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A scheme of a dialogue between the various powers and affections of the mind, as they are found alternately whispering in the godly soul. Mentioned in his diary, Feb. 3, 1744.
The understanding introduced, (1.) As discovering its own excellency, and capacity of enjoying the most sublime pleasure and happiness. (2.) As observing its desire equal to its capacity, and incapable of being satisfied with any thing that will not fill it in the utmost extent of its exercise. (3.) As finding itself a dependent thing, not self-sufficient; and consequently unable to spin happiness (as the spider spins its web) out of its own bowels. This self-sufficiency observed to be the property and prerogative of God alone, and not belonging to any created being. (4.) As in vain seeking sublime pleasure, satisfaction, and happiness adequate to its nature, amongst created beings. The search and knowledge of the truth in the natural world allowed indeed to be refreshing to the mind; but still failing to afford complete happiness. (5.) As discovering the excellency and glory of God, that he is the fountain of goodness, and well-spring of happiness, and every way fit to answer the enlarged desires and cravings of our immortal souls.
2. The will introduced, as necessarily, yet freely, choosing this God for its supreme happiness and only portion, fully complying with the understanding’s dictates, acquiescing in God as the best good, his will as the best rule for intelligent creatures, and rejoicing that God is in every respect just what he is; and withal choosing and delighting to be a dependent creature, always subject to this God, not aspiring after self-sufficiency and supremacy, but acquiescing in the contrary.
3. Ardent love or desire introduced, as passionately longing to please and glorify the Divine Being, to be in every respect conformed to him, and in that way to enjoy him. This love or desire represented as most genuine; not induced by mean and mercenary views; not primarily springing from selfish hopes of salvation, whereby the divine glories would be sacrificed to the idol self: not arising from a slavish fear of divine anger in case of neglect, nor yet from hopes of feeling the sweetness of that tender and pleasant passion of love in one’s own breast; but from a just esteem of the beauteous object beloved. This love further represented, as attended with vehement longings after the enjoyment of its object, but unable to find by what means.
4. The understanding again introduced, as informing, (1.) How God might have been enjoyed, yea, how he must necessarily have been enjoyed, had not man sinned against him; that as there was knowledge, likeness, and love, so there must needs be enjoyment, while there was no impediment. (2.) How he may be enjoyed in some measure now, viz. by the same knowledge, begetting likeness and love, which will be answered with returns of love, and the smiles of God’s countenance, which are better than life. (3.) How God may be perfectly enjoyed, viz. by the soul’s perfect freedom from sin. This perfect freedom never obtained till death; and then not by any unaccountable means, or in any unheard-of manner; but the same by which it has obtained some likeness to and fruition of God in this world, viz. a clear manifestation of him.
5. Holy desire appears, and inquires why the soul may not be perfectly holy; and so perfect in the enjoyment of God here; and expresses most insatiable thirstings after such a temper, and such fruition, and most consummate blessedness.
6. Understanding again appears, and informs, that God designs that those whom he sanctifies in part here, and intends for immortal glory, shall tarry a while in this present evil world, that their own experience of temptations, &c. may teach them how great the deliverance is, which God has wrought for them, that they may be swallowed up in thankfulness and admiration to eternity; as also that they may be instrumental of doing good to their fellow-men. Now if they were perfectly holy, &c. a world of sin would not be a fit habitation for them: and further, such manifestations of God as are necessary completely to sanctify the soul, would be insupportable to the body, so that we cannot see God and live.
7. Holy impatience* is next introduced, complaining of the sins and sorrows of life, and almost repining at the distance of a state of perfection, uneasy to see and feel the hours hang so dull and heavy, and almost concluding that the temptations, hardships, disappointments, imperfections, and tedious employments of life will never come to a happy period.
8. Tender conscience comes in, and meekly reproves the complaints of impatience; urging how careful and watchful we ought to be, lest we should offend the Divine Being with complaints; alleging also the fitness of our waiting patiently upon God for all we want, and that in a way of doing and suffering; and at the same time mentioning the barrenness of the soul, how much precious time is misimproved, and how little it has enjoyed of God, compared with what it might have done; as also suggesting how frequently impatient complaints spring from nothing better than self-love, want of resignation, and a greater reverence of the Divine Being.
9. Judgment or sound mind next appears, and duly weighs the complaints of impatience, and the gentle admonitions of tender conscience, and impartially determines between them. On the one hand, it concludes, that we may always be impatient with sin; and supposes, that we may be also with such sorrow, pain, and discouragement, as hinder our pursuit of holiness, though they arise from the weakness of nature. It allows us to be impatient of the distance at which we stand from a state of perfection and blessedness. It further indulges impatience at the delay of time; when we desire the period of it for no other end, than that we may with angels be employed in the most lively spiritual acts of devotion, and in giving all possible glory to him that lives for ever. Temptations and sinful imperfections, it thinks, we may justly be uneasy with; and disappointments, at least those that relate to our hopes of communion with God, and growing conformity to him. And as to the tedious employments and hardships of life, it supposes some longing for the end of them not inconsistent with a spirit of faithfulness, and a cheerful disposition to perform the one and endure the other: it supposes, that a faithful servant, who fully designs to do all he possibly can, may still justly long for the evening; and that no rational man would blame his kind and tender spouse, if he perceived her longing to be with him, while yet faithfulness and duty to him might still induce her to yield, for the present, to remain at a painful distance from him. On the other hand, it approves of the caution, care, and watchfulness of tender conscience, lest the Divine Being should be offended with impatient complaints; it acknowledges the fitness of our waiting upon God, in a way of patient doing and suffering; but supposes this very consistent with ardent desires to depart, and to be with Christ. It owns it fit that we should always remember our own barrenness, and thinks also that we should be impatient of it, and consequently long for a state of freedom from it; and this, not so much that we may feel the happiness of it, but that God may have the glory. It grants, that impatient complaints often spring from self-love, and want of resignation and humility. Such as these it disapproves; and determines, we should be impatient only of absence from God, and distance from that state and temper wherein we may most glorify him.
44110. Godly sorrow introduced, as making her sad moan, not so much that she is kept from the free possession and full enjoyment of happiness, but that God must be dishonoured; the soul being still in a world of sin, and itself imperfect. She here, with grief, counts over past faults, present temptations, and fears from the future.
11. Hope or holy confidence appears, and seems persuaded that “nothing shall ever separate the soul from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” It expects divine assistance and grace sufficient for all the doing and suffering work of time, and that death will ere long put a happy period to all sin and sorrow; and so takes occasion to rejoice.
12. Godly fear, or holy jealousy, here steps in, and suggests some timorous apprehensions of the danger of deception; mentions the deceitfulness of the heart, the great influence of irregular self-love in a fallen creature; inquires whether itself is not likely to have fallen in with delusion, since the mind is so dark, and so little of God appears to the soul; and queries whether all its hopes of persevering grace may not be presumption, and whether its confident expectations of meeting death as a friend, may not issue in disappointment.
13. Hereupon reflection appears, and minds the person of his past experiences; as to the preparatory work of conviction and humiliation; the view he then had of the impossibility of salvation from himself, or any created arm: the manifestation he has likewise had of the glory of God in Jesus Christ: how he then admired that glory, and chose that God for his only portion, because of the excellency and amiableness he discovered in him; not from slavish fear of being damned if he did not, nor from base and mercenary hopes of saving himself; but from a just esteem of that beauteous and glorious object: as also how he had from time to time rejoiced and acquiesced in God, for what he is in himself; being delighted, that he is infinite in holiness, justice, power, sovereignty, as well as in mercy, goodness, and love: how he has likewise, scores of times, felt his soul mourn for sin, for this very reason, because it is contrary and grievous to God; yea, how he has mourned over one vain and impertinent thought, when he has been so far from fear of the divine vindictive wrath for it, that on the contrary he has enjoyed the highest assurance of the divine everlasting love: how he has, from time to time, delighted in the commands of God, for their own purity and perfection, and longed exceedingly to be conformed to them, and even to be “holy, as God is holy;” and counted it present heaven, to be of a heavenly temper: how he has frequently rejoiced, to think of being for ever subject to and dependent on God; accounting it infinitely greater happiness to glorify God in a state of subjection to and dependence on him, than to be a god himself: and how heaven itself would be no heaven to him, if he could not there be every thing that God would have him be.
14. Upon this, spiritual sensation, being awaked, comes in, and declares that she now feels and “tastes that the Lord is gracious;” that he is the only supreme good, the only soul-satisfying happiness; that he is a complete, self-sufficient, and almighty portion. She whispers, “Whom have I in heaven but this God,” this dear and blessed portion? “and there is none upon earth I desire besides him.” Oh, it is heaven to please him, and to be just what he would have me be! O that my soul were “holy, as God is holy!” O that it was “pure, as Christ is pure;” and “perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect!” These are the sweetest commands in God’s book, comprising all others; and shall I break them? must I break them? am I under a fatal necessity of it, as long as I live in this world? O, my soul! woe, woe is me, that I am a sinner! because I now necessarily grieve and offend this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace. Oh, me-thinks, should he punish me for my sins, it would not wound my heart so deep as to offend him; but, though I sin continually, he continually repeats his kindness towards me! Oh, methinks, I could bear any suffering; but how can I bear to grieve and dishonour this blessed God! How shall I give ten thousand times more honour to him? What shall I do, to glorify and worship this best of beings? O that I could consecrate myself, soul and body, to his service for ever! O that I could give up myself to him, so as never more to attempt to be my own, or to have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to his! But oh, alas, alas! I cannot, I feel I cannot be thus entirely devoted to God: I cannot live and sin not. O ye angels, do ye glorify him incessantly: if possible, exert yourselves still more, in more lively and ardent devotion: if possible, prostrate yourselves still lower before the throne of the blessed King of heaven: I long to bear a part with you, and, if it were possible, to help you. Yet when we have done, we shall not be able to offer the ten thousandth part of the homage he is worthy of. While spiritual sensation whispered these things, fear and jealousy were greatly overcome; and the soul replied, “Now I know, and am assured,” &c. and again, it welcomed death as a friend, saying, “O death, where is thy sting!” &c.
15. Finally, holy resolution concludes the discourse, fixedly determining to follow hard after God, and continually to pursue a life of conformity to him. And the better to pursue this, enjoining it on the soul always to remember, that God is the only source of happiness, that his will is the only rule of rectitude to an intelligent creature, that earth has nothing in it desirable for itself, or any further than God is seen in it; and that the knowledge of God in Christ, begetting and maintaining love, and mortifying sensual and fleshly appetites, is the way to be holy on earth, and so to be attempered to the complete holiness of the heavenly world.
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