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that they have : If some person is among them to conduct them, that much countenances and encourages such kind of outward manifestations of great affections, they naturally and insensibly prevail, and grow by degrees unavoidable ; but when afterwards they come under another kind of conduct, the manner of external appearances will strangely alter : And yet it seems to be without any proper design or contrivance of those in whom there is this alteration ; it is not properly affected by them, but the influence of example and custom is secret and insensible to the persons themselves. These things have a vast influence in the manner of persons manifestins their joys, whether with smiles and an air of lightness, or whether with more solemnity and reverence; and so they have a great influence as to the disposition persons have, under high affections, to abound in talk; and also as to the manner of their speaking, the loudness and vehemence of their speech ; (though it would be exceeding unjust, and against all the evidence of fact and experience, and the reason of things, to lay all dispositions persons have to be much in speaking to others, and to speak in a very earnest manner, to custom.) It is manifest that example and custom has some way or other, a secret and unsearchable influence on those actions that are involuntary, by the difference that there is in different places, and in the same places at different times, according to the diverse examples and conduct that they have.
Therefore, though it would be very unreasonable, and prejudicial to the interest of religion, to frown upon all these extraordinary external effects and manifestations of great religious affections, (for a measure of them is natural, necessary and beautiful, and the effect in no wise disproportioned to the spiritual cause, and is of great benefit to promote religion) yet I think they greatly err who think that these things should be wholly unlimited, and that all should be encouraged in going in these things to the utmost length that they feel themselves inclined to : The consequence of this will be very bad : There ought to be a gentle restraint held upon these things, and there should be a prudent care taken of persons in such extraordinary circumstances, and they should be moderately ado
VOL. III, 2 N
vised at proper seasons, not to make more ado than there is need of, but rather to hold a restraint upon their inclinations ; othorwise extraordinary outward effects will grow upon them, they will be more and more natural and unavoidable, and the extraordinary outward show will increase, without any increase of the internal cause ; persons will find themselves under a kind of necessity of making a great ado, with less and less afsection of soul, until at length almost any slight emotion will set them going, and they will be more and more violent and boisterous, and will grow louder and louder, until their actions and behavior becomes indeed very absurd. These things experience proves.
Thus I have taken notice of the more general causes whence the errors that have attended this great revival of religion have risen, and under each head have observed some particular errors that have flowed from these fountains. I now proceed as I proposed in the
Second place, to take notice of some particular errors that have risen from several of these causes ; in some perhaps they have been chiefly owing to one, and in others to another, and in others to the influence of several, or all conjunctly. And here the
1st Thing I would take notice of, is, censuring others that are professing Christians, in good standing in the visible church, as unconverted. I need not repeat what I have elsewhere said to shew this to be against the plain, and frequent, and strict prohibitions of the word of God : It is the worst disease that has attended this work, most contrary to the spirit and rules of Christianity, and of worse consequences. There is a most unhappy tincture that the minds of many, both ministers and people have received that way. The manner of many has beer, when they first enter into conversation with any person, that seems to have any shew or make any pretences to religion, to discern him, or to fix a judgment of him, from his manner of talking of things of religion, whether he be converted, or experimentally acquainted with vital piety or not, and then to treat him accordingly, and freely to express their thoughts of him to others, especially those that
they have a good opinion of as true Christians, and accepted as brethren and companions in Christ; or if they do not declare their minds expressly, yet by their manner of speaking of them, at least to their friends, they will show plainly what their thoughts are. So when they have heard any ininister pray or preach, their first work has been to observe him on a design of discerning him, whether he be a converted man or no; whether he prays like one that feels the saving power of God's Spirit in his heart, and whether he preaches like one that knows what he says. It has been so much the way in some places, that many new converts do not know but it is their duty to do so, they know no other way. And when once persons yield to such a notion, and give in to such a humor, they will quickly grow yery discerning in their own apprehension, they think they can easily tell a hypocrite : And when once they have passed their censure every thing seems to confirm it, they see more and more in the person that they have censured, that seems to them to shew plainly that he is an unconverted man. And then, if the person censured be a minister, every thing in his public performances seems dead and sapless, and to do them no good at all, but on the contrary to be of deadening influence, and poisonous to the soul ; yea, it seems worse and worse to them, his preaching grows more and more intolerable : Which is owing to a secret, strong prejudice, that steals in more and more upon the mind, as ex: perience plainly and certainly shows. When the Spirit of God was wonderfully poured out in this place, more than sev. en years ago, and near thirty souls in a week, take one with another, for five or six weeks together, were to appearance brought home to Christ, and all the town seemed to be alive and full of God, there was no such notion or humor prevailing here ; when ministers preached here, as very many did at that time, young and old, our people did not go about to discern whether they were men of experience or not : They did not know that they must : Mr. Stoddard never brought them up in that way ; it did not seem natural to them to go about any thing of that nature, nor did any such thing enter into their hearts; but when any minister preached, the business of every
one was to listen and attend to what he said, and apply it to his own heart, and make the utmost improvement of it. And it is remarkable, that never did there appear such a disposition in the people, to relish, approve of, and admire ministers preaching as at that time : Such expressions as these were frequent in the mouths of one and another, on occasion of the preaching of strangers here, viz. That they rejoiced that there were 80 many such eminent ministers in the country; and they wondered they never heard the fame of them before : They were thankful that other towns had so good means ; and the like.... And scarcely ever did any minister preach here, but his preaching did some remarkable service; as I had good opportunity to know, because at that time, I had particular acquaintance with most of the persons in the town, in their soul con
That it has been so much otherwise of late in many places in the land, is another instance of the secret and powerful influence of custom and example.
There has been an unhappy disposition in some ministers towards their brethren in the ministry in this respect, which has encouraged and greatly promoted such a spirit among some of their people. A wrong improvement has been made of Christ's scourging the buyers and sellers out of the temple ; it has been expected by some, that Christ was now about thus to purge his house of unconverted ministers, and this has made it more natural to them to think that they should do Christ service, and act as coworkers with him, to put to their hand, and endeavor by all means to cashier those ministers that they thought to be unconverted. Indeed it appears to me probable that the time is coming, when awful judgments will be executed on unfaithful ministers, and that no sort of men in the world will be so much exposed to divine judg. ments ; but then we should leave that work to Christ, who is the searcher of hearts, and to whom vengeance belongs ; and not without warrant, take the scourge out of his hand into our own. There has been too much of a disposition in some, as it were to give ministers over as reprobates, that have been looked upon as wolves in sheep's clothing ; which has tended to promote and encourage a spirit of bitterness towards them,
and to make it natural to treat them too much as if they knew God hated them. If God's children knew that others were reprobates, it would not be required of them to love them ; we may hate those that we know God hates; as it is lawful to hate the devil, and as the saints at the day of judgment will hate the wicked. Some have been too apt to look for fire from heaven upon particular ministers; and this has naturally excited that disposition to call for it, that Christ rebuked in his disciples at Samaria. For my part, though I believe no sort of men on earth are so exposed to spiritual judgments as wicked ministers, yet I feel no disposition to treat any minister as if I supposed that he was finally rejected of God; for I cannot but hope that there is coming a day of such great grace, a time so appointed for the magnifying the riches and sovereignty of divine mercy, beyond what ever was, that a great number of unconverted ministers will oblain mercy. There was no sort of persons in Christ's time that were so guilty, and so hardened, and towards whom Christ manifested such great indignation, as the Priests and Scribes, and there were .no such persecutors of Christ and his disciples as they; and yet in that great outpouring of the spirit that began on the day of pentecost, though it began with the common people,
progress of the work, after awhile, a great company of priests in Jerusalem were obedient to the faith, Acts vi. 7. And Saul, one of the most violent of all the persecuting Pharisees, became afterwards the greatest promoter of the work of God that ever was. I hope we shall yet see in many instances a fulfilment of that in Isa. xxix. 24.“ They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine."
Nothing has been gained by this practice. The end that some have aimed at in it has not been obtained, nor is ever like to be. Possibly some have openly censured ministers, and encouraged their people's uneasiness under them, in hopes that it would soon come to that, that the uneasiness would be so general, and so great, that unconverted ininisters in general would be cast off, and that then things would go on lappiJy : But there is no likelihood of it. The devil indeed has ob
yet in the