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Showing positively, what ought to be done to promote this Work.
IN considering of means and methods for promoting this glorious work of God, I have already observed, in some instances wherein there has been needless objecting and complaining, and have also taken notice of many things amiss, that ought to be amended: I now proceed in the
Third and last place, to show positively, what ought to be done, or what courses (according to my humble opinion) ought to be taken to promote this work. The obligations that all are under, with one consent, to do their utmost, and the great danger of neglecting it, were observed before. I hope that some, upon reading what was said under that head, will be ready to say, What shall we do? To such readers I would now offer my thoughts, in answer to such an inquiry.
And that which I think we ought to set ourselves about in the first place, is to remove stumbling blocks. When God is revealed as about to come, gloriously to set up his kingdom in the world, this is proclaimed, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert an highway for our God, Isa. xl. 3.-And again, Isa. lvii. 14, "Cast ye up, cast ye up; prepare the way; take up the stumbling-block out of the way of my people." And chap. lxii. 10, "Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones."
And in order to this, there must be a great deal done at confessing of faults, on both sides: for undoubtedly many and great are the faults that have been committed, in the jangling and confusions, and mixtures of Tight and darkness, that have been of late. There is hardly any duty more contrary to our corrupt dispositions, and mortifying to the pride of man; but it must be done. Repentance of faults is, in a peculiar manner, a proper duty, when the kingdom of heaven is at hand, or when we especially expect or desire that it should come; as appears by John the Baptist's preaching. And if God does now loudly call upon us to repent, then he also calls upon us to make proper manifestations of our repentance. I am persuaded that those that have openly opposed this work, or have from time to time spoken lightly of it, cannot be excused in the sight of God, without openly confessing their fault therein; especially if they be ministers. If they have any way, either directly or indirectly, opposed the work, or have so behaved, in their public performances or private conversation, as has prejudiced the minds of their people against the work, if hereafter they shall be convinced of the goodness, and divinity of what they have opposed, they ought by no means to palliate the matter, and excuse themselves, and pretend that they always thought so, and that it was only such and such imprudences that they objected against; but they ought openly to declare their conviction, and condemn themselves for what they have done; for it is Christ that they have spoken against, in speaking lightly of, and prejudicing others against this work; yea, worse than that, it is the Holy Ghost. And though they have done it ignorantly, and in unbelief, yet when they find out who it is that they have opposed, undoubtedly God will hold them bound publicly to confess it.
And on the other side, if those that have been zealous to promote the work, have in any of the forementioned instances, openly gone much out of the way,
and done that which is contrary to Christian rules, whereby they have openly injured others, or greatly violated good order, and so done that which has wounded religion, they must publicly confess it, and humble themselves, as they would gather out the stones, and prepare the way of God's people. They who have laid great stumbling-blocks in others' way, by their open transgression, are bound to remove them, by their open repentance.
Some probably will be ready to object against this, that the opposers will take advantage by this to behave themselves insolently, and to insult both them and religion. And indeed, to the shame of some, they have taken advantage by such things; as of the good spirit that Mr. Whitefield showed in his retractations, and some others. But if there are some imbittered enemies of religion, that stand ready to improve every thing to its disadvantage, yet that ought not to hinder doing an enjoined Christian duty; though it be in the manifestation of humility and repentance, after a fault openly committed. To stand it out in a visible impenitence of a real fault, to avoid such an inconvenience, is to do evil, to prevent evil. And besides, the danger of an evil consequence is much greater on the other side: to commit sin, and then stand in it, is what will give the enemy the greatest advantage. For Christians to act like Christians, in openly humbling themselves, when they have openly offended, in the end brings the greatest honor to Christ and religion; and in this way are persons most likely to have God appear for them.
Again, at such a day as this, God does especially call his people to the exercise of extraordinary meekness and mutual forbearance: for at such a time, Christ appears as it were coming in his kingdom, which calls for great moderation in our behavior towards all men; as is evident, Phil. iv. 5, "Let your moderation be known unto all men the Lord is at hand." The awe of the divine majesty that appears present or approaching, should dispose us to it, and deter us from the contrary. For us to be judging one another, and behaving with fierceness and bitterness, one towards another, when He who is the searcher of all hearts, to whom we must all give an account, appears so remarkably present, is exceeding unsuitable. Our business, at such a time, should be at home, searching ourselves, and condemning ourselves, and taking heed to our own behavior. If there be glorious prosperity to the church of God approaching, those that are the most meek, will have the largest share in it; for when Christ rides forth, in his glory and his majesty, it is because of truth, meekness, and righteousness, Psal. xlv. 3, 4. And when God remarkably arises, to execute judgment, it is to save all the meek of the earth, Psal. lxxvi. 9. And it is the meek, that shall increase their joy in the Lord, Isa. xxix. 19. And when the time comes, that God will give this lower world into the hands of his saints, it is the meek that shall inherit the earth, Psal. xxxvii. 11, and Matt. v. 9, "But with the froward, God will show himself unsavory."
Those, therefore, that have been, zealous for this work, and have greatly erred and been injurious with their zeal, ought not to be treated with bitterness. There is abundant reason to think, that most of them are the dear children of God, for whom Christ died; and therefore, that they will see their error. As to those things, wherein we see them to be in an error, we have reason to say of them as the apostle, Philip. iii. 15, "If any are otherwise minded, God shall reveal this unto them." Their errors should not be made use of by us, so much to excite indignation towards them, but should influence all of us, that hope that we are the children of God, to humble ourselves, and become more entirely dependent on the Lord Jesus Christ, when we see those, that are God's own people, so ready to go astray. And those ministers that have been judg
ed, and injuriously dealt with, will do the part of Christ's disciples, not to judge and revile again, but to receive such injuries with meekness and forbearance, and making a good improvement of them, more strictly examining their hearts and ways, and committing themselves to God. This will be the way to have God vindicate them in his providence, if they belong to him. We have not yet seen the end of things; nor do we know who will be most vindicated, and honored of God, in the issue. Eccles. vii. 8, "Better is the end of a thing, than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit."
Contrary to this mutual meekness, is each party's stigmatizing one another with odious names; as is done in many parts of New England: which tends greatly to widen and perpetuate the breach. Such distinguishing names of reproach, do as it were divide us into two armies, separated, and drawn up in battle array, ready to fight one with another; which greatly hinders the work
And as such an extraordinary time as this, does especially require of us the exercise of a great deal of forbearance, one towards another; so there is peculiarly requisite in God's people, the exercise of great patience, in waiting on God, under any special difficulties and disadvantages they may be under, as to the means of grace. The beginning of a revival of religion will naturally and necessarily be attended with a great many difficulties of this nature/many parts of the reviving church will, for a while, be under great disadvantages, by reason of what remains of the old disease, of a general corruption of the visible church. We cannot expect that, after a long time of degeneracy and depravity, in the state of things in the church, things should all come to rights at once; it must be a work of time: and for God's people to be over hasty and violent in such a case, being resolved to have every thing rectified at once, or else forcibly to deliver themselves, by breaches and separations, is the way to hinder things coming to rights, as they otherwise would, and to keep them back, and the way to break all in pieces. Not but that the case may be such, the difficulty may be so intolerable, as to allow of no delay, and God's people cannot continue in the state wherein they were, without violations of absolute commands of God. But otherwise, though the difficulty may be very great, another course should be taken. God's people should have their recourse directly to the throne of grace, to represent their difficulties before the great Shepherd of the sheep, that has the care of all the affairs of his church; and when they have done, they should wait patiently upon him: if they do so, they may expect that in his time he will appear for their deliverance: but if, instead of that, they are impatient, and take the work into their own hands, they will bewray their want of faith, and will dishonor God, and cannot have such reason to hope that Christ will appear for them, as they have desired, but have reason to fear, that he will leave them to manage their affairs for themselves, as well as they can: when otherwise, if they had waited on Christ patiently, continuing still instant in prayer, they might have had him appearing for them, much more effectually to deliver them. He that believeth shall not make haste; and it is for those that are found patiently waiting on the Lord, under difficulties, that he will especially appear, when he comes to do great things for his church, as is evident by Isa. xxx. 18, and chap. xl. at the latter end, and xlix. 23, and Psal. xxxvii. 9, and many other places.
I have somewhere, not long since, met with an exposition of those words of the spouse, that we have several times repeated in the book of Canticles, I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up nor awake my love
until he please, which is the only satisfying exposition that I ever met with; which was to this purpose, viz., that when the church of God is under great difficulties, and in distress, and Christ does not appear for her help, but seems to neglect her, as though he were asleep, God's people, or the daughters of Jerusalem, in such a case, should not show a hasty spirit; and not having patience to wait for Christ to awake for their help, until his time comes, take indirect courses for their own deliverance, and use violent means for their escape, before Christ appears to open the door for them; and so, as it were, stir up, and awake Christ, before his time. When the church is in distress, and God seems not to appear for her in his providence, he is very often represented in Scripture, as being asleep; as Christ was asleep in the ship, when the disciples were tossed by the storm, and the ship covered with waves: and God's appearing afterwards for his people's help, is represented as his awaking out of sleep. Psal. vii. 6, and xxxv. 23, and xliv. 23, and lix. 4, and lxxiii. 20. Christ has an appointed time for his thus awaking out of sleep: and his people ought to wait upon him; and not, in an impatient fit, stir him up before his time. It is worthy to be observed how strict this charge is, given to the daughters of Jerusalem, which is repeated three times over in the book of Canticles, chap. ii. 7, and iii. 5, and viii. 4. In the 2d chapter and six first verses, is represented the support Christ gives his church, while she is in a suffering state, as the lily among thorns: in the 7th verse is represented her patience in waiting for Christ, to appear for her deliverance, when she charges the daughters of Jerusalem, not to stir up, nor awake her love until he please, by the roes, and the hinds of the field; which are creatures of a gentle, harmless nature, are not beasts of prey, do not devour one another, do not fight with their enemies, but fly from them; and are of a pleasant, loving nature, Prov. v. 19. In the next verse, we see the church's success, in this way of waiting under sufferings, with meekness and patience; Christ soon awakes, speedily appears, and swiftly comes: the voice of my beloved! Behold, he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping the hills!
What has been mentioned hitherto, has relation to the behavior we are obliged to, as we would prevent the hinderances of the work; but besides these, there are things that must be done, more directly to advance it. And here, it concerns every one, in the first place, to look into his own heart, and see to it that he be a partaker of the benefits of the work himself, and that it be promoted in his own soul. Now is a most glorious opportunity for the good of souls. It is manifestly with respect to a time of great revival of religion in the world, that we have that gracious, earnest, and moving invitation proclaimed, in the 55th of Isaiah. Ho, every one that thirsteth! &c., as is evident by what precedes in the foregoing chapter, and what follows in the close of this. Here, in the 6th verse, it is said, "Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found; call upon him, while he is near. And it is with special reference to such a time, that Christ proclaims as he does, Rev. xxi. 6, "I will give unto him that is athirst, of the fountain of the water of life freely." And chap. xxii. 17, " And the Spirit and the bride say, Come; and let him that heareth say, Come; and let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." And it seems to be with reference to such a time, which is typified by the feast of tabernacles, that Jesus, at that feast, stood and cried, as we have an account, John vii. 37, 38, "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." And it is with special reference to God's freeness and readiness to bestow grace at such
a time, that it is said in Isa. Ix. 11, of the spiritual Jerusalem, Thy gates shall be open continually, they shall not be shut day nor night.
And though I judge not those that have opposed this work, and would not have others judge them, yet, if any such shall happen to read this treatise, I would take the liberty to entreat them to leave off concerning themselves so much about others, and look into their own souls, and see to it that they are the subjects of a true, saving work of the Spirit of God. If they have reason to think they never have been, or it be but a very doubtful hope that they have, then how can they have any heart to be busily and fiercely engaged about the mistakes and the supposed false hopes of others? And I would now beseech those that have hitherto been something inclining to Arminian principles, seriously to weigh the matter with respect to this work, and consider, whether, if The Scriptures are the word of God, the work that has been described in the first part of this treatise, must not needs be, as to the substance of it, the work God, and the flourishing of that religion, that is taught by Christ and his apostles; and whether any good medium can be found where a man can rest, with any stability, between owning this work, and being a Deist; and also to Consider whether or no, if it be indeed so, that this be the work of God, it does not entirely overthrow their scheme of religion; and therefore, whether it does not infinitely concern them, as they would be partakers of eternal salvation, to relinquish their scheme. Now is a good time for Arminians to change their principles. I would now, as one of the friends of this work, humbly invite them to come and join with us, and be on our side; and if I had the authority of Moses, I would say to them as he did to Hobab, Numb. x. 29, "We are journeying unto the place, of which the Lord said, I will give it you; come thou with us; and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
As the benefit and advantage of the good improvement of such a season, is extraordinary great; so the danger of neglecting, and misimproving it, is proportionably great. It is abundantly evident by the Scripture, that as a time of great outpouring of the Spirit, is a time of great favor to those that are partakers of the blessing; so it is always a time of remarkable vengeance to others. So in Isa. Ixi. 2, the same that is called, the acceptable year of the Lord, is called also, the day of vengeance of our God. So it was amongst the Jews in the apostles' days: the apostle in 2 Cor. vi. 2, says of that time, that it was the accepted time, and day of salvation; and Christ says of the same time, Luke xxi. 22, "These are the days of vengeance." At the same time that the blessings of the kingdom of heaven were given to some, there was an axe laid at the root of the trees, that those that did not bear fruit, might be hewn down and cast into the fire, Matt. iii. 9, 10, 11. Then was glorified, both the goodness and severity of God, in a remarkable manner. Rom. xi. 22. The harvest and the vintage go together: at the same time that the earth is reaped, and God's elect are gathered into the garner of God, the angel that has power over fire, thrusts in his sickle, and gathers the clusters of the vine of the earth, and casts it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God, Rev. xiv. at the latter end. So it is foretold, that at the beginning of the glorious times of the Christian church, at the same time that the hand of the Lord is known towards his servants, so shall his indignation, towards his enemies, Isa. lxvi. 14. So when that glorious morning shall appear, wherein the sun of righteousness shall arise, to the elect, with healing in his wings, the day shall burn as an oven to the wicked, Mal. iv. 1, 2, 3. There is no time like such a time, for the increase of guilt, and treasuring up wrath, and desperate hardening of the heart, if men stand it out; which is the most awful judgment, and fruit of divine wrath, that can be inflicted on any mortal. So that a VOL. III.