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chiefly addresses the faculty of reason. The second makes more rapid progress, as it seizes the religious affections, or passions of men, and by this handle they are suddenly drawn away, without taking time maturely to think, and deliberately ponder their paths. They are led away by the apparent piety of their leaders, and the strong persuasion they have, that God is with these
The above account is not mere theory, it has been often realized by individuals, and by societies. Several individuals in our day and country, who might be particularly named, have trodden pretty exactly in the above steps, until they have arrived at Atheism, or something equally absurd, or equally destructive of piety and virtue.
About thirty years ago, as I have been informed, the Christian religion was in a pretty flourishing state among the Protestant dissenters in England- their houses of worship were much crowded, and the people all attention. They concluded, however, at length, that Confessions of Faith were hurtful things, which cramped the mind, and put a stop to free inquiry, and improvements in knowledge. They resolved to let every candidate for the Gospel Ministry draw up his own Confession of Faith. These candidates dropped one mystery after another, until they got to the 5th grade of
The people, convinced by their masterly rea soning, followed them. After the novelty was over, and the minds of men became calm, these doctrines produced their genuine effects—the zeal of the people subsided, they dwindled away, and a number of flourishing congregations were reduced almost to a state of non
existence. In this torpid state they remained for some times until at length, there sprung up a set of evangelical preachers, who revived the long exploded doctrines of the reformation. The people by this time, saw the bad effects of Arianism, and Socinianism, in the principles and lives of their fathers; exploded the new refined system; and again embraced the principles of the reformation. On which, religion revived, and several of these congregations rose as from the dead, and again became flourishing societies. We are informed, that late in the last century, the Ministers in Germany got to weeding Christianity of its mysteries, and trying to render it more philosophical. They succeeded -and soon reduced it to a stock fit for the reception of the system of the Illuminees; or rather of Iluminism, the systematical subversion of all systems. The consequence was, distraction and desolation were spread over a considerable part of Europe, while the religion of Jesus lay bleeding in the dust.
The principles of Semipelagianism, Arianism, and Socinianism, make God so merciful, and the way to heaven so easy, that in time it naturally lulls the mind to sleep, and makes it indifferent about all religion. Men do not consider that “A God all mercy, is a God unjust.”' They have read, "He that believeth shall be saved," and are informed that "believing is the easiest thing in the world."
They can prepare for heaven at any time--they are busy now about other things or taken up with other pleasures and pursuits. In due time, however, they design to believe, and be saved. This idea is not the
creature of my own mind. I have seen it realized in numberless instances, and observed the sad effects of this easy way, in preventing all proper timous exertions, to get to heaven. This is the natural effect of such notions, the proper tendency of these doctrines. The present generation of Christians may not thus improve them; their principles, imbibed from a better system, and their present zeal, may preserve them from it; but it will produce, and has ip some measure produced this effect upon others; if their children inherit their notions, they will produce this effect in them. Yea, in many instances, these notions will convert their children into Deists and Atheists. We, who are praying for the advancement of Christianity, and for the destruction of infidelity, and predicting the commencement of Christ's Millennian reign, are imprudently, and andesignedly preparing the way for a nation of unbe. lievers to be born in a day; we are, contrary to our design and expectation, opening the flood-gate for impiety and immorality, to pour forth and deluge this bappy land. This, my dear brethren, is the prospect that lies before me; this evil I see already commenced, and forebode its greater increase: it is this that fills my heart with daily anxiety, and causes my harp tó hang on the willows,
I beg leave to mention a few things, which I think were the causes which have produced a number of the errors mentioned above, or giving them currency among the people:
1. One of these, I think, was a mistaken opinion au bout the extraordinary bodily agitations which have appeared in our worshipping assemblies They were Jooked upon by too many to be miraculous and immediately from God; and hence the lively and impressive ideas that persons had in these exercises, were all thought to be from heaven, and therefore true. They judged of truth by these impressions, and not of these impressions by the truths of God's word. The apprehension that God was at work in an extraordinary way, and that they were the subjects of bis miraculous operations, agitated their whole frame, and considerably affected their imaginations, which became therefore more lively and strong. When they saw others under the same bodily exercises, and heard them expressing the manifestations they had received, they looked upon them to be under the same divine influence, and their ideas and impressions also to be from God. This exposed them to be led astray by their own imaginations; and by the imaginations of others of whom they had conceived a high opinion. The error here was, men's taking something else than the written word of God, as the rule of their faith. It prepared them to be imposed op by any body who should advance a specious error with great warmth and engagedness io religion.
2. Another thing that prepared the minds of many for the reception of error, was their high expectation of the speedy approach of the Millennium. This they looked upon to be an extraordinary event, and were ready to conclude every thing that was extraordinary, was a mean conducive to this extraordinary event. It was easy to see that they looked upon all former revivals ás vastly inferior to the present, and this put them in a
great measure above learning any thing from the experience and observation of others. Every hint of disorder and irregularity, however kindly intended, was looked upon as opposition to the work of God; which destroyed the influence of those who gave them. In some places where very few were added to the communion of the Church, not half so many as had been known in other revivals, it was esteemed the greatest revival that ever was known, merely because there was an extraordinary commotion among the people. And even now, when the work is evidently in a retrograde motion, and half the christians in the land are mourning over the decay of piety, and the growth of error; a number are full of the idea of a Millennium, and seem insensible of the decay of religion, and of the strengthening infidelity; and contident that they are advancing in truth and piety, while some of them are in the broad road that leads to Atheism.
3. The generous sentiments imbibed by Presbyterians, and acted upon perhaps imprudently, encouraged some to speak very freely of creeds and confessions. The reflections were popular, the notion was eagerly embraced, and many were resolved to have no confession bụt the Bible, which they had read too superficially, and very imperfectly understood. They were then prepared to imbibe every new notion, advanced by a popular warm preacher, wbich he said was agreeable to Scripture. They were like a parcel of boys suddenly tumbled out of a boat, who had been unaccustomed to swim, and knew not the way to the shore. Some fixed upon one error, and some upon another: most, how