« PreviousContinue »
trines of man's native depravity would be easy to show, that this and total dependence on sove- conformity of religion to the di. reign grace, the Deity and atone- vine law is the same in reality ment of Christ, God's electing with that conformity to evangelilove, or the Spirit's agency in cal truth, mentioned above. The recovering sinners to holiness, spirit of faith, which receives diand hold the contrary doctrines; vine truth, is the spirit, which their religious experience, how- obeys the divine law. Divine ever showy and abundant, is to truth and the divine law both be greatly suspected. Churches bear the image of God; both that owe their existence or in- express his moral character. crease to a religious system, in Conformity to the one, therefore, which the doctrines of grace are necessarily implies conformity to not solemnly recognized and the other. Hence we learn the uniformly supported, ought with radical mistake of those, who trembling to anticipate the day, imagine that they yield obediwhose light shall “ try every ence to the moral law, while man's work of what sort it is,” they reject evangelical truth. and publicly show of what mate. Hence also we see the falsity rials the churches are composed. and absurdity, which mark the
The second mark, which ex- religion of those, who pretend to perimental religion must bear, is believe evangelical truth, and yet a correspondence with the law of live in disobedience to the moral God. In the renovation of our law. nature by the Holy Spirit, God's This second article presents law is written upon the heart ; or, an inquiry, which we should to lay aside the metaphor, a dis- make with seriousness, if we position is given, which exactly would ascertain the nature of our answers to the precepts of the religion. Does it bear the stamp moral law. True religion con- of God's holy law ? An inquiry tains, as its living and enlivening of this kind might soon convince soul, that supreme love to God, us, that much of what is called which is required by the first experimental religion in and great command, and that selves and others, instead of undissembled, equal love to man- being the product of the Holy kind, which is required by the Spirit, is the work of a disordersecond. Believers have an im- ed imagination, or a deceitful partial affection for their fellow heart. creatures, duly estimate their Another mark, which experiimmortal interests, and, with mental rcligion must bear, is fervent, steady zeal, seek their conformity to Jesus Christ. He welfare. Religion begins, when is the perfect pattern of all Chrisholy love begins, and arrives at tian goodness. He hath set us perfection, when love is made an example not only of outward perfect. As religion corres- conduct, but of inward feeling. ponds with the all comprehen. If, then, we would come to a sive command, which requires right conclusion respecting perlove, it corresponds with all the sons, who profess to be experirest. It leads to sincere, cheer- mentally acquainted with religful, and universal obedience. It ion, we must inquire, whether they have any thing of thạt pure, religion, are new affections ; afholy love, which reigned in the sections of a different kind from Messiah ? Is it their first desire any which the unrenewed exerand prayer, as it was his, that cise ; and not only of a different God may be glorified in the king- kind, but arising from a different dom of grace? Have they any
source. Self love, operated upon thing of his humility, piety, and by the fear of punishment and heavenly mindedness; his ready the hope of happiness, often ocand delightful obedience; his casions a train of exercises, unreserved submission to the di- which are mistaken for experivine will; his silent meekness mental religion. But in many under reproach and cruelty; and passages of scripture it is plainly his tender mercy and forgiveness affirmed or implied, that the ori. toward his enemies? In short, gin of religion is not to be found does it appear, that their religion in any power or principle of was learned from the amiable man, but in the gracious agency pattern of him, who was meek of God. The mind of man is and lowly in heart? If it be so, the subject of religion, and his we may safely conclude, that rational faculties are all active in their experience is the effect of it. But, for its origin, or cause, divine grace.
For neither the we must look to the Spirit of wicked one, nor the natural pas- God. What, then, shall we sions of the heart will ever toler- think of those religious affecate, much less produce a relig- tions, however boasted of by ion, which is stamped with the some, which can be easily aclovely character of Christ. Now counted for, without supposing if this be the sure standard, how any supernatural agency, and many things, sometimes called are, indeed, nothing but a partic. experimental piety, must be ular modification of the princiwholly set aside? How many ples of our corrupt nature? If reputed conversions must be any religion, founded on self considered, as only a turning love, or springing from it, would from one form of wickedness to correspond with the demands of another? Is spiritual pride, a the gospel, or answer the pur forward, pompous, self-righteous poses of salvation ; what need zeal, noisy speaking, violent bod- would there be of the renewing ily exercise, or any other inde of the Holy Ghost; of being quickcency, an ingredient in that relig. ened, or raised from the dead; ion, which has the blessed Jesus of being wrought upon by divine for its model ?
power; in short, of being born, I mention as another charac- not of blood, nor of the will of the teristic of true religion, that it flesh, nor of the will of man, but implies a great and universal of God ? change of heart. Without sup- I add one more remark. Gen. posing this, the language of in- uine religion proceeds from the spiration appears unmeaning and real temper of the heart, and not absurd, or extravagant and de- from the warmth of the passions. lusive ; as inight be easily shown The Israelites, after having esby referring to particulars. The caped their merciless pursuers, affections, which constitute true who were drowned in the Red
Sea, and on other extraordinary retirement, when the passions occasions, united in praising God, are all serene, when the heart, and appeared to have a very fervent freed from restraint, acts itself, piety. But from what followed and nothing, but the unchangeit is evident, that their religious able objects of religion, operate affections, instead of having a as motives ; in such quiet seaconnexion with the real temper sons, believers are alive to God. of their hearts, were merely the Religion exerts its gentle power working of their passions, excit- in their souls, when sensible obed by extraordinary events. jects make the least impression. Saul was melted by the amiable It mingles with their meditaconduct of David, and appeared tions in solitude, with their conto have benevolent and pious versation in company, with their emotions. But his emotions diligence in business, and with were the effect of outward cir- the tranquil, silent enjoyments cumstances operating upon his of domestic life.
Thus it apa passions, his heart still remain- pears, that their religion is a during as envious and murderous as able principle, a temper of the ever. That religion, which is soul, a law in their minds, written produced by the sudden heat of and engraven on their hearts. If, the passions, is transient as the then, we would form a correct morning cloud and early dew. judgment of experimental religBut true religion, being seated ion in any particular instances, in the heart, is uniform and per- we must not think it sufficient to manent, like the natural affec- observe its features and operations. In consequence of some tions in the first warmth of affecoccasional excitement a person tion, or in any time of incidental may feel a few kind emotions to- animation. Occasional exciteward those, against whom he in- ments must pass away, sudden dulges habitual malice. But emotions subside, and the mind when that occasional excitement come down to its own proper of tender feeling subsides, his state, before men will feel and malice returns. But the kind act according to their real charemotions of a parent toward his acter. Watch, then, therefore, children depend not on the ope- till you have opportunity to see, ration of extraordinary causes whether their religion be a wind upon his passions, but flow from which, in passing, gives motion the real temper of his heart, to the light, airy things on the Parental love continues to ope- surface of the soul, or that water rate, when his mind is in the which Christ gives, which bemost tranquil state.
comes an unfailing fountain in with true piety in the soul. It believers, springing up to everdepends not on the solemnity of lasting life. Possibly, when this the Sabbath, nor on the warmth gust of passion ceases, and the of a religious meeting, nor on mind settles into its resting the influence of striking occur- place, the religion, which promrences, nor on any unusual im- ised so fairly a few weeks or pulse whatsoever ; although months ago, will be like the seed these may occasion its higher falling upon stony places, which exercises. In seasons of calm suddenly springs up, but having Vol. III. No. 9.
It is so
no root, as suddenly withers seriously considered, and faithaway. But if, in any persons, a fully applied. Forget them not religion, appearing to be con- in the important work of self exstituted of passionate emotions, amination, and in attending to should prove more lasting ; then the qualifications of those, who watch its motions and its prog- wish to be admitted to your holy
See whether it be a bright communion, and of those, who meteor carried about in the air, offer themselves as candidates for or a star in the firmament of the gospel ministry. Forget heaven. See whether the pas. them not when forming a judge sions, which the reputed con- ment of revivals of religion, and verts display, are those which of the various descriptions of the gospel sanctions ; whether conversion and Christian piety, they partake of the meekness which you hear from the sacred and gentleness of Christ, or of desk. Be not deceived by the ostentation and proud confi- counterfeit appearances ; be not dence of the Pharisees ; and misguided by the ingenuity of whether it appear, from their error. Diligently use all your uniform conduct, that their heart advantages, as children of the is interested as well, as their pas- light, and humbly remember sions warmed.
your dignity, as the ground and Churches of Christ, it is hoped pillar of the truth, and the repos. that the foregoing remarks arising itory of evangelical religion. from a deep concern for your
PASTOR. peace and prosperity, will be
Messrs Editors, The Copy of a Letter from the celebrated Dr. Isaac Watts to Mad
am Sewall, upon the death of her children, having lately fallen in. to my hands, I have supposed it worthy of publication in your very useful work, as the sentiments are singularly calculated to give instruction and consolation 10 Christian parents, under the loss of offspring
H. J. Madam,
7 November, 1728. Yesterday, from Mr. Sewall's directed to you, which might hand, I received the favour of carry in it some balm for an afseveral letters from my friends flicted spirit. By his informain New England, and a particu- tion I find, I am not an utter lar account of that sharp and sur- stranger to your family and kinprising stroke of Providence, dred. Mr. Lee, your venerable ihat has made a painful and last- grandfather, was predecessor to ing wound in your soul. He Mr. Thomas Rowe, my honour. desired a letter from my hand, ed tutor, and once my pastor in
my younger years. Mr. Pea- God taken them from your arms? cock, who married your eldest And had not you given them to aunt, was my intimate friend. God before ? Had you not deMrs. Bishop and Mrs. Wirley voted them to him in baptism?
both my acquaintance, Are you displeased that God calls though my long illness, and for his own? Was not your heart my absence from London, has sincere in the resignation of them inade me a stranger to their pos- to him? Show then, Madam, terity, whom I knew when the sincerity of your heart in children. But now I know not leaving them in the hand of God. who of them are living or where. Do you say, they are lost? Not Dr. Cotton Mather, your late out of God's sight and God's father-in-law, was my yearly world, though they are gone out of correspondent, and I lament the our sight and our world, loss of him. But the loss you live to God." You may hope have sustained is of a tenderer the spreading covenant of grace and more distressing kind. Yet has sheltered them from the seclet us see, whether there are not ond death.
ond death. They live, though suflicient springs of consolation, not with you. flowing all around you, to allay Are you ready to complain, the smart of so sharp a sorrow. you have brought forth for the And may the Lord open your grave ? It may be so, but not in eyes, as he did the eyes of Hagar vain. Is. Ixv. 25. “ They shall in the wilderness, to espy the not labour in vain, nor bring forth spring of water, when she was for trouble ; (i. e. for sorrow dying with thirst, and her child without hope) for they are the over against her ready to ex- seed of the blessed of the Lor and pire. Gen. xxi. 19.
their offspring with them.” This Have you lost two lovely chil- has been a sweet text to many a dren? Did you make them your mother, when their children are idols? If you did, God has saved called away betimes. And the you from idolatry. If you did prophet Jeremy, ch.xxxi. 15, 17. not, you have your God still, and has very comfortable words to a creature cannot be miserable, allay the same sorrows. Did who has a God. The little you please yourself in what comwords “ My God” have infinite- forts you might have derived more sweetness than “my sons" from them in maturer years? or“ my daughters" Were they But, Madam, do you consider very desirable blessings? Your sufficiently, that God has taken God calls you to the nobler sacri- them away from the evil to come, fice. Can you give up these to him and hid them in the grave from at his call? So was Isaac, when the prevailing and mischievous Abraham was required to part with temptations of a degenerate age ? him at God's altar. Are you My brother's wife in Londen has not a daughter of Abraham ?buried 7 or 8 children, and aThen imitate his faith, his self mong them all her sons. This denial, his obedience, and make thought has reconciled her to your evidences of such a spirit- the providence of God, that the ual relation to him shine bright- temptations of young men in this er on this solemn occasion. Has age are so exceedingly great, and