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9. But you say, "If variable facts be produced, to-day asserted, to-morrow denied.”—Nay, the facts, whether asserted or denied, are still in variable.
“ But if they be ever doubted or denied, they never were plainly perceptible." I cannot discern any force in that consequence: however, if they are afterwards " denied, they are not from Him, 'in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning :'” neither is this consequence good. Though God is ever the same, man may either assert or deny his works. * The spirit of man, and his fancies or opinions, may vary, but God and his facts cannot." Thus far they can and do. God does not now bear witness, as he did before. And this variation of the fact, makes way for a variation in the judgment of him who had that witness, but now hath it not. “You may be fully of opinion to-day that the Scriptures are of God, and doubt of this to-morrow. But what is this to the purpose ?" Very much. · I am as fully convinced to-day that the Scriptures are of God, as that the sun shines. And this conviction (as every good gift) cometh from the Father of Lights. Yet I may doubt of it to-morrow. I may throw away the good gift of God. “But we were speaking, not of men's opinions, but of God's facts." We were speaking of both : of man's opinions, or judgment, concerning God's facts. “But could he, to whom Christ said, ' Thy sins are forgiven thee'-ever doubt or deny that Christ said so ?” I question not, but in process of time he might, particularly if he drew back unto perdition. But however that be, it is no “blasphemous supposition, but a plain undeniable truth, that the god of this world can obliterate what the God of heaven has strongly imprinted upon the soul. Yea, and that he surely will, unless we stir up the gift of God, which is in us, by earnestly and continually watching unto prayer.
I presume you do not deny that a believer, one who has the witness in himself, may make shiproreck of the faith; and consequently lose the witness (however it be explained) which he once had of his being a child of God. The darkness which then covers his soul again, I ascribe (in part) to the energy of Satan, who evepye (worketh) (according to the apostle) in the children of unbelief, whether they did once believe
And has he not much power even on the children of God ? to disturb, though not to destroy ? to throw fiery darts without number; especially against those who, as yet, are but weak in the faith ? to inject doubts and fears : sometimes unbelieving, sometimes even blasphemous thoughts? And how frequently will they be wounded thereby, if they have not put on the whole armour of God !
10. You add, “If we reply, There are enthusiasts in the world, you can keep your temper no longer ; and your only answer is, If we perceive not the witness in ourselves, we are ignorant of the whole affair, and doomed to the everlasting fire, 'prepared for the devil and his angels.?" I said not so. I can keep my temper, (blessed be God,) if you call me a hundred enthusiasts : if you affirm, I am ten times more of an enthusiast than that poor Quaker probably was. The sharpest word I said, was, “If a man does not know who it is that testifies with his spirit he is a child of God, he is ignorant of the whole affair.” But I felt no anger when I said this. Nor do I now. Though I still think, (because you say it yourself,) " that you are ignorant of the whole affair,” of the inward testimony for which I contend. Yet am I far from dooming you to everlasting fire. What you know not, I trust God will reveal unto you. Least of all was this my "only answer” to your supposition, " That this perceptible testimony is only an imagination, unless I am altogether in a dream." I have given you some other answer, and a pretty full one to the objection : such a one, I think, as the nature of the thing admits, at least, as my capacity would allow.
11. I have largely considered, both in the third part of the Appeal and in the latter part of the Second Letter to Mr. Church, the unreasonableness of the common demand, to prove our doctrine by miracles. I cannot but refer you to those tracts, having neither time nor inclination actum agere. Only I would weigh what you have now advanced in support of that demand. "If the enthusiast is as confident of his inspiration, as one really inspired is of his, a third person has a right to call for other proof than confident assertions," that is, for miracles. So you explain yourself in the following sentence; let us try how this consequence will hold, in a particular instance. "The Spirit said unto Paul, Go not into Macedonia.' When he related this to his companions, ought they to bave replied, “We call for other proof of this, than your confident assertion ; seeing enthusiasts are as confident of theirs, as you are of this revelation ?" If you say, “They had seen his miracles at other times :" I know not that; perhaps they had, perhaps they had not. But to step a little forward, "If in the days of Origen and Chrysostom, external miraculous powers were ceased, while internal inspiration still remained :" what becomes of your demand here? It is totally excluded : although there were, in those days also, pretenders to what they Ead not.
And yet there might have been other sufficient reasons for believing the assertion of Origen, Chrysostom, and St. Bernard too, that they had this internal testimony. Such was, besides the holiness of their lives, that great and standing miracle--their saving so many souls from death, and hiding a multitude of sins.
12. There are at least as many pretenders to the love of God, as there are to the witness of his Spirit. But does this give me a right, if a man asserts he loves God, to demand his proving this assertion by miracles ? Not so ; but by their fruits I shall know a real and a pretended love of God. And in the same manner may I know him that has the witness of God's love, from an enthusiastic pretender to it. But if a man disclaims it, he sets himself out of the question. It is beyond dispute that he has it not.
Neither do I want miracles, in order to determine my judgment with regard to Scripture, variously interpreted. I would not say in this case, Show me a sign; but, Bring forth your strong reasons; and according to these, weighed in an even, impartial scale, would I incline to one side or the other.
13. From the beginning of our correspondence, I did not expect you to alter your judgment touching these points wherein we differed. But I was willing (and am so still) to hear and consider whatever you should advance concerning them; and so much the rather, because in the greatest points we do agree already; and in the smaller we can bear with each other, and speak what we apprehend to be the truth in love. Let us bless God for this, and press on to the mark. It cannot be long before we shall be quite of one mind; before the veil of flesh shall drop off, and we shall both see pure light, in the unclouded face of God.
To the Rev. Mr. John Wesley.
REVEREND SIR,-Hell was made by God, to be threatened to, and inflicted on, impenitent sinners : the preacher was therefore ridiculously delicate, who minced the name to them that would not repent. To such persons, I would have hell and damnation set forth in the broadest manner. But if the Pope threaten damnation to all who believe not his infallibility; or Mr. Whitefield, to all who own not his election and reprobation; or Mr. Wesley, to all who deny that he is an inspired and a miracle-working prophet; then such untimely brandishing hellfire becomes ridiculous, fit only for the terror of vapoured women, but the pity and reproof of men of sense.
2. Heaven and hell are far from being offensive to my ears ; I never desire to have either of them out of my thoughts. But I should blush at threatening you with hell, for your differing from me in speculations ; nay, though your speculations were certainly false, and led to practice certainly wrong ; we will say to a deviation from established order : for this may possibly be neither wilful nor sinful, and therefore no way connected with eternal awards. If you really (whether truly or falsely) believe yourself to have a call to the apostolate of England, I question not but God's mercy may both forgive and reward the irregular pains you take, between London and Berwick, and between Deal and the Land's-end.
3. And yet such deviation, how innocent soever in you, may still be very wrong and hurtful in itself, it may open a door to much disorder and error; Wild-bores, Smiths, or Moors, will enter at the breach. The man I saw, called himself Williams, but whether this was another man, or another alias, I know not. But government once dissolved, you need not look for preachers of heresy; witness one George Whitefield, whose doctrine you treat as heretical and blasphemous.
4. I wish to God, with you, that all the clergy throughout the land were zealous for inward solid virtue ; but that all of any large body should be so, is rather to be wished than expected : the greater part, as I told you, with whom I am acquainted
I am sorry your acquaintance is so much worse that you cannot answer for one in ten.
As to complaints of immoral clergymen, they are best made to the bishop of the diocess. If you will be so public spirited as to present them; if instead of censuring the heap, you will thus contribute the winnowing the chaff from the wheat, I dare say you will have the thanks of the bishops, and of all good men, both clergy and laity.
5. There is a sense in which novelty awakens and amends; and there is a sensa VOL. II.
in which God is the doer of all things, for whatsoever is done in the earth he doeth it himself. If your new doctrine, (or, not to differ about phrases,) if God's blessing on your new doctrine has amended some, on whom your father and yourself, whilst you preached the old doctrine, spent your strength in vain ; this is no proof of the superior truth, or of God's approbation of your novelties; or that your father, who died unenlightened by them, is gone to hell; or that bis exerted strength did not contribute towards sending others to heaven; it only shows that novelty, which has a natural tendency to awakening, may when God pleases, have an efficacious tendency to amending. The new act of parliament against swearing made a convert, who had been long deaf to sermons and Scripture : yet you will not say that an act of parliament is a better thing than the word of God, though in this instance attended with his influence and blessing.
6. I think you will not deny so plain a matter of faet, as that God's influence and blessing accompanies the ministry of many who are utter strangers to your new notions of inspiration, which can no more be supported by the eighth of Romans than by the first of Genesis, notwithstanding all your pains to distort that text : for any thing which has yet been said to the contrary, it may be understood of the Spirit's witness by miracles, by prophecy, or by the gently and imperceptibly wrought assurances of the Holy Ghost. But what proof is this of those divine illapses and sensible communications, maintained honestly by the Quakers always, and more amazingly by you only sometimes ? Sometimes you claim them in as strong terms as they do, though at other times you are disposed to distinguish them away. Your wriggling on this head, and on the plainness wherewith justification is notified, obliges me to call you back to order.
It is notorious that the Methodist writings abound with intimations of divine communications, prophetic whispers, and special guidances : it is as notorious that they teach the notification of justification to be as perceptible as the sun at noonday, and as distinct as our Saviour's 'notification, 'Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.' But the instances produced in support of these high claims, instead of supporting utterly subvert them. Thus H. R. had her justification notified, and yet she denied that her sins were forgiven, and continued almost in despair above a year afterwards. Now either this notification was not so distinct as is pretended; or, if distinct, was notified by one of suspected credit, whom she could not believe ; or else if it was both distinct and credible, she was not of sound understanding if she disbelieved it; nor of sound memory if she immediately doubted or denied that she had ever received such a message. Could she possibly deny a plain matter of fact ?—Yes, in process of time she might, particularly if she drew back to perdition; that is, in a long time people may forget or deny facts, especially if they grow wicked and are given to lying, But what is this evasive answer to the case of H. R. who lived no length of time, and never did draw back to perdition? After the time that she is said to have had certain justification, she lived a blameless and holy life, only terrified almost to death for fear that her sins were not remitted ; when she apprehended they were she died in raptures, declaring she was in very great pain, but that she did not feel any.
8. Now, sir, do you think that such ordinary instances can in anywise support such extraordinary pretences ? And after having assumed the language of an inspired prophet, and claimed the attestation of miracles, of casting out devils, and having seen many other miraculous things; when you are called upon to specify, will you think it sufficient to refer to the one great standing miracle of making many converts ? I do not know that Origen er St. Chrysostom pretended to any such thing; it would have been impertinent therefore to have demanded it of them, especially in support of a thing so probable as that they loved God. But had they demanded belief to something highly improbable, or claimed to themselves miraculous attestation; is either of these cases there had been nothing so extravagant in the demand. If prophetic intimations were vouchsafed them, after external miracles were ceased, such intimations might be rules of action to yourselves, but could be none at all to other men, any farther than as they credited the claimant. Prophet indeed, a miracle working prophet, like St. Paul, had a right to a more implicit kind of belief: neither can I help thinking, that Paul, even in that infantine state of Christianity, and with all his thorns and infirmities about him, might more reasonably be looked upon as an inspired prophet, than Mr. Wesley in his newly matured state of Christianity, though arrived in his own imagination to a sinless perfection.
9. You have much to say against the demand of miracles in proof of doctrines. I make no such demand. I demand them as things to which you lay claim; nay, in truth, I demand them no otherwise than as the prophet required idols to do good or to do evil; which was no more than a magner of asserting that they had no such 2. I rejoice likewise in your allowing that my “speculations though false, yea and leading to a deviation from order, may yet possibly be neither wilful" nor sinful :" and much more in that which follows, "I question not but God's mercy may both forgive and reward” even that zeal which is not according to knowledge.
power. All that I (properly speaking) demand is, that you should revoke your ampullas et ses quipedalia verba, * and ingenuously acknowledge that your expressions were too strong.
10. Had St. Bernard, after having talked throughout his voluminous works in the style of a miracle working prophet, intrenched himself at last in the standing miracle of making many converts, and in the holiness of his life; I should have thought he might have been answered in this manner: “You have hitherto always claimed much more, but still you claim too much ; for to make converts (even true converts to a sober, righteous, and godly life) is no miracle at all; much less to make converts to popery, to the belief of such incredible proofless stuff as transubstantiation, and to the consequent idolatrous practice. Then as to holiness of life, no one but the Great Searcher of hearts can say what is true boliness. The popish severities of fleshfastings, celibacies, and other monkeries, may pass for such with weak men, and draw many followers; and yet may imply no true holiness at all : nay, you may found nunneries for unholy and wicked purposes ; abbesses and matrons may discipline their bands, and close bands for the uses of the fraternity, and the grossest wickedness may be carrying on under the cloak of bypocrisy."
11. God forbid that there should be any thing like this among the Methodists; though, to speak freely, I have been assured that there are very pregnant proofs about to be produced of very shocking things. I shall believe nothing without proofs. And in the mean time charitably hope that neither of us maintain any principles of practices which may bar us from seeing the unclouded face of God.
August 21, 1747,
To Mr. John Smith.
Dublin, March 23, 1747-S. Sir,-i rejoice to find that in some points we come nearer each other, and that we can bear with each other where we do not.
I entirely agree that hell was designed only for stubborn impenitent sinners, and consequently that it would be absurd to threaten dampation to any, merely for differing froin me in speculations.” But it is an absurdity which I have nothing to do with : for it never yet entered into my thoughts.
3. Yet.“ such deviation,” you think, “may open a door to much disorder and error.” I grant it may: but I still insist, 1. that accidental ill consequences may flow from a good thing; 2. that the good consequences in the present case overbalance the evil, beyond all degrees of comparison. The same I believe of Mr. Whitefield's public preaching, (which was not the consequence, but the cause of mine,) whose doctrine in general (though he is mistaken in some points) I believe to be the truth of the gospel.
4. I never did censure the whole body of clergy, and God forbid that I ever should. I do not willingly censure any, even the grossly immoral. But you advise to “complain of those to the bishop of the diocess.” In what way? "Be so public-spirited as to present them.” Much may be said on that question. I should ask, 1. Have I a right to present them ? I apprehend not. The churchwardens of each parish are to do this: which they will hardly do at my instance. 2. If I could do it myself, the presenting them to the court is not presenting them to the bishop: the bishop you cannot but know has no more authority in what is called the bishop's court, than the Pope of Rome. 3. I cannot present, suppose thirty persons, in as many counties, to the lay-chancellors or officials, (men whom I apprehend to have just as much authority from Scripture to administer the sacraments, as to try ecclesiastical causes,) without such an expense both of labour, and money, and time, as I am by no means able to sustain. And what would be the fruit, if I could sustain it? if I was the informer-general against the immoral clergy of England ? O sir, can you imagine, or “ dare you say, that I should have the thanks of the bishops, and of all good men, both clergy and laity ?" If you allow only those to be good men who would thank me for this, I fear you would not find seven thousand good men in all our Israel.
* "Your bombastic expressions and lengthy words."
5. But you have been “ assured there are proofs about to be produced of very shocking things among us also.” It is very possible you may. And to say the truth, I expected such things long ago. In such a body of people must there not be some hypocrites ? And some who did for a time serve God in sincerity, and yet afterwards turn back from the holy commandment once delivered to them?' I am amazed there have been so few instances of this, and look for more every day. The melancholy case of that unhappy man, Mr. Hall, I do not rank among these. For he had renounced us long ago, and that over and over, both by word and writing. And thougla he called upon me once or twice a year, and lately made some little overtures of friendship, yet I have it under his own hand, “He could have no fellowship with us, because we would not leave the Church."
quia intellexi minus, protrusit To make it quite plain and clear how close a connexion there was between him and me, when I lately called on his poor wife at Salisbury, he fairly turned me out of doors, and my sister after me.
6. My father did not die unacquainted with the faith of the gospel, of the primitive Christians, or of our first reformers: the same which, by the grace of God, I preach, and which is just as new as Christianity. What he experienced before I know not; but I know that during his last illness, which continued eight months, he enjoyed a clear sense of his acceptance 'with God. I heard him express it more than once, although at the time I understood him not. “The inward witness, son, the inward witness,” said he to me," that is the proof, the strongest proof, of Christianity.” And when I asked him, (the time of his change drawing nigh,) “Sir, are you in much pain ?” He answered aloud, with a smile, “God does chasten me with pain, yea, all my bones with strong pain. But I thank him for all, I bless him for all, i love him for all !" I think the last words he spoke, when I had just commended his soul to God, were, “Now you have done all.”- And with the same serene cheerful countenance he fell asleep, without one struggle, or sigh, or groan. I cannot therefore doubt but the Spirit of God bore an inward witness with his spirit, that he was a child of God.
7. That “God blesses a doctrine preached (new or old) to the saving of souls from death, does not prove that every circumstance of it is true; for a predestinarian preacher may save souls.” But it undoubtedly proves, that the main of what is preached is the truth as it is in Jesus. For it is only the gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation. Human wisdom, as human laws, may restrain from outward sin; but they cannot avail as to the saving of the soul. If God gives this blessing to what is preached, it is a sufficient “ proof of his approbation.” But I will not contend about words, or when his blessing is allowed, dispute whether it has his approbation or not.
8. But to argue on your own supposition : you say, “ It only shows that novelty, which has a natural tendency to awakening, may, when God pleases, have an efficacious tendency to amending.” Well, then; if the novelty of an indifferent circumstance, such as place, bas a natural tendency to awakening, surely we may use it according to its natural tendency, in order to awaken those that sleep in sin! And if God has in fact been pleased to use it beyond its natural tendency, to make it efficacious for amending as well as awakening, ought we not to acquiesce, yea, and rejoice therein ?
9. But are sinners amended ? Are they saved from their sins ? Are they truly converted to God ? Here is, what always must be, the main question. That many are in some sort converted, is owned. But to what are they converted? “To the belief of such proofless incredible stuff as transubstantiation? or to the Popish severities of flesh-fastings, celibacies, and other monkeries ?" Not so. If they are converted at all, they are converted from all manner of wickedness, “to a sober, righteous,
and godly life.” Such a uniform practice is true outward holiness. And wherever this is undeniably found, we ought to believe there is holiness of heart: seeing the tree is known by its fruits.
10. That “ the conversion of sinners to this holiness is no miracle at all,” is new doctrine indeed! So new to me, that I never heard it before, either among Protestants or Papists. I think a miracle is a work of Omnipotence, wrought by the supernatural power of God. Now, if the conversion of sinners to holiness is not such a work, I cannot tell what is. I apprehend our Lord accounts it a greater work than giving sight to the blind, yea, or raising the dead. For it was after he bad raised Lazarus from the dead that he told his apostles, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, be that believeth on me, the works that I do, sball he do also. And greater works
* But because I seemed reluctant to entertain his views, he expelled me from his dwelling,"