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and in a state of dainnation: Another, If you die before you have attained it, you will surely perish.”
By perfection, I mean, perfect love, or the loving God with all our heart, so as to rejoice evermore, to pray without ceasing, and in every thing to give thanks. I am convinced every believer may attain this; yet I do not say, he is in a state of damnation, or under the curse of God, till he does attain. No, he is in a state of grace, and in favour with God, as long as he believes. Neither would I say, "If you die without it, you will perish;" but rather, till you are saved from unholy tempers, you are not ripe for glory. There will therefore more promises be fulfilled in your soul, before God takes you to himself.
“ But none can attain perfection, unless they first believe it attainable.” Neither do I affirm this. I knew a Calvinist in London, who never believed it attainable, till the moment she did attain it; and then lay declaring it aloud for many days, till her spirit returned to God.
“ But you yourself believed, twenty years ago, that we should not put off the infection of nature, but with our bodies." I did so. But I believe otherwise now, for many reasons, some of which you afterward mention. How far Mr. Roquet or Mr. Walsh may have mistaken these, I know not: I can only answer for myself.
“ The nature and fitness of things” is so ambiguous an expression, that I never make use of it. Yet if
“ Is it fit or necessary, in the nature of things, that a soul should be saved from all sin before it enters into glory?" I answer, It is. And so it is written, “No unclean thing shall enter into it.” Therefore, whatever degrees of holiness they did, or did not, attain, in the preceding parts of life, neither Jews nor Heathens, any more than Christians, ever did, or ever will, enter into the New Jerusalem, unless they are cleansed from all sin before they enter into eternity.
I do by no means exclude the Old Testament from bearing witness to any truths of God. Nothing less; but I say, the experience of the Jews is not the standard of Christian experience; and that therefore, were it true, the Jews did not love God with all their heart and soul, it would not follow, therefore, no Christian can; because we may attain what they did not.
" “ But,” you say, “ either their words do not contain a promise of such perfection, or God did not fulfil this promise to them to whom he made it.” I answer, He surely will fulfil it to them to whom he made it; namely, to the Jews, after their dispersion into all lands : and to these is the promise made ; as will be clear to any who impartially considers the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy, wherein it stands.
I doubt whether this perfection can be proved by Luke vi, 40. From 1 John iii, 9, (which belongs to all the children of God,) I never attempted to prove it; but I still think it is clearly described in those words, " As he is, so are we in this world." And yet it doth not now appear "what we shall be,” when this vile body is “ fashioned like unto his glorious body;" when we shall see him, not in a glass, but face to face, and be transformed into his likeness.
Those expressions, John xii, 10, “Ye are clean, clean every whit,” are allowed to refer to justification only. But that expression, If we walk in the light as he is in the light," cannot refer to justification only.
It does not relate to justification at all, whatever the other clause may do. Therefore, those texts are by no means parallel, neither can the latter be limited by the former ; although it is sure, the privileges described in both belong to every adult believer.
But not only abundance of particular texts, but the whole tenor of Scripture declares, Christ came to “ destroy the works of the devil, to save us from our sins ;" all the works of the devil, all our sins, without any exception or limitation. Indeed should we say, we have no sin to be saved or cleansed from, we should make him come in vain. But it is at least as much for his glory to cleanse us from them all before our death as after it.
“But St. James says, “In many things we offend all;' and whatever we might mean, if alone, the expression, we all, was never before understood to exclude the person speaking.” Indeed it was. It is unquestionably to be understood so as to exclude Isaiah, the person speaking, "We are all as an unclean thing; we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away,” lxiv, 6. For this was not the case with Isaiah himself. Of himself he says, “ My soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation; he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness,” Ixi, 10. Here the Prophet, like the Apostle, uses the word we instead of you, to soften the harshness of an unpleasing truth.
In this chapter the Apostle is not cautioning them against censuring others, but entering upon a new argument; wherein the second verse has an immediate reference to the first; but none at all to the thirteenth of the preceding chapter.
I added, “We offend all,' cannot be spoken of all Christians; for immediately there follows the mention of one who offends not, as the we before mentioned did.” You answer, “His not offending in word, will not prove that he does not offend in many things.”” I think St. James himself proves it, in saying, “ He is able to bridle also the whole body;" to direct all his actions as well as words, according to the holy, perfect will of God; which those, and those only, are able to do, who love God with all their hearts. And yet these very persons can sincerely say, “ Forgive us our trespasses." For as long as they are in the body, they are liable to mistake, and to speak or act according to that mistaken judgment. Therefore they cannot abide the rigour of justice, but still need mercy and forgiveness.
Were you to ask, What, if I should die this moment ?" I should answer, I believe you would be saved; because I am persuaded, none that has faith can die before he is made ripe for glory. This is the doctrine which I continually teach, which has nothing to do with justification by works. Nor can it discourage any who have faith, neither weaken their peace, nor damp their joy in the Lord. True believers are not distressed hereby, either in life or in death; unless in some rare instance, wherein the temptation of the devil is joined with a melancholy temper.
Upon the whole, 1 observe your great argument turns all along on a mistake of the doctrine. Whatever warm expressions may drop from young men, we do not teach that any believer is under condemnation. So that all the inferences drawn from this supposition fall to the ground at once.
Your other letter I hope to consider hereafter ; though I have great reason to apprehend your prejudice will still be too strong for my arguments. However, whether you expect it or not, I must wish for your perfection. You of all people have most need of perfect love; because this alone casts out fear. I am, with great sincerity,
Your affectionate brother and servant.
JULY 1, 1759. Dear Sir,-Considering the variety of business which must lie upon you, I am not willing to trouble you too often ; yet cannot any longer delay to return thanks for your favour of May 21. How happy is it that there is a higher wisdom than our own to guide us through the mazes of life! that we have an unction from the Holy One, to teach us 1 of all things where human teaching fails! And it certainly must fail in a thousand instances. General rules cannot reach all particular cases; in some of which there is such a complication of circumstances, that God alone can show what steps we should take. There is one circumstance in your case which claims your peculiar attention, and makes it necessary often to check that boldness and simplicity, which otherwise would be both your duty and pleasure. But O, how easily may you comply too far, and hurt yourself in hopes of gaining another ! nay, perhaps hurt the other too, by that very compliance which was designed to help! And who is able to lay the line ? to determine how far you should comply, and where fix your foot ? May the God of wisdom direct your steps !
And I conceive he will rather do this, by giving you light directly from himself, in meditation and private prayer, than by the advice of others, who can hardly be impartial in so tender a point. Is it not then advisable, that you should much commune with God and your own heart? You may then lay aside all the trappings that naturally tend to hide you from yourself, and appear naked, as a poor sinful worm, before the great God, the Creator of heaven and of earth! the great God, who is your Father and your Friend! who hath prepared for kingdom! who calls you to forget the little things of earth, and to sit down with him on his throne ! O may you dwell on these things, till they possess your whole soul, and cause you to love the honour which cometh of God only! I am, dear sir,
Your obedient servant.
you in all
Mar 16, 1759. Dear Sir,-Since I received your favour I have had many thoughts on worldly and Christian prudence. What is the nature of each? How do they differ? How may we distinguish one from the other?
It seems worldly prudence either pursues worldly ends,-riches, honour, ease, or pieasure; or pursues Christian ends on worldly maxims, or by worldly means. The grand maxin which obtain in the world are, the more power, the more money, the more learning, and the more reputation a man has, the more good he will do. And whenever a Christian, pursuing the noblest ends, forms his behaviour by these maxims, he will
infallibly (though perhaps by insensible degrees) decline into worldly prudence. He will use more or less of conformity to the world, if not in sin, yet in doing some things that are good in themselves, yet (all things considered) are not good to him; and perhaps at length using guile, or disguise, simulation or dissimulation ; either seeming to be what he is not, or not seeming to be what he is. By any of these marks may worldly prudence be discerned from the wisdom which is from above. This Christian prudence pursues Christian maxims, and by Christian
The ends it pursues are holiness in every kind, and in the highest degree; and usefulness in every kind and degree. And herein it proceeds on the following maxims :- The help that is done upon earth, God doeth it himself; it is he that worketh all in all; and that, not by human power; generally he uses weak things to confound the strong ;-not by men of wealth ; most of his choicest instruments may say, “ Silver and gold have I none;"-Dot by learned or wise men after the flesh; no, the foolish things hath God chosen ;—not by men of reputation, but by tha men that were as the filth and offscouring of the world; all which is for this plain reason,—" that no flesh may glory in his sight.”
Christian prudence pursues these ends upon these principles, by only Christian means. A truly prudent Christian, while, in things purely indifferent, he becomes all things to all men, yet wherever duty is concerned, matters the example of all mankind no more than a grain of sand. His word is then,
Non me, qui cætera, vincit
Impetus, et rapido contrarius evehor orbi. [The force which conquers others conquiers not me, and I am borne on against the
rapid current of the world.) He will not, to gain the favour or shun the hate of all, omit the least point of duty. He cannot prevail upon himself on any account or pretence, to use either simulation or dissimulation. There is no guile in his mouth; no evasion or ambiguity. Having one desire, one design, to glorify God with his body and with his spirit; having only one fear,
Lest a motion, or a word,
Or thought arise, to grieve his Lord; having one rule, the word of God; one guide, even his Spirit, he goes on in child-like simplicity. Continually seeing him that is invisible, he walks in open day. Looking unto Jesus, and deriving strength from him, he goes on in his steps, in the work of faith, the labour of love, the patience of hope, till he is called up to be ever with the Lord.
O that this were in all points your own character! Surely you desire it above all things. But how shall you attain ? Difficulties and hinderances surround you on every side! Can you bear with my plainness ? I believe you can. Therefore, I will speak without any reserve. I fear you have scarce one friend who has not more or less of the prudence which is not from above. And I doubt you have (in or near your own rank) hardly one example of true Christian prudence ! Yet 1 am persuaded your own heart advises you right, or rather, God in your heart. O that you may hearkeń to his voice alone, and let all creatures keep silence before him! Why should they encumber you with Saul's armour ? If you essay to go forth thus, it will be in vain. You have no need of this, neither of his sword or spear; for you trust in the Lord of Hosts. O go forth in his strength! and with the stones of the brook you shall overthrow all your enemies. I am, dear sir,
Your obedient servant for Christ's sake
DUBLIN, April 18, 1760. Dear Sir,— Disce, docendus adhuc quæ censet amiculus ; [Learn the opinion of an humble friend, who himself needs instruction;] and take in good part my mentioning some particulars which have been long on my mind; and yet I knew not how to speak them. I was afraid it might look like taking too much upon me, or assuming some superiority over you.' But love casts out, or at least overrules, that fear. So I will speak simply, and leave you to judge.
It seems to me, that, of all the persons I ever knew, save one, you are the hardest to be convinced. I have occasionally spoken to you on many heads; some of a speculative, others of a practical nature; but I do not know that you was ever convinced of one, whether of great importance or small. I believe you retained your own opinion in every one, and did not vary a hair's breadth. I have likewise doubted whether you was not full as hard to be persuaded, as to be convinced; whether your will do not adhere to its first bias, right or wrong, as strongly as your understanding. I mean, with regard to any impression which another
upon them. For perhaps you readily, too readily, change of your own mere motion; as I have frequently observed great fickleness and great stubbornness meet in the same mind. So that it is not easy to please you long; but exceeding easy to offend you. Does not this imply the thinking very highly of yourself? particularly of your own understanding? Does it not imply, what is always connected therewith, something of self-sufficiency? “You can stand alone ; you care for no man; you need no help from man.” It was not so with
brother and me, when we were first employed in this great work. We were deeply conscious of our own insufficiency; and though, in one sense, we trusted in God alone, yet we sought his help from all his children, and were glad to be taught by any man. And this, although we were really alone in the work; for there were none that had gone before us therein; there were none then in England who had trod that path wherein God was leading us. Whereas you have the advantage which we had not; you tread in a beaten path; others have gone before you, and are going now in the same way, to the same point. Yet it seems you choose to stand alone; what was necessity with us, is choice with you; you like to be unconnected with any, thereby tacitly condemning all. But possibly you go farther yet; do not you explicitly condemn all your fellow labourers, blaming one in one instance, one in another, so as to be thoroughly pleased with the conduct of none? Does not this argue a vehement proneness to condemn ? a very high degree of censoriousness? Do you not censure even peritos in suâ arte ? (adepts in their profession?] Permit me to relate a little circumstance to illustrate this: After we had been once singing a hymn at Everton, I was just going to say, “I wish Mr. Whitefield would not try to mend my brother's hymns.