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mouth and wisdom, that all our adversaries shall never be able to gainsay or resist. I doubt not but it is in the power of a praying people to put a text into the pastor's mouth by faithful prayer, and to obtain from God by him both understanding and satisfaction. Persons who go thus to God, instead of the preacher; who acquaint him with the secret, but keep the minister in the dark about it; know for themselves, when the work is done, that the hand of God was in it; and it serves to convince them that the Lord has sent the workman, and that he works with him. Not but what I have sometimes had a text sent me, into which the Lord hath given me light; and, if it has come when I have been unfurnished, and no other has been sent to displace it from my mind, I have judged it to be of him, and the freedom experienced in the delivery of it has served to confirm it. But I do not like to confine my mind to preach to a whole congregation from a text that may, at such a time only, concern an individual. Nor could I ever endure any persons to tell me, that a sinner of such a complexion, or an erroneous person of such a sect, was coming, or come, to hear me. Just as if I should leave my subject, neglect feeding the household, and go to casting pearls before swine. The arrow always flies best, and does most execution, when the bow is drawn at a venture. Besides, personal dealings are perceptible to a discerning flock, and often set them to inquiring who the preacher was scolding at. Such informers are very troublesome and disgustful to ministers: they betray great weakness and ignorance; and make too free with the ark, forgetting that the excellency and the power are of him who makes a man know what are his thoughts. If God has any thing to say to a sinner, he will be sure to speak to him either in a way of judgment, or in a way of mercy, without the preacher's knowledge of those who are present; and then it appears plainly to be of him, and not of man.
However, I have no objection to give my judgment on a text of scripture, either in private conference, or in answer to a letter, if the point be essential, and the inquiry be modest. The passage you mention, “ Judge not, that ye be not judged,” is in the mouth of legions; and is generally used by them to stop the mouth of a faithful messenger, or an honest reprover: both which are highly commended in scripture.
By that text, the Lord doth not mean that I am not to make use of my judgment in trying those whom I hear, for I am commanded to take heed how I hear. I am to try the spirits, whether they are of God. The first ministers tried them that said they were apostles, and proved them liars; and their judgment was right, and they were commended for so doing. Yea, Wisdom herself, in her own ambassadors, permits herself to be cited at the judgment of her family, and is justified of her children.
By their fruits,” saith the Saviour, you shall know them.” Not by their outward life and walk only, for the Pharisees deceived the greatest part of the Jewish nation by appearing outwardly righteous before men, who were inwardly ravening wolves: and, by this their deception, gained and made many proselytes; who, when made, were twofold more the children of hell than themselves. The fruits, therefore, hy which we are to know them, are
First, The fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faith, &c. &c. For, if I am to try the spirits, whether they be of God; I am to judge whether the person I hear be a spiritual man, or a sensual one having not the spirit; and likewise, whether the spirit of truth be manifested in him, or the spirit of error.
Secondly, I am to try the fruit of his lips, and to form my judgment of the treasure and soundness of his heart by the soundness of his doctrine, for, if he brings not the apostolic doctrine, I am not to receive him into my house, nor bid him God speed, on peril of being a partaker of his evil deeds. My judgment, therefore, of him, must be according to truth; which is plainly this: “ Whosoever abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son," 2 John 9.
Thirdly, I may demand of him, if I am doubtful about him, a reason of his hope, and he is
commanded to give it; and, if he does, he must inform me of the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost upon him at his conversion. A change of heart by the Spirit is a gospel experience; and it is experience that worketh hope. Thus I am to know, not only the speech of him, but the power; “ For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power,” i Cor. iv. 19.
Fourthly, If I am to know the power, as well as the speech, of a preacher, I am to inquire into the fruits of his ministry; whether God owns it, and blesses it, by clothing his word with power to the conversion of souls; which is bringing forth fruit unto God. Converts are called a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. And, if conversion and establishing work goes on in his hands, and his converts are proper children, born of the Holy Ghost, of a savoury experience, and sound in the faith, God has set his seal to his mission and commission; it is clear that he stands in God's counsel, and causes sinners to hear the word from his mouth, because he turns them from the error of their way, and the evil of their doings, and that God works with the workman: and my judgment must be, that he belongs to the Lord's fig tree, and bears good ripe figs, and is in union with the living Vine; for men, at conversion, do not gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles. But, if he be a stranger to the power of God on his own soul, and has no power with God by faith and prayer, and no power has
attended his ministry; it is clear that God has neither sealed his soul, nor set his seal to his ministry. He is an impostor, and a preacher of the letter: he is neither a saint of God, nor a servant of God; and his unprofitableness is a proof to me that he was never sent by him. The judgment, therefore, to direct me, is this: "He ran, and I have not sent him," saith the Lord; “therefore he shall not profit this people at all.”
By these fruits I am to know them, and not by an external reformation only; and am to judge and speak according to the oracles of God, my own experience, and the testimony of my conscience, so that I may neither justify the wicked, nor condemn the just; and then I act agreeable to the Saviour's positive command, “ Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment,” John vii. 24. I am to judge of his life and walk also; that his conversation be as becometh the gospel of Christ; that he lets his light shine before men, that they behold his good works, and that he glorifies his Father which is in heaven. By these fruits we are to know him, and of these things we are to judge, and not to judge him in meats, nor in drinks, nor in respect of an holy day; nor yet to judge his doubtful thoughts. “ Let no man judge you in these things,” saith Paul. But of the aforementioned things we are to judge and to speak according to the scriptures and our own conscience, without partiality, and without hypocrisy: and not like