« PreviousContinue »
ance, strict observance will follow ; a blessed calm will succeed. Assembled worlds will be filled with admiration, and exclaim with the astonished mariner of old, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?
I do not know that you will acknowledge the foregoing observations even as a sketch of what is contained in the text. But it is not necessary to inform you, that I cannot write as I can speak, and in the conclusion of this letter, I have not been indulged even with my accustomed freedom of ideas.
May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, abide with you.-Farewell.
To a venerable Christian, upon Church government.
My honoured and very respectable friend will, I am apprehensive, accuse me of neglect in thus delaying to attend to those serious reflections which he thought proper to address to my consideration. I have, Sir, perused, and reperused your letter; and as I read, I became positive it ought not to be hastily answered. Yet, after much deliberation, when I have said all I can say, it is probable we shall continue to see things in a very different point of view.
However, in one thing we shall agree, and in my opinion there is little else worth contention. You join with me in declaring that there is no name, nor thing, which contains salvation, save Christ Jesus : all things else are shadowy; this only is substantial. It is true I wish that as professors of faith in this complete Saviour, we could be of one mind and one spirit, and be enabled to view things precisely as they are : then should we dwell together in the unity of the faith, and in the bond of peace; and thus agreeing, we should take sweet counsel together, and go on our way rejoicing.
I fully believe with you, “ That every thing in the scripture which represents the children of men as disobedient and blame
worthy, may be imputed to their walking after the imaginations of their own hearts; and that the design of divine revelation is to lead our minds to that with which God is well pleased.
But while I grant this self-evident truth, I am naturally directed to inquire of the sacred oracles, with what our God is-well pleased; and I learn upon inquiry, that he is well pleased with spiritual good in perfection, and moral good even in part. Indeed I might have commenced with natural good, but as I conceive natural good to be wholly the work of God himself, whose works are always perfect, I conclude this is that spiritual good, which he beheld with ineffable delight, when he declared every thing which he had made very good.
We will then first of all attend to the consideration of the spirá itual good (which must be as perfect as the natural good) with which God is well pleased. To lose sight of this spiritual, and follow after any thing else, as a spiritual good, is, I conceive, what the scripture calls walking after the imaginations of our own hearts.
Spiritual good can be nothing less than God himself. Why callest thou me good? There is 'none good but one, that is God. And as there is none good but one, so there is no true good but what is found in, or proceeds from this one only good, as this one can be none other than God manifest in the flesh, in whom it pleased the Father all fulness should dwell, we are bound to believe that no one beside him, was ever able to please God spiritually, by doing his will, in the only way that can be acceptable to him, that is in perfection ; hence the propriety of our Saviour's command, Matthew, v. 48.
“ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Thus the Apostle, Hebrews x. 1, 2, 4, 7, 10, 14.
“ For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the comers thereunto perfect.
“For then, would they not have ceased to be offered ? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins.
“ For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
“ Then said I, Lo, I come, (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O Goda
By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
“For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.”
Indeed every part of holy writ, which treats of salvation by Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sancti. fication, and redemption, speaketh the same language. It is not, I humbly conceive, our wisdom, either in a natural or converted state, that can be called perfect wisdom, for we know but in part. It is not by the knowledge that we are made partakers of, that we can be justified, it is by his knowledge the many shall be justified; neither is it the righteousness found in the Pharisee or the Christian that can be pleasing to God, for all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; nor can it be our sanctification, or heart purity, or holiness, that can be pleasing to God, for we are all as an unclean thing. The heart is deceitful above all things. Who can understand his errors. Cleanse thou me from my secret faults. Thou only art holy.
It is not amongst men of any description, in any age of the world, we are to look for the good man, out of whose good heart proceedeth good things. Man in his best estate is vanity ; from the heart proceedeth evil thoughts. In me, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. Thus may every child of Adam with strict propriety, at all times say, It is not, I repeat, amongst men of any character, we are directed to look for that good tree, that bringeth not forth corrupt fruit. For the best of them is as briar, and surely men do not gather grapes from thorns. Hence, there is great consolation in the words of our Saviour, when he says, I am the
fir-trees from me is thy fruit found. I am the true vine, &c. Whenever we are employed in searching for the living among the dead, for grapes on thorns, and figs on thistles; for new wine in old bottles, new cloth in old garments, sweet water in bitter fountains, true wisdom from ignorance, righteousness in law-breakers, and sanctification in corrupt hearts, I think we may be said, to walk after the imaginutions of our own hearts.
Search the scriptures, said our Saviour, they testify of me. I am persuaded the Apostles laboured in all their preaching to make manifest, that every ceremony in the former, and every ordinance in the latter dispensation, which were stamped with the sanction of divine authority, were simply signs to direct the mind to this true spiritual good, and if any Jew or Gentile, shonld at any other time,
VOL. II. 25
make any other use of them, I conceive, that in so doing, they walk ofter the imaginations of their own hearts.
I am the truth, says our divine Master. The Holy Ghost which I will send, shall take of mine and show it unto you, and as many as are thus taught by the Holy Spirit, are made acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus, they are drawn together in one spirit, to celebrate his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy word, and experiencing no inclination to follow the voice of a stranger, they follow the good Shepherd whithersoever he goeth. Persons, thus associated, should love one another; but as they are of the earth, earthy, and have in them hearts of unbelief, ever ready to turn aside into the path of corrupt nature, they love only them by whom they are beloved. Our Saviour directs his followers to love one anothers as he loved them. But how did our Saviour love his disciples? Herein was his love made manifest, not that we loved him, but that he loved us and gave himself for us. For a good man one would even dare to die, but God commended his love toward us, that even while we were yet sinners he died for us. Now if our love be of this sort, we may be said to walk after his commandments, but if it be of any other sort, I think we may be said to walk after the ima' aginations of ogár own hearts.
Love of any description, is, I am persuaded, free as light and air : the love of God is certainly free, and if we love him because he first loved us, it is in consequence of the Son making us free. Indeed the Apostle speaks of the love of Christ constraining ; but it is a blessed constraint, with which our will sweetly coincides, and that from a full persuasion of the excellency of the plan, of which we are constrained to judge. But, if instead of being drawn by the softening influence of divine love, and feeling inexpressible delight in the service to which we are thus drawn, we attend upon any regular discipline, purely as a duty to which we are compelled to submit in order to please God, or because others did or do so, then I think we may be said to walk after the imaginations of our own hearts.
Love thinketh no evil, love worketh no evil; the nature of love is to endeavour to promote the real happiness of the beloved object. This is the nature of divine love; but when we are said to love God, can we be said to lay ourselves out to promote his happiness ? No, assuredly; our righteousness cannot profit God. Therefore, when Christians are said to have the love of God shed
abroad in their hearts, it is that they desire to do good and to distribute, with which sacrifices God is well pleased. But multitudes of modern Christians walk in a vain show, imagining they have manifested their love God, as the Jews of old manifested theirs, viz. By submission to ordinances; and thus, like those Jews, walk after the imaginations of their own hearts. .
But it is my design to attend to the scriptures you have pointed out.
And first, Luke xii. I, “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insómuch that they trod one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” This exhortation is often repeated to the disciples. Matthew, xvi. 6, “ Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadduces.” And again, Mark viii. 15, “ And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” Hypocrisy counterfeits religion and virtue; it hath the form of godliness, while it denieth the power. A hypocrite appears to be what he is not. Among the Jews he was a hypocrite, who professing to keep the law of God, that is, to walk blameless and to keep all God's commandments, was nevertheless a law breaker. A number of these hypocrites assembling together to keep one another in countenance, said, The temple of the Lord are we. Those who know not the law are accursed, and to all such they said, Stand off, come not near unto us, we are more righteous than thou.
Our Saviour knew the human heart to be what his prophet declared it was, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Jeremiah xvii. 9. And that his disciples were men of like passions with others. Such were the sentiments of the Apostle Paul, Romans iii. 22, “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe ; for there is no difference." And again, x. 12, “ For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” And 1 Corinthians iv. 7, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive ? now, if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” The human heart laying open to the searching eye of our Emmanuel, and to the teaching Spirit