"Her ways are ways of pleasantness" has a truth in it; though not as the religionists of the day understand it. The pleasantness of religion is only attained by the elect: the pleasantness of all the mongrel race of Exeter Hall is the infernal tint on the sea before the great shipwreck of damnation swallows them all up. For proselyte-making Fullerism, and Arminianism are the A. and Z. of the Exeter Hall Societies.
The peace and joy, the sweet delights from time to time, and the mystic pleasures (hid from all else) of the Almighty's dealings with elect souls, charm, refresh, and entranze more or less the elect race in this sin-clouded world wherein we live at present. The amazing troubles we have gone through about religion, the freshness of honesty encircling all our connection with religion, encourages us. The mysterious dealings of God with us (such as no Arminian, Fullerite, or head-knowledge Calvinist knows any thing of); the single eye to God's glory through sincere fear or love; sensible destruction from the law of works; and life sensibly breathed from electing grace on our law killed souls; a tender conscience; and Christ's sensibly imputed righteousness on our feeling souls; give us such a thrill of real, solid hope and faith at times, as to convince us of our own salvation and of the predestinated damnation of all non-elect souls. "Tophet was ordained of old". To see from our own amazing experience how narrow the road is that leads to glory! And that we are of the number of the highly favoured few predestinated to find it! A sense experimentally of the eternity and unchangeableness of God! That with Him there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. That if we are saints, we were so millions of years ago in God's eye as much as we are now! That Christ was the lamb, verily foreordained before the foundation of the world. That before ever Adam or Eve were created, the elect were as much elected and saved in God's eye as they are now or ever will be. And to feel that we, I say, by the astonishing experience we have gone through, and by the perpetual feelings we have involuntarily about religion, are constrained to feel (whether we will or no) that God has fixed on us as part of the astonishing and small remnant of election; while He has damned all the rest! (Matt. 25:46). These things overcome us! We lay our faces in the dust! We say in the greatness of our confounding humility, "Can these things be so?" While these darting feelings run through our tender conscience, trembling at sin and experimentally trusting on Christ's sensibly imputed righteousness, embroidering, beautifying, and glorifying our souls inwardly; while the very times and ways when the Almighty revealed Christ's righteousness, and sensibly gave it internally to our souls, shine before us; and the renewed persuasion and Almighty feeling that we shall be His at that stormy, yet sunshiny day, when He makes up his jewels and damns the reprobate; this, this is what vessels of wrath hate, and what the vessels of mercy feed on; this is what Cain hated, and what Abel loved; "Having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth." (Heb. 11:13)
A union of likes and dislikes with God, as regards both men and things, is a great blessing in the soul. I do not wonder to hear men say religion does not consist in feeling; for most have no feelings of any account as regards religion. But to say that religion does not consist of feeling, I will be bold to say, is doctrine not fit for devils, or men, or angels to hear. It is an affront both to divine and moral truth to hear it. It is an affront even to common sense to say so. For what either in a divine or natural way can we know except by feeling satisfactorily? What of pleasure or pain can we know except by feeling? The angels in heaven know they are happy by feeling. The devils in hell know they are miserable by feeling. Men of common sense know in this world whether they are comfortable or not according to their feelings. And divine men judge whether they are under the clouds or sunshine of God, according to their feelings. And, therefore, what on earth, or in heaven, or hell, men can mean by saying that religion does not consist in feeling, I cannot divide. Neither can any one else, I verily believe, except that it is as dreams, nonsense, and stuff to make such a declaration.
Feeling is the very germ, spark, and kernel of divine life in the soul. Like the pulse, it is the mark of life. When the pulse ceases, a surgeon knows life is fled. When feeling is absent in religion, we know there is nothing but death in the soul. For feeling is the characteristic of life. "For the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun." (Ecc. 9:5, 6)
Divine faith being the substance of things hoped for, we touch the word of life, handle it, taste it. Supernatural faith thus drinks in at times the draught of joy and gladness; making as it were its bones fat. As it is written, "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works." (Ecc. 9)
This paper is not written professedly on the tribulations of electing religion: I must treat on them, God being my guide, in another paper. Suffice it here to say, that as night is to day, as winter is to summer, as ploughing and harrowing are to agriculture, and as cold weather is the excellent set-off against the cloying warmth; so tribulations are the very nerve and sinew that uphold, build, and alone, under God, render healthy in the world the living fabric of spiritual religion in every elect soul. "In the day of adversity consider". (Ecc. 7:14) Those days of consideration are many. "For the days of darkness shall be many." (Ecc. 9:8) Until the day of eternity dawn; and the shadows of time flee away with all sorrow for evermore.
Spiritual pleasure in this life is taken up in beholding and examining and in contemplating the earnest-penny and the wave sheaf of eternal life which God himself has with his own hands laid up in the treasure-house of our experience. No miser with half such greediness looks on his gold mammon, as the godly man gloats with divine and ineffable gratitude and wonder at seeing his poor name enrolled in the Lamb's book of life; "I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness". "And I will replenish every weary soul." (Jer. 31:14, 25).
To eat hidden manna, and to feel vanity stamped on every creature; to be weaned from every thing but God in any supreme love: to be refreshed in the multitude of peace: to feel how soon every creature will be taken away from us, and that one's everlasting treasure is manifestively in God: to have a sensible feeling that after this short life is ended our poor experience will burst into a triumphant and endless day; and that all hypocrites and pretenders shall come short of that promised rest; and that we, unworthy though we be, have the spark of endless life, integrity, and godly principles within us, implanted there by God's own hands, as it were; these things, I say, are a little of the honey and sweet satisfactions which from day to day regale, freshen, and delight the elect soul who knows that he is at peace with God!
The poor dead stuff which in books, preaching, and conversation is palmed off as religion by the hoards of professors is a burden to a divine man! The obituaries in all the magazines are nine out of ten, says he, of such characters and by such parsons; the experience mentioned in them is so slender, and the parsons they used to be friendly with and under whose preaching they used to sit, are such Samaritans or Hagarenes; that in nine cases out of ten the obituaries are of dead men and all written by dead parsons. For every parson in England almost curses William Huntington, the greatest man of God since the days of the apostles, as his writings show.
Says a divine man, I would not give one pin for talk about religion, unless it is pressed as wine of the finest scent and flavour from the pure and heavenly vineyard of Christ in the soul!
One of the greatest pleasures and comforts of elect religion is the standing on the high ground in sincere experimental real feelings in the soul, mentioned by the psalmist in these words, "There is none upon earth that I desire besides thee." (Ps. 73:25) A sense of all creatures being God's and a sense that he is in the list of the elect and not of the reprobate, makes a godly man, from varied experience, declare from time to time that there is none upon earth he desires except God. He is experimentally sensible that there is none in heaven but God can help him: but to say in uprightness and simplicity before a heart-searching God, that there is none upon earth that he desires except him: and to have such an experimental series of dealings with God and of his manifestations to him in the use of all creatures is one of the most mild and admirable gems that adorn the coronet of divine wisdom in the soul; throwing a light and lustre over the whole frame of creation itself such as no natural man with the cold moonlight of mere reason or natural religion knows anything of!
To see mercy triumphing against justice in our behalf, and alleviating a little the lot of our condition in this life; to see how God has tied up a little the arm of his wrath against us in temporal things: the delight of thankful hearts; and the restored and subdued use and enjoyment of all the pilgrim-mercies of our earthly and chequered life journey in this world; but almost above all to see our answers to prayer, and that we "Have the ear" of God; all these things spur on our divine loyalty to our electing God, and make us to wish at times we had done with the night of this world! These things increase our thirst for the fulness of those pure, serene, and unsullied delights which will surround our raptured eyesight in the marvellous morn of eternity and of the general resurrection. These are some of the drops that distil as dew from the previous firmament of electing, redeeming, and quickening grace on the chosen race:
Truly, I have a goodly heritage! Truly, the crimson gleams of salvation's summer's day arise in the eastern horizon, blaze, and splendour of my soul! says the godly man at times! "We have seen his star in the east." (Matt. 2:2) But it may be said that much of our faith is fancy! The dread realities of previous soul-trouble make us deeply to feel that our religion is far removed from fancy! The pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow: with the watchful eye of God's terrible I majesty upon us, afflicting us with our sins; is an effectual preventive against us thinking our religion fancy! As, indeed, the damned in hell and the reprobate race on earth shall know that fancy has no part or lot in the sovereign and electing Monarch over all things. A godly man derives his comfort in part from considering all the way that the Lord his God hath led him for many a year in wanderings and in healings, in terrors and in comforts, in unspeakable woe and unspeakable bliss, (2 cor. 12:4) in the path of tribulations and of light, in past times and day by day.
"The frown of God, the sneer of man;
A hedge of providential gloom:
Our pride of years worn to a span;
And stings from sin's deep startling doom:
These madden and destroy our souls,
And wear our lives in woe away.
‘Till gladd'ning mercy onward rolls
To fringe our night with gleams of day!"
The purity of our motives: the general uprightness of our life outwardly: the justification by wisdom thus of us as its children: in a blessed purity of heart in the open vision of God by the eye of electing faith through Christ's righteousness, causing to bud forth also the fruits of the Spirit which are in all righteousness and goodness and truth: these, with the whole mystic train of supernatural excellencies planted in the godly man's soul, make him feel with a witness that there is a perfection in his religion, thus bearing the stamp of God on all perfectness. "I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it". (Rev. 3:8)
Besides the varied pleasures which ever and anon will, as at the sight of some unexpected and beautiful landscape, be delighting the spiritual senses sooner or later, and more or less of every elect man, there will be also a savour on his spirits, a calm serenity, and a healthy and lively blessedness over his feelings, which frowardness sullies or destroys. "With the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavoury." (2 Sam. 22:27) This makes him value a tender conscience. This makes him watchful lest he should lose his delights, lest sin, like a robber, should stop him and rob him of every farthing of the true riches which he sensibly has in his soul. "For love is strong as death; jealously is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame". (Song 8:6)
The pleasing flow thus of a godly man's thoughts from time to time: the swelling gale from time to time that puts into a pleasant commotion both hope and faith, warming them into the genial glow of life, and ornamenting and decorating the sails and canvass of the eternally predestinated vessels of mercy before they are wafted through bodily death into the real (though as yet unseen) harbour of eternal joy, I have thus endeavoured, in a few respects, from my own experience to emblazon and faintly set forth, as a confusion to hypocrites, and as an echo to the sounds of mercy, love, and grace in every law-killed and gospel-charmed soul.
Abingdon; I.K. (John Kay)
"The Gospel Standard" 1838
Signs of the Times
Volume 150, No. 4 - April 1982