« AnteriorContinuar »
this day to be an uncommon hand of Divine Providence, in animating, enabling, and upholding some ministers in such abundant labors.
Ministers blamed for making much of outcries, faintings, and bodily effects.
ANOTHER thing wherein I think some ministers have been injured, is in being very much blamed for making so much of outcries, faintings, and other bodily effects; speaking of them as tokens of the presence of God, and arguments of the success of preaching; seeming to strive to their utmost to bring a congregation to that pass, and seeming to rejoice in it, yea even blessing God for it, when they see these effects.
Concerning this I would observe, in the first place, that there are many things, with respect to cryings out, falling down, &c., that are charged on ministers, that they are not guilty of. Some would have it that they speak of these things as certain evidences of a work of the Spirit of God on the hearts of their hearers, or that they esteem these bodily effects themselves to be the work of God, as though the Spirit of God took hold of, and agitated the bodies of men ; and some are charged with making these things essential, and supposing that persons cannot be converted without them; whereas I never yet could see the person that held either of these things.
But for speaking of such effects as probable tokens of God's presence, and arguments of the success of preaching, it seems to me they are not to be blamed; because I think they are so indeed and therefore when I see them excited by preaching the important truths of God's word, urged and enforced
by proper arguments and motives, or as consequent on any other means that are good, I do not scruple to speak of them, and to rejoice in them, and bless God for them as such; and that for this (as I think) good reason, viz. that from time to time, upon proper inquiry and examination, and observation of the consequences and fruits, I have found that these are. all evidences that the persons in whom these effects appear, are under the influences of God's Spirit in such cases. Cryings out, in such a manner, and with such circumstances as I have seen them from time to time, is as much an evidence to me, of the general cause it proceeds from, as language: I have learned the meaning of it the same way that persons learn the meaning of language, viz. by use and experience. I confess that when I see a great crying out in a congregation, in the manner that I have seen it, when those things are held forth to them that are worthy of their being greatly affected by, I rejoice in it much more than merely in an appearance of solemn attention, and a show of affection by weeping; and that because when there have been those outcries, I have found from time to time a much greater and more excellent effect. To rejoice that the work of God is carried on calmly, without much ado, is in effect to rejoice that it is carried on with less power, or that there is not so much of the influence of God's Spirit: for though the degree of the influence of the Spirit of God on particular persons is by no means to be judged of by the degree of external appearances, because of the different constitutions, tempers, and circumstances of men; yet if there be a very powerful influence of the Spirit of God on a mixed multitude, it will cause, some way or other, a great visible commotion.
And as to ministers' aiming at such effects, and striving by all means to bring a congregation to that pass, that there should be such an uproar among them; I suppose none aim at it any otherwise, than as they strive to raise the affections. of their hearers to such a height as very often appears in these effects; and if it be so, that those affections are com
monly good, and it be found by experience that such a degree of them commonly has a good effect, I think they are to be justified in so doing.
Ministers blamed for keeping persons together that are under great affections.
AGAIN, some ministers have been blamed for keeping persons together, that have been under great affections, which have appeared in such extraordinary outward manifestations. Many think this promotes confusion, that persons in such circumstances do but discompose each others' minds, and disturb the minds of others; and that therefore it is best they should be dispersed, and that when any in a congregation are strongly seized, that they cannot forbear outward manifestations of it, they should be removed that others' minds may not be diverted.
But I cannot but think that those that thus object go upon quite wrong notions of things: for though persons ought to take heed that they do not make an ado without necessity; for this will be the way in time to have such appearances lose all their effect; yet the unavoidable manifestations of strong religious affections tend to a happy influence on the minds of by-standers, and are found by experience to have an excellent and durable effect; and so to contrive and order things, that others may have opportunity and advantage to observe them, has been found to be blessed, as a great means to promote the work of God; and to prevent their being in the way of observation, is to prevent the effect of that which God makes use of as a principal means of carrying on his work at such an extraordinary time, viz. example; which is often
spoken of in scripture as one of the chief means by which God would carry on his work, in the time of the prosperity of religion in the latter days: I have mentioned some texts already to this purpose, in what I published before, of the marks of a work of the true Spirit; but would here mention some others. In Zech. ix. 15, 16., those that in the latter day should be filled in an extraordinary manner with the Holy Spirit, so as to appear in outward manifestations, and making a noise, are spoken of as those that God, in these uncommon circumstances, will set up to the view of others, as a prize or ensign, by their example and the excellency of their attainments, to animate and draw others, as men gather about an ensign, and run for a prize, a crown, and precious jewels, set up in their view. The words are, "And they shall drink, and make a noise, as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar: and the Lord their God shall save them, in that day, as the flock of his people; for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land." (But I shall have occasion to say something more of this scripture afterwards.) Those that make the objection I am upon, instead of suffering this prize or ensign to be in public view, are for having it removed, and hid in some corner. To the like purpose is that, Isa. Ixii. 3. "Thou shalt be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem, in the hand of thy God." Here it is observable, that it is not said, Thou shalt be a crown upon the head, but in the hand of the Lord, i. e. held forth in thy beauty and excellency, as a prize, to be bestowed upon others that shall behold thee, and be animated by the brightness and lustre which God shall endow thee with. The great influence of the example of God's people, in their bright and excellent attainments, to propagate religion in those days, is further signified in Isa. lx. 3. "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." With ver. 22. "A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation." And Zech.
x. 8, 9. "And they shall increase, as they have increased; and I will sow them among the people." And Hos. ii. 23. "And I will sow her unto me in the earth." So Jer. xxxi.
Objection against speaking much, and with great earnestness, by persons affected.
ANOTHER thing that gives great disgust to many, is the disposition that persons show, under great affections, to speak so much, and with such earnestness and vehemence, to be setting forth the greatness, and wonderfulness, and importance of divine and eternal things, and to be so passionately warning, inviting, and entreating others. Concerning which I would say, that I am far from thinking that such a disposition should be wholly without any limits or regulation (as I shall more particularly show afterwards); and I believe some have erred in setting no bounds, and indulging and encouraging this disposition without any kind of restraint or direction but yet it seems to me that such a disposition in general, is what both reason and scripture will justify. Those that are offended at such things, as though they were unreasonable, are not just upon examination it will probably be found that they have one rule of reasoning about temporal things, and another about spiritual things. They will not at all wonder, if a person, on some very great and affecting occasion of extraordinary danger or great joy, that eminently and immediately concerns him and others, is disposed to speak much, and with great earnestness, especially to those to whom he is united in the bonds of dear affection, and great concern for their good. And therefore if they were