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neglect and contempt. Late experience in some instances, has shown that the tendency of this notion is to cause persons to esteem the Bible as a book that is in a great measure useless.
This error will defend and support all errors. As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his misconduct: for what signifies it, for poor blind worms of the dust, to go to argue with a man, and endeavor to convince him and correct him, that is guided by the immediate counsels and commands of the great Jehovah ?
This great work of God has been exceedingly hindered by this error; and till we have quite taken this handle out of the devil's hands, the work of God will never go on without great clogs and hinderances. But Satan will always have a vast advantage in his hands against it, and as he has improved it hitherto, so he will do still and it is evident that the devil knows the vast advantage he has by it, that makes him exceeding loath to let go his hold.
It is strange what a disposition there is in many well-disposed and religious persons, to fall in with and hold fast this notion. It is enough to astonish one that such multiplied, plain instances of the failing of such supposed revelations, in the event, do not open every one's eyes. I have seen so many instances of the failing of such impressions, that would almost furnish a history: I have been acquainted with them when made under all kinds of circumstances, and have seen them fail in the event, when made with such circumstances as have been fairest and brightest, and most promising; as when they have been made upon the minds of such, as there was all reason to think were true saints, yea, eminent saints, and at the very time when they have had great divine discoveries, and have been in the high exercise of true communion with God, and made with great strength, and with great sweetness accompanying, and I have had reason to think with an excellent heavenly frame of spirit, yet continued,
and made with texts of scripture, that seemed to be exceeding apposite, yea, many texts following one another, extraordinarily and wonderfully brought to the mind, and with great power and majesty, and the impressions repeated over and over, after prayers to be directed; and yet all has most manifestly come to nothing, to the full conviction of the persons themselves. And God has in so many instances of late in his providence, covered such things with darkness, that one would think it should be enough quite to blank the expectations of such as have been ready to think highly of such things; it seems to be a testimony of God, that he has no design of reviving revelations in his church, and a rebuke from him to the groundless expectations of it.
It seems to me that that scripture, Zech. xiii. 5., is a prophecy concerning ministers of the gospel, in the latter and glorious day of the Christian church, which is evidently spoken of in this and foregoing chapters; the words are, "I am no prophet; I am a husbandman: for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth." The words, I apprehend, are to be interpreted in a spiritual sense; I am a husbandThe work of ministers is very often in the New Testament, compared to the business of the husbandman, that take care of God's husbandry, to whom he lets out his vineyard, and sends them forth to labor in his field, where one plants and another waters, one sows and another reaps; so ministers are called laborers in God's harvest. And as it is added, man taught me to keep cattle from my youth; so the work of a minister is very often in scripture represented by the business of a shepherd or pastor. And whereas it is said, I am no prophet; but man taught me from my youth: it is as much as to say, I do not pretend to have received my skill, whereby I am fitted for the business of a pastor or shepherd in the church of God, by immediate inspiration, but by education, by being trained up to the business by human learning, and instructions I have received from my youth or childhood, by ordinary means.
And why cannot we be contented with the divine oracles, that holy, pure word of God, that we have in such abundance, and such clearness, now since the canon of scripture is completed? Why should we desire to have any thing added to them by impulses from above? Why should not we rest in that standing rule that God has given to his church, which the apostle teaches us is surer than a voice from heaven? And why should we desire to make the scripturc speak more to us than it does? Or why should any desire any higher kind of intercourse with Heaven, than that which is by having the Holy Spirit given in his sanctifying influences, infusing and exciting grace and holiness, love and joy, which is the highest kind of intercourse that the saints and angels in heaven have with God, and the chief excellency of the glorified man Christ Jesus?
Some that follow impulses and impressions, go away with a notion that they do not other than follow the guidance of God's word, and make the scripture their rule, because the impression is made with a text of scripture that comes to their mind, though they take that text as it is impressed on their minds, and improve it as a new revelation, to all intents and purposes, or as the revelation of a particular thing, that is now newly made, while the text in itself, as it is in the Bible, implies no such thing, and they themselves do not suppose that any such revelation was contained in it before. As for instance, suppose that text should come into a person's mind with strong impression, Acts ix. 6., "Arise, and go into the city; and it shall be told thee what thou must do." And he should interpret it as an immediate signification of the will of God, that he should now forthwith go to such a neighbor town, and as a revelation of that future event, viz. that there he should meet with a further discovery of his duty. If such things as these are revealed by the impression of these words, it is to all intents a new revelation, not the less because certain words of scripture are made use of in the case here are propositions or truths entirely new,
that are supposed now to be revealed, that those words do not contain in themselves, and that till now there was no revelation of any where to be found in heaven or earth. These propositions, that it is God's mind and will that such a person by name, should arise at such a time, and go from such a place to such a place, and that there he should meet with discoveries, are entirely new propositions, wholly different from the propositions contained in that text of scripture, no more contained, or consequently implied in the words themselves, without a new revelation, than it is implied that he should arise and go to any other place, or that any other person should arise and go to that place. The propositions supposed to be now revealed, are as really different from those contained in that scripture, as they are from the propositions contained in that text, Gen. v. 6., "And Seth lived a hundred and five years, and begat Enos."
This is quite a different thing from the Spirit's enlightening the mind to understand the precepts or propositions of the word of God, and know what is contained and revealed in them, and what consequences may justly be drawn from them, and to see how they are applicable to our case and circumstances; which is done without any new revelation, only by enabling the mind to understand and apply a revelation already made.
Those texts of scripture that speak of the children of God as led by the Spirit, have been by some brought to defend a being guided by such impulses; as particularly, those Rom. viii. 14., "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God:" and Gal. v. 18., "But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law." But these texts themselves confute them that bring them; for it is evident that the leading of the Spirit that the apostle speaks of is a gracious leading, or what is peculiar to the children of God, and that natural men cannot have; for he speaks of it as a sure evidence of their being the sons of God, and not under the law: but a leading or directing a
person, by immediately revealing to him where he should go, or what shall hereafter come to pass, or what shall be the future consequence of his doing thus or thus, if there be any such thing in these days, is not of the nature of the gracious leading of the Spirit of God, that is peculiar to God's children; it is no more than a common gift; there is nothing in it but what natural men are capable f, and many of them have had in the days of inspiration: a man may have ten thousand such revelations and directions from the Spirit of God, and yet not have a jot of grace in his heart: it is no more than the gift of prophecy, which immediately reveals what will be, or should be hereafter; but this is but a common gift, as the apostle expressly shows, 1 Cor. xiii. 2, 8. If a person has any thing revealed to him from God, or is directed to any thing by a voice from heaven, or a whisper, or words immediately suggested and put into his mind, there is nothing of the nature of grace merely in this; it is of the nature of a common influence of the Spirit, and is but dross and dung, in comparison of the excellency of that gracious leading of the Spirit that the saints have. Such a way of being directed where one shall go, and what he shall do, is no more than what Balaam had from God, who from time to time revealed to him what he should do, and when he had done one thing, then directed him what he should do next; so that he was in this sense led by the Spirit, for a considerable time. There is a more excellent way that the Spirit of God leads the sons of God, that natural men cannot have, and that is, by inclining them to do the will of God, and go in the shining path of truth and Christian holiness, from a holy, heavenly disposition, which the Spirit of God gives them, and enlivens in them, which inclines them, and leads them to those things that are excellent, and agreeable to God's mind, whereby they "are transformed, by the renewing of their minds, and prove what is that good, and aeceptable, and perfect will of God," as in Rom. xii. 2. And so the Spirit of God does in a gracious manner teach the