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are these joys from God? and when are they only of that nature which stony ground-hearers are susceptible of? How may we know, how may we distinguish them ?
To this inquiry I answer, We may know and distinguish them by the preparation of our minds for them, the experience of our minds under them, and by the disposition of our minds after them. 1. By the preparation of our minds for them. By comfortable impressions under the hearing of the word, we must, no doubt, understand, those which are the results of an evangelical exhibition of gospel grace;—that grace which reigns through righteousness unto everlasting life by Christ Jesus; and which naturally regards its subjects in all their wants in all their dangers, and in all their desires. Now it goes a great way towards proving, that such impressions are from God, if there be fitness of mind for them if there be that previous experience which renders them suitable; not merely pleasant, as prescribing truths which reflect honor to God, and promise happiness to man; and which, by interesting our passions as creatures, may rouse and affect--but as presenting that which brings relief to a malady we feels--a burden we labor under;--that which satisfies our hungerings, relieves our anxieties, and satiates our desires. In a word, that brings something to us which not merely excites our admiration, but accomplishes in us the supply of our need. We may be sensibly touched by the relation of the generosity of a Howard; but the subjects of that generosity felt far more, because their miseries were relieved, and their hopes abundantly realized by it.
2. The experience of our minds under them. It is reasonable to conclude, that when God favors his people with comfortable impressions under the word, he has higher ends in view than their transitory relief their momentary joy: such an end would be neither honorable to God, nor beneficial to his people. The design of God is, no doubt, to effect his own gracious purposes towards them, by humbling their souls;-by exalting his Son as their Savior.-by endearing himself to them as a reconciled God-by attracting them from the world,-by concentrating their affections in himself; by promoting their conformity to his perfect holiness. Now if these be the designs of God, and if our comfortable impressions under his word, are not merely the transient workings of our affections, but lead to those feelings, views, and resolutions which tend to those ends, we may safely conclude, that they come from God; we may welcome them, and improve them to his glory.
3. By the disposition of our minds after them. Are we the better for them? The nature of those impressions may be well questioned which only touch us, and do not heal us. An opiate may soothe pain and create pleasurable sensations; but if nothing more be done for the patient, he is deluded, not cured. So if our comfortable impressions find us the slaves of sin and leave us such; if they find us loose in our Christian walk, and lukewarm in our spirits, and leave us thus, they may deceive. us, they will not benefit us. We may fancy them to be healing balsams, but they are only stupify. ing narcotics; we may suppose them to be consolations from Heaven; but they only delusions from Hell. But are the dispositions of our minds, under comfortable impressions the contrary to this? Are we kept by them in the ways of religion? Is our stedfastness in God maintained? Do they strengthen and establish us in our holy calling, and invigorate our resolutions, to be the Lord's for ever? Do they render sin more odious? Christ more precious? his ordinances more estimable? his yoke more easy? his burden more divine? Are we actuated by them to appreciate more justly the vanities of life; and with more ardor to pant after victory over it? If these be some of the results of comfortable impressions under the preached gospel, they cannot be diabolical; they are more than human! they are heavenly, and from above, even from the Father of Lights! They are those which Satan cannot produce, which mere nature cannot experience. Leading to God, and making like him, they shall infallibly be crowned by him with the joys and felicities of the beatific vision!
QUERIES. 1. Can a person be a hypocrite in religion, and not know that he is one?
2. Is the person a hypocrite who is afraid that he is, and wishes not to be one?
It is pretty well known, I believe, that the word HYPOCRITE is borrowed from the stage, and signifies one who personates another. That this may be done with propriety, and to advantage, the actor must be well ac
quainted with the temper, circumstances, foibles, and excellencies of the character he represents. Should any one attempt to act Richard the Third, Hamlet Prince of Denmark, or any other given character, who is totally ignorant of the history of those men, he would render himself ridiculous. In like manner, for a person who is altogether unacquainted with the sentiments, life, and conversation of genuine Christians, to assume the appearance of the real saint, he would expose himself to the censure of every discerning Christian. Such an one would know, at first sight, that he was not the person he pretended to be; and therefore he could not impose upon any whose senses are exercised to discern between that which is feigned, and that which is real. It will follow, then, that as knowledge of the character is absolutely necessary in the former case to personate with propriety, and to gain applause; so also in the latter. But as no one who represents on a stage a man who has been dead a hundred or a thou. sand years, can be supposed so mad as to think that he is the very person whom he acts, but must needs know that he is not; so we may warrantably conclude that a real hypocrite must know that he is not a true Christian. It may be objected, that the cases are not quite parallel: that the human heart is so deceitful, the insinuations of the enemy of souls so fascinating, and men so naturally prone to entertain a good opinion of their state, that it is possible for them not only to impose upon dthers, but even to deceive themselves. Granted. And such is the conflict in many unrenewed persons, between conscience and appetite, that it is not easy
for thern or others to distinguish between that contest, and VOL. III.
the opposition which is in the breast of every renewed man, between what is commonly denominated the old and new creature. And there is still greater danger of a person deceiving himself that sits under a minister who seldom or ever draws the character of a genuine Christian with judgment, never describes his principles, motives, and ends; the sources of his sorrows, fears, and hopes; nor the habitual frame of his mind, and general tenor of his conduct. The situation of a person is equally disadvantageous who attends a minister that is often insinuating that the knowledge of the goodness of our state is not attainable in the present life: that persons may be real Christians, and not be sensible of it till they quit the stage of mortality: that a man may be a true believer, though guilty of this and the other violation of the Divine law. But, allowing all these things, any person, even by a superficial examination of himself, may easily find from what principles he acts, by what motives he is stimulated, and what ends he has in view, in making a profession of religion, and attending to its various duties. By comparing these with the description given in the word of God, of the principles, motives, and ends of a genuine Christian, he may perceive whether they coincide with it. If they do not, he has no scriptural warrant to conclude that he is a child of God, but that he is yet in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity. If, indeed, he has adopted the sentiment, that it is impossible for a man in this life to know whether his state be good or bad, he may, it is very likely, flatter himself that all is well. Because in the hearing of sermons which exhibited sin in its korrid nature, and tremendous consequences, the pun