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For I am so weak, inconsistent and sinful, so encompassed with snares, and liable to such assaults from the subtilty, vigilance, and power of Satan, that unless I am "kept by the power of God through faith," I am sure I cannot endure to the end. I believe the Lord will keep me while I walk humbly and obediently before him; but were this all, it would be cold comfort. I am prone to wander, and need a shepherd whose watchful eye, compassionate heart, and boundless mercy, will pity, pardon, and restore my backslidings. For though by his goodness and not my own, I have htiherto been preserved from dishonouring my profession in the sight of men ; yet I feel those evils within, which would presently break loose and bear me down from bad to worse, were he not ever present with me to control them. And therefore I conclude, they who comfortably hope to see his face in glory, but depend in whole or in part upon their own watchfulness and endeavours to preserve themselves from falling, must either be much wiser, better, and strong than I am, or at least cannot have so deep and painful a sense of their own weakness and vileness as daily experience forces upon me. I desire to be found in the use of the Lords appointed means the renewal of my spiritual strength, but I dare not undertake to watch a single hour, nor do I find sufficiency to think a good thought, nor a power in myself of resisting any temptation.
My strength is perfect weakness,
And all I have is sin.
In short I must sit down in despair, if I did not believe, (the apostle, I think, allows me to be confident,) that he who has begun a good work in me will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Had I the pleasure of conversing with you, I think I could state the texts you quote, in a light quite consistent with a hundred other texts which appear to me to assert the final perseverence of the saints in the strongest terms: but it would take up too much room in a letter. And indeed, non est tanti. Volumes of controversy, as you observe, have been written upon these subjects, and Te Deum has been professedly sung on both sides, but no man can receive, to his comfort and edification, any Gospel-truth, except it be taught and given him from heaven. I do not think my sentiments would add to your safety, but I believe they would to your comfort; but not if you received them as my sentiments: there is no more life and comfort in the knowledge of the Gospeltruth than in the knowledge of a proposition in Euclid, unless we are taught it by the Lord himself. I therefore dismiss the subject by referring you to Phil, iii. 14, 15.
I must begin my next paragraph with an apology, with en
treating your candid construction, and assuring you that nothing but a sense of duty towards the Lord, and friendship for you, would put me upon what (if I had not these motives to plead) might be deemed highly officious and impertinent. I have heard you speak of your living in Your situation in college
confines you much from it; and now years and infirmities are growing upon you, it is probable you will not be able to visit it so often as formerly, nor to do what you wish to do when you are there. Will you excuse me asking you how that living is supplied? Perhaps I only give you the opportunity of affording me pleasure by telling me, that you have taken care to provide them with a faithful curate, who has your views of the Gospel, though not mine, and, with a zeal for God and a warm desire of usefulness to souls, is labouring to impress your people with a sense of divine things, to warn them of the evil of sin, and to invite them to seek Jesus and his salvation. I should be ready to take it for granted this is the case, only that I think such a minister would be noticed and talked of in that part of the country, as we hear more or less of the effects of the Gospel when it is preached throughout the kingdom, and nothing of the kind has yet reached my ears from If it should be otherwise, permit me to hint, that, though you are past the ability of labouring much among your people personally, yet if the Lord prolongs your life, you have a probability of being greatly useful in a secondary way, by affording your sanction and appointment to a proper man who would feed and watch over your flock. And I hope the Lord committed that place to your charge in his providence, that the people there might in his time have the word of life preached to them; and if they heard it thankfully and improved it, I am sure it would add much to your comfort. I shall not enlarge, but rather conclude as I began, with entreating you to excuse my freedom. Indeed, I ought not to suspect you will be displeased with me for it, after the proofs you have given me of your candour and kindness. Yet I shall be glad to be assured from yourself, that you take it as I
I am, dear Sir,
Your affectionate and obliged servant.
MY DEAR SIR,
THE kind and affectionate terms in which you write, coming from a person whom I so greatly love and respect, cannot but be
highly pleasing to me. I am glad to find, likewise, by what you say of yourself, that the Lord favours you with patience and resignation to his will, under those infirmities which you find increasing as you advance in years; and that your hope for time and eternity is in Jesus, the Friend of sinners.
But I must confess, that though the former part of your letter gave me great pleasure, the latter part gave me no small pain. It appears, to my grief, that during the intermission of our correspondence, the difference between us in sentiment is considerably increased. You desire me, however, to open my mind to you freely, and the love I bear you constrains me to avail myself of the liberty you allow me; yet I feel a difficulty in the attempt. After the many letters we have exchanged, I hope it is needless to tell you that I am not fond of controversy, that I have no desire to prescribe my judgment in every point of doctrine as a standard to others; yet a regard to the truth, as well as to you, obliges me to offer something upon the present occasion. But I hope the Lord will not permit me to drop a single expression unsuitable to the deference I owe to your character and years.
You state two points as fundamental truths of the Christian religion; the first of which, I apprehend, is so far from deserving the title of a fundamental truth, that it is utterly repugnant to the design and genius of the Gospel, and inconsistent with the tenour of divine revelation both in the Old and New Testament; and, however you may think it supported by a few detached texts, I am persuaded you would never have drawn it yourself from a careful perusal of the Scripture; namely, "That our righteousness is as truly and properly derived into us by a spiritual birth from the second Adam, as our corruption by a natural birth from the first." Our sanctification, indeed, is so, but righteousness and sanctification are by no means synonymous terms in the language of Scripture: otherwise the apostle, when he says, Jesus is appointed to us of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, would be guilty of a gross tautology. The Scripture declares we are all, by nature, and, till partakers of the faith which is the gift and operation of God, dead. And this in a two-fold sense-dead in the law; for he that believeth not is condemned already, and dead in trespasses and sins. Christ is our life in both these senses. By his atonement he delivers those who believe in him from the curse of the law; by his whole obedience, including all he did and suffered, (for his death was an act of obedience,) he cleanses and justifies them from all guilt and penalty. And as the spring and pattern of their sanctification by the power of his Holy Spirit, he forms them anew, communicates to them and maintains in them a principle of spiritual life, and
teaches them and enables them to love and walk in his footsteps, and to copy his example in their tempers and conduct. But this, their personal obedience, the fruit of that boly principle which he has implanted in them, is too imperfect and defiled to constitute their righteousness; it will not answer the strict demands of that law under which our nature is constituted. So far, indeed, from bearing the examination of that God who is glorious in holiness, they can find innumerable flaws and evils in it themselves. And, therefore, no one who is really enlightened to understand the purity, strictness, and unchangeableness of the law, the holiness, justice, and truth of the God with whom we have to do, can possibly have any abiding peace of conscience, or assurance of salvation, till he is weaned from grounding his acceptance, either in whole or in part, upon what Christ has done in him, and taught to rest it wholly upon what he did for him when he obeyed the law on the behalf of man, and was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Though the scheme of the Quakers, as set forth with some supposed improvements by Mr. Law, is in your view very amiable, to me it appears much otherwise. I cannot think it either honourable to God, or safe for man. I apprehend it was invented to relieve the mind of some who would fain be wise, under the prejudices and vain reasonings which arise against the express and reiterated declarations of God's sovereignty in the great business of salvation with which the Scriptures abound. I am often reminded of Job's question, "Shall a mortal man be more just than God?" Poor mortal worms, who are unable to account for the most obvious appearances around them, are afraid that the Judge of all the earth will not act right, if he should act as he has solemnly assured us he will; and therefore hypothesis are framed, salvos provided, and Scriptures are strained, to account for his conduct in a way more suited to our limited apprehensions. For I allow, in some respects, and upon a superficial view, Mr. Law's scheme may appear more agreeable to what we call reason and the fitness of things than St. Paul's. But this to me is an argument against it, rather than for it. The Lord tells me in his word, that his thoughts and ways are as far above mine as the heavens are higher than the earth. And if I did not find many things in the Bible proposed rather to my faith than to my reason, I could not receive it as a revelation from God, because it would want the grand characteristic impressions of his majesty, and what the apostle calls the ανεξερεύνητα and ανεξιχνίασοι, the unsearchables and untraceables of his counsels and proceedings. And after all, the proposed relief is only to the imagination; for in defiance of hy
potheses, these things will remain certain from Scripture, experience, and observation;
First, That a great part of mankind, perhaps the far greatest part of those who have lived hitherto, will be found at the left hand of the Judge in the last day.
Secondly, That a multitude of those who are saved, were for a course of time as obstinately bent upon sin, and did as obstinately resists the calls of God's Spirit to their hearts, as those who perish.
Thirdly, That the means of grace which the Scripture declares necessary to salvation, Rom. x. 13, 14; have been hitherto confined to a small part of the human race. I know, indeed, in order to evade this, it is supposed, from a misunderstanding of Peter's words, Acts x. 34: that men in all nations may be saved in their several dispensations, without any knowledge of Jesus or his word; and accordingly Mr. **** give us Gentilism, that is idolatry, as one kind of dispensation of the Gospel. Alas! what may not well-meaning men be driven to when they leave the good word of God, the fountain of living water, to defend the broken, corrupt cisterns of men's inventions! Indeed, I am grieved at these bold assertions; it is but saying that men may be saved without either faith, love, or obedience.
I do not wonder, my dear Sir, that though you are persuaded God will not fail on his part and forsake you first, yet you have sensible fears and apprehensions lest you should forsake him. The knowledge you have of your own weakness, must make your system very uncomfortable, while it leaves your final salvation to depend (as you express it) entirely upon yourself. Nay, I must add, that either your heart is better than mine, or at least that you are not equally sensible of its vileness, or your fears would be entirely insupportable; or else, which I rather think is the case, the former part of your letter, wherein you speak so highly of the throne of grace, and confess so plainly that without the grace of Christ you can do nothing, is your experience and the real feeling and working of your heart, while the latter part; wherein you approve the plan which leaves sinners to depend entirely upon themselves, is but an opinion, which has been plausibly obtruded upon you, and which you find at times very unfavourable to your peace. It must, it will be so. The admission of a mixed Gospel, which, indeed, is no Gospel at all, will bring disquiet into the conscience. If you think you are in the same circumstances, as to choice and power, as Adam was, I cannot blame you for fearing lest you should acquit yourself no better than he did. Ah! my dear Sir, Jesus came not only that we might have the life which sin had forfeited restored unto us, but that we might have