« ForrigeFortsæt »
"Feed the flock
O wicked man! thou shalt surely | 1 Peter, v. 2—4. die: If thou dost not speak to warn of God which is among you, taking the wicked from his way, that wick-the oversight thereof, not by coned man shall die in his iniquity, but straint, but willingly; not for filthy his blood will I require at thine lucre, but of a ready mind; neither hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn as being lords over God's heritage, the wicked of his way, to turn from but being examples to the flock: it if he do not turn from his way, and when the chief Shepherd shall he shall die in his iniquity; but appear, ye shall receive a crown of thou hast delivered thy soul." For glory that fadeth not away." I was fully convinced with Bishop I hope the reader will excuse my Burnet, that every minister is as prolixity in speaking on this submuch concerned in this solemn [ject, because in itself it is very imwarning, as the prophet himself. portant: and though I obtained no Acts, xx. 17-35, was another por- new views of gospel truth from The tion of Scripture, which, by means Pastoral Care, yet I received such of this book, was brought home to a deep conviction of the difficulty my conscience; especially verses 26, and importance of that work, in 27, 28, which serve as an illustra- which I had thoughtlessly engaged, tion of the preceding Scripture and of the imminent danger to which "Wherefore I take you to record my soul would be exposed, should this day, that I am pure from the I neglect to devote myself wholly blood of all men: for I have not to it; as laid the foundation of all shunned to declare unto you all the my subsequent conduct and change counsel of God. Take heed there- of sentiments. I was, indeed, guilty fore unto yourselves, and to all the of very criminal procrastination, flock, over which the Holy Ghost after I had been thus convinced; hath made you overseers, to feed and, being engaged more than I the church of God, which he hath ought in other matters, I for some purchased with his own blood." time postponed and neglected com
In short, I was put upon the at-plying with the dictates of my contentive and repeated perusal of the science. But I never lost sight of Epistles to Timothy and Titus, as the instruction I had received, nor containing the sum of a minister's ever enjoyed any comfortable reduty in all ages. I searched out,|flection, till, having broken off all and carefully considered every text other engagements, I had given I could find in the whole Scripture myself up to those studies and duwhich referred to this argument. I ties which pertain to the work of was greatly impressed by 1 Cor. ix. the ministry. And I have cause to 16. For necessity is laid upon bless God, that this book ever came me; yea, woe is me if I preach not in my way.
the gospel." Nor was I less struck Still, however, my self-confidence with Coloss. iv. 17. 66 Say to Ar-was very little abated, and I had chippus, take heed to the ministry made no progress in acquiring the which thou hast received in the knowledge of the truth. I next Lord, that thou fulfil it." This read Tillotson's sermons and Jortin's was brought to my conscience with works: and my time being otherpower, as if the apostle had in per- wise engaged, 1 for a while gave son spoken the words to me. But into the indolent custom of tranespecially I was both instructed scribing their discourses, with some and encouraged by meditating upon alterations, to preach to my people.
This precluded free meditation on change I supposed to be intended, the word of God, and led me to not only in the behaviour, but also take up my opinions on trust. My in the heart. But not having clearly preaching was, in general, that experienced that change, I could not smooth palatable mixture of law understand in what it consisted. and gospel, which corrupts both by However, having offered some poor representing the gospel as a miti- prayers for divine teaching, I ungated law, and as accepting sincere dertook to preach upon it: but I instead of perfect obedience. This talked very darkly, employed a consystem, by flattering pride and pre-siderable part of my time in declaimjudice, and soothing the conscience, ing against visionaries and enthupleases the careless sinner and self-siasts, and reaped very little benefit righteous formalist, but does real from it. Yet I was so well satisfied good to none; and is, in fact, a with my performance, that, in the specious and unsuspected kind of course of my correspondence with Antinomianism. Mr. N. I sent him these sermons
About this time I foolishly en- for his perusal; and he, in return, gaged in a course of diversion and sent me some of his own upon the visiting, more than I had done since same subject. But, though sincerely my ordination; this unfitted me for desirous to understand our Lord's secret prayer and close meditation, meaning in this important point, I and rendered the Scriptures, and was too proud to be taught by him : other religious studies, insipid and I cast my eye therefore carelessly irksome to me, a never-failing con-over some of them, and returned sequence of every vain compliance the manuscript, without closely atwith the world. For a season, there- tending to any thing contained in it. fore, my ardour was damped, my Nothing material occurred after anxiety banished, and my inquiries this, till the next spring, 1776; retarded. I was not, however, per- when I was induced, by what I had mitted entirely to drop my religious learned from Bishop Burnet, to pursuits generally I made it a rule establish a lecture once a week in to read something in the Scriptures one of my parishes, for expounding every day, and to perform a task of the Scriptures. This brought many daily devotion; but in both I was passages, which I had not before very formal and lifeless. observed, under attentive considerYet not long after, I was engaged ation; and afforded my reflecting in earnest meditation on our Lord's mind abundance of employment, in discourse with Nicodemus (John iii.) attempting to reconcile them with I felt a anxious desire to under-each other, and with my scheme of stand this interesting portion of doctrine.
Scripture; especially to know what Little progress however had been it was to be "born again," or "born made, when May, 1776, I heard a of the Spirit," which in five verses dignified clergyman, in a visitation our Saviour has three times declared sermon, recommend Mr. Soame Jenabsolutely necessary to salvation. Inings' " View of the internal Evidence was convinced it was absurd to sup- of the Christian Religion." In conpose that such strong expressions sequence of this recommendation I implied no more than baptism with perused it, and not without profit. water. Tillotson's controversial ser- The truth and importance of the mons on this subject afforded me no gospel revelation appeared, with satisfaction. Some great and total convincing evidence, to my under
standing, and came with efficacy to trograde path, first to Arianism, and my heart by reading this book. I then to the received doctrine of the received from it more distinct heart- Trinity. Yet this was my case.affecting views of the design of God Dr. Clarke appeared to me so undein this revelation of himself than I niably to establish his argument by had before; and I was put upon express scriptural evidences, and so much serious reflection and earnest plausibly to defend his system on prayer to be led to, or established both sides, and to back his cause in the truth, concerning the nature with so many seeming authorities, and reality of the atonement by the that I found myself unable any longer death of Christ; for hitherto I had to maintain my Socinian principles, been, in this respect, a Socinian, or and was constrained to relinquish very little better. them as untenable: at the same
But to counterbalance this ad- time I was not aware of the flaw in
vantage, Dr. Clarke's Scripture his reasoning, and the unavoidable Doctrine of the Trinity," and the consequence of his middle doctrine; controversy which ensued upon its namely, "that the Son and Holy publication, became a favourite part Spirit, however exalted or dignified of my study. The Arian scheme is with names and titles, must either so inconsistent with reason, that be mere creatures, or that otherwise when reflecting men, in order to there must be three Gods." Not avoid those mysterious, and, as they perceiving this, and my newly acimagine, unreasonable conclusions, quired reverence for Scripture, and which, according to the true mean- my old self-confidence and fondness ing of words, the Scriptures contain, for reasoning being, by this concihave become Arians, it is wonderful liating scheme, both humoured, I they do not, for the same cause, cordially acceded to his sentiments, embrace the Socinian system. This and for a long time could not enis the natural progress of unhum-dure any other doctrine. bled reason; from Arianism to Soci- Nothing further of any consenianism; from Socinianism to Deism;quence occurred till about Decemand thence to Atheism. Many and ber, 1776, when carelessly taking awful have been the examples of up Mr. Law's "Serious Call," a reasoning and learned men, who, book I had hitherto treated with under the name of Philosophers, arro- contempt, I had no sooner opened gating to themselves the prerogative it, than I was struck with the oriof superior discernment, have mani-ginality of the work, and the spirit fested the propriety with which and force of argument with which they claimed this preeminence, by it is written. I mean merely as to treading this down-hill road, almost, his management of the subjects he if not quite, to the very bottom. treats of: for there are many things But when a man has fallen so in it that I am very far from aplow as Socinianism, not merely for proving; and it certainly contains want of information, or by blindly as little gospel as any religious work and implicitly adopting the senti- I am acquainted with. But though ments of other men, but by leaning to a very uncomfortable book to a perhis own understanding, and prefer-son who is brought under a serious ring the conclusions of his own rea- concern for his soul, and deep conson to the infallible dictates of the victions of sin, it is very useful to Holy Ghost; it is not common for prepare the way, to show the need him to return gradually, by the re- we have of a Saviour, and to enforce
the practice of that holy diligence specting the most important and in the use of means, which the im- controverted doctrines of the gosportant interests of eternity reason- pel. Though I held this but a short ably demand. This was its use to time(for when my engagements mulme. By the perusal of it, I was tiplied, I dropped it), yet I found it convinced that I was guilty of great very useful in bringing me acquaintremissness and negligence; that the ed with many passages of the word duties of secret devotion called for of God, to which I had not hitherto far more of my time and attention much attended; and it prepared the than had been hitherto allotted to way for writing my sermons on docthem; and that, if I hoped to save trinal subjects, with the scriptural my own soul, and the souls of those testimonies concerning the point in that heard me, I must in this re-hand, in one view before me. spect greatly alter my conduct, and In Jan. 1777, I met with a very increase my diligence in seeking high commendation of Mr. Hooker's and serving the Lord. From that writings, in which the honourable time I began to study in what man- appellation of Judicious was bener my devotions might be rendered stowed upon him. This excited my more fervent and pertinent; I tran- curiosity to read his works, which scribed and committed to memory accordingly I did with great profit. scriptural petitions: I employed In his Discourse on Justification," some time in reading manuals of (Edit. 1682, p. 496), I met with devotion; made attempts to com- the following remarkable passage, pose prayers myself, and became which, as well for its excellency more frequent and earnest, and, I as for the effect it had upon my trust, more spiritual, than hereto- religious views, I shall, though rafore, in my secret addresses to the ther long, transcribe. "If our hands Majesty of heaven. did never offer violence to our bre
About this time, after many de-thren, a bloody thought doth prove lays, I complied with the admoni- us murderers before him [God.] If tions of my conscience, and disen- we had never opened our mouth to gaged myself from all other employ-utter any scandalous, offensive, or ments, with a solemn resolution to hurtful word, the cry of our secret leave all my temporal concerns in cogitations is heard in the ears of the hands of the Lord, and entirely God. If we did not commit the to devote myself to the work of the sins which, daily and hourly, in ministry. Being thus become mas- deed, word, or thoughts, we do ter of all my time, I dropped every commit, yet, in the good things other study, and turned the whole current of my reflections and inquiries into another channel; and for several years I scarcely opened a book which treated of any thing besides religion.
which we do, how many defects are there intermingled! God, in that which is done, respecteth the mind and intention of the doer. Cut off then all those things wherein we have regarded our own glory; those The first step I took after this things which men do to please men, disengagement, was to keep com- and to satisfy our own liking; those mon-place books; one I had for noting things which we do by any respect, down remarkable passages out of not sincerely, and purely for the other authors; and another for col- love of God; and a small score will lecting into one view, every text serve for the number of our rightecould meet with in Scripture reous deeds. Let the holiest and best
thing we do be now considered: from the perfect righteousness of we are never better affected unto the law; the little fruit which we God than when we pray: yet when have in holiness, it is, God knowwe pray, how are our affections eth, corrupt and unsound: we put many times distracted! how little no confidence at all in it; we chalreverence do we show unto the lenge nothing in the world for it; grand Majesty of God unto whom we dare not call God to reckoning, we speak! how little remorse of as if we had him in our debt-books. our own miseries! how little taste Our continual suit to him is, and of the sweet influence of his tender must be, to bear with our infirmimercies do we feel! Are we not as ties, and pardon our offences." unwilling many times to begin, and I had no sooner read this passage, as glad to make an end, as if in say- than I acquired such an insight into ing, "Call upon me," he had set us the strictness and spirituality of the a very burdensome task? It may divine law, and the perfection which seem somewhat extreme which I will a just and holy God, according to speak; therefore let every one judge that law, cannot but require in all of it, even as his own heart shall the services of his reasonable createll him, and no otherwise. I will tures; that I clearly perceived my but only make a demand: if God very best duties, on which my should yield unto us, not as unto main dependence had hitherto been Abraham, if fifty, forty, thirty, twen-placed, to be merely specious sins; ty, yea, or if ten good persons could and my whole life appeared to be be found in a city, for their sakes one continued series of transgresthe city should not be destroyed; sion. I now understood the apostle's but, and if he should make us an meaning, when he affirms, that "By offer thus large:-Search all the the works of the law can no flesh generations of men, since the fall be justified before God." All my of our father Adam; find one man difficulties in this matter vanished; that hath done one action which all my distinctions and reasonings hath passed from him pure, without about the meaning of the words law any stain or blemish at all; and for and justification, with all my borthat one man's action only, neither rowed criticisms upon them, failed men nor angels shall feel the tor- me at once. I could no longer be ments which are prepared for both: thus amused; for I was convinced, Do you think that this ransom to beyond the possibility of a doubt, deliver men and angels could be that all men were so notoriously found to be among the sons of men? transgressors of every law of God, The best things which we do have that no man could possibly be jussomewhat in them to be pardoned; tified in his sight by his obedience how then can we do any thing me- to any of the divine commandments. ritorious, or worthy to be rewarded? I was sensible that if God should Indeed, God doth liberally promise call me into judgment before him, whatsoever appertaineth to a bless- according to the strictness of his ed life, to as many as sincerely keep perfect law, for the best duty I ever his law, though they be not exactly performed, and for nothing else, I able to keep it. Wherefore we ac- must be condemned as a transgresknowledge a dutiful necessity of sor; for when weighed in these doing well, but the meritorious dig- exact balances, it would be found nity of doing well we utterly re- wanting. Thus I was effectually nounce. We see how far we are convinced, that, if ever I were