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cepted a title from him, some months after-' to dispose of me, and that he both can and wards, and solicited ordination from the late will do what is best. To him I commend myarchbishop of York. I need not tell you I self: I trust that his will and my true interest met a refusal, nor what steps I took after- are inseparable. To his name be glory for wards to succeed elsewhere. At present I ever. And thus I conclude my story, and desist from any applications. My desire to presume you will acknowledge I have been serve the Lord is not weakened; but I am particular enough. I have room for no more, not so hasty to push myself forward as I was but to repeat that I am, sir, your's, &c. formerly 'It is sufficient that he knows how February 2, 1764.

FORTY-ONE LETTERS

ON

RELIGIOUS SUBJECTS.

ORIGINALLY

PUBLISHED UNDER THE SIGNATURES

OF

OMICRON AND VIGIL.

LETTER I.

than such a trust in God as to temporals, and On Trust in the Providence of God, and ied to relieve the necessities of his people,

such a sense of the honour of being permitBenevolence to his Poor.

as might dispose them to a more liberal disMY DEAR FRIEND,—The more I think of tribution of what they have at present in the point you proposed to me, the more I am their power, and to a reliance on him for a confirmed to renew the advice I then gave. sufficient supply in future. Some excepThere is doubtless such a thing as christian tions there are. Some persons I have the prudence; but, my friend, beware of coun- happiness to know, whose chief pleasure it terfeits. Self-love, and the evil heart of un- seems to be, to devise liberal things. For

belief, will endeavour to obtrude upon us a the most part, we take care, first, to be well -- prudence so called, which is as opposite to supplied, if possible, with all the necessaries,

the former as darkness to light. I do not conveniences, and not a few of the elegan. say that, now you have a wife, and the pros- cies of life; then to have a snug fund laid sent of a family, you are strictly bound to com- up against a rainy day, as the phrase is it municate with the poor in the saine propor- this is in an increasing way, so much the tion as formerly. I say, you are not bound; better,) that when we look at children and for every thing of this sort should proceed near relatives, we may say to our hearts, from a willing mind. But if you should tell " Now they are well provided for.” And me, the Lord has given you such a zeal for when we have gotten all this, and more, we his glory, such a concern for the honour of are, perhaps, content, for the love of Christ, the gospel, such a love to his members, such to bestow a pittance of our superfluities, a a grateful sense of his mercies (especially tenth or a twentieth part of what we spend by granting you, in this late instance of your or hoard up for ourselves, upon the poor. But, marriage, the desire of your heart,) and such alas! what do we herein more than others! an affiance in his providence and promises, Multitudes, who know nothing of the love that you find yourself very unwilling to be of Christ, will do thus much, yea, perhaps, one sixpence in the year less useful than you greatly exceed us, from the mere feelings of was before, I could not blame you, or dis- humanity. suade you from it. But I do not absolutely But it may be asked, Would you show no advise it; because I know not the state of regard to the possibility of Icaving your wife your mind, or what measure of faith the Lord or children unprovided for? Quite the rehas given you. Only this I believe, that verse. I would have you attend to it very •vhen the Lord gives such a confidence, he much, and behold the scriptures show you will not disappoint it.

the more excellent way. If you had a little When I look among the professors, yea, money to spare, would you not lend it to me, among the ministers of the gospel, there are if I assured you it should be repaid when few things I see a more general want of, wanted? I can point out to you better interest

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I have as

and better security than I could possibly state of humiliation, and he, and the best give you: Prov. xix. 17, “ He that hath pity friend you have, standing at your door, and upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and your provision so strait that you could not that which he hath given, will he pay him receive both, which would you entertain ? again." What think you of this text! Is it Now, he says of the poor, “Inasmuch as you the word of God or not? Is he worthy of be- did it to the least of these my brethren, you lief, or not? Is he able to make good his did it unto me." Your friends have houses word, or is he not? I dare stake all my in- of their own, and money to pay at an inn, if terest in your friendship (which I should be you do not take them in; but the poor need very loath to forfeit,) that if you act upon relief. One would almost think that pasthis maxim, in a spirit of prayer and faith, sage, Luke xiv. 12, 13, 14, was not conand with a single eye to his glory, you shall sidered as a part of God's word; at least I not be disappointer. Read over Niatt. vi. believe there is no one passage so generally 25—34. Shall we contine that reasoning neglected by his own people. I do not think and those promises to the primitive times? it unlawful to entertain our friends; but if Say not, "it the Lord would make windows these words do not teach us, that it is in some in heaven, this thing might be.”. He has respects our duty to give a preference to the more ways to bless and prosper those who poor, I am at a loss to understand them. trust in him, than we are able to point out I was enabled to set out upon the plan I to him. But I tell you, my friend, he will recommend to you, at a time when my cersooner make windows in heaven, turn stones tain income was much too scanty for my own into bread, yea, stop the sun in his course, provision, and before I had the expectation or than he will suffer those who conscientiously promise of assistance from any person upon serve him, and depend upon him, to be des- earth. Only I knew that the Lord could protitute.

vide me with whatever he saw needful; and Some instances we have had of ministers, I trusted, that if he kept me dependant upon who have seemed to transgress the bounds himself, and desirous to live for his service jor" strict prudence in their attention to the only, he assuredly would do so. puer. But if they have been men of faith, yet seen no cause to repent it. I live upon prayer, and zeal; if they did it, not from a his promise ; for as to any present ways or caprice of humour, or a spirit of indolence, means, every thing here below is so uncerbit from such motives as the scripture sug- tain, that consider myself

the same gests and recommends, I believe their fami- situation with the birls of the air, who have lies have seldom sutered for it. I wish you neither store-house nor barn. To-day I have to consult, upon this head, what Mrs. Alleine enough for myseit, and something to impart says, in the aitecting account she has given to them that need; as to futurity, the Lord of that honoured and faithful servant of God, must provide; and for the most part I can her husband, Joseph Alleine. Besides, you believe he will. I can tell you, however, know not what you may actually save in a that now and then my heart is pinched; uncourse of years by this method. The apos- belief creeps in, and self would much rather tie, speaking of some abuses that obtained in choose a strong box, or what the world calls the church of Corinth,' says, “ For this cause a certainty, than a life of absolute dependminy are sick among you.” If prudence ence upon the providence of God. However, should shut up the bowels of your coinpassion in my composed hours I am well satisfied. (which I trust it never will,) the Lord might Hitherto he has graciously taken care of me; quarter an apothecary upon your family, therefore may my heart trust in hin, and not which would, perhaps, cost you twice the be afraid. money that would have sufficed to refresh Consider, my friend, the Lord has done his people, and to commend your ministry well for you likewise. He has settled you and character.

peaceably in a good and honourable interest; But if, after all, prudence will be heard, I he has now answered your prayers, in giving Counsel you to do these two things. First, you a partner, with whom you may take De very certain that you allow yourselves in sweet counsel, one that will help and nothing superfluous. You cannot, I trust, in strengthen you in your best desires. Beconscience think of laying out one penny ware, therefore, vf that reasoning which more than is barely decent, unless you have might lead you to distrust the Lord your another penny to help the poor. Then, se- God, or to act as if you did. You complain condly, Let your friends, who are in good that there is too much of an expensive taste circunstances, be plainly told, that, though among some persons in your congregation, you love them, prudence and the necessary If you set yourself to discountenance this, and charge of a family, will not permit you to should at the same time too closely shut up entertain them; no, not for a night. What your hand, they will be ready to charge you 87y you! shut my door against my friends with being governed by the same worldly Yes, by all means, rather than against Christ. spirit, though in another form. If you

have If the Lord Jesus was again upon earth in a been hitherto tender and bountiful to the

P

poor, and should make too great and too sud- the false maxiins of the world. I have been den an alteration in this respect, if the blame ready to address them with that line of Milshould not fall upon you, it probably would ton: upon your wife, who, I believe, would be far

“ If thou art he-But ah! how fallin "" from deserving it. If the house which had been open to the poor in former times, should

I do not mention this as the necessary be shut against them, now you live in it, fault of the institution, but as the frequent would it not lead the people's thoughts back? effect of notions too hastily picked up, when Would it not open the mouths of those who not sanctified by grace, nor balanced by a do not love your ministry, to say, That, not- proportionable depth of spiritual experience. withstanding all your zeal about doctrines, I am therefore glad to hear, that notwithyou know how to take care of your own in- standing the advantages you have had in the terest, as well as those whom you have pursuit of your studies, you feel an inward thought indifferent and lukewarm in the conviction, that you still need something cause of the gospel ? Would it not? But which you cannot receive from men, or 1 forbear. I know you need no such argu- books, in order to complete your fitness for ments. Yet consider how many eyes are the ministry ; that you may be “a workman upon you, watching for your halting. Now, that needs not to be ashamed," and enabled at your first setting out, is the proper time rightly to divide (to distinguish and distribute) seriously to seek the Lord's direction, that the word of truth. you may, from the beginning, adopt such a It seems to me a point of more curiosity plan as may be most for your own comfort, the than use, to inquire too nicely into the modus honour of your character as a minister, the of the Holy Spirit's assistance in the comglory of him who has called you, and the edi- posure and delivery of sermons.

If we can fication of your people. It is easier to begin not exactly state the boundaries between well, than to make alterations afterwards. what we may deem the result of our own I trust the Lord will guide and bless you in thoughts, and the needful influence of the your deliberations. And, for my own part, Holy Spirit, it seems a safe way to give him I am not in the least afraid, that you will the honour of the whole, and to attribute ever have cause to blame me for the advice nothing to our selves but our infirmities. If I have given, if you should be disposed to we have a capacity, means for improvement, follow it.

diligence to make use of those means, and I have given you my opinion freçly, and, if that diligence is attended with any degree perhaps, with an appearance of more strict- of success, may we not acknowledge, that ness than is necessary. But I would apply the former links of this chain are the effects our Lord's words in another case to this: of his goodness and favour, no less than the “ All men cannot receive this saying; he latter ? that is able to receive it, let him receive it." To the question, How far is it lawful to If the Lord has given you this confidence in expect this assistance? I answer, It is lawhis word, you are happy. It is better than ful very far, even to lay the whole stress upthe possession of thousands by the year.-I on it, so as to be firmly persuaded that we

can neither meditate nor speak to purpose without it; that if we have not this assist. ance, whatever else we have, or may think

we have, we shall but “darken counsel by LETTER II.

words without knowledge.” For this, I Extract of a Letter to a Student in Divinity. person supposes he has so far mastered a

think, I have warrant in John xv. 5. f any DEAR SIR,—The subject of your last is im- system of divinity, that theugh he can indeed portant. I can sympathise with your anxiety, do better with the Spirit's assistance, yet he having known much of it myself, and there can make a tolerable shift without it, I envy fore willingly devote my first leisure to your him not this attainment. service. But shall I indeed condole with But if the question intends, How far a deyou? or shall I rather congratulate you on pendence upon the Holy Spirit may lawiully the perplexity you complain of? I know it supersede the ure of means? I answer, Not is not pleasing; but I hope it will be sancti- in the least. The blessing and the means fied and profitable to you.

are so closely united, that they cinnot be Though I am no enemy to the acquisition separated. 'l'he blessing may be surely exof useful knowledge, I have seen many in- pected, if diligently sought in the use of stances of young men who have been much proper means; and we have no just reason hurt hy what they expected to reap advan- to expect it without them. But to clear up tage from. They have gone to the academy the whole, let it be considered. What may humble, peaceable, spiritual, and lively; but deserve the name of diligence in this matter ! have come out self-wise, dogmatical, censo- and what are the proper means ! rious, and full of a prudence founded upon By diligence, I understand spiritual dili

am, &c.

gence; such an active, improving, indus- | more ingenious than edifying, and rather set trious habit, as is peculiar to a heart im- off the man, than commend the gospel of pressed with some real abiding sense of the Christ. love of God, the worth of souls, the shortness As you desire my advice with respect to of time, and the importance of eternity. your future studies, I shall comply, without Without this turn of mind, though a man hesitation or ceremony. should spend sixteen hours every day in his The original scriptures well deserve your study, he may be a mere trifler. The great- pains, and will richly repay the There is, est part of his application will be spent on doubtless, a beauty, fulness, and spirit, in what is least necessary, and his knowledge the originals, which the best translations do will chiefly prove of that sort which puffeth not always express. When a word or up, withont communicating any real benefit. phrase admits of various senses, the translaGen. xli. 21. Psal. cxxvii. 2.

tors can only preserve one; and it is not to The chief means for attaining wisdom, be supposed, unless they were perfectly unand suitable gifts for the ministry, are, the der the influence of the same infallible Spirit, holy seriptures and prayer. The one is the that they should always prefer the best. fountain of living water, the other the Only be upon your guard, lest you should be bucket with which we are to draw. And I tempted to think, that because you are master believe you will find, by observation, that of the grammatical construction, and can tell the man who is most frequent and fervent in the several acceptations of the words in the prayer, and most devoted to the word of God, best authors, you are therefore and thereby will shine and flourish above his fellows. master of the spiritual sense likewise. This Next to these, and derived from them, is you must derive from your experimental meditation. By this I do not mean a stated knowledge, and the influence and teaching exercise upon some one particular subject, so of the Spirit of God. much as a disposition of mind to observe Another thing which will much assist you carefully what passes within us and around in composing, and speaking properly and acus; what we see, hear, and feel; and to apply ceptably, is logic. This will teach you what all for the illustration and confirmation of properly belongs to your subject, and what the written word to us. In the use of these may be best suppressed; and likewise to exmeans, and an humble dependence upon the plain, divide, enumerate, and range your Lord in all the changing dispensations we ideas to advantage. A lax, immethodical, pass through, our spiritual experience will disproportionate manner is to be avoided; enlarge; and this experience is the proper yet beware of the contrary extreme. An fund of our ministerial capacity, so far as it affected starchness and over-accuracy will may be considered inherent in us. Prov. fetter you, will make your discourse lean xvi. 23. Mat. xii. 52. 1 John i. 3.

and dry, preclude an useful variety, and These means are of universal importance. savour more of the school-lamp, than of that The wisest can do nothing without them; heavenly fire, which alone can make our the weakest shall not use them in vain. meditations efficacious, and profitable either There are likewise subordinate means, which to ourselves or our hearers. The proper menay be helpful, and should in general be at- dium can hardly be taught by rule; experiiended to. Yet they ought not, I apprehend, ence, observation, and prayer, are the best to be considered as a sine qua non in a mi- guides. nister's call and fitness. The first preachers As your inquiry seems chiefly to be, How had them not, and some in the present day to fill up your outlines? I would advise you are enabled to do well without them. Under to study the living, as well as the dead, or this head, I principally intend all that comes rather more. Converse much with experiunder the usual denomination of literature.enced christians, and exercised souls. You A competent acquaintance with the learned will find advantage in this respect, not only languages, history, natural philosophy, &c. from the wise, but from the weak of the flock. is very desirable." If these things are held in the course of your acquaintance, you will in a proper subserviency, if they do not en- meet with some in a backsliding state, some TOEN too much of our time, nor add fuel to under temptations, some walking in darkthe fire of that self importance which is our ness, others rejoicing in the light, &c. Obgreat spare, they may contribute to increase serve how their spirits work, what they say, and enlarge our ideas, and facilitate our and how they reason in their several cases; expressing ourselves with propriety. But what methods and arguments you find most these attainments, like riches, are attended successful in comforting the feeble-minded, with their peculiar temptations; and unless raising up those who are cast down, and they are under the regulation of a sound the like; and what answers they return, judgment, and spiritual frame of mind, will | Compare these with the word of God, and prove, like Saul's armour to David, rather your own heart. What you observe of ten cumbersome than useful in preaching. The persons in these different situations, may be bernions of preachers thus qualified are often applied to ten thousand. For though somna

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