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ful patience, seems to be still waiting to give us opportunity thus to acknowledge and honor him. But if we finally refuse, there is not the least reason to expect any other, than that his awful curse will pursue us, and that the pourings out of his wrath will be proportionable to the despised outpourings of his Spirit and grace.
SHOWING, IN MANY INSTANCES, WHEREIN THE SUBJECTS, OR ZEALOUS PROMOTERS OF THIS WORK, HAVE BEEN INJURIOUSLY BLAMED.
THIS work that has lately been carried on in the land, is the work of God, and not the work of man. Its beginning has not been of man's power or device, and its being carried on depends not on our strength or wisdom; but yet God expects of all, that they should use their utmost endeavors to promote it, and that the hearts of all should be greatly engaged in this affair, and that we should improve our utmost strength in it, however vain human strength is without the power of God; and so he no less requires that we should improve our utmost care, wisdom, and prudence, though human wisdom, of itself, be as vain as human strength. Though God is wont to carry on such a work, in such a manner, as many ways to show the weakness and vanity of means and human endeavors in themselves, yet at the same time he carries it on in such a manner as to encourage diligence and vigilance in the use of proper means and endeavors, and to punish the neglect of them. Therefore, in our endeavors to promote this great work, we ought to use the utmost caution, vigilance, and skill, in the measures we take in order to it. A great affair should be managed with great prudence: this is the most important affair that ever New England was called to be concerned in. When a people are engaged in war
with a powerful and crafty nation, it concerns them to manage an affair of such consequence with the utmost discretion. Of what vast importance then must it be, that we should be vigilant and prudent in the management of this great war that New England now has, with so great a host of such subtle and cruel enemies, wherein we must either conquer or be conquered, and the consequence of the victory on one side, will be our eternal destruction, in both soul and body in hell, and on the other side, our obtaining the kingdom of heaven, and reigning in it in eternal glory? We had need always to stand on our watch, and to be well versed in the art of war, and not to be ignorant of the devices of our enemies, and to take heed lest by any means we be beguiled through their subtlety.
Though the devil be strong, yet in such a war as this, he depends more on his craft than his strength: and the course he has chiefly taken, from time to time, to clog, hinder, and overthrow revivals of religion in the church of God, has been by his subtle, deceitful management, to beguile and mislead those that have been engaged therein; and in such a course God has been pleased, in his holy and sovereign providence, to suffer him to succeed, oftentimes, in a great measure, to overthrow that which, in its beginning, appeared most hopeful and glorious. The work that is now begun in New England, is, as I have shown, eminently glorious, and if it should go on and prevail, would make New England a kind of heaven upon earth is it not, therefore, a thousand pities, that it should be overthrown, through wrong and improper management, that we are led into by our subtle adversary, in our endeavors to promote it ?
In treating of the methods that ought to be taken to promote this work, I would,
First, Take notice, in some instances, wherein fault has been found with the conduct of those that have appeared to be the subjects of it, or have been zealous to promote it (as I apprehend) beyond just cause.
Secondly, I would show what things ought to be corrected or avoided.
Thirdly, I would show positively what ought to be done to promote this glorious work of God.
I. I would take notice of some things at which offense has been taken without, or beyond just cause.
The objection that ministers address themselves to the affections, rather than the understanding.
ONE thing that has been complained of, is ministers' addressing themselves rather to the affections of their hearers, than to their understandings, and striving to raise their passions to the utmost height, rather by a very affectionate manner of speaking, and a great appearance of earnestness, in voice and gesture, than by clear reasoning, and informing their judgment; by which means it is objected that the affections are moved without a proportionable enlightening of the understanding.
To which I would say, I am far from thinking that it is not very profitable for ministers, in their preaching, to endeavor clearly and distinctly to explain the doctrines of religion, and unravel the difficulties that attend them, and to confirm them with strength of reason and argumentation, and also to observe some easy and clear method and order in their discourses, for the help of the understanding and memory; and it is very probable that these things have been of late too much neglected by many ministers; yet I believe that the objection that is made, of affections raised without enlightening the understanding, is in a great measure built on a mistake, and confused notions that some have about the nature and cause of the affections, and the manner in
which they depend on the understanding. All affections are raised either by light in the understanding, or by some error and delusion in the understanding; for all affections do certainly arise from some apprehension in the understanding, and that apprehension must either be agreeble to truth, or else be some mistake or delusion; if it be an apprehension or notion that it is agreeable to truth, then it is light in the understanding. Therefore the thing to be inquired into is, whether the apprehensions or notions of divine and eternal things, that are raised in people's minds by these affectionate preachers, whence their affections are excited, be apprehensions that are agreeable to truth, or whether they are mistakes. If the former, then the affections are raised the way they should be, viz. by informing the mind, or conveying light to the understanding. They go away with a wrong notion, that think that those preachers cannot affect their hearers by enlightening their understanding, that do not do it by such a distinct and learned handling of the doctrinal points of religion as depends on human discipline, or the strength of natural reason, and tends to enlarge their hearers' learning and speculative knowledge in divinity. The manner of preaching without this may be such as shall tend very much to set divine and eternal things in a right view, and to give the hearers such ideas and apprehensions of them as are agreeable to truth, and such impressions on their hearts as are answerable to the real nature of things: and not only the words that are spoken, but the manner of speaking, is one thing that has a great tendency to this. I think an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them; but on the contrary, a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dull, indifferent way of speaking of them. An appearance of affection and earnestness in the manner of delivery, if it be very great indeed, yet if it be agreeable to the nature of the subject, and be not beyond a proportion to