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LETTER VI. Wherein some Objections against the internal Evidences of Christianity, are considered and anfwered.
s I R,
IDo not wonder to sind you prejudiced against "the extravagant Claim to extraordinary Ex"periences in Religion, lately made by some who *' are evidently under enthusiastic Heats and Delu"sions;" but I cannot see any Force at all in your Reasoning, that, " because there are many ** eminent Prosessors of late, who really have no"thing in them but Heat and Shew, and yet make "as high Pretensions to t' e 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 Fan"cy, and heated Imagination."
Do n',t you indeed think it just arguing, because fome M^n make vain and salse Shews of what they really are not, that therefore all other Prosessors 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 theWorld? Your Discovery of fa'se Pretenders to religious Experiences does indeed give you just Reason to presume, that fome others may but no Reason to conclude, that all others majl in the fame Manner impofe upon the
World by mere delusive Appearances. If you
have discovered anv to be salse and deceitsul in their Prosessions of religious Experiences, it must be because, cause you see fomething in their Conduit whlcft contradicts their Prosession. Kut what Reason does this give you, to supect thofe in whofe Conduct you see nothing which contradicts their Prosession? — . . If you have Reason to conclude the Hypocrify of the former Sort, from the Evidences which appear against them, you have also Reafon to conclude the Sincerity of the latter Sort, from the Evi dences which appear in their Favour, and which testify the Reality of the Change they prosess. —— If you have Ground to suspect the Carelels, the Loose, the sensual Prosessor, because he is such, by the lame VVay of Reasoning, you have Ground to conclude in savour of the serious, the watchsul, and mortified Prosessor of Religion, because he is
such. If the Licentious and Prosane, the
Fraudulent and Unjust, the Censorious and Uncharitable, the Despisers and Calumniators, or their Brethren, are therefore to be suspected of a false Pretenc% to the divine Influences; by the seme Argument, they who arc so changed as to become remarkably holy and righteous, meek and humble, charitable, benevolent and benesicent, have a just Claim to be esteemed sincere, and to be credited in
.their Prosession of religious Experience^. There
are (through the Mercy of God.: Numbers of such yet among us, a!! of whom have this Change in its visible Effects obvio.is to the World; and though some of them may be doubtsul of their own State, yet all of them declare, that they have received ali their Attainments from the Lord Jesus Chrift; they have looked to him, and depended upon him for them al!; and have always found that their Progress in Piety towards God,and injustice, Kindness and Charity towards VIen,has borne Proportion to their chearful Dependence upon Ciriit for Righteousness and Strength.— If some Men are Liars, yet others
are credible, and may be trusted, especially when they give us undoubted Evidence of their Truth and
Fidelity. Even fo in the present Case, is some
Men are Hypocrites. and evidence themselves to be such, we have no Reason from thence to suspect the Truth of others 1'roseslion and Experiences, whofe wondersul Change of Lise, and whole suture Conversation, are a continual Testimony to the Sincerity of the Prosession 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 u and heated Imagination," which you have observed in some Pretenders to extraordinary Attainments in Ke'igion; from whence you tern to argue, that because some of their " pretended Expe"riences are extravagant Flights of a distur' ed "Brain, and evidently flow from Pride, Self"esteem, and Uncharitableness towards others, and "end in Faction, Division, and Alienation of Af"section," that therefore, since some of their Pretences are manisestly salie, 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 have heard of, against
the internal Evidences of Christianity And no
D: ubt, our grand Adversary tin Devil has hnd an especial Hand in blowing up this salse 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 Keproach on the wondersul Work of divine Grace, which has made such a glorious
Progress Progress in these Parts of the World A Permission cf these dreadsul Delusions may be esteemed a just Judgment of God upon such as have remained careless and secure in a remarkable Seafon 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 Jlumble and full.
But how plausible soever your Objections may be, your Reasoning is sar from conclusive. What Inconsistency is there in the Suppofal, that a true Convert may have fome very false Apprehensions and Imaginations? that the siime Person may have a sanctisied* Heart, and a consoled 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 sanctisy
the Hearts of all thofe who sincerely trust in him; but has never promised to make them insallible in
all their Conduct If thereiore, 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 any Absurdity to suppofe 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 Manner described in my last Letter) though through Ignorance and Mistake their Endeavours to serve God are, in some
stances irregular and sinsul. They may have
had real Experiences in true and vital Piety, at present, though their Imaginations are impofed on by
Enthusiasm and Delusion. These Allowances
may be made, and ought to be made, for those who hold sast the sundamental Principles of Christianity and practical Godliness, and for none but
thofe. There ought to be such Allowances made
for those, because there is nothing in their Character inconsistent with true and vital Piety; ye there ought not to be such Allowances made for at ny but thofe because Christ has undertaken to lead his sincere Followers into all necessary Truth. —I think I have good Reason to conclude, that the Case is truly, and in Fact, just as I have here described it, with respect to Numbers of those, who have run into some of thofe Irregularities you complain of.—This appears in that some of thofe, who have been convinced of, and penitently bewailed, thofe Mistakes, do yet (their former Irregularities notwithstanding) walk worthy their prosessed Experience of a saving Change, and approve themselves holy, humble, and charitable Christians. And I have the more Hopes 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 whofe Piety they have so great an Opinion.—But you'll perhaps enquire, what I can say for thofe Leaders, who have influenced others to these irregular Heats? To which I must answer, that as sar 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 Witnefs, that they have a Zeal of God, though not in every Thing according to Knowledge.