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ready to protect his people, especially those that are near to him, yet he expects great care and labor of all; and that we should put on the whole armor of God, that we may stand in the evil day and whatever spiritual privileges we are raised to, we have no warrant to expect protection in any other way; for God has appointed this whole life as a state of labor, to be all as a race or a battle; the state of rest, wherein we shall be so out of danger, as to have no need of watching and fighting, is reserved for another world. I have known it in abundance of instances, that the devil has come in very remarkably, even in the midst of the most exalted, and upon some accounts excellent frames: it may seem a great mystery that it should be so; but it is no greater mystery, than that Christ should be taken captive by the devil, and carried into the wilderness, immediately after the heavens had been opened to him, and the Holy Ghost descended like a dove upon him, and he heard that comfortable, joyful voice from the Father, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. In like manner, Christ in the heart of a Christian is oftentimes, as it were, taken by the devil, and carried captive into a wilderness, presently after heaven has been, as it were, opened to the soul, and the Holy Ghost has descended upon it like a dove, and God has been sweetly owning the believer, and testifying his favor to him as his beloved child.
It is therefore a great error and sin in some persons, at this day, that they are fixed in their way, in some things that others account errors, and will not hearken to admonition and counsel, but are confident that they are in the right of it, in those practices that they find themselves disposed to, because God is much with them, and they have great degrees of the Spirit of God. There were some such in the apostles' days: the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, was sensible that some of them would not be easily convinced that they had been in any error, because they looked upon themselves spiritual, or full of the Spirit of
God. 1 Cor. xiv. 37, 38. "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you, are the commandment of the Lord; but if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."
And although those that are spiritual amongst us have no infallible apostle to admonish them, yet let me entreat them, by the love of Christ, calmly and impartially to weigh what may be said to them, by one that is their hearty and fervent friend (though an inferior worm) in giving his humble opinion concerning the errors that have been committed, or that we may be exposed to, in methods or practices that have been, or may be fallen into by the zealous friends or promoters of this great work of God.
In speaking of the errors that have been, or that we are in danger of, I would in the
First place, Take notice of the causes whence the errors that attend a great revival of religion usually arise; and as I go along, take notice of some particular errors that arise from each of those causes.
Secondly, Observe some errors that some have lately gone into, that have been owing to the influence of several of those causes conjunctly.
As to the first of these, the errors that attend a great revival of religion, usually arise from these three things. 1. Undiscerned spiritual pride. 2. Wrong principles. 3. Ignorance of Satan's advantages and devices.
One cause of errors in a great revival, is spiritual pride.
THE first, and the worst cause of errors, that prevail in such a state of things, is spiritual pride. This is the main door by which the devil comes into the hearts of those that are zealous for the advancement of religion. It is the chief inlet of smoke from the bottomless pit, to darken the mind, and mislead the judgment: this is the main handle by which the devil has hold of religious persons, and the chief source of all the mischief that he introduces, to clog and hinder a work of God. This cause of error is the main spring, or at least the main support of all the rest. Till this disease is cured, medicines are in vain applied to heal other diseases. It is by this that the mind defends itself in other errors, and guards itself against light, by which it might be corrected and reclaimed. The spiritually proud man is full of light already, he does not need instruction, and is ready to despise the offer of it. But if this disease be healed, other things are easily rectified. The humble person is like a little child, he easily receives instruction; he is jealous over himself, sensible how liable he is to go astray; and therefore if it be suggested to him that he does so, he is ready most narrowly and impartially to inquire. Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil's reach, as humility, and so prepares the mind for true divine light, without darkness, and so clears the eye to look on things as they truly are. Psalm xxv. 9. "The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek he will teach his way." Therefore we should fight neither with small nor with great, but with the king of Israel: our first care should be to rectify the heart, and pull the beam out of our eye, and then we shall see clearly.
I know that a great many things at this day are very injuriously laid to the pride of those that are zealous in the cause of God. When any person appears, in any respect, remarkably distinguished in religion from others, if he professes those spiritual comforts and joys that are greater than ordinary, or if he appears distinguishingly zealous in religion, if he exerts himself more than others do in the cause of religion, or if he seems to be distinguished with success, ten to one but it will immediately awaken the jealousy of those that are about him; and they will suspect (whether they have cause or no) that he is very proud of his goodness, and that he affects to have it thought that nobody is so good as he; and all his talk is heard, and all his behavior beheld, with this prejudice. Those that are themselves cold and dead, and especially such as never had any experience of the power of godliness on their own hearts, are ready to entertain such thoughts of the best Christians, which arises from a secret enmity against vital and fervent piety.
But then those that are zealous Christians should take heed that this injuriousness of those that are cold in reliligion, do not prove a snare to them, and the devil do not take advantage from it, to blind their eyes from beholding what there is indeed of this nature in their hearts, and make them think, because they are charged with pride wrongfully, and from an ill spirit, in many things, that therefore it is so in every thing. Alas, how much pride have the best of us in our hearts! It is the worst part of the body of sin and death. It is the first sin that ever entered into the universe, and the last that is rooted out; it is God's most stubborn enemy!
The corruption of nature may all be resolved into two things, pride and worldly-mindedness, the devil and the beast, or self and the world. These are the two pillars of Dagon's temple, on which the whole house leans. But the former of these is every way, the worst part of the corruption of nature; it is the first born son of the devil, and his image in
the heart of man chiefly consists in it: it is the last thing in a sinner that is overborne by conviction, in order to conversion; and here is the saint's hardest conflict; it is the last thing that he obtains a good degree of conquest over, and liberty from; it is that which most directly militates against God, and is most contrary tot he Spirit of the Lamb of God; and it is most like the devil its father, in a serpentine deceitfulness and secrecy; it lies deepest, is most active, and is most ready secretly to mix itself with every thing.
And of all kinds of pride, spiritual pride is, upon many accounts, the most hateful; it is most like the devil; it is most like the sin he committed in a heaven of light and glory, where he was exalted high in divine knowledge, honor, beauty, and happiness. Pride is much more difficultly discerned than any other corruption, for that reason, that the nature of it does very much consist in a person's having too high a thought of himself: but no wonder that he that has too high a thought of himself, does not know it; for he necessarily thinks that the opinion he has of himself, is what he has just grounds for, and therefore not too high; if he thought such an opinion of himself was without just grounds, he would therein cease to have it. But of all kinds of pride, spiritual pride is the most hidden, and difficultly discovered; and that for this reason, because those that are spiritually proud, their pride consists much in a high conceit of those two things, viz. their light and their humility: both which are a strong prejudice against a discovery of their pride. Being proud of their light, that makes them not jealous of themselves; he that thinks a clear light shines around him, is not suspicious of an enemy lurking near him, unseen: and then being proud of their humility, that makes them least of all jealous of themselves in that particular, viz. as being under the prevalence of pride. There are many sins of the heart that are very secret in their nature, and difficultly discerned. The psalmist says, Psalm xix. 12., "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults." But spiritual