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and private worship, and to be utterly unable to keep themselves from them; also when they find themselves unaffected at seasons in which they think there is the greatest occasion to be affected; and when they feel worldly dispositions working in them, and it may be pride, and envy, and stirrings of revenge, or some ill spirit towards some person that has injured them, as well as other workings of indwelling sin: Their hearts are almost sunk with the disappointment; and they are ready presently.to think that all which they have met with is nothing, and that they are mere hypocrites.
They are ready to argue that if God had indeed done such great things for them as they hoped, such ingratitude is inconsistent with it: they cry out of the hardness and wickedness of their hearts; and say there is so much corruption, that it seems to them impossible that there should be any goodness there; and many of then seem to be much more sensible how corrupt their hearts are than ever they were before they were converted; and some have been too ready to be impressed with fear, that instead of becoming better, they are grown much worse, and make it an argument against the goodness of their state. But in truth the case seems plainly to be, that now they feel the pain of their own wound; they have a watchful eye upon their hearts, that they did not use to have they take more notice what sin is there, and sin is now more burthensome to them; they strive more against it, and feel more of the strength of it.
They are somewhat surprised that they should in this respect find themselves so different from the idea that they generally had entertained of godly persons; for though grace be indeed of a far more excellent nature than they imagined, yet those that are godly have much less of it, and much more remaining corruption than they thought. They never realized it, that persons were wont to meet with such difficulties after they were once converted. When they are thus exercised with doubts about their state, through the deadness of their frames of spirit, as long as these frames last,
'they are commonly unable to satisfy themselves of the truth of their grace, by all their self-examination. When they hear of the signs of grace laid down for them to try themselves by, they are often so clouded, that they do not know how to apply them: they hardly know whether they have such and such things in them or not, and whether they have experienced them or not; that which was sweetest, and best, and most distinguishing in their experiences, they cannot recover a sense or idea of.
But on a return of the influences of the Spirit of God to revive the lively actings of grace, the light breaks through the cloud, and doubting and darkness soon vanish away.
Persons are often revived out of their dead and dark frames, by religious conversation: while they are talking of divine things, or ever they are aware, their souls are carried away into holy exercises with abundant pleasure. And oftentimes while they are relating their past experiences totheir Christian brethren, they have a fresh sense of them revived, and the same experiences in a degree again renewed. Sometimes while persons are exercised in mind with several objections against the goodness of their state, they have scriptures, one after another, coming to their minds, to answer their scruples and unravel their difficulties, exceedingly apposite and proper to their circumstances; by which means their darkness is scattered; and often before the bestowment of any new remarkable comforts, especially after long continued deadness and ill frames, there are renewed humblings in a great sense of their own exceeding vileness and unworthiness, as before their first comforts were bestowed.
Of remarkable impressions on the imagination.
MANY in the country have entertained a mean thought of this great work that there has been among us, from what they have heard of impressions that have been made on persons' imaginations. But there have been exceedingly great misrepresentations, and innumerable false reports concerning that matter. It is not, that I know of, the profession or opinion of any one person in the town, that any weight is to be laid on any thing seen with the bodily eyes: I know the contrary to be a received and established principle among us. I cannot say that there have been no instances of persons that have been ready to give too much heed to vain and useless imaginations; but they have been easily corrected; and I conclude it will not be wondered at that a congregation should need a guide in such cases to assist them in distinguishing wheat from chaff. But such impressions on the imagination as have been inore usual, seem to me to be plainly no other than what is to be expected in human nature in such circumstances, and what is the natural result of the strong exercise of the mind, and impressions on the heart.
I do not suppose that they themselves imagined that they saw any thing with their bodily eyes; but only have had within them ideas strongly impressed, and as it were lively pictures in their minds; as for instance, some when in great terrors through fear of hell, have had lively ideas of a dreadful furnace. Some, when their hearts have been strongly impressed, and their affections greatly moved with a sense of the beauty and excellency of Christ, it has wrought on their imaginations so, that, together with a sense of his glorious spiritual perfections, there has arisen in the mind an idea of one of glorious majesty, and of a sweet and a gracious as
pect. So some, when they have been greatly affected with Christ's death, have at the same time a lively idea of Christ hanging upon the cross, and of his blood running from his wounds; which things will not be wondered at by them that have observed how strong affections about temporal matters, will excite lively ideas and pictures of different things in the mind.
But yet the vigorous exercise of the mind, does doubtless more strongly impress it with imaginary ideas in some, than in others, which probably may arise from the difference of constitution, and seems evidently in some partly to arise from their peculiar circumstances. When persons have been exercised with extreme terrors, and there is a sudden change to light and joy, the imagination seems more susceptive of strong ideas, and the inferior powers, and even the frame of the body, is much more affected and wrought upon, than when the same persons have as great spiritual light and joy afterwards; of which it might perhaps be easy to give a reason. The aforementioned Rev. Messrs. Lord and Owen, who, I believe, are esteemed persons of learning and discretion, where they are best known, declared that they found these impressions on persons' imaginations quite different things from what fame had before represented to them, and that they were what none need to wonder at, or be stumbled by, or to that purpose.
There have indeed been some few instances of impressions on persons' imaginations, that have been something mysterious to me, and I have been at a loss about them; for though it has been exceedingly evident to me by many things that appeared in them, both then (when they related them) and afterwards, that they indeed had a great sense of the spiritual excellency of divine things accompanying them; yet I have not been able well to satisfy myself, whether their imaginary ideas have been more than could naturally arise from their spiritual sense of things. However, I have used the utmost caution in such cases: great care has been taken
both in public and in private, to teach persons the difference between what is spiritual and what is merely imaginary. I have often warned persons not to lay the stress of their hope on any ideas of any outward glory, or any external thing whatsoever, and have met with no opposition in such instructions. But it is not strange if some weaker persons, in giving an account of their experienecs, have not so prudently distinguished between the spiritual and imaginary part; which some that have not been well affected to religion might take advantage of.
There has been much talk in many parts of the country, as though the people have symbolized with the Quakers, and the Quakers themselves have been moved with such reports; and came here, once and again, hoping to find good waters to fish in; but without the least success; and seem to be discouraged, and have left off coming. There have also been reports spread about the country, as though the first occasion of so remarkable a concern on peoples' minds here, was an apprehension that the world was near to an end, which was altogether a false report: Indeed after this stirring and concern became so general and extraordinary, as has been related, the minds of some were filled with speculation, what so great a dispensation of divine providence might forebode; and some reports were heard from abroad, as though certain divines and others thought the conflagration was nigh but such reports were never generally looked upon as worthy of notice.
The work that has now been wrought on souls is evidently the same that was wrought in my venerable predecessor's days; as I have had abundant opportunity to know, having been in the ministry here two years with him, and so conversed with a considerable number that my grandfather thought to be savingly converted in that time; and having been particularly acquainted with experiences of many that were converted under his ministry before. And I know no one of them that in the least doubts of its being of the same