« السابقةمتابعة »
enough; I should need no new revelation to make me easy. By the old revelation, I mean the scriptures in their original sense and meaning, understood as saying nothing more to me than what they say to all Christians in the like circumstances; so that every other Christian would learn just the same things from them which I do, if he had but an equal measure of spiritual light.-—By a new revelation, I intend all sorts of impressions concerning supposed facts, not already discovered in scripture; or concerning future events, not already foretold ; whether these impressions are made in the words of scripture, or by any other words strongly fixed on the mind. If detached sentences of scripture are made use of, that makes the case none the better, unless the sense gathered from them was originally contained in the Bible.
Perhaps you will stand me out, that you have known some such instances of these sorts of impressions being fulfilled, that I can never persuade you they are always delusive. As to myself, I only say, that I have no better opinion of these tales, than I have of tales concerning ghosts and apparitions. I should not care to affirm, that no man, in
any one instance whatsoever, really saw an apparition ; but I believe that out of an hundred such tales, half of them are barefaced lies, and probably forty-nine of the other half were merely the effect of a strong imagination, and if one in an hundred should be true, I do not wish to experience the truth of either kind of wonders myself : nor have I any more desire to receive a true new revelation, than I have to receive a visit from a real ghost.
However, I must be more positive in maintaining, that, supposing them both to be real, there is no more token of grace in the one case than in the other. Indeed, it is possible that a new revelation, if it were really made to a good man, might be attended with the exercise of grace; and so might his seeing an apparition. But it is certainly a far better evidence of grace, for a man to bear up under trials, by means of scriptural consolation, while he is uncertain of future events, than for him to be supported and comforted by the cetain foreknowledge of some agreeable change in his outward circumstances.
Suppose you were in a state of poverty, and, being greatly distressed on that account, were to be relieved by an express revelation, that some distant relation would soon die, and leave you a large fortune; I think verily you would not have the opportunity of exercising such grace, and giving God such glory, as another person, who, though as poor and afflicted as yourself, should yet be composed and resigned to the will of God, notwithstanding he had no expectation of any remarkable alteration of circumstances in his favor ; but who should rely on the providence of God, to supply him with absolute necessaries, submitting to his wisdom and sovereignty, and rejoicing that he had chosen the poor of this world, to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom.
I wish you, my dear friend, to pray earnestly for more spiritual understanding of the good old revelation already made; be content that the Bible has said already, to all believers, enough to support them in the worst distresses; and do not indulge a wish to make it say more than it has said. There is much instruction and consolation treasured up therein, with which we have as yet but a very imperfect acquaintance; let us study that; leaving secret things to the Lord, and being thankful that he has given us such an ample revelation of his holy will.
It is more flattering to spiritual pride to hold an immediate dialogue with the Almighty, and to foretel our own future prosperity, and I know not what besides, than to study the plain word of God, and learn no more from it than what all our Christian brethen might learn by the same means : and indeed this tendency of such sort of impressions is one great objection to them. But the other method is much more honorable to God, and to his written word, more favorable to the exercise of grace, and, in the issue, more comfortable and safe for ourselves. At best, I may be mistaken as to these new revelations, but the old can never prove false. unmarried, and desirous of changing my circumstances in life, a revelation of my certain success in courtship might disappoint me; but an assurance that God would perform the thing that he had appointed for me, could not. If I were in poverty, a promise of riches might fail, but a promise that
If I were
God will add all that is really needful, to them who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, cannot deceive me. If I were under trials, an impression that they should have an end at a given period, might fail; but a promise that they shall issue, some way or other, to the glory of God, and to my real welfare, cannot fail; for God has insured this to all them that love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Since I was first acquainted with religion, I have known many instances of the sad consequences of giving heed to impulses, both in those that I believe were truly gracious, and in others whom I could not but suspect to be destitute of
I have seen repeated instances of persons carried away by these impressions, who have appeared, for a long time, exceedingly confident of the fulfilment of these imaginary promises, respecting certain events which they desired; but yet, instead of calmly waiting God's time for their accomplishment, they have been subject to the most violent and disorderly sallies of passion, upon any appearance of a disappointment; even while they have professed to retain their confidence that God had indeed said such and such things to them a sad indication to me, that their faith in that particular, was not the gift of God. And when real Christians, as I verily believe, have for a while been drawn into such snares, how have they been tempted to throw away all their experience, good and bad together, when events have taken place quite contrary to their expectation! I wish to use all possible tenderness in attempting to rectify mistakes of this kind, but I have sometimes had cause to repent not speaking my mind more plainly and fully.
I pray, therefore, my friend, that you may be contented with enquiring into present duty, and satisfied with the stores of consolation already treasured up in the divine word, as the common stock of the people of God. Perhaps, you are ready to reply : Well, but then the Bible will not assure me to the contrary, but that I may be as poor as Job, or as Lazarus. Very true; it will not secure you from any one affliction to which other believers are liable ; but, however, as it assures you the Lord will never fail you, nor forsake you ; that he
will cause all things to work together for your good; that though for the present, if need be, you may be in heaviness, through manifold temptations; yet the trial of your faith, being more precious than that of gold which perisheth, though it be tried with fire, will be found to glory, and honor, and praise, at the appearing of Jesus Christ; you will, in the issue, find cause to say, This is enough ; God has spoken in his holiness, and I will rejoice, since he in all things shall be glorified.
Hoping you will take all my freedom in good part, I subscribe myself
Northampton, May, 1784.
P. S. The reader, who may wish more thoroughly to investigate the subject, is referred to President Edwards's Treatise on the Affections ; pp. 77, 78. 119-126, &c. 188, &c. Edinburgh Edition, 1772. And to another work, too little known, written by the same Author, entitled Thoughts on the Revival of Religion, in New England, 1742, pp. 133—140.
Cum tot sustineas ac tanta negotia solus.
Horace. Epist. I. 1.
Du Thou, whose hand alone sustains
So many vast affairs, Holding the universal reins, And marshalling the stars,
2 Archangels on thy care depend,
And meanest insects too ;
Am not beneath thy care;
To thee my all resign?
Thy merciful design.