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It is an exceedingly difficult thing for a wicked man, destí, tute of Christian principles in his heart to guide him, to know how to demean himself like a Christian, with the life and beauty, and heavenly sweetness of a truly holy, humble, Christlike behavior. He knows not how to put on these garments; neither do they fit him, Eccl. x. 2, 3. “A wise man's heart is at his right hand ; but a fool's heart is at his left. Yea also, when he that is a fool walketh by the way, his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool; with ver. 15. The labor of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the city, Prov, x. 32. The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, Chap. xv. 2. The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright; but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. And Chap. xvi. 23. The heart of the righteous teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
The saints in thus judging of actions by a spiritual taste, have not a particular recourse to express rules of God's word, with respect to every word and action that is before them, the good or evil of which they thus judge : But yet their taste itself, in general, is subject to the rule of God's word, and must be tried by that, and a right reasoning upon it. man of a rectified palate judges of particular morsels by his taste ; but yet his palate itself must be judged of, whether it be right or no, by certain rules and reasons. But a spiritual taste of soul mightily helps the soul in its reasonings on the word of God, and in judging of the true meaning of its rules: As it removes the prejudices of a depraved appetite, and naturally leads the thoughts in the right channel, casts a light on the word of God, and causes the true meaning, most natural. ly to come to mind, through the harmony there is between the disposition and relish of a sanctified soul, and the true meaning of the rules of God's word. Yea, this harmony tends to bring the texts themselves to mind, on proper occasions ; as the particular state of the stomach and palate tends to bring such particular meats and drinks to mind, as are agreeable to that state. “ Thus the children of God are led by the Spirit of God" in judging of actions themselves, and in their medie
tations upon, and judging of, and applying the rules of God's holy word: And so God “ teaches them his statutes, and causes them to understand the way of his precepts ;" which the Psalmist so often prays for.
But this leading of the Spirit is a thing exceedingly diverse from that which some call so; which consists not in teaching them God's statutes and precepts, that he has already given ; but in giving them new precepts, by immediate inward speech or suggestion ; and has in it no tasting the true excellency of things, or judging or discerning the nature of things at all. They do not determine what is the will of God by any taste or relish, or any manner of judging of the nature of things, but by an immediate dictate concerning the thing to be done; there is no such thing as any judgment or wisdom in the case. Whereas in that leading of the Spirit which is peculiar to God's children, is imparted that true wisdom, and holy discretion, so often spoken of in the word of God; which is high above the other way, as the stars are higher than a glow worm ; and that which Balaam and Saul (who sometimes were led by the Spirit in that other way) never had, and no natural man can have, without a change of nature.
What has been said of the nature of spiritual understanding, as consisting most essentially in a divine supernatural sense and relish of the heart, not only shews that there is nothing of it in this falsely supposed leading of the Spirit, which has been now spoken of; but also shows the difference between spiritual understanding, and all kinds and forms of enthusiasm, all imaginary sights of God, and Christ, and heaven, all supposed witnessing of the Spirit, and testimonies of the love of God by immediate inward suggestion ; and all impressions, of future events, and immediate revelations of any secret facts whatsoever ; all enthusiastical impressions and applications of words of scripture, as though they were words now immediately spoken by God to a particular person, in a new meaning, and carrying something more in them, than the words contain as they lie in the Bible ; and all interpretations of the mystical meaning of the scripture, by supposed
immediate revelation. None of these things consists in a die vine sense and relish of the heart, of the holy beauty and excellency of divine things; nor bave they any thing to do with such a sense ; but all consist in impressions in the head ; all are to be referred to the head of impressions on the imagination, and consist in the exciting external ideas in the mind, either in ideas of outward shapes and colors, or words spoken, or letters written, or ideas of things external and sensible, belonging to actions done, or events accomplished or to be accomplished. An enthusiastical supposed manifestation of the love of God, is made by the exciting an idea of a smiling countenance, or some other pleasant outward appearance, or by the idea of pleasant words spoken, or written, excited in the imaşination, or some pleasant bodily sensation. So when persons have an imaginary revelation of some secret fact, it is by exciting external ideas; either of some words, implying a declaration of that fact, or some visible or sensible circuma stances of such a fact. So the supposed leading of the Spirit, to do the will of God, in outward behavior, is either by exciting the idea of words (which are outward things in their minds, either the words of scripture, or other words, which they look upon as an immediate command of God; or else by exciting and impressing strongly the ideas of the outward actions themselves. So when an interpretation of a seripture type or allegory, is immediately, in an extraordinary way, strongly suggested, it is by suggesting words, as though one secretly whispered and told the meaning, or by exciting other ideas in the imagination.
Such sort of experiences and discoveries as these, commonly raise the affections of such as are deluded by them, to a great height, and make a mighty uproar in both soul and body. And a very great part of the false religion that has been in the world, from one age to another, consists in such discoveries as these, and in the affections that flow from them. In such things consisted the experiences of the ancient Pythagoreans among the heathen, and many others among them, who had strange ecstacies and raptures, and pretended to a divine afflatus, and immediate revelations from heaven. In such
things as these seem to have consisted the experiences of the Essenes, an ancient sect among the Jews, at and after the times of the apostles. In such things as these consisted the experiences of many of the ancient Gnostics, and the Montanists, and many other sects of ancient heretics, in the prim. itive ages of the Christian church. And in such things as these consisted the pretended immediate converse with God and Christ, and saints and angels of heaven, of the Monks, Anchorites, and Recluses, that formerly abounded in the Church of Rome. In such things consisted the pretended high experiences, and great spirituality of many sects of enthusiasts, that swarmed in the world after the Reformation ; such as the Anabaptists, Antinomians, and Familists, the fold lowers of N. Stork, Th. Muncer, Jo. Becold, Henry Pfeiser, David George, Casper Swenckfield, Henry Nicolas, Johannes Ágricola Eislebius; and the many wild enthusiasts that were in England in the days of Oliver Cromwell; and the followers of Mrs. Hutchison in Newengland; as appears by the particular and large accounts given of all these sects by that eminently holy man, Mr. Samuel Rutherford, in his “ Display of the spiritual Antichrist.” And in such things as these consisted the experiences of the late French prophets, and their followers. And in these things seems to lie the religion of the many kinds of enthusiasts of the present day. It is by such sort of religion as this, chiefly that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light : And it is that which he has cver most successfully made use of to confound hopeful and happy revivals of religion, from the beginning of the Christian church to this day. When the Spirit of God is poured out, to begin a glorious work, then the old serpent, as fast as possible, and by all means, introduces this bastard religion, and mingles it with the true ; which has from time to time soon brought all things into confusion. The pernicious consequence of it is not easily imagined or conceived of, until we see and are amazed with the awful effects of it, and the dismal desolation it has made. If the revival of true religion be very great in its beginning, yet if this bastard comes in, there is danger of its doing as Gideon's bastard Abimelech did, whe Vol. IV.
never left until he had slain all his threescore and ten trueborn sons, excepting one, that was forced to fly. Great and strict therefore should be the watch and guard that ministers maintain against such things, especially at a time of great awakening : For men, especially the common people, are casily bewitched with such things ; they having such a glaring and glistering shew of high religion ; and the devil hiding his own shape, and appearing as an angel of light; that men may not be afraid of him, but may adore him.
The imagination or phantasy seems to be that wherein are formed all those delusions of Satan, which those are carried away with, who are under the influence of false religion, and counterfeit graces and affections. Here is the devil's grand lurking place, the very nest of foul and delusive spirits. It is very much to be doubted, whether the devil can come at the soul of man at all to affect it, or to excite any thought or motion, or produce any effect whatsoever in it, any other way, than by the phantasy ; which is that power of the soul, by which it receives, and is the subject of the species, or ideas of outward and sensible things. As to the laws and means which the Creator has established, for the intercourse and communication of unbodied spirits, we know nothing about them; we do not know by what medium they manifest their thoughts to each other, or excite thoughts in each other. But as to spirits that are united to bodies, those bodies God has united them to, are their medium of communication. They have no other medium of acting on other creatures, or being acted on by them, than the body. Therefore it is not to be supposed that Satan can excite any thought, or produce any effect in the soul of man, any otherwise, than by some motion of the animal spirits, or by causing some motion or alteration in something which appertains to the body. There is this reason to think that the devil cannot produce thoughts in the soul immediately, or any other way than by the medium of the body, viz. that he cannot immediately see or know the thoughts of the soul: It is abundantly declared in the scripture, to be peculiar to the omniscient God to do that. But it is not likely that the devil can immediately produce an effect,