted truth and certainty of the Christian religion ;" but that you are filled with confusion, to think how long
have lived at a distance from that blessed Saviour, who has wrought out such a glorious redemp