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we would scarcely have anticipated from the fastidious taste and the Greek scholarship of Atterbury.
Dreams and Visions.
1. For the most part dreams are nothing else but the incoherent and disjointed images of those things we have received into the fancy by the senses, and treasured up in our memories when we were awake: and we may as reasonably hope to find exact and curious pictures drawn in the clouds, as any truth and certainty in these dreams. And yet such is our folly and superstition, that we will be continually spelling the counsels of the Almighty in these antic and insignificant characters; and fancy the product of our distempered imaginations to be the dictates of the Holy Spirit and the oracles of God. There is nothing more vain and foolish than our ordinary dreams, except it be those persons who are nicely and curiously exact in the observation of them, and look upon them as the hand and index, which is to point out to them what is to come to pass. And in truth, this is so slight and trifling a subject, that it were not fit to be mentioned in a sermon or serious discourse, were not the generality of mankind so superstitiously given to the observation of them. How this piece of enthusiasm came to obtain so universally, is no difficult matter to determine; for in the first ages of the world God made use of this way to reveal Himself to mankind; and then the devil, who loves to ape God in his worship, took up this method of giving his oracles, and instituted this custom as a sacred rite; that men should sleep in the temples of his idols when they came to inquire anything of them; and answers were given to them in Dreams and Night Visions.* . And therefore we may justly conclude, that the nice and curious observation of dreams is not only unreasonable and superstitious, but
* The text is Job xxxiii, 14-16.
heathenish also. And if the curious observation of ordinary dreams is so sinful, then it follows
2. That we ought not to publish our own fancies and imaginations for divine visions and inspirations and the revelations of the Holy Spirit. How frequent has it been in these last ages, for men not only to be deluded themselves, but to seduce others also; to set up for inspired persons and new prophets by the help of a heated imagination! And in truth, what is all that enthusiasm which so much reigns amongst us, but the dreams of those persons, whose vitiated imagination depraves their judgments? We have too many who make great pretences to a new light within them, which will guide them into all truth, teach them what they ought to believe, and what to do, without the help of the Holy Scripture. Others there are who are assured by no less testimony than that of the Holy Spirit, that they are the children of God, and of the number of the elect, though their works testify against them, that they are the children of the devil. What are these but the efforts of a distempered fancy, the waking dreams of
poor deluded men, who first take a great deal of pains to deceive themselves, and then double their diligence to impose upon
others? Let me speak to them in the words of Maimonides; “There are (says he) some who, by the help of an over-heated imagination, have such strange fancies, dreams, and ecstasies, that they take themselves for prophets, and much wonder that they have such fancies and imaginations; conceiting at last, that all sciences and faculties are infused into them without any pains or study. And hence it is that they fall into many odd opinions, in many speculative points of no great moment, and do so mix true notions with such as are seemingly and imaginarily so, as if heaven and earth were jumbled together. All which proceeds from the too great force of the imaginative faculty, and the imbecility of the rational.” Thus he. This delusion, then, in the sense of this
excellent writer, concerning those enthusiasts, who pretend to revelation, arises from hence; that their fancies are invigorated and impregnated, but their reason is not informed, nor their understandings possessed with a true sense of things in their due coherence and contexture, and therefore they are so apt to embrace things contrary to all true sense and sober
The best remedy against this dangerous and too epidemical disease of this nation, is to take up all our opinions, and to govern all our actions, by the written word of God; for it is a gross piece of folly and madness, to seek after new lights and revelations, when God himself hath told us, that His word shall be “a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths,” sufficient to guide us into all truth. This is the touch-stone by which we ought to try all new lights and pretended revelations, all such doctrines and practices as bear the face of venerable antiquity, or agreeable novelty. If they do not agree with this, if they run counter in any point to these lively oracles, it is only error and vice, under the guise and appearance of virtue and truth.
God speaks to us indeed in dreams and visions of the night, and slumberings on the bed, but it is not to discover any new and unrevealed truth, to make any additional discovery of His will, but only to rouse up our minds, and awaken our attention, and put us upon the practice of those duties, and the belief of those articles, which have been so frequently inculcated into us, and written in the volume of this holy book; and therefore,
Lastly, how careful ought we to be to give an attentive ear to these divine admonitions, and to cherish these holy inspirations; for since God has left off speaking to men in dreams and visions, and converses with us now in a still voice-suggesting to our minds good thoughts, inspiring our souls with holy desires and affections, and by His grace inciting and quickening us to do good, and reproving us when we do amiss, leading us into the right way, and exhorting us to persevere in
THE RAINBOW ABOUT THE THRONE.
it-it must certainly be our unquestionable duty and truest interest, to comply with these holy inspirations; to dispose ourselves for the receiving of them, by furnishing our minds with suitable dispositions and qualifications, by an attentive regard to whatsoever He speaks to us, and an humble submission to everything which becomes our duty. For shall God speak to us, and shall not man hear? Shall we not say with Samuel, “ Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth ?" And yet how frequently do we turn a deaf ear to these admonitions ! And though God speaks once, yea twice, yet we regard it not! Who is there that has not heard God speak to him by the voice of affliction, and the awakening dispensations of His providence, by the voice of His ministers, and the inspirations of His Holy Spirit? And yet all these admonitions have not been sufficient to work his reformation and amendment.
There are none of us but have been frequently warned to flee from the wrath to come, whilst we lie musing on our beds, and calling to mind the past actions of our lives. Is there not a voice within us which either accuses or excuses us? which represents to us the reasonableness of a holy, just, and good life, and the folly and madness of being vicious and wicked, and what dangerous effects sin doth continually produce? And if So, how reasonable is it, that we should hearken to this heavenly monitor? that we should weigh and consider what He dictates to us, and resolve to perform whatsoever we are assured will conduce to our truest interest, both here and hereafter? Which that we may all of us do, God of His mercy grant for Jesus Christ His sake.
The Bainbow about the Throne. There will certainly come a time when we shall all stand before the throne of God, to be judged according to our works, and to receive sentence according to our deeds done in the flesh, when the whole world shall be on fire, “the heavens shall be shrivelled up like a scroll of parchment, the elements melt with fervent heat, and the earth and all that is therein shall be burnt up;" when both the book of God's law and the book of our own consciences shall be opened, and all our thoughts, words, and actions writ in plain and legible characters, and exposed to the view of men and angels, and the devil, our accuser, shall read our indictment against us, aggravating our sins with all the most heightening circumstances. And then, were not the throne encompassed with this rainbow; were there not
mercy with Him, that He might be feared," what course could we possibly take ? Could we either avoid or endure the vengeance of an angry God ? Could we withstand the power, or oppose the wrath of the Almighty? To fancy this, would be the most desperate folly. What then? Should we deny the fact, our consciences will be instead of a thousand witnesses. Or should we call to the mountains to fall on us, and cover us ? Alas! they will shake and tremble no less than we. But is there no balm in our Gilead? Is there no help for poor miserable men within their own reach ? Was misery so surely entailed
them after the fall, that there is no possibility of reversing the sentence by their own means? No, certainly, our strength is but weakness, we have no power to raise ourselves out of this miserable condition, or to give the least helping hand towards our recovery. All that strength which God gave us at the first, we lost by the fall of our first parents, and have forfeited that grace which He has afforded us since, by the misuse of it. So that if we look down only upon ourselves, we shall find nothing but this dismal prospect of horror and despair ; we can claim nothing of God, nor have we any thing of our own to succour and help us; to us belongs confusion of face and everlasting misery," lamentation, mourning, and woe.” But if we look up unto heaven, we may there behold that bow which God has placed about the throne, to remind us of that covenant of mercy which God has established with us,