LETTER - TO MR. T. L.
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My dearly beloved Friend,
I begin, as I did my last, with assuring you, that I love to hear from you.
I am in some concern about the activity of your religious spirit, which I have often cautioned you against. You have seen, and as I think deeply apprehended, the true ground, on which man’s redemption stands. This ground has been shown you, not only from the plain letter of scripture, but confirmed by the whole frame of nature.
Everything in heaven and earth, everything that you inwardly or outwardly feel, or know of your own soul, and body, are all shown to bear infallible witness to these two fundamental truths of the gospel: that our first father died to his first life in God; and that nothing in the whole nature of things, can be our redemption, but the first life of God, born again of God in the soul. You have had the fullest proof, that man was created in this high perfection of life. You have had the fullest proof, that Adam had no other way of dying to heaven, or losing his first state in God, but by the working of his will; and that every son of Adam, is to this day, only that which his faith, or the working of his will, or the desire of his heart (for they are all the same thing) maketh him to be. Jesus Christ is the divine nature, which must be alive again in man. But the life of the deity can only arise by a birth in us, by the hunger and faith and desire of the heart, or the working of the will turned to it; and this is the faith in Christ that does all.
To what purpose therefore, is so much anxious inquiry about this or that?
If a man has no notion, or belief of the fall of man can he tell you either the nature, or the necessity of Christian redemption? What room could there be for the divine philanthropy, if it could be supposed, that man and the world had not a better state, and life from him at first, than they have now?
If a man denies the necessity of the new birth from above, will you believe that this proceeds from an intimate familiarity with Christ, teaching him in private, the disbelief of that which he taught publicly when on earth? What folly to tell you, that you are only in a legal state, unless he could prove to you, that you have no aversion to wickedness, nor abstain from any sin, but so far as the fear and dread of punishment keep you from it. For this is the truth of the legal state; but when sin is disliked, and the commandments kept through a love of God, and a desire of divine goodness, there is the man in Christ a new creature, no longer under the yoke of the Law, but living in the freedom, and Spirit of God.
If a man tells you that Jesus is not God, surely it is time to have no fellowship with him. If he tells you, you are not to pray to God, but to Jesus, who is only a creature, is not this telling you, that it is unlawful for us to pray, as Jesus taught his disciples? And if it was wrong to pray to God, the Old and New Testament are, from the beginning to the end, full of false religion? Or will he say, that though under the Old Testament men might rightly pray to the deity, yet we, by being Christians, have lost this privilege of relation to, and dependence upon God? But surely, I need not expose the extravagancy of these things, nor exhort you to be weary of such entertainment.
You tell me, that you cannot help thinking with Mr. S. “that all partial systems of salvation, are greatly derogatory to the goodness of God:” but that you would say this to very few, but myself. But dear soul, why should you say this to me? I have without any scruple, openly declared to all the world, that from eternity to eternity, nothing can come from God but mere infinite love. In how many ways have I proved, and asserted, that there neither is, nor can be any wrath, or partiality in God, but that every creature must have all that happiness, which the infinite love and power of God can help it to. Can I, or any creature, possibly say more of an impartiality in God? And is it not quite unreasonable, to ask more about it, or to carry it further? You say “the seeming impossibility of the Spirit and light of God, arising up again in any creature, that has extinguished it, is, you presume, the strongest argument that can be offered, in support of everlasting misery.” And therefore you say, “you have chosen, with submission, to examine the force of this principal argument, which runs through theAPPEAL, and my other writings.” But, my dear friend, how came you to say this? For this is so far from being the principal, or any argument that runs through my Appeal, and other books, that there is not one single word, in all the Appeal, nor any other of my books, that touches upon this matter, till you come to the last book, viz., The Way to Divine Knowledge; and even in that book, the impossibility is so far from being asserted, that it is there affirmed, that this impossibility is not proved, nor ever likely to be so. Will you therefore charge me with proving a thing, that I show cannot be proved? It is my capital doctrine, that God is all love, and merely a will to all goodness; that he must eternally will that to the creature, which he willed at its creation.
But, my dear soul, debate not such matters as these, either with me, or anyone else. Stop your ears to all that you hear about them, and turn from everyone that will lead you into them. The perplexity that you make to yourself in such matters, is death to the divine life within you, is a great abuse of God’s goodness towards you, and is a likely way for you to lose the peace and joy of that divine light, which has so largely opened itself within you.
Mr. G. and Mr. S. both of them (as they say) come out of the depths of hell, full of a new risen divine light within them. The first makes me a greater blasphemer of God, than the devils are, (N.B.) because I say, God has no other nature, or will towards every creature, but love and goodness.
The other calls me blind, and ignorant, because I have not a self-evident knowledge of the salvation of devils. Now were you to find out a third, laying claim to the same certainty of divine light, as these two do, you might perhaps have them both condemned by one who had a self-evident knowledge of absolute election, and reprobation, and who knew with as great certainty, that God damns some eternally to make his power to be known, as Mr. S. knows Christ to be only a creature, and that prayer is not to be made to God, but solely to this creature.
Dear L. son of my love, I do not know that ever I wasted my spirits in writing, or thinking in the manner of this letter before, and trust I never shall again. But love towards you, and a hearty zeal for your true growth in the spiritual life, has compelled me into this wrangle.
Put away all needless curiosity in divine matters, and look upon everything to be so, but that which helps you to die to yourself, that the Spirit and life of Christ may be formed, and revealed in you.
As for the purification of all human nature, either in this world, or some after ages, I fully believe it. And as to that of angels, if it is possible, I am glad of it, and also sure enough, that it will then come to pass.
Dear Soul, Adieu.