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any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and sup with him, and he with me. But then it is added in the next words, To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne. And in that great invitation, Matth. xi. Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest; Christ adds in the next words, Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls: for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light; as though taking the burden of Christ's service, and imitating his example, were necessary in order to the promised rest. So in that great invitation to sinners to accept of free grace; Is. lv. Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money: come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price: even there, in the continuation of the same invitation, the sinner's forsaking his wicked practice is spoken of as necessary to the obtaining of mercy; ver. 7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. So the riches of divine grace in the justification of sinners, is set forth, with the necessity of holy practice, Is. i. 16, &c. Wash ye, make you clean, put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do well, seck judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. now, let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. And in that most solemn invitation of wisdom, Prov. ix. after it is represented what great provision is made; and how all things were ready, the house built, the beasts killed, the wine mingled, the table furnished, and the messengers sent forth to invite the guests; then we have the free invitation, ver. 4-6. Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, (i. e. has no righteousness) she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. But then in the next breath it follows, Forsake the foolish and live, and go in the way of understanding: as though forsaking sin, and going in the way of holiness, were necessary in order to life. So that the freeness of grace, and the necessity of holy practice, which are thus joined together in scripture, are not inconsistent. Nor does it at all diminish the honour and importance of faith, that its exercises and effects in practice should be esteemed its chief signs, any more than it lessens the importtance of life, that action and motion are esteemed its chief signs.
So that in what has been said of the importance of holy practice as the main sign of sincerity, there is nothing legal; nothing derogatory to the freedom and sovereignty of gospel-grace; no
thing in the least clashing with the gospel-doctrine of justification by faith alone without the works of the law; nothing in the least tending to lessen the glory of the Mediator and our dependence on his righteousness; nothing infringing on the special prerogatives of faith in the affair of our salvation; nothing in any wise detracting from the glory of God and his mercy, exalting man, or diminishing his dependence and obligation. So that if any are against the importance of holy practice as explained, it must be only from a senseless aversion to the letters and sound of the word works; when there is no reason in the world to be given for it, but what may be given with equal force, why they should have an aversion to the words holiness, godliness, grace, religion, experience, and even faith itself: for to make a righteousness of any of these, is as legal, and as inconsistent with the way of the new covenant, as to make a righteousness of holy practice*.
It is greatly to the hurt of religion, for persons to insist little on those things which the scripture insists most upon, as of most importance in the evidence of our interest in Christ, under a notion that to lay weight on these things is legal, and an old covenant-way. To neglect the exercises and effectual operations of grace in practice, and insist almost wholly on discoveries, and the method of the imminent exercises of conscience and grace in contemplation-depending on an ability to make nice distinctions in these matters, and a faculty of accurate discerning in them, from philosophy or experience-is highly injurious. It is in vain to seek for any better, or any further signs, than those which the scriptures have most expressly mentioned, and most frequently insisted on, as signs of godliness. They who pretend to a greater accuracy in giving signs-or, by their extraordinary experience, or insight into the nature of things, to give more distinguishing marks, which shall more thoroughly search out, and detect the hypocrite-are but subtle to darken their own minds, and the
*You say you know Christ, and the love and good-will of Christ towards you, and that he is the propitiation for your sins. How do you know this? 'He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar,' 1 John ii. 4. True, might some reply, he that keeps not the commands of Christ, hath thereby a sure evidence that he knows him not, and that he is not united to him; but is this any evidence that we do know him, and that we are united to him, if we do keep his commandments? Yes verily, saith the apostle, 'Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.' And again, ver. 5. Hereby know we that we are in him.' What can be more plain? What a vanity is it to say, that this is running upon a covenant of works?-O beloved, it is a sad thing to hear such questions, and such cold answers also, that sanctification possibly may be an evidence. May be? Is it not certain? Assuredly to deny it, is as bad as to affirm that God's own promises of favour are not sure evidences thereof, and consequently that they are lies and untruths.-Our Saviour, who was no legal preacher, pronounceth, and consequently evidenceth blessedness, by eight or nine promises, expressly made to such persons, as had inherent graces, Matth. v. 3, 4, &c."-Shepard's Sound Believer, p. 221, 222, 223.
minds of others; their refinings, and nice discerning, are in God's sight, but refined foolishness, and sagacious delusion. Here are applicable those words of Agur, Prov. xxx. 5, 6. Every word of God is pure: he is a shield to them that put their trust in him; add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Our wisdom and discerning, with regard to the hearts of men, is not much to be trusted. We can see but a little way into the nature of the soul, and the depths of man's heart. The ways are many whereby persons' affections may be moved without any supernatural influence: the natural springs of the affections are various and secret. Many things have oftentimes a joint influence on the affections; the imagination, natural temper, education, the common influences of the Spirit of God; a surprising concourse of affecting circumstances, an extraordinary coincidence of things in the course of men's thoughts together with the subtle management of invisible malicious spirits. No philosophy or experience will ever be sufficient to guide us safely through this labyrinth and maze, without our closely following the clue which God has given us in his word. God knows his own reasons why he insists on some things, and plainly sets them forth as what we should try ourselves by, rather than others. It may be it is because he knows that these things are attended with less perplexity, and that we are less liable to be deceived by them than others.He best knows our nature, and the nature and manner of his own operations; and he best knows the way of our safety. He knows what allowances to make for different states of his church, different tempers of particular persons, and varieties in the manner of his own operations; how far nature may resemble grace, and how far nature may be mixed with grace; what affections may rise from imagination, and how far imagination may be mixed with spiritual illumination. And therefore it is our wisdom not to take his work out of his hands; but to follow him, and lay the stress of the judgment of ourselves there, where he has directed us. If we do otherwise, no wonder if we are bewildered, confounded, and fatally deluded. But if we had got into the way of looking chiefly at those things which Christ, his apostles, and prophets chiefly insisted on-while judging of ourselves and others, chiefly regarding practical exercises and effects of grace, not neglecting other things-it would have been of manifold happy consequence. This would above all things tend to the conviction of deluded hypocrites, and to prevent the delusion of those whose hearts were never brought to a thorough compliance with the strait and narrow way which leads to life. It would tend to deliver us from innumerable perplexities, arising from varions inconsistent schemes about methods and steps of experience; it would greatly tend to prevent professors neglecting strictness of life, and tend to pro
mote their engagedness and earnestness in their Christian walk; and it would become fashionable for men to shew their Christianity, more by an amiable distinguished behaviour, than by an abundant and excessive declaring of their experiences. We should then get into the way of appearing lively in religion, more by being lively in the service of God and our generation, than by the forwardness of our tongues, and making a business of proclaiming on the house-tops the holy and eminent acts and exercises of our own hearts. Then Christians who are intimate friends, would talk together of their experiences and comforts, in a manner better becoming Christian humility and modesty, and more to each other's profit; their tongues not running before their hands and feet, after the prudent example of the blessed apostle, 2 Cor. xii. 6. Many occasions of spiritual pride would be cut off, and so a great door shut against the devil; and a great many of the main stumbling-blocks against experimental and powerful religion would be removed. Religion would be declared and manifested in such a way as-instead of hardening spectators, and exceedingly promoting infidelity and atheism-would above all things tend to convince men that there is a reality in religion, and greatly awaken them, and win them, by convincing their consciences of the importance and excellency of religion. Thus the light of professors would so shine before men, that others seeing their good works, would glorify their Father which is in Heaven!
TO THE TREATISE OF THE AFFECTIONS, IN TWO LETTERS.t
To Mr. GILLESPIE, in answer to Objections.
Rev. and Dear Sir,
NORTHAMPTON, SEPT. 4, 1747.
I RECEIVED your letter of Nov. 24, 1746, though very long after it was written. I thank you for it, and for your offering me a correspondence with you. Such an offer I shall gladly embrace, and esteem it a great privilege, more especially from the character I have received of you from Mr. Abercrombie, who I perceive was intimately acquainted with you.
As to the objections you make against some things contained in my late book on Religious Affections, I am sorry you did not read the book through, before you made them; if you had, perhaps the difficulties would not have appeared quite so great. As to what is contained in the 74th and 75th pages, I suppose there is not the least difference of opinion between you and me, unless it be concerning the signification and propriety of expressions. I am fully of your mind, and always was without the least doubt of it; "that every one, both saint and sinner, is indispensibly bound, at all seasons, by the divine authority, to believe instantly on the Lord Jesus, and that the command of the Lord, 1 John iii. 23, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, as it is a prescription of the moral law, no less binds the sinner to immediate performance, than the commandment not to kill, to keep the Sabbath-day, or any other duty, as to the present performance of which, in way of duty, all agree the sinner is bound; and that men are bound to trust the divine faithfulness,
+ These Letters were first printed in the Quarterly Magazine, Edinburgh.