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than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father.' Greater outward works they could not do. It remains, therefore, that we understand those solemn words of converting souls to God: which is indeed a greater work than any that can be wrought on the body.
11. I am glad you do "not demand miracles in proof of doctrines.” Thus far then we are agreed. But you demand them, 1. “as things to which I lay claim ;? and in order to show that claim cannot be supported, 2. as necessary to give me right to be implicitly believed.” And, 3dly. To justify my “ assuming the apostolate of England.”
If this be all, your demand must soon fall to the ground, since the whole foundation sinks beneath it. For, 1st. I lay no claim (in your sense) to miracles; for the clearing of which, suffer me to refer you once more (that I may not be surfeited with cramba decies repetita*) to the second letter to Mr. Church. 2. I claim no implicit faith : I neither pay it to, nor expect it from, any man living. 3. I no otherwise assume the apostolate of England, (if you choose to use the phrase,) than I assume the apostolate of all Europe, or rather of all the world : that is, in plain terms, wherever I see one or a thousand men running into hell, be it in England, Ireland, or France, yea, in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, I will stop them if I can : as a minister of Christ, I will beseech them, in his name, to turn back and be reconciled to God. Were I to do otherwise, were I to let-any soul drop into the pit when I might have saved it from everlasting burnings, I am not satisfied God would accept my plea, “ Lord, he was not of my parish."
12. If a single parish takes up your whole time and care, and you spend, and are spent upon it, -well. And yet I will be bold to say, that no blessing from God will® accompany your ministry, but the drunkard will be a drunkard still, (and so the covetous, the brawler, the adulterer,) unless you both believe and teach what you love to call my new notions of inspiration." I mean, as to the substance, not the particular manner of explication: you will all the day long stretch out your hands in vain, unless you teach them to pray, that the Spirit of God may inwardly witness with their spirits, that they are the children of God. I apprehend you are the person that “wriggle on this head,” because the argument pinches : you appear to me to twist and wind to and fro, because I “distinguish away," not my doctrines, but your objections : unravelling the fallacies, showing wbat part is false, and what part true, but nothing to the purpose. Since you move it again, I will resume the point once more. You will pardon me if I speak home, that it may be seen which of us two it is that has hitherto given the “evasive answers.”
13. You say, “Notwithstanding all your pains to distort the 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 imperceptibly wrought assurances of the Holy Ghost.” This (unless it gives up the whole cause, as indeed it must, if it does not imply a contradiction ; seeing imperceptible assurance is no assurance at all) is neither an evasive nor unęvasive answer. It is just no answer at all. Instead of refuting my arguments, you reply, “ You distort the text.
Ipse dixi." “The Quakers maintain divine illapses, and sensible communications always; you only sometimes.”—If you speak to the purpose, if you mean the inward witness of God's Spirit, I maintain it always as well as they.
“The Methodist writings abound with intimations of divine communications, prophetic whispers, and special guidance.” Perhaps so; but that is another question. We are now speaking of the inward witness of the Spirit.
14. “They teach the notification of justification to be as perceptible as the sun at noonday.” Now you come to the point, and I allow the charge. From the beginning of our correspondence to this day, I have, without any shifting or evasion at all
, maintained flatly and plainly : 1st. A man feels the testimony of God's Spirit, and cannot then deny or doubt his being a child of God. 2. After a time that testimony is withdrawn, (not from every child of God: many retain the beginning of their confidence steadfast untu the end.) 3. Then he may doubt, whether this testimony was of God; and perhaps at length deny that it was.
There is no shadow of contradiction between this and the case of H. R. For 1. she felt the testimony of God's Spirit, and could not deny or doubt her being a child of God. 2. After a time, this testimony was withdrawn. 3. Then she doubted whether it was of God. Observe: she never forgot or denied that she had such a testimony. But she then doubted whether it was of God.
But you have still more to remark upon this head. So I attend you step by step.
* " Saying the same things ten times over."
15. “The instances produced (it should be instance, for you cite but one) in support of these bigh claims, instead of supporting, utterly subvert them. Thus H. Ř. had ber justification notified: and yet she denied that her sins were forgiven." You should say, she doubted of it, after a time, when the testimony of God's Spirit was withdrawn. “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 if it was both distinct and credible, she was not of sound understanding, if she disbelieved it, nor of sound memory if she (afterwards it should be) doubted or denied that she had ever received such a message.”
You say, 1. “Either that notification was not so distinct.” It was so distinct, that she could not then doubt. "Or, 2. was notified to her by one of suspected credit, whom she could not believe.” Yes, she then believed, and knew it was the voice of God. “Or, 3. she was not of sound understanding, if she disbelieved it."When she disbelieved it, she was not. For as the serpent deceived Eve, so he then deceived her, φθειρων το νοημα αυτης.
“But could she possibly deny a plain matter of fact ?" You add, as if I have said so,“ Yes, in process of time, she might, particularly if she drew back to perdition :" and then subjoin, “ But what is this evasive answer to the case of H. R. ?" I think, nothing at all. I never applied it to her case. She never denied her having had such a testimony. But after a time she doubted, (as I said before) whether that testimony was true.
16. I presume Eve in paradise was at least equal in understanding with any of her posterity. Now unto her God said, In the day that thou eatest of the tree of knowledge, thou shalt surely die. And doubtless “ this notification was as distinct and perceptible to her, as the sun at noonday. Yet after a time (perhaps only a few days) she *utterly disbelieved it.”
You exclaim, Absurd ! impossible ! there could be no such thing: as I shall prove immediately.
“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 doubted of it.” Therefore the whole story is absurd, and a self-inconsistent (not a cunningly-devised) fable.
Is not the plain answer this? This notification was as distinct as [is] pretended. And it was not notified by one of suspected credit, whom she did not then firmly believe. But afterwards Satan deceived her by bis subtilty, poelpwv to vonja avrns, corrupting, spoiling, destroying, the soundness of her understanding, and of her memory too. And then she disbelieved God, and believed him who said, 'Ye shall not surely die.' How much more is be able by the same subtilty to deceive any of the fallen children of men !
17. What follows you did not design for argument, but wit. “I cannot help thinking that Paul, with all his infirmities, might more reasonably be looked upon as an inspired prophet, than Mr. Wesley, though arrived, in his own imagination, to a sinless perfection." I never told you so, nor any one else. I no more imagine that I have already attained, that I already love God, with all my heart, soul, and strength, than that I am in the third heavens,
But you make me abundant amends for this, by your charitable belief, that though I may now imagine things that are not, and be mistaken in many points, yet he who remembers I am but dust, will at last “forgive and reward me.” It is enough : the time of error and sin is short: eternity is at hand.
Strangers and pilgrims here below,
This earth, we know, is not our place,
And restless to behold thy face,
END OF THE LETTERS.
I have given this controversy in full to the serious reader, not adding or omitting one word ; and I shall conclude with observing, that MR. JOHN SMITH, so called, retired from the contest, despairing of being able to induce Mr. Wesley, either to give up THE APOSTOLATE OF ENGLAND," or to come back to the doctrine of « imperceptible" justification and sanctification, under which he had so long groaned, and from which he had in vain expected those fruits and affections of the Holy Spirit, love, joy, and peace ; accompanied with a hope full of immortality : even that rest which Christ gives to those who come to him weary and heavy laden.
Concerning the design of this eminent controversialist, we can draw no certain conclusion. It may be inferred, however, with much probability, that if Mr. Wesley had yielded to his dignified opponent, and returned to the rational system, so called, which was so strongly pressed upon him, John Smith would have been his friend. It does not seem probable, that such pains would have been taken with such a man, through a mere love of disputation, or a desire of victory. A way seemed, therefore, opened to Mr. Wesley to return to honour and repose, at that very period of his life and labours, when nothing appeared before him but danger, and incessant labour and suffering. This trial, therefore, seems, in some respects, similar to that which is recorded of the patriarchs, Heb. xi, 15—And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city. This was the trial of their faith. They were not disobedient to the heavenly calling.-They went out, not knowing whither they went ; neither would they accept the opportunities of returning, which their pilgrimage afforded, by the special providence of Him who has always tried his servants. Mr. Wesley had bought the truth, and he would not sell it. He, also, endured as seeing Him that is invisible ; hence we see the propriety of the staNZA with which he concludes his last letter.
He therefore held on his way for forty-four years after the conclusion of this controversy; through honour and through dishonour, through evil report and good report; as a deceiver, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as chastened, and not killed; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing all things !
And may we not hope, respecting his opponent, that a man of so much piety, of such rare endowments, so strong an understanding, and of so amiable a spirit;-a man who seemed to want nothing, but what Mr. Wesley himself wanted only a few years before—THE TRUE AND LIVING PAITH OF THE GOSPEL, did not lose the benefit of such an investigation of its truths ? We may well hope it.—The retirement and sober thought, which increasing years impose on men, even of the highest station, may have brought him (as many have been brought) to attend to those teachings and reproofs of the Holy Spirit, whose great office it is to convince the world of sin, (however specious its profession, and to that poverty of spirit, that sense of our true condition in the sight of God; that feeling of wretchedness, which alone can, in truth, extort the cry, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? This cry was never refused at the Throne of Grace. Thus believing with the heart, and pleading the only name, the God who bought him, -THE FAITH, which is eminently the gift of God, would not be refused. The Holy Spirit would thus glorify the Son, and the sinner becoming an adopted child of God, and walking by faith, would be enabled to give up his soul with joy into the hands of his merciful and faithful Creator.