« PreviousContinue »
can never shew that conduct to be a man's duty, which may not be clearly shewn to be his duty from the word of God ; much less that to be his duty, which is contrary to God's commandments. No one can know himself to be in a state of acceptance with God, or an heir of heaven, by new revelations ; nor in any other way than that which
him to be a true Christian according to the word of God. The testimony or “ witness of the Spirit” in the heart is in perfect unison with the testimony of the Spirit in scripture; and never witnesses with any man that he is one of the sons and heirs of God, who has not those filial affections, and is not influenced by them in that holy tenor of worship and obedience, by which the children of God are characterised in the sacred oracles. It must be acknowledged that some excellent men have dropped expressions, and even maintained tenets, in this respect, which are really exceptionable ; nay lead, when adopted by bad men, to most dangerous and pernicious consequences. Too much caution cannot be used on this subject, provided we do not veil or cloud the doctrine of the gospel : but, I apprehend, Calvinists in general, and the evangelical clergy in particular, are vastly more on their guard in these topics, than the body was some years ago ; and that he who would candidly and diligently investigate particulars would not, even on principles conceded in many parts of the Refutation, find much to censure on this head at present, except in comparatively a few instances.
Forcible conversions' are what we should never think of, if not reminded of them by our opponents : unless the grace of God by Christ pre
'venting us that we may have a good will,' (ut velimus,) and working in us when we have a good
will,' constitute a “forcible conversion.'— ' In'stantaneous conversions' will require, hereafter, a little further consideration. Something has been spoken of the sensible operations of the
Spirit:' but it may be added, that those influences, which either cause us to tremble at the word of God, or to mourn for sin, or to rejoice in God, must be sensible or perceivable : else how could we know it to be godly fear, or godly sorrow, or holy joy? or how could we be said to feel them?
* In short he disclaims what, in the language of • modern Calvinists, are called experiences; that ‘is, suggestions, or perceptions, known and felt to 'be communicated by the immediate inspiration of God.'1
This quotation may properly introduce another subject, very intimately connected with that which we have been investigating, namely, that of experiences.
The frequent use of this term is not peculiar to modern Calvinists, as distinguished from their predecessors; nor to Calvinists, as distinguished from numbers who at least consider themselves as Arminians. Neither is the annexed definition,
Ref. 73, 74.
or explanation, at all suited to convey the idea which Calvinists, and others of various descriptions, affix to the word EXPERIENCES. Indeed very few would, on careful and impartial investigation, be found, in the whole multitude who write, preach, and converse about experience, or who relate their experiences to ministers or Christians, so highly enthusiastic, as to mean by that term what is here stated as its common acceptation. In
In respect of a great majority, it is wholly foreign to all their sentiments and discourses on the subject.
But not further to insist on this; (though in imputing sentiments to large bodies of men, indiscriminately, rather more caution, surely, ought to be employed ;) I shall proceed to consider the subject, as a TOPIC IN THEOLOGY.
It is readily granted that EXPERIENCES have been spoken of by numbers, both Calvinists and Anticalvinists, in a crude, unscriptural, and often enthusiastical manner. But careful investigation and candid discrimination would shew, that a large proportion of modern Calvinists, and of the evangelical clergy, are free from blame in this respect ; that others can only be made offenders on account of a few unguarded words, often counteracted by the general tenor of the discourse in which they are contained ; and that it would be an undertaking of no small difficulty, to substantiate in its full extent, against a single individual, the charge brought by his Lordship against modern Calvinists in general.
We wholly disclaim, as has been stated, “new revelations :' and suggestions' is a word which
we would use very cautiously ; lest it should mislead our hearers or readers, as it has been greatly perverted by enthusiasts. Indeed, as it appears to me, some of us are much more cautious in this respect than our opponents are: for the word occurs several times in «The Refutation of Calvinism.'' Yet the Spirit of God doth suggest to our minds many things, through the medium of scripture, or of scriptural instruction, which we may
know to be from him. Allow me to explain my meaning, by what I myself once experienced. Returning home from some diligent and selfdenying attempts to relieve disease, as well as to instruct and aid the devotions of the sick and their friends; I was so wearied out, with what I thought base ingratitude from several of the persons concerned, that I was secretly resolving to do no more for them, but to leave them to the consequences of their perverseness. At this moment, the words of the apostle, “ Be not overcome of “evil, but overcome evil with good,” ? at once oceurred to my mind with peculiar energy. They in a moment convinced me of my sin and folly, set me right, induced me to proceed; and the whole ended in a most comfortable and creditable manner. Now all holy desires, all good counsels,
and all just works' are from God: the state of my mind was wholly opposed to the text suggested: it taught me no new duty, but reminded me of what I had forgottten: and, if it be enthusiasm to call this a suggestion from the Holy Spirit, I am willing to be considered as an enthu
* Ref. 32, 64.
Rom. xii. 21.
siast.- I should not have mentioned it here, had not I thought it might help the reader to discriminate, on an important subject, between what is scriptural and holy, and what is unscriptural and unholy.
The word experience does not often occur in scripture: but the thing intended by those who more soberly use it is continually introduced : for they do not mean 'suggestions or perceptions ' known and felt to be communicated by the im'mediate inspiration of God;' but simply the effects, which they experience, as produced on their minds and hearts, by reading, hearing, meditating, or conversing on religious subjects. “ Did not our hearts burn within us, while he “ talked to us by the way, and opened to us the
scripture?” This would by many be called ' the experience' of these two disciples.- Immediate inspiration' most persons consider as peculiar to prophets and apostles; and protest against the use of the term by any modern. Even the term inspiration would be used with more hesitation by us, if it were not sanctioned in our liturgy:2 yet it but seldom occurs in our writings. But we suppose that divine truth, accompanied by the effectual teaching and influence of the Holy Spirit, so powerfully affects the heart of all who truly believe it, as to produce an entire change in their views and judgment, concerning God and themselves, time and eternity, holiness and sin; and especially concerning Christ and his salva
Luke xxiv. 32.