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said, that God worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Answ. My reader has seen in the letter from Woolwich, Mr. Vessey's arguments in the defence of God's permissive will, and against his decretive will, touching every event: but here he has run quite into the other extreme. In the beginning of the above extracts the Saviour, who he thinks is the only person in the Godhead, is mentioned as fixing the eternal state of all creatures; and the elect are brought in, but not in the scriptural way of God's choosing us in Christ Jesus; nor could he thus bring it in, for the Father and the Spirit, according to his doctrine, are only names and covenant characters. God's decree of reprobation, or of passing by, is not set in a scriptural point of light. It is stated without any regard to man's fearful fall. No mention is made of man's destroying himself; nor of being reprobated for sin, and fitted for destruction by it; nor of the power of God enduring, with much long suffering, the vessels of wrath, Rom. ix. 22. And indeed the whole of his preaching and writing appears to me to be little else but the wild rant of an uninspired man, without the ballast of humbling grace, and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit; whose arrogance and presumption have led him to be wise above what is written, and to stumble upon the dark mou ntains; run ning from one extreme into another, without any judgment in his goings or consciousness of his ignorance. He was involved in old Butler's heresy through all his profession, yea in every trace of it. The intercession of Christ is a doctrine that Butler denied; and Vessey, in these extracts, has a stroke at it, but does not speak it out quite so plainly as old Butler did. And indeed the children of falsehood always bring out their bane at first with caution; till the bait is swallowed, and the mind blinded and intoxicated; and then it comes by gallons. The devil's aim, by leading men into such daring presumption, is to distress the saints, and to harden hypocrites: and he teaches them to wriggle and twist just like himself; to say and gainsay; confess, and then deny what they have confessed.
In some of his letters, Mr. Vessey denies that he ever was in errors touching the doctrine of the Trinity: and, in a letter to Mr. Olliff, he acknowledges that he erred in that doctrine, and makes confession for it; and that he thought to comprehend the mystery by his blind reason; which is an acknowledgment that he had nothing else to guide him, as I believe he never had; for, though he confesses that he erred, and likewise mentions Butler's dreadful fall, and the shock that it gave him; yet, at the same time, he held fast the heresy to the last; and it appears even in the same letter. The more particular parts, reader, which contain
the acknowledgment of his errors, and the chief errors of the letter also, I have distinguished by inverted commas. His letter follows.
William Vessey to John Olliff and Andrew Main sendeth greeting; wishing grace, mercy, and
peace. Dear Friends,
When I had the pleasure of being last in your company, which was at Hope-street Meeting, if you remember, you gave ine to understand that a report had been carried to some friends in London concerning my being in an error respecting the Trinity; of which report I had heard something before, but nothing positive until then.
Great indisposition of body, lack of time and opportunity, prevented me at that season from saying much about the matter. I have, therefore, taken this opportunity of communicating my thoughts unto you on the subject; not doubting but you will thereby be able to discern whether the report be true or false.
The momentous subject now under consideration was for a considerable time a very puzzling and perplexing point of doctrine to me;' the reasons thereof are very obvious. “I was led to consider it more a matter for reason to comprehend, than for faith to credit; and aimed more at a speculative knowledge of the mystery, than an experimental acquaintance with it in the heart;'
by which means I was incessantly tossed to and fro, • from one whimsical imagination to another;' and never could settle on any, nor could it otherwise be, whilst blind reason was followed and consulted as leader and judge.'
As I considered that Tritheism, or the doctrine of three Gods, was wholly inconsistent with the scriptures, I endeavoured to reconcile matters to my foolish fancies, by confounding the distinct personalities in the Godhead' into one; and so considered them merely as so many names, manifestations, and office characters: the same as any dignitary on earth, having a plurality of names, and executing various offices.
These chimeras being set up as orthodox and infallible, I laboured hard to make the scriptures stoop thereunto, but all in vain.' I saw they stood like so many immoveable bulwarks, full proof against every attack of my fleshly artillery; for frequently some passage of scripture would present itself pointedly against my reasonable system, as I termed it; the light of which would so dazzle the eyes of purblind reason and human wisdom, as often, in a measure, convinced me that, however reasonable my notions appeared to be, they were contrary to the word of God; whereby all my impotent logic was frequently confuted, and my many attempts to settle myself in Antitrinitarianism were frustrated.
Although such texts of scripture, at various seasons, made some pretty deep impressions on my
mind, and often hurled me into great confusion, yet I endeavoured to evade the force of them, and quiet a griping conscience, all I possibly could, by slightingly passing over them, or hoping they were wrongly translated. However all this work was without effect; for, the more I laboured here, the more was my understanding mizzled and beclouded.
At length, being an eye and ear witness to the dreadful fall of one, who it seems had been several years very deeply involved in the same error, and who had also been a means of strengthen. ing me therein,' I was effectually convinced of the awful business in which I had been engaged, and likewise saw clearly the deep pit I had so narrowly escaped falling into; the result of which was, my vain imaginations were brought down, my corrupt ideas dispersed, and my high looks and lofty spirit laid low.'
Carnal reasoning and sophistical arguments being now laid aside, my heart in a manner humbled, and sick of its own ways, I was led to ask wisdom of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not; and, being thus brought into a teachable frame of mind, was kept much at a throne of grace; often admiring the unwearied patience and long forbearing goodness of my heavenly Father in not suffering me to sink lower into those depths of Satan, which, in all probability, might have terminated in Arianism, or even Socinianism itself: for the beginning of strife against any one revealed truth