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quite different with regard to those who subscribe to the 11th and following articles; which are not ambiguously worded, as the 17th (I suppose, on purpose) was.
4. When I say, "the apostles themselves were to prove their assertions by the written word," I mean the word written before their time, the law and the prophets; and so they did. I do not believe the case of Averel Spencer was natural: yet, when I kneeled down by her bedside, I had no thought at all of God's then giving any "attestation to my ministry." But I asked of God to deliver an afflicted soul: and he did deliver her. Nevertheless I desire none to receive my words, unless they are confirmed by Scripture and reason. And if they are, they ought to be received, though Averel Spencer had never been born.
5. That we ought not to relate a purely natural case in the Scripture terms, that express our Lord's miracles :-That low and common things are generally improper to be told in Scripture phrase :-That Scriptural words which are obsolete, or which have changed their signification, are not to be used familiarly, as neither those technical terms which were peculiar to the controversies of those days;-I can easily apprehend. But I cannot apprehend, that salvation or justification is a term of this sort and much less, that faith and works, or spirit and flesh, are synonymous terms with Christianity and Judaism. I know this has frequently been affirmed; but I do not know that it has been proved.
6. However, you think there is no occasion now for the expressions used in ancient times since the persuasions, which were common then, are now scarcely to be found. For, does any Church of England man (you ask) maintain any thing like this, that men may commute external works, instead of internal holiness?" Most surely : I doubt whether every Church of England man in the nation, yea, every Protestant (as well as Papist) in Europe, who is not deeply sensible that he did so once, does not do so to this day.
I am one, who for twenty years used outward works, not only as "acts of goodness," but as commutations (though I did not indeed profess this) instead of inward holiness. I knew I was not holy. But I quieted my conscience, by doing such and such outward works. And therefore, I hoped I should go to heaven, even without inward holiness. Nor did I ever speak close to one who had the form of godliness, without the power, but I found he had split on the same rock.
Abundance of people I have likewise known, and many I do know at this day, who "are so grossly superstitious, as to think devotion may be put upon God, instead of honesty," as to fancy, going to church and sacrament will bring them to heaven, though they practise neither justice nor mercy. These are the men who make Christianity vile, who above all others "contribute to the growth of infidelity." On the contrary, the speaking of faith working by love, of uniform, outward religion springing from inward, has already been the means of converting several deists, and one atheist (if not more) into real Christians.
7. "Infallible testimony" was your word, not mine: I never use it. I do not like it. But I did not object to your using that phrase, because I would not fight about words. If then the question be repeated, "In what sense is that attestation of the Spirit infallible?" any one has my free leave to answer, In no sense at all. And yet, though I allow that some may fancy they have it when in truth they have it not; I cannot allow that any fancy they have it not at the time when they really have. I know no instance of this. When they have this faith, they cannot possibly doubt of their having it although it is very possible, when they have it not, they may doubt whether ever they had it or no. This was Hannah Richardson's case: and it is, more or less, the case with many of the children of God.
That logical evidence, that we are the children of God, I do not either exclude or despise. But it is far different from the direct witness of the Spirit; of which I believe St. Paul speaks, in his epistle to the Romans; and which, I doubt not, is given to many thousand souls who never saw my face. But I spoke only of those I personally knew; (concerning whom indeed I find my transcriber has made a violent mistake, writing 13,000 instead of 1,300.) I might add, those whom I also have known by their writings. But I cannot lay so much stress on their evidence. I cannot have so full and certain a knowledge of a writer, as of one I talk with face to face. And therefore, I think the experiences of this kind are not to be compared with those of the other.
One, indeed, of this kind I was reading yesterday, which is exceeding clear and strong. You will easily pardon my transcribing part of his words. They are in St. Austin's Confessions, lib. 7, cap. 10. "Intravi in intima mea, duce te: et potui, quoniam factus es adjutor meus. Intravi et vidi qualicunque oculo animæ meæ, supra eundem oculum animæ meæ, supra mentem meam, lucem Domini incommutabilem; non hanc
vulgarem, conspicuam omni carni ; nec quasi ex eodem genere grandior erat non hoe illa erat, sed aliud ; aliud valde ab istis omnibus. Nec ita erat supra mentem meam, sicul— Cælum super terram. Sed superior, qui ipsa fecit me. Qui novit veritatem, novit eam. Et qui novit eam, novit æternitatem. Charitas novit eam.
“O æterna veritas ! Tu es Deus meus ! Tibi suspiro die ac nocte. Et cum te primum cognovi, tu assumpsisti me, ut viderem esse, quod viderem. Et reverberasti infirmitatem aspectus mei, radians in me vehementer ; et contremui amore et horrore: et inveni me longe esse a te--et dixi Nunquid nihil est veritas ? El clamasti de longinquo: immo vero; Ego sum, qui sum. Et audivi, sicut auditur in corde, et non erat prorsus unde dubitarem. Faciliusque dubitarem vivere me, quam non esse veritatem."
9. From many such passages as these, which I have occasionally read, as well as from what I have myself seen and known, I am induced to believe, that God's ordinary way of converting sinners to himself, is, by “suddenly inspiring them with an immediate testimony of his love, easily distinguishable from fancy." I am assured, thus he hath wrought in all I have known, (except, perhaps, three or four
persons,) of whom I have reasonable ground to believe that they are really turned from the power of Satan to God.
10. With regard to the definition of faith, if you allow that it is such "an inward conviction of things invisible, as is the gift of God in the same sense, wherein hope and charity are,” I have little to object: or, that it is “such an assent to all Christian truths, as is productive of all Christian practice.” In terming either faith, or hope, or love, supernatural, I only mean that they are not the effect of any or all of our natural faculties, but are wrought in us (be it swiftly or slowly) by the Spirit of God. But I would rather say faith is “productive of all Christian holiness' than “of all Christian practice :" because men are so exceeding apt to rest in practice, so called; I mean an outside religion : whereas true religion is eminently seated in the heart, renewed in the image of Him that created us.
11. I have not found in any of the writers you mention, a solution of many difficulties that occur on the head of predestination. And to speak without reserve, when. I compare the writings of their most celebrated successors, with those of Dr. Barrow and his cotemporaries, I am amazed : the latter seem to be mere children compared with the former writers; and to throw out such frothy, unconcocted trifles, such indigested crudities, as a man of learning, fourscore or a hundred years ago, would have been ashamed to set his name to.
12. Conceruing the instantaneous and the gradual work, what I still affirm is this : That I know hundreds of persons, whose hearts were one moment filled with fear, and sorrow, and pain, and the next with peace and joy in believing, yea joy unspeakable, full of glory :—that the same moment they experienced such a love of God, and so fervent a good will to all mankind, (attended with power over all sin,) as till then they were wholly unacquainted with :--that nevertheless the peace and love thus sown in their hearts received afterwards a gradual increase :-and that to this subsequent increase, the Scriptures you mention do manifestly refer. Now I cannot see that there is any quibbling at all in this. No: it is a plain, fair answer to the objection.
Neither can I apprehend that I have given an evasive answer to any adversary whatever. I am sure I do not desire to do it. For I want us to understand each other. The sooner the better. Therefore let us, as you propose, return to the main point.
“The charge is,” your' words are, “ that the Methodists preach sundry singular and erroneous doctrines : in particular three, unconditional predestination, perceptible inspiration, and sinless perfection.-' They set up,' say their adversaries, their own schemes and notions as the great standard of Christianity, so as to perplex, un
* “Under thy guidance and direction, I entered into my inward parts: and I was enabled to enter, because thou wast my Helper. I entered, and saw, with the eye of my soul, (such as it is,) the unchangeable light of the Lord (shining) above this very eye of my soul, and above my mind. I perceived that the light was not of this common kind, which is obvious to all flesh: neither did it appear, as if it was a larger light of the same kind. It was not a light of this description, but of another; a light that differed exceedingly from all these. Nor was it above my mind, in such a manner as the heavens are above the earth: but it was superior, because it made me. He who knows the truth is acquainted with this light; and he who knows it, krows eternity. Charity for love) knows it.
uth! Thou art my God. Day and night I sigh after thee! And whe I obtained my first knowledge of thee, thou didst take me to see that there was something which I might behold. Thou didst likewise beat back the weakness of my own sight, and didst thyself powerfully shine into me. I trembled with love and with horror; and I found myself at a great distance from thee.--I exclaimed, 'Is truth a nonentity ?'—And thou didst reply from afar, 'No, indeed! I AM THAT I AM!-I heard this as we are accustomed to hear in the heart; and there was no ground whatever for doubting. Nay, I could more easily doubt of my existence itself, than that it was not the truth."
hinge, terrify, and distract the minds of multitudes, by persuading them that they cannot be true Christians but by adhering to their doctrines.' This is the charge;" now you ask, "What do you mean by their own schemes, their own notions, their own doctrines? It is plain we mean their unconditional predestination, their perceptible inspiration, and their sinless perfection."
The charge then is, "That the Methodists preach unconditional predestination, perceptible inspiration, and sinless perfection." But what a charge! Shall John Wesley be indicted for murder, because George Whitefield killed a man? Or shall George Whitefield be charged with felony, because John Wesley broke a house? How monstrous is this?-How dissonant from all the rules of common sense and common honesty! Let every man bear his own burden. If George Whitefield killed a man, or taught predestination, John Wesley did not what has this charge to do with him? And if John Wesley broke a house, or preached sinless perfection, let him answer for himself. George Whitefield did neither: why then is his name put into this indictment?
Hence appears the inexcusable injustice of what might otherwise appear a triffe. When I urge a man in this manner, he could have no plea at all, were he not to reply, Why, they are both Methodists." So when he has linked them together by one nickname, he may hang either instead of the other!
But sure this will not be allowed by reasonable men. And if not, what have I to do with predestination? Absolutely nothing. Therefore set that aside: yea, and sinless perfection too. "How so? Do not you believe it?" Yes, I do: and in what sense I have shown in the sermon on Christian perfection. And if any man calls it an error, till he has answered that, I must say, "Sir, you beg the question." But I preach, perhaps, twenty times, and say no more of this than even a Calvinist would allow. Neither will I enter into any dispute about it, any more than about the millenium.
Therefore the distinguishing doctrines on which I do insist, in all my writings, and in all my preaching, will lie in a very narrow compass. You sum them all up in perceptible inspiration. For this I earnestly contend: and so do all who are called Methodist preachers. But be pleased to observe what we mean thereby. We mean that inspiration of God's Holy Spirit, whereby he fills us with righteousness, peace, and joy, with love to him, and to all mankind. And we believe it cannot be, in the nature of things, that a man should be filled with this peace, and joy, and love, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, without perceiving it as clearly as he does the light of the sun.
This is (so far as I understand them) the main doctrine of the Methodists. This is the substance of what we all preach. And I will still believe none is a true Christian till he experiences it; and consequently, "that people, at all hazards, must be convinced of this: 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 that they should be perplexed and terrified now, than that they should sleep on and awake in hell."
I do not therefore, I will not, shift the question; though I know many who desire I should. I know the proposition I have to prove, and I will not move a hair's breadth from it. It is this, "No man can be a true Christian, without such an inspiration of the Holy Ghost as fills his heart with peace, and joy, and love: which he who perceives not, has it not." This is the point for which alone I contend. And this I take to be the very foundation of Christianity.
13. The answer, therefore, which you think we ought to give, is that [which] we do give to the charge of our adversaries. "Our singularities (if you will style them so) are fundamental, and of the essence of Christianity." Therefore we must "" preach them with such diligence and zeal, as if the whole of Christianity depended upon them."
14. It would doubtless be wrong to insist thus on these things, if they were "not necessary to final salvation." But we believe they are; unless in the case of invincible ignorance. In this case, undoubtedly many thousands are doubtless saved who never heard of these doctrines. And I am inclined to think this was our own case, both at Oxford, and for some time after. Yet I doubt not, but had we been called hence, God would first, by this inspiration of his Spirit have wrought in our hearts that holy love without which none can enter into glory.
15. I was aware of the seeming contradiction you mention, at the very time when I wrote the sentence. But it is only a seeming one. For it is true, that from May 24, 1738, "Wherever I was desired to preach, salvation by faith was my only theme," (i. e. such a love of God and man as produces all inward and outward holiness, and VOL. II.
springs from a conviction wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, of the pardoning love of God:) and that when I was told, “You must preach no more in this church," it was commonly added, “Because you preach such doctrine !" And it is equally true, that “it was for preaching the love of God and man, that several of the clergy forbade me their pulpits,” before that time, before May 24, before I either preached or knew salvation by faith.
16. We are at length come to the real state of the question between the Methodists (so called) and their opponents. “Is there perceptible inspiration, or is there not? Is there such a thing (if we divide the question into its parts) as faith producing peace, and joy, and love, and inward (as well as outward) holiness? Is that faith which is productive of these fruits, wrought in us by the Holy Ghost, or not? And is he in whom they are wrought necessarily conscious of them, or is he not ? These are the points on which I am ready to join issue with any serious and candid
Such I believe you to be. If therefore I knew on which of those you desired my thoughts, I would give you them freely, such as they are: or (if you desire it) on any collateral question. The best light I have I am ready to impart; and am ready to receive farther light from you. My time, indeed, is so short, that I cannot answer your letters so particularly, or so correctly, as I would. But I am persuaded you will excuse many defects, where you believe the design is good. I want to know what, as yet, I know not. May God teach it me by you, or by whom he pleaseth! Search me, O Lord, and prove me: try out my reins and my heart. Look wett if there be error or wickedness in me; and lead me in the way everlasting !"
January 3d, 1745—6.
To the Rev. Mr. John Wesley. REVEREND SIR, -I received the favour both of your book and your letter, for which I had returned my thanks sooner but for the interruption of having been a journey from home.
1. You think the case is quite different with regard to those who subscribe to the 11th and following articles, from the case of those who subscribe to the 17th. Now, I think the case is exactly the same: those articles are equally ambiguous, and I suppose of them, as you do of the 17th, that they were contrived so on purpose, in order to give the greater latitude for both parties to subscribe: that in fact they are ambiguous, is evident from the various interpretations of the commentators on them; and that they fairly admit of some latitude, you show by your practice ; for the 15th article has these words :-"All we, the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things.” Now, though the most obvious, plain, unforced, grammatical meaning be, that the most perfect Christians sin in many things, yet this hinders you not from preaching sinless perfection.* You should not then treat others as the children of the devil, for taking the same liberty which you and Mr. Whitefield take, who continue, notwithstanding, the children of God.
2. I would not willingly mistake you in this or any other article ; but I must observe to you, that you speak so variously on various occasions, that it is extremely hard to take your right meaning: thus, sometimes you disclaim all miraculous powers, and supernatural attestations to your ministry ; yet, at other times, God gives you extratraordinary attestations, and you allow Averel Spencer's case to be supernatural : in one paragraph, you allow it lawful for good people to marry ; in another, you say all should refrain who can, and that all the children of God can : sometimes perfection is instantaneous, and the newly-justified has at once power over all sin ; at other times, this work is represented as slow, and gradually increasing : sometimes no one, doubting of faith, can be the child of God: at other times, doubting whether they ever had it or no, is more or less the case with many of the children of God: sometimes the newly-justified is represented as always receiving, in the very moment of his justification, an indubitable attestation of it from the Holy Spirit, as perceptible as the sum at noonday ; yet, at other times, the justified person is spoken of as doubting whether she ever had any such attestation, for many months after her certain justification. Now, in order to soften this last case of Hannah Richardson, you shift the terms, you drop the word attestation of which I was speaking, and substitute the word faith in its stead; a person may have faith to-day, and be an infidel to-morrow, but no one
* See page 128
can receive an atlestation to-day from some credible and unquestionable authority, and yet doubt to-morrow whether he had any such attestation : if the Holy Spirit, the moment a person is justified, certifieth this justification by an attestation as plainly discernible from the suggestions of reason and fancy as light is discernible from darkness, then Hannah Richardson could not possibly doubt whether she had had this attestation or not, for above a twelvemonth after her justification : on the other hand, if Hannah Richardson after the attestation of her justification doubted whether she ever had such attestation or not, then this attestation is not such a glaring and manifest sunshine light as you would elsewhere represent it; nor any ways distinguishable from the suggestions of reason or fancy, since they who never had it may fancy they have it, and they who have had it may fancy they had it not.
3. I know not what kind of proof you expect of St. Paul's technical terms ; I can say for myself, that the proof seems to me convincing even to demonstration, that justification was used as technically by the apostle as Chisidim was by the Jews, and that faith in some places stands for the whole complex of Christianity, and works for the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law : but if the arguments which learned men have used in this matter, seem less convincing to you, you are at liberty to reject their interpretation for any other which will make sense of the apostle's reasoning This no way affects the main of our debate, and was brought in only obliquely and hypothetically ; you had argued for the propriety of using all Scripture phrases, upon which I excepted obsolete and technical terms, upon supposition that there were any such.
4. Whether for twenty years together you used outward works as commutations instead of inward holiness, you are the best and only judge ; every one knows what passes in his own mind, and must be allowed to be master of his own experience : allow me then capable of telling what I experience. I was confirmed about the age of fourteen. What childish apprehensions I might have (had] before that time, I cannot well say; but, for about forty years since, I have ever believed that'without Holiness no one shall see the Lord,' nor did I once, that I know of, entertain so mean an opinion of the Supreme Being as to think he might have any thing else put upon him in the stead ; neither did I ever, in the whole course of my life, meet with any Protestant, except yourself, that attempted commutations ; I have known many Protestants that have leaned too much on the opus operantis, but on the opus operatum never one : all the well-instructed I know, receive the sacrament as a means of goodness; all the ill-instructed, as an act of goodness; but, as a commutation instead of goodness, surely no Protestant ever did but yourself; the most ignorant I ever met with, know better than this. If an unboly and hypocritical communicant is taken in adultery, what is the language of the lowest mob? Do they look on his worship as a mitigation of his wickedness? Do they not all with one mouth declare it an aggravation? Do they say ?—“Well, his fault is not so great as another's, for he has been twelve times this year at the sacrament!"-No. The most ignorant wretch in the crowd can say—“What a villain is this to do thus, and yet to go so often to the sacrament!" So far are the most uninstructed Protestants from thinking that outward acts of worship may be commuted instead of chastity and purity! As to myself, I am very far from the state of a sinless perfection; yet with all my faults and infirmities about me, I can truly assert, that I am not sensible of the weakness and wickedness of commutation. But alas ! this is only prejudicing you more against me, since you seem disposed to believe that every Protestant in Europe, that is not deeply sensible that he was once thus guilty, is so still to this day.
5. I suppose you lay but little stress on any human authority, and less on so fighty and injudicious an author as St. Austin, who, on whatever subject he wrote, (for instance, whether for or against Pelagianism,) was almost always in extremes ; the same impetuosity of temper which made him so profligate a rake whilst a sinner, made him so flighty and rapturous when he became a saint: now, what is to be gathered from the rhetorical prosopopæia of such a valdè man? Only this, that the oratorical flights of devotees would make strange articles put into a creed ; almost every error that has orept into the church, has owed its rise more or less to rhetorical keightenings: even transubstantiation itself owes its birth to over-zealous orators too rapturously heightening the devotion of the altar. Yet their flights, like this which you quote of St. Austin, when put into cool language, prove just nothing at all.
6. “ By calling faith, hope, or love, supernatural, you only mean that they are not the effect
of any or all of our natural faculties, but are wrought in us by the Spirit of God.” To this I have little to object but the propriety of the language. By terming some of our faculties natural, you seem to imply, that we have others supernatural, which I think we have not; and by making faith, hope, and love, the effects of God's