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newing sinners must accord with his work in the affair of inspiration. Here, then, is the grand, comprehensive rule, by which our religion must be examined before the tribunal of conscience now, and before the tribunal of Christ at the judgment day. What is conformed to God’s word will be as gold, silver, and precious stones in the building of the church. But that which is not conformed to God’s word, whatever else it may have to recommend it, will be as hay, wood, and stubble, which are consumed by the fire. But in order to guard against the various forms of error, it is necessary that this subject be more minutely and thoroughly analized. The first remark, which occurs, is, that in eacherimental reIigion we must find a conformity to evangelical truth. In consequence of renewing grace, sinners receive the truth in love. Their affections harmonize with the doctrines of inspiration. Does the Bible teach, that God is a holy, just, and sovereign God, who has chosen the wisest and most benevolent plan of operation, and does all things after the counsel of his own will and to his own eternal honour ! With such a God they are pleased. In such a government they confide. They rejoice that the dominion of God is without limits, his agency without control, his justice inflexible, and ail his perfections the same yesterday, and today, and forever. Does revelation teach that all the posterity of Adam are by nature children of disobedience, wholly degenerate, voluntary slaves of sin, and heirs of perdition ? They ac
knowledge the description just, and, in view of it, are willing to be humbled before God. Does the gospel teach the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the justification of believers by grace through the righteousness of Christ, their entire dependence on God, and their certain perseverance in holiness : In these and other congenial doctrines believers feel a cordial complacency. Those evil passions, by which their minds were once benighted, and which always resisted the light of the gospel, when it began to dawn upon them, are now subdued, and a heart is given them, which operates in unison with the holy scheme of evangelical truth. It is fact, not only that experimental godliness corresponds with gospel doctrines, but also that those doctrines have an important instrumental concern in producing the first exercise and the subsequent growth of all true religion. Christians are born of the word of God. They are sanctified through the truth. Their religious character is formed under the influence of the peculiar principles of Christianity. The motives which actuate them, the moral springs of all their pious affections, are found in that scheme of doctrine, of which Christ crucifted is the foundation, the sum, and the glory. Here, Christians, is a criterion, by which to judge of exfierimental religion in ourselves and others. Does it harmonize with the obvious sense of revelation 2 Does it coalesce with the doctrines of grace 2 Does it exist, and ofterate, and advance toward fierfection under their influence 3 If persons deny the doctrines of man's native depravity and total dependence on sovereign grace, the Deity and atonement of Christ, God's electing love, or the Spirit's agency in recovering sinners to holiness, and hold the contrary doctrines; their religious experience, however showy and abundant, is to be greatly suspected. Churches that owe their existence or increase to a religious system, in which the doctrines of grace are not solemnly recognized and uniformly supported, ought with trembling to anticipate the day, whose light shall “try every man’s work of what sort it is,” and publicly show of what materials the churches are composed. The second mark, which experimental religion must bear, is a corresfondence with the law of God. In the renovation of our nature by the Holy Spirit, God’s law is written usion the heart ; or, to lay aside the metaphor, a disposition is given, which exactly answers to the precepts of the moral law. . True religion contains, as its living and enlivening soul, that supreme love to God, which is required by the first and great command, and that undissembled, equal love to mankind, which is required by the second. Believers have an impartial affection for their fellow creatures, duly estimate their immortal interests, and, with fervent, steady zeal, seek their welfare. Religion begins, when holy love begins, and arrives at perfection, when love is made perfect. As religion corresponds with the all comprehensive command, which requires love, it corresponds with all the rest. It leads to sincere, cheerful, and universal obedience. It
would be easy to show, that this conformity of religion to the di- s vine law is the same in reality with that conformity to evangelical truth, mentioned above. The shirit of faith, which receives divine truth, is the shirit, which obeys the divine law. Divine truth and the divine law both bear the image of God; both express his moral character. Conformity to the one, therefore, necessarily implies conformity to the other. Hence we learn the radical mistake of those, who imagine that they yield obedience to the moral law, while they reject evangelical truth. Hence also we see the falsity and absurdity, which mark the religion of those, who pretend to believe evangelical truth, and yet live in disobedience to the moral law. This second article presents an inquiry, which we should make with seriousness, if we would ascertain the nature of our religion. Does it bear the stamp of God’s holy law 2 An inquiry of this kind might soon convince us, that much of what is called experimental religion in ourselves and others, instead of being the product of the Holy Spirit, is the work of a disordered imagination, or a deceitful heart. Another mark, which exfierimental religion must bear, is conformity to Jesus Christ. He is the perfect pattern of all Christian goodness. He hath set us an example not only of outward conduct, but of inward feeling. If, then, we would come to a right conclusion respecting persons, who profess to be experimentally acquainted with religion, we must inquire, whether
they have anything of that pure, holy love, which reigned in the Messiah 2 Is it their first desire and prayer, as it was his, that God may be glorified in the kingdom of grace : Have they any thing of his humility, piety, and heavenly mindedness; his ready and delightful obedience; his unreserved submission to the divine will ; his silent meekness under reproach and cruelty; and his tender mercy and forgiveness toward his enemies : In short, does it appear, that their religion was learned from the amiable pattern of him, who was meek and lowly in heart : If it be so, we may safely conclude, that their experience is the effect of divine grace. For neither the wicked one, nor the natural passions of the heart will ever tolerate, much less produce a religion, which is stamped with the lovely character of Christ. Now if this be the sure standard, how many things, sometimes called experimental piety, must be wholly set aside 2 How many reputed conversions must be considered, as only a turning from one form of wickedness to another Is spiritual pride, a forward, pompous, self-righteous zeal, noisy speaking, violent bodily exercise, or any other indecency, an ingredient in that religion, which has the blessed Jesus for its model 2 I mention as another characteristic of true religion, that it implies a great and universal change of heart. Without supposing this, the language of inspiration appears unmeaning and absurd, or extravagant and delusive; as night be easily shown by referring to particulars. The affections, which constitute true
religión, are new affections; af. sections of a different kind from any which the unrenewed exercise ; and not only of a different kind, but arising from a different source. Self love, operated upon by the fear of punishment and the hope of happiness, often occasions a train of exercises, which are mistaken for experimental religion. But in many passages of scripture it is plainly affirmed or implied, that the origin of religion is not to be found in any power or principle of man, but in the gracious agency of God. The mind of man is the subject of religion, and his rational faculties are all active in it. But, for its origin, or cause, we must look to the Spirit of God. What, then, shall we think of those religious affections, however boasted of by some, which can be easily accounted for, without supposing any supernatural agency, and are, indeed, nothing but a particular modification of the principles of our corrupt nature ? If any religion, founded on self love, or springing from it, would correspond with the demands of the gospel, or answer the purposes of salvation ; what need would there be of the renewing of the Holy Ghost; of being quickened, or raised from the dead ; of being wrought usion by divine flower; in short, of being born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God 2 I add one more remark. Genuine religion froceeds from the real tem/her of the heart, and not from the warmth of the passions. The Israelites, after having escaped their merciless pursuers, who were drowned in the Red Sea, and on other extraordinary occasions, united in praising God, and appeared to have avery fervent piety. But from what followed it is evident, that their religious affections, instead of having a connexion with the real temper of their hearts, were merely the working of their passions, excited by extraordinary events. Saul was melted by the amiable conduct of David, and appeared to have benevolent and pious emotions. But his emotions were the effect of outward circumstances operating upon his passions, his heart still remaining as envious and murderous as ever. That religion, which is produced by the sudden heat of the passions, is transient as the morning cloud and early dew. But true religion, being seated in the heart, is uniform and permanent, like the natural affections. In consequence of some occasional excitement a person may feel a few kind emotions toward those, against whom he indulges habitual malice. But when that occasional excitement of tender feeling subsides, his malice returns. But the kind emotions of a parent toward his children depend not on the operation of extraordinary causes upon his passions, but flow from the real temper of his heart. Parental love continues to operate, when his mind is in the most tranquil state. It is so with true piety in the soul. It depends not on the solemnity of the Sabbath, nor on the warmth of a religious meeting, nor on the influence of striking occurrences, nor on any unusual impulse whatsoever ; although these may occasion its higher exercises. In seasons of calm Wol. III. No. 9.
retirement, when the passions are all serene, when the heart, freed from restraint, acts itself, and nothing, but the unchangeable objects of religion, operate as motives ; in such quiet seasons, believers are alive to God. Religion exerts its gentle power in their souls, when sensible objects make the least impression. It mingles with their meditations in solitude, with their conversation in company, with their diligence in business, and with the tranquil, silent enjoyments of domestic life. Thus it appears, that their religion is a durable firincifle, a tem/her of the soul, a law in their minds, written and engraven on their hearts. If, then, we would form a correct judgment of experimental religion in any particular instances, we must not think it sufficient to observe its features and operations in the first warmth of affection, or in any time of incidental animation. Occasional excitements must pass away, sudden emotions subside, and the mind come down to its own proper state, before men will feel and act according to their real character. Watch, then, therefore, till you have opportunity to see, whether their religion be a wind which, in passing, gives motion to the light, airy things on the surface of the soul, or that water which Christ gives, which becomes an unfailing fountain in believers, springing up to everlasting life. Possibly, when this gust of passion ceases, and the mind settles into its resting place, the religion, which promised so fairly a few weeks or months ago, will be like the seed falling upon stony places, which suddenly springs up, but having no root, as suddenly withers away. But if, in any persons, a religion, appearing to be constituted of passionate emotions, should prove more lasting ; then watch its motions and its progress. See whether it be a bright meteor carried about in the air, or a star in the firmament of heaven. See whether the passions, which the reputed converts display, are those which the gospel sanctions; whether they partake of the meekness and gentleness of Christ, or of the ostentation and proud confidence of the Pharisees ; and whether it appear, from their uniform conduct, that their heart is interested as well, as their passions warmed. Churches of Christ, it is hoped that the foregoing remarksarising from a deep concern for your peace and prosperity, will be
seriously considered, and faithfully applied. Forget them not in the important work of self examination, and in attending to the qualifications of those, who wish to be admitted to your holy communion, and of those, who offer themselves as candidates for the gospel ministry. Forget them not when forming a judgment of revivals of religion, and of the various descriptions of conversion and Christian piety, which you hear from the sacred desk. Be not deceived by counterfeit appearances ; be not misguided by the ingenuity of error. Diligently use all your advantages, as children of the light, and humbly remember your dignity, as the ground and fillar of the truth, and the repository of evangelical religion. PAstor.
The Cofty of a Letter from the celebrated Dr. Isaac Watts to Madam Sewall, usion the death of her children, having lately fallen into my hands, I have suftflowed it worthy of fublication in your very useful work, as the sentiments are singularly calculated to give