Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

time of great grace, and pouring out of the Spirit, and the fruits of divine mercy, is evermore also a time of great outpouring of something else, viz., divine vengeance, on those that neglect and misimprove such a season.

The state of the present revival of religion, has an awful aspect upon those that are advanced in years. The work has been chiefly amongst those that are young; and comparatively but a few others have been made partakers of it. And indeed, it has commonly been so, when God has begun any great work,

for the revival of his church; he has taken the young people, and has cast off the old and stiff-necked generation. There was a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God, on the children of Israel in the wilderness, on the younger generation, their little ones, that they said should be a prey, the generation that entered into Canaan, with Joshua; which is evident by many things in Scripture. That generation seems to have been the most excellent generation that ever was in the church of Israel. There is no generation of which there is so much good, and so little hurt spoken in Scripture ; as might be shown, if it would not be too long. In that generation, that were under twenty years when they went out of Egypt, was that kindness of youth, and love of espousals, spoken of, Jer. ii. 2, 3. But the old generation were passed by, and remained obstinate and stiff-necked, were always murmuring, and would not be convinced by all God's wondrous works that they beheld. God, by his awful judgments that he executed in the wilderness, and the affliction that the people suffered there, convinced and humbled the younger generation, and fitted them for great mercy; as is evident by Deut. ii. 16; but he destroyed the old generation; he swore in his wrath, that they should not enter into his rest, and their carcasses fell in the vilderness: when it was a time of great mercy, and pouring out of God's Spirit on their children, it was remarkably a day of vengeance unto them; as appears by the 90th Psalm.—Let the old generation in this land take warning from hence, and take heed that they do not refuse to be convinced, by all God's wonders that he works before their eyes, and that they do not continue forever objecting, and murmuring, and cavilling against the work of God, lest, while God is bringing their children into a land flowing with milk and honey, he should swear in his wrath concerning them, that their carcasses shall fall in the wilderness.

So when God has a design of great mercy to the Jews, in bringing them out of the Babylonish captivity, and returning them to their own land, there was a blessed outpouring of the Spirit upon them in Babylon, to bring them to deep conviction and repentance, and to a spirit of prayer to cry earnestly to God for mercy; which is often spoken of by the prophets : but it was not upon the old generation that were carried captive. The captivity continued just long enough, for that perverse generation to waste away and die in their captivity ; at least those of them that were adult persons, when carried captive. The old generation, and heads of families were exceeding obstinate, and would not hearken to the earnest, repeated warnings of the prophet Jeremiah ; but he had greater success among the young people; as appears by Jer. vi. 10, 11, “ To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach ; they have no delight in it. Therefore, I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in; I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of the young men together; for even the husband with the wife (i. e. the heads of families, and parents of these children) shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days."-Blessed be God! There are some of the elder people, that have been made partakers of

[blocks in formation]

this work : and those that are most awakened, by these warnings of God's word, and the awful frown of his providence, will be most likely to be made partakers hereafter. It infinitely concerns them to take heed to themselves, that they may be partakers of it; for how dreadful will it be to go to hell, after having spent so many years in doing nothing, but treasure up wrath.

But above all others whatsoever, does it concern us that are ministers, to see to it that we are partakers of this work, or that we have experience of the saving operations of the same Spirit, that is now poured out on the land. How sorrowful and melancholy is the case, when it is otherwise! For one to stand at the head of a congregation of God's people, as representing Christ, and speaking in his stead, and to act the part of a shepherd and guide to a people, in such a state of things, when many are under great awakenings, and many are converted, and many of God's saints are filled with divine light, love, and joy, and to undertake to instruct and lead them all, under all these various circumstances, and to be put to it, continually to play the hypocrite, and force the airs of a saint in preaching, and from time to time in private conversation, and particular dealing with souls, to undertake to judge of their circumstances, to try to talk with those that come to him, as if he knew what they said; to try to talk with perCons of experience, as if he knew how to converse with them, and had expe

rience as well as they ; to make others believe that he rejoices when others are • converted, and to force a pleased and joyful countenance and manner of speech,

when there is nothing in the heart, what sorrowful work is here! Oh how miserably must such a person feel l What a wretched bondage and slavery is this! What pains and how much art must such a minister use to conceal himself! And how weak are his hands! Besides the infinite provocation of the most high God, and displeasure of his Lord and master, that he incurs, by continuing a secret enemy to him in his heart, in such circumstances. I think there is a great deal of reason, from the Scripture, to conclude that no sort of men in the world will be so low in hell, as ungodly ministers: every thing that is spoken of in Scripture, as that which aggravates guilt, and heightens divine wrath, meets in them; however some particular persons, of other sorts, may be more guilty than some of these.

And what great disadvantages are unconverted ministers under, to oppose any irregularities, or imprudences, or intemperate zeal, that they may see in those that are the children of God, when they are conscious to themselves that they have no zeal at all! If enthusiasm and wildness comes in like a flood, what poor, weak instruments are such ministers to withstand it! With what courage can they open their mouths, when they look inward, and consider how it is with them!

We that are ministers not only have need of some true experience of the saving influence of the Spirit of God upon our heart, but we need a double portion of the Spirit of God at such a time as this: we had need to be as full of ught, as a glass is that is held out in the sun; and with respect to love and zeal, we had need

at this day, to be like the angels that are a flame of fire. The state of the times extremely requires a fulness of the divine Spirit in ministers, and we ought to give ourselves no rest until we have obtained it. And in order to this, I should think ministers, above all persons, ought to be much in secret prayer and fasting, and also much in praying and fasting one with another.. It seems to me it would be becoming the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a neighborhood would often meet together, and spend days in fasting, and fervent prayer, among themselves, earnestly seeking for those extraordinary supplies of divine grace from heaven, that we need at this day and also,

[graphic]

if on their occasional visits one to another, instead of spending away their time in sitting and smoking, and in diverting, or worldly, unprofitable conversation, telling news, and making their remarks on this and the other trifling subject, they would spend their time in praying together, and singing praises, and religious conference. How much do many of the common people shame many of us that are in the work of the ministry, in these respects ? Surely we do not behave ourselves so much like Christian ministers, and the disciples and ambassadors of Christ, as we ought to do. And while we condemn zealous persons for their doing so much at censuring ministers at this day, it ought not to be without deep reflections upon, and great condemnation of ourselves : for indeed, we do very much to provoke censoriousness, and lay a great temptation before others, to the sin of judging: and if we can prove that those that are guilty of it, do transgress the Scripture rule, yet our indignation should be chiefly against ourselves.

Ministers, at this day in a special manner, should act as fellow-helpers, in their great work. It should be seen that they are animated and engaged, and exert themselves with one heart and soul, and with united strength, to promote the present glorious revival of religion: and to that end should often meet together, and act in concert. And if it were a common thing in the country, for ministers to join in public exercises, and second one another in their preaching, I believe it would be of great service. I mean that ministers having consulted one another, as to the subjects of their discourses, before they go to the house of God, should there speak two or three of them going, in short discourses, as seconding each other, and earnestly enforcing each other's warnings and counsels. Only such an appearance of united zeal in ministers, would have a great tendency to awaken attention, and much to impress and animate the hearers; as has been found by experience, in some parts of the country.

Ministers should carefully avoid weakening one another's hands. And therefore every thing should be avoided, by which their interest with their people might be diminished, or their union with them broken. On the contrary, if ministers have not forfeited their acceptance in that character, in the visible church, by their doctrine or behavior, their brethren in the ministry ought studiously to endeavor to heighten the esteem and affection of their people towards them, that they may have no temptation to repent their admitting other ministers to come and preach in their pulpits.

Two things that are exceeding needful in ministers, as they would do any great matters, to advance the kingdom of Christ, are zeal and resolution. The influence and power of these things to bring to pass great effects, is greater than can well be imagined: a man of but an ordinary capacity, will do more with them, than one of ten times the parts and learning without them : more may be done with them in a few days, or at least weeks, than can be done without then, in many years. Those that are possessed of these qualities, commonly carry thé day, in almost all affairs. Most of the great things that have been done in the world of mankind, the great revolutions that have been accomplished in the kingdoms and empires of the earth, have been chiefly owing to these things. The very sight or appearance of a thoroughly engaged spirit, together with fearless courage and unyielding resolution, in any person that has undertaken the managing any affair amongst mankind, goes a great way towards accomplishing the effect aimed at. It is evident that the appearance of these things in Alexander, did three times as much towards his conquering the world, as all the blows that he struck. And how much were the great things that Oliver Cromwell did, owing to these things! And the great things that Mr. White

field has done, every where, as he ran through the British dominions (so far as they are owing to means), are very much owing to the appearance of these things, which he is eminently possessed of. When the people see these things apparently in a person, and to a great degree, it awes them, and has a commanding influence upon their minds; it seems to them that they must yield; they naturally fall before them, without standing to contest or dispute the matter; they are conquered as it were by surprise. But while we are cold and heartless, and only go on in a dull manner, in an old formal round, we shall never do any great matters. Our attempts, the appearance of such coldness and irresolution, will not so much as make persons think of yielding: they will hardly be sufficient to put it into their minds; and if it be put in their minds, the appearance of such indifference and cowardice, does as it were call for, and provoke opposition. Our misery is want of zeal and courage ; for not only through want of them does all fail that we seem to attempt, but it prevents our attempting any thing very remarkable, for the kingdom of Christ. Hence, oftentimes it has been, that when any thing very considerable, that is new, is proposed to be done, for the advancement of religion, or the public good, many difficulties are found out, that are in the way, and a great many objections are started, and it may be, it is put off from one to another; but nobody does any thing. And after this manner good designs or proposals have oftentimes failed, and have sunk as soon as proposed. Whereas if we had but Mr. Whitefield's zeal and courage, what could not we do, with such a blessing as we might expect ?

Zeal and courage will do much in persons of but an ordinary capacity ; but especially would they do great things, if joined with great abilities. If some great men, that have appeared in our nation, had been as eminent in divinity, as they were in philosophy, and had engaged in the Christian cause, with as much zeal and fervor, as some others have done, and with a proportionable blessing of heaven, they would have conquered all Christendom, and turned the

world upside down. We have many ministers in the land that do not want - for abilities, they are persons of bright parts and learning; they should con

sider how much is expected, and will be required of them, by their Lord and master, and how much they might do for Christ, and what great honor, and how glorious a reward they might receive, if they had in their hearts a heavenly warmth, and divine heat, proportionable to their light.

With respect to candidates for the ministry, I will not undertake particularly to determine, what kind of examination or trial they should pass under, in order to their admission to that sacred work: but I think this is evident from the Scripture, that another sort of trial, with regard to their virtue and piety, is requisite, than is required in order to persons being admitted into the visible church. The apostle directs, that hands be laid suddenly on no man; but that they should first be tried, before they are admitted to the work of the ministry: but it is evident that persons were suddenly admitted, by baptism, into the visible church, from time to time, on their profession of their faith in Christ, without such caution and strictness in their probation. And it seems to me, those would act very unadvisedly, that should enter on that great and sacred work, before they had comfortable satisfaction concerning themselves, that they have had a saving work of God on their souls.

And though it may be thought that I go out of my proper sphere, to intermeddle in the affairs of the colleges, yet I will take the liberty of an Englishman (that speaks his mind freely concerning public affairs) and the liberty of a minister of Christ who doubtless may speak his mind as freely about things that concern the kingdom of his Lord and master) to give my opinion, in some

[graphic]

things, with respect to those societies; the original and main design of which is to train un persons, and fit them for the work of the ministry. And I would say in general, that it appears to me that care should be taken, some way or other, that those societies should be so regulated, that they should, in fact, be nurseries of piety. Otherwise, they are fundamentally ruined and undone, as to

tretr main design, and most essential end. They ought to be so constituted, that vice and idleness should have no living there : they are intolerable in societies, whose main design is, to train up youth in Christian knowledge and eminent piety, to fit them to be pastors of the flock of the blessed Jesus. I have heretofore bad some acquaintance with the affairs of a college, and experience of what belonged to its tuition and government; and I cannot but think that it is practicable enough, so to constitute such societies, that there should be no being there without being virtuous, serious, and diligent. It seems to me to be a reproach to the land, that ever it should be so with our colleges, that instead of being places of the greatest advantages for true piety, one cannot send a child thither, without great danger of his being infected, as to his morals; as it has certainly sometimes been with these societies : it is perfectly intolerable; and any thing should be done, rather than it should be so. If we pretend to have any colleges at all, under any notion of training up youth for the ministry, there should be some way found out, that should certainly prevent its being thus. To have societies for bringing persons up to be ambassadors of Jesus Christ, and to lead souls to heaven, and to have them places of so much infection, is the greatest nonsense and absurdity imaginable.

And, as thorough and effectual care should be taken that vice and idleness are not tolerated in these societies, so certainly the design of them requires, that extraordinary means should be used in them, for training up the students in vital religion, and experimental and practical godliness ; so that they should be holy societies, the very place should be as it were sacred : they should be, in the midst of the land, fountains of piety and holiness. There is a great deal of pains taken to teach the scholars human learning ; there ought to be as much, and more care, thoroughly to educate them in religion, and lead them to true and eminent holiness. If the main design of these nurseries, is to bring up persons to teach Christ, then it is of the greatest importance that there should be care and pains taken, to bring those that are there educated, to the knowledge of Christ. It has been common in our public prayers, to call these societies, the schools of the prophets ; and if they are schools, to train up young men to be prophets, certainly there ought to be extraordinary care taken, to train them up to be Christians.

And I cannot see why it is not on all accounts fit and convenient, for the governors and instructors of the colleges, particularly, singly and frequently to converse with the students, about the state of their souls. As is the practice of the Rev. Dr. Doddridge, one of the most noted of the present dissenting ministers in England, who keeps an academy at Northampton, as he himself

informs the Rev. Mr. Wadsworth of Hartford, in Connecticut, in a letter dated at Northampton, March 6, 1740—41. The original of which letter I have seen, and have by me an extract of it, sent to me by Mr. Wadsworth ; which is as follows:

“ Through the divine goodness, I have every year the pleasure to see some plants taken out of my nursery, and set in neighboring congregations; where they generally settle with a unanimous consent, and that to a very remarkable degree, in some very large, and once divided congregations. A circumstance in which I own and adore the hand of a wise and gracious God; and canno

« FöregåendeFortsätt »