Page images
PDF
EPUB

is always happy in Christ, always full of prayer and thanksgiving. I rejoice that he feels no unholy temper, but the pure love of God continually. And I will rejoice, if sin is suspended till it is totally destroyed.

“Q. Is there no danger then in a man's being thus deceived ?

“ A. Not at the time that he feels no sin. There was danger before, and there will be again when he comes into fresh trials. But so long as he feels nothing but love animating all his thoughts, and words, and actions, he is in no danger; he is not only happy, but safe, under the shadow of the Almighty;' and, for God's sake, let him continue in that love as long as he can. Mean. time, you may do well to warn him of the danger that will be, if his love grow cold and sin revive ; even the danger of casting away hope, and supposing, that, because he hath not attained yet, therefore he never shall.

"Q. But what, if none have attained it yet? What, if all who think so are deceived ?

“ A. Convince me of this, and I will preach it no more. But understand me right; I do not build any doctrine on this or that person. This or any other man may be deceived, and I am not moved. But, if there are none made perfect yet, God has not sent me to preach perfection.

“ Put a parallel case: For many years I have preached, * There is a peace of God which passeth all understanding. Convince me that this word has fallen to the ground; that in all these years none have attained this peace; that there is no living witness of it at this day; and I will preach it no more.

« O, but several persons have died in that peace.' Perhaps so; but I want living witnesses. I cannot indeed be infallibly certain that this or that person is a witness; but if I were certain there are none such, I must have done with this doctrine.

*** You misunderstand me. I believe some who died in this love, enjoyed it long before their death. But I was not certain that their former testimony was true till some hours before they died.'

You had not an infallible certainty then: and a reasonable certainty you might have had before; such a certainty as might have quickened and com, forted your own soul, and answered all other Christian purposes. Such a certainty as this any candid person may have, suppose there be any living witness, by talking one hour with that person in the love and fear of God.

“Q. But what does it signify, whether any have attained it or no, seeing so many scriptures witness for it?

" A. If I were convinced that none in England had attained what has been so clearly and strongly preached by such a number of preachers, in so many places, and for so long a time, I should be clearly convinced that we had all mistaken the meaning of those scriptures; and therefore, for the time to come, I too must teach that .sin will remain till death.'

20. In the year 1762, there was a great increase of the work of God in London. Many, who had hitherto cared for none of these things, were decply convinced of their lost estate; many found redemption in the blood of Christ; not a few backsliders were healed ; and a considerable number of persons believed that God had saved them from all sin. Easily foreseeing that Satan would be endeavouring to sow tares among the wheat, I took much pains to apprize them of the danger, particularly with regard to pride and enthusiasm. And while I stayed in town, I had reason to hope they continued both humble and soberminded. But almost as soon as I was gone, enthusiasm broke in. Two or three began to take their own imaginations for impressions from God, and thence to suppose that they should never die; and these, labouring to bring others into the same opinion, occasioned much noise and confusion. Soon after, the same persons, with a few more, ran into other extravagances; fancying they could not be tempted; that they should feel no more pain; and that they had the gift of prophecy, and of discerning of spirits. At my return to London, in autumn, some of them stood reproved; but others were got above instruction. Meantime, a flood of reproach came upon me almost from every quarter; from themselves, because I was checking them on all occasions; and from others, because, they said, I did not check them. However, the hand of the Lord was not stayed, but more and more sinners were convinced; while some were almost daily converted to God, and others enabled to love him with all their heart.

21. About this time, a friend at some distance from London wrote to me as follows :

“ Be not over alarmed that Satan sows tares among the wheat of Christ. It ever has been so, especially on any remarkable outpouring of his Spirit ; and ever will be so, till he is chained up for a thousand years. Till then he will always ape, and endeavour to counteract, the work of the Spirit of Christ.

“Öne melancholy effect of this has been, that a world, who is always asleep in the arms of the evil one, has ridiculed every work of the Holy Spirit.

“ But what can real Christians do? Why, if they would act worthy of themselves, they should, (1.) Pray that every deluded soul may be delivered ; (2.) Endeavour to reclaim them in the spirit of meekness; and, Lastly, take the utmost care, both by prayer and watchfulness, that the delusion of others may not lessen their zeal in seeking after that universal holiness of soul, body, and spirit, without which no man shall see the Lord.'

• Indeed this complete new creature is mere madness to a mad world. But it is, notwithstanding, the will and wisdom of God. May we all seek after it!

“ But some who maintain this doctrine in its full extent are too often guilty of limiting the Almighty. He dispenses his gifts just as he pleases; therefore, it is neither wise nor modest to affirm that a person must be a believer for any length of time before he is capable of receiving a high degree of the Spirit of holiness.

" God's usual method is one thing, but his sovereign pleasure is another. He has wise reasons both for hastening and retarding his work. Sometimes he comes suddenly, and unexpected; sometimes, not till we have long looked for him.

“ Indeed it has been my opinion for many years, that one great cause why men make so little improvement in the divine life is their own coldness, negligence, and unbelief. And yet I here speak of believers.

“ May the Spirit of Christ give us a right judgment in all things, and fill us with all the fulness of God;' that so we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.'

22. About the same time, five or six honest enthusiasts foretold the world was to end on the 28th of February. I immediately withstood them, by every possible means, both in public and private. I preached expressly upon the subject, both at West-street and Spitalfields. I warned the society, again and again, and spoke severally to as many as I could ; and I saw the fruit of my labour. They made exceeding few converts : I believe scarce thirty in our whole society. Nevertheless, they made abundance of noise, gave huge occasion of offence to those who took care to improve to the uttermost every occasion against me, and greatly increased both the number and courage of those who opposed Christian perfection.

23. Some questions now published by one of these, induced a plain man to write the following

"Queries, humbly proposed to those who deny perfection to be attainable in this life.

" (1.) Has there not been a larger measure of the Holy Spirit given under the Gospel, than under the Jewish dispensation? If not, in what sense was the Spirit not given before Christ was glorified ? John vii, 39.

“ (2.) Was that .glory which followed the sufferings of Christ,' 1 Peter i, 11, an external glory, or an internal, viz. the glory of holiness ?

(3.) Has God any where in Scripture commanded us more than he has promised to us ?

(4.) Are the promises of God respecting holiness to be fulfilled in this life, or only in the next?

“ (5.) Is a Christian under any other laws than those which God promises to write in our hearts ?' Jer. xxxi, 31, &c; Heb. viii, 10.

" (6.) In what sense is the righteousness of the law fulfilled in those who walk not after the fleslı, but after the Spirit ? Rom. viii, 4.

“(7.) Is it impossible for any one in this life to love God with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength ?' And is the Christian under any law which is not fulfilled in this love?

“ (8.) Does the soul's going out of the body effect its purification from indwelling sin ?

" (9.) If so, is it not something else, not the blood of Christ, which cleanseth' it from all sin ?'

“ (10.) If his blood cleanseth us from all sin, while the soul and body are united, is it not in this life?

(11.) If when that union ceases, is it not in the next ? And is not this too late ?

“ (12.) If in the article of death; what situation is the soul in, when it is neither in the body nor out of it ?

"(13.) Has Christ any where taught us to pray for what he never designs to give ?

" (14.) Has he not taught us to pray, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven ? And is it not done perfectly in heaven?

“ (15.) If so, has he not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does he not then design to give it ?

" (16.) Did not St. Paul pray according to the will of God, when he prayed that the Thessalonians might be sanctified wholly, and preserved' (in this world, not the next, unless he was praying for the dead) .blameless in body, soul, and spirit, unto the coming of Jesus Christ ?'

.(17.) Do you sincerely desire to be freed from indwelling sin in this life?

“ (18.) If you do, did not God give you that desire ?

“ (19.) If so, did he not give it you to mock you, since it is impossible it should ever be fulfilled ?

“ (20.) If you have not sincerity enough even to desire it, are you not disputing about matters too high for you?

(21.) Do you ever pray God to cleanse the thoughts of your heart, that you 'may perfectly love him ?'

(22.) If you neither desire what you ask, nor believe it attainable, pray you not as a fool prayeth ?

“God help thee to consider these questions calmly and impartially !"

24. In the latter end of this year, God called to himself that burning and shining light, Jane Cooper. As she was both a living and a dying witness of Christian perfection, it will not be at all foreign to the subject to add a short account of her death; with one of her own letters, containing a plain and artless relation of the manner wherein it pleased God to work that great change in her soul :

“May 2, 1761. “ I BELIEVE while memory remains in me, gratitude will continue. From the time you preached on Gal. v, 5, I saw clearly the true state of my soul. That sermon described my heart, and what it wanted to be ; namely, truly happy. You read Mr. M—'s letter, and it described the religion which I desired. From that time the prize appeared in view, and I was enabled to follow hard after it. I was kept watching unto prayer, sometimes in much distress, at other times in patient expectation of the blessing. For some days before you left London, my soul was stayed on a promise I had applied to me in prayer: The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple.' I believed he would, and that he would sit there as a refiner's fire. The Tues. day after you went, I thought I could not sleep unless he fulfilled his word that night. I never knew as I did then the force of these words : •Be still, and know that I am God.' I became nothing before him, and enjoyed perfect calmness in my soul. I knew not whether he had destroyed my sin; but I desired to know, that I might praise him. Yet I soon found the return of unbelief, and groaned, being burdened. On Wednesday I went to London, and sought the Lord without ceasing. I promised, if he would save me from sin, I would praise him. I could part with all things, so I might win Christ. But I found all these pleas to be nothing worth; and that if he saved me, it must be freely, for his own name's sake. On Thursday I was so much tempted that I thought of destroying myself, or never conversing more with the people of God: and yet I had no doubt of his pardoning love; but,

'Twas worse than death my God to love,

And not my God alone. On Friday my distress was deepened. I endeavoured to pray, and could not. I went to Mrs. D., who prayed for me, and told me it was the death of nature. I opened the Bible on, * The fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.' I could not bear it. I opened again, on Mark xvi, 6, 7: · Be not affrighted; ye seek Jesus of Nazareth. Go your way; tell his disciples he goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see him.'' I was encouraged, and enabled to pray, believing I should see Jesus at home. I returned that night, and found Mrs. G. She prayed for me; and the predestinarian had no plea, but, Lord, thou art no respecter of persons.' He proved he was not, by blessing me. I was in a moment enabled to lay hold on Jesus Christ, and found salvation by simple faith. He assured me, the Lord, the King, was in the midst of me, and that I should see evil no more. I now blessed Him who had visited and redeemed me, and was become my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.' I saw Jesus altogether lovely; and knew he was mine in all his offices. And, glory be to him, he now reigns in my heart without a rival. I find no will but his. I feel no pride; nor any affection but what is placed on him. I know it is by faith I stand; and that watching unto prayer, must be the guard of faith. I am happy in God this moment, and I believe for the next. I have often read the chapter you mention, (1 Cor. xiii,) and compared my heart and life with it. In so doing, I feel my short-comings, and the need'I have of the atoning blood. Yet I dare not say, I do not feel a measure of the love there described, though I am not all I shall be. I desire to be lost in that • love which passeth knowledge. I see the just shall live by faith;' and unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given. If I were an archangel, I should veil my face before him, and let silence speak his praise !"

The following account was given by one who was an eye and ear witness of what she relates :

“ (1.) In the beginning of November, she seemed to have a foresight of what was coming upon her, and used frequently to sing these words :

• When pain o'er this weak flesh prevails,

With lamb-like patience arm my breast.' And when she sent to me, to let me know she was ill, she wrote in her noto,

•I suffer the will of Jesus. All he sends is sweetened by his love. I am as happy as if I heard a voice say,

*For me my elder brethren stay,
And angels beckon me away,

And Jesus bids me come!' (2.) Upon my telling her, 'I cannot choose lite or death for you,' she said, 'I asked the Lord, that, if it was his will, I might die first. And he told me, you should survive me, and that you should close my eyes. When we perceived it was the small-pox, I said to her, My dear, you will not be frighted if we tell you whet is your distemper.' She said, “I cannot be frighted at His will.

(3.) 'The distemper was soon very heavy upon her; but so much the more was her faith strengthened. Tuesday, November 16, she said to me,

I have been worshipping before the throne in a glorious manner; my soul was so let into God!" I said, • Did the Lord give you any particular promise?' *No,' replied she; it was all

That sacred awe that dares not move,

And all the silent heaven of love.' “ (4.) On Thursday, upon my asking, "What have you to say to me?' she said, Nay, nothing but what you know already : God is love.' I asked, • Have you any particular promise ?' She replied, 'I do not seem to want any; I can live without. I shall die a lump of deformity, but shall meet you all glorious : and, meantime, I shall still have fellowship with your spirit.'

* (5.) Mr. M. asked, what she thought the most excellent way to walk in, and what were its chief !inderances. She answered : “ The greatest hinderance is generally from the natural constitution. It was mine to be reserved, to be very quiet, to suffer much, and to say little. Some may think one way more excellent, and some another: but the thing is to live in the will of God. For some months past, when I have been particularly devoted to this, I have felt such a guidance of his Spirit, and the unction which I have received from the Holy One has so taught me of all things, that I needed not any man should teach me, save as this anointing teacheth.'

“ (6.) On Friday morning she said, I believe I shall die.' She then sat up in her bed and said, • Lord, I bless thee, that thou art ever with me, and all thou hast is mine. Thy love is greater than my weakness, greater than my helplessness, greater than my unworthiness. Lord, thou sayest to corruption, Thou art my sister! And glory be to thee, O Jesus, thou art my brother. Let me comprehend, with all saints, the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of thy love! Bless these;' (some that were present ;) • let them be every moment exercised in all things as thou wouldest have them to be.'

(7.) Some hours after, it seemed as if the agonies of death were just coming upon her; but her face was full of smiles of triumph, and she clapped her hands for joy. Mrs. C. said, “My dear, you are more than conqueror through the blood of the Lamb.' She answered, · Yes, O yes, sweet Jesus ! O death, where is thy sting ?' She then lay as in a doze for some time. Afterward, she strove to speak, but could not: however, she testified her love by shaking hands with all in the room.

(8.) Mr. W. then came. She said, “Sir, I did not know that I should live to see you. But I am glad the Lord has given me this opportunity, and likewise power to speak to you. I love you. You have always preached the strictest doctrine ; and loved to follow it. Do so still, whoever is pleased or displeased.' He asked, 'Do you now believe you are saved from sin? She said, “ Yes; I have had no doubt of it for many months. That I ever had, was, because I did not abide in the faith. I now feel I have kept the faith; and perfect love casteth out all fear. As to you, the Lord promised

« PreviousContinue »