« PrécédentContinuer »
that belongs to Christian experience that is more liable to a corrupt mixture than zeal; though it be an excellent virtue, a heavenly flame, when it is pure.
But as it is exercised in those who are so little sanctified, and so little humbled, as we are in the present state, it is very apt to be mixed with human passion, yea, with corrupt hateful affections, pride and uncharitable bitterness, and other things that are not from heaven but from hell.
Another thing that is often mixed with what is spiritual in the experiences of Christians, is, impressions on the imagination; whereby godly persons, together with a spiritual understanding of divine things, and conviction of their reality and certainty, and a strong and deep sense of their excellency or great importance upon their hearts, have strongly impressed on their minds external ideas or images of things. A degree of imagination in such a case, as I have observed elsewhere, is unavoidable, and necessarily arises from human nature, as constituted in the present state; and a degree of imagination is really useful, and often is of great benefit; but when it is in too great a degree it becomes an impure mixture that is prejudicial. This mixture very often arises, from the constitution of the body. It commonly greatly contributes to the other kind of mixture mentioned before, viz. of natural affections and passions; it helps to raise them to a great height.
Another thing that is often mixed with the experiences of true Cristians, which is the worst mixture of all, is a degree of selfrighteousness or spiritual pride.This is often mixed with the joys of Christians; the joy that they have is not purely the joy of faith, or a rejoicing in Christ Jesus, but is partly a rejoicing in themselve's; there is oftentimes in their elevations a looking upon themselves, and a viewing their own high attainments; they rejoice partly because they are taken with their own experiences and great discoveries, which makes them in their own apprehensions so to excel; and this heightens all their passions, and especially those effects that are more external.
There is a much greater mixture of these things in
re led the experiences of some Christians than others; in some n er the mixture is so great, as very much to obscure and
hide the beauty of grace in them, like a thick smoke , and that hinders all the shining of the fire.
These things we ought to be well aware of, that we
may not take all for gold that glistens, and that we may +58,1
know what to countenance and encourage, and what to discourage; otherwise satan will have a vast advantage against us, for he works in the corrupt mixture. Sometimes for want of persons' distinguishing the ore from the pure metal, those experiences are most admired by the persons themselves that are the subjects oi them, and by others that are not the most excellent. The great external effects, and vehemence of the passions, and violent agitations of the animal spirits, is sometimes much owing to the corrupt mixture; (as is very apparent in some instances) though it be not always so.
I have observed a great difference among those that are under high affections, and seem disposed to be earnestly talking to those that are about them; some insist much more, in their talk, on what they behold in God and Christ, the glory of the divine perfections, Christ's beauty and excellency and wonderful condescension and grace, and their own unworthiness, and the great and infinite obligations that they themselves and others are under to love and serve God; some insist almost wholly on their own high privileges, their assurance, and of God's love and favor, and the weakness and wickedness of opposers, and how much they are above their reach. The latfer may have much of the presence of God, but their experiences do not appear to be so solid and unmixed as the former. And there is a great deal of difference in persons' earnestness in their talk and behaviour; in some it seems to come indeed from the fullness of their hearts, and from the great sense they have of truth, a deep sense of the certainty and infinite greatness, excellency, and importance of divine and cternal things, attended with all appearances of great humility; in others their earnestness seems to arise from a great mixture of human passion, and an undue and intemper
ate agitation of the spirits, which appears by their earnestness and vehemence not being proportioned to the nature of the subject they insist on, but they are violent in every thing they say, as much, when they are talking of things of smaller importance, as when speaking of things of greater weight. I haye seen it thus in an instance or two, in which this vehemence at length issued in distraction. And there have been some few instances of a more extraordinary nature still, even of persons finding themselves disposed earnestly to talk and cry out, from an unaccountable kind of bodily pressure, without any extraordinary view of any thing in their minds, or sense of any thing upon their hearts, wherein probably there was the immediate hand of the devil.
II. Another thing by which the devil has great advantage, is, the unheeded defects there sometimes are in the experiences of true Christians, and those high affections wherein there is much that is truly good.
What I now have respect to, is something diverse from that defect, or imperfection of degree, which is in every holy disposition and exercise in this life, in the best of the saints. What I aim at is experiences being especially defective in some particular thing, that ought to be in them; which, though it is not an essential defect, or such a defect as is in the experiences of hypocrites, which renders them utterly vain, monstrous, and altogether abominable to God, yet is such a defect as inaims and deforms the experience; the essence of truly Christian experiences is not wanting, but yet that is wanting that is very needful in order to the proper beauty of the image of Christ in such a persons' experiences; but things are very much out of a due proportion. There is indeed much of some things, but at the same time there is so little of some other things that should bear a proportion, that the defect very much deforms the Christian, and is truly odious in the sight of God,
What I observed before was something that deformed the Christian, as it was too much, something mixed, that is not belonging to the Christian as such; what I speak of now is something that deforms the Christian the oth
er way, viz. By their not being enough, something wanting, that does belong to the Christian as such. The one deforms the Christian as a monstrous excrescence, the other as thereby the new creature is maimed, and some member in a great measure wanting, or so small and withering as to be very much out of due proportion. This is another spiritual calamity that the saints are liable to, through the great imperfection of grace in this life; like the chicken in the egg, in the beginning of its formation, in which, though there are indeed the rudiments or lineaments of all the parts, yet some few parts are plain to be seen, when others are bid, so that without a microscope it appears very monstrous.
When this deficiency and disproportion is great, as sometimes it is in seal saints, it is not only a great deformity in itself, but has many ill consequences; it gives the devil great advantage, and leaves a door open for corruption, and exposes to very deformed and unlovely actions, and issues oftentimes in the great wounding of the soul.
For the better understanding of this matter, we may observe that God in the revelation that he has made of himself to the world by Jesus Christ, has taken care to give a proportionable manifestation of two kinds of excellencies or perfections of his nature, viz. Those that especially tend to possess us with awe and reverence, and to search and humble us, and those that tend to win, and draw, and encourage us. By the one, he appears as an infinitely great, pure, holy, and heart searching judge; by the other, as a gentle and gracious father and a loving friend. By the one he is a pure,
searching and burning flame; by the other, a sweet refreshing light. These two kinds of attributes are as it were admirably tempered together in the revelation of the gospel. There is a proportionable manifestation of justice and mercy, holiness and grace, majesty and gentleness, authority and condescension. God hath thus ordered that his diverse excellencies, as he reveals himself in the face of Jesus Christ, should have a proportionable m station, herein providing for our necessities; he
knew it to be of great consequence that our apprehen- . sions of these diverse perfections of his nature should be duly proportioned one to another; a defect on the one hand, viz. Having much of a discovery of his love and grace, without a proportionable discovery of his awful majesty, and his holy and searching purity, would tend to spiritual pride, carnal confidence and presumption; and a defect on the other hand, viz. Having much of a discovery of his holy majesty, without a proportionable discovery of his grace, tends to unbelief, a sinful fearfulness and spirit of bondage. And therefore herein chiefly consists that deficiency of experiences that I am now speaking of. The revelation God has made of himself in his word, and the provision made for our spiritual . welfare in the gospel is perfect, but get the actual light and communications we have, are not perfect, but many ways exceeding imperfect and maimed. And experience plainly shews that christians may have high experiences in some respects, and yet their circumstances may be unhappy in this regard, that their experiences and discoveries are no more general. There is a great difference among christians in this respect, some have much more general discoveries than others, who are upon many accounts the most amiable christians. Christians may have experiences that are very high, and yet there may be very much of this deficiency and disproportion. Their high experiences are truly from the Spirit of God, but sin comes in by the defect; (as indeed all sin is originally from'a defective privative cause) and in such a case high discoveries, at the same time that they are enjoyed, may be, and sometimes are the occasion, or causa sine qua non of sin; sin may come in at that back door, the gap that is left open; as spiritual pride often does. And many times the Spirit of God is quenched by this means; and God punishes the pride and presumption that rises, by bringing such darkness, and suffering such awful consequences and horrid temptations, as are enough to make one's hair stand on end to hear them. Christians therefore should diligently observe their own hearts as to this matter, and should pray to God that he