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were for a while apprehensive of worse con- am amazed he affords me and mine so much sequences; but the Lord is gracious: he shows peace, and appoints us so few trials. We us, in a variety of instances, what dependent live as upon a field of battle; many are hourly creatures we are, how blind to events, and suffering and falling around us, and I can how easily the methods which we take to give no reason why we are preserved, but relieve ourselves from a small inconvenience that he is God, and not man. What a mercy may plunge us into a greater. Thus we learn that we are only truly known to him, who is (happy, indeed, if we can effectually learn it,) alone able to bear us! that there is no safety but in his protection, May the Lord bless you and yours; may and that nothing can do us good but by his he comfort you, guide you, and guard you blessing. As for myself, I see so many rea- Come quickly to,-Yours, &c. sons why he might contend with me, that I
THE REVEREND MR. B
moved, some wearied, and some softened; so
that we are now remarkably quiet in that reSeptember 14, 1765.
spect. May the Lord teach us to improve the REV. AND DEAR sir,—When I was at privilege, and preserve us from indifference. London, in June last, your name first reached How unspeakable are our obligations to the me, and from that time I have been desirous grace of God! What a privilege is it to be a to wish you success in the name of the Lord. believer! They are comparatively few, and A few weeks ago, I received a farther account we by nature were no nearer than others; it from Mrs. with a volume of your ser- was grace, free grace, that made the differmons: she likewise gave me a direction ence. What an honour to be a minister of where to write, and an encouragement that the everlasting gospel! These, upon coma letter would not be unacceptable. The parison, are perhaps fewer still. How won. latter, indeed, I did not much need, when I derful that one of these few should be sought had read your book. Though we have no for among the wilds of Africa, reclaimed acquaintance, we are already united in the from the lowest state of impiety and misery, strictest ties of friendship, partakers of the and brought to assure other sinners, from his same hope, servants of the same Lord, and in own experience, that “there is forgiveness the same part of his vineyard: I therefore with him, that he may be feared.” And you, hold all apologies needless. I rejoice in the sir, though not left to give such flagrant Lord's goodness to you; I pray for his abun- proofs of the wickedness of the heart and the dant blessing upon your labours; I need an power of Satan, yet owe your present views interest in your prayers; I have an affec- to the same almighty grace. If the Lord tionate desire to know more concerning you: had not distinguished you from your brethren, these are my motives for writing.
you would have been now in the character Mrs. tells me that you have read my of a minister misleading the people, and Narrative: I need not tell you, therefore, opposing those precious truths you are now that I am one of the most astonishing in- labouring to establish. Not unto us, O Lord! stances of the forbearance and mercy of God but unto thy name be the glory. I shall be upon the face of the earth. In the close of thankful to hear from you at your leisure. it, I mention a warm desire I had to the mi- Be pleased to inform me, whether you renistry: this the Lord was pleased to keep ceived the knowledge of the truth before or alive for several years, through a succession since you were in orders; how long you have of views and disappointments. At length his preached the joyful sound of salvation by hour came, and my way was made easy. I Jesus, and what is the state of things in your have been here about fifteen months. The parts. Lord has led me, by a way that I little ex We are called to an honourable service, pected, to a pleasant lot, where the gospel but it is arduous. What wisdom does it rehas been many years known, and is highly quire to keep the middle path in doctrines, valued by many. We have a large church avoiding the equally dangerous errors on the and congregation, and a considerable num- right hand and the left! What steadiness, to ber of lively thriving believers, and in speak the truth boldly and faithfully in the general go on with great comfort and har- midst of a gainsaying world! What humility, mony. I meet with less opposition from to stand against the tide of popularity! What the world than is usual where the gospel is meekness, to endure all things for the elect's preached. This burden was borne by Mr. sake, that they may be saved ! “Who is sufB for ten years, and in that course of ficient for these things?" We are not in ourtime, some of the fiercest opposers were re- selves, but there is an all-sufficiency in Jesus.
Our enemy watches us close; he challenges in your hands are not carnal, but mighty and desires to have us, that he may sift us as through God to the pulling down of strong wheat; he knows he can easily shake us, if holds. Men may fight, but they shall not we are left to ourselves; but we have a Shep- prevail against us, if we are but enabled to herd, a Keeper, who never slumbers nor put our cause simply into the Lord's hands, sleeps. If he permits us to be exercised, it and keep steadily on in the path of duty. is for our good; he is at hand to direct, mode- He will plead our cause, and fight oui battles; rate, and sanctify every dispensation; he has he will pardon our mistakes, and teach us to prayed for us, that our faith may not fail, and do better. My experience as a minister is he has promised to maintain his fear in our but small, having been but about eighteen hearts, that we may not depart from him. months in the vineyard; but for about twelve When we are prone to wander, he calls us years I have been favoured with an increasback; when we say, My feet slip, his mercy ing acquaintance among the people of God, holds us up; when we are wounded, he heals; of various ranks and denominations, which, when we are ready to faint, he revives. The together with the painful exercises of my people of God are sure to meet with enemies, own heart, gave me opportunity of making but especially the ministers: Satan bears observations which were of great use to me them a double grudge: the world watches when I entered upon the work myself; and for their halting, and the Lord will suffer ever since, I have found the Lord graciously them to be afflicted, that they may be kept supplying new lights and new strength, as humble, that they may acquire a sympathy new occurrences arise. So, I trust it will with the sufferings of others, that they may be with you. I endeavour to avail myself of be experimentally qualified to advise and the examples, advice, and sentiments of my help them, and to comfort them with the brethren, yet at the same time to guard comforts with which they themselves have against calling any man master. This is the been comforted of God. But the Captain of peculiar of Christ. The best are but men: our salvation is with us; his eye is upon us, the wisest may be mistaken; and that wbich his everlasting arms beneath us; in his name, may be right in another, may be wrong in therefore, we may go on, lift up our banners, me, through a difference of circumstances. and say, “If God be for us, who can be The Spirit of God distributes variously, both against us? Nay, in all these things we are in gifts and dispensations; and I would no inore than conquerors, through him that loved more be tied to act strictly by others' rules, us.". The time is short: yet a little while, than to walk in shoes of the same size. My and he will wipe all tears from our eyes, shoes must fit my own feet. and put a crown of life upon our head with I endeavour to guard against extremes; our his own gracious hand. In this sense, how nature is prone to them; and we are liable beautiful are those lines:
likewise, when we have found the inconve
nience of one extreme, to revert insensibly -Temporis illius Me consolor imagine;
(sometimes to fly suddenly) to the other. I Festis quum populus me reducem choris,
pray to be led in the midst of the path. I Faustisque excipiel vocibus, et Dei
am what they call a Calvinist; yet there are Pompa cum celebri, me comitabitur
flights, niceties, and hard sayings, to be found Augusta ad penetralia. Buch. in Psal. xlir.
among some of that system, which I do not
choose to imitate. I dislike those sentiments If any occasions should call you into these against which you have borne your testimony parts, my house and pulpit will be glad to in the note at the end of your preface; but receive you. Pray for us, dear sir, and be- having known many precious souls in that lieve me to be,-Yours, &c.
party, I have been taught, that the kingdom of God is not in names and sentiments, but in righteousness, faith, love, peace, and joy in
the Holy Ghost. I should, however, upon LETTER II.
some occasions, oppose those tenets, if they
had any prevalence in my neighbourhood; November 2, 1765. but they have not; and in general, I believe, VERY DEAR SIR,—Your letter of the 4th the surest way to refute or prevent error, is ult. gave me great pleasure. I thank you to preach the truth. I am glad to find you for the particular account you have favoured are aware of that spirit of enthusiasm which me with. I rejoice with you, sympathize has so often broken loose and blemished hopewith you, and find my heart opened to cor- ful beginnings, and that the foundation you respond with unreserved freedom. May the build upon is solid and scriptural: this will, Lord direct our pens, and help us to help each I hope, save you much trouble, and prevent other. The work you are engaged in is many offences. Let us endeavour to make great, and your difficulties many; but faith our people acquainted with the scriptures, and ful is he that hath called you, who also will to impress them with a high sense of its audo it. The weapons which he has now put | thority, excellence, and sufficiency. Satan
seldom remarkably imposes on ministers or have been necessitated with their own hands people, except where the word of God is too to pull down what, in the first warm emolittle consulted or regarded. Another point tions of their zeal, they had laboured hard to in which I aim at a medium, is in what is build. It is a mercy likewise to be enabled called prudence. There is certainly such a to acknowledge what is excellent in the thing as christian prudence, and a remarkable writings or conduct of others, without adoptdeficiency of it is highly inconvenient. But ing their singularities, or discarding the caution too often degenerates into cowardice; whole on account of a few blemishes. We and if the fear of man, under the name of should be glad to receive instruction from prudence, gets within our guard, like a chill- all, and avoid being led by the ipse dixit of ing frost, it nips every thing in the bud. any. Nullius jurare in verbum, is a fit Those who trust the Lord, and act openly motto for those who have one master, even with an honest freedom and consistence, I ob- Christ. We may grow wise apace in opinions, serve, he generally bears them out, smoothes by books and men; but vital, experimental their way, and makes their enemies their knowledge, can only be received from the friends, or at least restrains their rage; while Holy Spirit
, the great instructor, and comsuch as halve things, temporise, and aim to forter of his people. And there are two please God and man together, meet with things observable in his teaching: 1. That double disappointment, and are neither useful he honours the means of his own appointnor respected. If we trust to him, he will ment, so that we cannot expect to make any stand by us; if we regard men, he will leave great progress without diligence on our parts. us to make the best we can of them.
2. That he does not teach all at once, but by I have set down hastily what occurred to degrees. Experience is his school; and by my pen, not to dictate to you, but to tell you this I mean the observation and improvehow I have been led, and because some ex- ment of what passes within us and around pressions in your letter seemed to imply that us in the course of every day. The word you would not be displeased with me for so of God affords a history in miniature of the doing. As to books, I think there is a me- heart of man, the devices of Satan, the state dium here likewise. I have read too much of the world, and the method of grace. And in time past : yet I do not wholly join with the most instructing and affecting commensome of our brethren, who would restrain us tary on it to an enlightened mind, may be entirely to the word of God. Undoubtedly gathered from what we see, feel, and hear this is the fountain; here we should dwell: from day to day. Res, atas, usus, semper but a moderate and judicious perusal of aliquid apportent novi; and no knowledge in other authors may have its use; and I am spiritual things but what we acquire in this glad to be beholden to such helps, either to way is properly our own, or will abide the explain what I do not understand, or to con- time of trial. This is not always sufficiently firm me in what I do. Of these, the writ- considered : we are ready to expect that ings of the last age afford an immense va- others should receive upon our word, in half riety.
an hour's time, those views of things which But above all, may we, dear sir, live and have cost us years to attain. But none can feed upon the precious promises, John xiv. be brought forward faster than the Lord is 16, 17. 26, and xvi. 13—15. There is no pleased to communicate inward light. Upon teacher like Jesus, who, by his Holy Spirit, this ground controversies have been multireveals himself in his word to the understand. plied among christians to little purpose, for ing and affections of his children. When we plants of different standings will be (ceteris thus behold his glory in the gospel-glass, we paribus) in different degrees of forwardness. are changed into the same image. Then our A young christian is like a green fruit; it hearts melt, our eyes flow, our stammering has perhaps a disagreeable austerity, which tongues are unloosed. That this may be your cannot be corrected out of its proper course; increasing experience is the prayer of, dear it wants time and growth: wait a while, and sir,-Yours, &c.
by the nourishment it receives from the root, together with the action of the sun, wind, and rain, in succession from without, it will
insensibly acquire that flavour and maturity, LETTER III.
for the wantof which an unskilful judge would
be ready to reject it as nothing worth. We January 21, 1766. are favoured with many excellent books in our DEAR SIR,—Your letters give me the sin- tongue; but I, with you, agree in assigning cerest pleasure. Let us believe that we are one of the first places, as a teacher, to Dr. daily thinking of and praying for each other, Owen. I have just finished his discourse on and write when opportunity offers without the Holy Spirit, which is an epitome, if not apologies. I praise the Lord he has led you the master-piece, of his writings. I should
O soon to a settled judgment in the leading be glad to see the re-publication you speak truths of the gospel. For want of this, many of: but I question if the booksellers will ven
ture upon it. I shall perhaps mention it to my peace. Warmth and imprudence have often London friends. As to archbishop Leighton, added to the necessary burden of the cross. besides his select works, there are two octavo I rejoice that the Lord has led you in a difvolumes published at Edinburgh, in the year ferent way, and I hope your doctrine and ex1748, and since reprinted at London. They ample will make your path smoother every contain a valuable commentary on St. Peter's day: you find it so in part already. As the First Epistle, and lectures on Isa. vi; Psal. Lord brings you out a people witness for xxxix, cxxx; Rom. iv, and a part of chap. xii. you to the truth of his word, you will find I have likewise a small quarto in Latin, of his advantage in bringing them often together. Divinity Lectures, when professor at Edin- The interval from Sabbath to Sabbath is a burgh; the short title, is, Prælectionis Theo- good while, and affords time for the world logie. Mine was printed in London, 1698. and Satan to creep in. Intermediate meetI believe this book is scarce; I set the high-ings for prayer, &c. when properly conducted, est value upon it. He has wonderfully united are greatly useful. I could wish for larger the simplicity of the gospel, with all the sheets and longer leisure, but I am constraincaptivating beauties of style and language. ed to say adieu, in our dear Lord and Saviour. Bishop Burnet says, he was the greatest mas- |-Yours, &c. ter of the Latin tongue he ever knew, of which, together with his compass of learning, he has given proof in his lectures; yet in his
LETTER IV. gayer dress, his eminent humility and spirituality appear to no less advantage than when
December 12, 1767. clad in plain English. I think it may be DEAR SIR,—This is not intended as an said to be a diamond set in gold. I could answer to your last acceptable letter, but an wish it translated, if it was possible (which I occasional line, in consequence of the account almost question) to preserve the beauty and Mr. T— has given me of your late illness. spirit of the original.
I trust this dispensation will be useful to you, Edwards on Free-will I have read with and I wish the knowledge of it may be so to pleasure, as a good answer to the proud rea I am favoured with an unusual share soners in their own way; but a book of that of health and an equal flow of spirits. If sort cannot be generally read: where the the blow you have received should be a subject-matter is unpleasing, and the method warning to me, I shall have cause to be of treating it requires more attention than thankful. I am glad to hear you are better: the Athenian spirit of the times will bear, I I hope the Lord has no design to disable you wonder not if it is uncalled for, and am afraid from service, but rather (as he did Jacob) to we shall not see him upon Original Sin, if it strengthen you by wounding you; to maindepends upon the sale of the other. His an- tain and increase in you that conviction swer to Dr. Taylor, which you speak of, is not which, through grace, you have received, of a MS. but has been already printed at Boston. the vanity and uncertainty of every thing
You send us good news indeed, that two below; to give you a lively sense of the more of your brethren are declaring on the value of health and opportunities, and to add gospel side. The Lord confirm and strengthen to the treasury of your experience new proofs them, add yet to your numbers, and make of his power and goodness in supporting, you helps and comforts to each other. Surely comforting, and healing you, and likewise to he is about to spread his work. Happy those quicken the prayers of your people for you, whom he honours to be fellow-workers with and to stir them up to use double diligence him. Let us account the disgrace we suffer in the present improvement of the means of for his name's sake to be our great honour. grace, while by this late instance they see Many will be against us, but there are more how soon and suddenly you might have been
All the praying souls on earth, all removed from them. the glorified saints in heaven, all the angels I understand you did not feel that lively of God, yea the God of angels himself, all exercise of faith and joy which you would are on our side. Satan may rage, but he is have hoped to have found at such a season; a chained enemy. Men may contradict and but let not this discourage you from a firm fight, but they cannot prevail. Two things confidence that, when the hour of dismission we shall especially need, courage and patience, shall come, the Lord will be faithful to his that we neither faint before them, nor upon gracious promise, and give you strength sufany provocation act in their spirit. If we ficient to encounter and vanquish your last can pity and pray for them, return good for enemy. You had not this strength lately, evil, make them sensible that we bear them because you needed it not; for, though you a hearty good-will, and act as the disciples of might think yourself near to death, the Lord him who wept for his enemies and prayed for intended to restore you, and he permitted yon his murderers; in this way we shall find the to feel weakness, that you might know your Lord will plead our cause, soften opposers, strength does not consist in grace received, and by degrees, give us measure of outward | but in his fulness, and his promise to commu