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lowing the divine tuition of God, he stept but one inch from the rules of commentators, he was charged with being erroneous, though none of his enemies could prove him a minister of error either in life or doctrine.
Ahimaaz. Every saint (as Job says) must see God for himself and not for another: they must receive their gospel from God by the power of his Spirit if they preach so as to save themselves and them that hear them. The apostle could boast that the gospel which he preached was not after man; that he learned it not of man, neither was he taught it “ but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,” Gal. i. 12. It is a most daring piece of wickedness to oppose a man in his own personal testimony for God, when he is able to prove it to be consonant with the scriptures, and supports it by the same. For my part, I believe that all whom the Lord sends into his vineyard to labour can give some account of the reason of the hope that is in them: but there are some sent out by dissenting academies, and from our universities, who pretend they are sent, or inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take that office upon them: though they take pretty good care never to inform the church of God at large how that inward moving was begun and carried on in them: and, what is still worse, they often oppose those that can.
God is a sovereign, and he will proclaim it; and I much question if ever he leaves the earth without some witness or other who will be deemed by some an irregular, and by others a bigoted dissenter. To monopolize the gospel, or confine it to any party or set of men, is like making a hedge round a cuckoo, in order to detain her all the winter.
Cushi. I have heard of late that some have expunged the book of Esther from their studies as nothing but a dry history, not canonical; though the whole contents of it are the sufferings of the church, the salvation of God's elect, the fulfilment of prophecies, and the experience of God's favourites; all which harmonize exactly with all the other sacred books of scripture.
However, Prodigalis steadfastly taught the doctrines that God had applied to his heart; he enforced the power that himself had felt; and endeavoured, according to his light received, to back it with the word of God. Nor were his labours in vain; God owned it to the salvation of many souls; nor did he ever, after this sharp trial, pry with a vain curiosity into the mysteries of Satan. The Bible, and the books of good men, were sufficient to satisfy him; and I wish that every child of God was contented with the same.
After this fiery trial he did not mount so uncommonly high in his joys as usual; but he walked in a more steady faith and frame of mind; not so easily cast down as formerly, nor lifted up to such an amazing height in divine raptures. In short, the devil could neither destroy his hope, nor prevail with him to doubt of his interest in the Saviour: yet he travelled on with much brokenness of heart before God, and laboured hard under a daily sense of his manifold infirmities.
Ahimaaz. I have often found my mind sensibly injured and wounded only by the rehearsal of an error, and the sophistical garb in which an advocate for the devil has swaddled it up, in order to degrade the truth of God, and deceive the hearts of the simple; which
is no wonder; for it is the just whom the devil aims to injure; he hath the wicked in his own possession. Hence it is that he cannot deceive the godly without blending the truth with his lies; and the more truth the more taking, as may be seen in the word of God. The temptation that he brought to Eve had some of God's word in it; and so had that which he brought to the Saviour; though both were perverted so as to lead to presumption: for in all Satan's turnings and windings he always pursues one end, which is, the promotion of his own kingdom, to the dishonour of God in the destruction of souls.
O how many are there in this day, and some that I personally know, who have been seduced from a tolerable profession of the gospel, and from an apparent reformation, only by reading the cursed systems of error, which to this day are so harnessed with it; that, as the prophet says, “ Truth is fallen, and equity cannot enter,” (Isa. lix. 15) the delusion is so strong. : Such proselytes will add to the torments of those who have left their cursed traps behind them; and, as they have appeared as blind leaders in this world, they will appear supreme in misery in the next. Such men die not in their own sin only, (Numb. xxvii. 3) but they have entailed the sins and destruction of thousands on the score of their own souls; having shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; “ not entering themselves, nor suffering others to enter.”
I have seen erroneous men in such a light as can never be described: but the great day will reveal it; the whole mystery of iniquity shall be discovered “ by the brightness of the Lord's rising, and be consumed with the breath of his lips.”
Cushi. However, this is a comfort, that though it be said, “ If it were possible they shall deceive the very elect;” yet that little if' is worth a thousand worlds; for it renders it an impossibility for a chosen vessel to be finally deceived: and surely Prodigalis is a living witness of this truth; and this trial of his cured his ears of their itching, and convinced him of the need of studying and sticking close to the book of God. He found that error, as well as the least transgression, made sad breaches in his comfortable union and communion with his ever blessed Saviour; which is the life and soul of all real religion. And indeed he found it no easy work to obtain it again; which when obtained made him prize it the more, and made him the more fearful to offend.
Ahimaaz. For my part I have not a doubt but these things were made useful to him in his future ministry; for, as he had sensibly felt the bondage and confusion of error,
it must serve as a spur to his future zeal in opposing error with the force of truth, because his own soul had felt the wretched effects of it.
Cushi. Indeed “ all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose.” But Christ tells us to take heed how we hear; and Prodigalis had seen that text in its true meaning, and obediently took the caution; and was effectually convinced that nothing less than an heart-felt experience of the truth, the teachings of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord's supporting hand, could ever keep a man sound in the faith, when strongly opposed either by the devil or his agents.
Ahimaaz. And was the latter part of his life smooth and even? Did he continue steadfast in his
testimony, and industrious in the ministry of the word?
Cushi. He continues steadfast, for aught I know, to this day: but, as to an even path, I believe that seldom lasts long with such an one as he is. When a man has been desperately wicked from his youth, and accustomed to many evil practices; if such an one be called by grace, he has his old besetting sins to struggle with; they will pursue him: and, although the goodness of God is so great as to keep him " by his mighty power through faith unto salvation,” yet his old habitual customs the devil often brings strongly to his mind. And, if these are indulged, even but in thought, divine comforts are often abated. Against these he long prayed, and at times thought he greatly prevailed: but to his sorrow he still feels that “when he would do good evil is present with him.” He often envied those who had been kept from the vices and follies of childhood and youth; judging that they had not such habitual customs of evil to grapple with, as those who have run with the reins on their own necks into an open course of wickedness. He always said that the best antidote against the troublesome thoughts of vanity was-labouring in the ministry, private study, private meditation, private prayer, private communion with God, and spiritual conversation with sound and lively Christians. In these things he delighted as in his most pleasing element. But he was very cautious not to stand in the way of sinners; nor yet, in any dispute with the wicked or erroneous, to give up one single article of the testimony that God had applied to his heart; finding it so consistent with the unerring word of God, which must ever be our rule. Prodi