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ing or meditation. In some, many divine things seem to be discovered to the soul as it were at once ; others have their minds especially fixing on some one thing at first, and afterwards a sense is given of others ; in some with a swifter, and others a slower succession, and sometimes with interruptions of much darkness.
The way that grace seems sometimes first to appear after legal humiliation, is in earnest longings of soul after God and Christ, to know God, to love him, to be humbled before him, to have communion with Christ in his benefits ; which longings, as they express them, seem evidently to be of such a nature as can arise from nothing but a sense of the superlative excellency of divine things, with a spiritual taste and relish of them, and an esteem of them as their highest happiness and best portion. Such longings as I speak of, are commonly attended with firm resolutions to pursue this good forever, together with a hoping, waiting disposition. When persons have begun in such frames, commonly other experiences and discoveries have soon followed, which have yet more clearly manifested a change of heart.
It must needs be confest that Christ is not always distinctly and explicitly thought of in the first sensible act of grace (though most commonly he is ;) but sometimes he is the object of the mind only implicitly. Thus sometimes when persons have seemed evidently to be stript of all their own righteousness, and to have stood self condemned as guilty of death, they have been comforted with a joyful and satisfying view, that the mercy and grace of God is sufficient for them; that their sins, though never so great, shall be no hinderance to their being accepted ; that there is mercy enough in God for the whole world, and the like, when they give no account of any particular or distinct thought of Christ ; but yet when the account they give is duly weighed, and they are a little interrogated about it, it appears that the revelation of the mercy of God in the gospel, is the ground of this their encouragement and hope ; and that it is indeed the mercy of God through Christ, that is discovered to them, and that it is depended on in him, and not in any wise moved by any thing in them.
So sometimes disconsolate souls amongst us, have been revived and brought to rest in God, by a sweet sense given of his grace and faithfulness, in some special invitation or promise, in which is no particular mention of Christ, nor is it accompanied with any distinct thought of him in their minds; but yet it is not received as out of Christ, but as one of the invitations or promises made of God to poor sinners through his son Jesus, as it is indeed; and such persons have afterwards had clear and distinct discoveries of Christ accompanied with lively and special actings of faith and love towards him.
It has more frequently been so amongst us, that when persons have first had the gospel ground of relief for lost sinners discovered to them, and have been entertaining their minds with the sweet prospect, they have thought nothing at that time of their being converted: To see that there is such an allsufficiency in God, and such plentiful provision made in Christ, after they have been borne down, and sunk with a sense of their guilt and fears of wrath, exceedingly refreshes them; the view is joyful to them, as it is in its own nature glorious, and gives them quite new, and more delightful ideas of God and Christ, and greatly encourages them to seek conversion, and begets in them a strong resolution to give up themselves, and devote their whole lives to God and his son, and patiently to wait till God shall see fit to make all effectual; and very often they entertain a strong persuasion, that he will in his own time do it for them.
There is wrought in them a holy repose of soul in God through Christ, and a secret disposition to fear and love him, and to hope for blessings from him in this way : And yet they have no imagination that they are now converted, it does not so much as come into their minds; and very often the reason is, that they do not see that they do accept of this sufficiency of salvation, that they behold in Christ, having entertained a wrong notion of acceptance ; not being sensible that the obedient and joyful entertainment which their hearts give to this discovery of grace, is a real acceptance of it: They know not that the sweet complacence they feel in the mercy and complete salyation of God, as it includes pardon and sanctification, and is held forth to them only through Christ, is a true receiving of this mercy, or a plain evidence of their receiving it. They expected I know not what kind of act of soul, and perhaps they had no distinct idea of it themselves.
And indeed it appears very plainly in some of them, that before their own conversion they had very imperfect ideas what conversion was : It is all new and strange, and what there was no clear conception of before. It is most evident, as they themselves acknowledge, that the expressions that were used to describe conversion, and the graces of God's spirit, such as a spiritual sight of Christ, faith in Christ, poverty of spirit, trust in God, resignedness to God, &c. were expressions that did not convey those special and distinct ideas to their minds which they were intended to signify : Perhaps to some of them it was but little more than the names of colors aro to convey the ideas to one that is blind from his birth.
This town is a place where there has always been a great deal of talk of conversion, and spiritual experiences; and therefore people in general had before formed a notion in their own minds what these things were ; but when they come to be the subjects of them themselves, they find themselves much confounded in their notions, and overthrown in many of their former conceits. And it has been very observable, that persons of the greatest understanding, and that had studied most about things of this nature, have been more confounded than others. Some such persons that have lately been conyerted, declare that all their former wisdom is brought to nought, and that they appear to have been mere babes, who knew nothing. It has appeared that none have stood more in deed of enlightening and instruction, even of their fellow christians, concerning their own circumstances and difficulties, than they: And it has seemed to have been with delight, that they have seen themselves thus brought down and become nothing, that free grace and divine power may be exalted in them.
It was very wonderful to see after what manner person's affections were sometimes moved and wrought upon, when God VOL. III.
did, as it were, suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds, a sense of the greatness of his grace, and fulness of Christ, and his readiness to save, who before were broken with apprehensions of divine wrath, and sunk into an abyss under a sense of guilt, which they were ready to think was beyond the mercy of God: Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping : And sometimes they have not been able to forbear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration. In some even the view of the glory of God's sovereignty in the exercises of his grace, has surprised the soul with such sweetness, as to produce the same effects. I remember an instance of one, who, reading something concerning God's sovereign way of saving sinners, as being selfmoved, and having no regard to men's own righteousness as the motive of his grace, but as magnify. ing himself, and abasing man, or to that purpose, felt such a sudden rapture of joy and delight in the consideration of it; and yet then suspected himself to be in a Christless condition, and had been long in great distress for fear that God would not have mercy on him.
Many continue a long time in a course of gracious exereises and experiences, and do not think themselves to be converted, but conclude themselves to be otherwise ; and none knows how long they would continue so, were they not helped by particular instruction. There are undoubted instances of some that have lived in this way for many years together ; and a continuing in these circumstances of being converted and not believing it, has had various consequences, with various persons, and with the same persons, at various times; some continue in great encouragement and hope, that they shall obtain mercy, in a stedfast resolution to persevere in seeking it, and in an humble waiting for it at God's foot; but very often when the lively sense of the sufficiency of Christ, and the riches of divine grace begins to vanish, upon a with draw of the influences of the spirit of God, they return to greater distress than ever ; for they have now a far greater
sense of the misery of a natural condition than before, being in a new manner sensible of tbe reality of eternal things, and the greatness of God, and his excellency, and how dreadful it is to be separated from him, and to be subject to his wrath ; so that they are sometimes swallowed up with darkness and amazement. Satan has a vast advantage in such cases to ply them with various temptations, which he is not wont to neglect. In such a case persons do very much need a guide to lead them to an understanding of what we are taught in the word of God of the nature of grace, and to help them to apply it to themselves.
I have been much blamed and censured by many, that I should make it my practice, when I have been satisfied concerning persons' good estate, to signify it to them: Which thing has been greatly misrepresented abroad, as innumerable other things concerning us, to prejudice the country against the whole affair. But let it be noted, that what I have undertaken to judge of, has rather been qualifications, and declared experiences, than persons : Not but that I have thought it my duty, as a pastor, to assist and instruct persons in applying scripture rules and characters to their own case, in doing of which, I think many greatly need a guide ;) and have, where I thought the case plain, used freedom in signifying my hope of them, to others : But have been far from doing this concerning all that I have had some hopes of; and I believe have used much more caution than many have supposed. Yet I should account it a great calamity to be deprived of the comfort of rejoicing with those of my flock, that have been in great distress, whose circumstances I have been acquainted with, when there seems to be good evidence that those that were dead are alive, and those that were lost are found. I am sensible the practice would haye been safer in the hands of one of a riper judgment and greater experience ; but yet there has seemed to be an absolute necessity of it on the forementioned accounts; and it has been found to be that which God has most remarkably owned and blessed amongst us, both ! the persons theinselves, and others,