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of months past. To relate how I spent the night, and how I have spent my days and nights ever since, I shall oinit. But you shall soon hear again, my dear Aspasio, from
e Theron's Narrative of his former supposed conversion, (Let. I.) and of his experiences, (here,) is not designed to suggest, that either false or true converts all experience things, in every circumstance, just alike: but only to point out the general nature of these two kinds of conversion, in a manner so familiar, that the weakest Christian may see the difference. And if any Christian cannot recollect so exactly the particulars of his first conversion, yet as all after-acts of grace are of the same nature with the first, a clear understanding of the true nature of saving grace, may help him to discern his true state.
N. B. What is the true nature of saving grace, is not to be decided by the experiences of this or that man, or party of men; but only by the word of God.
THERON TO ASPASIO.
New-England, April 2, 1759.
WITH pleasure I now again sit down to write to my distant friend, and send my heart beyond the Atlantic to my Aspasio. For neither time, nor place, nor any change, can wipe your memory from my mind.
Methinks, were I now with you, as once at the house, the hospitable house, of the wealthy and illustrious Philenor, I would tell you all my heart. I remember how you urged me to believe, and how I longed to find some safe foundation, some sure evidence, on which to build my faith; and with Thomas, to cry, my Lord, my God! Now I have found it! I have found it! I believe, that Jesus is the Christ. 1 John v. 1. I believe, that God hath set him forth to be a propitiation: to declare his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Rom. iii. 25, 26. I believe, that God raised him from the dead. Rom. x. 9. I believe, that Christ is entered into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God, as the Jewish high-priest of old entered into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, (Heb. ix. 24.) and that he is the way to the Father, (John xiv. 6) the door, by whom men enter in. John x. 9. And that whosoever will, may come to God through him. Rev. xxii. 17. Wherefore I am emboldened to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, even into the very presence of the thrice holy ONE of Israel, in whose sight the heavens are not clean; and to come to God in full assurance of faith, nothing doubting but that God is as willing to be reconciled through Christ, as the father was to receive the returning prodigal; and as ready to give his holy spirit to them that ask him, as ever parent was to give bread to an hungry child. Heb. x. 19. 22. Mat. vii. 11. For he that spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things; if we accept his Son as he is offered, and come to God through him, for all things, as we are invited? Rom. viii. 32 John i. 12. and xvi. 23. For God's honour is safe, God's law is answered, God's justice is satisfied; and all my guilt, infinite as it is, is no bar in the way of my reception into the divine favour, free as his infinite grace, felf-moving as his boundless goodness is, and appears to be, by the gift of his Son.
This way of salvation, my dear Aspasio, is glorious for God, safe for the sinner, effectual to promote holiness, even the power of God to salvation, to every one that believeth; and if the Gospel is true there is no room to doubt. "For we are constrained to believe on the clearest evidence." Yea, "our assurance is impressed" by complete demonstration.
It is glorious for God.-For God's law and authority are as much honoured, as if the whole world had been damned. And his grace more glorified, than if man had never fell. An incarnate God upon the cross, in the room of a rebellious -world, sets God's infinite hatred of sin, his inflexible resolution to punish it, and the infinite goodness of his nature, in a light infinitely clear, infinitely bright; and contains a fund of instruction, which never can be exhausted, by angels and saints, throughout the endless ages of eternity. The more I think, the more I am swallowed up, confounded, overwhelmed! O! the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, of the love of God, which passeth all understanding; O! the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. The creation of the universe was a great work. It caused the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator clearly to be seen. But compared to the incarnation and death of the Son of God, the Creator, it is not to be mentioned, nor is it worthy to come into mind. Even the application of Christ's redemption in the latter day, is a more glorious work than the first creation of the world. Isai. lxv. 17. Behold, I create. new heavens, and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. Indeed, it had been but a small thing, for the Creator, by his almighty word, to have called millions of such systems as ours into being; a thing
not worthy to be noticed, nay, scarce worth one single thought, compared with, with what? Let all nature tremble at the news, the incarnation, and the death of the ALMIGHTY CREATOR, in the room of his rebel creatures, that the honour of his father's law and government might be effectually secured, while sovereign infinite grace interposes to save the self-ruined, hell-deserving rebels, to the eternal disappointment of satan, God's enemy, and our mortal foe!
And can it now, after all this, be a question, whether God is ready to be reconciled to those who, on his own invitation, return to him through Jesus Christ? Or can it be a question, whether Christ is willing to be their Mediator and Highpriest, in the court of heaven, in the holy of holies above? What! after God has given his Son to die, that consistently with his honour he might receive such to favour; he not willing! infinitely incredible !-What! after the Son of God has left his Father's bosom, to lie in a manger! to groan in the garden! And, be astonished, O ye heavens, and be ye horribly afraid!-To hang and die upon the cross, in the room of a God-hating, Christ-murdering world; that he might honour his Father's law, break up satan's plot, and open a way for the sinner's return! Yet he not willing!-What! willing to die on the cross, and not willing to mediate in heaven! infinitely incredible! Yea, if possible, more than infinitely incredible! So certain, my dear Aspasio, as the Gospel is true, just so certain may your Theron be, that God is ready to be reconciled to the sinner, who returns to him through Jesus Christ. Nor does he need a new revelation in the case; nor does he need to be assured of any proposition not plainly revealed in the Gospel. Enough has been already DONE! enough has been already SAID! But never did your Theron believe these things with all his heart, till by seeing the glory of the God of glory, he saw the grounds and reasons of the law, pronounced it holy, just, and good, and worthy to be magnified and made honourable, even by the death of GOD'S OWN SON. 1 John v. 1.
And this kind of faith, in the nature of things, cannot be without works. For, while your Theron, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, doth with open face, behold as in a
glass, the glory of the Lord; what can he do, but love, admire, adore the God of glory; and give up himself for ever to him through Jesus Christ? And now, how can we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? We are crucified with Christ; buried with him; risen with him; and can sin, after all, have dominion over us! Impossible. Rom. vi. 2. 14. The gratitude, the ingenuity of unrenewed nature, I grant, is not to be depended upon. Israel sang God's praise, but soon forgot his works. But, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, from day to day, through the course of our lives, we are, we cannot but be, changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord. 2 Cor. iii. 18.
And, believing the Gospel to be true, no doubt remains of the safety of our returning to God through Jesus Christ. His glory and beauty inclines me to return. His grace through Christ puts courage in my heart. I return. I find rest to my weary soul. And by this I know, my "faith is real, and no delusion," even because he hath given me of his spirit, (1 John iv. 13.) set his seal upon my heart, (Eph. 1. 13.) made me his child, in the very temper of my soul, (Rom. viii. 16.) and in my heart his law is written, and in his ways I love to walk. Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27. But as to this, heaven forbid that your Theron's confidence should ever be greater than his evidence; his evidence, not only now, but in all future times.-I am, for ever,