« AnteriorContinuar »
carefully examined and considered, it would appear that it has been thus in all ages of the Christian Church from the beginning.
They, therefore, who bring any addition of light to this great subject, The nature of true religion, and its distinction from all counterfeits, should be accepted as doing the greatest possible service to the Church of God. And attempts to this end ought not to be despised and discouraged, under a notion that it is but vanity and arrogance in such as are lately sprung up in an obscure part of the world, to pretend to add any thing on this subject, to the informations we have long since received from their fathers, who have lived in former times, in NewENGLAND, and more noted countries. We cannot suppose that the Church of God is already possessed of all that light, in things of this nature, that ever God intends to give it; nor that all Satan's lurking-places have already been found out. And must we let that grand adversary alone in his devices, to ensnare and ruin the souls of men, and confound the interest of religion amongst us, without attempting to know any thing further of his wiles than others have told us, though we see every day the most fatal effects of his hitherto unobserved snares, for fear we shall be guilty of vanity or want of modesty, in attempting to discern any thing that was not fully observed by our betters in former times ; and that, whatever peculiar opportunities God gives us, by special dispensations of his providence, to see some things that were over-looked by them?
The remarkable things that have come to pass, in late times, respecting the state of religion, I think, will give every wise observer great reason to determine that the counterfeits of the grace of God's spirit are many more than have been generally taken notice of heretofore ; and that, therefore, we stand in great need of having the certain and distinguishing nature and marks of genuine religion more clearly and distinctly set forth than has been usual ; so that the difference between that and every thing that is spurious may be more plainly and surely discerned, and safely determined.
As enquiries of this nature are very important and necessary in themselves, so they are what the present state of religion in New-ENGLAND, and other parts of the British dominions, do in a peculiar manner render necessary at this season ; and also do give peculiar opportunity for discoveries beyond what has been for a long time. Satan, transforming himself into an angel of light, has shewn himself in many of his artifices more plainly than ordinary; and given us opportunity to see more clearly and exactly the difference between his operations, and the saving operations and fruits of the spirit of Christ : And we should be much to blame, if we did not improve such an advantage.
The author of the ensuing treatise has not been negligent of these opportunities. He has not been an unwary or undiscerning observer of events that have occurred these ten years past. From the intimate acquaintance with him, which I have been favored with for many years, I have abundant reason to be satisfied that what has governed him in this publication, is no vanity of mind, no affectation to appear in the world as an author, nor any desire of applause ; but a hearty concern for the glory of GOD, and the kingdom and interest of his Lord and Master, Jesus CHRIST : And, that as to the main things he here insists on, as belonging to the distinguishing nature and essence of true religion, he declares them, not only as being satisfied of them, from a careful consideration of important facts, (which he has had great opportunity to observe), and very clear experience in his own soul ; but the most diligent search of the holy scriptures, and strict examination of the nature of things; and that his determinations concerning the nature of genuine religion, here exhibited to the world, have not been settled and published by him without long consideration, and maturely weighing all objections which could be thought of, taking all opportunities to hear what could be said by all sorts of persons against the principles here laid down, from time to time conversing freely and friendly with gentlemen in the Arminian scheme, having also had much acquaintance, and frequent and long conversation with many of the people called Separatists, their preachers, and others.
And I cannot but express my sincere wishes, that what is here written by this reverend and pious author, may be taken notice of, read without prejudice, and thoroughly considered : As I verily believe, from my own perusal, it will be found a discourse wherein the proper essence and distinguishing nature of saving religion is deduced from the first principles of the oracles of God, in a manner tending to a great increase of light in this infinitely important subject....discovering truth, and, at the same time, shewing the grounds of it, or shewing what things are true, and also why they are true.... manifesting the mutual dependance of the various parts of the true scheme of religion, and also the foundation of the whole.... things being reduced to their first principles in such a manner, that the connection and reason of things, as well as their agreement with the word of God, may be easily seen ; and the true source of the dangerous errors concerning the terms of God's favor and qualifications for heaven, which are prevailing at this day, is plainly discovered ; shewing their falsehood at the very foundation, and their inconsistence with the very first principles of the religion of the bible.
Such a discourse as this is very seasonable at this day: And although the author (as he declares) has aimed especially at the benefit of persons of vulgar capacity ; and so has not labored for such ornaments of style and language as might best suit the taste of men of polite literature ; yet the matter or substance that is to be found in this discourse, is what, I trust, will be very entertaining and profitable to every serious and impartial reader, whether learned or unlearned.
JONATHAN EDWARDS. Northampton, August 4, 1750.
THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.
We are designed, by God our maker, for an endless existence. In this present life we just enter upon being, and are in a state introduce tory to a never-ending duration in another world, where we are to be forever unspeakably happy, or miserable, according to our present conduct. This is designed for a state of probation ; and that, for a state of rewards and punishments. We are now upon trial, and God's eye is upon us every moment; and that picture of ourselves, which we exhibit in our conduct, the whole of it taken together, will give our proper character, and determine our state forever. This beir.g designed for a state of trial, God now means to try us, that our conduct, under all the trials of life, may discover what we are, and ripen us for the day of judgment; when God will judge every man according to his works, and render to every one
ne according to his doings. He does not intend, in the dispensations of his providence, to suit things to a state of ease and enjoyment, which is what this life is not designed for ; but to a state of trial : He puts men into trying circumstances of set purpose, and, as it were, contrives methods to try them. One great end he has in view, is, that he may prove them, and know what is in their hearts.
He did not lead the children of Israel directly from Egypt to Canaan, but first through the Red Sea, and then out into a wilderness, where there was neither water, nor bread, nor flesh ; and made them wander there forty years, that he might try them, and prove them, and know what was in their bearts.... Deut. viii. 2. So, when the cbristian religion was introduced into the world, it was not in such a way as men would have chosen, but in a manner suited to a state of trial. The Son of God did not come in outward glory, but in the form of a servant-110t to reign as an earthly prince, but to die upon the cross : And his apostles made but a mean appearance in the eyes of the world; and that sect was every where spoken against, and persecuted ; and inany were the stumbling blocks of the times : And these things were to try the temper of mankirid. And when christian churches were erected by the indefatigable labors of St. Pall and others, that God inight thoroughly try every heart, he not only suffered the wicked world to rise in arms against them, but also let Satan loose, to transform himself into an Angel of Light, and, as it were, to in. spire, and send forth his ministers, transformed into the apostles of Christ, to vent heretical doctrines, and foment strife and division. In the mean while, the secure and wicked world looked on, pleased, no doubt, to see their debates and divisions, and glad they could have such a handle against Cbristianity, and so good a plea to justify their infidelity : And God delighted to have things under circumstances so perfectly well adapted to a state of trial. He loved to try the apostles, to see how they would be af. fected and act; when not only the world was in arms against them, but many of their own converts turned to be their enemies too, by the influence of false teachers. He loved to try private christians, to see how their hearts would be affected towards the truths of the gospel, and the true ministers of Christ, and towards their temporal interest, while the truths of the gospel were denied or perverted, and the true ministers of Christ despised and stigmatized by heretics, and their temporal interest exposed to the rage of a wicked, merciless world : And he loved to try hypocrites, to see whether they would not renounce the truth they pretended so highly to value, and become disaffected towards the ministers of Christ they seemed so dearly to love, and follow false teachers, or fall off to the world.
It is reasonable and fit, and a thing becoming and beautiful, that beings in a state of probation should be tried ; and God looks upon the present outward ease and comfort even of his own people, as a matter of no importance, compared with things spiritual and eternal. Eternity, with all its importance, lies open to his view ; and time appears as a point, und all its concerns as things comparatively of no worth. If the wicked are in prosperity, and the righteous in adversity, all things come alike to all, God is well pleased, because things of time are of so little importance, and because such an administration of things is suited to a state of trial. There will be time enough hereafter for the righteous to be rewarded, and the wicked punished. In this view of things, we may, in a measure, understand the darkest, and account for the most mysterious, dispensations of divine providence, and discern the wisdom of the divine government.
It has doubtless appeared as a thing strange and dark to many pious persons, and occasioned not a little perplexity of mind, to observe what has come to pass in New-England since the year 1740.... That there should 'be so general an out-pouring of the spirit-so many hundreds and thousands awakened all over the country, and such an almost universal exterdal reformation, and so many receive the word with joy; and yet, after all, things come to be as they now are : so many fallen away to carnal security, and so many turned enthusiasts and heretics, and the country so generally settled in their prejudices against experimentad religion and the doctrines of the gospel, and a food of Arminianism and immorality, ready to deluge the land : but, as strange and dark as it may have seemed, yet doubtless if any of us had lived with the Israclites in the wilderness, or in the three first ages after Christ, or in the time of the reformation