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own people, without any expectation of its ever being published. To warn them against such delusions, was thought to be both needful and safe. I did not think such mistaken notions of conversion were, by any means, confined to our own communion; or that they were more common among us than among others. If I may be the means of undeceiving the deceived, which are found in other communions, I hope it will not be considered as acting an unfriendly part towards them. I have not now time to repeat the things which are contained in the sermon, on the subject of false conversions; but I would request the reader most carefully and prayerfully to attend to the things which are there suggested, if he can get access to the sermon. If he should consider the doctrinal sermons in that volume, as dangerous; he will not perhaps consider it as dangerous, to hear what can be suggested concerning the variety of ways in which we may be deceived with a vain hope. A vain hope-————— -how dreadful the
It is objected by Mr. B. that I have represented Satan as transforming himself into an angel of love, and that I have said, he can counterfeit love as well as other graces. He then adds, as a refutation of this sentiment,
Does not St. John say, God is love; and they that dwell in love dwell in God, and God in them? Is not love therefore one of the brightest traits of the divine image? And if Satan can counterfeit love, I see no reason why he may not counterfeit holiness also.", p. 266. I answer, he can counterfeit holiness, for holiness is love. It seems strange, that Mr. B. should have read this sermon, and not have learnt what was meant by Satan's transformation; and by Satan's counterfeiting good things. By his transformation into a benevolent creatare, or angel of love, the apostle did not surely mean, that the devil had become a good being; that he was actually changed back into an angel of light. But if he meant any thing, he must have meant, that he did assume this good character for this end, that he might the more successfully deceive and destroy the souls of men. And when we said, that Satan could counterfeit love, did we say that he could produce love, the same love, which is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy
Ghost? What is meant by counterfeiting a thing? Does it mean making the very thing, which is valuable? or does it not rather mean, that we make something which has no real value, in imitation of that which has value, with a view to deceive the incautious? When silver and gold are counterfeited, base metals are taken, which resemble silver and gold, and they are glossed over and stamped as though they were true coin. When Bank notes are counterfeited, some dishonest knave puts to the note, resembling the true bills, the names of the officers, and then seeks to put it off, as if it were, in reality, a note issued by the Bank. If I should say, There is no bill but what knaves can counterfeit, it would not be saying that there was not a difference, and to good judges a perceivable difference, between the counterfeit and the true bills, even in every instance. But our saying, that every bill can be counterfeited, if it should be believed, would make people examine all the money which they take. Now let us suppose; that it should be given out, and be universally believed, that there was a particular bill, (we will say a twenty dollar note,) which nobody could imitate or counterfeit, would it not have a tendency to make us take all notes of this sort, without the least examination concerning their genuineness? Let this be applied to the case before us. If this should be a generally received sentiment in Christendom, that Satan cannot counterfeit love, then whenever we feel any love in our hearts, we shall, without examining into its nature, immediately conclude that we are born of God. And this sentiment will give our adversary great advantage; for it is evident, that all the affectionate and loving feelings of our hearts, are no more holy love, than all our sorrow, is godly sorrow ; or than all our gladness, is holy joy and thankfulness; If men will still believe, that Satan cannot counterfeit love, they will give a most amazing advantage to him who walketh about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour; and who to effect this, transforms himself into an angel of light.
On the subject of the wiles of the devil, in deceiving us with religious experiences, which are radically defective, and which, of consequence, are not supported by the word of God, I would intreat my reader to con
sult, in addition to the sacred volume itself, Edwards on the Affections, if he has pot done it already. There is so much light reflected by this book, on the interesting subject of experimental religion, that there can be but few books, besides the Bible, more worthy of our attention. Especially is it worthy of the careful attention of of all those who watch for souls. I have thought that no spiritual guide, who lives where he can have access to this book, could hardly be innocent, in not availing himself of this excellent help, to aid him in his work of guiding souls in the path of life. Edwards had great acquaintance with the Bible, with his own heart, and with men. He was greatly experienced in religious awakenings. He most fully believed in such a thing, as seasons of the special out-pouring of the Spirit; and did all he could to promote such a good work. Among the means to promote it, he took great pains to observe and note the distinction between a genuine work of the Spirit of God, and all the counterfeit works of the prince of darkness. His book on Religious Affections, appears to be the result of all his studies on this subject, and of all the observations which he had opportunity to make, by means of extensive acquaintance with the religious revivals and awakenings, which were then in the land. In compassion to immortal souls, which are so exposed to be lost, by means of false, delusive experiences, we would entreat spiritual guides of every communion, to search thoroughly into this subject, lest they should heal spiritual wounds slightly, and speak peace to them to whom God has not spoken peace. ·
OBSERVATIONS ON THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT, DESIGNED TO EXPOSE WHAT WE DEEM TO BE DANGEROUS SENTIMENTS ON THIS SUBJECT; WHICH ARE FOUND IN MR. BANGS' SIXTH LETTER; AS ALSO IN THE BOOK OF METHODIST DOCTRINES AND DISCIPLINE.
The author of the Letters complains, that in the sermon on Satan's transformation, I have dealt in negative marks, without giving positive signs of a genuine conversion. "It is true," says our author," you say it may be known to God, and to the person himself; but you give no mark by which it may be known, otherwise than by saying, 'Regeneration is a real change of heart from sin to holiness." But holiness is a very vague term, and needs much explanation to understand it." p. 265. I acknowledge that this objection would have had weight in it, if that sermon had been published by itself; but it immediately followed a sermon, the express object of which was to point out the difference of character between the unconverted and the converted, as consisting in supréme regart to self, and supreme regard to God. To this sermon the reader was referred, for the distinguishing marks of a genuine conversion. And whether these marks were scriptural in the view of the reader, or not, he could not say that they were not explicit.
After complaining of my deficiency, our author proceeds to give his views of the evidences of a genuine conversion. He states, that the true convert has a
three-fold testimony, that he is an heir of God; "1. The direct witness of the Spirit, which bears witness with his spirit that he is born of God.-2. Its indirect witness which are its fruits.-3. His external deportment, called keeping the commandments, which perfectly corresponds to the internal dispositions of the heart." p. 268. The two last of these testimonies appear intelligible. By the connexion he makes it evident, that by the fruits of the Spirit, which he calls its indirect witness, he intend. ed religion in the heart. But what did he intend by the direct witness of the Spirit? I do not see that he has told us, or given us any clue, by which we shall find out what he intended: and yet he seems to make this the most material witness; for he not only places it first in order, but he says, concerning the indirect witness, namely, the fruits of the Spirit, that it " cannot exist where the direct evidence is wanting, no more than there can be fruit on a tree destitute of life." What then can be meant by this direct witness of the Spirit? Does it mean regeneration itself? This we should be led to conclude from the description just given of it. But surely this could not be the idea of our author, because he is teaching us how to know that we are regenerated. By the direct witness of the Spirit, he does not mean the love of God, shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost; nor any other holy affection of the heart, produced by the Spirit; for all these he refers to the second class of testimony, which he calls the indirect wit I see not then, but that it must mean a direct revelation, made by the Spirit to a certain person, declaring to him, that he is an heir of God; just as if à visible messenger should be sent from God, to make this declaration, without exhibiting any other proof of it, than that God said it was so.
Here I would ask, how it is that the Spitit makes this revelation to any man, that he is an heir of God? Does he make use of any words, in bearing this direct witness? If he does, are they the words which have been already revealed, and which are contained in the scriptures; or are the words new, as well as the thing revealed? If they are the words of scripture, how shall I know that they belong to me in particular? I know that the commands of the scripture belong to me, be