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we die, we may die to the Lord;" that in life and death we may be his!
I am in a very poor state of health; I think, scarce ever poorer; but, through divine goodness, I am not discontented under my weakness, and confinement to this wilderness: I bless God for this retirement: I never was more thankful for any thing, than I have been of late for the necessity I am under of self-denial in many respects: I love to be a pilgrim and stranger in this wilderness: it seems most fit for such a poor, ignorant, worthless, despised creature as I am. I would not change my present mission for any other business in the whole world. I may tell you freely, without vanity and ostentation, God has of late given me great freedom and fervency in prayer, when I have been so weak and feeble, that my nature seemed as if it would speedily dissolve. I feel as if my all was lost, and I was undone for this world, if the poor heathen may not be converted. I feel, in general, different from what I did when I saw you last; at least more crucified to all the enjoyments of life. It would be very refreshing to me, to see you here in this desert; especially in my weak disconsolate hours; but, I think, I could be content never to see you or any of my friends again in this world, if God would bless my labours to the conversion of the poor Indians.
I have much that I could willingly communicate to you, which I must omit, till Providence gives us leave to see each other. In the mean time I rest yours, &c.
RELIGIOUS AND MORAL DISCUSSIONS.
[Concluded from page 436.]
It is with our mental, as with our bodily faculties; particularly in reference to the organs of sense. If the eye be distempered with jaundice, we cannot, by vision, discern the true colour of any object which may be presented to us. If the palate be disordered, we cannot, by tasting, distinguish the proper relish of any species of food. Some sensation, in both cases, we may have, either agreeable, or offensive, or perhaps wholly indifferent: but, whether the one or the other, it would not be the true sensation. And had this been the state of the palate or the eye, from our
birth, we could never have had the true knowledge and enjoyment of any objects of sight or of taste, in regard to their colour or relish respectively, unless the vitiating and impeding disease were by some means removed. It is, indeed, observable how often, in scripture, the depravity of men is represented in the light of a disease: "Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick; the whole heart is faint; from the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises, and putrifying sores." Isa. 1st. 5. 6. The Pharisees said on a certain occasion, “Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners? Jesus, hearing that, said: they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." Matt. 9. 12. It is likewise remarkable, how often this supernatural intervention, in the cure of our spiritual maladies, is allusively specified by his miraculously curing all manner of diseases.
Agency of our own, in relation to the affair, there doubtless is. This, as hath been observed, is the wise appointment of Heaven; and, in a manner, preparatory to his own exclusive and effectual work. The work, as thus preparatory, lies, in a measure, within the sphere of our own capacity, while in our natural state. And, though the issue wholly depends on the sovereign interposition of special and superior grace, it is as incumbent on us to pursue it to the utmost of our honest and practical exertion, as it is on the husbandman "to break up his fallow ground," and sow his seed, though the growth and the increase of the crop be the result of an agency altogether foreign from any care and attention of his own.
This order of things I have often considered as beautifully exemplified in the part sometimes assigned to human agents, by whose appointed instrumentality, or in whose behalf, divine miracles were wrought: as Moses was directed to act several parts, seemingly instrumental, yet only, in certain respects, preparatory to the wonderful works of God in Egypt and in the wilderness as Naaman was directed to wash seven times in Jordan, that his leprosy might be healed: and as the blind man in the gospel, after his eyes had been anointed, by our Saviour, ‹ with clay, made with spittle, was told to go and wash in the pool of Siloam for the recovery of his sight. Nevertheless, what God in all these cases performed, and what he performs in the renovation of the sinner, is a work entirely distinct from, wholly independent of, and infinitely superior to the efficiency of any thing which may be done by the creature.
In respect to the divine effect itself, or, more particularly, that new simple perception, as I have called it, which it involves, it is the principle and ground-work of all our true and saving knowledge of God, his laws, and his methods of grace, by Jesus Christ. It is that which gives the proper and peculiar character, form, and virtue, to all our communications, through whatever medium conveyed, of divine and spiritual objects. This is that species of intelligence, by which the things of the spirit of God, according to the apostle, as above quoted, are spiritually discerned, and by which, as he says in 1 Cor. 2. "He that is spiritual judgeth all things." The man, who is endowed with this perception, sees and knows, and contemplates the properties and characters of divinity in some competent measure at least, as they really are, and as, notwithstanding all his former speculations and views, he never saw them before. He is accordingly, with strict propriety, said to have been "called out of darkness into marvellous light;" as if introduced into a new world, where he finds himself surrounded with luminous wonders; a world, where all things are new, strange, and delightfully surprising; and it is no wonder, if now he should feel and act and live as a new creature.
This new perception is not, like many other modes of intelligence, merely speculative. It is a sensible, a heartfelt perception, and to this it is particularly owing that his sensibilities or affec tions, in reference to the things of God, are so very different from what they heretofore were. Although the glorious and amiable characters of God are alike exposed in his word and in his works, to the inspection of all, there must yet be something more, and that of high import, in the conceptions of them, than what is common to the unrenewed mind, to render them truly acceptable and pleasing. Extensive is the knowledge of God acquired by many, who have no superior delight in the proper and ultimate object of their knowledge; with the advantage of better natural abilities, of more liberal education, and other circumstances, they may be capable of making larger discoveries, and more evident deductions concerning the works and attributes of God, than some persons of very sincere and highly improved piety: yet these persons of piety know what those others do not know; they know also what is most necessary to be known; and what they do know, they know better, and with a more excellent sort of knowledge. Nor is this to be doubted or wondered at. We daily see it exemplified by similar appearances in the concerns of common life. Men may have the same representation of the same things; yet, by reason of their different tastes, and conse
quent modes and habits of thinking, they may not embrace, in their minds, the same conceptions of the object. To these it may appear all beauteous, or interesting and great, whilst to those others it may be without comeliness or form, a matter of mere indifference, if not of contempt. Many are the things, moreover, which, in respect to some qualities of them, are incapable of description, but, of which we have, in that very particular, answerably to the state of the sentient faculty, a most distinct and certain perception. Such are those, in which consists the beauty or deformity of the objects of sight; and such are the different relishes of the things we taste. No words will express these many peculiarities. So, in the present case, there is certainly something belonging to the things of God, besides the bare truth of the notions formed about them, which is more clearly and sensibly discerned by a divinely enlightened soul, than by one who has not been thus favoured. To such an one they appear not only true in themselves and in relation to all other materials of knowledge, but, at the same time, they are perceived to be supremely important, interesting, amiable, and delightful; as comprehending in their nature the peculiar qualities of divine excellence and glory. And to such a height at times, in the heart of the pious, do these contemplations arise, as to affect them with delight inexpressible, and even, on some occasions, to transport and to ravish them, as it were, out of themselves.
There must have been something of this kind, which occasioned the following impassioned exclamation of the Psalmist; something besides the mere truth of the propositions into which it may be resolved: "Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods! Who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness!" and that of the apostle: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" And not only where the sacred writers thus in the way of exclamation express the hightoned and holy sensibility of their hearts, but, likewise, when they relate, as simple facts, the operations of the wisdom, the power, the grace, and the love of God. Such is that interesting and glorious declaration of our Saviour to Nicodemus: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Such is that also of the apostle: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief;" and many others of like import, too numerous to be quoted.
These perceptions, likewise, thus divinely communicated, I must here be allowed to observe, are not only more clear, distinct, and appropriate, than common light, or the notions which men, in their unrenewed state, may have respecting the same objects; but they are, at the same time, more powerfully convincing. Added to the means of faith, which the person informed with them may be supposed to have had before, they produce even an assurance of the same things; such an assurance as renders them efficacious to proper, holy, and salutary purposes. It consists not with the nature and derivation of perceptions of this kind to be uncertain and fallacious. According to an established law of the great author of nature, they are, other things being equal, the real and true representations in the mind of the objects whose occurrence is the cause or occasion of them. When, for instance, I see this paper on which I am writing, I perceive its colour to be white; my perception is true, and I cannot doubt of its truth. When I take sugar in my mouth, I perceive it to be sweet; my perception is true; and I cannot doubt of its truth. So, when, on reading, hearing, or contemplating the word of the gospel, I perceive, through the medium of its informations, the qualities of divine power, purity, goodness, and grace, my perception is true; it is the proper and real impression or notion of the objects presented; the impression or notion answers to the object as wax to the seal; and I cannot doubt of its truth. On our perceptions, indeed, of these amiable and glorious qualities of divine objects presented to us through the medium of the truths of the word, principally depends our certain conviction of their real and specific divinity. Having this perception, we have a decided evidence, that they are the very truths of God; and this, because we see God in them; or, which amounts to the same, we see in them the peculiar distinguishing beauty and glory of the Lord. Accordingly, with the apostles, "we believe and are saved.” No wonder that Peter should thus say of the christian converts to whom he wrote, that, "believing, they rejoiced with joy unspeal:able, and full of glory."
And as they to whom these discoveries are in some degree afforded, perceive them to be so highly excellent and desirable, so their continual cravings are still for more. Having tasted "how gracious the Lord is," how precious and salutary the provisions of his truth and love, "as new-born babes they desire" continual supplies of "the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby." They hereby come to know God with savour, as it is expressed. And they sensibly discern the difference