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Adrift in N.J. (New Jerusalem)
from "The Life of Thomas Shepard" by John A. Albro, D.D.
by the help of the pious Johnson, we obtain a glimpse of Mr. Shepard in the pulpit, as well as of his mode of dealing with a knotty subject. In the course of this "dismal year of 1636" a pious man, who, like many others, had left his native land to enjoy the liberty of the gospel here, arrived in New England, expecting to find the wilderness blossoming as the rose under the labors of the able ministers who had preceded him; but, to his amazement, he found the whole country in a state of confusion [over Antinomianism], and was at once addressed in a new theological language which was entirely unintelligible to him. "Take here," says Johnson, in his rude, quaint manner, referring to this man, "the sorrowful complaint of a poor soul in miss of its expectation at landing, who, being encountered with some of these errorists at his first landing, when he saw that good old way of Christ rejected by them, and he could not skill in that new light which was the common theme of every man's discourse, he betook him to a narrow Indian path, in which his serious meditation soon led him where none but senseless trees and echoing rocks make answer to his heart-easing moan. 'O,' quoth he, 'where am I become? Is this the place where those reverend preachers are fled, that Christ was pleased to make use of to rouse up his rich graces in many a drooping soul? Here have I met with some that tell me I must take a naked Christ. O, woe is me; if Christ be naked to me, wherewith shall I be clothed? But methinks I most wonder they tell me of casting off all godly sorrow for sin, as unbeseeming a soul that is united to Christ by faith. And there was a little nimble-tongued woman among them, who said she could bring me acquainted with one of her own sex that would show me a way, if I could attain it, even revelations, full of such ravishing joy, that I should never have cause to be sorry for sin, so long as I live; and as for her part, she had attained it already. "A company of legal professors," quoth she, "lie poring on the law which Christ hath abolished, and when you break it, then you break your joy; and now no way will serve your turn but a deep sorrow." These, and divers other expressions, intimate unto me that here I shall find little increase in the graces of Christ, through the hearing of his word preached, and other of his blessed ordinances. O, cunning devil, the Lord Christ rebuke thee, that, under the pretense of a free and ample gospel, shuts out the soul from partaking with the divine nature of Christ, in that mystical union of his blessed Spirit, creating and continuing his graces in the soul. My dear Christ, it was thy work that moved me hither to come, hoping to find thy powerful presence in the preaching of the word, although administered by sorry men, subject to like infirmities with others of God's people; and also by the glass of the law, to have my sinful, corrupt nature discovered daily more and more, and my utter inability to any thing that is good, magnifying hereby the free grace of Christ, who, of his good will and pleasure, worketh in us to will and to do, working all our works in us and for us. But here they tell me of a naked Christ. What is the whole life of a Christian, but, through the power of Christ, to die to sin, and to live to holiness and righteousness, and to that end to be diligent in the use of means?'
"At the uttering of this word, he starts up from the green bed of his complaint, with resolution to hear some one of these able ministers preach, whom report had so highly valued, before his will should make choice of any one principle. Then, turning his face to the sun, he steered his course toward the next town; and, after some small travel, he came to a large plain. No sooner was he entered thereon, but hearing the sound of a drum, he was directed toward it by a broad, beaten way. Following this road, he demands of the next man be met what the signal of the drum meant. The reply was made, they had as yet no bell to call men to meeting, and therefore made use of a drum. 'Who is it,' quoth he, 'who lectures at this town?' The other replies, 'I see you are a stranger, new come over, seeing you know not the man: it is one Mr. Shepard.' 'Verily,' quoth the other, 'you have hit the right. I am new come over, indeed, and have been told, since I came, that most of your ministers are legal preachers; only, if I mistake not, they told me this man preached a finer covenant of works than the others. But, however, I shall make what haste I can to hear him. Fare you well.' Then, hastening thither, he crowdeth through the thickest, where having staid while the glass was turned up twice, the man was metamorphosed, and was fain to hang down the head often, lest his watery eyes should blab abroad the secret conjunction of his affections, his heart crying loud to his Lord's echoing answer, to his blessed Spirit, that caused the speech of a poor, weak, pale-complexioned man to take such impression in his soul at present, by applying the word so aptly, as if he had been his privy councilor; clearing Christ's work of grace in the soul from all those false doctrines which the erroneous party had affrighted him withal; and he resolves, the Lord willing, to live and die with the ministers of New England, whom he now saw the Lord had not only made zealous to stand for the truth of his discipline, but also for the doctrine, and not to give ground one inch."
[Note: By "naked Christ" the author means "Christ apart from His offices." It might be equated with "Taking Christ as Savior but not as Lord" or "Easy-Believism."
I wonder if this traveller had happened out of a time-portal into the evangelical church of today, would he have experienced anything similar?]
Index to Thomas Shepard
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