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tions do certainly arise from some apprehension in the understanding; and that apprehension must either be agreeable to truth, or else be some mistake or delusion; if it be an apprehension or notion that is agreeable to truth, then it is light in the understanding. Therefore the thing to be inquired into is, whether the apprehensions or notions of divine and eternal things, that are raised in people's minds, by these affectionate preachers, whence their affections are excited, be apprehensions that are agreeable to truth, or whether they are mistakes. If the former, then the affections are raised the way they should be, viz., by informing the mind, or conveying light to the understanding. They go away with a wrong notion, that think that those preachers cannot affect their hearers, by enlightening their understandings, that do not do it by such a distinct, and learned handling of the doctrinal points of religion, as depends on human discipline, or the strength of natural reason, and tends to enlarge their hearers' learning, and speculative knowledge in divinity. The manner of preaching without this, may be such as shall tend very much to set divine and eternal things in a right view, and to give the hearers such ideas and apprehensions of them as are agreeable to truth, and such impressions on their hearts, as are answerable to the real nature of things: and not only the words that are spoken, but the manner of speaking, is one thing that has a great tendency to this. I think an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them; but on the contrary a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dmll, indifferent way of speaking of them. An appearance of affection and earnestness, in the manner of delivery, if it be very great indeed, yet if it be agreeable to the nature of the subject, and be not beyond a proportion to its importance, and worthiness of affection, and there be no appearance of its being feigned or forced, has so much the greater tendency to beget true ideas or apprehensions in the minds of the hearers, of the subject spoken of, and so to enlighten the understanding; and that for this reason, that such a way or manner of speaking of these things, does in fact, more truly represent them, than a more cold and indifferent way of speaking of them. If the subject be in its own nature, worthy of very great affection, then a speaking of it with very great affection, is most agreeable to the nature of that subject, or is the truest representation of it, and therefore has most of a tendency to beget true ideas of it, in the minds of those, to whom the representation is made. And I do not think ministers are to be blamed, for raising the aftections of their hearers too high, if that which they are affected
with, be only that which is worthy of affection, and their affections are not raised beyond'a proportion to their importance, or worthiness of affection. I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as I possibly can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of what they are affected with. I know it has long been fashionable to despise a very earnest and pathetical way of preaching: and they, and they only have been valued as preachers, that have shown the greatest extent of learning, and strength of reason, and correctness of method and language: but I humbly conceive it has been for want of understanding, or duly considering human nature, that such preaching has been thought to have the greatest tendency to answer the ends of preaching: and the experience of the present and past ages abundantly confirms the same. Though, as I said before, clearness of distinction and illustration, and strength of reason, and a good method, in the doctrinal handling of the truths of religion, is many ways needful and profitable, and not to be neglected, yet an increase in specu
lative knowledge in divinity, is not what is so much needed by our people, as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light and have no heat. How much has there been of this sort of knowledge in the Christian world, in this age! Was there ever an age wherein strength and penetration of reason, extent of learning, exactness of distinction, correctness of style, and clearness of expression, did so abound? And yet was there ever an age, wherein there has been so little sense of the evil of sin, so little love to God, heavenly mindedness, and holiness of life, among the professors of the true religion ? Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched;
and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, that has the greatest tendency to do this.
Those texts, Isa. lviii. 1,“ Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. And Ezek. vi. 11, “ Thus saith the Lord God, smite with thine hand, and stamp with thy foot, and say, alas, for all the evil abominations of the house pf Israel!” I say these texts (however the use that some have made of them Vhas been laughed at) will fully justify a great degree of pathos, and manifestation of zeal and fervency in preaching the word of God: they may indeed be vabused, to justify that which would be odd and unnatural, amongst us, not mak
ing due allowance for difference of manners and customs, in different ages and nations ; but let us interpret them how we will, they at least imply, that a most affectionate and earnest manner of delivery, in many cases, becomes a preacher of God's word.
Preaching of the word of God, is commonly spoken of in Scripture, in such expressions, as seem to import a loud and earnest speaking; as in Isa. xl. 2, "Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned.” . And ver. 3, “ The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Ver. 6, “ The voice said cry: and he said, what shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof, as the flower of the field.” Jer. ii. 2, “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, thus saith the Lord,” &c. Jonah i. 2, “ Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it.” Isa. lxi. 1, 2, “ The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me, to preach good tidings to the meek, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the year of vengeance of our God.” Isa. lxii. 11, “ Behold, the Lord hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, say ye to the daughter of Zion, behold thy salvation cometh,” &c. Rom X. 18, “Their sound went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Jer. xi. 6, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, saying, hear ye the words of this covenant, and do them." So chap. xix. 2, and vi. 2. Prov. viii. 1, “ Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice ?" Ver. 3, 4, “She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors; unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men ?" And chap. i. 20,“ Wisdom crieth without, she uttereth her voice in the streets." Chap. ix. 3, “ She hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the high places of the city.” John vii. 37, “ In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, if any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.”
It seems to be foretold, that the gospel should be especially preached in a loud and earnest manner, at the introduction of the prosperous state of religion, in the latter days. Isa. xl. 9, “O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain ! O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy
voice with strength! Lift up, and be not afraid! Say unto the cities of Judah, behold your God!” Isa. lii. 7, 8, “How beautiful upon the mountains, are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings! Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice." Isa. xxvii. 13, “ And it shall come to pass, in that day, that the great trumpet shall be blown, and they shall come which were ready to perish.” And this will be one way, that the church of God will cry at that time, like a travailing woman, when Christ mystical is going to be brought forth ; as Rev. xii. at the beginning. It will be by ministers
, that are her mouth : and it will be this way, that Christ will then cry like a travailing woman, as in Isa. xlii. 14, “ I have long time holden my peace: I have been still, and refrained myself; now will I cry like a travailing woman.” Christ cries by his ministers, and the church cries by her officers. And it is worthy to be noted, that the word commonly used in the New Testament, that we translate preach, properly signifies to prodaim aloud like a crter.
Another thing that some ministers have been greatly blamed for, and I think unjustly, is speaking terror to them, that are already under great terrors, instead of comforting them. — Indeed, if ministers in such a case, go about to terrify persons with that which is not true, or to affright them by representing their case worse than it is, or in any respect otherwise than it is, they are to be condemned; but if they terrify them only by still holding forth more light to them, and giving them to understand more of the truth of their case, they are altogether to be justified. When sinners' consciences are greatly awakened by the Spirit of God, it is by light imparted to the conscience, enabling them to see their case to be, in some measure, as it is ; and if more light be let in, it will terrify them still more: but ministers are not therefore to be blamed that they endeavor to hold forth more light to the conscience, and do not rather alleviate the pain they are under, by intercepting and obstructing that light that shines already. To say any thing to those who have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, to represent their case any otherwise than exceeding terrible, is not to preach the word of God to them; for the word of God reveals nothing but truth, but this is to delude them. Why should we be afraid to let persons, that are in an infinitely miserable condition, know the truth of bring them into the light, for fear it should terrify them? It is light that must convert them, if ever they are converted. The more we bring sinners into the light, while they are miserable, and the light is terrible to them, the more likely it that by and by, the light will be joyful to them. The ease, peace and comfort, that natural men enjoy, have their foundation in darkness and blindness; therefore as that darkness vanishes, and light comes in, their peace vanishes, and they are terrified: but that is no good argument, why we should endeavor to hold their darkness, that we may uphold their comfort. The truth is, that as long as men reject Christ, and do not savingly believe in him, however they may be awakened, and however strict and conscientious, and laborious they may be in religion, they have the wrath of God abiding on them, they are his enemies, and the children of the devil (as the Scripture calls all that be not savingly converted, Matt. xiii. 38, 1 John iii. 10); and it is uncertain whether they shall ever obtain mercy : God is under no obligation to show them mercy, nor will he be, if they fast and pray and cry never so much; and they are. then especially provoking God, under those terrors, that they stand it out against Christ, and will not accept of an offered Saviour, though they see so much need of him: and seeing this is the truth, they should be told so, that they may be sensible what their case indeed is.
To blame a minister, for thus declaring the truth to those who are under
awakenings, and not immediately administering comfort to them, is like blaming a surgeon, because when he has begun to thrust in his lance, whereby he has already put his patient to great pain, and he shrieks and cries out with anguish, he is so cruel that he will not stay his hand, but goes on, to thrust it in further, until he comes to the core of the wound. Such a compassionate physician, who as soon as his patient began to flinch, should withdraw his hand, and go about immediately to apply a plaster, to skin over the wound, and leave the core untouched, would be one that would heal the hurt slightly, crying peace, peace, when there is no peace.
Indeed something else besides terror, is to be preached to them, whose consciences are awakened. The gospel is to be preached to them : they are to be told that there is a Saviour provided, that is excellent and glorious, who has shed his precious blood for sinners, and is every way sufficient to save them, that stands ready to receive them, if they will heartily embrace him; for this is also the truth, as well as that they now are in an infinitely dreadful condition: this is the word of God. Sinners at the same time that they are told how miserable their case is, should be earnestly invited to come and accept of a Saviour, and yield their hearts unto him, with all the winning, encouraging arguments, for them so to do, that the gospel affords: but this is to induce them to escape from the misery of the condition that they are now in: but not to make them think their present condition less miserable than it is, or at all to abate their uneasiness and distress, while they are in it; that would be the way to quiet them, and fasten them in it, and not to excite them to fly from it. Comfort, in one sense, is to be held forth to sinners, under awakenings of conscience, 1. e., comfort is to be offered to them in Christ, on condition of their flying from their present miserable state, to him : but comfort is not to be administered to them, in their present state, as any thing that they have now any title to, while out of Christ. No comfort is to be administered to them, from any thing in them, any of their qualifications, prayers or other performances, past
, present or future; but ministers should, in such cases, strive to their utmost to take all such comforts from them, though it greatly increases their terror. A person that sees himself ready to sink into hell, is ready to strive, some way or other, to Jay God under some obligation to him; but he is to be beat off from every thing of that nature, though it greatly increases his terror, to see himself wholly destitute, on every side, of any refuge, or any thing of his own to lay hold of; as a man that sees himself in danger of drowning, is in terror, and endeavors to catch hold on every twig within his reach, and he that pulls away those twigs from him, increases his terror; yet if they are insufficient to save him, and by being in his way, prevent his looking to that which will save him, to pull them away, is necessary to save his life.
If sinners are in any distress, from any error that they embrace, or mistake they are under, that is to be removed : for instance, if they are in terror, from an apprehension that they have committed the unpardonable sin, or that those things have happened to them that are certain signs of reprobation, or any other delusion, such terrors have no tendency to do them any good ; for these terrors are from temptation, and not from conviction : but that terror which arises from conviction or a sight of truth, is to be increased; for those that are most awakened, have great remaining stupidity, they have a sense of but little of that which is; and it is from remaining blindness and darkness, that they see no more: and that remaining blindness is a disease, that we ought to endeavor to remove. I am not
afraid to tell sinners, that are most sensible of their misery, that their case is indeed as miserable as they think it to be, and a thousand times
more so; for this is the truth. Some may be ready to say, that though it be the truth, yet the truth is not to be spoken at all times, and seems not to be seasonable then : but it seems to me, such truth is never more seasonable than at such a time, when Christ is beginning to open the eyes of conscience. Ministers ought to act as co-workers with him; to take that opportunity, and to the utmost to improve that advantage, and strike while the iron is hot, and when the light has begun to shine, then to remove all obstacles, and use all proper means, that it may come in more fully, and the work be done thoroughly then. And experience abundantly shows, that to take this course, is not of a hurtful tendency, but very much the contrary: I have seen, in very many instances, the happy effects of it, and oftentimes a very speedy happy issue, and never knew any ill consequence, in case of real conviction, and when distress has been only from thence.
I know of but one case, wherein the truth ought to be withheld from sinners in distress of conscience, and that is the case of melancholy: and it is not to be withheld from them then, because the truth tends to do them hurt, but because if we speak the truth to them, sometimes they will be deceived and led into error by it, through that strange disposition there is in them to take things wrong. So that that which as it is spoken, is truth, as it is heard and received, and applied by them, is falsehood; as it will be unless the truth be spoken with abundance of caution and prudence, and consideration of their disposition and circumstances. But the most awful truths of God's word, ought not to be withheld from public congregations, because it may happen that some such melancholic persons may be in it; any more than the Bible is to be withheld from the Christian world, because it is manifest that there are a great many melancholic persons in Christendom, that exceedingly abuse the awful things contained in the Scripture, to their own wounding. Nor do I think that to be of weight, which is made use of by some, as a great and dreadful objection against the terrifying preaching that has of late been in New England, viz., that there have been some instances of melancholic persons that have so abused it, that the issue has been the murder of themselves. The objection from hence is no stronger against awakening preaching, than it is against the Bible itself: there are hundreds, and probably thousands of instances might be produced, of persons that have murdered themselves, under religious melancholy: these murders, probably never would have been, if it had not been for the Bible, or if the world had remained in a state of heathenish darkness. The Bible has not only been the occasion of these sad effects, but of thousands, and I suppose millions, of other cruel murders, that have been committed, in the persecutions that have been raised, that never would have been, if it had not been for the Bible: many whole countries have been, as it were, deluged with innocent blood, which would not have been, if the gospel never had been preached in the world. It is not a good objection against any kind of preaching, that some men abuse it greatly to their hurt. It has been acknowledged by all divines, as a thing common in all ages, and all Christian countries, that a very great part of those that sit under the gospel, do so abuse it, that it only proves an occasion of their far more aggravated damnation, and so of men's eternally murdering their souls; which is an effect infinitely more terrible than the murder of their bodies. It is as unjust to lay the blame of these self murders to those ministers who have declared the awful truths of God's word, in the most lively and affecting manner they were capable of, as it would be to lay the blame of hardening men's hearts, and blinding their eyes, and their more dreadful eternal damnation, to the prophet Isaiah, or Jesus Christ, because this was the consequence of their preaching, with respect to many of their hearers. Isa. vi. 10, John ix. 39, Matth. xii. 14. Though
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