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OBJECT. X.

The natural consequence of the doctrine which has been maintained, is the bringing multitudes of persons of a tender conscience and true piety into great perplexities; who being at a loss about the state of their souls, must needs be as much in suspense about their duty: and it is not reasonable to suppose, that God would order things so in the revelations of his will, as to bring his own people into such perplexities.

Answ. 1. It is for want of the like tenderness of conscience which the godly have, that the other doctrine which insists on moral sincerity, does not naturally bring those who are received to communion on those principles, into the same perplexities, through their doubting of their moral sincerity, of their believing mysteries with all their heart, &c. as has been already observed. And being free from perplexity, only through stupidity and hardness of heart, is worse than being in the greatest perplexity through tenderness of conscience.

Answ. 2. Supposing the doctrine which I have maintained, be indeed the doctrine of God’s word, yet it will not follow, that the perplexities true saints are in through doubting of their state, are effects owing to the revelations of God’s word. Perplexity and distress of mind, not only on occasion of the Lord’s supper, but innumerable other occasions, is the natural and unavoidable consequence of true Christians doubting of their state. But shall we therefore say, that all these perplexities are owing to the word of God? No, it is not owing to God, nor to any of his revelations, that true saints ever doubt of their state; his revelations are plain and clear, and his rules sufficient for men to determine their own condition by. But, for the most part, it is owing to their own sloth, and giving way to their sinful dispositions. Must God’s institutions and revelations be answerable for all the perplexities men bring on themselves, through their own negligence and unwatchfulness? It is wisely ordered that the saints should escape perplexity in no other way than that of great strictness, diligence, and maintaining the lively, laborious, and self-denying exercises of religion.

It might as well be said, it is unreasonable to suppose that God should order things so as to bring his own people into such perplexities, as doubting saints are wont to be exercised with, in the sensible approaches of death; when their doubts tend to vastly greater perplexity, than in their approaches to the Lord’s table. If Christians would more thoroughly exercise themselves unto godliness, labouring always to keep a conscience void of offence both towards God and towards man, it would be the way to have the comfort and taste the sweetness of religion. If they would so run, not as uncertainly; so fight, not as they that beat the air; it would be the way for them to escape perplexity, both in ordinances and providences, and to rejoice and enjoy God in both.—Not but that doubting of their state sometimes arises from other causes, besides want of watchfulness; it may arise from melancholy, and some other peculiar disadvantages. But however, it is not owing to God’s revelations nor institutions; which, whatsoever we may suppose them to be, will not prevent the perplexities of such persons.

Answ. 3. It appears to me reasonable to suppose, that the doctrine I maintain, if universally embraced by God’s people—however it might be an accidental occasion of perplexity in many instances, through their own infirmity and sin—would, on the whole, be a happy occasion of much more comfort to the saints than trouble, as it would have a tendency, on every return of the Lord’s supper, to put them on the strictest examination and trial of the state of their souls, agreeable to that rule of the apostle, 1 Cor. xi. 28.. The neglect of which great duty of frequent and thorough self-examination, seems to be one main cause of the darkness and perplexity of the saints, and the reason why they have so little comfort in ordinances, and so little comfort in general.—Mr. Stoddard often taught his people, that assurance is attainable, and that those who are true saints might know it, if they would; i. e. if they would use proper means and endeavours in order to it.—And if so, then certainly it is not just, to charge those perplexities on God’s institutions, which arise through men’s negligence; nor would it be just on the supposition of God’s institutions being such as I suppose them to be.

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