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IT is true I was apprehensive from your silence that I had offended you; but when your letter came it made me full amends: and now I am glad I wrote as I did, though I am persuaded I shall never write to you again in the same strain. I am pleased with the spirit you discover; and your bearing so well to be told of the mistakes I pointed out to you, endears you more to me than if you had not made them. Henceforward I can converse freely with you, and shall be glad when I have the opportunity.
As to your view of justification, I did not oppose it; I judge for myself, and I am willing others should have the same liberty. If we hold the head and love the Lord, we agree in him, and I should think my time ill employed in disputing the point with you. I only meant to except against the positive manner in which you had expressed yourself. My end is answered, and I am satisfied. Indeed I believe the difference between a judicious Supra-lapsarian, and a sound Sublapsarian, lies more in a different way of expressing their sentiments than is generally thought. At the close of Halyburton's Insufficiency of Natural Religion, he has an Enquiry into the Nature of Regeneration and Justification, wherein he proposes a scheme, in
which, if I mistake not, the moderate of both parties might safely unite. I have used the epithets judicious and sound, because, as I acknowledge some of the one side are not quite sound, so I think some on the other side are not so judicious as I could wish; that is, I think they do not sufficiently advert to the present state of human nature, and the danger which may arise from leading those who are weak in faith and judgement, into inquiries and distinctions evidently beyond the line of their experience, and which may be hurtful; because, admitting them to be true when properly explained, they are very liable to be misunderstood. To say nothing of Mr. Hussey (in whose provisions I have frequently found more bones than meat, and seasoned with much of an angry and self-important spirit), I have observed passages in other writers, for whom I have a higher esteem, which, to say the least, appear to me paradoxical and hard to be understood; though perhaps I can give my consent to them, if I had such restrictions and limitations as the authors would not refuse. But plain people are easily puzzled. And though I know several in the Supra-lapsarian scheme, at whose feet I am willing to sit and learn, and have found their preaching and conversation savoury and edifying; yet I must say I have met with many who have appeared to be rather wise than warm, rather positive than humble, rather captious than lively, and more disposed to talk of speculations than experience. However, let us give ourselves to the study of the word and to prayer; and may the great teacher make every Scriptural truth food to our souls. I desire to grow in knowledge, but I want nothing which bears that name that has not a direct tendency to make sin more hateful, Jesus more precious to my soul; and at the same time to animate
me to a diligent use of every appointed means, and an unreserved regard to every branch of duty. I think the Lord has shown me in a measure there is a consistent sense running through the whole Scripture, and I desire to be governed and influenced by it all. Doctrines, precepts, promises, warnings, all have their proper place and use: and I think many of the inconveniences which obtain in the present day, spring from separating those things which God hath joined together, and insisting on some parts of the word of God almost to the exclusion of the rest.
I have filled my paper with what I did not intend to say a word of when I begun, and must leave other things which were more upon my mind for another season. I thank you for saying you pray for me. Continue that kindness; I both need it and prize it. I am, &c.
July 31, 1773.
I RECEIVED your sorrowful epistle yesterday, and in order to encourage you to write, I answer it to-day.
The ship was safe when Christ was in her, though he was really asleep. At present I can tell you good news, though you know it; he is wide awake, and his eyes are in every place. You and I, if we could be pounded together, might perhaps make two tolerable ones. You are too anxious, and I am too easy in some respects. Indeed I cannot be too easy, when I have a right thought that all is safe in his hands; but if your anxiety makes you pray, and my composure makes me careless, you have certainly the best of it. However,
the ark is fixed upon an immoveable foundation; and if we think we see it totter, it is owing to a swimming in our heads. Seriously, the times look dark and stormy, and call for much circumspection and prayer; but let us not forget that we have an infallible Pilot, and that the power, and wisdom, and honour of God, are embarked with us. At Venice they have a fine vessel, called the Bucentaur, in which, on a certain day of the year, the doge and nobles, embark, and to sea, to repeat the foolish ceremony of marriage between the republic and the Adriatic (in consequence of some lying, antiquated Pope's bull, by which the banns of matrimony between Venice and the Gulf were published in the dark ages), when, they say, a gold ring is very gravely thrown overboard. Upon this occasion, I have been told, when the honour and government of Venice are shipped on board the Bucentaur, the pilot is obliged by his office to take an oath that he will bring the vessel safely back again, in defiance of winds and weather. Vain mortals! If this be true, what an instance of God's long-suffering is it, that they have never yet sunk as lead in the mighty waters! But my story will probably remind you, that Jesus has actually entered into such an engagement in behalf of his church. And well he may, for both wind and weather are at his command; and he can turn the storm into a calm in a moment. We may therefore safely and confidently leave the government upon his shoulders. Duty is our part, the care is his.
A revival is wanted with us as well as with you, and I trust some of us are longing for it. We are praying and singing for one; and I send you, on the other side, a hymn, that you (if you like it) may sing with us. Let us take courage; though it may seem marvellous
in our eyes, it is not so in the Lord's. He changed the desert into a fruitful field, and bid dry bones live. And if he prepare our heart to pray, he will surely incline
his ear to hear.
The miscarriages of professors are grievous; yet such things must be; how else could the Scriptures be fulfilled? But there is one who is able to keep us from falling. Some who have distressed us perhaps never were truly changed; how then could they stand? We see only the outside. Others who are sincere are permitted to fall for our instruction, that we may not be high-minded, but fear.
humbly walketh surely.
However, he that walketh
Believe me, &c.
Feb. 22, 1774.
YOUR letter by last post surprised and grieved me. We knew nothing of the subject, though Mrs. **** remembers, when **** was here, a hint or two was dropped which she did not understand; but no name was mentioned.
This instance shows the danger of leaning to impressions. Texts of Scripture brought powerfully to the heart are very desirable and pleasant, if their tendency is to humble us, to give us a more feeling sense of the preciousness of Christ, or of the doctrines of grace; if they make sin more hateful, enliven our regard to the means, or increase our confidence in the power and faithfulness of God. But if they are understood as intimating our path of duty in particular circumstances, or confirming us in purposes we may have already formed,