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pleasing spring, he may favour me with a spring season in my soul; for indeed I mourn under a long winter,
I am, &c.
My Dear Friend,
April 16, 1772. I HOPE the Lord has contracted my desires and aims almost to the one point of study, the knowledge of his truth. All other acquisitions are transient, and comparatively vain. And yet, alas ! I am a slow scholar : nor can I see in what respect I get forward, unless that every day I am more confirmed in the conviction of my own emptiness and inability to all spiritual good. And as, notwithstanding this, I am still enabled to stand my ground, I would hope, since no effect can be without an adequate cause, that I have made some advance, though in a manner imperceptible to myself, towards a more simple dependence upon Jesus as my all in all. It is given me to thirst and to taste, if it is not given me to drink abundantly; and I would be thankful for the desire. I see and approve the wisdom, grace, suitableness, and sufficiency of the Gospel salvation ; and since it is for sinners, and I am a sinner, and the promises are open,
I do not hesitate to call it mine. I am a weary, laden soul ; Jesus has invited me to come, and has enabled me to put my trust in him. I seldom have an uneasy doubt, at least not of any continuance, respecting my pardon, acceptance, and interest in all the blessings of the New Testament. And amidst a thousand infirmities and evils under which I groan, I have the testimony of my conscience when under the trial of his word, that my desire is sincerely towards him, that I choose no other portion, that I allowedly serve no other master. When I told our friend lately to this purpose, he wondered, and asked, “ How is it possible " that if you can say these things you should not be
always rejoicing ?” Undoubtedly I derive from the Gospel a peace at bottom which is worth more than a thousand worlds : but so it is, I can only speak for myself, though I rest and live upon the truths of the Gospel, they seldom impress me with a warm and lively joy. In public, indeed, I sometimes seem in earnest and much affected, but even then it appears to me rather as à part of the gift intrusted to me for the edification of others, than as a sensation wbich is properly my own. For when I am in private, I am usually dull and stupid to a strange degree, or the prey to a wild and ungoverned imagination; so that I may truly say, when I would do good, evil, horrid evil, is present with me. Ah, how different is this from sensible comfort! and if I was to compare myself to others, to make their experience my standard, and was not helped to retreat to the sure word of God as my refuge, how hard should I find it to maintain a hope that I had either part or lot in the matter! What I call my good times are, when I can find my
attention in some little measure fixed to what I am about, which indeed is not always nor frequently my case in prayer, and still seldomer in reading the Scripture. My judgment embraces these means as blessed privileges, and Satan has not prevailed to drive me from them ; but in the performance I too often find them tasks, feel a reluctance when the seasons return, and am glad when they are finished. Owhat a mystery is the heart of man! What a warfare is the life of faith, (at least in the path the Lord is pleased to lead me !) What reason have I to lie in the dust as the chief of sinners, and what cause for thankfulness that salvation is wholly of grace! Notwithstanding all my complaints, it is still true that Jesus died and rose again, that he ever liveth to make intercession, and is able to save to the uttermost. But, on the other hand, to think of that joy of heart in which some of his people live, and to compare it with that apparent deadness and want of spirituality which I feel, this makes me mourn. However, I think there is a Scriptural distinction between faith and feeling, grace and comfort; they are not inseparable, and perhaps when together, the degree of the one, is not often the just measure of the other, But though I pray that I may be ever longing and panting for the light of his countenance, yet I would be so far satisfied, as to believe the Lord has wise and merciful reasons for keeping me so short of the comforts which he has taught me to desire and value more than the light of the sun.
Rev. Mr. R****
Jan. 16, 1772. 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
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 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 Inquiry 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 judgment, 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 Vol. II,