« ZurückWeiter »
very great; but after months and years, became much greater, and more remarkable; and the spiritual exercises of his mind continued exceeding great, (though not equally so at all times, yet usually so), without indulged remissness, and without habitual dwindling and dying away, even till his decease. They began in a time of general deadness all over the land, and were greatly increased in a time of general reviving of religion. And when religion decayed again, and a general deadness returned, his experiences were still kept up in their beight, and his holy exercises maintained in their life and vigour; and so continued to be, in a general course, wherever he was, and whatever bis circumstances were, among English and Indians, in company and alone, in towns and cities, and in the howling wilderness, in sickness and in health, living and dying. This is agreeable to scripture descriptions of true and right religion, and of the Christian life. The change wrought in him at his conversion, was agreeable to scripture representations of that change which is wrought in true conversion ; a great change, and an abiding change, rendering him a new man, a new creature : not only a change as to hope and comfort, and an apprehension of his own good estate ; and a transient change, consisting in high flights of passing affection ; but a change of nature, a change of the abiding habit and temper of his mind. Not a partial change, merely in point of opinion, or outward reformation; much less a change from one error to another, or from one sin to another: but an universal change, both internal and external; as from corrupt and dangerous principles in religion, unto the belief of the truth, so from both the habits and the ways of sin, unto universal holiness of heart and practice; from the power and service of Satan unto God.
His religion did apparently and greatly differ from that of many high pretenders to religion, who are frequently actuated by vehement emotions of mind, and are carried on in a course of sudden and strong impressions, and supposed high illuminations and immediate discoveries, and at the same time are persons of a virulent “zeal, not according to knowledge."
His convictions, preceding his conversion, did not arise from any frightful impressions of his imagination, or any external images and ideas of fire and brimstone, a sword of vengeance drawn, a dark pit open, devils in terrible shapes, &c. strongly fixed on his mind. His sight of his own sinfulness did not consist in any imagination of a heap of lothsome material 'filthiness witbin him; nor did his sense of the hardness of his heart consist in any bodily feeling in his breast of something hard and heavy like a stone, nor in any imaginations whatever of such a nature.
His first discovery of God or Christ, at his conversion, was not any strong idea of any external glory or brightness, or majesty and beauty of countenance, or pleasant voice; nor was it any supposed immediate manifestation of God's love to him in particular; nor any imagination of Christ's smiling face, arms open, or words immediately spoken to him, as by name, revealing Christ's love to him ; either words of scripture, or any other. But it was a manifestation of God's glory, and the beauty of his nature, as supremely excellent in itself: powerfully drawing, and sweetly captivating his heart; bringing him to a hearty desire to exalt God, set him on the throne, and give him supreme bonour and glory, as the King and Sovereigh of the universe: and also a new sense of the infinite wisdom, suitableness, and excellency of the way of salvation by Christ; powerfully engaging his whole soul to embrace this way of sal vation, and to delight in it. His first faith did not consist in believing that Christ loved him, and died for him, in particular, His first comfort was not from 'any secret suggestion of God's eternal love to him, or that God was reconciled to him, of intended great mercy for him; by any such texts as these, “Son, be of good cheer, thy 'sins are forgiven thee. Fear not, I am thy God," &c. or in any such, way. On the contrary, when God's glory was first discovered to him, it was tvithout any thought of salvation as his own. His first experience of the sanctifying and comforting power of God's Spirit did not begin in some bodily sensation, any pleasant warm feeling in his breast, that some would have called the feeling the love of Christ in him, and being full of the Spirit. How exceeding far were his experiences at his first conversion from all things of such a nature !
And if we look through the whole series of his experiences, from his conversion to his death, we shall find none of this kind. I have had occasion to read his diary over and over, and very particularly and critically to review every passage in it; and I find no one instance of a strong impression on his imagination, through his whole life: no instance of a strongly impressed idea of any external glory and brightness, of any bodily form or shape, any beautiful majestic countenance.
There is no imaginary sight of Christ hanging on the 'crosss with his blood streaming from his wounds; or seated in heaven on a bright throne, with angels and saints bolve ing before bim; or with a countenance smiling on him; or arms open to embrace him: no sight of heaven, in his imagination, with gates of pearl, and golden streets, and vast multitudes of glorious inhabitants, with shining garments, There is no sight of the book of life opened, with his name written in it; no hearing of the sweet music made by the songs of heavenly hosts; no hearing God or Christ immediately speaking to him; nor any sudden suggestions of words or sentences, either of scripture or any other, as then immediately spoken or sent to him: no new objective revelations, no sudden strong suggestions of secret facts. Nor do I find any one instance in all the records he has left of his own life, from beginning to end, of joy excited from a supposed immediate witness of the Spirit; or inward immediate suggestion, that his state was surely good, that God loved him with an everlasting love, that Christ died for him in particular, and that heaven was his; either with or without a test of scripture. There is no instance of comfort by a sudden bearing in upon his mind, as though at that very time directed by God to him in particular, any such kind of texts as these ; “ Fear not, I am with thee ;-It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom ;-You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you;
- I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine;- Before thou wast formed in the belly, I knew thee,” &c. There is no supposed communion and conversation with God carried on in this way ; nor any such supposed tasting of the love of Christ. But the way he was satisfied of his own good estate, even to the entire abolishing of fear, was by feeling within himself the lively actings of a holy temper and heavenly disposition, the vigorous exercises of that divine love which casteth out fear. This was the way he had full satisfaction soon after his conversion, (see his diary on October 18, and 19, 1740.) And we find no other way of satisfaction through his whole life afterwards : and this he abundantly declared to be the way, the only way, that he had complete satisfaction, when he looked death in the face, in its near approaches.
Some of the pretenders to an immediate witness by suggestion, and defenders of it, with an assuming confidence would bear us in hand, that there is no full assurance without it; and that the way of being satisfied by sigos, and arguing an interest in Christ from sanctification, if it will keep men VOL. 111.
quiet in life and health, yet will never do when they come to die. Then, they say, men must have immediate witness, or else be in a dreadful uncertainty. But Mr. BRAINERD's experience is a confutation of this; for in him we have an instance of one that possessed as constant, as unshaken an assurance, through the course of his life, after conversion, as perbaps can be produced in this age; which yet he obtained and enjoyed without any such sort of testimony, and without all manner of appearance of it, or pretence to it; yea, wbile utterly disclaiming any such thing, and declaring against it. His assurance, we need not scruple to affirm, has as fair a claim, and as just a pretension to truth and genuineness, as any that the pretenders to immediate witness can produce. And he is not only an instance of one that had such assurance in life, but had it in a constant manner in his last illness; and particularly in the latter stages of it, through those last months of his life wherein death was more sensibly approaching, without the least hope of life. He had it too in its fulness, and in the height of its exercise, under repeated trials, in this space of time; when brought froin time to time to the very brink of the grave, expecting in a few minutes to be in eternity. He had
the full assurance of hope, unto the end.” When on the verge of eternity, he then declared his assurance to be such as perfectly excluded all fear. And not only so, but it manifestly filled his soul with exceeding joy; he declaring at the same time, that this his consolation and good hope througb grace, arose wholly from the evidence he had of his good estate, by what he found of bis sanctification, or the exercise of a holy heavenly temper of mind, supreme love to God, &c. and not in the least from any immediate witness by suggestion. Yea, he declares that at these very times he saw the awful delusion of that confidence which is built on such a foundation, as well as of the whole of that religion which it usually springs from, or at least is the attendant of; and that his soul abhorred those delusions: and he continued in this mind, often expressing it with much solemnity, even till death.
Mr. BRAINerd's religion was not selfish and mercenary: his love to God was primarily and principally for the supreme excellency of his own nature, and not built on a preconceived notion that God loved him, had received him into favour, and had done great things for him, or promised great things to
him. His joy was joy in God, and not in himself. We see by his diary how, from time to time, through the course of his life, his soul was filled with ineffable sweetness and comfort. But what was the spring of this strong and abiding consolation ? Not so much the consideration of the sure grouuds he had to think that his state was good, that God had delivered him from hell, and that heaven was his; or any thoughts concerning his own distinguished happy and exalted circumstances, as a high favourite of Heaven: but the sweet meditations and entertaining views he had of divine things without himself ; the affecting considerations and lively ideas of God's infinite glory, his unchangeable blessedness, his sovereignty and universal dominion; together with the sweet exercises of love to God, giving himself up to bim, abasing himself before him, denying himself for him, depending upon him, acting for his glory, diligently serving him; and the pleasing prospects or hopes he had of a future advancement of the kingdom of Christ, &c.
It appears plainly and abundantly all along, from his conversion to his death, that the beauty, that sort of good, which was the great object of the new sense of his mind, the new relish and appetite given him in conversion, and thenceforward maintained and increased in his heart, was HOLINESS, conformity to God, living to God, and glorifying him. This was what drew his heart; this was the centre of his soul; this was the ocean to which all the streams of his religious affections tended; this was the object that engaged his eager thirsting desires and earnest pursuits. He knew no true excellency, or happiness, but this; this was what he longed for most vehemently and constantly on earth; and this was with him the beauty and blessedness of heaven. This made him so much and so often to long for that world of glory: it was to be perfectly holy, and perfectly exercised in the holy employments of heaven; thus, “ to glorify God, and enjoy him for ever."
His religious illuminations, affections, and comfort, seemed, to a great degree, to be attended with evangelical humiliation; consisting in a sense of his own utter insufficiency, despicableness, and odiousness; with an answerable disposition and frame of heart. How deeply affected was he almost continually with his great defects in religion; with his vast distance from that spirituality and holy frame of mind that became him; with his ignorance, pride, deadness, unsteadiness, barrenness? He was not only affected with the remembrance of his former sinfulness, before his conversion, but with the sense