July 7: Questions and Counsels, by Dr. Ashbel Green

greenAshbelDuring the time that Dr. Ashbel Green was serving as the president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), there was a revival, which occurred during the winter of 1814. Dr. Green wrote a Report on the matter for the school’s Trustees, titled “Revival of Religion in the College,” and this Report can be found in Green’s Autobiography, as Appendix H, pp. 619-622.

As important as that Report is, what is of greater importance are the questions and counsels that Dr. Green provided the students during the time of this revival. That is the material presented in our post this Lord’s Day, and I pray you will find it useful.

These Questions and Counsels were Green’s response and direction, offered to the students. As noted in preface to his advice, “The estimate made by the religious public of the instructions given during the revival by Dr. Green, was afterwards shown in their being published by the Tract Society in the form of a tract, entitled ‘Questions and Counsels given by Dr. Green.’ It is believed that the ministry have found few of that society’s excellent publications more useful in seasons of revival than this discriminating and judicious tract of Dr. Green.”

If I may make the suggestion, after reading this, you may find it profitable to make a copy to insert in your Bible, for future reference and reminder.

Who hope that a work of saving grace has been wrought upon their hearts.

1. Have you seen yourself to be, by nature and by practice, a lost and helpless sinner? Have you not only seen the sinfulness of particular acts of transgression, but also that your heart is the seat and fountain of sin?—That in you, naturally, there is no good thing? Has a view of this led you to despair of help from yourself? To see that you must be altogether indebted to Christ for salvation, and to the gracious aid of the Holy Spirit for strength and ability rightly to perform any duty?
2. On what has your hope of acceptance with God been founded? On your reformation? on your sorrow for your sins? on your prayers? on your tears? on your good works and religious observances? Or has it been on Christ alone, as your all in all? Has Christ ever appeared very precious to you? Do you mourn that he does not appear more so? Have you sometimes felt great freedom to commit your soul to him? In doing this (if you have done it) has it been, not only to be delivered from the punishment due to your sins, but also from the power, pollution, dominion, and existence of sin in your soul?
3. As far as you know yourself, do you hate, and desire to be delivered from all sin, without any exception of a favourite lust? Do you pray much to be delivered from sin? Do you watch against it, and against temptation to it? Do you strive against it, and in some good degree get the victory over it? Have you so repented of it as to have your soul really set against it?
4. Have you counted the cost of following Christ, or of being truly religious? That it will cut you off from vain amusements, from the indulgence of your lusts, and from a sinful conformity to the world? That it may expose you to ridicule and contempt, possibly to more serious persecution? In view of all these things, are you willing to take up the cross, and to follow Christ, whithersoever he shall lead you? Is it your solemn purpose, in reliance on his grace and aid, to cleave to him, and to his cause and people, to the end of life?
5. Do you love holiness? Do you love a holy God, and because he is holy? Do you earnestly desire to be more and more conformed to God, and to his holy law? To bear more and more the likeness of your Redeemer? Do you seek, and sometimes find, communion with your God and Saviour?
6. Are you resolved, in God’s strength, to endeavour conscientiously to perform your whole duty—to God, to your neighbour, and to yourself? Do you perform common and relative duties conscientiously, as part of the duty which you owe to God?
7. Do you make conscience of secret prayer daily? Do you sometimes not feel a backwardness to this duty? Do you at other times feel a great delight in it? Have you a set time, and place, and order of exercise, for performing this duty?
8. Do you daily read a portion of the whole Scriptures, in a devout manner? Do you love to read the Bible? Do you ever perceive a sweetness in the truths of holy Scripture? Do you find them adapted to your necessities, and see, at times, a wonderful beauty, excellence, and glory in God’s word? Do you make it the man of your counsel, and endeavour to have both your heart and life conformed to its doctrines and requisitions?
9. Have you ever attempted to covenant with God? To give yourself away to him, solemnly and irrevocably, hoping for acceptance through Christ alone; and taking God, in Christ, as the covenant God, and satisfying portion of your soul?
10. Does the glory of God ever appear to you as the first, greatest, and best of all objects? Do you desire to promote the glory of God, as the chief object of life?
11. Do you feel a love to mankind—such as you did not feel before you became religious? Have you a great desire that the souls of men should be saved, by being brought to a genuine faith and trust in the Redeemer? Do you love God’s people with a peculiar attachment—because they bear their Saviour’s image, and because they love and pursue the objects, and delight in the exercises, which are most pleasing and delightful to yourself? Do you, from your heart, forgive all your personal enemies, and refuse to cherish or entertain any sentiments of hatred or revenge? If you have injured any person, have you made reparation; or are you ready and willing to make it?
12. Do you feel it to be very important to adorn religion, by a holy, exemplary, amiable, and blameless walk and conversation. Do you fear to bring a reproach on the cause of Christ? Does this appear to you extremely dreadful? Are you afraid of backsliding, and of being left to return to a state of carelessness and indifference in religion?
13. Do you desire and endeavour to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of Christ your Saviour, more and more? Are you willing to sit at his feet as a little child, and to submit your reason and understanding, implicitly, to his teaching; imploring his Spirit to guide you into all necessary truth, to save you from all fatal errors, to enable you to receive the truth in the love of it, and to transform you, more and more, into a likeness of himself?

1. Remember that these questions are intended to point your attention to subjects of inquiry the most important. Do not, therefore, content yourself with a careless or cursory reading of them. Read and deliberate, and examine yourself, closely, on the questions under each head; and let your heart be lifted up to God, while you are considering each particular question, in earnest desires that he may show you the very truth. You cannot ordinarily go over all these questions at one time. Divide them, therefore, and take one part at one time, and another at another. But try and go over the whole in the course of a week; and do this every week for some months. When you find yourself doubtful or deficient in any point, let it not discourage you; but note down that point in writing, and bend the attention of your mind to it, and labour and pray till you shall have made the attainment which will enable you to answer clearly. It is believed that you cannot fail to see how each question ought to be answered.
2. Remember that secret prayer, reading the word of God, watchfulness, and self-examination, are the great means of preserving comfort in religion, and of growing in grace. In proportion as you are exact and faithful in these, such, usually, will be your inward peace, and the safety of your state. Unite them all together, and never cease to practise them while you live. Think often of the character of Enoch, and try to walk with God. Read Mason’s little book on Self-knowledge; I recommend it as excellent.
3. Besides the Bible, have constantly in reading, at your leisure hours, some author of known piety and excellence. Read Owen’s works, Baxter’s Saints’ Rest, Doddridge’s works, Watts’s works, Witherspoon’s works, Newton’s works, Scott’s works, Venn’s Whole Duty of Man, The Christian Observer, &c. &c.
4. Do not suppose that any evidence which, at present, you may think you possess, of a gracious state, will release you from the necessity of maintaining a constant vigilance in time to come; nor from repeated examinations and trials of yourself even to the end of life. Many marks and evidences of a gracious state are set down by pious writers. But they must all come to this—to ascertain what is your prevalent temper and character—whether, on the whole, you are increasing in sanctification or not? If you are, you may be comforted; if not, you have cause to be alarmed. It is only he that endureth to the end that shall be saved.
5. I think it of very great importance to warn you not to imagine that true religion is confined to the closet or to the church; even though you apprehend that you have great comfort and freedom there. Freedom and comfort there are, indeed, most desirable; but true religion reaches to every thing. It alters and sweetens the temper. It improves the manners. It goes into every duty, relation, station, and situation of life. If you have true religion, you will have a better spirit, you will be better sons, better scholars, better friends, better members of society, and more exemplary in the discharge of every duty; as the sure consequence of this invaluable possession. And if your religion does not produce these effects, although you may talk of inward comforts, and even of raptures, you have great reason to fear that the whole is a delusion, and that the root of the matter is not in you. “Herein (said the Saviour,) is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, so shall ye be my disciples.”
6. Be careful to avoid a gloomy, and to cherish a cheerful temper. Be habitually cheerful; but avoid levity. Mirth and laughter are not always sinful; but let your indulgence in them be clearly innocent, not very frequent and never of long continuance. Be very humble. Be not talkative. Before experienced Christians be a hearer, rather than a talker. Try, in every way, however, to promote religion among your relatives and friends. Win them to it, by your amiable temper and exemplary deportment. “Flee youthful lusts.” Shun every excitement of them. Guard against dissipation: it extinguishes piety. Be not disconcerted by ridicule and reproach. Your Saviour bore much of these for you. Think of this, and be ashamed of nothing so much as being ashamed of him. Trust in his protection, live to his praise, and you will spend eternity in his blissful presence.

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