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and help us to help each other. The work you are engaged in is great, and your difficulties many; but faithful is he that hath called you, who also will do it.
which he has now put into your hands are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. Men may fight, but they shall not prevail against us, if we are but enabled to put our cause simply into the Lord's hands, and keep steadily on in the path of duty. He will plead our cause, and fight our battles; he will pardon our mistakes, and teach us to do better. My experience as a minister is but small, having been but about eighteen months in the vineyard; but for about twelve years I have been favoured with an increasing acquaintance among the people of God, of various ranks and denominations, which, together with the painful exercises of my own heart, gave me opportunity of making observations which were of great use to me when I entered upon the work myself: and ever since I have found the Lord graciously supplying new lights and new strength, as new occurrences arise. So I trust it will be with you. . I endeavour to avail myself of the examples, advice, and sentiments of my brethren, yet at the same time to guard against calling any man master. This is the peculiar of Christ. The best are but men; the wisest may be mistaken; and that which may be right in another 'might be wrong in me, through a difference of circumstances. The Spirit of God distributes variously, both in gifts and dispensations; and I would no more be tied to act strictly by others' rules than to walk in shoes of the same size. My shoes must fit my own feet.
I endeavour to guard against extremes : our nature is prone to them: and we are liable likewise, when we
have found the inconvenience of one extreme, to revert insensibly (sometimes to fly suddenly) to the other. I pray to be led in the midst of the path. I am what they call a Calvinist; yet there are flights, niceties, and hard sayings, to be found among some of that system, which I do not choose to imitate. I dislike those sentiments against which you have borne your testimony in the note at the end of your preface: but having known many precious souls in that party, I have been taught, that the kingdom of God is not in names and sentiments, but in righteousness, faith, love, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. I should, however, upon some occasions oppose those tenets, if they had any prevalence in my neighbourhood; but they have not: and in general I believe the surest way to refute or prevent error, is to preach the truth.
I am glad to find you are aware of that spirit of enthusiasm which has so often broken loose and blemished hopeful beginnings, and that the foundation you build upon is solid and Scriptural: this will, I hope, save you much trouble, and prevent many offences. Let us endeavour to make our people acquainted with the Scripture, and to impress them with a high sense of its authority, excellence, and sufficiency. Satan seldom remarkably imposes on ministers or people, except where the word of God is too little consulted or regarded. Another point in which I aim at a medium is in what is called prudence. There is certainly such a thing as Christian prudence, and a remarkable deficiency of it is highly inconvenient. But caution too often degenerates into cowardice; and if the fear of man, under the name of prudence, gets within our guard, like a chilling frost, it nips every thing in the bud. Those who trust the Lord, and act openly with an honest freedom and consistence, I observe he generally bears them out, smooths their way, and makes their enemies their friends, or at least restrains their rage; while such as halve things, temporise, and aim to please God and man together, meet with double disappointment, and are neither useful nor respected. If we trust to him, he will stand by, us; if we regard men, he will leave us to make the best we can of them.
I have set down hastily what occurred to my pen, not to dictate to you, but to tell you how I have been led, and because some expressions in your letter seemed to imply that you would not be displeased with me for so doing. As to books, I think there is a medium here likewise. I have read too much in time past; yet I do not wholly join with some of our brethren, who would restrain us entirely to the word of God. Undoubtedly this is the fountain; here we should dwell; but a moderate and judicious perusal of other authors may have its use; and I am glad to be beholden to such helps, either to explain what I do not understand, or to confirm me in what I do. Of these the writings of the last age afford an immense variety. .
But above all, may we, dear sir, live and feed upon the precious promises, John, xiv. 16, 17, 26. and xvi. 13—15. There is no teacher like Jesus, who by his Holy Spirit reveals himself in his word to the understanding and affections of his children. When we thus behold his glory in the Gospel glass, we are changed into the same image. Then our hearts melt, our eyes flow, our stammering tongues are unloosed. That this may be your increasing experience, is the prayer of, dear sir,
January 21, 1766. YOUR letters give me the sincerest pleasure. Let us believe that we are daily thinking of and praying for each other, and write when opportunity offers without apologies. I praise the Lord that he has led you so soon to a settled judgement in the leading truths of the Gospel. For want of this, many have been necessitated with their own hands to pull down what, in the first warm emotions of their zeal, they had laboured hard to build. It is a mercy likewise, to be enabled to acknowledge what is excellent in the writings or conduct of others, without adopting their singularities, oor discarding the whole on account of a few blemishes. We should be glad to receive instruction from all, and avoid being led by the ipse dirit of any. Nullius jurare in verbum is a fit motto for those who have one master, even Christ.
We may grow wise apace in opinions, by books and men; but vital, experimental knowledge can only be received from the Holy Spirit, the great instructor and comforter of his people.' And there are two things observable in his teaching : 1. That he honours the means of his own appointment, so that we cannot expect to make any great progress without diligence on our parts : 2. That he does not teach all at once, but by degrees. Experience is his school; and by this I mean the observation and improvement of what passes within us and around us in the course of every day. The word of God affords a history in miniature of the heart of man, the devices of Satan, the state of the world, and the method of grace. And the most instructing and af
fecting commentary on it to an enlightened mind may be gathered from what we see, feel, and hear, from day to day. Res, atas, usus, semper aliquid apportent novi : and no knowledge in spiritual things but what we acquire in this way, is properly our own, or will abide the time of trial. This is not always sufficiently considered: we are ready to expect that others should receive upon our word, in half an hour's time, those views of things which have cost us years to attain. But none can be brought forward faster than the Lord is pleased to communicate inward light. Upon this ground controversies have been multiplied among Christians to little purpose; for plants of different standings will be (cæteris paribus) in different degrees of forwardness. A young Christian is like a green fruit; it has perhaps a disagreeable austerity, which cannot be corrected out of its proper course: it wants time and growth: wait a while, and by the nourishment it receives from the root, together with the action of the sun, wind, and rain, in succession from without, it will insensibly acquire that flavour and maturity, for the want of which an unskilful judge would be ready to reject it as nothing worth. We are favoured with many excellent books in our tongue; but I with you agree in assigning one of the first places (as a teacher) to Dr. Owen. I have just finished his Discourse on the Holy Spirit, which is an epitome, if not the master-piece of his writings. I should be glad to see the republication you speak of; but I question if the booksellers will venture upon it. I shall perhaps mention it to my London friends. As to archbishop Leighton, besides his select works, there are two octavo volumes published at Edinburgh in the year 1748, and since reprinted at London. They contain a valuable commentary on St. Peter's First Epistle, and Lectures