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intended to commute for inward holiness) but by faith in Christ (by which they as constantly meant, by becoming Christians both in principle and practice.) In like manner, at the time of the reformation, when Popery had corrupted Christianity, and made a religion most of all other calculated for promoting moral goodness, really to subvert it, by substituting in the place of true holiness, certain trifling tricks, such as endowments, penances, and pilgrimages, to which they gave the emphatical name of good works, as if nothing else were good in comparison of them; and to which they ascribed such merit, that a man night thereby not only merit heaven for himself, but have too such a surplusage of merit to spare, as might be laid up in the storebouse of the Church, to be sold out by the Pope to those who had no merit of their own ;when these foolish and wicked doctrines had made men look out for other means of recommending themselves to God, than by a faithful and holy life ; our reformers attacked those tenets with a becoming warmth, teaching that such fopperies were far from being good works, and that our best works were far from meriting heaven ; that we were not to be justified by such outward trumperies, or by believing in saints or angels, but by faith alone in Jesus Christ. If in the heat of the argument, some crude things bad been vented, it would have been no more than what usually happens in strenuous oppositions: the main of their argument was certainly pious and right. But the strong phrases which the reformers made use of, to guard against the Popish doctrine of justification by good works, gave occasion to Antinomians to run into a worse doctrine, if possible, than the former, viz., That of being justified and saved without good works. Now, sir, supposing the ancient and modern Reformed Church of England always to have maintained one and the same uniform doctrine, still every sensible man must allow, that the phraseology which was proper to express this doctrine at the one time, would be highly improper at the other; and the modern Church is as much to be commended, for avoiding all phrases that might countenance Antinomianism, as the ancient Church was for avoiding those which favoured Popery; and, consequently, that if the dispute between you and your adversaries be reduced to matter of phraseology, they have greatly the advantage of you in point of propriety. But as things of this nature are still liable to much altercation, I am for reducing this controversy to a much narrower compass, namely, to the third thing I at first proposed to object to, even one plain matter of fact.
3. If in fact, sir, you can work such signs and wonders as were worked by the apostles--if the Holy Ghost bears witness to your doctrines, as he did to theirs, by divers miracles, and visible supernatural gifts--if, I say, you can thus do the work of an apostle, you are, in my account, (notwithstanding what I might otherwise object to your doctrines or phrases,) entitled to the implicit faith which is due to one of that order. You relate of yourself many strange and wonderful things ; but I will rest the whole affair upon this one fact,-your casting out devils. Now, sir, if one or two persons who appeared to be lunatic, and were actually sore vext, and torn by the devil, upon your praying God to bruise Satan under their feet, were instantly dispossessed of that evil spirit, vehemently crying out, “ He is gone, he is gone,” and straightway filled with the Spirit of love, and a sound mind. If they were so divinely enlightened, and made so strong in the Lord, as to acq ire at once a contempt of all worldly things, and a temper quite unprovokable ; if, I say, you prove this to be the fact, to the satisfaction of wise and good men, then I believe no wise and good man will oppose you any longer. Let me therefore rest it upon your conscience, either to prove this matter of fact, or to retract it. If, upon mature examination, it shall appear that designing people imposed upon you, or that hysterical women imposed upon themselves--acknowledge fairly that your zeal outran your wisdom--that your colourings are sometimes too strong, and your expressions too rapturous and glowing
Having now freely told you what I take to be wrong in you, I shall readily and thankfully attend to whatever you shall point out as amiss in me. I am desirous to retract and amend whatever is wrong. To your general design of promoting true religion I am a hearty friend; nay, to your particular scheme and singularities I am no enemy: so far from it, that I should rejoice greatly to become your convert, and instead of living as I now do in hopes of salvation, I should be much better pleased to obtain certainty of it, by the infallible testimony of the Holy Ghost. If I come not fully into your scheme, it is not for want of good will, but for want of evidence and conviction that it is true. I pray God to grant me all needful illumination : and I pray you to tell me what is still lacking on my part. P. S.--As I live at a considerable distance from London, I have no convenience of
a personal conference with you ; but a letter will find me directed to "JOAN SMITH, at Mr. Richard Mead's at the Golden Cross, in Cheapside."
For Mr. John Smith.
SIR_1. I was determined, from the time I received yours, to answer it as soon as I should have opportunity. But it was the longer delayed, because I could not persuade myself to write at all, till I had leisure to write fully. And this I hope to do now, though I know you not, no, not so much as your name. But I take it for granted you are a person that fears God, and that speaks the real sentiments of his heart. And on this supposition, I shall speak without any suspicion or reserve.
2. I am exceedingly obliged by the pains you have taken to point out to me what you think to be mistakes. It is a truly Christian attempt, an act of brotherly love, which I pray God to repay sevenfold into your bosom. Methinks I can scarce look upon such a person, on one who is “a contender for truth and not for victory, whatever opinion he may entertain of me, as any adversary at all. For what is friend, ship, it' I am to account him my enemy who endeavours to open my eyes, or to amend my heart?
1. 3. You will give me leave (writing as a friend rather than a disputant) to invert the order of your objections, and to begin with the third, because I conceive it may be answered in fewest words. The substance of it is this: “If in fact you can work such signs and wonders as were wrought by the apostles, then you are entitled (notwithstanding what I might otherwise object) to the implicit faith due to one of that order."-A few lines after you cite a case related in the Third Journal, p. 88, and add, "If you prove this to be the fact, to the satisfaction of wise and good men, then I believe no wise and good man will oppose you any longer. Let me therefore rest it upon your conscience, either to prove this matter of fact, or to retract it. If upon mature examination it shall appear that designing people imposed upon you, or that hysterical women were imposed upon themselves, acknowledge your zeal outran your wisdom."
4. Surely I would. But what, if on such examination it shall appear that there was no imposition of either kind, (to be satisfied of which I waited three years before I told the story.) What, if it appear, by the only method which I can conceive, the deposition of three or four eye and ear witnesses, that the matter of fact was just as it is there related, so far as men can judge from their eyes and ears ? will it follow that I am entitled to demand the implicit faith which was due to an apostle ? By no means. Nay, I know not that implicit faith was due to any or all of the apostles put together. They were to prove their assertions by the written word. You and I are to do the same. Without such proof I ought no more to have believed St. Peter himself, than St. Peter's (pretended) successor.
5. I conceive therefore this whole demand, common as it is, of proving our doctrine by miracles, proceeds from a double mistake, 1. A supposition that what we preach is not provable from Seripture: (for if it be, what need we farther witnesses ? to the law and to the testimony !) 2. An imagination, that a doctrine not provable by Scripture, might nevertheless be proved by miracles. I believe not. I receive the written word as the whole and sole rule of my faith.
II. 6. Perhaps what you object to my phraseology, may be likewise answered in few words. I thoroughly agree that it is best to use the most common words, and that in the most obvious sense :” and have been diligently labouring after this very thing for little less than twenty years. I am not conscious of using any uncommon word, or any word in an uncommon sense ; but I cannot call those uncommon words which are the constant language of Holy Writ. These I purposely use; desiring always to express Scripture sense in Scripture phrase. And this I apprehend myself to do when I speak of salvation as a present thing. How often does our Lord himself do thus? How often his apostles ? St. Paul particularly. Insomuch that I doubt whether we can find six texts in the New Testament, perhaps not three, where it is otherwise taken.
7. The term faith I likewise use in the Scriptural sense, meaning thereby the evidence of things not seen. And, that it is Scriptural, appears to me a sufficient defence of any way of speaking whatever. For however the propriety of those expressions may vary, which occur in the writings of men, I cannot but think those
which are found in the Book of God will be equally proper in all ages. But let us look back as you desire, to the age of the apostles. And if it appear that the state of religion now, is (according to your own represeаtation of it) the same in substance as it was then, it will follow that the same expressions are just as proper now as they were in the apostolic age.
8. “At the time of the first preaching of the gospel (as you justly observe) both Jews and Gentiles were very negligent of internal holiness, but laid great stress on external rites, and certain actions, which if they perforined according to the due forms of their respective religions, they doubted not but those works would render them acceptable to God. The apostles therefore thought they could not express themselves too warmly against so wicked a persuasion, and often declare that we cannot be made righteous by works : (i. e. not by such outward works as were intended to commute for inward holiness,) but by faith in Christ, i. e. by becoming Christians both in principle and practice.”
9. I have often thought the same thing, that the apostles used the expression, salvation by faith (importing inward holiness by the knowledge of God) in direct opposition to the then common persuasion, of salvation by works, i e. going to heaven by outward works, without any inward holiness at all.
10. And is not this persuasion as common now as it was in the time of the apostles? We must needs go out of the world, or we cannot doubt it. Does not every one of our churches (to speak a sad truth) afford us abundant instances of those who are as negligent of internal boliness, as either the Jews or ancient Gentiles were ? And do not these at this day lay so great a stress on certain external rites, that if they perform them according to the due forms of their respective communities, they doubt not but those works will render them acceptable to God? You and I therefore cannot express ourselves too warmly against so wicked a persuasion; nor can we express ourselves against it in more proper terms than those the apostles used to that
It cannot be denied that this apostolical language is also the language of our own Church. But I waive this. What is Scriptural in any church I hold fast: for the rest, I let it go.
III. 11. But the main point remains. You think the doctrines I hold are not founded on holy writ. Before we inquire into this, I would just touch on some parts of that abstract of them which you have given.
“Faith (instead of being a rational assent and moral virtue, for the attainment of which men ought to yield the utmost attention and industry) is altogether supernatural, and the immediate gift of God."-I believe, 1. That a rational assent to the truth of the Bible is one ingredient of Christian faith :--2. That Christian faith is a moral virtue in that sense wherein bope and charity are :-3. That men ought to yield the utmost attention and industry for the attainment of it ;--and yet, 4. That this, as every Christian grace is properly supernatural, is an immediate gift of God, which he commonly gives in the use of such means as he hath ordained.
I believe it is generally given in an instant; but not arbitrarily, in your sense of the word ; not without any regard to the fitness (I should say the previous qualifications) of the recipient.
12. “When a man is pardoned, it is immediately notified to him by the Holy Ghost, and that (not by his imperceptibly working a godly assurance, but) by such attestation as is easily discernible from reason or fancy."
I do not deny that God imperceptibly works in some a gradually increasing assurance of his love. But I am equally certain he works in others a full assurance thereof in one moment. And I suppose, however this godly assurance be wrought, it is easily discernible from bare reason or faucy.
“Upon this infallible notification he is saved, is become perfect, so that he cannot commit sin."
I do not say this notification is infallible in that sense, that none believe they have it who indeed have it not: neither do I say that a man is perfect in love the moment he is born of God by faith. But even then I believe if he keepeth himself, he doth pot commit (outward) sin.
13. This first sowing of the first seed of faith, you cannot conceive to be other than instantaneous, (ordinarily,) whether you consider experience, or the word of God, or the very nature of the thing. Whereas all these appear to me to be against you. To begin with experience. I believe myself to have as steady a faith in a pardoning God as you can have. And yet I do not remember the exact day when it was first given."
Perhaps not. Yours may be another of those exempt cases which were allowed before.
But, “the experience” you say, “of all the pious persons you are acquainted with, is the very same with yours.”--You will not be displeased with my speaking freely. How many truly pious persons are you so intimately acquainted with, as to be able to interrogate them on the subject? With twenty ? With ten? If so, you are far happier than I was for many years at Oxford. You will naturally ask, With how many truly pious persons am I acquainted, on the other hand ? I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not: I am acquainted with more than 1200 or 1300 persons, whom I believe to be truly pious, and not on slight grounds, and who have severally testified to me with their own mouths, that they do know the day when the love of God was first shed abroad in their hearts, and when his Spirit first witnessed with their spirits, that they were the children of God. Now, if you are determined to think all these liars or fools, this is no evidence to you : but to me it is strong evidence, who have for some years known the men and their communication.
14. As to the word of God, you well observe,“ We are not to frame doctrines by the sound of particular texts, but the general tenour of Scripture, soberly studied and consistently interpreted.” Toucbing the instances you give, I would just remark: 1. To have sin, is one thing ; to commit sin, is another.-2. In one particular text it is said, “ Ye are saved by hope ;' perhaps in one more, (though I remember it not,) • Ye are saved by repentance,' or 'holiness. But the general tenour of Scripture, consistently interpreted, declares, “We are saved by faith.'—3. Will either the general tenour of Scripture, or your own conscience, allow you to say that faith is the gift of God in no other or higher sense than riches are ?—4. I entirely agree with you, that the children of light walk by the joint light of reason, Scripture, and the Holy Ghost.
“But the word of God appears to you to be manifestly against such an instantaneous giving of faith; because it speaks of growth in grace and faith as owing to the alow methods of instruction.”—So do I. But that is not the question. We are speaking not of the progress, but of the first rise of faith. “ It directs the gentle instilling of faith, by long labour and pious industry.”—Not the first instilling; and we speak not now of the continuance or increase of it. " It compares even God's part of the work to the slow produce of vegetables, that while one plants and another waters, it is God all the while who goes on giving the increase."-Very true. But the seed must first be sown before it can increase at all. Therefore all the texts which relate to the subsequent increase, are quite wide of the present question.
Perbaps your thinking “ the nature of the thing to be so clearly against me,” may arise from your not clearly apprehending it. That you do not, I gather from your own words: “It is the nature of faith to be a full and practical assent to truth." Surely no. This definition does in no wise express the nature of Christian faith. Christian, saving faith, is a divine conviction of invisible things; a supernatural conviction of the things of God, with a filial confidence in his love. Now a man may have a full assent to the truth of the Bible, (probably attained by the slow steps you mention,) yea, an assent which has some influence on his practice, and yet not have one grain of this faith
16. I should be glad to know to which writings in particular of the last age you would refer me for a thorough discussion of the Calvinistical points. I want to have those points fully settled; having seen so little yet wrote on the most important of them, with such clearness and strength as one would desire.
17. I think your following objections do not properly come under any of the preceding heads: "Your doctrine of inomentaneous illapse, &c, is represented by your adversaries as singular and unscriptural; and that these singularities are your most beloved opinions and favourite tenets, inore insisted upon by you than the general and uncontroverted truths of Christianity : this is their charge."
."- And so, I doubt, it will be to the end of the world :-for, in spite of all I can say, they will represent one circumstance of my doctrine (so called) as the main substance of it. It nothing avails, that I declare again and again, “ Love is the fulfilling of the law.” I believe this love is given in a moment. But about this I contend not. Have this love, and it is enough. For this I will contend till my spirit returns to God. Whether I am singular or no, in thinking this love is instantaneously given, this is not my most beloved opinion. You greatly wrong me when you advance that charge. Nay, I love (strictly speaking) no opinion at all. I trample upon opinion, be it right or wrong. I want, I value, I preach, the love of God and man. These are my favourite tenets (if you will have the word) more insisted on by me, ten times over, both in preaching and writing, than any or all other subjects that ever were in the world.
18. You will observe, I do not say (and who is there that can?) that I have no siugular opinion at all. But this I say, that in my general tenour of preaching, I teach nothing (as the substance of religion) more singular than the love of God and man: and it was for preaching this very doctrine (before I preached or knew salva tion by faith) that several of the clergy forbade me their pulpits.
“But if it be notorious, that you are frequently insisting on controverted opin. ions.” If it be, even this will not prove the charge, viz." That those are my most beloved opinions, and more insisted upon by me than the uncontroverted truths of Christianity.”
“No singularities,” is not my answer. But that no singularities are my most be. loved opinions ; that no singularities are more, or near so much insisted on by me, as the general uncontroverted truths of Christianity.
19. - Another objection (you say) I have to make to your manner of treating your antagonists. You seem to think you sufficiently answer your adversary, if you put together a number of naked scriptures that sound in your favour. But remember, the question between you and them is, not whether such words are Scripture, but whether they are to be so interpreted.”
You surprise me. I take your word; else I should never have imagined you had read over the latter Appeal : so great a part of which is employed in this very thing, in fighting my ground, inch by inch ; in proving, not that such words are Scripture, but that they must be interpreted in the manner there set down.
20. One point more remains, which you express in these words : “When your adversaries tax you with differing from the Church, they cannot be supposed to charge you with differing from the Church as it was a little after the reformation, but as it is at this day. And when yoù profess great deference and veneration for the Church of England, you cannot be supposed to profess it for the Church and its pastors in the year 1545, and not rather in the year 1745. If then by the Church of England be meant (as ought to be meant) the present Church, it will be no hard matter to show that your doctrines differ widely from the doctrines of the Church.”
Well, how blind was I! I always supposed, till the very hour I read these words, that when I was charged with differing from the Church, I was charged with differing from the articles, or homilies. And for the compilers of these, I can sincerely profess great deference and veneration. But I cannot honestly profess any veneration at all for those pastors of the present age, who solemnly subscribed to those articles and homilies, which they do not believe in their hearts. Nay, I think, unless I differ from these men, (be they bishops, priests, or deacons,) just as widely as they do from those articles and homilies, I am no true Church of England man.
I Agreeably to those ancient records, by Christian or justifying faith I always meant, faith preceded by repentance, and accompanied or followed by obedience. So I always preached; so I spoke and wrote. But my warm adversaries, from the very beginning, stopped their ears, cried out, a heretic, a heretic,” and so ran upon me at
21. But I let them alone : you are the person I want, and whom I have been seeking for many years. You have understanding to discern, and mildness to repeat (what would otherwise be) unpleasing truths. Smite me friendly and reprove me : it shall be a precious balm ; it shall not break my head. I am deeply convinced, that I know nothing yet as I ought to know. Fourteen years ago, I said, (with Mr. Norris,) “ I want heat more than light.” But now I know not which I want most. Perhaps God will enlighten me by your words. O speak and spare not. At least you will have the thanks and prayers of
Your obedient and affectionate servant, September 28, 1745.
For the Rev. Mr. John Wesley.
REVEREND SIR, I heartily thank you for your very kind and very handsome letter; I have yielded it that attention which I think it justly deserves, and am now set down to give you my thoughts upon it. I shall first most readily take notice of those things wherein I stand corrected, and am gone over to you; and next I shall, with some reluctance, proceed to those, in which we first seen misfortunately to differ. Vol. II.