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the external evidences of Christianity : in this I have given you a very brief sketch of those internal evidences, which serve to conform and illustrate the same important cause. By the former, the truth of the Christian religion is laid open to the understanding: by the latter it is made matter of fengble experience in the heart. That the glorious redeemer may enable you to feel the force of this reasoning to your unspeakable comfort here, and happiness hereafter, is the prayer of,
LETTER VI. Wberein fome OBJECTIONS against the INTERNAL EVIDENCES of ChrisTIANITY are confidered and answered.
'extravagant claim to extraordinary experiences in religion, lately made by fome who are evidently under
enthusiastick heats and delusions. But I cannot fee any force at all in your reasoning, that, because there
are many eminent professors of late, who really have
nothing in them but heat and shew, and yet make as « high pretensions to the divine influences, and to spe
cial experience of the operations of the Spirit of God in • their hearts, as any others can do: therefore all preten. 'ces of that kind may justly be fufpected to flow from
the same caufe, and to be the offspring of a like irregular fancy and imagination.'
Do you indeed think it just arguing, because some men make vain and falle Thews of what they really are not, that therefore all other profeffors of religion are hypocrites, as well as they? Will it follow, because some men pretend to literature which they have not, that therefore there are no men of learning in the world? Your discovery of false pretenders to religious experi. ences, does indeed give you just reason to prefume, that fome others may, but no reason to conclude, that all o. thers mift, in the fame manner impofe upon the world,
by mere delusive appearances. If
have discovered any to be false and deceitful, in their profession of religious experiences, it must be becaufe you see something in their conduct, which contradicts their profession. But what reason does this give you, to suspect those in whose conduct you see nothing which contradicts their profeflon. Ít
you have reason to conclude the hypocrisy of the former fort from the evidences which appear against them; you have also reason to conclude the since rity of the latter fort, from the evidences which appear in their favour, and which testify the reality of the change they profess. If you have ground to suspect the careless, the loose, the sensual professor, because he is such: by the same way of reasoning, you have ground to conclude in favour of the serious, the watchful, and mortified professor of religion, becaufe he is such. If the licentious and prophane, the fraudulent and unjust, the cenforious and uncharitable, the despisers and calumniators of their brethren, are therefore to be fufpected of a false pretence to the divine influences : by the same argument, they who are fo changed as to become remarkably holy and righteous, meek and humble, charitable, benevolent, and beneficent, have a just claim to be esteemed sincere, and to be credited in their profession of religious experiences. There are (through the mercy of God) num. bers of such yet among us, all of whom have this change in its visible effect obvious to the world : and though some of them may be doubtful of their own state, yet all of them declare that they have received all their attainments from the Lord Jesus Christ; they have looked to him, and depended upon him for them all ; and have always found, that their progress in piety towards God, and in justice, kindness, and charity towards men, has borne proportion to their chearful dependance, upon Christ for righteousness and strength. If some men are liars, yet others are credible, and may be trusted, efpecially when they give us undoubted evidences of their truth and fidelity. Even so in the present case, if some men are hypocrites, and evidence themselves to be such, we have no reason from thence to suspect the truth of others profeflion and experiences, whose wonderful change
of life, and whole future conversation, are a continual testimony to the fincerity of the profeffion they make, and to the credibility of the experiences which they relate.
But it seems, you are especially prejudiced against religious experiences, by the irregular fancy and heated
imagination,' which you have obfero'd in fome preten. der to extraordinary attainments in religion; from whence you seem to argue,
that becaufe some of their pretended experiences are extravagant flights of a disturbed • brain, and evidently flow from pride, felf-esteem, and r uncharitableness towards others, and end in faction, division, and alienation of affection, that therefore, fince fome of their pretences are manifeftly false and airy imaginations, you have just reason to conclude, that all the rest of their pretences are of the same fort, and flow from the fame depraved mind.
I acknowledge, Sir, this is one of the most plaufible objections that ever I heard of, againit the internal evidences of Chriftianity. And no doubt onr grand adverfary the devil has had an especial hand in blowing up this false fire, that he may turn away our eyes from the glory of the Lord arifen upon Zion. No doubt Satan hath transformed himself into an angel of light, in the late extravagant heats which have appeared in some places, that to by overdoing, he might undo, and might bring reproach on the wonderful work of divine grace, which has made fuch a glorious progress in these parts of the world. A permillion of these dreadful delusions may be eftcemed a just judgment of God upon such as have remained careless and secure in a remarkable season of grace, who have resisted the calls of the Gofpel, the convictions of their consciences, and the strivings of the Holy Spirit : that they might thereby be hardened in their prejudices againtt vital and experimental religion, and perhaps finally ttumble and fall.
But how plaubble foever your objection may be, your reasoning is far from conclufive. What inconsistency is there in the supposal, that a true convert may have some very false apprehensions and imaginations ? that the fame person may have a sanctified heart, and a confused heads and that he may build upon the true four
dation, such wood, hay, and stubble, as must be burnt up? Our blessed Saviour has undertaken to sanctify the hearts of all those who fincerely trust in him ; but has never promised to make them infallible in all their conduct. If therefore from a principle of love to God, these men should zealously endeavour to serve him, and yet through heated imaginations, or erroneous apprehenlions of their duty, in some cases, they should mistake their way, and suppose that they are doing God good fervice, when they are acting counter to the true interest of of Christ's kingdom, what then? Is it an absurdity, to suppose they may act from a right principle, though in a wrong manner? The error is in their opinions; but not in their wills. Their hearts are engaged in God's service, though their heads millead them. They may have experienced a real change (in the manner defcrib ed in my last letter) though through ignorance and mif. take, their endeavours to serve God are in some instances irregular and finful. They may have had real experiences in true and vital piety, at present, though their imaginations are imposed on by enthusiasm, and delu. fion. These allowances may be made, and ought to be made, for those who hold fast the fundamental principles of Christianity and practical godliness; and for none but those. There ought to be such allowances made for those ; because there is nothing in their cha. racter inconsistent with true and vital piety : yet there ought not to be such allowances made for any but thọfe; because Christ has undertaken to lead his fincere followers into all necessary truth. I think, I have good reason to conclude, that the case is truly, and in fact, just as I have here described it, with respect to numbers of those who have run into some of those irregularities you complain of. This appears, in that some of those, who have been convinced of and penitently bewailed those mistakes, do yet (their formerirregularities-notwithstanding) walk worthy their professed experience of a faving change ; and approve themselves holy, humble, and charitable Chrif
And I have the more hope of others, who have -not yet been convinced of their mistakes, upon account of their having been seduced into these errors, by such zea.
lous leaders, of whose piety they have so great an opi. nion. But you'll perhaps enquire, what I can say for those leaders, who have influenced others to these irregular heats ? To which I must answer, that as far as I am acquainted with them, I have reason for a much better o. pinion of the hearts of some of them, than of their heads; and must bear them witness, that they have a zeal of God, tho' not in every thing according to knowledge.
But fuppofing, as you suppose, that some of the chief of these preachers were yery wicked men, who cloak. ed their evil intentions under a shew of zeal and extraordinary piety, the better to insnare poor unwary souls into their delusions, to promote divisions and contentions in the land, and to compass their covert deligns :' My argument is, on this supposal, so much the stronger. Herein the
power and love of the great Redeemer are so much the more conspicuous, that he has outshot Satan with his own bow; and over-ruled those attempts, for the promotion of his own kingdom and interest, which were levelled against it. Nothing is more visible, than that great numbers of poor finners have been awakened; and brought to fly to Christ for refuge. Nothing is more apparent than that the consequence of this has (in numerous instances) been the renovation of their lives, and their conversion from a careless, finful, sensual life, to a life of holiness, righteousness, kindness, and
charity. In these therefore the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is become glorious ; whatever covered designs any of the instruments were acted by. If these preached Chrift ev. en of envy and strife, what then? notwithstanding every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ was preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. It is remarkable that the great doctrines of the Gospel, parti. cularly touching the misery of our natural state, the necessity of an interest in Christ, and the way of salvation by faith in him, were preached by them all (whatever human imaginations were mixed with them) and these had their effect in a peculiar manner. Our blessed Sa. viour has therein blessed his own institutions; and accomplished the designs of his grace, whoever and whatever were the instruments, by whom these glorious ef