« AnteriorContinuar »
the only way, in which he had complete satisfaction, when he looked death in the face, in its near approaches. Some of the pretenders to an immediate witness by suggestion, and defenders of it, with an assuming confidence would persuade us, that that there is no full assurance without it; and that the way of being satisfied by signs, and arguing an interest in Christ %. sanctification, if it will keep men quiet in life and health, yet will never do when they come to die. Then, they say, men must have immediate witness, or else be in a dreadful uncertainty. BRAINERD's experience is a confutation of this ; for in him we have an instance of one who possessed as constant, as unshaken an assurance, through the course of his life, after conversion, as perhaps can be produced in this age. Yet he obtained and enjoyed it without any such sort of testimony, and without the least appearance of it, or pretence to it; yea, while utterly disclaiming any such thing, and declaring against it. His assurance, we need not scruple to affirm, has as fair a claim, and as just a pretension, to truth and genuineness, as any which the pretenders to immediate witness can produce. He not only had such assurance in life, but had it in a constant manner in his last illness; and particularly in the latter stages of it, through those last months of his life wherein death was more sensibly approaching, without the least hope of life. He had it too in its fulness, and in the height of its exercise, under repeated trials, in this space of time; when brought from time to time to the very brink of the grave, expecting in a few minutes to be in eternity. He had “ the full assurance of hope, unto the end.” When on the verge of eternity, he then declared his assurance to be such as perfectly excluded all fear. Not only so, but it manifestly filled his soul with exceeding joy ; he declaring at the same time, that this his consolation and good hope through grace, arose wholly from the evidence he had of his good estate, by what he found of his sanctification, or the exercise of a holy heavenly temper of mind, supreme love to God, &c. and not in the least from any immediate witness by suggestion. Yea, he declares that, at these very times, he saw the awful delusion of that confidence which is built on such a foundation, as well as of the whole of that religion which it usually springs from, or at least is the attendant of; and that his soul abhorred those delusions: and he continued in this mind, often expressing it with much solemnity, even till death. III. BRAINERD's religion was not selfish and mercenary; his love to God was primarily and principally for the supreme excellency of his own nature, and not built on a preconceived notion that God loved him, had received him into favour, and had done great things for him, or promised great things to him. is joy was joy in God, and not in himself. We see by his diary how, from time to time, through the course of his life, his soul was filled with ineffable sweetness and comfort. But what was the spring of this strong and abiding consolation ? Not so much the consideration of the sure grounds he had to think that his state was good, that God had delivered him from hell, and that heaven was his ; or any thoughts concerning his own distinguished happy and exalted circumstances, as a high favourite of Heaven : but the sweet meditations and refreshing views he had of divine things without himself; the affecting considerations and lively ideas of God's infinite glory, his unchangeable blessedness, his sovereignty and universal dominion ; together with the sweet exercises of love to God, giving himself up tohim abasing himself before him, denying himself for him, depending upon him, acting for his glory, diligently serving him ; and the pleasing prospect or hopes he had of a future advancement of the kingdom of Christ, &c. It appears plainly and abundantly all along, from his conversion to his death, that the sort of good, which was the great object of the new relish and appetite given him in conversion, and thenceforward maintained and increased in his heart, was Holiness, conformity to God, living to God, and glorifying him. This was what drew his heart; this was the centre of his soul ; this was the ocean to which all the streams of his religious affections tended ; this was the object which engaged his eager thirsting desires and earnest pursuits. He knew no true excellency, or happiness, but this ; this was what he longed for most vehemently and constantly on earth; and this was with him the beauty and blessedness of heaven. This made him so much and so often long for that world of glory. It was to be perfectly holy, and perfectly exercised in the holy employments of heaven; and thus, “to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” His religious illuminations, affections, and comfort, seemed, to a great degree, to be attended with evangelical humiliation; consisting in a sense of his own utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness : with an answerable disposition and frame of heart. How deeply affected was he almost continually with his great defects in religion ; with his vast distance from that spirituality and holy frame of mind that became him; with his ignorance, pride, deadness, unsteadiness, barrenness He was not only affected with the remembrance of his former sinfulness
before his conversion, but with the sense of his present vileness.
and pollution. He was not only disposed to think meanly of himself as before God, and in comparison of him; but amongst men, and as compared with them. He was apt to think other saints better than himself; yea, to look on himself as the meanest and least of saints; yea, very often, as the vilest and worst of mankind. And notwithstanding his great attainments in spiritual knowledge, yet we find there is scarce any thing, with a
sense of which he is more frequently affected and abased, than his ignorance. How eminently did he appear to be of a meek and quiet spirit, resembling the lamb-like, dove-like spirit of Jesus Christ' How full of love, meekness, quietness, forgiveness, and mercy His love was not merely a fondness and zeal for a party, but an universal benevolence; very often exercised in the most sensible and ardent love to his greatest opposers and enemies. His love and meekness were not a mere pretence, and outward profession and show ; but they were effectual things, manifested in expensive and laborious deeds of love and kindness; and in a meek behaviour; readily confessing faults under the greatest trials, and humbling himself even at the feet of those from whom he supposed he had suffered most; and from time to time very frequently praying for his enemies, abhorring the thoughts of bitterness or resentment towards them. I scarcely know where to look for any parallel instance of self-denial, in these respects, in the present age. He was a person of great zeal; but how did he abhor a bitter zeal, and lament it where he saw it! And though he was once drawn into some degrees of it, by the force of prevailing example, as it were in his childhood; yet how did he go about with a heart bruised and broken in pieces for it all his life after Of how soft and tender a spirit was he How far were his experiences, hopes, and joys, from a tendency finally to stupify and harden him, to lessen convictions and tenderness of conscience, to cause him to be less affected with present and past sins, and less conscientious with respect to future sins. How far were they from making him more easy, in neglect of duties which are troublesome and inconvenient, more slow and partial in complying with difficult commands, less apt to be alarmed at the appearance of his own defects and transgressions, more easily induced to a compliance with carnal appetites On the contrary, how tender was his conscience how apt was his heart to smite him how easily and greatly was he alarmed at the appearance of moral evil how great and constant was his jealousy over his own heart! how strict his care and watchfulness against sin how deep and sensible were the wounds that sin made in his conscience! Those evils which are generally accounted small, were almost an insupportable burden to him ; such as his inward deficiencies, his having no more love to God, finding within himself any slackness in religion, any unsteadiness or wandering frame of mind. How did the consideration of such things as these oppress and abase him, and fill him with inward shame and confusion | His love and hope, though they were such as cast out a servile fear of hell, yet were attended with, and abundantly cherished and promoted a reverential filial fear of God, a dread of sin and of God's holy displeasure. His joy seemed truly to be a rejoicing with trembling. . His assurance and comfort differed greatly from a false enthusiastic confidence and joy, in that it promoted and maintained mourning for sin. Holy mourning with him, was not only the work of an hour or a day, at his first conversion ; but sorrow for sin was like a wound constantly running ; he was a mourner for sin all his days. He did not, after he received comfort and full satisfaction of the forgiveness of all his sins, and the safety of his state, forget his past sins, the sins of his youth, committed before his conversion; but the remembrance of them, from time to time, revived in his heart, with renewed grief. That passage [Ezek xvi. 63.] was evidently fulfilled in him, “That thou mayest remember, and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame; when I am pacified toward thee for all that thou hast done.” And how lastingly did the sins he committed after his conversion affect and break his heart | If he did any thing whereby he thought he had in any respect dishonoured God, and wounded the interest of religion, he had never done with calling it to mind with sorrow and bitterness; though he was assured that God had forgiven it, yet he never forgave himself; his past sorrows and fears made no satisfaction, with him ; but still the wound renews and bleeds afresh, again, and again. And his present sins, those he daily found in himself, were an occasion of daily, sensible, and deep sorrow of heart. His religion did not consist in unaccountable flights and vehement pangs; suddenly rising, and suddenly falling; at times exalted almost to the third heavens, and then negligent, vain, carnal, and swallowed up with the world, for days and weeks, if not months together. His religion was not like a blazing meteor, or like a flaming comet, (or a wandering star, as the apostle Jude calls it, ver. 13.) flying through the firmament with a bright train, and then quickly departing into perfect darkness; but more like the steady lights of heaven, constant principles of light, though sometimes hid with clouds. Nor like a land-flood which flows far and wide with a rapid stream, bearing down all before it, and then dries up; but more like a stream, fed by living springs; which, though sometimes increased by showers, and, at other times diminished by drought, yet is a constant stream. His religious affections and joys were not like those of some who have rapture and mighty emotions from time to time in company; but have very little affection in retirement and secret places.” Though he was of a very sociable temper, and loved the company of saints, and delighted very much in religious conversation, and in social worship ; yet his warmest affections, and their greatest effects on animal nature, and his sweetest joys, were in his closet devotions, and solitary transactions between God and his own soul: as is very observable through his
whole course, from his conversion to his death. He delighted greatly in sacred retirements; and loved to get quite away from all the world, to converse with God alone in secret duties. BRAINERD's experiences and comforts were very far from being like those of some persons, which are attended with a spiritual satiety, and which put an end to their religious desires and longings, at least to the edge and ardency of them ; resting satisfied in their own attainments and comforts, as having obtained thei chief end, which is to extinguish their fears of hell, and give them confidence of the favour of God. On the contrary, they were always attended with longings and thirstings after greater degrees of conformity to God! The greater and sweeter his comforts were, the more vehement were his desires after holiness. His longings were not so much after !. discoveries of God's love, and clear views of his own title to future advancement and eternal honours in heaven, as after more of present holimess, greater spirituality, an heart more engaged for God, to love, and exalt, and depend on him. He earnestly wished to serve God better, to do more for his glory, to do all that he did with
more of a regard to Christ as his righteousness and strength,
and to behold the enlargement and advancement of his kingdom on earth. His desires were not idle wishes, but such as were powerful and effectual, to animate him to the earnest, eager ursuit of these things, with the utmost diligence and unfainting abour and self-denial. His comforts never put an end to his seeking after God, and striving to obtain his grace ; but, on the contrary, greatly engaged him therein. IV. His religion did not consist in earperience without practice. All his inward illuminations, affections, and comforts, seemed to have a direct tendency to practice, and to issue in it: and this, not merely a practice negatively good, free from gross acts of irreligion and immorality; but a practice positively holy and christian, in a serious, devout, humble, meek, merciful, charitable, and beneficent conversation, making the service of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, the great business of life, to which he was devoted, and which he pursued with the greatest earnestness and diligence to the end of his days, through all trials. In him was to be seen the right way of being lively in religion. His liveliness in religion, did not consist merely, or mainly, in his being lively with the tongue, but in deed; not in being forward in profession and outward show, and abundant in declaring his own experiences; but chiefly in being active and abundant in the labours and duties of religion; “not slothful in business, but fervent in spirit serving the Lord, and serving his generation, according to the will of God.” By these things, many high pretenders to religion, and professors of extraordinary spiritual experience, may be sensible that BRAINERD did greatly condemn their kind of religion; and that not only in word, but