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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [1]

Knowledge acquired by long use without a teacher. It consists in the ideas of things we have seen or read, which the judgment has reflected on, to form for itself a rule or method. Christian experience is that religious knowledge which is acquired by any exercises, enjoyments, or sufferings, either of body or mind. Nothing is more common than to ridicule and despise what is called religious experience as mere enthusiasm. But if religion consist in feeling, we would ask, how it can possibly exist without experience? We are convinced of, and admit the propriety of the term, when applied to those branches of science which are not founded on speculation or conjecture, but on sensible trial. Why, then, should it be rejected when applied to religion? It is evident that, however beautiful religion may be in name, its excellency and energy are only truly known and displayed as experienced. A system believed, or a mind merely informed, will produce little good, except the heart be affected, and we feel its influence.

To experience, then, the religion of Christ, we must not only be acquainted with its theory, but enjoy its power; subduing our corruptions, animating our affections, and exciting us to duty. Hence the Scripture calls experience tasting,  Psalms 34:8 . feeling, &c.  1 Thessalonians 2:13 , &c. That our experience is always absolutely pure in the present state cannot be expected. "The best experience, " says a good writer, "may be mixed with natural affections and passions, impressions on the imagination, self- righteousness, or spiritual pride;" but this is no reason that all experience is to be rejected, for upon this ground nothing could be received, is, however, to be lamented, that while the best of men have a mixture in their experience, there are others whose experience (so called)is entirely counterfeit. They have been alarmed, have changed the ground of their confidence, have had their imaginations heated and delighted by impressions and visionary representations; they have recollected the promises of the Gospel, as if spoken to them with peculiar appropriation, to certify them that their sins were forgiven; and having seen and heard such wonderful things, they think they must doubt no more of their adoption into the family of God.

They have also frequently heard all experience profanely ridiculed as enthusiasm; and this betrays them into the opposite extreme, so that they are emboldened to despise every caution as the result of emnity to internal religion, and to act as if there were no delusive or counterfeit experience. But the event too plainly shows their awful mistake, and that they grounded their expectations upon the account given of the extraordinary operation of the Holy Spirit on the mind of prophets, rather than on the promises of his renewing influences in the hearts of believers. When, therefore, they lose the impressions with which they once were elated, they relapse nearly into their old course of life, their creed and confidence alone excepted." Christian experience may be considered as genuine,

1. When it accords with the revelation of God's mind and will, or what he has revealed in his word. Any thing contrary to this, however pleasing, cannot be sound, or produced by divine agency.

2. When its tendency is to promote humility in its tendency is to promote humility in us: that experience, by which we learn our own weakness, and subdues pride, must be good.

3. When it teaches us to bear with others, and to do them good.

4. When it operates so as to excite us to be ardent in our devotion, and sincere in our regard to God. A powerful experience of the divine favour will lead us to acknowledge the same, and to manifest our gratitude both by constant praise and genuine piety. Christian experience, however, may be abused.

There are some good people who certainly have felt and enjoyed the power of religion, and yet have not always acted with prudence as to their experience.

1. Some boast of their experiences, or talk of them as if they were they acquainted with others, they would find it not so. That a man may make mention of his experience, is no way improper, but often useful; but to hear persons always talking of themselves, seems to indicate a spirit of pride, and that their experience cannot be very deep.

2. Another abuse of experience is, dependence on it. We ought certainly to take encouragement from past circumstances, if we can: but if we are so dependent on past experience as to preclude present exertions, or always expect to have exactly the same assistance in every state, trial, or ordinance, we shall be disappointed. God has wisely ordered it, that though he never will leave his people, yet he will suspend or bestow comfort in his own time; for this very reason, that we may rely on him, and not on the circumstance or ordinance.

3. It is an abuse of experience, when introduced at improper times, and before improper persons. It is true, we ought never to be ashamed of our profession; but to be always talking to irreligious people respecting experience, which they know nothing of, is, as our Saviour says, casting pearls before swine. Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; Buck's Treatise on Experience; Gornall's Christian Armour; Dr. Owen on Psalm cxxx; Edwards on the Affections, and his Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England; Dorney's Contemplations.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Experience . This word, which plays so large a part in modern philosophy and religion, occurs 4 times (including ‘experiment’) in EV [Note: English Version.] . Of these instances only one survives in RV [Note: Revised Version.] , viz.,   Ecclesiastes 1:16 , where ‘hath had great experience of’ = ‘hath seen much of (wisdom),’ etc. In   Genesis 30:27 ‘I have learnt by experience’ (= ‘experiment’) becomes ‘I have divined,’ the Heb. vb. being the same as in   Genesis 44:5;   Genesis 44:15 ,   Deuteronomy 18:10 . In   Romans 5:4 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘probation’) ‘experience,’ and in   2 Corinthians 9:13 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘proving’) ‘experiment.’ was the rendering of a Gr. word borrowed from the assaying of metal, which signified the testing , or test , of personal worth; the same noun appears in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] as ‘trial’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘proof’) in   2 Corinthians 2:9;   2 Corinthians 8:2 , and ‘proof’ in   2 Corinthians 13:3 and   Philippians 2:22 . ‘Christian experience,’ in modern phraseology, covers what is spoken of in Scripture as the knowledge of God, of Christ, etc., and as ‘the seal’ or ‘witness (testimony) of the Holy Spirit,’ ‘of our conscience,’ etc., or as peace, assurance, salvation, and the like. Cf. next article.

G. G. Findlay.

King James Dictionary [3]

EXPE'RIENCE, n. L. experientia, from experior, to try ex and ant. perior Gr. to attempt, whence pirate. Eng. to fare.The L. periculum, Eng. peril, are from the same root. We see the root of these words is to go, to fare, to drive, urge or press, to strain or stretch forward.

1. Trial, or a series of trials or experiments active effort or attempt to do or to prove something, or repeated efforts. A man attempts to raise wheat on moist or clayey ground his attempt fails of success experience proves that wheat will not flourish on such a soil. He repeats the trial, and his experience proves the same fact. A single trial is usually denominated an experiment experience may be a series of trials, or the result of such trials. 2. Observation of a fact or of the same facts or events happening under like circumstances. 3. Trial from suffering or enjoyment suffering itself the use of the senses as the experience we have of pain or sickness. We know the effect of light, of smell or of taste by experience. We learn the instability of human affairs by observation or by experience. We learn the value of integrity by experience. Hence, 4. Knowledge derived from trials, use, practice, or from a series of observations.

EXPE'RIENCE, To try by use, by suffering or by enjoyment. Thus we all experience pain, sorrow and pleasure we experience good and evil we often experience a change of sentiments and views.

1. To know by practice or trial to gain knowledge or skill by practice or by a series of observations.

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(1): ( n.) An act of knowledge, one or more, by which single facts or general truths are ascertained; experimental or inductive knowledge; hence, implying skill, facility, or practical wisdom gained by personal knowledge, feeling or action; as, a king without experience of war.

(2): ( n.) Trial, as a test or experiment.

(3): ( n.) The effect upon the judgment or feelings produced by any event, whether witnessed or participated in; personal and direct impressions as contrasted with description or fancies; personal acquaintance; actual enjoyment or suffering.

Charles Spurgeon's Illustration Collection [5]

A Christian's experience is like a rainbow, made up of drops of the grief of earth, and beams of the bliss of heaven.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [6]

eks - pē´ri - ens  : This word is employed 3 times. In  Genesis 30:27 the King James Version, Laban says, to Jacob, "I have learned by experience (the Revised Version (British and American) "divined") that Yahweh hath blessed me for thy sake." Here it translates the Hebrew נהשׁ , nāḥash , "to observe diligently," as when one examines the entrails of a bird or animal for the purpose of divination.

In  Ecclesiastes 1:16 , the writer says, "I have gotten me great wisdom ....; my heart hath had great experience of wisdom and knowledge." Here the Hebrew ( rā'āh ) means "hath seen abundantly," and the idea seems to be that of a wide outlook combined with actual trial of the things discovered or known.

In  Romans 5:4 the King James Version, the Greek word δοκιμή , dokimḗ (the American Standard Revised Version more correctly "approvedness"), means the proof or testing of a thing. We rejoice in tribulation because it works out or produces patience, while the latter develops an experience of God, i.e. it brings out as a proved fact His power and love toward us in our preservation in and deliverance from trial.

Thus it is seen the Bible use of the word is not different from the ordinary, which means "the sum of practical wisdom taught by the events and observations of life," or, to go a little farther, the personal and practical acquaintance with what is so taught.  Hebrews 5:13 gives a good practical example. the King James Version says, "Every one that useth milk is unskillful ( ápeiros ) in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe," while the Revised Version (British and American) renders "unskilful" by "without experience of." The thought is that he who fails to search out the deep things of the word of God is so lacking in the exercise of his spiritual senses as to be unable really to know truth from error.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [7]

( Δοκιμή ,  Romans 5:4, "proof," as elsewhere rendered), Approval of integrity as the result of trial. " The three stages of Ὑπομονή , Endurance, Δοκιμή , Approval, and Ἐλπίς , hope, are considered by the apostle as proceeding from the sufferings; the first denoting the state of moral earnestness implied in patient and faithful endurance, the second that state of approval as genuine which thence results, and bears within it hope as its blossom" (Olshausen, Comment. in loc.).