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I was labouring under a complication of disorders ; fired with raging madness, possessed with many devils, (I doubt it not,) bent upon my own destruction ; but he interposed, unsought, undesired. He opened my eyes, and pardoned my sins ; broke my fetters, and taught my once blasphemous lips to praise his name, 0, I can, I do, I must commend it as a faithful saying, That
1 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sipners ; there is forgiveness with him; he does all things well; he makes both the dumb to speak and the deaf to hear.
I remain, with due respect,
Dear Sir, your most obedient servapt.
November 1, 1768. REVEREND AND DEAR SIR,
By this time I suppose you have received and perased Mr. B****'s book. In point of fact, I think he has unanswerably proved that the sense of the Articles and the sentiments of the most eminent men in our church, till about bishop Land's time, are expressly in favour of what is called Calvinism.
How far you may be satisfied with his endeavours to establish those points from Scripture, particularly the doctrine of the 17th Article, I know not; nor am I very anxious about it. The course you are taking to read the Scripture for yourself, in an humble dependence upon the promised teaching of the Holy Spirit, will I doubt not, lead you into all necessary truth. And the best of men are permitted to retain some differences in sentiment upon less essential points. I remember the time when election and predestination were an offence to me; and though now scripture, reason, and experience, concur to establish me not only in one or two, but in all the particulars ineptioned in Mr. B****'s book, yet I believe several persons whom I love and honour will not receive them with the same satisfaction. But the longer I live, the more I am constrained to adopt that system which ascribes all the power and glory to the grace of God, and leaves nothing to the creature but sin, weak-, ness, and shame. Every one must speak for themselves, and for my own part, I cannot ascribe my present hopes to my having cherished and improved an inward something within me, which Mr. Law speaks of ; but, on the contrary, I know I have often resisted the motions and warnings of God's Spirit ; and if he had not saved me with a high hand, and in defiance of myself, I must have been lost. Nay, to this hour I feel an evil principle within me, tempting me to depart from the living God. I have
no inherent stock of goodness upon which I can hope to hold out hereafter, but stand in need of a continual supply, and emphatically understand our Lord's words, “ without me you can do
nothing.” For I find I am not sufficient of myself so much as to think a good thought.
I have had opportunity of reading but a few pages of Dr. Smith's Select Discourses. He is very learned, sensible and ingenious. I could admire him as a philosopher, but I cannot approve him as a divine. A sentence or two in his ninth page seems to me explanatory of his whole system ; where, speaking of our Lord Christ, he says, “ bis main scope was to promote a holy life, as the best and most compendious way to a right belief.” If this sentence were exactly inverted, it would speak the very sentiment of my heart. That by our own industry and endeavour, we shall acquire a qualification to enable us to a right faith, seems to me as improbable, as that any cultivation which can be bestowed upon a bramble-bush will enable it to produce figs. I believe human nature is totally depraved; blind as to any spiritual understanding, dead as to any spiritual desires ; and till we have received faith, though tempers, inclinations, and circumstances occasion a great variety of appearances and outward characters amongst men, yet the description of the carnal mind, as enmity against God, will equally suit us all. And I believe that when God is about to show mercy to any child of Adain, he begins by enlightening the understanding to perceive something of the wisdom, grace, and justice revealed to angels and men in the person of Christ crucified, and thereby communicating that principle of living faith which is the root of every gracious temper, and the source of every action that can be called good in a Scriptural sense : John, iji. 6, Matth. xii. 33–35. Epbes. ii. 1-9. Tit. iii. 3—7. I believe that on the double account of inward depravity and actual transgression, we are considered as in our natural state) liable to the curse of the law; from which, only faith in Jesus, as the proper atonement for sin, can set us free : John, iji. 18, 36, and viii. 24, and that the moment we truly believe, we are justified from all things, Acts, xiii. 39, and delivered from all condemnation ; Rom. viii. 1, in a word, that Christ is the all in all in a sinner's salvation ; that we have no righteousness in the sight of God but in his name, no power but so far as we are ingrafted in him by faith, as branches deriving sap and influence from the true vine ; John, xv. 1. Isa. xlv. 24. 1 Cor. i. 30. Upon these principles I find that I cannot have satisfaction or comfort in the mystical writers, notwithstanding they say many excellent things occasionally, which may be very useful when understood in a Gospel sense.
It would be impertinent to offer an apology for expressing myself with freedom after the liberty you gave me. However, I wish you to believe that I would not, at any time, and especially when writing to you, betray a dogmatical spirit. In every other point I hesitate and demur (and it becomes me to do so) when I differ from persons of learning and years superior to iny own. But with respect to the grounds of a sinner's acceptance in the sight of God, and the sufficiency, the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ to do all for, in, and by, those who believe on his name, I have that conviction, that more than human demonstration, that perhaps I may sometimes seem to pass my proper bounds, and to speak in a too positive tone. But I think the views which constrain me to dissent from Mr. Law, Dr. Smith, and many other respectable names, would embolden me to contradict even
an angel from heaven, if I should hear him propose any other foundation for hope than the person, obedience, sufferings, and intercession of the Son of God. Upon this subject, even my phlegmatic spirit will sometime catch a little fire.
Pardon for infinite offence! and pardon
The dryness of spirit you speak of, though not pleasant, is salutary. Such thirstings and longings as are expressed in the hundred and forty-third Psalm, are certainly from God, and will certainly be answered ; for to whom did he ever say, my face in vain ?”
I commend you to the keeping of the great Shepherd, and remain,
Your obedient and humble servant.
MY DEAR SIR,
January 11, 1769. It is true, I am obliged to plead business in excuse for my want of punctuality to some of my correspondents ; but I should be ashamed to make such a plea to you. The most pleasing parts of our employment bid fairest for our attention; and I shall exVol. III.
pect to spend few hours of my leisure with more satisfaction to myself, than when I am answering your obliging letters ; especially, as you encourage the freedom I bave already used, and give me hope that the thoughts I offer are not unsuitable to the tenour of your inquiries into the truths of God. The Lord, on whom we both desire to wait for instruction, can make us mutually helpful to each other; and I trust he will, for it is his own work. I can easily say I am nothing ; I wish I could more truly feel it, for he will not disappoint the feeblest instrument that simply depends upon bim, and is willing to give him all the glory.
Our preliminaries are now settled. What you say in your last is so satisfactory, that it would be impertinent in me to trouble you any further either about Mr. Law or Mr. Calvin. What ever portion of truth is in either of their writings, was drawn from the fountain which we have in our own hands; and we have the sure promise of Divine assistance to give success to our inquiries. I trust the defect of memory of which you complain, shall be no disadvantage to you; for you are not seeking a polemical system, but an experimental possession of truth ; and, with respect to this if you had all your faculties in full vigor, and could recur in a moment to all that you have ever been master of, you would still stand upon a level with the meanest of mankind. In this respect, what Elihu says, Job, xxxvi. 22, is emphatically true, There is none teacheth like him. That heavenly light with which he visits the awakened mivd, (like the light of the sun,) requires only eyes to see it. And a single sentence of his word, when explained and applied, by his Spirit, to the heart, will have more effect than the perusal of many folios. There is a majesty, authority, and evidence in his teaching, equally suited to all capacities. The wisest renounce their wisdom when he interposes ; and the weakest are made wise unto salvation : Jer. ix. 23, 24. Isa. xxxv. E. I have somewhere read an acknowledgment of the great Selden to this purpose :
-“ I have taken much pains to know every thing that was esteemed worth knowing amongst men, but of all my disquisitions and readings, nothing now remains with me to comfort me at the close of life, but this passage of St. Paul, It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' To this I cleave, and herein I find rest." You may be well assured, dear Sir, that he who has taught your heart to say, “Thy face, Lord, will I seek," will be undoubtedly found of you; for when did he say to the seed of Jacob, "Seek ye my face in vain.” Though as you have more to give up in point of those abilities and attainments which are highly esteemed amongst men than many others in the lower sphere of life, he may perhaps lead you in such a way as to give you a full conviction, that these
advantages can contribute nothing to spiritual wisdom and the peace which passeth understanding.
If I had the pleasure (as I hope one day to have) of receiving you here, I could show you exemplifications of the same grace in a very different light. Here the poor, and the weak, and the despised of the world, rejoice in the light of his salvation. Some who have hardly bread to eat, are content and thankful as if they possessed the whole earth, and can trace the hand of God in directing their petty concerns, and providing them daily food, as clearly as we can in the revolutions of a kingdom. Some who know no more of what passes without the bounds of the parish; than of what is doing beyond the Ganges, and whose whole reading is confined to the Bible, have such a just understanding of the things of God, and of the nature and difficulties of the Christian life, that I derive more instruction from their conversation, (though none think themselves less qualified to teach,) than from all my books. I doubt not but you would be pleased with their simplicity. We live in much harmony, and are out of the noise of disputes, being, through mercy, of one judgment and of one heart. I speak now of the serious people, whom I consider as my own peculiar charge. As to the bulk of the parish, it is too much like other places.
Indeed, the great points of immediate concernment may be summed up in a few words. To have a real conviction of our sin and unworthiness ; to know that Jesus is the all-sufficient Saviour, and that there is no other ; to set him before us as our Shepherd, Advocate, and Master; to place our hope upon him alone ; to live to him who lived and died for us ; to wait in his appointed means for the consolations of his Spirit ; to walk in his steps, and copy his character, and to be daily longing for the period of our warfare, that we may see him as he is. All may be reduced to these heads ; or the whole is better expressed in the apostle's summaries, Titus, ii. 11, 12, 13, 14, and ii. 3–8. But though the lessons are brief, it is a great thing to attain any good measure of proficiency in them; yea, the more we advance, the more we shall be sensible how far we fall short of their full import.
Next to the word of God, I like those books best which give an account of the lives and experiences of his people. Gillie's Gospel History contains a valuable collection of this sort, especially the first volume. Some of the letters and lives in Fox's Acts and Monuments, in the third volume, bave been very useful to
But no book of this kind has been more welcome to me than the Life of Mr. Brainerd, of New-England, republished a few years since at Edinburgh, and I believe sold by Dilly, in