Are you a Christian?
A FARTHER APPEAL TO MEN OF REASON AND RELIGION.
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Let the righteous smite me friendly, and reprove me. <19E105>Psalm 141:5.
IN a former treatise I declared, in the plainest manner I could, both my principles and practice; and answered some of the most important, as well as the most common, objections to each. But I have not yet delivered my own soul. I believe it is still incumbent upon me to answer other objections, particularly such as have been urged by those who are esteemed religious or reasonable men.
I. 1. I will briefly mention what those doctrines are, before I consider the objections against them. Now, all I teach respects either the nature and condition of justification, the nature and condition of salvation, the nature of justifying and saving faith, or the Author of faith and salvation. 2. First: The nature of justification. It sometimes means our acquittal at the last day. ( Matthew 12:37.) But this is altogether out of the present question; that justification whereof our Articles and Homilies speak, meaning present forgiveness, pardon of sins, and, consequently, acceptance with God; who therein “declares his righteousness” (or mercy, by or) “for the remission of the sins that are past;” saying, “I will be merciful to thy unrighteousness, and thine iniquities I will remember no more.” ( Romans 3:25; Hebrews 8:12.)
I believe the condition of this is faith: ( Romans 4:5, etc.:) I mean, not only, that without faith we cannot be justified; but, also, that as soon as any one has true faith, in that moment he is justified.
Good works follow this faith, but cannot go before it: ( Luke 6:43:) Much less can sanctification, which implies a continued course of good works, springing from holiness of heart. But it is allowed, that entire sanctification goes before our justification at the last day. ( Hebrews 12:14.)
It is allowed, also, that repentance, and “fruits meet for repentance,” go before faith. ( Mark 1:15; Matthew 3:8.) Repentance absolutely must go before faith; fruits meet for it, if there be opportunity. By repentance, I mean conviction of sin, producing real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment; and by “fruits meet for repentance,” forgiving our brother; ( Matthew 6:14,15;) ceasing from evil, doing good; ( Luke 3:3,4, 9,etc.;) using the ordinances of God, and in general obeying him according to the measure of grace which we have received. ( Matthew 7:7; 25:29.) But these I cannot as yet term good works; because they do not spring from faith and the love of God. 3. By salvation I mean, not barely, according to the vulgar notion, deliverance from hell, or going to heaven; but a present deliverance from sin, a restoration of the soul to its primitive health, its original purity; a recovery of the divine nature; the renewal of our souls after the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness, in justice, mercy, and truth. This implies all holy and heavenly tempers, and, by consequence, all holiness of conversation.
Now, if by salvation we mean a present salvation from sin, we cannot say, holiness is the condition of it; for it is the thing itself. Salvation, in this sense, and holiness, are synonymous terms. We must therefore say, “We are saved by faith.” Faith is the sole condition of this salvation. For without faith we cannot be thus saved. But whosoever believeth is saved already.
Without faith we cannot be thus saved; for we cannot rightly serve God unless we love him. And we cannot love him unless we know him; neither can we know God unless by faith. Therefore, salvation by faith is only, in other words, the love of God by the knowledge of God; or, the recovery of the image of God, by a true, spiritual acquaintance with him. 4. Faith, in general, is a divine, supernatural elegcov of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies, not only a divine elegcov , that God “was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself,” but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And the moment a penitent sinner believes this, God pardons and absolves him.
And as soon as his pardon or justification is witnessed to him by the Holy Ghost, he is saved. He loves God and all mankind. He has “the mind that was in Christ,” and power to “walk as he also walked.” From that time (unless he make shipwreck of the faith) salvation gradually increases in his soul. For “so is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and it springeth up, first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” 5. The first sowing of this seed I cannot conceive to be other than instantaneous; whether I consider experience, or the word of God, or the very nature of the thing; — however, I contend not for a circumstance, but the substance: If you can attain it another way, do. Only see that you do attain it; for if you fall short, you perish everlastingly.
This beginning of that vast, inward change, is usually termed, the new birth. Baptism is the outward sign of this inward grace, which is supposed by our Church to be given with and through that sign to all infants, and to those of riper years, if they repent and believe the gospel. But how extremely idle are the common disputes on this head! I tell a sinner, “You must be born again.” “No,” say you: “He was born again in baptism.
Therefore he cannot be born again now.” Alas, what trifling is this! What, if he was then a child of God? He is now manifestly a child of the devil; for the works of his father he doeth. Therefore, do not play upon words. He must go through an entire change of heart. In one not yet baptized, you yourself would call that change, the new birth. In him, call it what you will; but remember, meantime, that if either he or you die without it, your baptism will be so far from profiting you, that it will greatly increase your damnation. 6. The author of faith and salvation is God alone. It is he that works in us both to will and to do. He is the sole Giver of every good gift, and the sole Author of every good work. There is no more of power than of merit in man; but as all merit is in the Son of God, in what he has done and suffered for us, so all power is in the Spirit of God. And therefore every man, in order to believe unto salvation, must receive the Holy Ghost. This is essentially necessary to every Christian, not in order to his working miracles, but in order to faith, peace, joy, and love, — the ordinary fruits of the Spirit.
Although no man on earth can explain the particular manner wherein the Spirit of God works on the soul, yet whosoever has these fruits, cannot but know and feel that God has wrought them in his heart.
Sometimes He acts on the wills and affections of men; withdrawing them from evil, inclining them to good, inspiring (breathing, as it were) good thoughts into them: So it has frequently been expressed, by an easy, natural metaphor, strictly analogous to jwr , pneuma, spiritus, and the words used in most modern tongues also, to denote the third person in the ever-blessed Trinity. But however it be expressed, it is certain all true faith, and the whole work of salvation, every good thought, word, and work, is altogether by the operation of the Spirit of God.
II. 1. I come now to consider the principal objections which have lately been made against these doctrines.
I know nothing material which has been objected as to the nature of justification; but many persons seem to be very confused in their thoughts concerning it, and speak as if they had never heard of any justification antecedent to that of the last day. To clear up this, there needs only a closer inspection of our Articles and Homilies; wherein justification is always taken for the present remission of our sins.
But many are the objections which have been warmly urged against the condition of justification, faith alone; particularly in two treatises, the former entitled, “The Notions of the Methodists fully disproved;” the second, “The Notions of the Methodists farther disproved:” In both of which it is vehemently affirmed,
(1.) That this is not a scriptural doctrine;
(2.) That it is not the doctrine of the Church of England.
It will not be needful to name the former of these any more; seeing there is neither one text produced therein to prove this doctrine unscriptural, nor one sentence from the Articles or Homilies to prove it contrary to the doctrine of the Church. But so much of the latter as relates to the merits of the cause, I will endeavor to consider calmly. As to what is personal, I leave it as it is. “God be merciful to me, a sinner!” 2. To prove this doctrine unscriptural, — That faith alone is the condition of justification, — you allege, that “sanctification, according to Scripture, must go before it:” To evince which, you quote the following texts, which I leave as I find them: “Go, disciple all nations, — teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.” ( Matthew 28:19,20.) “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” ( Mark 16:16.) “Preach repentance and remission of sins.” ( Luke 24:47.) “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins.” ( Acts 2:38.) “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” ( 3:19.) “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” ( Hebrews 10:14.) You add, “St. Paul taught ‘repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ;’ ( Acts 20:21;) and calls ‘repentance from dead works, and faith toward God,’ first principles. ( Hebrews 6:1.)” You subjoin: “But ‘ye are washed,’ says he, ‘but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified.’ By ‘washed,’ is meant their baptism; and by their baptism is meant, first, their sanctification, and then their justification.” This is a flat begging the question; you take for granted the very point which you ought to prove. “St. Peter also,” you say, “affirms that ‘baptism doth save us,’ or justify us.” Again you beg the question; you take for granted what I utterly deny, viz., that save and justify are here synonymous terms. Till this is proved, you can draw no inference at all; for you have no foundation whereon to build.
I conceive these and all the scriptures which can be quoted to prove sanctification antecedent to justification, (if they do not relate to our final justification,) prove only, (what I have never denied,) that repentance, or conviction of sin, and fruits meet for repentance, precede that faith whereby we are justified: But by no means, that the love of God, or any branch of true holiness, must or can precede faith. 3. It is objected, Secondly, that justification by faith alone is not the doctrine of the Church of England. “You believe,” says the writer above-mentioned, “that no good work can be previous to justification, nor, consequently, a condition of it. But, God be praised, our Church has nowhere delivered such abominable doctrine.” (Page 14.) “The Clergy contend for inward holiness, as previous to the first justification; — this is the doctrine they universally inculcate, and which you cannot oppose without contradicting the doctrine of our Church.” (Page 26.) “All your strongest persuasives to the love of God will not blanch over the deformity of that doctrine, that men may be justified by faith alone; — unless you publicly recant this horrid doctrine, your faith is vain.” (Page 27.) “If you will vouchsafe to purge out this venomous part of your principles, in which the wide, essential, fundamental, irreconcilable difference, as you very justly term it, mainly consists, then there will be found, so far, no disagreement between you and the Clergy of the Church of England.” (Ibid.) 4. In order to be clearly and fully satisfied what the doctrine of the Church of England is, (as it stands opposite to the doctrine of the Antinomians, on the one hand, and to that of justification by works, on the other,) I will simply set down what occurs on this head, either in her Liturgy, Articles, or Homilies: — “Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults: Restore thou them that are penitent, according to thy promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “He pardoneth and absolveth all them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy gospel.” “Almighty God, who dost forgive the sins of them that are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts; that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Collect for Ash-Wednesday.) “Almighty God — hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him.” (Communion Office.) “Our Lord Jesus Christ hath left power to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in him.” (Visitation of the Sick.) “Give him unfeigned repentance and steadfast faith, that his sins may be blotted out.” (Ibid.) “He is a merciful receiver of all true penitent sinners, and is ready to pardon us, if we come unto him with faithful repentance.” (Commination Office.) Infants, indeed, our Church supposes to be justified in baptism, although they cannot then either believe or repent. But she expressly requires both repentance and faith in those who come to be baptized when they are of riper years.
As earnestly, therefore, as our Church inculcates justification by faith alone, she nevertheless supposes repentance to be previous to faith, and fruits meet for repentance; yea, and universal holiness to be previous to final justification, as evidently appears from the following words: — “Let us beseech him — that the rest of our life may be pure and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy.” (Absolution.) “May we seriously apply our hearts to that holy and heavenly wisdom here, which may in the end bring us to life everlasting.” (Visitation of the Sick.) “Raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness, — that at the last day we may be found acceptable in thy sight.” (Burial Office.) “If we from henceforth walk in his ways, — seeking always his glory, Christ will set us on his right hand.” (Commination Office.) 5. We come next to the Articles of our Church: The former part of the Ninth runs thus: — OF ORIGINAL OR BIRTH-SIN. “Original Sin — is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, — whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”
— OF FREE-WILL. “The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a goodwill, and working with us when we have that goodwill.”
— OF THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN. “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort, as most largely is expressed in the Homily Justification.”
I believe this Article relates to the meritorious cause of justification, rather than to the condition of it. On this, therefore, I do not build anything concerning it, but on those that follow.
— OF GOOD WORKS. “Albeit, that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith: Insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree may be known by the fruit.”
We are taught here,
But let us hear the Church, speaking yet more plainly: — ARTICLE XIII. — OF WORKS DONE BEFORE JUSTIFICATION. “Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of his Spirit,” (that is, before justification, as the title expresses it,) “are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesu Christ. Yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not they have the nature of sin.”
Now, if all works done before justification have the nature of sin, (both because they spring not of faith in Christ, and because they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done,) what becomes of sanctification previous to justification? It is utterly excluded; seeing whatever is previous to justification is not good or holy, but evil and sinful.
Although, therefore, our Church does frequently assert that we ought to repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance, if ever we would attain to that faith whereby alone we are justified; yet she never asserts (and here the hinge of the question turns) that these are good works, so long as they are previous to justification. Nay, she expressly asserts the direct contrary, viz., that they have all the nature of sin. So that this “horrid, scandalous, wicked, abominable, venomous, blasphemous doctrine,” is nevertheless the doctrine of the Church of England. 6. It remains to consider what occurs in the Homilies, first with regard to the meritorious cause of our justification, agreeable to the eleventh; and then with regard to the condition of it, agreeable to the twelfth and thirteenth Articles: — “These things must go together in our justification; — upon God’s part, his great mercy and grace; upon Christ’s part, the satisfaction of God’s justice; and upon our part, true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ.” (Homily on Salvation. Part I.) “So that the grace of God doth not shut out the justice (or righteousness) of God in our justification; but only shutteth out the righteousness of man, — as to deserving our justification. “And therefore St. Paul declareth nothing on the behalf of man, concerning his justification, but only a true faith. “And yet that faith doth not shut out repentance, hope, love, to be joined with faith (that is, afterwards; see below ) in every man that is justified: Neither doth faith shut out the righteousness of our good works, necessarily to be done afterwards. But it excludeth them so that we may not do them to this intent, — to be made just (or, to be justified) by doing them. “That we are justified by faith alone, is spoken to take away clearly all merit of our works, and wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only.” (Ibid. Part II.) “The true meaning of this saying, ‘We be justified by faith only,’ is this, ‘We be justified by the merits of Christ only, and not of our own works.’” (Ibid. Part III.) 7. Thus far touching the meritorious cause of our justification; referred to in the Eleventh Article. The Twelfth and Thirteenth are a summary of what now follows, with regard to the condition of it: — “Of justifying, true faith, three things are specially to be noted:
First, that it bringeth forth good works: Secondly, that without it can no good works be done: Thirdly, what good works it doth bring forth.” (Sermon on Faith. Part I.) “Without faith can no good work be done, accepted and pleasant unto God. For ‘as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself,’ saith our Savior Christ, ‘except it abide in the vine, so cannot you, except you abide in me.’ Faith giveth life to the soul; and they be as much dead to God that lack faith, as they be to the world whose bodies lack souls. Without faith all that is done of us is but dead before God. Even as a picture is but a dead representation of the thing itself, so be the works of all unfaithful (unbelieving) persons before God. They be but shadows of lively and good things, and not good things indeed. For true faith doth give life to the works, and without faith no work is good before God.” (Ibid. Part III.) “We must set no good works before faith, nor think that before faith a man may do any good works. For such works are as the course of an horse that runneth out of the way, which taketh great labor, but to no purpose.” (Ibid. ) “Without faith we have no virtues, but only the shadows of them.
All the life of them that lack the true faith is sin.” (Ibid. ) “As men first have life, and after be nourished, so must our faith go before, and after be nourished with, good works. And life may be without nourishment, but nourishment cannot be without life.” (Homily of Works annexed to Faith. Part I.) “I can show a man that by faith without works lived and came to heaven. But without faith never man had life. The thief on the cross only believed, and the most merciful God justified him. Truth it is, if he had lived and not regarded faith and the works thereof, he should have lost his salvation again. But this I say, faith by itself saved him. But works by themselves never justified any man. “Good works go not before in him which shall afterwards be justified. But good works do follow after when a man is first justified.” (Homily on Fasting. Part I.) 8. From the whole tenor then of her Liturgy, Articles, and Homilies, the doctrine of the Church of England appears to be this: —
(1.) That no good work, properly so called, can go before justification.
(2.) That no degree of true sanctification can be previous to it.
(3.) That as the meritorious cause of justification is the life and death of Christ, so the condition of it is faith, faith alone. And,
(4.) That both inward and outward holiness are consequent on this faith, and are the ordinary, stated condition of final justification. 9. And what more can you desire, who have hitherto opposed justification by faith alone, merely upon a principle of conscience; because you was zealous for holiness and good works? Do I not effectually secure these from contempt at the same time that I defend the doctrines of the Church?
I not only allow, but vehemently contend, that none shall ever enter into glory who is not holy on earth, as well in heart, as “in all manner of conversation.” I cry aloud, “Let all that have believed, be careful to maintain good works;” and, “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from all iniquity.” I exhort even those who are conscious they do not believe: “Cease to do evil, learn to do well: The kingdom of heaven is at hand;” therefore, “repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” Are not these directions the very same in substance which you yourself would give to persons so circumstanced? What means then this endless strife of words? Or what doth your arguing prove? 10. Many of those who are perhaps as zealous of good works as you, think I have allowed you too much. Nay, my brethren, but how can we help allowing it, if we allow the Scriptures to be from God? For is it not written, and do not you yourselves believe, “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord?” And how then, without fighting, about words, can we deny that holiness is a condition of final acceptance? And as to the first acceptance or pardon, does not all experience, as well as Scripture, prove that no man ever yet truly believed the gospel who did not first repent? that none was ever yet truly “convinced of righteousness,” who was not first “convinced of sin?” Repentance, therefore, in this sense, we cannot deny to be necessarily previous to faith. Is it not equally undeniable, that the running back into known, willful sin, (suppose it were drunkenness or uncleanness,) stifles that repentance or conviction? And can that repentance come to any good issue in his soul, who resolves not to forgive his brother; or who obstinately refrains from what God convinces him is right, whether it be prayer or hearing his word? Would you scruple yourself to tell one of these, “Why, if you will thus drink away all conviction, how should you ever truly know your want of Christ; or, consequently, believe in him? If you will not forgive your brother his trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses.
If you will not ask, how can you expect to receive? If you will not hear, how can ‘faith come by hearing?’ It is plain you ‘grieve the Spirit of God;’ you will not have him to reign over you. Take care that he does not utterly depart from you. For ‘unto him that hath shall be given; but from him that hath not,’ that is, uses it not, ‘shall be taken away, even that which he hath.’” Would you scruple, on a proper occasion, to say this? You could not scruple it if you believe the Bible. But in saying this, you allow all which I have said, viz., that previous to justifying faith, there must be repentance, and, if opportunity permit, “fruits meet for repentance.” 11. And yet I allow you this, that although both repentance and the fruits thereof are in some sense necessary before justification, yet neither the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense, or in the same degree, with faith. Not in the same degree; for in whatever moment a man believes (in the Christian sense of the word) he is justified, his sins are blotted out, “his faith is counted to him for righteousness.” But it is not so at whatever moment he repents, or brings forth any or all the fruits of repentance.
Faith alone, therefore, justifies; which repentance alone does not, much less any outward work. And, consequently, none of these are necessary to justification, in the same degree with faith.
Nor in the same sense. For none of these has so direct, immediate a relation to justification as faith. This is proximately necessary thereto; repentance, remotely, as it is necessary to the increase or continuance of faith. And even in this sense these are only necessary on supposition, — if there be time and opportunity for them; for in many instances there is not; but God cuts short his work, and faith prevents the fruits of repentance. So that the general proposition is not overthrown, but clearly established by these concessions; and we conclude still, both on the authority of Scripture and the Church, that faith alone is the proximate condition of justification.
III. 1. I was once inclined to believe that none would openly object against what I had anywhere said of the nature of salvation. How greatly then was I surprised some months ago, when I was shown a kind of circular letter, which one of those whom “the Holy Ghost hath made overseers” of his Church, I was informed, had sent to all the Clergy of his diocese!
Part of it ran (nearly, if not exactly) thus: — “There is great indiscretion in preaching up a sort of religion, as the true and only Christianity, which, in their own account of it, consists in an enthusiastic ardor, to be understood or attained by very few, and not to be practiced without breaking in upon the common duties of life.”
O, my Lord, what manner of words are these! Supposing candor and love out of the question, are they the words of truth? I dare stake my life upon it, there is not one true clause in all this paragraph.
The propositions contained therein are these: —
(1.) That the religion I preach consists in enthusiastic ardor.
(2.) That it can be attained by very few.
(3.) That it can be understood by very few.
(4.) That it cannot be practiced without breaking in upon the common duties of life.
(5.) And that all this may be proved by my own account of it.
I earnestly entreat your Grace to review my own account of it, as it stands in any of my former writings; or to consider the short account which is given in this; and if you can thence make good any one of those propositions, I do hereby promise, before God and the world, that I will never preach more.
At present I do not well understand what your Grace means by “an enthusiastic ardor.” Surely you do not mean the love of God! No, not though a poor, pardoned sinner should carry it so far as to love the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength!
But why should your Grace believe that the love of God can be attained by very few; or, that it can be understood by very few? All who attain it understand it well. And did not He who is loving to every man design that every man should attain true love? “O that all would know, in this their day, the things that make for their peace!”
And cannot the love both of God and our neighbor be practiced, without breaking in upon the common duties of life? Nay, can any of the common duties of life be rightly practiced without them? I apprehend not. I apprehend I am then laying the true, the only foundation for all those duties, when I preach, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself.” 2. With this letter was sent (I believe to every Clergyman in the diocese) the pamphlet, entitled, “Observations on the Conduct and Behavior of a certain Sect, usually distinguished by the name of Methodists. ” It has been generally supposed to be wrote by a person who is every way my superior. Perhaps one reason why he did not inscribe his name was, that his greatness might not make me afraid; and that I might have liberty to stand as it were on even ground, while I answer for myself.
In considering, therefore, such parts of these “Observations” as fall in my way, I will take that method which I believe the author desires, using no ceremony at all; but speaking as to an equal, that it may the more easily be discerned where the truth lies.
The first query relating to doctrine is this: — “Whether notions in religion may not be heightened to such extremes, as to lead some into a disregard of religion itself, through despair of attaining such exalted heights: And whether others who have imbibed those notions may not be led by them into a disregard and disesteem of the common duties and offices of life; to such a degree, at least, as is inconsistent with that attention to them, and that diligence in them, which Providence has made necessary to the well-being of private families and public societies, and which Christianity does not only require in all stations, and in all conditions, but declares at the same time, that the performance even of the lowest offices in life, as unto God, (whose providence has placed people in their several stations,) is truly a serving of Christ, and will not fail of its reward in the next world.”
You have interwoven so many particulars in this general question, that I must divide and answer them one by one.
Query 1. Whether notions in religion may not be heightened to such extremes, as to lead some into a disregard of religion itself. Answer . They may. But that I have so heightened them, it lies upon you to prove. Q. 2. Whether others may not be led into a disregard of religion, through despair of attaining such exalted heights. A. What heights? the loving God with all our heart? I believe this is the most exalted height in man or angel. But I have not heard that any have been led into a disregard of religion through despair of attaining this. Q. 3. Whether others who have imbibed these notions may not be led by them into a disregard and disesteem of the common duties and offices of life. A. My notions are, True religion is the loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves; and in that love abstaining from all evil, and doing all possible good to all men. Now, it is not possible, in the nature of things, that any should be led by these notions into either a disregard or disesteem of the common duties and offices of life. Q. 4. But may they not be led by them into such a degree, at least, of disregard for the common duties of life as is inconsistent with that attention to them, and diligence in them, which Providence has made necessary? A. No; quite the reverse. They lead men to discharge all those duties with the strictest diligence and closest attention. Q. 5. Does not Christianity require this attention and diligence in all stations and in all conditions? A. Yes. Q. 6. Does it not declare that the performance even of the lowest offices of life, as unto God, is truly “a serving of Christ;” and will not fail of its reward in the next world? A. It does. But whom are you confuting? Not me; for this is the doctrine I preach continually. 3. Query the Second: — “Whether the enemy of Christianity may not find his account in carrying Christianity, which was designed for a rule to all stations and all conditions, to such heights as make it practicable by a very few, in comparison, or rather, by none.”
(2.) The enemy of Christianity cannot find his account in our carrying it to this height.
(3.) You will not say, on reflection, that Christianity, even in this height, is practicable by very few, or rather, by none: You yourself will confess this is a rule (as God designed it should) for all stations and all conditions.
Query the Third: — “Whether, in particular, the carrying the doctrine of justification by faith alone to such a height as not to allow that a sincere and careful observance of moral duties is so much as a condition of our acceptance with God, and of our being justified in his sight: Whether this, I say, does not naturally lead people to a disregard of those duties, and a low esteem of them; or, rather, to think them no part of the Christian religion.”
I trust justification by faith alone has been so explained above, as to secure not only a high esteem but also a careful and sincere observance of all moral duties. 4. Query the Fourth: — “Whether a due and regular attendance on the public offices of religion, paid by good men in a serious and composed way, does not answer the true ends of devotion, and is not a better evidence of the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, than those sudden agonies, roarings, screamings, tremblings, droppings down, ravings, and madnesses, into which their hearers have been cast.”
I must answer this query likewise part by part.
Query 1. Whether a due and regular attendance on the public offices of religion, paid in a serious and composed way, by good (that is, well-meaning) men, does not answer the true ends of devotion. Answer . I suppose, by devotion, you mean public worship; by the true ends of it, the love of God and man; and by a due and regular attendance on the public offices of religion, paid in a serious and composed way, the going as often as we have opportunity to our parish church, and to the sacrament there administered. If so, the question is, whether this attendance on those offices does not produce the love of God and man. I answer, Sometimes it does; and sometimes it does not. I myself thus attended them for many years; and yet am conscious to myself that during that whole time I had no more of the love of God than a stone. And I know many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of serious persons, who are ready to testify the same thing. Q. 2. But is not this a better evidence of the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, than those sudden agonies? A. All these persons, as well as I, can testify also that this is no evidence at all of the cooperation of the Holy Spirit. For some years I attended these public offices, because I would not be punished for non-attendance.
And many of these attended them, because their parents did before them, or because they would not lose their character: Many more, because they confounded the means with the end, and fancied this opus operatum would bring them to heaven. How many thousands are now under this strong delusion! Beware, you bring not their blood on your own head! Q. 3. However, does not this attendance better answer those ends, than those roarings, screaming? etc. A. I suppose you mean, better than an attendance on that preaching, which has often been accompanied with these.
(1.) There is no manner of need to set the one in opposition to the other; seeing we continually exhort all who attend on our preaching to attend the offices of the Church. And they do pay a more regular attendance there than ever they did before.
(2.) Their attending the Church did not, in fact, answer those ends at all till they attended this preaching also.
(3.) It is the preaching of remission of sins through Jesus Christ, which alone answers the true ends of devotion. And this will always be accompanied with the co-operation of the Holy Spirit; though not always with sudden agonies, roarings, screaming, tremblings, or droppings down. Indeed, if God is pleased at any time to permit any of these, I cannot hinder it. Neither can this hinder the work of his Spirit in the soul; which may be carried on either with or without them. But,
(4.) I cannot apprehend it to be any reasonable proof, that “this is not the work of God,” that a convinced sinner should “fall into an extreme agony, both of body and soul;” (Journal III;) that another should “roar for the disquietness of her heart;” that others should scream or “cry with a loud and bitter cry, ‘What must we do to be saved?’” that others should “exceedingly tremble and quake;” and others, in a deep sense of the majesty of God, “should fall prostrate upon the ground.”
Indeed, by picking out one single word from a sentence, and then putting together what you had gleaned in sixty or seventy pages, you have drawn a terrible group for them who look no farther than those two lines in the “Observations.” But the bare addition of half a line to each word, just as it stands in the place from which you quoted it, reconciles all both to Scripture and reason; and the spectre-form vanishes away.
You have taken into your account ravings and madnesses too. As instances of the former, you refer to the case of John Haydon, and of Thomas Maxfield. I wish you would calmly consider his reasoning on that head, who is not prejudiced in my favor: “What influence sudden and sharp awakenings may have upon the body, I pretend not to explain. But I make no question, Satan, so far as he gets power, may exert himself on such occasions, partly to hinder the good work in the persons who are thus touched with the sharp arrows of conviction, and partly to disparage the work of God, as if it tended to lead people to distraction.”
For instances of madness you refer to pages 88, 90, 91, 92, 93. The words in page 88 are these: — “I could not but be under some concern, with regard to one or two persons, who were tormented in an unaccountable manner, and seemed to be indeed lunatic as well as ‘sore vexed.’ Soon after I was sent for to one of these, who was so strangely ‘torn of the devil,’ that I almost wondered her relations did not say, Much religion ‘hath made thee mad.’ We prayed God to bruise Satan under her feet. Immediately ‘we had the petition we asked of him.’
She cried out vehemently, ‘He is gone! he is gone!’ and was filled with the Spirit of ‘love, and of a sound mind.’ I have seen her many times since strong in the Lord. When I asked, abruptly, ‘What do you desire now?’ she answered, ‘Heaven.’ I asked, ‘What is in your heart?’ She replied, ‘God.’ I asked, ‘But how is your heart when anything provokes you?’ She said, ‘By the grace of God, I am not provoked at anything. All the things of this world pass by me as shadows.’” Are these the words of one that is beside herself? Let any man of reason judge!
Your next instance (p. 90) stands thus: — “About noon I came to Usk, where I preached to a small company of poor people, on, ‘The Son of man is come to save that which is lost.’ One gray-headed man wept and trembled exceedingly; and another who was there, (I have since heard,) as well as two or three who were at the Devauden, are gone quite distracted; that is, (my express words, that immediately follow, specify what it was which some accounted distraction,) ‘they mourn and refuse to be comforted, until they have redemption through his blood.’” If you think the case mentioned pp. 92, 93, to be another instance of madness, I contend not. It was because I did not understand that uncommon case that I prefaced it with this reflection: “The fact I nakedly relate, and leave every man to his own judgment upon it.” Only be pleased to observe, that this madness, if such it was, is no more chargeable upon me than upon you. For the subject of it had no relation to, or commerce with, me; nor had I ever seen her before that hour. 5. Query the Fifth: — “Whether those exalted strains in religion, and an imagination of being already in a state of perfection, are not apt to lead men to spiritual pride, and to a contempt of their fellow-Christians; while they consider them as only going on in what they call the low and imperfect way, (that is, as growing in grace and goodness only by degrees,) even though it appear by the lives of those who are considered by them as in that low and imperfect way, that they are persons who are gradually working out their salvation by their own honest endeavors, and through the ordinary assistances of God’s grace; with an humble reliance upon the merits of Christ for the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their sincere though imperfect services.”
I must divide this query too; but first permit me to ask, What do you mean by “those exalted strains in religion?” I have said again and again, I know of no more exalted strain than, “I will love thee, O Lord my God:” Especially according to the propriety of David’s expression, hwhy °mjra : Ex intimis visceribus diligam te, Domine. This premised, let us go on step by step.
Query 1. Whether the preaching of “loving God from our inmost bowels,” is not apt to lead men to spiritual pride, and to a contempt of their fellow-Christians. Answer . No: But, so far as it takes place, it will humble them to the dust. Q. 2. Whether an imagination of being already in a state of perfection is not apt to lead men into spiritual pride. A.
(1.) If it be a false imagination, it is spiritual pride.
(2.) But true Christian perfection is no other than humble love. Q. 3. Do not men who imagine they have attained this despise others, as only going on in what they account the low and imperfect way, that is, as growing in grace and goodness by degrees? A.
(2.) But the growing in grace and goodness by degrees is no mark of a low and imperfect way. Those who are fathers in Christ grow in grace by degrees, as well as the new-born babes. Q. 4. Do they not despise those who are working out their salvation with an humble reliance upon the merits of Christ for the pardon of their sins, and the acceptance of their sincere though imperfect services? A.
(2.) They grieve to hear many talk of thus relying on Christ, who, though perhaps they are grave, honest, moral men, yet by their own words appear not to love God at all; whose souls cleave to the dust; who love the world; who have no part of the mind that was in Christ. 6. Query the Sixth: — “Whether the same exalted strains and notions do not tend to weaken the natural and civil relations among men, by leading the interiors, into whose heads those notions are infused, to a disesteem of their superiors; while they consider them as in a much lower dispensation than themselves; though those superiors are otherwise sober and good men, and regular attendants on the ordinances of religion.”
I have mentioned before what those exalted notions are. These do not tend to weaken either the natural or civil relations among men; or to lead inferiors to a disesteem of their superiors, even where those superiors are neither good nor sober men.
Query the Seventh: — “Whether a gradual improvement in grace and goodness is not a better foundation of comfort, and of an assurance of a gospel new-birth, than that which is founded on the doctrine of a sudden and instantaneous change; which if there be any such thing, is not easily distinguished from fancy and imagination; the workings whereof we may well suppose to be more strong and powerful, while the person considers himself in the state of one who is admitted as a candidate for such a change, and is taught in due time to expect it.”
Query 1. Whether a gradual improvement in grace and goodness is not a good foundation of comfort. Answer . Doubtless it is, if by grace and goodness be meant the knowledge and love of God through Christ. Q. 2. Whether it be not a good foundation of an assurance of a gospel new-birth. A. If we daily grow in this knowledge and love, it is a good proof that we are born of the Spirit. But this does in nowise supersede the previous witness of God’s Spirit with ours, that we are the children of God. And this is properly the foundation of the assurance of faith. Q. 3. Whether this improvement is not a better foundation of comfort, and of an assurance of a gospel new-birth, than that which is founded on the doctrine of a sudden and instantaneous change. A. A better foundation than that. That! What? To what substantive does this refer? According to the rules of grammar, (for all the substantives are in the genitive case, and, consequently, to be considered as only parts of that which governs them,) you must mean a better foundation than that foundation which is founded on this doctrine. As soon as I understand the question, I will endeavor to answer it. Q. 4. Can that sudden and instantaneous change be easily distinguished from fancy and imagination? A. Just as easily as light from darkness; seeing it brings with it a peace that passeth all understanding, a joy unspeakable, full of glory, the love of God and all mankind filling the heart, and power over all sin. Q. 5. May we not well suppose the workings of imagination to be more strong and powerful in one who is taught to expect such a change? A. Perhaps we may; but still the tree is known by its fruits. And such fruits as those above-mentioned imagination was never yet strong enough to produce, nor any power, save that of the Almighty. 7. There is only one clause in the Eighth Query which falls under our present inquiry. “They make it their principal employ, wherever they go, to instill into people a few favorite tenets of their own; and this with such diligence and zeal as if the whole of Christianity depended upon them, and all efforts toward the true Christian life, without a belief of those tenets, were vain and ineffectual.”
I plead guilty to this charge. I do make it my principal, nay, my whole employ, and that wherever I go, to instill into the people a few favorite tenets; — only, be it observed, they are not my own, but His that sent me.
And it is undoubtedly true that this I do, (though deeply conscious of my want both of zeal and diligence,) as if the whole of Christianity depended upon them, and all efforts without them were void and vain.
I frequently sum them all up in one: “In Christ Jesus” (that is, according to his gospel) “neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.” But many times I instill them one by one, under these or the like expressions: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;” as thy own soul; as Christ loved us. “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. While we have time, let us do good unto all men; especially unto them that are of the household of faith.
Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do unto them.”
These are my favorite tenets, and have been for many years. O that I could instill them into every soul throughout the land! Ought they not to be instilled with such diligence and zeal, as if the whole of Christianity depended upon them? For who can deny, that all efforts toward a Christian life, without more than a bare belief, without a thorough experience and practice of these, are utterly vain and ineffectual? 8. Part of your Ninth query is to the same effect: — “A few young heads set up their own schemes as the great standard of Christianity; and indulge their own notions to such a degree, as to perplex, unhinge, terrify, and distract the minds of multitudes of people, who have lived from their infancy under a gospel ministry, and in the regular exercise of a gospel worship.
What do you mean by their own schemes, their own notions, their doctrines? Are they not yours too? Are they not the schemes, the notions, the doctrines of Jesus Christ; the great fundamental truths of his gospel?
Can you deny one of them without denying the Bible? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks! “They persuade,” you say, “multitudes of people, that they cannot be true Christians but by adhering to their doctrines.” Why, who says they can? Whosoever he be, I will prove him to be an infidel. Do you say that any man can be a true Christian without loving God and his neighbor?
Surely you have not so learned Christ! It is your doctrine as well as mine, and St. Paul’s: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels; though I have all knowledge, and all faith; though I give all my goods to feed the poor, yea, my body to be burned, and have not love, I am nothing.”
Whatever public worship, therefore, people may have attended, or whatever ministry they have lived under from their infancy, they must at all hazards be convinced of this, or they perish for ever; yea, though that conviction at first unhinge them ever so much; though it should in a manner distract them for a season. For it is better they should be perplexed and terrified now, than that they should sleep on and awake in hell. 9. In the Tenth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth queries I am not concerned. But you include me also when you say, in the Eleventh, “They absolutely deny that recreations of any kind, considered as such, are or can be innocent.”
I cannot find any such assertion of mine either in the place you refer to, or any other. But what kinds of recreation are innocent it is easy to determine by that plain rule: “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
I am now to take my leave of you for the present. But first I would earnestly entreat you to acquaint yourself what our doctrines are, before you make any farther observations upon them. Surely, touching the nature of salvation we agree, — that “pure religion and undefiled is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,” — to do all possible good, from a principle of love to God and man; “and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world,” — inwardly and outwardly to abstain from all evil. 10. With regard to the condition of salvation, it may be remembered that I allow, not only faith, but likewise holiness or universal obedience, to be the ordinary condition of final salvation; and that when I say, Faith alone is the condition of present salvation, what I would assert is this:
(1.) That without faith no man can be saved from his sins; can be either inwardly or outwardly holy. And,
But it is objected by the author of “The Notions of the Methodists disproved,” “St. James says, ‘Can faith save him?’” I answer, Such a faith as is without works cannot “bring a man to heaven.” But this is quite beside the present question.
(2.) “St. Paul says that ‘faith made perfect by love,’ St. James, that ‘faith made perfect by works,’ is the condition of salvation.” You mean final salvation. I say so too: But this also is beside the question.
(4.) that what Isaiah terms believing, St. Paul terms obeying. Suppose I grant you both the one and the other, what will you infer?
(5.) That in one scripture our Lord is styled, “The Savior of them that believe;” and in another, “The Author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”
(6.) That to the Galatians St. Paul writes, “Neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love;” and to the Corinthians, “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping the commandments of God.” And hence you conclude, “There are several texts of Scripture wherein unbelief and disobedience are equivalently used.” Very true; but can you conclude from thence that we are not “saved by faith alone?” 11. You proceed to answer some texts which I had quoted. The first is Ephesians 2:8: “By grace ye are saved through faith.” “But,” say you, “faith does not mean here that grace especially so called, but includes also obedience.” But how do you prove this? That circumstance you had forgot, and so run off with a comment upon the context; to which I have no other objection, than that it is nothing at all to the question.
Indeed, some time after, you add, “It is plain then that good works are always, in St. Paul’s judgment, joined with faith;” (so undoubtedly they are; that is, as an effect is always joined with its cause;) “and therefore we are not saved by faith alone.” I cannot possibly allow the consequence.
You afterwards cite two more texts, and add, “You see, mere faith cannot be a condition of justification.” You are out of your way. We are no more talking now of justification than of final salvation.
In considering Acts 16:31. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved,” you say again, “Here the word believe does not signify faith only.
Faith necessarily produces charity and repentance; therefore, these are expressed by the word believe; ” that is, faith necessarily produces holiness; therefore holiness is a condition of holiness. I want farther proof.
That “Paul and Silas spake unto him the word of the Lord,” and that his faith did “in the same hour” work by love, I take to be no proof at all.
You then undertake to show, that confessing our sins is a condition of justification, and that a confidence in the love of God is not a condition.
Some of your words are: “This, good Sir, give me leave to say, is the greatest nonsense and contradiction possible. It is impossible you can understand this jargon yourself; and therefore you labor in vain to make it intelligible to others. You soar aloft on eagles’ wings, and leave the poor people to gape and stare after you.”
This is very pretty, and very lively. But it is nothing to the purpose. For we are not now speaking of justification; neither have I said one word of the condition of justification in the whole tract to which you here refer. “In the next place,” say you, “if we are saved” (finally you mean) “only by a confidence in the love of God.” Here I must stop you again; you are now running beside the question, on the other hand. The sole position which I here advance is this: True believers are saved from inward and outward sin by faith. By faith alone the love of God and all mankind is shed abroad in their hearts, bringing with it the mind that was in Christ, and producing all holiness of conversation.
IV. 1. I am now to consider what has been lately objected with regard to the nature of saving faith.
The author last mentioned “cannot understand how those texts of St. John are at all to the purpose:” “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God;” ( 1 John 3:1;) and, “We love him, because he first loved us.” ( 4:19.) I answer,
(1.) These texts were not produced in the “Appeal” by way of proof, but of illustration only. But,
(2.) I apprehend they may be produced as a proof, both that Christian faith implies a confidence in the love of God, and that such a confidence has a direct tendency to salvation, to holiness both of heart and life. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” Are not these words an expression of Christian faith, as direct an one as can well be conceived? And I appeal to every man, whether they do not express the strongest confidence of the love of God. Your own comment puts this beyond dispute: “Let us consider attentively, and with grateful hearts, the great love and mercy of God in calling us to be his sons, and bestowing on us the privileges belonging to such.” Do you not perceive that you have given up the cause?
The Apostle adds, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: But we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
I suppose no one will say, either that these words are not expressive of Christian faith; or that they do not imply the strongest confidence in the love of God. It follows, “And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is pure.”
Hence it appears that this faith is a saving faith, that there is the closest connection between this faith and holiness. This text, therefore, is directly to the purpose, in respect of both the propositions to be proved.
The other is, “We love him, because he first loved us.” And here also, for fear I should fail in the proof, you have drawn it up ready to my hands: — “God sent his only Son to redeem us from sin, by purchasing for us grace and salvation. By which grace we, through faith and repentance, have our sins pardoned; and therefore we are bound to return the tribute of our love and gratitude, and to obey him faithfully as long as we live.”
Now, that we have our sins pardoned, if we do not know they are pardoned, cannot bind us either to love or obedience. But if we do know it, and by that very knowledge or confidence in the pardoning love of God are both bound and enabled to love and obey him, this is the whole of what I contend for. 2. You afterwards object against some other texts which I had cited to illustrate the nature of saving faith. My words were “Hear believing Job declaring his faith: ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth.’” I here affirm two things:
(1.) That Job was then a believer.
(2.) That he declared his faith in these words. And all I affirm, you allow. Your own words are, “God was pleased to bestow upon him a strong assurance of his favor; to inspire him with a prophecy of the resurrection, and that he should have a share in it.”
I went on, “Hear Thomas (when having seen he believed) crying out, ‘My word and my God.’” Hereon you comment thus: “The meaning of which is, that St. Thomas makes a confession both of his faith and repentance.” I agree with you. But you add, “In St. Thomas’s confession there is not implied an assurance of pardon.” You cannot agree with yourself in this; but immediately subjoin, “If it did imply such an assurance, he might well have it, since he had an immediate revelation of it from God himself.”
Yet a little before you endeavored to prove that one who was not a whit behind the very chief Apostles had not such an assurance; where, in order to show that faith does not imply this, you said, “St. Paul methinks has fully determined this point, ‘I know nothing by myself,’ says he; ‘yet am I not hereby justified.’” ( 1 Corinthians 4:4.) “And if an Apostle, so illuminated, does not think himself justified,” then I grant, he has fully determined the point. But before you absolutely fix upon that conclusion, be pleased to remember your own comment that follows, on those other words of St. Paul: “The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Your words are, “And, no question, a person endowed with such extraordinary gifts might arrive at a very eminent degree of assurance.” So he did arrive at a very eminent degree of assurance, though he did not think himself justified!
I can scarce think you have read over that chapter to the Colossians; else, surely, you would not assert that those words on which the stress lies (viz., “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,”) “do not relate to Paul and Timothy who wrote the Epistle, but to the Colossians, to whom they wrote.” I need be at no pains to answer this; for presently after your own words are, “He hath made us,” meaning the Colossians, as well as himself, “meet to be inheritors.” 3. You may easily observe that I quoted the Council of Trent by memory, not having the book then by me. I own, and thank you for correcting, my mistake: But in correcting one you make another; for the decrees of the Sixth Session were not published on the thirteenth of January; but the Session itself began on that day.
I cannot help reciting your next words, although they are not exactly to the present question: — “The words of the Twelfth Canon of the Council of Trent are, — “‘If any man shall say that justifying faith is nothing else but a confidence in the divine mercy, remitting sins for Christ’s sake, and that this confidence is that alone by which we are justified, let him be accursed.’” You add, — “This, Sir, I am sure is true doctrine, and perfectly agreeable to the doctrine of our Church. And so you are not only anathematized by the Council of Trent, but also condemned by our own Church.” “Our Church holds no such scandalous and disgraceful opinion.”
According to our Church, no man can have “the true faith who has not a loving heart. Therefore, faith is not a confidence that any man’s sins are actually forgiven, and he reconciled to God.” (What have the premises to do with the conclusion?) 4. To decide this, let our Church speak for herself, — whether she does not suppose and teach, that every particular believer knows that his sins are forgiven, and he himself is reconciled to God.
First, then, our Church supposes and teaches every particular believer to say concerning himself, “In my baptism I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. And I thank God who hath called me to that state of salvation. And I pray to God that I may continue in the same to my life’s end.”
The next words I shall quote may be a comment on these: May God write them in our hearts! “A true Christian man is not afraid to die, who is the very member of Christ, the temple of the Holy Ghost, the son of God, and the very inheritor of the everlasting kingdom of heaven. But plainly contrary, he not only puts away the fear of death, but wishes, desires, and longs heartily for it.” (Sermon against the Fear of Death. Part I.)
Can this be, unless he has a sure confidence that he in particular is reconciled to God? “Men commonly fear death, First, because of leaving their worldly goods and pleasures: Secondly, for fear of the pains of death: And, Thirdly, for fear of perpetual damnation. But none of these causes trouble good men, because they stay themselves by true faith, perfect charity, and sure hope of endless joy and bliss everlasting.” (Ibid. Part II.) “All these therefore have great cause to be full of joy, and not to fear death nor everlasting damnation. For death cannot deprive them of Jesus Christ; death cannot take him from us, nor us from him. Death not only cannot harm us, but also shall profit us, and join us to God more perfectly. And thereof a Christian heart may be surely certified. ‘It is God,’ saith St. Paul, ‘which hath given us an earnest of his Spirit.’ As long as we be in the body we are in a strange country. But we have a desire rather to be at home with God.” (Ibid. ) He that runneth may read in all these words the confidence which our Church supposes every particular believer to have, that he himself is reconciled to God.
To proceed: “The only instrument of salvation required on our parts is faith; that is, a sure trust and confidence that God both hath and will forgive our sins, that he hath accepted us again into his favor, for the merits of Christ’s death and passion.” (Second Sermon on the Passion. ) “But here we must take heed that we do not halt with God through an unconstant, wavering faith. Peter, coming to Christ upon the water, because he fainted in faith, was in danger of drowning. So we, if we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared lest we should sink as Peter did, — not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of hell-fire. Therefore I say unto you, that we must apprehend the merits of Christ’s death by faith, and that with a strong and steadfast faith; nothing doubting but that Christ by his own oblation hath taken away our sins, and hath restored us again to God’s favor.” (Ibid. ) 5. If it be still said that the Church speaks only of men in general, but not of the confidence of this or that particular person; even this last poor subterfuge is utterly cut off by the following words: — “Thou, O man, hast received the body of Christ which was once broken, and his blood which was shed for the remission of thy sin.
Thou hast received his body to have within thee the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for to endow thee with grace, and to comfort thee with their presence. Thou hast received his body to endow thee with everlasting righteousness and to assure thee of everlasting bliss.” (Sermon on the Resurrection. ) I shall add but one passage more, from the first part of the “Sermon on the Sacrament:” — “Have a sure and constant faith, not only that the death of Christ is available for all the world, but that he hath made a full and sufficient sacrifice for thee, a perfect cleansing of thy sins, so that thou mayest say with the Apostle, ‘He loved thee, and gave himself for thee.’ For this is to make Christ thine own, and to apply his merits unto thyself.”
Let every reasonable man now judge for himself, what is the sense of our Church as to the nature of saving faith. Does it not abundantly appear that the Church of England supposes every particular believer to have a sure confidence that his sins are forgiven, and he himself reconciled to God?
Yea, and how can the absolute necessity of this faith, this unwavering confidence, be more strongly or peremptorily asserted, than it is in those words: “If we begin to waver or doubt, it is to be feared lest we sink as Peter did, — not into the water, but into the bottomless pit of hell-fire?” 6. I would willingly dismiss this writer here. I had said in the “Earnest Appeal,” (what I am daily more and more confirmed in,) that this faith is usually given in a moment. This you greatly dislike. Your argument against it, if put into form, will run thus: — “They who first apprehended the meaning of the words delivered, then gave their assent to them, then had confidence in the promises to which they assented, and, lastly, loved God, did not receive faith in a moment. “But the believers mentioned in the Acts first apprehended the meaning of the words, then gave their assent, then had confidence in the promises, and, lastly, loved God: Therefore, “The believers mentioned in the Acts did not receive faith in a moment.”
I deny the major. They might first apprehend, then assent, then confide, then love, and yet receive faith in a moment; in that moment wherein their general confidence became particular, so that each could say, “My Lord and my God!”
One paragraph more I will be at the pains to transcribe: “You insinuate that the sacraments are only requisite to the well being of a visible Church:
This is flat and plain. Here is a fact positively averred; and a reason also assigned for it. Now, do you take yourself to be a man of candor, I had almost said, of common honesty? My very words in the place referred to, are, “A visible Church is a company of faithful people. This is the essence of it. And the properties thereof are, that the pure word of God be preached therein, and the sacraments duly administered.” 7. Before I take my leave I cannot but recommend to you that advice of a wise and good man, — “Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.” I am grieved at your extreme warmth: You are in a thorough ill-humour from the very beginning of your book to the end. This cannot hurt me; but it may yourself. And it does not at all help your cause. If you denounce against me all the curses from Genesis to the Revelation, they will not amount to one argument. I am willing (so far as I know myself) to be reproved either by you or any other. But whatever you do, let it be done in love, in patience, in meekness of wisdom.
V. 1. With regard to the Author of faith and salvation, abundance of objections have been made; it being a current opinion, that Christians are not now to receive the Holy Ghost.
Accordingly, whenever we speak of the Spirit of God, of his operations on the souls of men, of his revealing unto us the things of God, or inspiring us with good desires or tempers; whenever we mention the feeling his mighty power “working in us” according to his good pleasure; the general answer we have to expect is, “This is rank enthusiasm. So it was with the Apostles and first Christians. But only enthusiasts pretend to this now.”
Thus all the Scriptures, abundance of which might be produced, are set aside at one stroke. And whoever cites them, as belonging to all Christians, is set down for an enthusiast.
The first tract I have seen wrote expressly on this head, is remarkably entitled, “The Operations of the Holy Spirit imperceptible; and how Men may know when they are under the Guidance and Influence of the Spirit.”
You begin: “As we have some among us who pretend to a more than ordinary guidance by the Spirit,” (indeed I do not; I pretend to no other guidance than is ordinarily given to all Christians,) “it may not be improper to discourse on the operations of God’s Holy Spirit. “To this end be thou pleased, O gracious Fountain of Truth, to assist me with thy heavenly direction, in speaking of thee.”
Alas, Sir, what need have you to speak any more? You have already granted all I desire, viz., that we may all now enjoy, and know that we do enjoy, the heavenly direction of God’s Spirit.
However, you go on, and observe that the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were granted to the first Christians only, but his ordinary graces to all Christians in all ages; both which you then attempt to enumerate; only suspending your discourse a little, when “some conceited enthusiasts” come in your way. 2. You next inquire, “after what manner these graces are raised in our souls;” and answer, “How to distinguish these heavenly motions from the natural operations of our minds, we have no light to discover; the Scriptures declaring, that the operations of the Holy Spirit are not subject to any sensible feelings or perceptions. For what communication can there be between feelings which are properties peculiar to matter, and the suggestions of the Spirit? All reasonable Christians believe that he works his graces in us in an imperceptible manner; and that there is no sensible difference between his and the natural operations of our minds.”
(1.) “That all reasonable Christians believe this.” So you say; but I want proof.
(2.) “That there can be no communications” (I fear you mistook the word) “between the suggestions of the Spirit, and feelings which are properties peculiar to matter.” How! Are the feelings now in question “properties peculiar to matter?” the feeling of peace, joy, love, or any feelings at all? I can no more understand the philosophy than the divinity of this.
(3.) “That the Scriptures declare the operations of the Spirit are not subject to any sensible feelings.” You are here disproving, as you suppose, a proposition of mine. But are you sure you understand it?
By feeling, I mean, being inwardly conscious of. By the operations of the Spirit, I do not mean the manner in which he operates, but the graces which he operates in a Christian. Now, be pleased to produce those scriptures which declare that a Christian cannot feel or perceive these operations. 3. Are you not convinced, Sir, that you have laid to my charge things which I know not? I do not gravely tell you (as much an enthusiast as you over and over affirm me to be) that I sensibly feel (in your sense) the motions of the Holy Spirit. Much less do I make this, any more than “convulsions, agonies, howlings, roarings, and violent contortions of the body,” either “certain signs of men’s being in a state of salvation,” or “necessary in order thereunto.” You might with equal justice and truth inform the world, and the worshipful the magistrates of Newcastle, that I make seeing the wind, or feeling the light, necessary to salvation.
Neither do I confound the extraordinary with the ordinary operations of the Spirit. And as to your last inquiry, “What is the best proof of our being led by the Spirit?” I have no exception to that just and scriptural answer which you yourself have given, — “A thorough change and renovation of mind and heart, and the leading a new and holy life.” 4. That I confound the extraordinary with the ordinary operations of the Spirit, and therefore am an enthusiast, is also strongly urged, in a charge delivered to his Clergy, and lately published, by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry.
An extract of the former part of this I subjoin, in his Lordship’s words: — “I cannot think it improper to obviate the contagion of those enthusiastical pretensions, that have lately betrayed whole multitudes either into presumption or melancholy. Enthusiasm, indeed, when detected, is apt to create infidelity; and infidelity is so shocking a thing, that many rather run into the other extreme, and take refuge in enthusiasm. But infidelity and enthusiasm seem now to act in concert against our established religion. As infidelity has been sufficiently opposed, I shall now lay before you the weakness of those enthusiastical pretensions.” (pp. 1, 2.) “Now, to confute effectually, and strike at the root of, those enthusiastical pretensions, “First, I shall show that it is necessary to lay down some method for distinguishing real from pretended inspiration.” (pp. 3, 5.) “Many expressions occur in the New Testament concerning the operations of the Holy Spirit. But men of an enthusiastical temper have confounded passages of a quite different nature, and have jumbled together those that relate to the extraordinary operations of the Spirit, with those that relate only to his ordinary influences.
It is therefore necessary to use some method for separating those passages relating to the operations of the Spirit, that have been so misapplied to the service of enthusiastical pretenders.” (pp. 5-7.) “I proceed therefore to show, “Secondly, that a distinction is to be made between those passages of Scripture about the blessed Spirit that peculiarly belong to the primitive Church, and those that relate to Christians in all ages.” (p. 7.) “The exigences of the apostolical age required the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. But these soon ceased. When therefore we meet in the Scripture with an account of those extraordinary gifts, and likewise with an account of his ordinary operations, we must distinguish the one from the other. And that, not only for our own satisfaction, but as a means to stop the growth of enthusiasm.” (pp. 8-10.) “And such a distinction ought to be made by the best methods of interpreting the Scriptures; which most certainly are an attentive consideration of the occasion and scope of those passages, in concurrence with the general sense of the primitive Church.” (p. 11.) “I propose, Thirdly, to specify some of the chief passages of Scripture that are misapplied by modern enthusiasts, and to show that they are to be interpreted chiefly, if not only, of the apostolical Church; and that they very little, if at all, relate to the present state of Christians.” (p. 12.) “I begin,” says your Lordship, “with the original promise of the Spirit, as made by our Lord a little before he left the world.”
I must take the liberty to stop your Lordship on the threshold. I deny that this is the original promise of the Spirit. I expect his assistance, in virtue of many promises some hundred years prior to this.
If you say, “However, this is the original or first promise of the Spirit in the New Testament:” No, my Lord; those words were spoken long before: “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
Will you reply? — “Well, but this is the original promise made by our Lord.” I answer, Not so, neither; for it was before this Jesus himself stood and cried, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink: He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. And this he spake of the Spirit, which they should receive who believed on him.” ( Ou emellon lambanein oi pisteuontev eiv auton .) If I mistake not, this may more justly be termed, our Lord’s original promise of the Spirit. And who will assert that this is to be “interpreted chiefly, if not only, of the apostolical Church?” 5. Your Lordship proceeds: “It occurs in the fourteenth and sixteenth chapters of St. John’s Gospel; in which he uses these words.” In what verses, my Lord? Why is not this specified? unless to furnish your Lordship with an opportunity of doing the very things where of you before complained, — of “confounding passages of a quite contrary nature, and jumbling together those that relate to the extraordinary operations of the Spirit, with those that relate to his ordinary influences?”
You cite the words thus: “‘When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth, and he will show you things to come.’ These are nearly the words that occur. ( 16:13.) “And again: ‘The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ These words occur in the fourteenth chapter, at the twenty-sixth verse.”
But, my Lord, I want the original promise still; the original, I mean, of those made in this very discourse. Indeed your margin tells us where it is, ( 14:16,) but the words appear not. Taken together with the context, they run thus: — “If ye love me, keep my commandments. “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever: “Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” ( 14:15-17.)
My Lord, suffer me to inquire why you slipped over this text. Was it not (I appeal to the Searcher of your heart!) because you was conscious to yourself that it would necessarily drive you to that unhappy dilemma, either to assert that for ever, eiv ton aiwna , meant only sixty or seventy years; or to allow that the text must be interpreted of the ordinary operations of the Spirit, in all future ages of the Church?
And indeed that the promise in this text belongs to all Christians, evidently appears, not only from your Lordship’s own concession, and from the text itself, (for who can deny that this Comforter, or Paraclete, is now given to all them that believe?) but also from the preceding, as well as following, words. The preceding are, “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father.” None, surely, can doubt but these belong to all Christians in all ages. The following words are, “Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive.” True, the world cannot; but all Christians can and will receive him for ever. 6. The second promise of the Comforter, made in this chapter, together with its context, stands thus: — “Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? “Jesus answered, and said unto him, If any man love me, he will keep my word. And my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. “He that loveth me not, keepeth not my word: And the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet with you. “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (Verses 22-26.)
(2.) You say, “The Spirit’s ‘bringing all things to their remembrance, whatsoever he had said unto them,’ cannot possibly be applied to any other persons but the Apostles.” Cannot be applied! This is a flat begging the question again, which I cannot give up without better reasons.
(3.) “The gifts of prophecy and of being ‘guided into all truth, and taught all things,’ can be applied only to the Apostles, and those of that age who were immediately inspired.” Here your Lordship, in order the more plausibly to beg the question again, “jumbles together the extraordinary with the ordinary operations of the Spirit.”
The gift of prophecy, we know, is one of his extraordinary operations; but there is not a word of it in this text; nor, therefore, ought it to be “confounded with his ordinary operations,” such as the being “guided into all truth,” (all that is necessary to salvation,) and taught all (necessary) things, in a due use of the means he hath ordained. (Verse 26.)
In the same manner, namely, in a serious and constant use of proper means, I believe the assistance of the Holy Ghost is given to all Christians, to “bring all things needful to their remembrance,” whatsoever Christ hath spoken to them in his word. So that I see no occasion to grant, without some kind of proof, (especially considering the occasion of this, and the scope of the preceding verses,) that even “this promise cannot possibly be applied to any other persons but the Apostles.” 7. In the same discourse of our Lord we have a third promise of the Comforter: The whole clause runs thus: — “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. “And when he is come, he will reprove,” or convince, “the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: “Of sin, because they believe not on me; “Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; “Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. “I have yet many things to say unto you; but ye cannot bear them now: But when he shall come, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all truth; and he will show you things to come.” ( 16:7-13.)
There is only one sentence here which has not already been considered, “He will show you things to come.”
The general conclusion which your Lordship draws is expressed in these words: “Consequently, all pretensions to the Spirit, in the proper sense of the words of this promise, (that is, of these several texts of St. John,) are vain and insignificant, as they are claimed by modern enthusiasts.” And in the end of the same paragraph you add, “None but the ordinary operations of the Spirit are to be now expected, since those that are of a miraculous (or extraordinary) kind are not pretended to, even by modern enthusiasts.”
My Lord, this is surprising. I read it over and over before I could credit my own eyes. I verily believe, this one clause, with unprejudiced persons, will be an answer to the whole book. You have been vehemently crying out all along against those enthusiastical pretenders; nay, the very design of your book, as you openly declare, was “to stop the growth of their enthusiasm; who have had the assurance” (as you positively affirm, page 6) “to claim to themselves the extraordinary operations of the Holy Spirit.” And here you as positively affirm that those extraordinary operations “are not pretended to” by them at all! 8. Yet your Lordship proceeds: “The next passage of Scripture I shall mention, as peculiarly belonging to the primitive times, though misapplied to the present state of Christians by modern enthusiasts, is what relates to the ‘testimony of the Spirit,’ and ‘praying by the Spirit,’ in the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.” (Page 16.)
I believe it incumbent upon me thoroughly to weigh the force of your Lordship’s reasoning on this head. You begin: “After St. Paul had treated of that spiritual principle in Christians, which enables them ‘to mortify the deeds of the body,’ he says, ‘If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.’ This makes the distinction of a true Christian, particularly in opposition to the Jews.” I apprehend it is just here that your Lordship turns out of the way, when you say, “particularly in opposition to the Jews.” Such a particular opposition I cannot allow, till some stronger proof is produced, than St. Paul’s occasionally mentioning, six verses before, “the imperfection of the Jewish law.”
Yet your Lordship’s mind is so full of this that after repeating the fourteenth and fifteenth verses, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God: For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!” you add, “In the former part of this verse, the Apostle shows again the imperfection of the Jewish law.” This also calls for proof; otherwise it will not be allowed, that he here speaks of the Jewish law at all; not, though we grant that “the Jews were subject to the fear of death, and lived, in consequence of it, in a state of bondage.” For are not all unbelievers, as well as the Jews, more or less, in the same fear and bondage?
Your Lordship goes on: “In the latter part of the verse he shows the superiority of the Christian law to that of the Jews.” (p. 18.) Where is the proof, my Lord? How does it appear that he is speaking either of the Christian or Jewish law in those words, “Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father?” However, you infer, “Christians then are the adopted sons of God, in contradistinction to the Jews, as the former had the gifts of the Holy Ghost, which none of the latter had at that time; and the body of the Jews never had.” No, nor the body of the Christians neither: So that, if this be a proof against the Jews, it is the very same against the Christians.
I must observe farther on the preceding words,
(2.) That it is a bad inference: “As (or because) they had the gifts of the Holy Ghost, therefore they were the sons of God.” On the one hand, if they were the children of God, it was not because they had those gifts. On the other, a man may have all those gifts, and yet be a child of the devil. 9. I conceive, not only that your Lordship has proved nothing hitherto, not one point that has any relation to the question, but that, strictly speaking, you have not attempted to prove any thing, having taken for granted whatever came in your way. In the same manner you proceed, “The Apostle goes on, ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ This passage, as it is connected with the preceding one, relates to the general adoption of Christians, or their becoming the sons of God instead of the Jews.” — “This passage relates” — How is that proved? by its connection with the preceding? In nowise, unless it be good arguing to prove ignotum per ignotius. It has not yet been proved, that the preceding passage itself has any relation to this matter.
Your Lordship adds, “But what was the ground of this preference that was given to Christians? It was plainly the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which they had, and which the Jews had not.” This preference given to Christians was just before expressed by their becoming the sons of God instead of the Jews. Were the gifts of the Spirit then the ground of this preference, the ground of their becoming the sons of God? What an assertion is this! And how little is it mended, though I allow that “these miraculous gifts of the Spirit were a testimony that God acknowledged the Christians to be his people, and not the Jews;” since the Christians, who worked miracles, did it, not “by the works of the law,” but by “the hearing of faith!”
Your Lordship concludes, “From these passages of St. Paul, compared together, it clearly follows, that the fore-mentioned testimony of the Spirit was the public testimony of miraculous gifts; and, consequently, the witness of the Spirit that we are the children of God, cannot possibly be applied to the private testimony of the Spirit given to our own consciences, as is pretended by modern enthusiasts.” (p. 20.)
If your conclusion, my Lord, will stand without the premises, it may; but that it has no manner of connection with them. I trust does partly, and will more fully, appear, when we view the whole passage to which you refer; and I believe that passage, with very little comment, will prove, in direct opposition to that conclusion, that the testimony of the Spirit, there mentioned, is not the public testimony of miraculous gifts, but; must be applied to the private testimony of the Spirit, given to our own consciences. 10. St Paul begins the eighth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, with the great privilege of every Christian believer, (whether Jew or Gentile before,) “There is now no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus,” engrafted into him by faith, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For” now every one of them may truly say, “The law,” or power, “of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” given unto me for his sake, “hath made me free from the law,” or power, “of sin and death. For that which the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,” did, when he “condemned,” crucified, put to death, destroyed, “sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh, mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Verses <450801> 1-5.)
Is it not evident, that the Apostle is here describing a true Christian, a holy believer? — in opposition, not particularly to a Jew, much less to the Jewish law, but to every unholy man, to all, whether Jews or Gentiles, “who walk after the flesh?” He goes on: — “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Verses 6-8.)
The Apostle goes on: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit which dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die:
But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
It follows, “For ye have not received the Spirit of bondage again to fear;” such as all sinners have, when they are at first stirred up to seek God, and begin to serve him from a slavish fear of punishment; “but ye have received the Spirit of adoption,” of free love, “whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself,” which God “hath sent forth into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father, beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” (Verses 15,16.)
I am now willing to leave it, without farther comment, to the judgment of every impartial reader, whether it does not appear from the whole scope and tenor of the text and context taken together, that this passage does not refer to the Jewish law, nor to the public testimony of miracles; neither of which can be dragged in without putting the utmost force on the natural meaning of the words. And if so, it will follow, that this “witness of the Spirit” is the private testimony given to our own consciences; which, consequently, all sober Christians may claim, without any danger of enthusiasm. 11. “But I go on,” says your Lordship, “to the consideration of the other passages in the same chapter, relating to our praying by the Spirit, namely, at verses 26 and 27, which run thus: ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.’” (p. 21.)
Here is a circumstance highly needful to be observed, before we enter upon this question. Your Lordship undertakes to fix the meaning of an expression used by St. Paul, in the fourteenth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. And in order thereto, you laboriously explain part of the eighth chapter of the Romans. My Lord, how is this? Will it be said, “Why, this is often alleged to prove the wrong sense of that scripture?” I conceive, this will not salve the matter at all. Your Lordship had before laid down a particular method, as the only sure one whereby to distinguish what scriptures belong to all Christians, and what do not. This method is, the considering the occasion and scope of those passages, by comparing the text and context together. You then propose, by the use of this method, to show, that several texts have been misapplied by enthusiasts.
One of these is the fifteenth verse of the fourteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians. And to show, that enthusiasts have misapplied this, you comment on the eighth chapter to the Romans!
However, let us weigh the comment itself. The material part of it begins thus: “Now he adds another proof of the truth of Christianity: ‘Likewise the Spirit helpeth our infirmities,’ or our distresses, for asqeneiaiv signifies both.” (p. 22.) I doubt that: I require authority for it. “And then he mentions, in what instances he does so, viz., in prayers to God about afflictions.” — In nothing else, my Lord? Did he “Help their infirmities” in no other instance than this? “‘We know not,’ says he, ‘what we should pray for as we ought.’ That is, whether it be best for us to bear afflictions, or to be delivered from them. But the Spirit, or the gift of the Spirit, instructs us how to pray in a manner agreeable to the will of God.” “The Spirit, or the gift of the Spirit!” What marvellous reasoning is this? If these “are often put for each other,” what then? How is that evinced to be the case here? 12. “The Apostle goes on, ‘The Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.’ That is, the spiritual or inspired person prayed in that capacity for the whole assembly.” (p. 23.) “That is!” Nay, that is again the very point to be proved, else we get not one step farther. “The Apostle goes on thus, (verse 27,) ‘And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,’ that is, of the spiritual or inspired person, ‘because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.’ That is, God knows the intention of the spiritual person, who has the gift of prayer, which he uses for the benefit of the whole assembly; he, I say, leaves it entirely to God, whether it be best that they should suffer afflictions, or be delivered from them.” (pp. 24, 25.)
My Lord, this is more astonishing than all the rest! I was expecting all along, in reading the preceding pages, (and so, I suppose, was every thinking reader,) when your Lordship would mention, that the person miraculously inspired for that intent, and praying, kata Qeon , either for the support or deliverance of the people, should have the very petition which he asked of him. Whereas you intended no such thing! but shut up the whole with that lame and impotent conclusion, “He leaves it to God whether it be best they should suffer afflictions, or be delivered from them.”
Had he then that miraculous gift of God, that he might do what any common Christian might have done without it? Why, any person in the congregation might have prayed thus; nay, could not pray otherwise, if he had the ordinary grace of God: “Leaving it to God, whether he should suffer afflictions still, or be delivered from them.” Was it only in the apostolical age, that “the Spirit instructed Christians thus to pray?”
Cannot a man pray thus, either for himself or others, unless he has the miraculous gift of prayer! — So, according to your Lordship’s judgment, “to pray in such a manner, as in the event to leave the continuance of our sufferings, or our deliverance from them, with a due submission, to the good pleasure of God,” is one of those extraordinary operations of the Spirit, which none now pretend to but modern enthusiasts!
I beseech your Lordship to consider. Can you coolly maintain, that the praying with a due submission to the will of God, even in heavy affliction, is a miraculous gift, an extraordinary operation of the Holy Ghost? Is this peculiar to the primitive times? Is it what none but enthusiasts now pretend to? If not, then your Lordship’s own account of praying by the Spirit indisputably proves, that this is one of the ordinary privileges of all Christians to the end of the world. 13. “I go on,” your Lordship adds, “to another passage of Scripture, that has been entirely misapplied by modern enthusiasts: ‘And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:4,5.) “It is only necessary to evince, that by ‘the demonstration of the Spirit and of power’ is meant the demonstration of the truth of Christianity, that arises from the prophecies of the Old Testament, and the miracles of Christ and his Apostles.” (pp. 27, 29.) Yes, it is necessary farther to evince, that these words have no other meaning. But, First, how will you evince that they hear this? In order thereto, your Lordship argues thus: — “The former seems to be the demonstration of the Spirit, with regard to the prophetical testimonies of Him. — And the demonstration of power must signify the power of God, exerted in miracles.” (p. 30.) “Must!”
Indeed your Lordship says, this “appears from the following verse, in which is assigned the reason for using this method of proving Christianity to be true, namely, ‘That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’ By the power of God, therefore, must necessarily be understood the miracles performed by Christ and his Apostles.” By the native particle, “therefore,” this proposition should be an inference from some other: But what other I cannot yet discern. So that, for the present, I can only look upon it as a fresh instance of begging the question. “He goes on in the seventh, tenth, and following verses, to explain this ‘demonstration of the Spirit and of power.’” But he does not say one syllable therein, either of the ancient prophecies, or of miracles. Nor will it be easily proved, that he speaks either of one or the other, from the beginning of the chapter to the end.
After transcribing the thirteenth verse, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth but which the Holy Ghost teacheth, comparing spiritual things with spiritual,” your Lordship adds, “From which last passage it appears, that the words which the Holy Ghost is said to teach, must be the prophetical revelations of the Old Testament, which were discovered to the Apostles by the same Spirit.” I cannot apprehend how this appears. I cannot as yet see any connection at all between the premises and the conclusion.
Upon the whole, I desire any calm and serious man to read over this whole chapter; and then he will easily judge what is the natural meaning of the words in question; and whether (although it be allowed, that they were peculiarly fulfilled in the Apostles, yet) they do not manifestly belong, in a lower sense, to every true Minister of Christ. For what can be more undeniable than this, that our preaching also is vain, unless it be attended with the power of that Spirit who alone pierceth the heart? and that your hearing is vain, unless the same power be present to heal your soul, and to give you a faith which “standeth not in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God?” 14. “Another passage that,” your Lordship thinks, “has been misapplied by enthusiasts, but was really peculiar to the times of the Apostles, is John 2:20,27: ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. — But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you:
And ye need not that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie. And even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.’ Here the Apostle arms the true Christians against seducers, by an argument drawn from ‘the unction from the Holy One,’ that was in, or rather, among them; that is, from the immediate inspiration of some of their Teachers.” (pp. 35, 37.)
Here it rests upon your Lordship to prove, as well as affirm,
(1.) That en should be translated among:
(2.) That this “unction from the Holy One” means the inspiration of some of their Teachers.
The latter your Lordship attempts to prove thus: — “The inspired Teachers of old were set apart for that office, by an extraordinary effusion of the Holy Ghost: Therefore, “‘The unction from the Holy One’ here means such an effusion.” (p. 38.) I deny the consequence; so the question is still to be proved.
Your Lordship’s second argument is drawn from the twenty-sixth verse of the fourteenth chapter of St. John’s Gospel.
Proposed in form, it will stand thus: — “If those words, ‘He shall teach you all things,’ relate only to a miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost, then these words, ‘The same anointing teacheth you of all things,’ relate to the same miraculous gift: “But those words relate only to a miraculous gift: “Therefore these relate to the same.”
I conceive, it will not be very easy to make good the consequence in the first proposition. But I deny the minor also: The contradictory whereto, I trust, has appeared to be true.
I grant indeed, that these words were more eminently fulfilled in the age of the Apostles: But this is altogether consistent with their belonging, in a lower sense, to all Christians in all ages; seeing they have all need of “an unction from the Holy One,” a supernatural assistance from the Holy Ghost, that they may know, in the due use of all proper means, all things needful for their souls’ health. Therefore it is no enthusiasm, to teach that “the unction from the Holy One” belongs to all Christians in all ages. 15. There is one topic of your Lordship’s yet untouched; that is, authority; one you have very frequently made use of, and wherein, probably, the generality of readers suppose your Lordship’s great strength lies. And indeed when your Lordship first mentioned (p. 11) “the general sense of the primitive Church,” I presumed you would have produced so numerous authorities, that I should not easily be able to consult them all.
But I soon found my mistake; your Lordship naming only Chrysostom, Jerome, Origen, and Athanasius.
However, though these four can no more be termed the primitive Church, than the Church universal, yet I consent to abide by their suffrage. Nay, I will go a step farther still: If any two of these affirm, that those seven texts belong only to the apostolic age, and not to the Christians of succeeding times, I will give up the whole cause.
But let it be observed, if they should affirm that these primarily belong to the Christians of the apostolic age, that does not prove the point, because they may, in a secondary sense, belong to others notwithstanding: Nor does any of them speak home to the question, unless he maintain, in express terms, that these texts refer only to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, and not at all to the state of ordinary Christians. 16. Concerning those three texts, John 14:16,26, and John 16:13, “I could easily add,” says your Lordship, “the authorities of Chrysostom and the other ancient commentators.” (p. 15.) St. Chrysostom’s authority I will consider now, and that of the others when they are produced.
Yet part of his comment on the twenty-sixth verse is as follows: — “Such is that grace,” of the Comforter, “that if it finds sadness, it takes it away; if evil desire, it consumes it. It casts out fear, and suffers him that receives it to be a man no longer, but translates him, as it were, into heaven. Hence ‘none of them counted anything his own, but continued in prayer, with gladness and singleness of heart.’ For this chiefly is their need of the Holy Ghost; for the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, faith, meekness.
Indeed spiritual men often grieve; but that grief is sweeter than joy: For whatever is of the Spirit is the greatest gain, as whatever is of the world is the greatest loss. Let us therefore in keeping the commandments,” according to our Lord’s exhortation, verse 15, “secure the unconquerable assistance of the Spirit, and we shall be nothing inferior to angels.”
St. Chrysostom here, after he had shown that the promise of the Comforter primarily belonged to the Apostles, (and who ever questioned it?) undeniably teaches, that, in a secondary sense, it belongs to all Christians; to all spiritual men, all who keep the commandments. I appeal, therefore, to all mankind, whether his authority, touching the promise of our Lord in these texts, does not overthrow the proposition it was cited to prove?
Although your Lordship names no other author here, yet you say, “The assigned sense of these passages was confirmed by the authority of Origen.” (p. 42.) It is needful, therefore, to add what occurs in his Works with regard to the present question.
He occasionally mentions this promise of our Lord, in four several places.
But it is in one only that he speaks pertinently to the point in hand, (vol. 2, p. 403, Edit. Bened.,) where his words are these: — “‘When the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth, and he will teach you all things.’ The sum of all good things consists in this, that a man be found worthy to receive the grace of the Holy Ghost. Otherwise, nothing will be accounted perfect in him who hath not the Holy Spirit.”
Do these words confirm that “sense of those passages which your Lordship had assigned?” Rather do they not utterly overturn it, and prove (as above) that although this promise of our Lord primarily belongs to the Apostles, yet, in the secondary sense, it belongs (according to Origen’s judgment) to all Christians in all ages? 17. The fourth text mentioned as belonging to the first Christians only, is Romans 8:15,16; and it is said, page 26, “This interpretation is confirmed by the authority of the most eminent fathers.” The reader is particularly referred to Origen and Jerome in locum. But here seems to be a mistake of the name. Jerome in locum should mean, Jerome upon the place, upon Romans 8:15,16. But I cannot perceive that there is one word upon that place, in all St. Jerome’s Works.
Nor indeed has Origen commented upon it any more than Jerome. But he occasionally mentions it in these words: — “He is a babe who is fed with milk; but if he seeks the things that are above, without doubt he will be of the number of those who ‘receive not the spirit of bondage again unto fear, but the Spirit of adoption,’ through whom they cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Vol. 1, p. 79.)
Again: “The fulness of time is come; when they who are willing receive the adoption, as Paul teaches in these words, ‘Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father!’ And it is written in the Gospel according to St. John, ‘To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name.’” (Vol. 1, pp. 231, 232.)
Yet again: “Every one that is born of God, and doth not commit sin, by his very actions saith, ‘Our Father which art in heaven;’ ‘the Spirit itself bearing witness with their spirit, that they are the children of God.’” (Ibid. ) According to Origen, therefore, this testimony of the Spirit is not any public testimony by miracles, peculiar to the first times, but an inward testimony, belonging in common to all that are born of God; and consequently the authority of Origen does not “confirm that interpretation” neither, but absolutely destroys it. 18. The last authority your Lordship appeals to on this text is, “that of the great John Chrysostom, who reckons the testimony of the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, ‘Abba, Father,’ among the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.” “I rather choose” (your Lordship adds, p. 26) “to refer you to the words of St. Chrysostom, than to transcribe them here, as having almost translated them in the present account of the testimony of the Spirit.”
It is in his comment on the fourteenth verse, that he first mentions St. Paul’s comparison between a Jew and a Christian. How fairly your Lordship has represented this, let every reader judge: — “‘As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the souls of God.’ — Whereas the same title had been given of old to the Jews also, he shows in the sequel, how great a difference there is between that honor and this. For though, says he, the titles are the same, yet the things are not. And he plainly proves it, by comparing both what they had received, and what they looked for.
And first he shows what they had received, viz., a ‘spirit of bondage.’ Therefore he adds, ‘Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption.’ What means the spirit of fear? — Observe their whole life, and you will know clearly. For punishments were at their heels, and much fear was on every side, and before their face. But with us it is not so. For our mind and conscience are cleansed, so that we do all things well not for fear of present punishment, but through our love of God, and an habit of virtue. They therefore, though they were called sons, yet were as slaves; but we, being made free, have received the adoption, and look not for a land of milk and honey, but for heaven. “He brings also another proof, that we have the Spirit of adoption, by which, says he, we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ This is the first word we utter meta tav qaumastav wdinav ekeinav, kai ton xenon kai paradoxon loceumatwn nomon ; after those amazing throes, (or birth-pangs,) and that strange and wonderful manner of bringing forth. “He brings yet another proof of the superiority of those who had this Spirit of adoption: ‘The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.’ I prove this, says he, not only from the voice itself, but also from the cause whence that voice proceeds: For the Spirit suggests the words while we thus speak, which he hath elsewhere expressed more plainly, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father!’ But what is, ‘The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit?’
He means, the Paraclete by the gift given unto us.” (But that this was an extraordinary gift, we have no intimation at all, neither before nor after.) “And when ‘the Spirit beareth witness,’ what doubt is left? If a man or an angel spake, some might doubt; but when the Most High beareth witness to us, who can doubt any longer?”
Now let any reasonable man judge how far your Lordship has “translated the words of St. Chrysostom; and whether he reckons the testimony of the Spirit among the miraculous gifts of the Holy Ghost,” or among those ordinary gifts of the Spirit of Christ which if a man have not he is none of his. 19. The fifth text your Lordship quotes, as describing a miraculous gift of the Spirit, is 1 Corinthians 14:15: To prove which, you comment on the eighth chapter to the Romans, particularly the twenty-sixth verse; and here again it is said, that “the interpretation assigned is confirmed by several of the most eminent fathers, more especially the great, John Chrysostom, as well as by Origen and Jerome upon the place.”
I cannot find St. Jerome to have writ one line upon the place. And it is obvious, that St. Chrysostom supposes the whole context from the seventeenth to the twenty-fifth verse, to relate to all Christians in all ages.
How this can be said to “confirm the interpretation assigned,” I cannot conjecture. Nay, it is remarkable, that he expounds the former part of the twenty-sixth verse as describing the ordinary privilege of all Christians.
Thus far, therefore, he does not confirm but overthrow, the “interpretation before assigned.” But in the middle of the verse he breaks off, and expounds the latter part, as describing one of the miraculous gifts.
Yet I must do the justice to this venerable man to observe, he does not suppose that a miraculous gift was given, only that the inspired might do what any ordinary Christian might have done without it; (this interpretation, even of the latter part of the verse, he does in nowise confirm;) but that he might ask, in every particular circumstance, the determinate thing which it was the will of God to give. 20. The third father by whom it is said this interpretation is confirmed, is Origen. The first passage of his, which relates to Romans 8:26, runs thus: — “Paul, perceiving how far he was, after all these things, from knowing to pray for what he ought, as he ought, says, ‘We know not what we should pray for as we ought.’ But he adds, whence, what is wanting may be had by one who indeed does not know, but labors to be found worthy of having the defect supplied. For he says, ‘Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities. For we knew not what we should pray for as we ought. But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us, with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit; because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.’ The Spirit which crieth, ‘Abba, Father,’ in the hearts of the saints, knowing well our groanings in this tabernacle, ‘maketh intercession for us to God, with groanings which cannot be uttered.’ To the same effect is that Scripture: ‘I will pray with the Spirit, I will pray with the understanding also.’ ( 1 Corinthians 14:15.) For our understanding (or mind, o nouv ) cannot pray, if the Spirit do not pray before it, and the understanding, as it were, listen to it.” (Vol. 1, p. 199.)
Again: “I would know how the saints cry to God without a voice. The Apostle shows, ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father!’ and he adds, ‘The Spirit itself maketh intercession for as, with groanings which cannot be uttered.’ And again, ‘He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.’ Thus, therefore, the Spirit making intercession for us with God, the cry of the saints is heard without a voice.” (Vol. 2, p. 146.)
Once more in his Homily on Joshua: — “Jesus our Lord doth not forsake us; but although when we would pray, ‘we know not what to pray for as we ought,’ yet ‘the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now the Lord is that Spirit:’ The Spirit assists our prayers, and offers them to God with groanings which we cannot express in words.” (Vol. 2, p. 419.)
I believe all rational men will observe from hence, that Origen is so far from confirming, that he quite overturns, your Lordship’s interpretation of the sixteenth as well as the twenty-sixth verse of this chapter; seeing, in his judgment, both that testimony of the Spirit and this prayer belong to all Christians in all ages. 21. The sixth scripture which your Lordship has undertaken to show “relates only to the apostolical times,” is 1 Corinthians 2:4,5. And “this interpretation also,” it is said, “is confirmed by the authority of Chrysostom, Origen, and other ancient writers.” (p. 33.) With those other “ancient writers.” I have no concern yet. St. Chrysostom so far confirms this interpretation, as to explain that whole phrase “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power,” of “the power of the Spirit shown by miracles.”
But he says not one word of any “proof of the Christian religion arising from the types and prophecies of the Old Testament.”
Origen has these words: — “Our word has a certain peculiar demonstration, more divine than the Grecian logical demonstration. This the Apostle terms, ‘the demonstration of the Spirit and of power;’ of the Spirit, because of the prophecies, sufficient to convince any one, especially of the things that relate to Christ; of power, because of the miraculous powers, some footsteps of which still remain.” (Vol. 1, p. 321.)
Hence we may doubtless infer, that Origen judged this text to relate, in its primary sense, to the Apostles; but can we thence infer, that he did not judge it to belong, in a lower sense, to all true Ministers of Christ?
Let us hear him speaking for himself in the same treatise: — “‘And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’ Those who hear the word preached with power are themselves filled with power,” (N.B. not the power of working miracles,) “which they demonstrate both in their disposition, and in their life, and in their striving for the truth unto death. But some, although they profess to believe, have not this power of God in them, but are empty thereof.” (p. 377.) (Did Origen, then, believe that the power mentioned in this text belonged only to the apostolical age?) “See the force of the word, conquering believers by a persuasiveness attended with the power of God! I speak this to show the meaning of him that said, ‘And my speech and my preaching were not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.’ This divine saying means, that what is spoken is not sufficient of itself (although it be true, and most worthy to be believed) to pierce a man’s soul, if there be not also a certain power from God given to the speaker, and grace bloom upon what is spoken; and this grace cannot be but from God.”
After observing that this is the very passage which your Lordship mentions at the close of the other, but does not cite, I desire every unprejudiced person to judge, whether Origen does not clearly determine that the power spoken of in this text, is in some measure given to all true Ministers in all ages. 22. The last scripture which your Lordship affirms “to be peculiar to the times of the Apostles,” is that in the First Epistle of St. John, concerning the “unction of the Holy One.”
To confirm this interpretation, we are referred to the authority of “Origen and Chrysostom, on the parallel passages in St. John’s Gospel.” (p. 42.)
But it has appeared, that both these fathers suppose those passages to belong to all Christians; and, consequently, their authority (if these are parallel passages) stands full against this interpretation.
Your Lordship subjoins, “I shall here only add that of the great Athanasius, who, in his epistle to Serapion, interprets the ‘unction from the Holy One,’ not merely of divine grace, but of the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
His words are, “The Holy Spirit is called, and is, the unction and the seal.
For John writes, ‘The anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you; and ye need not that any man should teach you, but as his anointing,’ his Spirit, ‘teacheth you of all things.’ Again: It is written in the Prophet Isaiah, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me.’
And Paul writes thus: ‘In whom also ye were sealed.’ And again: ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.’ This anointing is the breath of the Son; so that he who hath the Spirit may say, ‘We are the sweet smelling savor of Christ.’ Because we are partakers of the Holy Spirit, we have the Son; and having the Son, we have ‘the Spirit crying in our hearts, Abba, Father.’” And so in his Oration against the Arians: — “‘He sendeth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’ His Son in us, invoking the Father, makes him to be called our Father. Certainly God cannot be called their Father, who have not the Son in their hearts.”
Is it not easy to be observed here,
(1.) That Athanasius makes “that testimony of the Spirit” common to all the children of God:
(2.) That he joins “the anointing of the Holy One,” with that seal of the Spirit wherewith all that persevere are “sealed to the day of redemption:” And,
(3.) That he does not, throughout this passage, speak of the extraordinary gifts at all?
Therefore, upon the whole, the sense of the primitive Church, so far as it can be gathered from the authors above cited, is, that “although some of the scriptures primarily refer to those extraordinary gifts of the Spirit which were given to the Apostles, and a few other persons in the apostolical age; yet they refer also, in a secondary sense, to those ordinary operations of the Holy Spirit which all the children of God do and will experience, even to the end of the world.” 23. What I mean by the ordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, I sum up in the words of a modern writer: — “Sanctification being opposed to our corruption, and answering fully to the latitude thereof, whatsoever of holiness and perfection is wanting in our nature must be supplied by the Spirit of God.
Wherefore, being by nature we are totally void of all saving truth, and under an impossibility of knowing the will of God, this ‘Spirit searcheth all things, yea, even the deep things of God,’ and revealeth them unto the sons of men, so that thereby the darkness of their understanding is expelled, and they are enlightened with the knowledge of God. The same Spirit which revealeth the object of faith generally to the universal Church, doth also illuminate the understanding of such as believe, that they may receive the truth.
For ‘faith is the gift of God,’ not only in the object, but also in the act. And this gift is a gift of the Holy Ghost working within us. — And as the increase of perfection, so the original of faith, is from the Spirit of God, by an internal illumination of the soul.” “The second part of the office of the Holy Ghost, is the renewing of man in all the parts and faculties of his soul. For our natural corruption consisting in an aversation of our wills, and a depravation of our affections, an inclination of them to the will of God is wrought within us by the Spirit of God. “The third part of this office is, to lead, direct, and govern us in our actions and conversations. ‘If we live in the Spirit,’ quickened by his renovation, we must also ‘walk in the Spirit,’ following his direction, led by his manuduction. We are also animated and acted by the Spirit of God, who giveth ‘both to will and to do:’ And ‘as many as are’ thus ‘led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God.’ ( Romans 8:14.) Moreover, that this direction may prove more effectual, we are guided in our prayers by the same Spirit; according to the promise, ‘I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication.’ ( Zechariah 12:10.) Whereas then ‘this is the confidence which we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us;’ and whereas ‘we know not what we should pray for as we ought, the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;’ and ‘he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints, according to the will of God.’ ( Romans 8:27.) From which intercession,” (made for all true Christians,) “he hath the name of the Paraclete given him by Christ, who said, ‘I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete.’ ( John 14:16,26.) ‘For if any man sin, we have a Paraclete with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous,’ saith St. John; ‘who maketh intercession for us,’ saith St. Paul. ( Romans 8:34.) And we have ‘another Paraclete,’ saith our Savior; ( John 14:16;) ‘which also maketh intercession for us,’ saith St. Paul. ( Romans 8:27.) A Paraclete, then, in the notion of the Scriptures, is an intercessor. “It is also the office of the Holy Ghost, to ‘assure us of the adoption of sons,’ to create in us a sense of the paternal love of God towards us, to give us an earnest of our everlasting inheritance.’ The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.’ ‘For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.’ ‘And because we are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’ ‘For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father; the Spirit itself hearing witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.’ (Verses 15, 16.) “As, therefore, we are born again by the Spirit, and receive from him our regeneration, so we are also by the same Spirit ‘assured of our adoption.’ Because, being ‘sons, we are also heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,’ by the same Spirit we have the pledge, or rather the ‘earnest, of our inheritance.’ For ‘he which establisheth us in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and hath given us the earnest of his Spirit in our hearts:’ So that ‘we are sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.’ The Spirit of God, as given unto us in this life, is to be looked upon as an earnest, being part of that reward which is promised, and, upon performance of the covenant which God hath made with us, certainly to be received.”
Your Lordship observed, that “the interpretation of those passages which relate to the ‘unction from the Holy One,’ depends on the sense of those other passages of Holy Scripture, particularly those in St. John’s Gospel.”
It now rests with your Lordship to take your choice; either to condemn or to acquit both. Either your Lordship must condemn Bishop Pearson for an enthusiast; (a man no ways inferior to Bishop Chrysostom;) or you must acquit me: for I have his express authority on my side, concerning every text which I affirm to belong to all Christians. 24. But I have greater authority than his, and such as I reverence only less than that of the oracles of God; I mean, that of our own Church. I shall close this head by setting down what occurs in her authentic records, concerning either our “receiving the Holy Ghost,” or his ordinary operations in all true Christians.
In her Daily Service she teaches us all to beseech God “to grant us his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present, and that the rest of our life may be pure and holy;” to pray for our Sovereign Lord the King, that God would “replenish him with the grace of his Holy Spirit;” for all the Royal Family, that they may be “endued with his Holy Spirit, and enriched with his heavenly grace;” for all the Clergy and people, that he would “send down upon them the healthful Spirit of his grace;” for “the Catholic Church, that it may be guided and governed by his good Spirit;” and for all therein who at any time “make their common supplication unto him,” that “the fellowship” or communication “of the Holy Ghost may be with them all evermore.”
Her Collects are full of petitions to the same effect: “Grant that we may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit.” (Collect for Christmas-Day. ) “Grant that in all our sufferings here, for the testimony of thy truth, we may by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed, and, ‘being filled with the Holy Ghost,’ may love and bless our persecutors.” (St. Stephen’s Day. ) “Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity.” (Quinquagesima Sunday. ) “O Lord, from whom all good things do come, grant to us, thy humble servants, that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by thy merciful guidance may perform the same.” (Fifth Sunday after Easter. ) “We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless, but send us the Holy Ghost to comfort us.” (Sunday after Ascension Day. ) “Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort.” (Whit-Sunday. ) (N.B. The Church here teaches all Christians to claim the Comforter, in virtue of the promise made, John 14.) “Grant us, Lord, we beseech thee, the Spirit, to think and do always such things as be rightful.” (Ninth Sunday after Trinity.) “O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee; mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts.” (Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity. ) “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name.” (Communion Office. ) “Give thy Holy Spirit to this infant, (or this person,) that he may be born again. — Give thy Holy Spirit to these persons,” (N.B. already baptized,) “that they may continue thy servants. “Almighty God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these persons by water and the Holy Ghost; strengthen them with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them the manifold gifts of thy grace.” (Office of Confirmation .)
From these passages it may sufficiently appear, for what purposes every Christian, according to the doctrine of the Church of England, does now “receive the Holy Ghost.” But this will be still more clear from those that follow; wherein the reader may likewise observe a plain, rational sense of God’s revealing himself to us, of the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and of a believer’s feeling in himself “the mighty working” of the Spirit of Christ: — 25. “God gave them of old grace to be his children, as he doth us now. But now, by the coming of our Savior Christ, we have received more abundantly the Spirit of God in our hearts.” (Homily on Faith , Part II.) “He died to destroy the rule of the devil in us; and he rose again to send down his Holy Spirit, to ‘rule in our hearts.’” (Homily on the Resurrection .) “We have the Holy Spirit in our hearts, as a seal and pledge of our everlasting inheritance.” (Ibid .) “The Holy Ghost sat upon each of them, like as it had been cloven tongues of fire; to teach, that it is he which giveth eloquence and utterance in preaching the gospel; which engendereth a burning zeal towards God’s word, and giveth all men a tongue yea, a fiery tongue.” (N.B. Whatever occurs in any of the Journals, of God’s “giving me utterance,” or “enabling me to speak with power, ” cannot therefore be quoted as enthusiam, without wounding the Church through my side.) “So that if any man be a dumb Christian, not professing his faith openly, he giveth men occasion to doubt lest he have not the grace of the Holy Ghost within him.” (Homily on Whit-Sunday, Part I.) “It is the office of the Holy Ghost to sanctify; which the more it is hid from our understanding,” (that is, the more particular manner of his working,) “the more it ought to move all men to wonder at the secret and mighty workings of God’s Holy Spirit which is within us. For it is the Holy Ghost that doth quicken the minds of men, stirring up godly motions in their hearts. Neither doth he think it sufficient inwardly to work the new birth of man, unless he do also dwell and abide in him. ‘Know ye not,’ saith St. Paul, ‘that ye are the temple of God, and that his Spirit dwelleth in you? Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you?’ Again he saith, ‘Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit.’ For why? ‘The Spirit of God dwelleth in you.’ To this agreeth St. John: ‘The anointing which ye have received’ (he meaneth the Holy Ghost) ‘abideth in you.’ ( 1 John 2:27.) And St. Peter saith the same: ‘The Spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you.’ O what comfort is this to the heart of a true Christian, to think that the Holy Ghost dwelleth in him! ‘If God be with us,’ as the Apostle saith, ‘who can be against us?’ He giveth patience and joyfulness of heart, in temptation and affliction, and is therefore worthily called ‘the Comforter.’ ( John 14:16.) He doth instruct the hearts of the simple in the knowledge of God and his word; therefore he is justly termed ‘the Spirit of truth.’ ( 16:13.) And where the Holy Ghost doth instruct and teach, there is no delay at all in learning.” (Ibid. ) From this passage I learn, First, that every true Christian now “receives the Holy Ghost,” as the Paraclete or Comforter promised by our Lord, John 14:16: Secondly, that every Christian receives him as “the Spirit of truth,” (promised John 16,) to “teach him all things:” And, Thirdly, that “the anointing,” mentioned in the first Epistle of St. John, “abides in every Christian.” 26. “In reading of God’s word, he profiteth most that is most inspired with the Holy Ghost.” (Homily on reading the Scripture, Part I.) “Human and worldly wisdom is not needful to the understanding of Scripture, but the revelation of the Holy Ghost, who inspireth the true meaning unto them that with humility and diligence search for it.” (Ibid. Part II.) “Make him know and feel that there is no other name under heaven given unto men, whereby we can be saved. “If we feel our conscience at peace with God, through remission of our sin, — all is of God.” Homily on Rogation Week, Part III.) “If you feel such a faith in you, rejoice in it, and let it be daily increasing by well-working.” (Homily of Faith , Part III.) “The faithful may feel wrought tranquillity of conscience, the increase of faith and hope, with many other graces of God.” (Homily on the Sacrament, Part I.) “Godly men feel inwardly God’s Holy Spirit, inflaming their hearts with love.” (Homily on certain places of Scripture, Part I.) “God give us grace to know these things, and to feel them in our hearts! This knowledge and feeling is not of ourselves. Let us therefore meekly call upon the bountiful Spirit, the Holy Ghost, to inspire us with his presence, that we may be able to hear the goodness of God to our salvation. For without his lively inspiration, can we not so much as speak the name of the Mediator. ‘No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost;’ much less should we be able to believe and know these great mysteries that be opened to us by Christ. ‘But we have received,’ saith St. Paul, ‘not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God;’ for this purpose, ‘that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God.’ In the power of the Holy Ghost resteth all ability to know God, and to please him. It is he that purifieth the mind by his secret working. He enlighteneth the heart, to conceive worthy thoughts of Almighty God. He sitteth in the tongue of man, to stir him to speak his honor. He only ministereth spiritual strength to the powers of the soul and body.
And if we have any gift whereby we may profit our neighbor, all is wrought by this one and the self-same Spirit.” (Homily for Rogation Week, Part III.) 27. Every proposition which I have anywhere advanced concerning those operations of the Holy Ghost, which, I believe, are common to all Christians in all ages, is here clearly maintained by our own Church.
Under a full sense of this, I could not well understand, for many years, how it was, that on the mentioning any of these great truths, even among men of education, the cry immediately arose, “An enthusiast! An enthusiast!” But I now plainly perceive this is only an old fallacy in a new shape. To object enthusiasm to any person or doctrine is but a decent method of begging the question. It generally spares the objector the trouble of reasoning, and is a shorter and easier way of carrying his cause.
For instance, I assert that “till a man ‘receives the Holy Ghost,’ he is without God in the world; that he cannot know the things of God, unless God reveal them unto him by the Spirit; no, nor have even one holy or heavenly temper, without the inspiration of the Holy One.” Now, should one who is conscious to himself that he has experienced none of these things, attempt to confute these propositions, either from Scripture or antiquity, it might prove a difficult task. What then shall he do? Why, cry out, “Enthusiasm! Enthusiasm!” and the work is done.
But what does he mean by enthusiasm? Perhaps nothing at all: Few have any distinct idea of its meaning. Perhaps “something very bad,” or, “something I never experienced and do not understand.” Shall I tell you then what that “terrible something” is? I believe, thinking men mean by enthusiasm, a sort of religious madness; a false imagination of being inspired by God: And by an enthusiast, one that fancies himself under the influence of the Holy Ghost, when, in fact, he is not.
Let him prove me guilty of this who can. I will tell you once more the whole of my belief on these heads: And if any man will show me (by arguments, not hard names) what is wrong, I will thank God and him. 28. Every good gift is from God, and is given to man by the Holy Ghost.
By nature there is in us no good thing; and there can be none, but so far as it is wrought in us by that good Spirit. Have we any true knowledge of what is good? This is not the result of our natural understanding. “The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God:” So that we never can discern them, until God “reveals them unto us by his Spirit.” Reveals, that is, unveils, uncovers; gives us to know what we did not know before. Have we love? It “is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” He inspires, breathes, infuses into our soul, what of ourselves we could not have. Does our spirit rejoice in God our Savior? It is “joy in,” or by, “the Holy Ghost.” Have we true inward peace? It is “the peace of God,” wrought in us by the same Spirit. Faith, peace, joy, love, are all his fruits. And as we are figuratively said to see the light of faith; so, by a like figure of speech, we are said to feel this peace and joy and love; that is, we have an inward experience of them, which we cannot find any fitter word to express.
The reasons why, in speaking of these things, I use those terms, (inspiration particularly,) are,
(1.) Because they are scriptural:
(2.) Because they are used by our Church:
(3.) Because I know none better. The word, “influence of the Holy Ghost,” which I suppose you use, is both a far stronger and a less natural term than inspiration. It is far stronger; even as far as “flowing into the soul” is a stronger expression than “breathing upon it;” — and less natural, as breathing bears a near relation to spirit; to which flowing in has only a distant relation.
But you thought I had meant “immediate inspiration. ” So I do, or I mean nothing at all. Not indeed such inspiration as is sine mediis. But all inspiration, though by means, is immediate. Suppose, for instance, you are employed in private prayer, and God pours his love into your heart. God then acts immediately on your soul; and the love of him which you then experience, is as immediately breathed into you by the Holy Ghost, as if you had lived seventeen hundred years ago. Change the term: Say, God then assists you to love him. Well, and is not this immediate assistance?
I cannot conceive how that harmless word immediate came to be such a bugbear in the world: “Why, I thought you meant such inspiration as the Apostles had; and such a receiving the Holy Ghost as that was at the day of Pentecost.” I do, in part: Indeed I do not mean, that Christians now receive the Holy Ghost in order to work miracles; but they do doubtless now “receive,” yea, are “filled with, the Holy Ghost,” in order to be filled with the fruits of that blessed Spirit. And he inspires into all true believers now, a degree of the same peace and joy and love which the Apostles felt in themselves on that day, when they were first “filled with the Holy Ghost.” 29. I have now considered the most material objections I know, which have been lately made against the great doctrines I teach. I have produced, so far as in me lay, the strength of those objections, and then answered them, I hope, in the spirit of meekness. And now I trust it appears, that these doctrines are no other than the doctrines of Jesus Christ; that they are all evidently contained in the word of God, by which alone I desire to stand or fall; and that they are fundamentally the same with the doctrines of the Church of England, of which I do, and ever did, profess myself a member.
But there remains one objection, which, though relating to the head of doctrine, yet is independent on all that went before. And that is, “You cannot agree in your doctrines among yourselves. One holds one thing, and one another. Mr. Whitefield anathematizes Mr. Wesley; and Mr. Wesley anathematizes Mr. Whitefield. And yet each pretends to be led by the Holy Ghost, by the infallible Spirit of God! Every reasonable man must conclude from hence, that neither one nor the other is led by the Spirit.”
I need not say, how continually this has been urged, both in common conversation and from the press: (I am grieved to add, and from the pulpit too; for, if the argument were good, it would overturn the Bible:) Nor, how great stress has been continually laid upon it. Whoever proposes it, proposes it as demonstration, and generally claps his wings, as being quite assured, it will admit of no answer.
And indeed I am in doubt, whether it does admit (I am sure it does not require) any other answer, than that coarse one of the countryman to the Romish champion, “Bellarmine, thou liest.” For every proposition contained herein is grossly, shamelessly false.
(1.) “You cannot agree in your doctrines among yourselves.” — Who told you so? All our fundamental doctrines I have recited above. And in every one of these we do and have agreed for several years. In these we hold one and the same thing. In smaller points, each of us thinks, and lets think.
Not in our private opinions; nor does either of us pretend to be any farther led by the Spirit of God, than every Christian must pretend to be, unless he will deny the Bible. For only “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, are the sons of God.” Therefore, if you do not pretend to be led by him too, yea, if it be not so in fact, “you are none of his.”
And now, what is become of your demonstration? Leave it to the carmen and porters, its just proprietors; to the zealous apple-women, that cry after me in the street, “This is he that rails at the Whole Dutiful of Man. ” But let every one that pretends to learning or reason be ashamed to mention it any more. 30. The first inference easily deduced from what has been said, is, that we are not false prophets. In one sense of the word, we are no prophets at all; for we do not foretel things to come. But in another, (wherein every Minister is a prophet,) we are; for we do speak in the name of God. Now, a false prophet (in this sense of the word) is one who declares as the will of God what is not so. But we declare (as has been shown at large) nothing else as the will of God, but what is evidently contained in his written word, as explained by our own Church. Therefore, unless you can prove the Bible to be a false book, you cannot possibly prove us to be false prophets.
The text which is generally cited on this occasion is Matthew 7:15. But how unhappily chosen! In the preceding chapters, our Lord had been describing that “righteousness which exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees,” and without which we cannot “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Even the life of God in the soul; holiness of heart, producing all holiness of conversation. In this, he closes that rule which sums up the whole, with those solemn words, “Enter ye in at the strait gate;” (such indeed is that of universal holiness;) “for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction.” The gate of hell is wide as the whole earth; the way of unholiness is broad as the great deep. “And many there be which go in thereat;” yea, and excuse themselves in so doing, “because strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” It follows, “Beware of false prophets;” of those who speak as from God what God hath not spoken; those who show you any other way to life, than that which I have now shown. So that the false prophets here spoken of are those who point out any other way to heaven than this; who teach men to find a wider gate, a broader way, than that described in the foregoing chapters. But it has been abundantly shown that we do not. Therefore (whatever we are beside) we are not false prophets.
Neither are we (as has been frequently and vehemently affirmed) “deceivers of the people.” If we teach “the truth as it is in Jesus,” if “we speak as the oracles of God,” it follows that we do not deceive those that hear, though they should believe whatever we speak. “Let God be true, and every man a liar;” every man that contradicts his truth. But he will “be justified in his saying, and clear when he is judged.” 31. One thing more I infer, that we are not enthusiasts. This accusation has been considered at large; and the main arguments hitherto brought to support it have been weighed in the balance and found wanting:
Particularly this, “that none but enthusiasts suppose either that promise of the Comforter, ( John 14:16,26; 16:13,) or the witness of the Spirit, ( Romans 8:15, 16,) or that unutterable prayer, ( Romans 8:26, 27,) or the ‘unction from the Holy One,’ ( 1 John 2:20, 27,) to belong in common to all Christians.” O my Lord, how deeply have you condemned the generation of God’s children! Whom have you represented as rank, dreaming enthusiasts, as either deluded or designing men? Not only Bishop Pearson, a man hitherto accounted both sound in heart, and of good understanding; but likewise Archbishop Cranmer, Bishop Ridley, Bishop Latimer, Bishop Hooper; and all the venerable compilers of our Liturgy and Homilies; all the members of both the Houses of Convocation, by whom they were revised and approved; yea, King Edward, and all his Lords and Commons together, by whose authority they were established; and, with these modern enthusiasts, Origen, Chrysostom, and Athanasius are comprehended in the same censure!
I grant, a Deist might rank both us and them in the number of religious madmen; nay, ought so to do, on his supposition that the Gospel is but a “cunningly-devised fable.” And on this ground some of them have done so in fact. One of them was asking me, some years since, “What! are you one of the knight-errants? How, I pray, got this Quixotism into your head?
You want nothing; you have a good provision for life; and are in a fair way of preferment. And must you leave all, to fight windmills; to convert savages in America?” I could only reply, “Sir, if the Bible is a lie, I am as very a madman as you can conceive. But if it be true, I am in my senses; I am neither a madman nor enthusiast. ‘For there is no man who hath left father, or mother, or wife, or house, or land, for the gospel’s sake; but he shall receive an hundred fold, in this world, with persecutions, and in the world to come, eternal life.’” Nominal, outside Christians too, men of form, may pass the same judgment. For we give up all our pretensions to what they account happiness, for what they (with the Deists) believe to be a mere dream. We expect, therefore, to pass for enthusiasts with these also: “But wisdom is justified of” all “her children.” 32. I cannot conclude this head without one obvious remark: Suppose we really were enthusiasts; suppose our doctrines were false, and unsupported either by reason, Scripture, or authority; then why hath not some one, “who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you,” attempted at least to show us our fault “in love and meekness of wisdom?” Brethren, “if ye have bitter zeal in your hearts, your wisdom descendeth not from above. The wisdom that is from above, is pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy” or pity. Does this spirit appear in one single tract of all those which have been published against us? Is there one writer that has reproved us in love? Bring it to a single point. “Love hopeth all things.” If you had loved us in any degree, you would have hoped that God would some time give us the knowledge of his truth. But where shall we find even this slender instance of love?
Has not every one who has wrote at all (I do not remember so much as one exception) treated us as incorrigible? Brethren, how is this? Why do ye labor to teach us an evil lesson against yourselves? O may God never suffer others to deal with you as ye have dealt with us!
VI. 1. Before I enter upon the consideration of those objections which have been made to the manner of our preaching, I believe it may be satisfactory to some readers, if I relate how I began to preach in this manner: — I was ordained Deacon in 1725, and Priest in the year following. But it was many years after this before I was convinced of the great truths above recited. During all that time I was utterly ignorant of the nature and condition of justification. Sometimes I confounded it with sanctification; (particularly when I was in Georgia;) at other times I had some confused notion about the forgiveness of sins; but then I took it for granted the time of this must be either the hour of death, or the day of judgment.
I was equally ignorant of the nature of saving faith; apprehending it to mean no more than a “firm assent to all the propositions contained in the Old and New Testaments.” 2. As soon as, by the great blessing of God, I had a clearer view of these things, I began to declare them to others also. “I believed, and therefore I spake.” Wherever I was now desired to preach, salvation by faith was my only theme. My constant subjects were, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” “Him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Savior, to give repentance and remission of sins.” These I explained and enforced with all my might, both in every church where I was asked to preach, and occasionally in the religious societies of London and Westminster; to some or other of which I was continually pressed to go by the stewards or other members of them.
Things were in this posture, when I was told I must preach no more in this, and this, and another church; the reason was usually added without reserve, “Because you preach such doctrines.” So much the more those who could not hear me there flocked together when I was at any of the societies; where I spoke, more or less, though with much inconvenience, to as many as the room I was in would contain. 3. But after a time, finding those rooms could not contain a tenth part of the people that were earnest to hear, I determined to do the same thing in England, which I had often done in a warmer climate; namely, when the house would not contain the congregation, to preach in the open air. This I accordingly did, first at Bristol, where the society rooms were exceeding small, and at Kingswood, where we had no room at all; afterwards, in or near London.
And I cannot say I have ever seen a more awful sight, than, when on Rose-Green, or the top of Hannam-Mount, some thousands of people were calmly joined together in solemn waiting upon God, while They stood, and under open air adored, The God who made both air, earth, heaven, and sky.
And, whether they were listening to his word with attention still as night, or were lifting up their voice in praise as the sound of many waters, many a time have I been constrained to say in my heart, “How dreadful is this place! This” also “is no other than the house of God! This is the gate of heaven!”
Be pleased to observe:
(1.) That I was forbidden, as by a general consent, to preach in any church, (though not by any judicial sentence,) “for preaching such doctrine.” This was the open, avowed cause; there was at that time no other, either real or pretended, except that the people crowded so.
(2.) That I had no desire or design to preach in the open air, till after this prohibition.
(3.) That when I did, as it was no matter of choice, so neither of premeditation. There was no scheme at all previously formed, which was to be supported thereby; nor had I any other end in view than this, — to save as many souls as I could.
(4.) Field-preaching was therefore a sudden expedient, a thing submitted to, rather than chosen; and therefore submitted to, because I thought preaching even thus, better than not preaching at all: First, in regard to my own soul, because, “a dispensation of the gospel being committed to me,” I did not dare “not to preach the gospel:” Secondly, in regard to the souls of others, whom I everywhere saw “seeking death in the error of their life.” 4. But the author of the “Observations,” and of “The Case of the Methodists briefly stated, more particularly in the point of Field-Preaching,” thinks field-preaching worse than not preaching at all, “because it is illegal.”
Your argument, in form, runs thus: — “That preaching, which is contrary to the laws of the land is worse than not preaching at all: “But field-preaching is contrary to the laws of the land: “Therefore, it is worse than not preaching at all.”
The first proposition is not self-evident, nor, indeed, universally true: For the preaching of all the primitive Christians was contrary to the whole tenor of the Roman law; the worship of the devil-gods being established by the strongest laws then in being. Nor is it ever true, but on supposition that the preaching in question is an indifferent thing.
But waving this, I deny the second proposition; I deny that field-preaching is contrary to the laws of our land.
To prove which, you begin thus: “It does not appear that any of the Preachers among the Methodists have qualified themselves, and the places of their assembling, according to the Act of Toleration.”
(1.) That Act grants toleration to those who dissent from the Established Church: But we do not dissent from it: Therefore, we cannot make use of that Act.
(2.) That Act exempts Dissenters from penalties consequent on their breach of preceding laws: But we are not conscious of breaking any law at all: Therefore, we need not make use of it.
In the next section you say, “They have broken through all these provisions, in open defiance of government; and have met, not only in houses, but in the fields, notwithstanding the statute (22 Car. II., c. 1) which forbids this by name.”
(2.) Although we have met in the fields, yet we do not conceive that statute at all affects us; not only because that Act points wholly at Dissenters; whereas we are members of the Established Church; but also because (they are your own words) “it was evidently intended to suppress and prevent sedition;” whereas, no sedition, nor any the least approach thereto, can with any color be laid to our charge.
In your third section you affirm that the Act of Toleration itself cannot secure us in field-preaching from the penalties of former laws. We have no desire it should; as not apprehending ourselves to be condemned by any former law whatever. Nor does what you add, “that the Act of Toleration forbids any assembly of persons dissenting from the Church of England, to meet with the doors locked,” affect us at all; because we do not dissent from it. 5. In “The Case of the Methodists briefly stated,” your first observation is, “The Act of Toleration leaves them liable to the penalties of several statutes made against unlawful assemblies.”
I suppose then these several statutes specify what those unlawful assemblies are; and whether unlawful, as being condemned by previous laws, or made unlawful by those statutes.
And it still remains to be proved, that our assemblies are unlawful, in one or other of these senses.
You next observe, that “the Dissenters of all denominations qualify themselves according to the Act of Toleration; otherwise, they are liable to the penalties of all the laws recited in this Act.”
I answer, as before, all this strikes wide. It relates wholly to “persons dissenting from the Church.” But we are not the men: We do not dissent from the Church: Whoever affirms it, we put him to the proof.
You go on: “One of those laws so recited (viz., 22 Car. II., c. 1) is that which forbids field-preaching by name; and was evidently intended, not only to suppress, but also to prevent, sedition: As the title of the Act declares, and as the preamble expresses it, ‘to provide farther and more speedy remedies against it.’” Was this then, in your own judgment, the evident intention of that Act, viz., to provide remedies against sedition? Does the very title of the Act declare this, and the preamble also express it? With what justice then, with what ingenuity or candor, with what shadow of truth or reason, can any man cite this Act against us; whom you yourself no more suspect of a design to raise sedition, (I appeal to your own conscience in the sight of God,) than of a design to blow up the city of London? 6. Hitherto, therefore, it hath not been made to appear that field-preaching is contrary to any law in being. However, “it is dangerous.” This you strongly insist on. “It may be attended with mischievous consequences. It may give advantages to the enemies of the established government. It is big with mischief.” (Observations, Sect. 1 & 2.)
With what mischief? Why, “evil-minded men, by meeting together in the fields, under pretense of religion, may raise riots and tumults; or, by meeting secretly, may carry on private cabals against the state.” (Case of the Methodists, p. 2.) “And if the Methodists themselves are a harmless and loyal people, it is nothing to the point in hand. For disloyal and seditious persons may use such an opportunity of getting together, in order to execute any private design. Mr. Whitefield says, thirty, fifty, or eighty thousand have attended his preaching at once. Now,
(1.) He cannot know one tenth part of such a congregation:
(2.) All people may come and carry on what designs they will:
(3.) This is a great opportunity put into the hands of seditious persons to raise disturbances. “With what safety to the public these field-preachings may be continued, let the world judge.” (Ibid. pp. 2-4.)
May I speak without offense? I cannot think you are in earnest. You do not mean what you say. Do you believe Mr. Whitefield had eighty thousand hearers at once? No more than you believe he had eighty millions. Is not all this talk of danger mere finesse, thrown in purely ad movendam invidiam? You know governments generally are suspicious; especially in the time of war; and therefore apply, as you suppose, to their weak side; in hopes, if possible, to deliver over these heretics to the secular arm. However, I will answer as if you spoke from your heart: For I am in earnest, if you are not.
(1.) “The Preacher cannot know a tenth part of his congregation.” Let us come to the present state of things. The largest congregations that now attend the preaching of any Methodist, are those (God be merciful to me!) that attend mine. And cannot I know a tenth part of one of these congregations, either at Bristol, Kingswood, Newcastle, or London? As strange as it may seem, I generally know two-thirds of the congregation in every place, even on Sunday evening, and nine in ten of those who attend at most other times.
(2.) “All people may come and carry on what designs they will.” Not so. All field-preaching is now in the open day. And were only ten persons to come to such an assembly with arms, it would soon be inquired, with what design they came. This is therefore,
(3.) No “great opportunity put into the hands of seditious persons to raise disturbances.” And if ever any disturbance has been raised, it was quite of another kind.
The public, then, is entirely safe, if it be in no other danger than arises from field-preaching. 7. There is one other sentence belonging to this head, in the eighth section of the “Observations.” “The religious societies,” you say, “in London and Westminster, for many years past, have received no discouragements, but, on the contrary, have been countenanced and encouraged both by the Bishops and Clergy.” How is this? Have they then “qualified themselves and places of their assembling, according to the Act of Toleration?” Have they “embraced the protection which that Act might give them, in case they complied with the conditions of it?” If not, are they not all “liable to the penalties of the several statutes made before that time against unlawful assemblies?”
How can they escape? Have they “qualified themselves for holding these separate assemblies, according to the tenor of that Act?” Have, then, “the several members thereof taken the oaths to the government?” And are the “doors of the places wherein they meet always open at the time of such meetings?” I presume you know they are not; and that neither “the persons nor places are so qualified as that Act directs.”
How then come “the Bishops and Clergy to countenance and encourage” unlawful assemblies? If it be said, “They meet in a private, inoffensive way;” that is nothing to the point in hand. If those meetings are unlawful in themselves, all their inoffensiveness will not make them lawful. “O, but they behave with modesty and decency.” Very well; but the law! What is that to the law? There can be no solid defence but this: They are not Dissenters from the Church; therefore they cannot use, and they do not need, the Act of Toleration. And their meetings are not seditious; therefore the statute against seditious meetings does not affect them.
The application is obvious. If our meetings are illegal, so are theirs also.
But if this plea be good (as doubtless it is) in the one case, it is good in the other also. 8. You propose another objection to our manner of preaching, in the second part of the “Observations.” The substance of it I will repeat, and answer as briefly as I can: — “They run up and down from place to place, and from county to county;” that is, they preach in several places. This is undoubtedly true. “They draw after them confused multitudes of people;” that is, many come to hear them. This is true also. “But they would do well to remember, God is not the author of confusion or of tumult, but of peace.” I trust we do: Nor is there any confusion or tumult at all in our largest congregations; unless at some rare times, when the sons of Belial mix therewith, on purpose to disturb the peaceable worshippers of God. “But our Church has provided against this preaching up and down, in the ordination of a Priest, by expressly limiting the exercise of the powers then conferred upon him, to the congregation where he shall be lawfully appointed thereunto.”
(1.) Your argument proves too much. If it be allowed just as you proposed it, it proves that no Priest has authority, either to preach or minister the sacraments, in any other than his own congregation.
(2.) Had the powers conferred been so limited when I was ordained Priest, my ordination would have signified just nothing. For I was not appointed to any congregation at all; but was ordained as a member of that “College of Divines,” (so our statutes express it,) “founded to overturn all heresies, and defend the Catholic faith.”
(3.) For many years after I was ordained Priest, this limitation was never heard of. I heard not one syllable of it, by way of objection, to my preaching up and down in Oxford or London, or the parts adjacent; in Gloucestershire, or Worcestershire; in Lancashire, Yorkshire, or Lincolnshire. Nor did the strictest disciplinarian scruple suffering me to exercise those powers wherever I came.
(4.) And in fact, is it not universally allowed, that every Priest, as such, has a power, in virtue of his ordination, either to preach or to administer the sacraments, in any congregation, wherever the Rector or Curate desires his assistance? Does not every one then see through this thin pretense? 9. “The Bishops and Universities indeed have power to grant licenses to Itinerants. But the Church has provided in that case; they are not to preach in any church (Canon 50) till they show their license.”
The Church has well provided in that case. But what has that case to do with the case of common Clergymen? Only so much as to show how grossly this Canon has been abused, at Islington in particular; where the Churchwardens were instructed to hinder, by main force, the Priest whom the Vicar himself had appointed, from preaching, and to quote this Canon; which, as you plainly show, belongs to quite another thing.
In the note you add, “Mr. Wesley being asked, by what authority he preached, replied, ‘By the authority of Jesus Christ conveyed to me by the (now) Archbishop of Canterbury, when he laid his hands upon me and said, Take thou authority to preach the gospel.’ In this reply he thought fit, for a plain reason, to leave out this latter part of the commission; for that would have shown his reader the restraint and limitation under which the exercise of the power is granted.” Nay, I did not print the latter part of the words, for a plainer reason, because I did not speak them. And I did not speak them then, because they did not come into my mind. Though probably, if they had, I should not have spoken them; it being my only concern, to answer the question proposed, in as few words as I could.
But before those words, which you suppose to imply such a restraint as would condemn all the Bishops and Clergy in the nation, were those, spoken without any restraint or limitation at all, which I apprehend to convey an indelible character: “Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee, by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the word of God, and of his holy sacraments, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
You proceed: “In the same Journal he declares, that he looks upon all the world as his parish, and explains his meaning as follows: ‘In whatever part of it I am, I judge it meet, right, and my bounded duty, to declare, unto all that are willing to hear, the glad tidings of salvation. This is the work which I know God hath called me to;’” namely “by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery,” which directs me how to obey that general command, “While we have time, let us do good unto all men.” 10. You object farther, “that the Methodists do not observe the Rubric before the Communion Service; which directs, so many as desire to partake of the holy communion, to signify their names to the Curate the day before.” What Curate desires they should? Whenever any Minister will give but one week’s notice of this, I undertake, all that have any relation to me shall signify their names within the time appointed.
You object also, that they break through the twenty-eighth Canon, which requires, “That if strangers come often to any church from other parishes, they should be remitted to their own churches, there to receive the communion with their neighbors.”
As to your next advice, “To have a greater regard to the rules and orders of the Church,” I cannot; for I now regard them next to the word of God. And as to your last, “To renounce communion with the Church,” I dare not.
Nay, but let them thrust us out. We will not leave the ship; if you cast us out of it, then our Lord will take us up. 11. To the same head may be referred the objection some time urged, by a friendly and candid man, viz., “That it was unlawful to use extemporary prayer, because there was a Canon against it.”
It was not quite clear to me, that the Canon he cited was against extemporary prayer. But supposing it were, my plain answer would be, “That Canon I dare not obey; because the law of man binds only so far as it is consistent with the word of God.”
The same person objected my not obeying the Bishops and Governors of the Church. I answer, I both do and will obey them, in whatsoever I can with a clear conscience. So that there is no just ground for that charge, — that I despise either the rules or the Governors of the Church. I obey them in all things where I do not apprehend there is some particular law of God to the contrary. Even in that case, I show all the deference I can: I endeavor to act as inoffensively as possible; and am ready to submit to any penalty which can by law be inflicted upon me. Would to God every Minister and member of the Church were herein altogether as I am!
VII. 1. I have considered the chief objections that have lately been urged against the doctrines I teach. The main arguments brought against this manner of teaching have been considered also. It remains, to examine the most current objections, concerning the effects of this teaching.
Many affirm, “that it does abundance of hurt; that it has had very bad effects; insomuch that if any good at all has been done, yet it bears no proportion to the evil.”
But, to come to particulars: “First, then, you are disturbers of the public peace.”
What, do we either teach or raise sedition? Do we speak evil of the ruler of our people? Or do we stir them up against any of those that are put in authority under him? Do we directly or indirectly promote faction, mutiny, or rebellion? I have not found any man in his senses yet, that would affirm this. “But it is plain, peace is broke, and disturbances do arise, in consequence of your preaching.” I grant it. But what would you infer? Have you never read the Bible? Have you not read, that the Prince of Peace himself was, in this sense, a disturber of the public peace? “When he came into Jerusalem all the city was moved,” ( Matthew 21:10,) eseisqh , shaken as with an earthquake. And the disturbance rose higher and higher, till “the whole multitude” cried out together, “Away with him, away with him; crucify him, crucify him!” and Pilate gave sentence it should be done. Such another disturber of the public peace was that Stephen, even from the time he began “disputing with the Libertines and Cyrenians,” till the people “stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him.” Such disturbers of the peace were all those ringleaders of the sect of the Nazarenes, (commonly called Apostles,) who, wherever they came, “turned the world upside down:” And above all the rest, that Paul of Tarsus, who occasioned so much disturbance at Damascus, ( Acts 9,) at Antioch of Pisidia, ( <441301> 13,) at Iconium, ( <441401> 14,) at Lystra, ( 14:19,) at Philippi, ( <441601> 16,) at Thessalonica, ( <441701> 17,) and particularly at Ephesus. The consequence of his preaching there was, that “the whole city was filled with confusion.” And “they all ran together with one accord, some crying one thing, some another;” inasmuch “as the greater part of them knew not wherefore they were come together.” 2. And can we expect it to be any otherwise now? Although what we preach is the gospel of peace, yet if you will violently and illegally hinder our preaching, must not this create disturbance? But observe, the disturbance begins on your part. All is peace, till you raise that disturbance. And then you very modestly impute it to us and lay your own riot at our door!
But of all this, our Lord hath told us before: “Think not that I am come to send peace upon earth;” that this will be the immediate effect, wherever my gospel is preached with power. “I am not come to send peace, but a sword;” this (so far as the wisdom of God permits, by whom “the hairs of your head are all numbered”) will be the first consequence of my coming, whenever my word turns sinners “from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God.”
I would wish all you who see this scripture fulfilled, by disturbance following the preaching the gospel, to remember the behavior of that wise magistrate at Ephesus on the like occasion. He did not lay the disturbance to the Preacher’s charge, but “beckoned to the multitude, and said, Ye men of Ephesus, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye have brought these men, who are neither robbers of temples, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess;” not convicted of any such notorious crime, as can at all excuse this lawless violence. “But if Demetrius hath a matter against any, the law is open, and there are deputies,” (or proconsuls, capable of hearing and deciding the cause,) “let them implead one another.
But if ye inquire anything concerning other things, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.” 3. “But you create divisions in private families.” Accidentally, we do. For instance: Suppose an entire family to have the form but not the power of godliness; or to have neither the form nor the power; in either case, they may in some sort agree together. But suppose, when these hear the plain word of God, one or two of them are convinced, “This is the truth; and I have been all this time in the broad way that leadeth to destruction:” These then will begin to mourn after God, while the rest remain as they were.
Will they not therefore of consequence divide, and form themselves into separate parties? Must it not be so, in the very nature of things? And how exactly does this agree with the words of our Lord? “Suppose ye that I am come to send peace upon earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five divided in one house, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother-in-law against the daughter-in-law, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law.” ( Luke 12:51-53.) “And the foes of a man shall be they of his own household.” ( Matthew 10:36.)
Thus it was from the very beginning. For is it to be supposed that a heathen parent would long endure a Christian child, or that a heathen husband would agree with a Christian wife? unless either the believing wife could gain her husband; or the unbelieving husband prevailed on the wife to renounce her way of worshipping God; at least, unless she would obey him in going no more to those societies, or conventicles, (etairiai, ) as they termed the Christian assemblies? 4. Do you think, now, I have an eye to your case? Doubtless I have; for I do not fight as one that beateth the air. “Why have not I a right to hinder my own wife or child from going to a conventicle? And is it not the duty of wives to obey their husbands, and of children to obey their parents?”
Only set the case seventeen hundred years back, and your own conscience gives you the answer. What would St. Paul have said to one whose husband forbade her to follow this way any more? What directions would our Savior have given to him whose father enjoined him not to hear the gospel? His words are extant still: “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me.” ( Matthew 10:37.) Nay more, “If any man cometh to me, and hateth not,” in comparison of me, “his father, and mother, and wife, and children, yea, and his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” ( Luke 14:26.) “O, but this is not a parallel case! For they were Heathens; but I am a Christian.” A Christian! Are you so? Do you understand the word? Do you know what a Christian is? If you are a Christian, you have the mind that was in Christ; and you so walk as he also walked. You are holy as he is holy, both in heart and in all manner of conversation. Have you then that mind that was in Christ? And do you walk as Christ walked? Are you inwardly and outwardly holy? I fear, not even outwardly. No; you live in known sin. Alas!
How then are you a Christian? What, a railer a Christian? a common swearer a Christian? a Sabbath-breaker a Christian? a drunkard or whoremonger a Christian? Thou art a Heathen barefaced; the wrath of God is on thy head, and the curse of God upon thy back. Thy damnation slumbereth not. By reason of such Christians it is that the holy name of Christ is blasphemed. Such as thou they are that cause the very savages in the Indian woods to cry out, “Christian much drunk; Christian beat men; Christian tell lies; devil Christian! Me no Christian.”
And so thou wilt direct thy wife and children in the way of salvation! Woe unto thee, thou devil Christian! Woe unto thee, thou blind leader of the blind! What wilt thou make them? two-fold more the children of hell than thyself? Be ashamed. Blush, if thou canst blush. Hide thy face. Lay thee in the dust. Out of the deep cry unto God, if haply he may hear thy voice.
Instantly smite upon thy breast. Who knoweth but God may take thee out of the belly of hell? 5. But you are not one of these. You fear God, and labor to have a conscience void of offense. And it is from a principle of conscience that you restrain your wife and children from hearing false doctrine. — But how do you know it is false doctrine? Have you heard for yourself? Or, if you have not heard, have you carefully read what we have occasionally answered for ourselves? A man of conscience cannot condemn anyone unheard. This is not common humanity. Nor will he refrain from hearing what may be the truth, for no better reason than fear of his reputation.
Pray observe, I do not say, every man, or any man, is obliged in conscience to hear us: But I do say, every man in England who condemns us is obliged to hear us first. This is only common justice, such as is not denied to a thief or a murderer. Take your choice therefore: Either hear us, or condemn us not; either speak nothing at all, or hear before you speak.
But suppose you have both read and heard more than you like: Did you read and hear fairly? Was not you loaden with prejudice? Did you not read or hear, expecting no good; perhaps, desiring to find fault? If so, what wonder you judge as you do! What a poor mock-trial is this! You had decided the cause in your own breast before you heard one word of the evidence. And still do you talk of acting out of conscience? yea, a conscience void of offense?
We will put the case farther yet. Suppose your censure was just, and this was actually false doctrine. Still every one must give an account of himself to God; and you cannot force the conscience of any one. You cannot compel another to see as you see; you ought not to attempt it. Reason and persuasion are the only weapons you ought to use, even toward your own wife and children. Nay, and it is impossible to starve them into conviction, or to beat even truth into their head. You may destroy them in this way, but cannot convert them. Remember what our own poet has said: — By force beasts act, and are by force restrain’d; The human mind by gentle means is gain’d Thou canst not take what I refuse to yield; Nor reap the harvest, though thou spoil’st the field. 6. Every reasonable man is convinced of this. And perhaps you do not concern yourself so much about the doctrine, but the mischief that is done: “How many poor families are starved, ruined, brought to beggary!” By what? Not by contributing a penny a week, (the usual contribution in our societies,) and letting that alone when they please, when there is any shadow of reason to suppose they cannot afford it. You will not say any are brought to beggary by this. Not by gifts to me; for I receive none; save (sometimes) the food I eat. And public collections are nothing to me. That it may evidently appear they are not, when any such collection is made, to clothe the poor, or for any other determinate purpose, the money is both received and expended before many witnesses, without ever going through my hands at all. And then, likewise, all possible regard is had to the circumstances of those who contribute anything. And they are told over and over, “If there be a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath.”
But where are all these families that have been brought to beggary? How is it that none of them is forthcoming? Are they all out of town? Then, indeed, I am in no danger of clearing myself from their indictment. It is the easiest thing of a thousand, for one at Newcastle to say that I have beggared him and all his kindred. If one of the long-bearded men on Tyne-Bridge were to say so just now, I could not readily confute him. But why will you not bring a few of these to tell me so to my face? I have not found one that would do this yet. They pray you would have them excused.
I remember a man coming to me with a doleful countenance, putting himself into many lamentable postures, gaping as wide as he could, and pointing to his mouth, as though he would say he could not speak. I inquired of his companion, what was the matter; and was informed, he had fallen into the hands of the Turks, who had used him in a barbarous manner, and cut out his tongue by the roots. I believed him. But when the man had had a cheerful cup, he could find his tongue as well as another. I reflected, How is it that I could so readily believe that tale? The answer was easy: “Because it was told of a Turk.” My friend, take knowledge of your own case. If you had not first took me for a Turk, or something equally bad, you could not so readily have believed that tale. 7. “But can it be, that there is no ground at all for a report which is in every one’s mouth?” I will simply tell you all the ground which I can conceive. I believe many of those who attend on my ministry have less of this world’s goods than they had before, or, at least, might have had if they did not attend it. This fact I allow; and it may be easily accounted for in one or other of the following ways: — First. I frequently preach on such texts as these: “Having food and raiment, let us be content therewith.” “They who desire to be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where the rust and moth doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal.”
Now, should any of those who are laboring by all possible means “to lay up treasure upon earth,” feel these words, they would not “enlarge their desires as hell,” but be “content with such things as they had.” They then probably might not heap up so much for their heirs as otherwise they would have done. These would therefore have less than if they had not heard me; because they would grasp at less.
Secondly. Wherever the gospel takes effect, “the foes of a man will be those of his own household.” By this means then some who hear and receive it with joy will be poorer than they were before. Their domestic foes will, in many cases, hinder, embroil, and disturb the course of their affairs. And their relations, who assisted them before, or promised at least so to do, will probably withdraw or deny that assistance, unless they will be advised by them: Perhaps their nearest relations; it being no new thing for parents to disown their children, if “after the way which they call heresy, these worship the God of their fathers.” Hence, therefore, some have less of this world’s goods than they had in times past, either because they earn less, or because they receive less from them on whom they depend.
Thirdly. It is written, that “those who received not the mark of the beast, either on their foreheads, or in their right hands,” either openly or secretly, were not permitted “to buy or sell any more.” Now, whatever the mystery contained herein may be, I apprehend the plain mark of the beast is wickedness; inward and outward unholiness; whatever is secretly or openly contrary to justice, mercy, or truth. And certain it is, the time is well-nigh come when those who have not this mark can neither buy nor sell, can scarce follow any profession so as to gain a subsistence thereby.
Therefore, many of those who attend on my ministry are, by this means, poorer than before. They will not receive the mark of the beast, either on their forehead or in their hand; or if they had received it before, they rid themselves of it as soon as possible. Some cannot follow their former way of life at all; (as pawnbrokers, smugglers, buyers or sellers of uncustomed goods;) — others cannot follow it as they did before; for they cannot oppress, cheat, or defraud their neighbor; they cannot lie, or say what they do not mean; they must now speak the truth from their heart. On all these accounts, they have less of this world’s goods; because they gain less than they did before.
Fourthly. “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution;” if in no other way, yet at least in this, that “men will by revilings persecute them, and say all manner of evil against them falsely, for his sake.” One unavoidable effect of this will be, that men whose subsistence depends on their daily labor will be often in want, for few will care to employ those of so bad a character; and even those who did employ them before, perhaps for many years, will employ them no more; so that hereby some may indeed be brought to beggary. 8. What, does this touch you? Are you one of those “who will have nothing to do with those scandalous wretches?” Perhaps you will say, “And who can blame me for it? May I not employ whom I please?” We will weigh this: — You employed A. B. for several years. By your own account, he was an honest, diligent man. You had no objection to him but his following “this way.” For this reason you turn him off. In a short time, having spent his little all, and having no supply, he wants bread. So does his family too, as well as himself. Before he can get into other business to procure it, through want of convenient food to eat, and raiment to put on, he sickens and dies. This is not an imaginary scene. I have known the case, though too late to remedy it. “And what then?” What then! you are a murderer! “O earth, cover not thou his blood!” No; it doth not. “The cry thereof hath entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth.” And God requireth it at your hands; and will require it in an hour when you think not. For you have as effectually murdered that man, as if you had stabbed him to the heart.
It is not I then who ruin and starve that family: It is you; you who call yourself a Protestant! you who cry out against the persecuting spirit of the Papists! Ye fools, and blind! What are ye better than they? Why, Edmund Bonner would have starved the heretics in prison; whereas you starve them in their own houses!
And all this time you talk of liberty of conscience! Yes, liberty for such a conscience as your own! a conscience past feeling; (for sure it had some once;) a conscience “seared with a hot iron!” Liberty to serve the devil, according to your poor, hardened conscience, you allow; but not liberty to serve God!
Nay, and what marvel? Whosoever thou art that readest this, and feelest in thy heart a real desire to serve God, I warn thee, expect no liberty for thy conscience from him that hath no conscience at all. All ungodly, unthankful, unholy men; all villains, of whatever denomination, will have liberty indeed all the world over, as long as their master is “God of this world:” But expect not liberty to worship God in spirit and in truth, to practice pure and undefiled religion, (unless the Lord should work a new thing in the earth,) from any but those who themselves love and serve God. 9. “However, it is plain you make men idle: And this tends to beggar their families.” This objection having been continually urged for some years, I will trace it from the foundation.
Two or three years after my return from America, one Captain Robert Williams, of Bristol, made affidavit before the then Mayor of the city, that “it was a common report in Georgia, Mr. Wesley took people off from their work and made them idle by preaching so much.”
The fact stood thus: At my first coming to Savannah, the generality of the people rose at seven or eight in the morning. And that part of them, who were accustomed to work, usually worked till six in the evening. A few of them sometimes worked till seven; which is the time of sunset there at Midsummer.
I immediately began reading Prayers, and expounding the Second Lesson, both in the morning and evening. The Morning Service began at five, and ended at or before six: The Evening Service began at seven.
Now, supposing all the grown persons in the town had been present every morning and evening, would this have made them idle? Would they hereby have had less, or considerably more, time for working? 10. The same rule I follow now, both at London, Bristol, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne; concluding the service at every place, winter and summer, before six in the morning; and not ordinarily beginning to preach till near seven in the evening.
Some few are indeed accustomed to work longer. These I advise not to come on week-days; and it is apparent, that they take this advice, unless on some rare and extraordinary occasion.
But I hope none of you who turn them out of their employment have the confidence to talk of my making them idle! Do you (as the homely phrase is) cry who — first? I admire your cunning, but not your modesty.
So far am I from either causing or encouraging idleness, that an idle person, known to be such, is not suffered to remain in any of our societies; we drive him out, as we would a thief or a murderer. “To show all possible diligence,” (as well as frugality,) is one of our standing rules; and one, concerning the observance of which we continually make the strictest inquiry. 11. “But you drive them out of their senses. You make them mad.” Nay, then they are idle with a vengeance. This objection, therefore, being of the utmost importance, deserves our deepest consideration.
And, First, I grant, it is my earnest desire to drive all the world into what you probably call madness; (I mean, inward religion;) to make them just as mad as Paul when he was so accounted by Festus.
The counting all things on earth but dung and dross, so we may win Christ; the trampling under foot all the pleasures of the world; the seeking no treasure but in heaven; the having no desire of the praise of men, a good character, a fair reputation; the being exceeding glad when men revile us, and persecute us, and say all manner of evil against us falsely; the giving God thanks, when our father and mother forsake us, when we have neither food to eat, nor raiment to put on, nor a friend but what shoots out bitter words, nor a place where to lay our head: This is utter distraction in your account; but in God’s it is sober, rational religion; the genuine fruit, not of a distempered brain, not of a sickly imagination, but of the power of God in the heart, of victorious love, “and of a sound mind.” 12. I grant, Secondly, it is my endeavor to drive all I can, into what you may term another species of madness, which is usually preparatory to this, and which I term repentance or conviction.
I cannot describe this better than a writer of our own has done: I will therefore transcribe his words: — “When men feel in themselves the heavy burden of sin, see damnation to be the reward of it, and behold with the eye of their mind the horror of hell; they tremble, they quake, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, and cannot but accuse themselves, and open their grief unto Almighty God, and call unto him for mercy. This being done seriously, their mind is so occupied, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that all desire of meat and drink is laid apart, and loathsomeness (or loathing) of all worldly things and pleasure cometh in place. So that nothing then liketh them, more than to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behavior of body to show themselves weary of life.”
Now, what, if your wife, or daughter, or acquaintance, after hearing one of these field-preachers, should come and tell you, that they saw damnation before them, and beholden with the eye of their mind the horror of hell?
What, if they should “tremble and quake,” and be so taken up “partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, as to weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behavior to show themselves weary of life;” would you scruple to say, that; they were stark mad; that these fellows had driven them out of their senses; and that whatever writer it was that talked at this rate, he was fitter for Bedlam than any other place?
You have overshot yourself now to some purpose. These are the very words of our own Church. You may read them, if you are so inclined, in the first part of the “Homily on Fasting.” And consequently, what you have peremptorily determined to be mere lunacy and distraction, is that “repentance unto life,” which, in the judgment both of the Church and of St. Paul, is “never to be repented of.” 13. I grant, Thirdly, that extraordinary circumstances have attended this conviction in some instances. A particular account of these I have frequently given. While the word of God was preached, some persons have dropped down as dead; some have been, as it were, in strong convulsions; some roared aloud, though not with an articulate voice; and others spoke the anguish of their souls.
This, I suppose, you believe to be perfect madness. But it is easily accounted for, either on principles of reason or Scripture.
First. On principles of reason. For, how easy is it to suppose, that a strong, lively, and sudden apprehension of the heinousness of sin, the wrath of God, and the bitter pains of eternal death, should affect the body as well as the soul, during the present laws of vital union, should interrupt or disturb the ordinary circulations, and put nature out of its course! Yea, we may question, whether, while this union subsists, it be possible for the mind to be affected, in so violent a degree, without some or other of those bodily symptoms following.
It is likewise easy to account for these things, on principles of Scripture.
For when we take a view of them in this light, we are to add, to the consideration of natural causes, the agency of those spirits who still excel in strength, and, as far as they have leave from God, will not fail to torment whom they cannot destroy; to tear those that are coming to Christ. It is also remarkable, that there is plain Scripture precedent of every symptom which has lately appeared. So that we cannot allow even the conviction attended with these to be madness, without giving up both reason and Scripture. 14. I grant, Fourthly, that touches of extravagance, bordering on madness, may sometimes attend severe conviction. And this also is easy to be accounted for, by the present laws of the animal economy. For we know, fear or grief, from a temporal cause, may occasion a fever, and thereby a delirium.
It is not strange, then, that some, while under strong impressions of grief or fear, from a sense of the wrath of God, should for a season forget almost all things else, and scarce be able to answer a common question; that some should fancy they see the flames of hell, or the devil and his angels, around them; or that others, for a space, should be “afraid,” like Cain, “whosoever meeteth me will slay me.” All these, and whatever less common effects may sometimes accompany this conviction, are easily known from the natural distemper of madness, were it only by this one circumstance, — that whenever the person convinced tastes the pardoning love of God, they all vanish away in a moment.
Lastly. I have seen one instance (I pray God I may see no more such!) of real, lasting madness.
Two or three years since, I took one with me to Bristol, who was under deep convictions; but of as sound an understanding in all respects, as ever he had been in his life. I went a short journey, and, when I came to Bristol again, found him really distracted. I inquired particularly, at what time and place, and in what manner, this disorder began. And I believe there are at least threescore witnesses alive and ready to testify what follows: When I went from Bristol, he contracted an acquaintance with some persons, who were not of the same judgment with me. He was soon prejudiced against me: Quickly after, when our society were met together in Kingswood house, he began a vehement invective both against my person and doctrines. In the midst of this, he was struck raving mad. And so he continued till his friends put him into Bedlam; and probably laid his madness too to my charge. 15. I fear there may also be some instances of real madness, proceeding from a different cause.
Suppose, for instance, a person hearing me, is strongly convinced that a liar cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. He comes home, and relates this to his parents or friends, and appears to be very uneasy. These good Christians are disturbed at this, and afraid he is running mad too. They are resolved, he shall never hear any of those fellows more; and keep to it, in spite of all his intreaties. They will not suffer him, when at home, to be alone, for fear he should read or pray. And perhaps in a while they will constrain him, at least by repeated importunities, to do again the very thing for which he was convinced the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.
What is the event of this? Sometimes the Spirit of God is quenched, and departs from him. Now you have carried the point. The man is easy as ever, and sins on without any remorse. But in other instances, where those convictions sink deep, and the arrows of the Almighty stick fast in the soul, you will drive the person into real, settled madness, before you can quench the Spirit of God. I am afraid there have been several instances of this. You have forced the man’s conscience, till he is stark mad. But then, pray do not impute that madness to me. Had you left him to my direction, or rather to the direction of the Spirit of God, he would have been filled with love and a sound mind. But you have taken the matter out of God’s hand; and now you have brought it to a fair conclusion! 16. How frequent this case may be, I know not. But doubtless most of those who make this objection, of our driving men mad, have never met with such an instance in their lives. The common cry is occasioned, either by those who are convinced of sin, or those who are inwardly converted to God; mere madness both, (as was observed before,) to those who are without God in the world. Yet I do not deny, but you may have seen one in Bedlam, who said he had followed me. But observe, a madman’s saying this, is no proof of the fact; nay, and if he really had, it should be farther considered, that his being in Bedlam is no sure proof of his being mad.
Witness the well-known case of Mr. Periam; and I doubt more such are to be found. Yea, it is well if some have not been sent thither, for no other reason, but because they followed me; their kind relations either concluding that they must be distracted, before they could do this; or, perhaps, hoping that Bedlam would make them mad, if it did not find them so. 17. And it must be owned, a confinement of such a sort is as fit to cause as to cure distraction: For what scene of distress is to be compared to it? — To be separated at once from all who are near and dear to you; to be cut off from all reasonable conversation; to be secluded from all business, from all reading, from every innocent entertainment of the mind, which is left to prey wholly upon itself, and day and night to pore over your misfortunes; to be shut up day by day in a gloomy cell, with only the walls to employ your heavy eyes, in the midst either of melancholy silence, or horrid cries, groans and laughter intermixed; to be forced by the main strength of those Who laugh at human nature and compassion, to take drenches of nauseous, perhaps torturing, medicines, which you know you have no need of now, but know not how soon you may, possibly by the operation of these very drugs on a weak and tender constitution: Here is distress! It is an astonishing thing, a signal proof of the power of God, if any creature who has his senses when the confinement begins, does not lose them before it is at an end!
How must it heighten the distress, if such a poor wretch, being deeply convinced of sin, and growing worse and worse, (as he probably will, seeing there is no medicine here for his sickness, no such Physician as his case requires,) be soon placed among the incurables! Can imagination itself paint such a hell upon earth? where even “hope never comes, that comes to all!” — For, what remedy? If a man of sense and humanity should happen to visit that house of woe, would he give the hearing to a madman’s tale? Or if he did, would he credit it? “Do we not know,” might he say, “how well any of these will talk in their lucid intervals?” So that a thousand to one he would concern himself no more about it, but leave the weary to wait for rest in the grave! 18. I have now answered most of the current objections, particularly such as have appeared of weight to religious or reasonable men. I have endeavored to show,
(2.) That though I teach them, not as I would, but as I can, yet it is in a manner not contrary to law: And,
(3.) That the effects of thus preaching the gospel have not been such as was weakly or wickedly reported; those reports being mere artifices of the devil to hinder the work of God. Whosoever therefore ye are, who look for God to “revive his work in the midst of the years,” cry aloud, that he may finish it nevertheless, may “cut it short in righteousness.”
Cry to Messiah the Prince, that he may soon end the transgression, that he may lift up his standard upon earth, sending by whom he will send, and working his own work, when he pleaseth, and as he pleaseth, till “all the kindreds of the people worship before him,” and the earth “be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord!” December 22, 1744.
AN ACT OF DEVOTION.
BEHOLD the servant of the Lord!
I wait thy guiding eye to feel, To hear and keep thine every word, To prove and do thy perfect will:
Joyful from all my works to cease, Glad to fulfil all righteousness.
Me if thy grace vouchsafe to use, Meanest of all thy creatures me, The deed, the time, the manner choose; Let all my fruit be found of thee; Let all my works in thee be wrought, By thee to full perfection brought.
Here then to thee thine own I leave, Mould as thou wilt the passive clay; But let me all thy stamp receive, But let me all thy words obey; Serve with a single heart and eye, And to thy glory live and die.