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good principle, and true respect to the Lord, Rom. xiv. 6.... The zeal of the Corinthians with respect to the incestuous man, though the apostle highly commends it, yet at the same time saw that they needed a caution, lest they should carry it too far, to an undue severity, and so as to fail of Christian meckness and forgiveness, 2 Cor. ii. 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and chap. vii. 11, to tire end. Luther that great reformer had a great deal of bitterness with his zeal.
It surely cannot be wondered at by considerate persons, that at a time when multitudes all over the land have their affections greatly moved, that great numbers should run into many errors and mistakes with respect to their duty, and consequently into many acts and practices that are imprudent and irregular. I question whether there be a man in Newengland, of the strongest reason and greatest learning, but what would be put to it to keep master of himself, thoroughly to weigh his words, and consider all the consequences of his behavior, so as to behave himself in all respects prudently, if he were sostrongly impressed with a sense of divine and eternal things, and his affections so exceedingly moved, as has been frequent of late among the common people. How little do they consider human nature, who look upon it so insuperable a stumbling block, when such muititudes of all kinds of capacities, natural tempers, educations, customs and manners of life, are Sgreatly and variously affected, that imprudences and irregu-larities of conduct should abound; especially in a state of things so uncommon, and when the degree, extent, swiftness and power of the operation is so very extraordinary, and so new, that there has not been time and experience enough to give birih to rules for people's conduct, and so unusual in times past, that the writings of divines do not afford rules to. direct us in such a siate of tliings?
A great deal of noise and tumult, confusion and uproar, and darkness mixed with light, and evil with good, is always to be expected in the beginning of something very extraordinary, and very glorious in the state of things in human society, or the church of God. As after nature has long been shut up in a cold dead state, in time of winter, when the sun returns in
the spring, there is, together with the increase of the light and heat of the sun, very dirty and tempestuous weather, before all is settled calm, and serene, and all nature rejoices in its bloom and beauty. It is in the new creation as it was in the old, the Spirit of God first moved upon the face of the waters, which was an occasion of great uproar and tumult, and things were gradually brought to a settled state, until at length all stood forth in that beautiful, peaceful order, when the heavens and the earth were finished, and God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good. When God is about to bring to pass something great and glorious in the world, nature is in a ferment and struggle, and the world as it were in travail. As when God was about to introduce the Messiah into the world, and that new and glorious dispensation that lie set up, He shook the heavens and the earth, and shook all nations. There is nothing that the church of God is in scripture more frequently represented by than vegetables; as a tree, a vine, corn, &c. which gradually bring forth their fruit, and are first green before they are ripe. A great revival of religion is expressly compared to this gradual production of vegetables, Isa. Ixi, 11. “ As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring furth before all the nations. The church is in a special manner compared to a palmtree, Cant. vii, 7, 8. Exod. xv, 27. 1
. Kings, vi. 29. Psal. xcii. 12. Of which tree this peculiar thing is observed, that the fruit of it, though it be very sweet and good when it is ripe, pet before it has had time to ripen, has a mixture of poison.
The weakness of human nature has always appeared in times of great revival of religion, by a disposition to run to extremes and get into confusion ; and especially in these three
; things, enthusiasm, superstition, and intemperate zeal. So it appeared in the time of the reformation, very remarkably; and also in the days of the apostles; many were then excecilingly disposed to lay weight on those things that were very notional and chimerical, giving heed to falles and whimsies, as appears by 1 Tim. i. 4, and iv. 7, 2 Tim. ii. 16, and v. 2, and Tit. i. 14, and iii. 9. Many, as ecclesiastical history ina forms
us, fell off into the most wild enthusiasm, and extravagant notions of spirituality, and extraordinary illumination from heaven beyond others; and many were prone to superstition, willworship and a voluntary humility, giving heed to the commandments of men, being fond of an unprofitable bodily exercise, as appears by many passages in the apostles writings : And what a proneness then appeared among professors to swerve from the path of duty, and the spirit of the gospel, in the exercises of a rash indiscreet zeal, censuring and condemning ministers and people ; one saying, I am of Paul, another I of Apollos, another I of Cephas ; judging one another for differences of opinion about smaller matters, unclean meats, holy days and holy places, and their different opinions and practices respecting civil intercourse and communication with their heathen peighbors? And how much did vain jangling and disputing and confusion prevail through undue heat of spirit, under the name of a religious zeal ? 2 Tim. vi. 4, 5. 2 Tim. ii. 16, and Tit. iii. 9. And what a task had the apostles to keep them within bounds, and maintain good order in the churches ? How often are they mentioning their irregularities ? The prevailing of such like disorders seems to have been the special occasion of writing many of their Epistles. The church in that great effusion of the spirit that was then, and the strong impressions that God's people were then upder, was under the care of infallible guides, that watched over them day and night ; but yet so prone were they, through the weakness and corruption of human nature, to get out of the way, that irregularity and confusion rose in some churches, where there was an extraordinary outpouring of the spirit, to a very great height, even in the apostles' life time, and under their eye. And though some of the apostles lived long to settle the state of things, yet presently after they were dead, the Christian church ran into many superstitions and childish notions and practices, and in some respects into a great severity in their zeal. And let any wise person that has not, in the midst of the disputes of the present day, got beyond the calmness of consideration, impartially consider to
What lengths, we may reasonably suppose, many of the primitive Christians, in their heat of zeal, and under their extraor dinary impressions, would soon have gone, if they had had no inspired guides; and whether or no, it is not probable that the church of Corinth in particular, by an increase of their irregularities and contentions, would not in a little time have broke to pieces, and dissolved in a state of the utmost confusion ? And yet this would have been no evidence that there had not been a most glorious and remarkable outpouring of the spirit in that city. But, as for us, we have no infallible apostle to guide and direct us, to rectify disorders, and reclaim us when we are wandering ; but every one does what is right in his own eyes; and they that err in judgment, and are got into a wrong path continue to wander, till experience of the mischievous issue convinces them of their error.
If we look over this affair, and seriously weigh it in its circumstances, it will appear a matter of no great difficulty to account for the errors that have been gone into, supposing the work in general to be from a very great outpouring of thą Spirit of God. It may easily be accounted for, that many have run into great errors, and into just such errors as they have. It is known, that some that have been improved as great instruments to promote this work, have been very young; and how natural is it for such as are theinselyes new. ly awaked out of sleep, and brought out of that state of darkness, insensibility and spiritual death, which they had been in ever since they were born ; and have a new and wonderful scene opened to them; and have in yiew the reality, the vastness, and infinite importance, and nearness of spiritual and eternal things; and at the same time are surprised to see the · world asleep about them ; and bave not the advantage of age and experience, and have had but little opportunity to study divinity, or to converse with aged experienced Christians and divines ; I say, how natural it is for such to fall into many errors with respect to the state of mankind, with which they are so surprised, and with respect to the means and methods of their relief? Is it any wonder that they have not at once learned how to make all the allowances that are to be made, and that they do not at once find out that method of dealing with the world, that is adapted to the mysterious state and nature of mankind ? Is it any wonder that they cannot at once foresee what the consequences of things will be, what evils are to be guarded against, and what difficulties are like to arise, that are to be provided for?
We have long been in a strange stupor ; the influences of the Spirit of God upon the heart have been but little felt, and the nature of them but little taught ; so that they are in many respects new to great numbers of those that have lately fallen under them. And is it any wonder that they that never before had experience of the supernatural influence of the divine spirit upon their souls, and never were instructed in the na'ture of these influences, do not so well know how to distinguish one extraordinary new impression from another, and so (to themselves insensibly) run into enthusiasm, taking every strong impulse or impression to be divine ? How natural is it to suppose, that among the multitudes of illiterate people (most of which are in their youth) that find themselvos so wonderfully changed, and brought into such new, and before (to them) almost unheard of circumstances, that many should pass wrong, and very strange judgments of both persons and things that are about them ; and that now they behold them in such a new light, they in their surprise should go further from the judgment that they were wont to make of them than they ought, and in their great change of sentiments, should pass from one extreme to another? And why should it be thought strange, that those that scarce ever heard of any such thing as an outpouring of the Spirit of God before ; or if they did, had no notion of it; do not know how to behave themselves in such a new and strange state of things ? And is it any wonder that they are ready to hearken to those that have instructed them, that have been the means of delivering them from such a state of death and misery as they were in before, or have a name for being the happy instruments of promoting the same work among others? Is it unaccountable that persons in these circumstances are ready to receive every thing they say, and to drink down error as well as truth from them?