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acquaintance with men and things ; another is dull of appréhension, seldom judges rightly, has no taste for what is rare, beautiful or excellent.
It may be granted, that the difference we sometimes see among men, is owing to the improvement or non-improvement of the talents given them by the Creator ; but I here speak of the difference occasioned by the various distribution of his gifts, as the sovereign disposer of what is his own. When we consider the difference and the effects which flow from it, we should be ready to charge God with unrighteousness, were it not for the scriptures which teach, that he requires the exercise of no more talents than he gives. St. Paul has said, it is accepted of a man according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not; and our Lord also, where much is given much is required.
I confess, said Charles, before I had these views, I was sometimes in difficulty to reconcile what I saw, with the justice and equity of God. But these considerations united with a belief, that the virtuous sufferer will be rewarded in a future world, remove all seeming injustice in bis dispensations ; and make the various and seemingly partial distribution of his gifts, every way consistent with the perfections and rectitude of his nature.
They were now in sight of General Americus' house. At a distance it presented a neat, but not very splendid appearance. The grounils about it were layed out with taste and elegance.
The General saw them when they came up, and hasting to the door, took them by the hand, bidding them welcome to his house, with all the frankness and sincerity of a genuine friend. They followed him into the apariment, which had been fitted up for their reception ; the smile of satisfaction beamed in his face; and the transports of friendship danced in his eyes, as he came forward to introduce them to his beloved wife and family.
I do not hesitate to say, said Mr. Goodman, that the peculiar exercises of which we now speak, are not, in themselves, an evidence for por against the real goodness of the work. Because, there cannot be the least doubt, but the work may be genuine, in some instances, where they make their appearance; and that it is equally so, where they do not. Some persons, who are the subjects of such exercises, give every reasonable proof of a sound experience and a holy life; nor are others a whit behind them in christian excellence, though they never have any uncommon exercise. And on the other hand, some may shout, pretend to great supernatural discoveries, &c. and yet be destitute of every spark of piety and sincerity; while others, who make but little noise about religion, and are generally of steady habits, may be as certainly hypucrites as they.
It is not safe, therefore, to take all who make an uncommon arlo, as possessing a superior degree of holiness, nor to look for piety only among the still. We have reason to be Suspicious of persons who are fond of telling their dreams, visions, and revelations, and appear to place much dependance upon them. If they have experimentally known the truth, they are certainly going astray, and the time of their downfall is usually not very distant. That God impresses duty on the minds of believers, is a truth to which I readily subscribe ; but it is not safe to follow any impression, which does not accord with the plain precepts of scripture.
One convincing mark, therefore, of a real work of grace on any heart, is a sober adherence to gospel rules and prom
Our Lord has said, “ hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." When professors, therefore, live in christian harmony, and good fellowship, bearing each other's burthens, doing good to each other's bodies and souls, they give such an evidence of possessing pure and undefiled religion, as ought to entitle them to a place in the family of God.
It is not uncommon for persons of singular exercises, of vis.ons, dreams, &c. to attach extraordinary piety to themselves, and to become censors general of all who are not of their stamp; and few have the good fortune to meet their approbation. Such members usually make the chief part of the difficulties in the christian church.
A consistency of conduct, and evenness of life, ailord ad
ditional evidence of true christian experience. When we see persons at home and abroad, in public and private, and at all times, and under all circumstances, living in the fear and love of God, we cannot desire a stronger proof of their being christians. But what shall be said of those who profess to be in the suburbs of heaven to-day, to-morrow crying out against their whole experience ; or else are as dressy, talkative, and vain as the profane world ; and yet when puhlic worship affords them another opportunity, will re-act all their former rhapsodies and high professions ?
Another evidence of a work of God is, a readiness to perform the known duties of religion.
I might have brought into view the particulars of a christian experience, as an introductory evidence of being a believer in Christ. For though there may be circumstantial differences in the experience of different persons, yet it is essentially the same in all, who are really brought to God. All see themselves to be fallen and sinful, and are ready to eonfess they are justly condemned, helpless and unworthy ; and, that their only hope is in the atoning and pardoning mercy of Jesus Christ. Each alike ventures on that mercy, feels and confesses it free.
Several revivals of religion have come within my knowledge, said the Gen. since my remembrance, on which I have made my observations. A greater falling away has usually attended those which have been accompanied with these extraordinary exercises, than those which have been carried on in a more sober and progressive manner. I have never been able perfectly to satisfy myself concerning the cause, and should therefore like your opinion, Mr. Goodman.
This I am ready to give, and I think too, as the result of mature and iinpartial reflection. When the work puts on such an uncommon character, there is a great deal of passion, even in such as are really brought to the knowledge of the truth. This predominance of the passions binders a sober use of the understanding ; by which they are liable to be imposed on by false impressions, and false doctrines, &c. and the true system of gospel doctrine is less understood, and they are less settled and grounded in the truth. Such extraordinary affections in some, together with a ministry calculated to excite them, works powerfully on the passions of oth
in whose hearts there is, perhaps, but little of divine influence; they come forward, and making strong professions,
appear tolerably fair for a while, but having no root, in the time of temptation fall away.
Such persons usually go to the most unreasonable extremes; imagining no divine power attends any meetings unless there is a high degree of outward zeal and noise; and whenever these do nis occur, their cry is, “ ye are backsliden, ye are backsliden."
It need hardly be told, that usually, these are the first who abandon their profession, and measure back their steps to earth, and may afterwards be classed among the most thoughtless and profane. When the passions take the lead, it is rare, if ever, that the soul feels its dependance on God, or acts with a single eye to his glory, or that it makes the scriptures its rule of faith and practice; but boasting of its own high attainments, and proud of its zeal and raptures, it rushes beyond what human nature is able to carry out. And those who have been denounced by them as hypocrites, formalists, &c. are often the very persons who hold on their way, increasing in the knowledge and love of God.
These persons, like those who have experienced the grace of God in revivals, which have put on a more temperate and progressive appearance, are enlightened in their understanding, have embraced a regular system of truth, which they use as a rallying point to defend themselves against error; they feel their daily dependance on the mercy of God, and making the scriptures the guide of their feet, they press for the mark.
Such christians avoid the extremes into which the passionate and enthusiastic run. They live like consistent followers of Christ; shun the blameable singularities, and superstitious austerities of the sour and rigid professor.
Cases have occurred within my own knowledge, of the latter character, which have never failed to be attended with evil. One instance I will relate. A minister I well knew, who fell under the power of his own ill directed austerity; and seemed to think, that humility consisted in meanness of dress and behavior, and a self denial which refused every thing pleasant to the taste, and in receiving nothing but what was tasteless or unsavory. He insisted on the destruction of all fruit trees ; because it was wrong to drink cider, or gratify the taste with pleasant fruit. These are only a specimen of his rigid singularities; by which he corrupted several congregations; and one, in particular, was scattered
to the winds, and became a disgrace to the Christian name. Some of the females, to show their great humility, and extraordinary piety, prepared themselves coarse tow and linen cloth, which they colored a very indifferent bark color, and • of which they made themselves short gowns, petticoats, aprons, and caps, which they wore to public worship.
This description gives but a faint idea of their character; but I am pained to tell you, that after this misguided zeal bad been kept up for a short time, the most of them abandoned religion altogether; and some of them committed crimes at which human nature shudders. But the few who resisted their superstitious wildness, and were called worldly professors, lukewarm, &c. are the only persons in that congregation, who have the semblance of godliness.
I cannot but think, said Charles, your remarks are just and weighty. For, by what you have said, I judge you are a friend to the power of religion ; and only speak against those extraneous things, which, with some mistaken persons, pass for that power ; but, wherever they exist, in reality lessen it.
This is certainly my meaning, said Mr. Goodman, for I fully believe in warm religious affections, in a steady and well regulated ardor of desire ; that the passions may be sanctified and directed to their proper object ; yea, that perfect love may cast out all tormenting fear.
I am happy to find, said Mr. P. that our views of the power of godliness so exactly accord. To me the discourse has been highly entertaining and profitable.
At the time when I experienced religion, said Charles, there were among us some of those uncommon exercises, which were for some time very trying to me. I did not then doubt but they were all from God, and thought them essential to Christian experience ; and was ready to give up my own hope on the account. But on further experience and reflection, it appeared to me, that when such extraordinary exercises are from God, they are exceptions to his common manner of working ; and, that they are sometimes from nature, and sometimes from Satan. I soon learned, not to make such extraordinary operations any mark for, or against piety, unaccompanied with other evidence; but I now study the tempers, the conversation, the general habits of life ; and if these accord with the gospel, 1 embrace them as Christians, whether they have, or have not any uncom