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not, I dare not, contend; only, as a witness for God, I am ready to bear my simple testimony to what I have known of his truth, whenever I am properly called to it. I
you, that some accounted evangelical teachers have too much confined themselves to a few leading and favourite topics. I think this, a fault; and believe, when it is constantly so, the auditories are deprived of much edification and pleasure, which they might receive from a more judicious and comprehensive plan. The whole Scripture, as it consists of histories, prophecies, doctrines, precepts, promises, exhortations, admonitions, encouragements, and reproofs, is the proper subject of the Gospel-ministry; and every part should in its place and course be attended to; yet so as that, in
every compartment we exhibit, Jesus should be the capital figure; in whoin the prophecies are fulfilled, the promises established; to whom, in a way of type and emblem, the most important parts of Scripture-history have an express reference; and from whom alone we can receive that life, strength, and encouragement, which are necessary to make obedience either pleasing or practicable. And where there is true spiritual faith in the heart, and in exercise, I believe a person will not so much need a detail of what he is to practise, as to be often greatly at a loss without it. Our Saviour's commandments are plain and clear in themselves; and that love which springs from faith is the best casuist and commentator to apply and enforce them.
You are pleased to say, “Forgive me if I transgress; “ I know the place whereon I stand is holy ground.” Permit me to assure you, my dear Madam, that were I, which I am not, a person of some importance, you would run no hazard of offending me by controverting any of my sentiments: I hold none (knowingly) which I am
not willing to submit to examination ; nor am I afraid of offending you by speaking freely, when you point out my way. I should wrong you, if I thought to please you by palliating or disguising the sentiments of my heart; and if I attempted to do so, you would see through the design, and despise it. There may perhaps be an improper manner of chiming upon the name of Jesus, and I am not for vindicating any impropriety; yet, could I feel what I ought to mean when I pronounce that name, I should not fear mentioning it too often. I am afraid of no excess in thinking highly of it, because I read it is the will of God, that all men should honour the Son as they honour the Father. Laboured explications of the Trinity I always avoid. I am afraid of darkening counsel by words without knowledge. Scripture, and even reason assures me, there is but one God, whose name alone is Jehovah. Scripture likewise assures me, that Christ is God, that Jesus is 'Jehovah. I cannot say
that reason assents with equal readiness to this proposition as to the former. But admitting what the Scripture teaches concerning the evil of sin, the depravity of human nature, the method of salvation, and the offices of the Saviour admitting that God has purposed to glorify, not his mercy only, but his justice, in the work of redemption ; that the blood shed upon the cross is a proper, adequate satisfaction for sin; and that the Redeemer is at present the shepherd of those who believe in him, and will hereafter be the judge of the world ; that, in order to give the effectual help which we need, it is necessary that he be always intimately with those who depend upon him in every age, in every place; must know the thoughts and intents of every heart; must have his eye always upon them, his ear always open to them, his arm ever stretched out for their relief; that they can receive nothing but
what he bestows, can do nothing but as he enables them, nor stand a moment but as he upholds them : admitting these and the like premises, with which the word of God abounds, reason must allow, whatever difficulties may attend the thought, that only he who is God over all, blessed for ever, is able or worthy to execute this complicated plan, every part of which requires the exertion of infinite wisdom and almighty power; nor am I able to form any clear, satisfactory, comfortable thoughts of God, suited to awaken my love or engage my trust, but as he has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe with the apostle, that God was once manifested in the flesh upon earth; and that he is now manifested in the flesh in heaven; and that the worship, not only of redeemed sinners, but of the holy angels, is addressed to the Lamb that was slain, and who, in that nature in which he suffered, now exercises universal dominion, and has the government of heaven, earth, and hell, upon his shoulders. This truth is the foundation
which my hope is built, the fountain from whence I derive all my strength and consolation, and my only encouragement for vențuring to the throne of grace, for grace to help in time of need.
Till God in human flesh I see,
My thoughts no comfort find;
Are terrors to my mind.
My hope, my joy begins;
His grace removes our sins.
I am, however, free to confess to you, that, through the pride and unbelief remaining in my heart, and the power of Satan's temptations, there are seasons when I find no small perplexity and evil reasonings upon this high point : but it is so absolutely essential to my peace, that I cannot part with it; for I cannot give it up, without giving up all hope of salvation on the one hand, and giving up the Bible, as an unmeaning, contradictory fable, on the other : and through mercy, for the most part, when I am in my right mind, I am as fully persuaded of this truth as I am of my own existence'; but from the exercises I have had about it, I have learned to subscribe to the apostle's declaration, that “no man “can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy "Ghost." I am well satisfied it will not be a burden to me at the hour of death, nor be laid to my charge at the day of judgement, that. I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much from him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting him forth to others, as the Alpha and Omega, the true God and eternal life. On the contrary, alas ! alas ! my guilt and grief are, that my thoughts of him are so faint, so infrequent, and my commendations of him so lamentably cold and disproportionate to what they ought to be.
I know not whose letters are rapturous, but I wish mine were more so: not that I am a friend to ungrounded sallies of imagination, flights of animal passions, or heat without light. But it would be amazing to me, were I not aware of human depravity (of which I consider this as one of the most striking proofs), that they who have any good hope of an interest in the Gospel-salvation, do not find their hearts-(as Dr. Watts expresses it) all on fire; and that their very looks do not express a transport of admiration, gratitude, and love, when they consider from what misery they are redeemed, to what happiness they are called, and what a price was paid for their souls. I wish to be more like the apostle Paul in
this respect, who, though he often forms and compounds new words, seems at a loss for any that could suitably describe the emotions of his heart. But I am persuaded you would not object to the just fervours of Scriptural devotion. But this holy flame can seldom be found unsullied in the present life. The temper, constitution, and infirinities of individuals will mix more or less with what they say or do. Allowances must be made for such things in the present state of infirmity; for who can hope to be perfectly free from them? If the heart is right with God, and sincerely affected with the wonders · of redeeming love, our gracious high priest, who knows our weakness, pities and pardons what is amiss, accepts our poor efforts, and gradually teaches us to discern and avoid what is blameable. The work of grace, in its · first stages, I sometimes compare to the lighting of a fire, where for a while there is abundance of smoke, but it burns clearer and clearer. There is often, both in letters and books, what might be very well omitted; but if a love to God and souls be the leading principle, I pass as gentle censure upon the rest as I can, and apply to some eccentric expressions, what Mr. Prior somewhere says of our civil dissensions in this land of liberty,
A bad effect, but from a noble cause.
I am, &c.
My Dear Madam,
February 16, 1776. IT
gave me great comfort to find, that what I wrote concerning the divine character of Jesus as God manifest