« PrécédentContinuer »
Pet. v. 5.
If young ministers had great humility, without a mixture, it would dispose them especially to treat aged ministers with respect and reverence, as their fathers, notwithstanding that a sovereign God may have given them greater assistance and success, than they have had. 1
“ Likewise ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder; yea, all of you, be subject one to another; and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” Lev. xix: 32. “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man, and fear thy (iod; I am the Lord.”
As spiritual pride disposes persons to assume much to themselves, so it also disposes them to treat others with neglect. On the contrary, pure christian humility disposes persons to honor all men, agreeable to that rule, 1 Pet. ii: 17.
There has been in some, that I believe are true friends of religion, too much an appearance of this fruit of spiritual pride, in their treatment of those that they looked upon to be carnal men; and particularly in refusing to enter into any discourse or reasoning with them. Indeed to spend a great deal of time in jangling and warm debates about religion, is not the way to propagate religion, but to hinder it; and some
are so dreadfully set against this work, that it is a dismal task to dispute with them, all that one can say is utterly in vain, I have found it so by experience; and to go to enter into disputes about religion, at some times, is quite unseasonable, as particularly in meetings for religious conference, or exercises of worship. But yet we ought to be very • careful that we do not refuse to discourse with men, with any appearance of a supercilious neglect, as though we counted them not worthy to be regarded; on the contrary we should condescend to carnal men, as Christ has condescended to us, to bear with our unteachableness and stupidity, and still to follow us with instruc-, tions, line upon line, and precept upon precept, saying, come let us reason together; setting light before us, and using all manner of arguments with us, and waiting up
on such dull scholars, as it were hoping that we should receive light. We should be ready with meekness and calmness, without hot disputing, to give our reasons, why we think this work is the work of God, to carnal men when they ask us, and not turn them by as not worthy to be talked with; as the apostle directed the primitive christians to be ready to give a reason of the christian faith and hope to the enemies of christianity, 1 Pet. iii: 15. « Be always ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” And we ought not to condemn all reasoning about things of religion under the name of carnal reason. For my part, I desire no better than that those that oppose this work, should come fairly to subinit to have the cause betwixt us tried by strict reasoning.
One qualification that the scripture speaks of once and again, as requisite in a minister is, inat he should be apt to teach, 1 Tim. iii: 2. And the apostle seens to explain what he means by it, in 2 Tim. ii: 24, 25. Or at least there expresses one thing he intends by it, viz. that a minister should be ready, meekly to condescend to, and instruct opposers. And the servant of the Lord inust not strive, but be genlle unto all men, ant to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose them elves, if God peradventure will give them repentance, to the acknowledging of the truth.
Secondly, Another thing from whence errors in conduct, that attend such a revival of religion, do arise, is wrong principles.
And one erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God's inanner, now in these days, to guide his saints, at least some that are more eminent, by inspiration, or immediate revelation, and to make known to them what shall come to pass hereafter, or what it is his will that they should do, by impressions that he by his Spirit makes upon their minds, either with, or without texts of scripture; whereby something is made known to them, that is not taught in the
scripture 'as the words lie in the Bible. By such a notion the devil has a great door opened for him; and if once this opinion should come to be fully yielded to, and established in the church of God, satan would have opportunity thereby to set up himself as the guide and oracle of God's people, and to have his word regarded as their infallible rule, and so to lead them where he would, and to introduce what he pleased, and soon to bring the Bible into neglect and contempt. Late experience iu some instances, has shown that the tendency of this notion is to cause persons to esteem the Bible as a book that is in a great measure useless.
This error will defend and support all errors. As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his ntisconduct. For what signifies it, for poor,
blind worms of the dust, to go to argue with a man, and endeavor to convince him and correct him, that is guided by the immediate counsels and commands of the great Jehovah?
This great work of God has been exceedingly hindered by this error; and until we have quite taken this handle out of the devil's hands, the work of God will never go on without great clogs and hindrances. But satan will always have a vast advantage in his hands against it, and as he has improved it hitherto, so he will do still. And it is evident that the devil knows the vast advantage: he has by it, that makes him exceeding loth to let go his hold.
It is strange what a disposition there is in many well disposed and religious persons, to fall in with and hold fast this notion. It is enough to astonish one that such multiplied plain instances of the failing of such supposed.revelations, in the event, does not open every one's eyes. I have seen so many instances of the failing of such impressions, that would almost furnish an history. I have been acquainted with them when made under all kinds of circumstances, and have seen them fail in the event, when made with such circumstances as have been fairest and brightest, and most promising; as when they
have been made upon the minds of such, as there was all reason to think were true saints, yea eminent saints, and at the very time when they have had great divine discoveries, and have been in the high exercise of true communion with God, and made with great strengh, and with great sweetness accompanying, and I have had reason to think, with an excellent heavenly frame of spirit, yet continued, and made with texts of scripture, that seemed to be exceeding apposite, yea many texts following one another, extraordinarily and wonderfully brought to the mind, and with great power and majesty, and the impressions repeated over and over, after prayers to be directed; and yet all has most nanifestly come to nothing, to the full conviction of the persons themselves. And God in so many instances of late in his providence, corered such things with darkness, that one would think it should be enough quite to blank the expectations of such as have been ready to think highly of such things; it seems to be a testimony of God, that he has no design of reviving revelations in his church, and a rebuke from him to the groundless expectations of it.
It seems to me that scripture, Zech. xii: 5, is a prophecy concerning ministers of the gospel, in the latter, and glorious day of the Christian church, which is evidently spoken of in this and the foregoing chapters. The words
am no prophet; I am an husbandman. For non taught me to keep cattle from my youth. The words, I apprehend, are to be interpreted in a spiritual sense; I am an husbandman. The work of ministers is very often in the New Testament, compared to the business of the husbandmen, that take care of God's husbandry, to whom he lets out his vineyard, and sends them forth to labor in his field, where one plants and another waters, one sows and another reaps; so ministers are called laborers in God's harvest. And as it is added, Man taught me to keep cattle from my youlh. ·So the work of a mioister is very often in scripture represented by the busiliess of a shepherd or pastor. And whereas it is said, I am no prophet; but man taught me from my youth. It is as much as to say, 1 do not pretend to have received
my skill, whereby I am fitted for the business of a pastor or shepherd in the church of God, by immcdiate inspiration, but by education, by being trained up to the business by human learning, and instructions I have received from my youth or childhood, by ordinary means.
And why cannot we be contented with the divine oraeles, that holy pure word of God, that we haye in such abundance, and such clearness, now since the canon of scripture is completed? Why should we desire to have any thing added to them by impulses from above? Why should not we rest in that standing rule that God has given to his church, which the apostle teaches us is surer than a voice from heaven? And why should we desire to make the scripture speak more to us than it does? Or why should any desire any higher kind of intercourse with heaven, than that which is by having the Isoly Spirit given in his sanctifying influences, infusing and exciting grace and holiness, love and joy, which is the hi hest kind of intercourse that the saints and angels in heaven have with God, and the chief excellency of the glorified man Christ Jesus?
Some that follow impulses and impressions go away with a notion that they do no other than follow the guidance of God's word, and make the scripture their rule, because the impression is made with a text of scripture, that comes to their mind, and improve it as a new revelation, to all intents and purposes, or as the revelation of a particular thing, that is now newly made, while the toxt in itself, as it is in the Bible, implies no such thing, and they themselves do not suppose that any such revelation was contained in it before. As for instance, suppose that text should come into a person's mind with strong impression, Acts ix: 6. “ Arise and go into the city; and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” And he should interpret it as an immediate signification of the will of God, that he should now, forthwith go to such a neighbor town, and as a revelation of that future event, viz. That there he should meet with a further discovery of his duty. If such things as these are revealed by the impression of these words, it is to all in