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of life, and whole future conversation, are a continual teftimony to the fincerity of the profession they make, and to the credibility of the experiences which they relate.
But it feems, you are especially prejudiced againstre: ligious experiences, by the “ irregular fancy and heated * imagination, which you have observ’din fome pretender to extraordinary attainments in religion; from whence you feem to argue, that becaufe fome of their “ preten: * ded experiences are extravagant flights of a difturbed * brain, and evidently flow from pride, felf-esteem, and * uncharitablenefs towards others, and end in faction, * divifion, and alienation of affećtion,’ that therefore, fince fome of their pretences are manifestly falfe and airy imaginations, you have just reafon to conclude, that all the rest of their pretences are of the fame fort, and flow from the fame depraved mind.
I acknowledge, Sir, this is one of the most plaufible objećtions that ever I heard of, against the internal evidences of Christianity. And no doubt our grand adverfary the devil has had an especial hand in blowing up this falfe fire, that he may turn away our eyes from the glory of the Lord arifen upon Zion. No doubt Satan bath transformed himself into an angel of light, in the late extravagant heats which have appeared in fome places, that fo by overdoing, he might undo, and might bring reproach on the wonderful work of divine grace, which has made fuch a glorious progrefs in thefe parts of the world. . A permillion of thefe dreadful delufions may be esteemed a just judgment of God upon fuch as have remained carėlefs and fecure in a remarkable feafon of grace, who have refifted the calls of the Gospel, the convictions of their confciences, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit : that they might thereby be hardened in their prejudices againit vital and experimental religion, and perhaps finally ftumble and fall.
But how ::::: foever your objećtion may be, your reafoning is far from conclufive. What inconfistency is there in the fuppofal, that a true convert may have forne very false apprehenfions and imaginations ? that the fame person may have a fan&tified heart, and a confused head ? and that he may build upon the true foun
dation, fuch wood, hay, and/tubble, as mufi be burnt up ? Our blefied Saviour has undertaken to fanétify the hearts of all those who fincerely truft in him ; but has never promised to make them infallible in all their conduét. If therefore from a principle of love to God, these men should zealoufly endeavour to ferve him, and yet through heated imaginations, or erroneous apprehenfions of their duty, in fome cafes, they should mistake their way, and fuppofe that they are doing God good fervice, when they are aĉting counter to the true intereft of of Christ’s kingdom, what then ? Is it an abfurdity, to fuppofe they may aćt 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 fervice, though their heads mislead them. They may have experienced a real change (in the manner defcribed in my laft letter) though through ignorance and miftake, their endeavours to ferve God are in fomeinstances irregular and finful. They may have had real experiences in true and vital piety, at prefent, though their imaginations are impofed on by enthufiafm, and delufion. Thefe allowances may be made, and ought to be made, for thofe who hold fast the fundamental principles of Christianity and praćtical godlinefs ; and for none but thofe. There ought to be fuch allowances made for thofe ; because there is nothing in their charaóter inconfiftent with true and vital piety : yet there ought not to be fuch allowances made for any butthofe; because Chrift has undertaken to lead his fincere followers into all necessary truth. I think, I have good reafon to conclude, that the cafe is truly, and in faćł, just as I have here defcribed it, with respećł to numbers ofthofe who have run into fome of those irregularities you complain of This appears, in that fome of thofe, who have been convinced ofand penitently bewailedthofemiftakes, do yet (their formerirregularities notwithstanding) walk worthy their professed experience of a faving change; and approve themfelves 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 heir having been feduced into thefe errors, by fuch zea
leus leaders, of whose piety they have fo great an opinion. But you’ll perhaps enquire, what I can fay for those leaders, who have influenced others to thefe irregular heats ? To which I must anfwer, that as far as I am acquainted with them, I have reafon for a much better o: pinion of the hearts offome of them, than of their heads; and must bear them witnefs, that they have a zeal of God, tho' not in every thing according to knowledge. But fuppofing, as you fuppose, that o fome of the chief “ of thefe preachers were very wicked men, who cloak* ed their evil intentions under a fhew of zeal and extra* ordinary piety, the better to inínare poor unwary fouls *. into their delufions, to promote divifions and conten* tions in the land, and to compass their covert defigns:' My argument is, on this fuppofal, fo much the stronger. Herein the power and love of the great Redeemer are fo much the more conspicuous, that he has outshot Satan with his own bow; and over-ruled those attempts, for the płomotion of his own kingdom and intereft, which were levelled against it. Nothing is more vifible, than that great numbers of poor finners have been awakened; and brought to fly to Christ for refuge. Nething is more apparent than that the confequence of this has (in numerous instances) been the renovation of their lives, and their converfion from a carelefs, finful, fenfual life, to a life of holinefs, righteoufnefs, kindness, and charity. In thefe therefore the grace of our Lord Jefus Chrift is become glorious; whatever covered defigns any of the instruments were aćted by. If thefe preached Christ even of envy and/trife, what then ? notwith/fanding every way, whether in pretence ar in truth, Christ was preacheds and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice, It is remarkable that the great doćttines of the Gospel, parti. cularly touching the mifery of our natural flate, the neceffity ofan, intereft in Christ, and the way of falvation by faith in him, were preached by them all (whatever, human imaginations were mixed with them) and thefe had their effest in a peculiar manner. Our blested Saviour has therein blefied his own institutions; and accompiished the defigns of his grace, whoever and whatover were the instruments, by whom these glorious ef
fećts have been produced. As far therefore as a fanc-
they are brought into a conformity to the divine nature, and live worthy their profession and charaćter: Chrift has promised the /anĉlification of the spirit to his people, who depend upon him for it: and what greaterevidence can there be of the faithfulnefs of the promife, than to fee and feel its accomplishment ? · But you further obferve, that * the demeanor of many of thefe pretenders to religious experiences, is direćily contrary to that morality, beneficence, and cha"rity, which are the ornament and glory of human na“ ture.” And is not this a ftrong confirmation of my argument ? I appeal to you yourself, Sir, whether you not acquainted with many others, that pretend to the religious experiences which I have defcribed, 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 vifible criterion, by which it may be known whose experiences are, and whose are not, from the Spirit of God. : - - “ They are (you fay) indeed converted, but it is to * pride and vanity, to felfesteem and felf-applaufe.” But are there not many others, who are converted to deep humility, felf.loathing, and felfcondemning ? ‘ “ They are changed (you fay) but it is to bitternefs, * reviling, cenfuring, and judging their neighbours who | are much better than they.” I allow this charge to be agreeable to their pretended experiences; but then, don’t you fee (blefied be God, I am fure I have feen) many others changed to meeknefs, kindnefs, and love, and brought to esteem others much better than them/elves ? “ Their boafted experiences (you add) only animate * them to divifions, faćtions, and feparations.". Bụt is this the cafe of all, who make a profession of religious experiences? No; we have cause to be thankful, the cafe : is quite otherwife. - - - - “ They are (yoự fay) often elated with rapturous joys * and exults, which feem to be the produćt of nothing . * but felf-esteem, and an irregular heated imagination.” Here you inquire. “ Muft I esteem thefe to be the joys * of the Holy Ghost, of which your laft letter speaks ? * If not, how shall I know, that all pretences of this kind * are not equally fais: imaginary ?? - This (I