PRINCIPLES OF A METHODIST FARTHER EXPLAINED
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OCCASIONED BY THE REV. MR. CHURCH’S SECOND LETTER TO MR. WESLEY.
IN A SECOND LETTER TO THAT GENTLEMAN.
Reverend Sir, 1. AT the time that I was reading your former letter, I expected to hear from you again. And I was not displeased with the expectation; believing it would give me a fresh opportunity of weighing the sentiments I might have too lightly espoused, and the actions which perhaps I had not enough considered. Viewing things in this light, I cannot but esteem you, not an enemy, but a friend; and one, in some respects, better qualified to do me real service than those whom the world accounts so; who may be hindered by their prejudice in my favor, either from observing what is reprovable, or from using that freedom or plainness of speech which are requisite to convince me of it. 2. It is, at least, as much with a view to learn myself, as to show others (what I think) the truth, that I intend to set down a few reflections on some parts of the tract you have lately published. I say some parts; for it is not my design to answer every sentence in this, any more than in the former. Many things I pass over, because I think them true; many more, because I think them not material; and some, because I am determined not to engage in a useless, if not hurtful, controversy. 3. Fear, indeed, is one cause of my declining this; fear, as I said elsewhere, not of my adversary, but of myself. I fear my own spirit, lest “I fall where many mightier have been slain.” I never knew one (or but one) man write controversy with what I thought a right spirit. Every disputant seems to think, as every soldier, that he may hurt his opponent as much as he can; nay, that he ought to do his worst to him, or he cannot make the best of his own cause; that so he do not belie, or wilfully misrepresent, him, he must expose him as much as he is able. It is enough, we suppose, if we do not show heat or passion against our adversary. But not to despise him, or endeavor to make others do so, is quite a work of supererogation. 4. But ought these things to be so? (I speak on the Christian scheme.)
Ought we not to love our neighbor as ourselves? And does a man cease to be our neighbor, because he is of a different opinion? nay, and declares himself so to be? Ought we not, for all this, to do to him as we would he should do to us? But do we ourselves love to be exposed, or set in the worst light? Would we willingly be treated with contempt? If not, why do we treat others thus? And yet, who scruples it? Who does not hit every blot he can, however foreign to the merits of the cause? Who, in controversy, casts the mantle of love over the nakedness of his brother?
Who keeps steadily and uniformly to the question, without ever striking at the person? Who shows in every sentence that he loves his brother only less than the truth? 5. I fear neither you nor I have attained to this. I believe brotherly love might have found a better construction than that of unfairness, art, or disingenuity, to have put either on my not answering every part of your book, (a thing which never once entered my thoughts,) or on my not reciting all the words of those parts which I did answer. I cannot yet perceive any blame herein. I still account it fair and ingenuous to pass over both what I believe is right, and what I believe is not dangerously wrong.
Neither can I see any disingenuity at all in quoting only that part of any sentence, against which I conceive the objection lies; nor in abridging any part of any treatise to which I reply, whether in the author’s or in my own words. 6. If, indeed, it were so abridged as to alter the sense, this would be unfair.
And if this were designedly done, it would be artful and disingenuous. But I am not conscious of having done this at all; although you speak as if I had done it a thousand times. And yet I cannot undertake now either to transcribe your whole book, or every page or paragraph which I answer.
But I must generally abridge before I reply; and that not only to save time, (of which I have none to spare,) but often to make the argument clearer, which is best understood when couched in few words. 7 You complain also of my mentioning all at once sentences which you placed at a distance from each other. I do so; and I think it quite fair and ingenuous to lay together what was before scattered abroad. For instance:
You now speak of the conditions of justification, in the eighteenth and following pages; again, from the eighty-ninth to the hundred and second; and yet again, in the hundred and twenty-seventh page. Now, I have not leisure to follow you to and fro. Therefore, what I say on one head, I set in one place.
I. 1. This premised, I come to the letter itself. I begin, as before, with the case of the Moravians; of whom you say, “I collected together the character which you had given of these men; the errors and vices which you had charged upon them, and the mischiefs — they had done among your followers. And I proved that, in several respects, you had been the occasion of this mischief; and are therefore, in some measure, accountable for it. Let us see what answer you give to all this. “‘With regard to the denying degrees in faith, you mentioned, that the Moravian Church was cleared from this mistake.’ But did you not mention this as one of the tenets of the Moravians? Do you not say, that you ‘could not agree with Mr. Spangenberg, that none has any faith so long as he is liable to any doubt or fear?’ Do you not represent Mr. Molther, and other Moravians in England, as teaching the same? In short, I have not charged the Moravian Church with anything; but only repeat after you.
And if you have accused them when you knew them to be guiltless, you must bear the blame. “‘They do use the ordinances of God with reverence and godly fear.’ You have charged Mr. Spangenberg and Mr. Molther with teaching that we ought to abstain from them. And the same you say in general of the Moravian brethren, in your letter to them. ‘But Mr. Molther was quickly after recalled into Germany.’ This might be on other accounts. You do not say it was out of any dislike of his doctrines or proceedings. Nor indeed can you, consistently with your next words: ‘The great fault of the Moravian Church seems to lie, in not openly disclaiming all he had said; which, in all probability they would have done, had they not leaned to the same opinion.’ “You ‘never knew but one of the Moravian Church affirm, that a believer does not grow in holiness.’ But who was this? No less a person than Count Zinzendorf, their great Bishop and patron, whose authority is very high, all in all with them, and to whom you think they pay too much regard.” (Second Letter , page 79.) 2. This is the whole of your reply to this part of my answer. I will now consider it, part by part.
First. “With regard to the denying degrees in faith, you mentioned, ‘that the Moravian Church was cleared from this mistake.’ But did you not mention this as one of the tenets of the Moravians?” No; not of the Moravians in general. “Do you not say, that you ‘could not agree with Mr. Spangenberg, that none has any faith, so long as he is liable to any doubt or fear?’” I do say so still. But Spangenberg is not the Moravian Church. “Do you not represent Mr. Molther, and other Moravians in England, as teaching the same?” I do; three or four in all. But neither are these the Moravian Church. “In short, I have not charged the Moravian Church with anything; but only repeat after you.” Indeed you have, in the very case before us. You charge them with denying degrees in faith. I do not charge them herewith. I openly cleared them from any such charge near six years ago. “If, therefore, you have accused them when you knew them to be guiltless, you must bear the blame.” In this case I must entreat you to bear it in my stead: For I have not accused them, — the Moravian Church. It is you that have accused them. I have again and again declared they are not guilty.
Secondly. “‘They do use the ordinances of God with reverence and godly fear.’ You have charged Mr. Spangenberg and Mr. Molther with teaching, that we ought to abstain from them.” That we ? No. That unbelievers ought. The assertion relates to them only. “And the same you say in general of the Moravian brethren, in your Letter.” I say, they hold that unbelievers ought to abstain from them. But yet I know and hear witness, they use them themselves, and that “with reverence and godly fear.” “‘Mr. Molther was quickly after recalled to Germany.’ This might be on other accounts. You do not say it was, out of any dislike of his doctrines or proceedings.” I do not say so; because I am not sure; but I believe it was out of a dislike to some of his proceedings, if not of his doctrines too. “Nor indeed can you, consistently with your next words: ‘The great fault of the Moravian Church seems to lie, in not openly disclaiming all he had said’” relating to this head. They did privately disclaim what he had said of degrees in faith. But I think that was not enough. And I still believe they would have done more, “had they not leaned themselves to the same opinion,” touching the ordinances.
Thirdly. “You ‘never knew but one of the Moravian Church affirm, that a believer does not grow in holiness.’ But who was this? No less a person than Count Zinzendorf, their great Bishop and patron, whose authority is very high, all in all with them, and to whom you think they pay ‘too much regard.’” Do you apprehend where the stress of the argument lies? I never heard one Moravian affirm this, but the Count alone; and him only once; and that once was in the heat of dispute. And hence I inferred, it is not a doctrine of the Moravian Church; nay, I doubt whether it be the Count’s own settled judgment. 3. But I may not dismiss this passage yet. It is now my turn to complain of unfair usage; of the exceeding lame, broken, imperfect manner wherein you cite my words. For instance, your citation runs thus: You “never knew but one of the Moravian Church affirm, that a believer does not grow in holiness.” Whereas my words are these: “I never knew one of the Moravian Church, but that single person, affirm, that a believer does not grow in holiness; and perhaps he would not affirm it on reflection.” Now, why was the former part of the sentence changed, and the latter quite left out? Had the whole stood in your tract just as it does in mine, it must have appeared I do not here charge the Moravian Church.
I complain also of your manner of replying to the first article of this very paragraph. For you do not cite so much as one line of that answer to which you profess to reply. My words are, “You ought not to charge the Moravian Church with the first of these” errors, “since in the very page from which you quote those words, ‘There is no justifying faith where there ever is any doubt,’ that note occurs, (viz., Vol. I. p. 328,) ‘In the preface to the Second Journal, the Moravian Church is cleared from this mistake.’” If you had cited these words, could you possibly have subjoined, “I have not charged the Moravian Church with anything; but only repeat after you?” 4. I have now considered one page of your reply, in the manner you seem to require. But sure you cannot expect I should follow you thus, step by step, through a hundred and forty pages! If you should then think it worth while to make a second reply, and to follow me in the same manner, we might write indeed, but who would read? I return therefore to what I proposed at first, viz., to touch only on what seems of the most importance, and leave the rest just as it lies. 5. You say, “With regard to subtlety, evasion, and disguise, you now would have it thought, that you only found this ‘in many of them; not in all, nor in most.’” (Page 80.) “You now would have it thought!” Yes, and always, as well as now. For my original charge was, “I have found this in many of you; that is, much subtlety, much evasion and disguise.” (Vol. I.)
But you add, “Let the reader judge from the following passages, whether you did not charge the Moravians in general with these crimes: ‘I had a long conference with those whom I esteem very highly in love; but I could not yet understand them in one point, Christian openness and plainness of speech. They pleaded for such a reservedness and closeness of conversation. Yet I scarce know what to think, considering they had the practice of the whole Moravian Church on their side.’” True, in pleading for such a reservedness of conversation as I could not in any wise approve of; but not in using much subtlety, much evasion and disguise: This I dare not charge on the whole Moravian Church. Those words also, “There is darkness and closeness in all their behavior, and guile in almost all their words,” I spoke, not of all the Moravians, nor of most; but of those who were then in England. I could not speak it of them all; for I never found any guile in Christian David, Michael Linner, and many others. 6. “We are next to see how you get over the objection I made good, in three several particulars, that you have prepared the way for spreading of these tenets. The first you say nothing to here; the Second you quote very partially thus: ‘By countenancing and commending them.’ And why would you not add ‘And being the occasion of so many of them coming over among us?’” Because I was not the occasion. I was indeed the first Englishman that ever was at Hernhuth. But before I was at Hernhuth, (I find on later inquiry,) the Count himself had been in England. “You ‘still think, that next to some thousands in our own Church, the body of the Moravian Church, however mistaken some of them are, are, in the main, the best Christians in the world.’” (Page 81.) I do, “of all whom I have seen” — you should not omit these words. “Those dreadful errors and crimes are here softened into mistakes.” I term them “errors of judgment and practice.” “I have proved, that you have charged the body with such.” At present, the proof does not amount to demonstration.
There needs a little farther proof, that I charge any “dreadful crimes” on the body of the Moravians.
I see no manner of inconsistency still, in those accounts of my intercourse with the Moravians, which you suppose irreconcilable with each other.
Let any one read them in the Journal, and judge. 7. “You had said, your ‘objections then were nearly the same as now.’
You now add, ‘only with this difference: I was not then assured that the facts were as I supposed; I did not dare to determine anything.’ No! Not when by conversing among them you saw these things? As indeed the facts are of such a nature, that you could not but be assured of them, if they were true. Nor do the questions in your Letter really imply any doubt of their truth; but are so many appeals to their consciences, and equivalent to strong assertions. And if you had not been assured, if you did not dare to determine anything concerning what you saw, your writing bare suspicions to a body of men in such a manner was inexcusable. This excuse, therefore, will not serve you.” (Page 83.)
I apprehend it will. “I was not then,” in September, 1738, “assured that the facts were as I supposed.” Therefore, “I did not” then “dare to determine anything.” Be pleased to add the immediately following words: “But from November 1,” 1739, “I saw more and more things which I could not reconcile with the Gospel.”
If you had not omitted these words, you could have had no color to remark, on my saying, “I did not dare to determine anything:” “No! Not when by conversing among them you saw these things?” No, I did not “dare to determine,” in September, 1738, from what I saw in November, 1739. “But the facts are of such a nature, that you could not but be assured of them, if they were true.” I cannot think so. “Is not the Count all in all among you? Do not you magnify your own Church too much? Do you not use guile and dissimulation in many cases?” These facts are by no means of such a nature, as that whoever converses (even intimately) among the Moravians cannot but be assured of them. “Nor do the questions in your Letter really imply any doubt of their truth.” No! Are not my very words prefixed to those questions? — “Of some other things I stand in doubt. And I wish that, in order to remove those doubts, you would plainly answer, whether the fact be as I suppose.” “But” these questions “are so many appeals to their consciences.” True. “And equivalent to strong assertions.” Utterly false. “If you had not been assured, if you did not dare to determine anything concerning what you saw,” (fifteen months after,) “your writing bare suspicions to a body of men, in such a manner, was inexcusable.” They were strong presumptions then; which yet I did not write to a body of men, whom I so highly esteemed; no, not even in the tenderest manner, till I was assured they were not groundless. 8. “In a note at the bottom of page 8, you observe, ‘The Band-Society in London began May 1, some time before I set out for Germany.’ Would you insinuate here, that you did not set it up in imitation of the Moravians?” Sir, I will tell you the naked truth. You had remarked thus: “You took the trouble of a journey to Germany to them; and were so much in love with their methods, that at your return hither, you set up their Bands among your disciples.” (Page 17.) This was an entire mistake; for that society was set up, not only before I returned, but before I set out. And I designed that note to insinuate this to you, without telling your mistake to all the world. “I imagined, that, supposing your account of the Moravians true, it would be impossible for any serious Christian to doubt of their being very wicked people.” I know many serious Christians who suppose it true, and yet believe they are, in the main, good men. “A much worse character, take the whole body together, cannot be given of a body of men.” Let us try: “Here is a body of men who have not one spark either of justice, mercy, or truth among them; who are lost to all sense of right and wrong; who have neither sobriety, temperance, nor chastity; who are, in general, liars, drunkards, gluttons, thieves, adulterers, murderers.” I cannot but think, that this is a much worse character than that of the Moravians, take it how you will. “Let the reader judge how far you are now able to defend them.”
Just as far as I did at first. Still I dare not condemn what is good among them; and I will not excuse what is evil. 9. “‘The Moravians excel in sweetness of behavior.’ What, though they use guile and dissimulation?” Yes. “‘Where is their multitude of errors?’ In your own Journal. I have taken the pains to place them in one view in my Remarks; the justness of which, with all your art, you cannot disprove.”
You have taken the pains to transcribe many words; all which together amount to this, that they, generally, hold universal salvation, and are partly Antinomians, (in opinion,) partly Quietists. The justness of some of your remarks, if I mistake not, has been pretty fully disproved. As to what you speak of my art, subtlety, and so on, in this and many other places, I look upon it as neither better nor worse than a civil way of calling names. “‘To this multitude of crimes I am also an utter stranger.’ Then you have charged them wrongfully. What do you account guile?” etc. (Second Letter , p. 84.) I account guile, despising self-denial even in the smallest points, and teaching that those who have not the assurance of faith may not use the ordinances of God, the Lord’s Supper in particular, (this is the real, unaggravated charge,) to be faults which cannot be excused. But I do not account them all together “a multitude of crimes.” I conceive this is a vehement hyperbole. “The honor of religion,” said you, “and virtue trampled upon:” I answered, “By whom? Not by the Moravians.” You reply, “And yet you have accused some of these as decrying all the means of grace.” No. What I accused them of, was, teaching that an unbeliever (in their sense) ought to abstain from them. “‘Neither did I know, or think, or say, they were desperately wicked people.’ Your Journal is before the world; to whom I appeal whether this has not so represented them.” But how do you here represent your remark, and my answer? My paragraph runs thus: — “You go on, ‘How could you so long, and so intimately converse with such desperately wicked people as the Moravians, according to your own account, were known by you to be?’ O Sir, what another assertion is this! ‘The Moravians, according to your own account, were known by you to be desperately wicked people, while you intimately conversed with them!’ Utterly false and injurious! I never gave any such account. I conversed with them intimately both at Savannah and Hernhuth. But neither then, nor at any other time, did I know, or think, or say, they were desperately wicked people: I think and say just the reverse; viz., that though I soon ‘found among them a few things which I could not approve, yet I believe they are, in the main, some of the best Christians in the world.’ After this, are you the person who complains of me for imperfect and partial quotations?” (Page 10.)
I added, “‘You surprise me yet more in going on thus: In God’s name, Sir, is the contempt of almost the whole of our duty, of every Christian ordinance, to be so very gently touched?’ Sir, this is not the case. This charge no more belongs to the Moravians than that of murder.” (Page 11.)
You reply, “Mr. Sp — and Mr. Molther are accused by name. If falsely, I am sorry both for them and you.” Accused? True. But of what? of the contempt of every Christian ordinance, of almost the whole of our duty?
By no means. The plain case is, I accuse them of one thing, viz., teaching that an unbeliever should abstain from the ordinances. You accuse them of another, — contemning every Christian ordinance, and almost the whole of our duty. And this you would father upon me. I desire to be excused. 10. As to what I said in my letter to the Moravian Church, “You can hinder this if you will; therefore, if you do not prevent their speaking thus, you do, in effect, speak thus yourselves,” it may be observed,
(1.) That this letter is dated August 8, 1741.
(2.) That from that time the Moravian Church did in great measure prevent any of their members speaking thus.
Afterwards you represent them as perverted by the Moravians: ‘Before they had spoke these wicked things,’ you say, ‘they had joined these men, and acted under their direction.’ If they did not learn them from these new teachers, from whom did they learn them? Not, sure, from yourself, or any other Methodists. You cannot, therefore, bring off the Moravians without condemning your own people. Here, therefore, you have certainly overshot yourself.” (Page 85.) Perhaps not. “These English brethren were, I presume, your followers.” No; this is your first mistake. I was but a single, private member of that society. “Afterwards you represent them as perverted by the Moravians.” I do; but not yet connected with them. “Before they spoke these wicked things, they had joined these men, and acted under their direction.” This is another mistake. They did not join these men, nor act by their direction, till long after. “If they did not learn them from these new teachers, from whom did they learn them? You cannot bring off the Moravians without condemning your own people.”
They learned them from Mr. Molther chiefly; whom I am not at all concerned to bring off. Now let all men judge which of us two has overshot himself. 11. “In answer to my objections against the inconsistent accounts you have given of the Moravians, you say, ‘They are, I believe, the most self-inconsistent people under the sun.’ Would not one imagine that you here speak of the same persons, or of the whole body of them in general?”
I do, thus far: I ascribe the good to the body of them in general; the evil to part only of that body, to some of those same persons. “Your method of getting over the contradictions I had charged upon you is much the same, — to distinguish either between the Moravians and the English brethren, though these had been their disciples,” this has been abundantly answered, — “or between some of the Moravians and others.” (Page 86.) I think a very good method; for propositions are not contradictory unless they both speak of the same persons.
However, since you persist to affirm that I am guilty of the contradictions you charged upon me, (page 87,) I think there cannot be a sufficient reply without reciting the several instances. 12.
(1.) “You commend them (the Moravians) for loving one another; and yet charge them with biting and devouring one another.” I answered, “Them ! Whom? Not the Moravians, but the English brethren of Fetter-Lane, before their union with the Moravians. Herein, then, is no shadow of contradiction; for the two sentences do not relate to the same persons.”
You reply, “Would you then have us to think that so much anger and contradiction reigned among your Methodists?” I “would have you think” this is nothing to the purpose. Prove the contradiction, and you speak to the point. “It is plain they had before this been perverted by the Moravians; and that they were unwilling to be taught by any others.” They; that is, nearly half of the society. But here is no proof of the contradiction still.
(2.) “You say, ‘They had well-nigh destroyed brotherly love from among us, partly by cautions against natural love, partly by occasioning almost continual disputes.’” So they had; but we had then no connection with them. Neither, therefore, does this contradict their loving one another. You reply, “As if they can truly love each other, who teach you not to do it, and stir up divisions and disturbances among you.” You should say, if you would repeat after me, “Who caution you against natural love, and occasion many disputes among you.” Well; allowing they do this, (which is utterly wrong,) yet where is the contradiction? Yet they may love one another.
(3.) “You praise them for using no diversions, but such as become saints; and yet say,” (I recite the whole sentence,) “‘I have heard some of you affirm that Christian salvation implies liberty to conform to the world, by joining in worldly diversions in order to do good.’” And both these are true. The Moravians, in general, use no diversions but such as become saints. And yet I have heard some of them affirm, in contradiction to their own practice, that “one then mentioned did well when he joined in playing at tennis in order to do good.” To this you make no reply. Silence then consents, that there is no contradiction here.
(4.) “You ‘praise them for not regarding outward adorning.’” So I do, the bulk of the congregation. “And yet you say,” (I again recite the whole sentence,) “‘I have heard some of you affirm that Christian salvation implies liberty to conform to the world, by putting on gold and costly apparel.’” I have so; and I blame them the more, because “they are condemned by the general practice of their own Church.” To this also you reply not. So I must count this the fourth contradiction which you have charged upon me, but have not proved.
(5.) “You call their discipline, in most respects, truly excellent. I could wish you had more fully explained yourself. ‘I have, in the Second Journal,’ Vol. I. pp. 115-147. It is no sign of good discipline to permit such abominations; that is, error in opinion, and guile in practice. ‘True; it is not; nor is it any demonstration against it: For there may be good discipline even in a college of Jesuits. Another fault is, too great a deference to the Count. And yet, in most respects, their discipline is truly excellent.’” You reply, “Such excellent discipline, for all that I know, they may have;” (that is, as the Jesuits;) “but I cannot agree that this is scarce inferior to that of the apostolical age.” It may be, for anything you advance to the contrary. “Here I cited some words of yours, condemning their subordination, (page 88,) which you prudently take no notice of.” Yes; I had just before taken notice of their too great deference to the Count. But, the contradiction! Where is the contradiction?
(6.) “You mention it as a good effect of their discipline, that ‘every one knows and keeps his proper rank.’ Soon after, as it were with a design to confute yourself, you say, ‘Our brethren have neither wisdom enough to guide, nor prudence enough to let it alone.’” I answered, “Pardon me, Sir, I have no design either to confute or contradict myself in these words. The former sentence is spoken of the Moravian brethren; the latter, of the English brethren of Fetter-Lane, not then united with the Moravians, neither acting by their direction.” To this likewise you do not reply. Here is then a sixth contradiction, alleged against me, but not proved. 13. However, you add, “Had you shown me mistaken in any point you have attempted to reply to, still you confess errors and wickedness enough among the Moravians, to render your account of them very inconsistent. But you have not succeeded in any one answer. You have not shown that I have, in any one instance, misquoted you, or misunderstood the character you had given of them, or argued falsely from what you had said of them. And truly, Sir, all you have done has been cavilling at a few particulars. But the argument I was urging all this while you quite forgot.”
But is it so? Have I all this while quite forgot the argument you was urging? I hope not. I seem to remember you was urging some argument to prove, that I “fall not only into inconsistencies, but direct contradictions;” (Remarks , p. 21;) and that I showed you mistaken, not only in one , but in every point which you advanced as such; that I did not confess any such errors or wickedness of the Moravians, as rendered my account of them self-inconsistent; that I “succeeded” in more than “one answer” to the objections you had urged against it; and that I showed, you had “misquoted or misunderstood the character I had given of them,” or “argued falsely from it,” not properly “in one instance,” but from the beginning to the end.
Yet this I think it incumbent upon me to say, that whereinsoever I have contributed, directly or indirectly, to the spreading of anything evil, which is or has been among the Moravians, I am sorry for it, and hereby ask pardon both of God and all the world.
II. 1. I think it appears, by what you have yourself observed, that, on the Second head, Justification by Faith, I allow, in the beginning of the “Farther Appeal,” almost as much as you contend for.
I desire leave to cite part of that passage again, that we may come as near each other as possible. I would just subjoin a few words on each head, which I hope may remove more difficulties out of the way: — “That justification, whereof our Articles and Homilies speak, means present pardon, and acceptance with God; who therein ‘declares his righteousness,’ or mercy, ‘by’ or ‘for the remission of sins that are past.’” I say, past : For I cannot find anything in the Bible of the remission of sins, past, present, and to come. “I believe the condition of this is faith; I mean, not only that without faith we cannot be justified, but also, that, as soon as any one has true faith, in that moment he is justified.”
You take the word condition in the former sense only, as that without which we cannot be justified. In this sense of the word, I think we may allow, that there are several conditions of justification. “Good works follow this faith, but cannot go before it. Much less can sanctification; which implies a continued course of good works, springing from holiness of heart.”
Yet such a course is, without doubt, absolutely necessary to our continuance in a state of justification. “It is allowed, that repentance and ‘fruits meet for repentance’ go before faith. Repentance absolutely must go before faith; fruits meet for it, if there be opportunity. By repentance I mean conviction of sin, producing real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment; and by ‘fruits meet for repentance,’ forgiving our brother, ceasing from evil, doing good, using the ordinances of God, and, in general, obeying him according to the measure of grace which we have received. But these I cannot as yet term good works, because they do not spring from faith and the love of God.”
Although the same works are then good, when they are performed by “those who have believed.” “Faith, in general, is a divine supernatural elegcov (evidence or conviction) of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses, as being either past, future, or spiritual. Justifying faith implies not only a divine elegcov , that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And the moment a penitent sinner thus believes, God pardons and absolves him.”
I say, a penitent sinner ; because justifying faith cannot exist without previous repentance. “Yet, although both repentance, and the fruits thereof, are in some sense necessary before justification, neither the one nor the other is necessary in the same sense, or in the same degree, with faith. Not in the same degree. For in whatever moment a man believes, (in the Christian sense of the word,) he is justified. But it is not so at whatever moment he repents, or brings forth any, or all, the fruits of repentance. Consequently, none of these are necessary to justification, in the same degree with faith. “Nor in the same sense. For none of these has so direct, immediate a relation to justification as faith. This is proximately necessary thereto; repentance remotely, as it is necessary to faith.” (So the error of the press is to be corrected.) “And the fruits of repentance still more remotely, as they are necessary to the increase or continuance of repentance. And even in this sense, they are only necessary on supposition, — if there be time and opportunity for them. For in many instances there is not; but God cuts short his work, and faith prevents the fruits of repentance.” 2. Thus far I believe we are nearly agreed. But on those words, “Far other qualifications are required, in order to our standing before God in glory, than were required in order to his giving us faith and pardon; in order to this, nothing is indispensably required, but repentance, or conviction of sin; but in order to the other, it is indispensably required, that we be fully cleansed from all sin;” you remark, “Here, I apprehend, are two great mistakes:
(1.) You make too little necessary before pardon.
(2.) Too much afterward. You confine repentance within too narrow limits, and extend holiness beyond its just bounds. “First. By repentance you mean only conviction of sin. But this is a very partial account of it. Every child that has learned his Catechism can tell, that forsaking of sin is included in it; living in obedience to God’s will, when there is opportunity; and even when there is not, a sincere desire and purpose to do so, and a faith in God’s mercies through Christ Jesus.” (Page 92.)
I had said, “In order to God’s giving us faith and pardon, nothing is indispensably required but repentance,” that is, “conviction of sin, producing real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment.” But you “apprehend that I am here in a great mistake;” that I give a “very partial account of repentance;” that I ought to “include therein a sincere desire and purpose” to obey God. I do: I have said so expressly; — and “living in obedience to God’s will, when there is opportunity.” Very well; but I here speak of what is indispensably required, that is, whether there is opportunity of actual obedience or no; — “and a faith in God’s mercies through Christ Jesus.” A very great mistake indeed! — my not including faith in that repentance which I say is indispensably required in order to faith! “Secondly. You make sinless perfection necessary after justification, in order to make us meet for glory.” And who does not? Indeed men do not agree in the time. Some believe it is attained before death; some, in the article of death; some, in an after-state, in the Mystic or the Popish purgatory. But all writers, whom I have ever seen till now, (the Romish themselves not excepted,) agree, that we must be “fully cleansed from all sin.” before we can enter into glory. 3. After what has already been allowed, I cannot think it needful to dispute farther, on the head of justification. Rather suffer me to close this part of our debate, by transcribing what I assent to, from that clear recapitulation of your sentiments which you have given in pages 45 and 46: — “
(1.) Justification is the act of God, pardoning our sins, and receiving us again to his favor. This was free in him, because undeserved by us; undeserved, because we had transgressed his law, and could not, nor even can now, perfectly fulfill it. “
(2.) We cannot, therefore, be justified by our works; because this would be, to be justified by some merit of our own. Much less can we be justified by an external show of religion, or by any superstitious observances. “
(3.) The life and death of our Lord is the sole meritorious cause of this mercy, which must be firmly believed and trusted in by us. Our faith therefore in him, though not more meritorious than any other of our actions, yet has a nearer relation to the promises of pardon through him, and is the mean and instrument whereby we embrace and receive them. “
(4.) True faith must be lively and productive of good works, which are its proper fruits, the marks whereby it is known. “
(5.) Works really good are such as are commanded by God, (springing from faith,) done by the aid of his Holy Spirit, with good designs, and to good ends. These may be considered as internal or external. “
(6.) The inward ones, such as hope, trust, fear, and love of God and our neighbor, (which may be more properly termed good dispositions , and (are branches of) sanctification,) must always be joined with faith, and consequently be conditions present in justification, though they are not the means or instruments of receiving it. “
(7.) The outward,” (which are more properly termed good works,) “though there be no immediate opportunity of practicing them, and therefore a sincere desire and resolution to perform them be sufficient for the present; yet must follow after as soon as occasion offers, and will then be necessary conditions of preserving our justification. “
(8.) There is a justification conveyed to us in our baptism, or, properly, this state is then begun. But, should we fall into sins, we cannot regain it without true faith and repentance, which implies (as its fruits) a forsaking of our sins, and amendment of our whole life.”
I have only one circumstance farther to add, namely, that I am not newly convinced of these things. For this is the doctrine which I have continually taught for eight or nine years last past; only, I abstained from the word condition , perhaps more scrupulously than was needful. 4. With regard to the consequences of my teaching this doctrine, I desire any who will not account it lost labor, to consult with his own eyes, seriously and in the fear of God, the Third and Fourth Journals. And if he pleases, he may farther read over and compare my answer; with your reply, from the one hundred and first inclusive, to the one hundred and fourth page.
Among the consequences you reckoned, (in your Remarks ,) besides, “introducing predestination, confusion, presumption, and despair, many very shocking instances of all which” (your words are) “you give us among your followers.” (Pages 52, 55.) I answered, “You should have specified a few of those instances, at least the pages where they occur. (Suppose, only three of each sort, out of any or all the Four Journals.) Till this is done, I can look upon this assertion as no other than a flourish of your pen.”
Upon this you exclaim: (Page 111:) “I must beg the reader to observe your method of citing my words. Many instances of omissions he has had already. But here is such a one, as I believe few controversies can parallel.
Would not any one imagine from the view of these words, (Predestination, confusion, presumption, and despair,) that they occurred all together in page fifty-two, of my Remarks , and that I observed nothing farther concerning this point? Could it be thought that any thing intervened between the page referred to, and the last sentence? And yet so it is, that near three pages intervene!” Ha! do near three pages intervene ! Prodigious indeed! “And this is called an answer!” So it is, for want of a better. “Your business was to show, that the Calvinistical notion have not prevailed among the Methodists, or that they were no consequences of unconditional justification.” No, Sir, it was not my business to show this.
It was not my business to prove the negative; but yours, to prove the affirmative. Mr. Whitefield is himself a Calvinist. Such therefore doubtless are many of his followers. But Calvinism has not prevailed at all among any other of the Methodists, (so called,) nor is it to this day any consequence of unconditional justification, in the manner wherein I preach it. 5. You next “take the pains to lay before the reader an instance or two of confusion,” etc. The first I read thus: — “While we were at the room, Mrs. J., sitting at home, took the Bible to read; but on a sudden threw it away, saying, ‘I am good enough. I will never read or pray more.’ She was in the same mind when I came; often repeating, ‘I used to think I was full of sin, and that I sinned in every thing I did. But now I know better; I am a good Christian; I never did any harm in my life; I do not desire to be any better than I am.’ She spake many things to the same effect, plainly shoving that the spirit of pride and of lies had the full dominion over her. I asked, ‘Do you desire to be healed?’ She said, ‘I am whole.’ ‘But do you desire to be saved?’ She replied, ‘I am saved, I ail nothing, I am happy.’ “This is one of the fruits of the present salvation and sinless perfection taught by you among the weak and ignorant.” (Page 11.)
I should wonder if the scarecrow of sinless perfection was not brought in some way or other. But to the point: You here repeat a relation as from me, and that “in confirmation,” you say, “of your own veracity,” and yet leave out both the beginning of that relation, part of the middle, and the end of it.
I begin thus: “Sun. 11. — I met with a surprising instance of the power of the devil.” (Vol. I.) These words, of all others, should not have been left out, being a key to all that follows. In the middle of the relation, immediately after the words, “I am happy,” I add, “Yet it was easy to discern she was in the most violent agony both of body and mind; sweating exceedingly, notwithstanding the severe frost, and not continuing in the same posture a moment:” — A plain proof that this was no instance of presumption, nor a natural fruit of any teaching whatever.
It ends thus: “About a quarter before six the next morning, after lying quiet a while, she broke out, ‘Peace be unto thee’ (her husband); ‘peace be unto this house; the peace of God is come to my soul; I know that my Redeemer liveth.’ And for several days her mouth was filled with his praise, and her talk was wholly of his wondrous works.” Had not these words been left out, neither could this have passed for an instance of despair. Though still I do not know but it might have stood for an instance of confusion, etc.
I must not forget that this was cited at first as a proof of my enthusiasm; as an instance of a private revelation, “which,” you say, “I seem to pay great credit to, — representing the conjectures of a woman, whose brain appears to have been too much heated, as if they had been owing to a particular and miraculous spirit of prophecy.” (Remarks , p. 64.) I answered, “Descant, Sir, as you please on this enthusiasm; on the credit I paid to this private revelation; and my representing the conjectures of this brain-sick woman as owing to a miraculous power of the Spirit of prophecy: And when you have done, I will desire you to read the passage once more; where you will find my express words are, introducing this account: ‘Sun. 11. I met with a surprising instance of the power of the devil.’ Such was the credit I paid to this revelation! All which I ascribe to the Spirit of God is, the enabling her to strive against the power of the devil, and at length restoring peace to her soul.”
I was in hopes you had done with this instance. But I am disappointed:
For in your Second Letter I read thus: — “The instances of enthusiasm and presumption which your last Journal had furnished me with remain now to be reviewed. The first was of a private revelation, which you appeared to pay great credit to. You had represented everything the woman had spoke in her agony as coming to pass.” But I had not represented anything she spoke then, whether it came to pass or no, as coming from the Spirit of God, but from the devil.
You say, “When I read this first, I was amazed, and impatient to look again into your Journal. But I had no sooner done this, but I was still more astonished. For you have very grievously misrepresented the case.” If I have, then I will bear the blame; but if not, it will light on your head. “It is not this account which you had thus introduced; but another, and a very different one, of what happened a day or two before. Sunday, you mention her as being guilty of gross presumption, which you attribute to the power of the devil. But on Monday and Tuesday the opposite revelations happened, which you relate without the least mark of diffidence or blame.”
I am grieved that you constrain me to say any more. In the sixty-sixth and sixty-seventh pages of the last Journal, I gave account of Mrs. Jones, which I term “a surprising instance of the power of the devil.” It includes the occurrences of three days. This you brought as a proof of my enthusiasm. I answer, “The very words that introduce this account” prove it is no instance of enthusiasm; meaning by this account , (as I suppose is plain to every reader,) the following account of Mrs. Jones. You reply, “It is not this account, which you had thus introduced, but another, and a very different one, of what happened a day or two before.” Sir, it is the whole account of Mrs. Jones which I thus introduce; and not another, not a very different one. And I attribute the agony which she (Mrs. Jones) was in, and most of the words which she spoke, both on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, not to the Spirit of God, but to the power of the devil. 6. The next instance which you relate as an instance of despair, is that of a young woman of Kingswood; which you break off with, (‘Take me away, etc.” But why did you not decipher that “etc.”? Why did you not add the rest of the paragraph? Because it would have spoiled your whole argument. It would have shown what the end of the Lord was in permitting that severe visitation. The words are, “We interrupted her by calling again upon God, on which she sunk down as before, (as one asleep,) and another young woman began to roar as loud as she had done.
My brother now came in, it being about nine o’clock. We continued in prayer till past eleven; when God in a moment spoke peace into the soul, first, of the first tormented, and then of the other. And they both joined in singing praises to Him who had stilled the enemy and the avenger.” (Vol.
I.) 7. I am sorry to find you still affirm, that, with regard to the Lord’s supper also, I “advance many injudicious, false, and dangerous things.
(1.) That, ‘a man ought to communicate, without a sure trust in God’s mercy through Christ.’” (Page 117.) You mark these as my words; but I know them not.
(2.) “That there is no previous preparation indispensably necessary, but a desire to receive whatsoever God pleases to give.” But I include abundantly more in that desire than you seem to apprehend; even a willingness to know and do the whole will of God.
(3.) “That no fitness is required at the time of communicating,” (I recite the whole sentence,) “but a sense of our state, of our utter sinfulness and helplessness! Every one who knows he is fit for hell, being just fit to come to Christ, in this, as well as in all other ways of his appointment.” But neither can this sense of our utter sinfulness and helplessness subsist, without earnest desires of universal holiness. “There was another passage,” you say, “which you chose to omit.” (Page 118.) Which this was, I do not understand. Nor do I perceive any one of these dreadful positions (as you style them) to be contrary to the word of God. 8. You will likewise, at all hazards, stand your ground, as to the charge of stoical insensibility. I answered before, “How do you support the charge?
Why thus: ‘You say, The servants of God suffer nothing .’ And can you possibly misunderstand these words, if you read those that immediately follow? — ‘His body was well-nigh torn asunder with pain. But God made all his bed in his sickness. So that he was continually giving thanks to God, and making his boast of his praise.’” (Page 405.)
You reply, “If you meant no more than that a man under the sharpest pains may be thankful to God, why did you call this a strange truth?” (Page 118.) Because I think it is so. I think it exceeding strange, that one in such a degree of pain should be continually giving thanks to God. Not that I suppose him “insensible of his torments.” “His body,” I say, “was well-nigh torn asunder with pain.” But the love of God so abundantly overbalanced all pain, that it was as nothing to him. “The next instance is as follows: One told you, ‘Sir, I thought last week there could be no such rest as you describe; none in this world wherein we should be so free as not to desire ease in pain. But God has taught me better. For on Friday and Saturday, when I was in the strongest pain, I never once had one moment’s desire of ease.’” Add, “But only that the will of God might be done.”
Neither has this any resemblance of “stoical insensibility.” I never supposed that this person did not feel pain; (nor indeed that there is any state on earth wherein we shall not feel it;) but that her soul was filled with the love of God, and thankfully resigned to his will. “Another instance is taken from one of your hymns, where are these lines: — (Page 119.) ‘Doom, if thou canst, to endless pains, And drive me from thy face:’” (Add, “But if thy stronger love constrains, Let me be saved by grace.”) “This I thought the height of insensibility, extravagance, and presumption.
You see nothing of these in it. And yet you explain yourself thus: ‘If thou canst deny thyself, if thou canst forget to be gracious, if thou canst cease to be truth and love:’ All which, in my opinion, is fixing the charge most strongly upon you. For the supposition that Christ can do these things” — Are you in earnest, Sir? Are you really ignorant, that expressions of this kind do not suppose he can , but quite the reverse? that they are one of the strongest forms of obtestation, of adjuring God to show mercy, by all his grace, and truth, and love? So far is this also from proving the charge of “stoical insensibility.”
III. 1. I come now to consider the point of Church communion, of which you have spoke in the beginning of your Treatise. In the entrance, you say, “We teach no other doctrine than has always been taught in our Church.
Our sentiments concerning justification are reconcilable to our Articles, Homilies, and Service. This I apprehend several of the Methodists have been convinced of, and have therefore left our communion entirely. You give us more instances than one of this in your last Journal.” (Page 2.) No, not one. Nor did I ever yet know one man who “therefore left the communion of the Church,” because he was convinced that either her Articles, Homilies, or Liturgy, opposed his sentiments concerning justification. Poor Mr. St — and Mr. Simpson were induced to leave it by reasons of quite another kind.
You add, “We cannot wonder that some Methodists have withdrawn from her, while they have been used to hear doctrines which they must have been sensible have no place in her Articles and Service.” So far from it, that all I know of them are deeply sensible, the “doctrines they have been used to hear” daily, are no other than the genuine doctrines of the Church, as expressed both in her Articles and Service. 2. But our present question turns not on doctrine but discipline. “My first business,” you say, “is to consider some very lax notions of Church communion which I find in your last Journal. Vol. I. p. 262, you say, ‘Our Twentieth Article defines a true Church, a congregation of faithful people, wherein the true word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered.’” (Page 3.) The use I would willingly make of this definition, (which, observe, is not mine, be it good or bad,) is to stop the boasting of ungodly men, by cutting off their pretense to call themselves of the Church. But you think they may call themselves so still. Then let them. I will not contend about it.
But you cannot infer from hence, that my notions of Church communion are either lax or otherwise. The definition which I occasionally cite shows nothing of my sentiments on that head. And for anything which occurs in this page, they may be strict or loose, right or wrong.
You add, “It will be requisite, in order to approve yourself a Minister of our Church, that you follow her rules and orders; that you constantly conform to the method of worship she has prescribed, and study to promote her peace.” (Page 5.) All this is good and fit to be done. But it properly belongs to the following question: — “What led you into such very loose notions of Church communion, I imagine, might be, your being conscious to yourself, that, according to the strict, just account of the Church of England, you could not, with any grace, maintain your pretensions to belong still to her.” Sir, I have never told you yet what my notions of Church communion are. They may be wrong, or they may be right, for all you know. Therefore, when you are first supposing that I have told you my notions, and then assigning the reasons of them, what can be said, but that you imagine the whole matter? 3. How far I have acted agreeably to the rules and orders of our Church, is a farther question. You think I have acted contrary thereto, First, by using extemporary prayer in public. “The Church,” you say, “has strongly declared her mind on this point, by appointing her excellent Liturgy, which you have solemnly promised to use, and no other.” I know not when or where. “And whoever does not worship God in the manner she prescribes must be supposed to slight and contemn her offices and rules; and therefore can be no more worthy to be called her Minister.” (Ibid . p. 7.)
I do not “slight or contemn the offices” of the Church; I esteem them very highly. And yet I do not, at all times, worship God, even in public, in the very terms of those offices. Nor yet do I knowingly “slight or contemn her rules:” For it is not clear to my apprehension, that she has any rule which forbids using extemporary prayer, suppose between the Morning and Evening Service. And if I am “not worthy to be called her Minister,” (which I dare by no means affirm myself to be,) yet her Minister I am, and must always be, unless I should be judicially deposed from my ministry.
Your Second argument is this: “If you suppose the Scripture enjoins you to use extemporary prayer, then you must suppose our Liturgy to be inconsistent with Scripture; and, consequently, unlawful to be used.” That does not follow; unless I supposed the Scripture to enjoin, to use extemporary prayer and no other. Then it would follow, that a form of prayer was inconsistent with Scripture. But this I never did suppose.
Your Third argument is to this effect: “You act contrary to the rule of the Church. Allow she is in the wrong; yet, while you break her rule, how do you act as her Minister?” It ought to be expressed, “How are you her Minister?” for the conclusion to be proved is, that I am not her Minister.
(1.) I am not convinced, as I observed before, that I do hereby break her rule.
(2.) If I did, yet should I not cease to be her Minister, unless I were formally deprived.
(3.) I now actually do continue in her communion, and hope that I always shall. 4. You object farther, that I “disobey the governors of the Church.” I answer, I both do, and will, obey them in all things, where I do not apprehend there is some particular law of God to the contrary. “Here,” you say, “you confess that in some things you do not, and cannot obey your governors.” (Page 8.) Did I confess this ? Then I spoke rashly aud foolishly; for I granted more than I can make good. I do certainly apprehend that the law of God requires me, both to preach, and, sometimes, to pray extempore. Yet I do not know that I disobey the governors of the Church herein: For I do not know that they have forbidden me to do either.
But your “behavior and method of teaching is irregular. Have you any warrant from Scripture for preaching” up and down thus? I think I have; I think God hath called me to this work “by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery,” which directs me how to obey that general command, “While we have time, let us do good unto all men.” “But we ought to do this agreeably to our respective situations, and not break in upon each other’s provinces. Every private man may take upon himself the office of a Magistrate and quote this text as justly as you have done.” (Page 9.) No; the private man is not called to the office of a Magistrates; but I am to the office of a Preacher. “You was, indeed, authorized to preach the gospel; but it was in the congregation to which you should be lawfully appointed. Whereas you have many years preached in places whereunto you was not lawfully appointed; nay, which were entrusted to others, who neither wanted nor desired your assistance.”
Many of them wanted it enough, whether they desired it or no. But I shall not now debate that point. I rather follow you to the First Part of the “Farther Appeal,” where this objection is considered. 5. “Our Church,” it was said, “has provided against this preaching up and down, in the ordination of a Priest, by expressly limiting the exercise of the powers then conferred upon him to the congregation where he shall be lawfully appointed thereunto.”
(1.) “Your argument proves too much. If it be allowed just as you propose it, it proves that no Priest, has authority either to preach or administer the sacrament in any other than his own congregation.” (Farther Appeal .)
You reply, “Is there no difference between a thing’s being done occasionally, and its being done for years together?” Yes, a great one; and more inconveniences may arise from the latter than from the former. But this is all wide: It does not touch the point. Still, if our Church does expressly limit the exercise of the sacerdotal powers to that congregation whereunto each Priest shall be appointed, this precludes him from exercising those powers at all, in any other than that congregation.
(2.) “Had the powers conferred been so limited when I was ordained Priest, my ordination would have signified just nothing. For I was not appointed to any congregation at all; but was ordained as a member of that ‘College of Divines,’ (so our Statutes express it,) ‘founded to overturn all heresies, and defend the catholic faith.’” You reply, “I presume it was expected you should either continue at your College, or enter upon some regular cure.” Perhaps so; but I must still insist, that if my sacerdotal powers had been then expressly limited to that congregation whereunto I should be appointed, my ordination would have signified nothing. I mean, I could never, in virtue of that ordination have exercised those powers at all; seeing I never was appointed to any single congregation, at least not till I went to Georgia.
(3.) “For many years after I was ordained Priest, this limitation was never heard of. I heard not one syllable of it, by way of objection to my preaching up and down in Oxford or London, or the parts adjacent; in Gloucestershire or Worcestershire; in Lancashire, Yorkshire, or Lincolnshire. Nor did the strictest disciplinarian scruple suffering me to exercise those powers wherever I came.”
You reply, “There is great difference between preaching occasionally, with the leave of the incumbents, and doing it constantly without their leave.” I grant there is; and there are objections to the latter, which do not reach the former case. But they do not belong to this head. They do not in the least affect this consequence, — “If every Priest, when ordained, is expressly limited, touching the exercise of the power then received, to that congregation to which he shall be appointed; then is he precluded by this express limitation from preaching, with or without the incumbent’s leave, in any other congregation whatever.”
(4.) “Is it not, in fact, universally allowed, that every Priest, as such, has a power, in virtue of his ordination, to preach in any congregation, where the Curate desires his assistance?”
You reply to this by what you judge a parallel case. But it does not touch the restriction in question. Either this does, or does not, expressly limit the exercise of the powers conferred upon a Priest in his ordination to that congregation whereunto he shall be appointed. If it does not, I am not condemned by this, however faulty I may be on a thousand other accounts. If it does, then is every Priest condemned whoever preaches out of the congregation to which he is appointed.
Your parallel case is this: “Because a man does not offend against the law of the land, when I prevail upon him to teach my children;” therefore “he is empowered to seize” (read, he does not offend against the law of the land in seizing) “an apartment in my house, and against my will and approbation to continue therein, and to direct and dictate to my family!” (Page 11.)
An exact parallel indeed! When, therefore, I came to live in St. Luke’s parish, was it just the same thing as if I had seized an apartment in Dr. Buckley’s house? And was the continuing therein against his will and approbation (supposing it were so) precisely the same, as if I had continued in his house, whether he would or no? Is the one exactly the same offense against the law of the land as the other? Once more. Is the warning sinners in Moorfields to flee from the wrath to come, the very same with directing the Doctor’s family under his own roof? I should not have answered this, but that I was afraid you would conclude it was unanswerable.
I answered the former objector,
(5.) “Before those words which you suppose to imply such a restraint, were those spoken without any restraint or limitation at all, which I apprehend to convey an indelible character, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Priest in the church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands.’” You reply, “The question is not, whether you are in orders or not.” (Ibid . p. 12.) I am glad to hear it. I really thought it was. “But whether you have acted suitably to the directions or rules of the Church of England.” Not suitably to that rule, if it were strictly to be interpreted, of preaching only in a single congregation. But I have given my reasons why I think it cannot be so interpreted. And those reasons I do not see that you have invalidated.
I would only add, If I am in orders, if I am a Minister still, and yet not a Minister of the Church of England, of what Church am I a Minister?
Whoever is a Minister at all is a Minister of some particular Church.
Neither can he cease to be a Minister of that Church, till he is cast out of it by a judicial sentence. Till, therefore, I am so cast out, (which I trust will never be,) I must style myself a Minister of the Church of England. 6. Your next objection is, “You not only erect Bands, which, after the Moravians, you call the United Society , but also give out tickets to those that continue therein.” These Bands, you think, “have had very bad consequences, as was to be expected, when weak people are made leaders of their brethren, and are set upon expounding Scripture.” (Ibid .)
You are in some mistakes here. For,
(1.) The Bands are not called the United Society .
(3.) Neither the Bands nor the leaders of them, as such, are “set upon expounding Scripture.”
(4.) The good consequences of their meeting together in Bands, I know; but the very bad consequences, I know not.
When any members of these, or of the United Society, are proved to live in known sin, we then mark and avoid them; we separate ourselves from every one that walks disorderly. Sometimes, if the case be judged infectious, (though rarely,) this is openly declared. And this you style “excommunication;” and say, “Does not every one see a separate ecclesiastical society or communion?” (Page 13.) No. This society does not separate from the communion of the rest of the Church of England.
They continue steadfastly with them, both “in the apostolical doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” (Which neither Mr. St — nor Mr. Simpson does, nor the gentleman who writes to you in favor of the Moravians, who also writes pressingly to me to separate myself from the Church.) A society “over which you had appointed yourself a governor.”
No so far as I governed them, it was at their own entreaty. “And took upon you all the spiritual authority which the very highest Church Governor could claim.” What! at Kingswood, in February , 1740-1? Not so. I took upon me no other authority (then and there at least) than any Steward of a society exerts by the consent of the other members. I did neither more nor less than declare, that they who had broken our rules were no longer of our society. “Can you pretend that you received this authority from our Church?” Not by ordination; for I did not exert it as a Priest; but as one whom that society had voluntarily chosen to be at the head of them. “Or that you exercised it in subjection or subordination to her lawful Governors?” I think so; I am sure I did not exercise it in any designed opposition to them. “Did you ever think proper to consult or advise with them, about fixing the terms of your communion?” If you mean, about fixing the rules of admitting or excluding from our society, I never did think it either needful or proper. Nor do I at this day. “How then will you vindicate all these powers?” All these are, “declaring those are no longer of our society.” “Here is a manifest congregation.
Either it belonged to the Church of England, or not. If it did not, you set up a separate communion against her. And how then are you injured, in being thought to have withdrawn from her?” I have nothing to do with this. The antecedent is false: Therefore the consequent falls of course. “If it did belong to the Church, show where the Church gave you such authority of controlling and regulating it?” Authority of putting disorderly members out of that society? The society itself gave me that authority. “What private Clergyman can plead her commission to be thus a Judge and Ordinary, even in his own parish?” Any Clergyman or layman, without pleading her commission, may be thus a Judge and Ordinary. “Are not these powers inherent in her Governors, and committed to the higher order of her Clergy?” No; not the power of excluding members from a private society, — unless on supposition of some such rule as ours is, viz., “That if any man separate from the Church, he is no longer a member of our society.” 7. But you have more proof yet: “The Grand Jury in Georgia found, that you had called yourself Ordinary of Savannah. Nor was this fact contradicted even by those of the Jury who, you say, wrote in your favor:
So that it appears, you have long, had an inclination to be independent and uncontrolled.” This argument ought to be good; for it is far fetched. The plain case was this: That Grand Jury did assert, that, in Mr. Causton’s hearing, I had called myself Ordinary of Savannah. The minority of the Jury, in their letter to the Trustees, refuted the other allegations particularly; but thought this so idle an one, that they did not deign to give it any farther reply, than, “As to the eighth bill we are in doubt, as not well knowing the meaning of the word Ordinary .” See Vol. I.
You add, “I appeal to any reasonable man, whether you have not acted: is an Ordinary, nay, a Bishop, in Kingswood.” If you mean, in “declaring those disorderly members were no longer of that society;” I admit your appeal, whether I therein acted as a Bishop, or as any Steward of a society may. “Nay, you have gone far beyond the generality of the Dissenters themselves; who do not commit the power of excommunication, and appointing to preach,” (that is another question,) “to the hands of any private Minister.” The power of excommunication . True; but this was not excommunication, but a quite different thing.
How far, in what circumstances, and in what sense, I have “appointed men to preach,” I have explained at large in the Third Part of the “Farther Appeal.” But I wait for farther light; and am ready to consider, as I am able, whatever shall be replied to what is there advanced. 8. Your general conclusion is, “Whatever your pretenses or professions may be, you can be looked upon by serious and impartial persons, not as a member, much less a Minister, of the Church of England, but as no other than an enemy to her constitution, worship, and doctrine, raising divisions and disturbances in her communion.” (Ibid . p. 76.) “And yet you say, ‘I cannot have greater regard to her rules.’ ‘I dare not renounce communion with her.’” (Ibid . p. 15.)
I do say so still. I cannot have a greater regard to any human rules, than to follow them in all things, unless where I apprehend there is a divine rule to the contrary. I dare not renounce communion with the Church of England.
As a Minister, I teach her doctrines; I use her offices; I conform to her Rubrics; I suffer reproach for my attachment to her. As a private member, I hold her doctrines; I join in her offices, in prayer, in hearing, in communicating. I expect every reasonable man, touching these facts, to believe his own eyes and ears. But if these facts are so, how dare any man of common sense charge me with renouncing the Church of England? 9. Use ever so many exaggerations, still the whole of this matter is,
(1.) I often use extemporary prayer.
(2.) Wherever I can, I preach the gospel.
(3.) Those who desire to live the gospel, I advise how to watch over each other, and to put from them such as walk disorderly. Now, whether these things are, on other considerations, right or wrong, this single point I must; still insist on: “All this does not prove, either that I am no member, or that I am no Minister, of the Church of England:
Nay, nothing can prove, I am no member of the Church, till I either am excommunicated, or renounce her communion, and no longer join in her doctrine, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayer.
Nor can anything prove, I am no Minister of the Church, till I either am deposed from my ministry, or voluntarily renounce her, and wholly cease to teach her doctrines, use her offices, and obey her Rubrics for conscience’ sake.
However, I grant, that whatsoever is “urged on this head deserves my most serious consideration.” And whensoever I am convinced, that by taking any methods, more or less different from those I now take, I may better “consult the honor of religion, and be able to do more good in the world,” by the grace of God I shall not persist in these one hour, but instantly choose the more excellent way.
IV. 1. What you urge on the head of enthusiasm also, I think, “deserves my most serious consideration.” You may add, “and presumption.” I let it drop once more; because I do not love tautology; and because I look upon presumption to be essential to enthusiasm, and, consequently, contained therein. I will therefore weigh what you advance concerning it, and explain myself something more at large. “I am to examine,” you say, “how far you have cleared yourself of enthusiasm. My account of this you set down, making as many alterations and omissions as there are lines.” (Page 120.) Perhaps more; for I never designed to recite the whole, but only the material part of it. If you did not wholly approve of it, why would you not let me know what you disliked in it?” Because I do not love many words. Therefore when the argument stood thus, “He that does this is an enthusiast; but you do this;” was generally content with answering the second proposition, and leaving the first as I found it. “I laid this charge against you and the Methodists in general; between you every part of the character has been verified.” I answer for one; let the rest answer for themselves, if they have not better employment.
That the question between us may be the more fully understood, I shall briefly compare together,
(1.) Your remarks.
(2.) My answer.
(3.) Your reply; though still I cannot promise to repeat your words at length. 2. You remark, “Though you would be thought an enemy to enthusiasm and presumption, yet in both you are far from being inferior to the Moravians, or indeed to any others.” (Page 60.) Strong assertions! Not inferior to any others ? not to the French Prophets, or John of Leyden! “
(1.) Enthusiasm is a false persuasion of an extraordinary divine assistance, which leads men to such conduct as is only to be justified by the supposition of such assistance.” I answer, “Before this touches me, you are to prove (which I conceive you have not done yet) that my conduct is such as is only to be justified by the supposition of such assistance.” (Page 406.) You reply, “This, I think, is proved in the preceding tract.” (Page 120.) I think not. Let men of candor judge.
Yet I am persuaded, there was such an assistance at some times. You have also to prove, that this was a false persuasion.
(2.) “An enthusiast is, then, sincere, but mistaken.” (Page 61.) I answered, “That I am mistaken remains to be proved.” You reply, “The world must judge.” Agreed, if by the world you mean men of reason and religion.
(3.) “His intentions must be good; but his actions will be most abominable.” I answered, “What actions of mine are most abominable?” You reply, “The world must be judge, whether your public actions have not been, in many respects, abominable.” I am glad the charge softens. I hope by and by you will think they are only abominable in some respects.
(4.) “Instead of making the word of God the rule of his actions, he follows only secret persuasion or impulse.” I answered: “I have declared again and again, that I make the word of God the rule of all my actions; and that I no more follow any secret impulse instead thereof, than I follow Mahomet or Confucius.” You reply: “You fall again into your strain of boasting, as if declarations could have any weight against facts; assert, that ‘you make the word of God the rule of all your actions,’ and that I ‘perhaps do not know many persons’” — (Page 121.) Stop, Sir: You are stepping over one or two points which I have not done with.
(5.) “Instead of judging of his spiritual estate by the improvement of his heart, he rests only on ecstasies,” And I answered: “Neither is this my case. I rest not on them at all. I judge of my spiritual estate by the improvement of my heart and the tenor of my life conjointly.” To this I do not perceive you reply one word. Herein, then, I am not an enthusiast.
(6.) “He is very liable to err, not considering things coolly and carefully.” I answered: “So indeed I am; I find it everyday more and more. But I do not yet find that this is owing to my want of ‘considering things coolly and carefully.’ Perhaps you do not know many persons (excuse my simplicity in speaking it) who more carefully consider every step they take. Yet I know I am not cool or careful enough. May God supply this and all my wants!” You reply, “Your private life I have nothing to do with;” and then enlarge on my “method of consulting Scripture,” and of using lots; — of both which by and by. But meantime, observe, this does not affect the question:
For I neither cast lots, nor use that method at all, till I have considered things with all the care I can. So that, be this right or wrong, it is no manner of proof that I do not “carefully consider every step I take.”
But how little did I profit by begging your excuse, suppose I had spoken a word unguardedly! O Sir, you put me in mind of him who said, “I know not how to show mercy!” You have need never to fight but when you are sure to conquer; seeing you are resolved neither to give nor take quarter.
(7.) “He is very difficult to be convinced by reason and argument, as he acts upon a supposed principle superior to it, — the direction of God’s Spirit.” I answered, “I am very difficult to be convinced by dry blows or hard names, but not by reason or argument. At least that difficulty cannot spring from the cause you mention: For I claim no other direction of God’s Spirit than is common to all believers.”
(1.) “I fear this will not be easily reconcilable to your past pretenses and behavior.” (Page 124.) I believe it will; in particular, to what I speak of the light I received from God in that important affair. (Vol. I.)
(8.) “Whoever opposes him will be charged with resisting or rejecting the Spirit.” I answered, “What! whoever opposes me, John Wesley?
Do I charge every such person with ‘rejecting the Spirit?’ No more than I charge him with robbing on the highway. Do I charge you with rejecting the Spirit?” You reply, “You deny that you charge the opposers with rejecting the Spirit, and affirm, that you never said or thought that what you do is to be accounted the work of God.” Here you blend different sentences together, which I must consider apart, as they were written. And, first, where do I charge you with rejecting the Spirit? If I charge whoever opposes me with this, undoubtedly I charge you. If I do not charge you, that proposition is false; I do not so charge whoever opposes me. Your next words are, “You affirm that you never said or thought that what you do is to be accounted the work of God. If it be the work of God, you need not deny the other point.”
Yes, Sir; whether it be or no, I must still deny that I ever charged you with rejecting the Spirit in opposing me.
(9.) “His own dreams must be regarded as oracles.” I answered, “Whose? I desire neither my dreams nor my waking thoughts may be regarded at all, unless just so far as they agree with the oracles of God.” To this also you make no reply.
(10.) “However wild his behavior may be, whatever he does is to be accounted the work of God.” It was to this I answered, “I never said so of what I do; I never thought so.” This answer was ill expressed.
And I might have foreseen you would hardly fail to make your advantage of it. I must therefore explain myself upon it a little farther.
You said, “An enthusiast accounts whatever he does to be the work of God.” I should have said, “But I do not account whatever I do to be the work of God.” What that is which I do account his work will he considered by and by.
(11.) “He talks in the style of inspired persons.” I answered, “No otherwise inspired than you are, if you love God.” You reply, “The point was not, whether you are actually inspired, but whether you have talked in the style of those who were so.” (Page 126.) That was so much the point, that if it were allowed, it would overturn your whole argument. For if I was inspired, (in your sense,) you could not term that inspiration enthusiasm without blasphemy; but you again mistake my words. The plain meaning of them is, that I talk in the style of those persons who are “no otherwise inspired than you are, if you love God.”
(12.) “He applies Scripture phrases to himself, without attending to their original meaning, or once considering the difference of times and circumstances.” (Page 62.) I answered “I am not conscious of anything like this. I apply no Scripture phrase either to myself or any other, without carefully considering both the original meaning, and the secondary sense, wherein, allowing for different times and circumstances, it may be applied to ordinary Christians.”
You reply, “This also you deny to have done; holding, however, some secondary sense, (what it is you have not told us,) in which Scripture phrases may be applied to ordinary Christians.” I have largely told you what I mean by a secondary sense, in the First Part of the “Farther Appeal.” You add: “Many things which were truly written of the preaching of Christianity at first, you have vainly applied to yourselves.”
Sir, I am to answer only for myself; as I will for that expression, “Behold the day of the Lord is come; he is again visiting and redeeming his people!” 3. I come now to what you expatiate upon at large, as the two grand instances of my enthusiasm. The first is plainly this: At some rare times, when I have been in great distress of soul, or in utter uncertainty how to act in an important case which required a speedy determination, after using all other means that occurred, I have cast lots, or opened the Bible. And by this means I have been relieved from that distress, or directed in that uncertainty.
Instances of this kind occur in third Journal; as also in the last Journal. I desire any who would understand this matter thoroughly, to read those passages as they stand at length.
As to the particular instances, I would observe,
(1.) That with regard to my first journey to Bristol, you should, in any wise, have set down those words that preface the scriptures there recited: “I was entreated, in the most pressing manner, to come to Bristol without delay. This I was not at all forward to do; and perhaps a little the less inclined to it, because of the remarkable scriptures which offered, as often as we inquired, touching the consequence of this removal; though whether this was permitted only for the trial of our faith, God knoweth, and the event will show.” From the scriptures afterwards recited, some inferred that the event they apprehended was yet afar off. I infer nothing at all. I still know not how to judge; but leave the whole to God. This only I know, that the continual expectation of death was then an unspeakable blessing to me; that I did not dare, knowingly, to waste a moment, neither to throw away one desire on earthly things; those words being ever uppermost in my thoughts, and indeed frequently on my tongue: — Ere long, when sovereign wisdom wills, My soul an unknown path shall tread, Shall strangely leave, who strangely fills This frame, and waft me to the dead. O, what is death? ‘Tis life’s last shore, Where vanities are vain no more; Where all pursuits their goal obtain, And life is all re-touch’d again.
(2.) That in two other of those instances, (Vol. I.) it is particularly mentioned, that “I was troubled;” and that, by the seasonable application of those scriptures, that trouble was entirely removed. The same blessing I received (so I must term it still) from the words set down in page 231; and in a yet higher degree, from that exceeding apposite scripture mentioned in Vol. I.
(3.) That at the times to which your other citations refer, I was utterly uncertain how to act in points of great importance, and such as required a speedy determination; and that, by this means, my uncertainty was removed, and I went on my way rejoicing. (Vol. I.)
My own experience, therefore, which you think should discourage me for the future from anything of this kind, does, on the contrary, greatly encourage me herein; since I have found much benefit, and no inconvenience; unless, perhaps, this be one, that you “cannot acquit me of enthusiasm;” add, if you please, and presumption.
But you ask, “Has God ever commanded us to do thus?” I believe he has neither commanded nor forbidden it in Scripture. But then remember, “that Scripture” (to use the words which you cite from “our learned and judicious Hooker”) “is not the only rule of all things, which, in this life, may be done by men.” All I affirm concerning this is, that it may be done; and that I have, in fact, received assistance and direction thereby. 4. I give the same answer to your assertion, that we are not ordered in Scripture to decide any points in question by lots. (Remarks , p. 123.) You allow, indeed, there are instances of this in Scripture; but affirm, “These were miraculous; nor can we, without presumption,” (a species of enthusiasm,) “apply this method.” I want proof of this: Bring one plain text of Scripture, and I am satisfied. “This, I apprehend, you learned from the Moravians.” I did; though, it is true, Mr. Whitefield thought I went too far therein. “Instances of the same occur in your Journals. I will mention only one. It being debated, when you should go to Bristol, you say, ‘We at length all agreed to decide it by lot. And by this it was determined I should go.’ (Vol. I.) Is this your way of carefully considering every step you take? Can there be greater rashness and extravagance? Reason is thus, in a manner, rendered useless, prudence is set aside, and affairs of moment left to be determined by chance!” (Remarks , p. 124.)
So this you give as a genuine instance of my proceedings; and, I suppose, of your own fairness and candor! “We agreed, at length, to decide it by lot.” True, at length; after a debate of some hours; after carefully hearing and weighing coolly all the reasons which could be alleged on either side; our brethren still continuing the dispute, without any probability of their coming to one conclusion, we, at length, (the night being now far spent,) all agreed to this. “Can there be greater rashness and extravagance?” I cannot but think there can. “Reason is thus, in a manner, rendered useless.” No; we had used it as far as it could go; from Saturday, March 17, (when I received the first letter,) to Wednesday, 28, when the case was laid before the society. “Prudence is set aside.” Not so. But the arguments here were so equal, that she saw not how to determine. “And affairs of moment left to be determined by chance!” By chance ! What a blunder, then, is that, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposal thereof is of the Lord!”
This, I firmly believe, is truth and reason, and will be to the end of the world. And I therefore still subscribe to that declaration of the Moravian Church, laid before the whole body of Divines in the University of Wirtemberg, and not by them accounted enthusiasm: “We have a peculiar esteem for lots, and accordingly use them, both in public and private, to decide points of importance, when the reasons brought on each side appear to be of equal weight. And we believe this to be then the only way of wholly setting aside our own will, of acquitting ourselves of all blame, and clearly knowing what is the will of God.” (Vol. I.) 5. You next remarked several instances of my enthusiasm. The first was that of Mrs. Jones. The next ran thus: “Again, you say, ‘I expounded out of the fulness that was given me.’” (Remarks , p. 64.) I answered, “I mean, I had then a fuller, deeper sense of what I spoke than I ordinarily have.”
With regard to the third instance of enthusiasm, you remarked, “If you would not have us look on this as miraculous, there is nothing in it worthy of being related.” (Remarks , p. 64.) I answered, “It may be so. Let it pass, then, as a trifle not worth relating; but still it is no proof of enthusiasm.
For I would not have you look upon it as miraculous, but as a signal instance of God’s particular providence.” How friendly and generous is your reply! — “You seem ashamed of it. I am glad you give this fooling up, and hope for the future you will treat your readers better.” (Second Letter , p. 131.) Sir, I am not ashamed of it; nor shall I ever give this fooling up, till I give up the Bible. I still look upon this “as a signal instance of God’s particular providence.” But “how is this consistent with yielding it to be a trifle?” (Ibid. p. 132.) My words do not imply, that I yield it so to be. Being urged with the dilemma, “Either this is related as miraculous,” (and then it is enthusiasm,) “or it is not worth relating;” I answered, (to avoid drawing the saw of controversy,) “Let it pass, then, as a trifle not worth relating. But still” (if it be a trifle, which I suppose, not grant) “it is no proof of enthusiasm. For I would not have you look upon it as miraculous.”
And yet I believe I yielded too much, and what might too much favor your assertion, that “there is a great difference between particular providences and such extraordinary interpositions.” Pray, Sir, show me what this difference is. It is a subject that deserves your coolest thoughts. “I know no ground to hope or pray for such immediate reliefs. These things must be represented either as common accidents or as miracles.” I do not throughly understand your terms. What is a common accident? that a sparrow falls to the ground, or something more inconsiderable than the hairs of your head? Is there no medium between accident and miracle? If there be, what is that medium? When we are agreed with regard to these few points, I shall be glad to resume the subject. 6. The fourth instance of my enthusiasm was this, that I “related judgments inflicted on my opposers.” As to Mr. Molther, I must observe once more, that I do believe there was a particular providence in his sickness. But I do not believe, (nor did I design to insinuate,) that it was a judgment for opposing me.
You go on: “Again you mention, ‘as an awful providence, the ease of a poor wretch who was last week cursing and blaspheming, and had boasted to many that he would come again on Sunday, and no man should stop his mouth then. But on Friday God laid his hand upon him, and on Sunday he was buried.”(Remarks , p. 66.) I answered, “I look on this as a manifest judgment of God on a hardened sinner, for his complicated wickedness.” (Page 410.) You reply, “Add, if you please, ‘His laboring with all his might to hinder the word of God.’ Here therefore is a confessed judgment for his opposition to you.” (Second Letter , p. 133.) There is, for his thus opposing with curses and blasphemy. This was part of his complicated wickedness. Here then you “think I plead guilty.” Not of enthusiasm, till you prove this was not “an awful providence.” “Again: ‘One was just going to beat his wife, (which he frequently did,) when God smote him in a moment, so that his hand dropped, and he fell down upon the ground, having no more strength than a new-born child.’
Have we any warrant either from Scripture, or the common dispensations of providence, to interpret misfortunes of this nature as judgments?” (Remarks , p. 67.) I answered, “Can you, Sir, consider this as one of the common dispensations of providence? Have you known a parallel one in your life? But it was never cited by me, (as it is by you,) as an immediate punishment on a man for opposing me .” You reply, “As if what is not common, or what I have not known, must be a miraculous judgment.” I believe it was, whether miraculous or no, a judgment mixed with mercy.
You now add to the rest the following instance: — “One John Haydon, a man of a regular life and conversation, being informed that people fell into strange fits at the societies, came to see and judge for himself. But he was still less satisfied than before; insomuch that he went about to his acquaintance one after another, and labored above measure to convince them it was a delusion of the devil. We were going home, when one met us in the street, and informed us that J. H.was fallen raving mad. It seems he had sat down to dinner, but had a mind first to end the sermon on ‘Salvation by Faith.’ In reading the last page, he changed color, fell off his chair, and began screaming terribly, and beating himself against the ground.
The neighbors were alarmed, and flocked into the house. I came in, and found him upon the floor, the room being full of people, whom his wife would have kept without, but he cried aloud, ‘No; let them all come; let all the world see the just judgment of God.’ Two or three men were holding him as well as they could. He immediately fixed his eyes upon me, and cried, ‘Ay, this is he, who I said was a deceiver of the people. But God has overtaken me. I said it was all a delusion. But this is no delusion.’ He then roared out, ‘O thou devil! Thou cursed devil! Yea, thou legion of devils! Thou canst not stay! Christ will cast thee out. I know his work is begun. Tear me to pieces if thou wilt, but thou canst not hurt me.’ He then beat himself against the ground again, his breast heaving at the same time, as in the pangs of death, and great drops of sweat trickling down his face.
We all betook ourselves to prayer. His pangs ceased, and both his body and soul were set at liberty.” (Vol. I.)
If you had pleased, you might have added from the next paragraph, “Returning to J. H., we found his voice was lost, and his body weak as that of an infant. But his soul was in peace, full of love, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.”
You subjoin, “This you may desire, for aught I know, to pass as a trifle too.” (Remarks , p. 134.) No; it is so terrible an instance of the judgment of God, (though at length “mercy rejoiced over judgment,”) as ought never to be forgotten by those who fear God, so long as the sun or moon endureth. 7. The account of people falling down in fits you cite as a fifth instance of my enthusiasm; it being “plain,” you say, that I “look upon both the disorders, and the removals of them, to be supernatural.” (Remarks , p. 67.) I answered, “It is not quite plain. I look upon some of these cases as wholly natural; on the rest, as mixed; both the disorders and the removals being partly natural and partly not.” You reply, “It would have been kind to have let us know your rule, by which you distinguish these.” I will. I distinguish them by the circumstances that precede, accompany and follow. “However, some of these you here allow to be in part supernatural. Miracles, therefore are not wholly ceased.” Can you prove they are, by Scripture or reason? You then refer to two or three cases, related in Vol. I. pp. 188, 189. I believe there was a supernatural power on the minds of the persons there mentioned, which occasioned their bodies to be so affected by the natural laws of the vital union. This point, therefore, you have to prove, or here is no enthusiasm; that there was no supernatural power in the case.
Hereon you remarked, “You leave no room to doubt that you would have these cases considered as those of the demoniacs in the New Testament, in order, I suppose, to parallel your supposed cures of them, with those highest miracles of Christ and his disciples, the casting out devils.” (Remarks , p. 63.) I answered, “I should once have wondered at your making such a supposition. But now I wonder at nothing of the kind.” You reply, “Why so? What have I done lately, to take off your surprise? Have I forfeited my character for ingenuous and fair dealing with you?” (Second Letter , p. 135.) Since you ask me the question, I will answer it; I hope, in love, and in the spirit of meekness. I scarce know, of all who have wrote against me, a less ingenuous dealer; or one who has shown a more steady, invariable disposition to put an ill construction on whatever I say. “But why would you not particularly explain these cases?” I will explain myself upon them once for all. For more than three hundred years after Christ, you know, demoniacs were common in the Church; and I suppose you are not unapprised, that during this period, (if not much longer,) they were continually relieved by the prayers of the faithful. Nor can I doubt, but demoniacs will remain, so long as Satan is the “God of this world.” I doubt not, but there are such at this day. And I believe John Haydon was one. But of whatever sort his disorder was, that it was removed by prayer is undeniable. Now, Sir, you have only two points to prove, and then your argument will be conclusive:
(1.) That to think or say, “There are demoniacs now, and they are now relieved by prayer,” is enthusiasm.
(2.) That to say, “Demoniacs were or are relieved, on prayer made by Cyprian, or their parish Minister,” is to parallel the actions of Cyprian or that Minister with the biggest miracles of Christ and his disciples. 8. You remarked, “It will be difflcult to persuade any sober person, that there is anything supernatural in these disorders.” (Remarks , p. 69.) The remainder of that paragraph I abridged thus: You attempt to account for those fits, by “obstructions or irregularities of the blood and spirits; hysterical disorders; watchings, fastings, closeness of rooms, great crowds, violent heat;” and lastly by “terrors, perplexities, and doubts, in weak and well-meaning men; which,” you think, “in many of the cases before us, have quite overset their understandings.” (Remarks , p. 43.)
I answered, “As to each of the rest, let it go as far as it can go.” (Let it be supposed to have some influence in some cases; perhaps fully to account for one in a thousand.) “But I require proof of the last way whereby you would account for these disorders.” Why, “the instances,” you say, “of religious madness have much increased since you began to disturb the world.” I doubt the fact. You reply, “This no way disproves it.” (Second Letter , p. 137.) Yes, it does, till you produce some proof. For a bare negation is the proper and sufficient answer to a bare affirmation. I add, “If these instances had increased daily, it is easy to account for them another way,” as is done in the First Part of the Farther Appeal , at the one hundred and thirty-first and following pages. You say, “Most have heard of or known several of the Methodists thus driven to distraction.” I answered, “You may have heard of five hundred. But how many have you known? Be pleased to name eight or ten of them. I cannot find them, no, not one of them to this day, either man, woman, or child.” You reply, “This” (the naming them) “would be very improper and unnecessary.” (Second Letter , p. 138.) However, Sir, it is extremely necessary that you should name them to me in private. I will then, if required, excuse you to the public; which till then I cannot do.
The person I mentioned, whom you threw into much doubt and perplexity, then lived in the parish of St. Ann, Westminster. I related the case just as she related it to me. But she is, able and ready to answer for herself. 9. You go on: “It is the most charitable supposition we can make, that many of the cases you have mentioned in your Journals, and some of which have been represented above, are of this kind,” that is, instances of madness. (Second Letter , p. 138.) O tender charity! But cannot your charity reach one hair’s breadth farther than this? No: For “otherwise” (that is, if those persons were not mad) “the presumption and despair are terrible indeed.” But what, if you were to suppose John Haydon (to instance in one) was not mad, but under a temporary possession; and that others were deeply convinced of sin, and of the wrath of God abiding on them? I should think this supposition (be it true or false) was full as charitable as the other.
I said, “I cannot find one such instance to this day.” You reply, “Yet once you could not but be under some concern with regard to one or two persons, who seemed to be indeed lunatic, as well as sore vexed.” So they seemed; but it soon appeared they were not. The very next paragraph mentions, that one of these, within a few hours, was “filled with the spirit of love, and of a sound mind.” (Vol. I.)
But you are resolved, come what will, to carry this point; and so add, “Toward the end of your Farther Appeal , (First Part, p. 131,) you say, you have seen one instance of real, lasting madness. This was one whom you took with you to Bristol, who was afterwards prejudiced against you, and began a vehement invective both against your person and doctrines. In the midst of this he was struck raving mad.” Add, “And so he continued till his friends put him into Bedlam; and probably laid his madness to my charge.” If they did not, it is now done to their hands. 10. “As to the cure of these fits, I observed,” (so you, p. 139, proceed,) “that you had frequently represented them as miraculous, as the instantaneous consequences of your prayers.” My former answer to this was, “I have set down the facts just as they were, passing no judgment upon them myself, and leaving every man else to judge as he pleases.”
I am glad you give me an occasion of reviewing this answer; for, upon reflection, I do not like it at all. It grants you more than I can in conscience do. As it can be proved by abundance of witnesses that these cures were frequently (indeed almost always) the instantaneous consequences of prayer, your inference is just. I cannot, dare not affirm, that they were purely natural. I believe they were not. I believe many of them were wrought by the supernatural power of God; that of John Haydon in particular; (I fix on this, and will join issue with you upon it when you please;) and yet this is not barefaced enthusiasrn. Nor can you prove it any enthusiasm at all, untess you can prove, that this is falsely ascribed to supernatural power. “The next case,” you say, “relates to the spotted fever, which you represent as being extremely mortal; but you believe there was not one with whom you were but recovered. I allowed that here is no intimation of anything miraculous.” (Remarks , p. 72.) “You ask, ‘Why then is this cited as an instance of my enthusiasm?’ (Page 412.) You sure cannot think, that false pretenses to miracles are the whole of enthusiasm.” No; but I think they are that part of enthusiasm which you here undertook to prove upon me. You are here to prove, that I “boast of curing bodily distempers by prayer, without the use of other means.” (Remarks , p. 71.) But if there is no intimation in my account of anything miraculous, or that proper remedies had not been applied; how is this a proof, that I boast of curing bodily distempers, without applying any remedies at all? “But you seem to desire to have it believed, that an extraordinary blessing attended your prayers. Whereas, if the circumstances could be particularly inquired into, most probably it would appear, that either the fury of the distemper was abated, or the persons you visited were seized with it in a more favorable degree, or were, by reason of a good constitutions more capable of going through it. Neither do I believe that they would have failed of an equal blessing and success had they had the assistance and prayers of their own parish Ministers.”
There, Sir; now I have done as you require; I have quoted our whole remark. But does all this prove, that I “boast of curing bodily distempers by prayer, without the use of any other means?” If you say, Although it does not prove this, it proves that “you seem to desire to have it believed, that an extraordinary blessing attended your prayers;” and this is another sort of enthusiasm: It is very well: So it does not prove the conclusion you designed; but it proves another which is as good! 11. The two last instances of my enthusiasm which you bring, (Remarks , pp. 72, 73,) I had summed up in two lines, thus: “At two several times, being ill and in violent pain, I prayed to God, and found immediate ease.” (Answer , p. 412.) But since you say, I “must not hope to escape so; these instances must once more be laid before me particularly;” (Second Letter , p 140;) I must yield to necessity, and set them down from the beginning to the end: — “Saturday, March 21. I explained in the evening the thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel; in applying which, I was seized with such a pain in my side, I could not speak. I knew my remedy, and immediately kneeled down. In a moment the pain was gone.” (Vol.
I.) “Friday, May 8. I found myself much out of order: However, I made shift to preach in the evening. But on Saturday my bodily strength failed, so that for several hours I could scarce lift up my head. Sunday, 10. I was obliged to lie down, most part of the day, being easy only in that posture. In the evening, beside the pain in my back and head, and the fever which still continued upon me, just as I began to pray I was seized with such a cough that I could hardly speak. At the same time came strongly into my mind: ‘These signs shall follow them that believe.’ I called on Jesus aloud, to ‘increase my faith,’ and to ‘confirm the word of his grace.’ While I was speaking, my pain vanished away, the fever left me, my bodily strength returned, and for many weeks I felt neither weakness nor pain. Unto thee, O Lord, do I give thanks.” (Ibid . p. 310.)
When you first cited these as proofs of enthusiasm, I answered, “I will put your argument into form: — “He that believes those are miraculous cures which are not so, is a rank enthusiast; but “You believe those are miraculous cures which are not so:
Therefore, you are a rank enthusiast. “What do you mean by miraculous? If you term every thing so, which is ‘not strictly accountable for by the ordinary course of natural causes,’ then I deny the latter part of the minor proposition. And unless you can make this good, unless you can prove the effects in question are ‘strictly accountable for by the ordinary course of natural causes,’ your argument; is nothing worth.”
You reply, “Your answer to the objection is very evasive, though you pretend to put my argument in form. You mistake the major proposition, which should have been: “He that represents those cures as the immediate effects of his own prayers, and as miraculous, which are not so, is a rank enthusiast, if sincere: “‘But, This you have done: Ergo, etc. ’” To this clumsy syllogism I rejoin,
(1.) That the words, “if sincere,” are utterly impertinent: For if insincerity be supposed, enthusiasm will be out of the question.
(3.) That, with or without them, the proposition is false; unless so far as it coincides with that you reject. For it is the believing those to be miracles which are not, that constitutes an enthusiast; not the representing them one way or the other; unless so far as it implies such a belief. 12. Upon my answer to the syllogism first proposed, you observe, “Thus” (by denying the latter part of the minor) “you clear yourself from the charge of enthusiasm, by acknowledging the cures to be supernatural and miraculous. Why then would you not speak out, and directly say, that you can work real and undoubted miracles? This would put the controversy between you and your opposers on a short foot, and be an effectual proof of the truth of your pretenses.” (Second Letter p. 142.)
V. 1. I have in some measure explained myself on the head of miracles, in the Third Part of the Farther Appeal . But since you repeat the demand, (though without taking any notice of the arguments there advanced,) I will endeavor once more to give you a distinct, full, and determinate answer.
(1.) I acknowledge that I have seen with my eyes, and heard with my ears, several things which, to the best of my judgment, cannot be accounted for by the ordinary course of natural causes; and which I therefore believe ought to be “ascribed to the extraordinary interposition of God.” If any man choose to style these miracles , I reclaim not. I have diligently inquired into the facts.
I have weighed the preceding and following circumstances. I have strove to account for them in a natural way. I could not, without doing violence to my reason. Not to go far back, I am clearly persuaded, that the sudden deliverance of John Haydon was one instance of this kind; and my own recovery, on May 10th, another. I cannot account for either of these in a natural way. Therefore I believe they were both supernatural.
(2.) Observe, that the truth of these facts is supported by the same kind of proof, as that of all other facts is want to be, namely, the testimony of competent witnesses; and that the testimony here is in as high a degree as any reasonable man can desire. Those witnesses were many in number: They could not be deceived themselves; for the facts in question they saw with their own eyes, and heard with their own ears: Nor is it credible, that so many of them would combine together with a view of deceiving others; the greater part being men that feared God; as appeared by the general tenor of their lives.
Thus in the case of John Haydon, this thing was not contrived and executed in a corner, and in the presence of his own family only, or three or four persons prepared for the purpose: No, it was in an open street of the city of Bristol, at one or two in the afternoon; and, the doors being all open from the beginning, not only many of the neighbors from every side, but several others, (indeed whosoever desired it,) went in, till the house could contain no more. Nor yet does the account of my own illness and recovery depend, as you suppose, on my bare word. There were many witnesses both of my disorder on Friday and Saturday, and on my lying down most part of Sunday, a thing which they were well satisfied could not be the effect of a slight indisposition; and all who saw me that evening plainly discerned, (what I could not wholly conceal,) that I was in pain; about two hundred of whom were present when I was seized with that cough, which cut me short, so that I could speak no more; till I cried out aloud, “Lord, increase my faith! Lord, confirm the word of thy grace!” The same persons saw and heard, that at that instant I changed my posture, and broke out into thanksgiving; that quickly after I stood upright, (which I could not before,) and showed no more sign either of sickness or pain.
Yet I must desire you well to observe, Thirdly, that my will, or choice, or desire, had no place either in this, or any case of this kind that has ever fallen under my notice. Five minutes before, I had no thought of this. I expected nothing less. I was willing to wait for a gradual recovery, in the ordinary use of outward means. I did not look for any other cure, till the moment before I found it. And it is my belief that the case was always the same with regard to the most “real and undoubted miracles.” I believe God never interposed his miraculous power, but according to his own sovereign will; not according to the will of man; neither of him by whom he wrought, nor of any other man whatsoever. The wisdom as well as the power are his: nor can I find that ever, from the beginning of the world, he lodged this power in any mere man, to be used whenever that man saw good.
Suppose, therefore, there was a man now on earth who did work “real and undoubted miracles;” I would ask, By whose power doth he work these? and at whose pleasure? his own,or God’s? Not his own; but God’s. But if so, then your demand is not on man, but on God. I cannot say it is modest, thus to challenge God; or well suiting the relation of a creature to his Creator. 2. However, I cannot but think, there have been already so many plain interpositions of divine power, as will shortly leave you without excuse, if you either deny or despise them. We desire no favor, but the justice that diligent inquiry may be made concerning them. We are ready to name the persons on whom that power was shown, which belongeth to none but God; (not one or two, or ten or twelve only;) to point out their places of abode; and we engage they shall answer every pertinent question, fairly and directly; and, if required, shall give all those answers upon oath, before any who are empowered so to receive them. It is our particular request that the circumstances which went before, which accompanied, and which followed after, the facts under consideration, may be thoroughly examined, and punctually noted down. Let but this be done, (and is it not highly needful it should? at least, by those who would form an exact judgment,) and we have no fear that any reasonable man should scruple to say, “This hath God wrought!”
As there have been already so many instances of this kind, far beyond what we had dared to ask or think, I cannot take upon me to say whether or no it will please God to add to their number. I have not herein “known the mind of the Lord,” neither am I “his counsellor.” He may, or he may not; I cannot affirm or deny. I have no light, and I have no desire either way. “It is the Lord: Let him do what seemeth him good.” I desire only to be as clay in his hand. 3. But what, if there were now to be wrought ever so many “real and undoubted miracles?” (I suppose you mean by undoubted such as, being sufficiently attested, ought not to bedoubted of.) Why, “This,” you say, “would put the controversy on a short foot, and be an effectual proof of the truth of your pretenses.” By no means. As common as this assertion is, there is none upon earth more false. Suppose a teacher were now, on this very day, to work “real and undoubted miracles;” this would extremely little “shorten the controversy” between him and the greater part of his opposers: For all this would not force them to believe; but many would still stand just where they did before; seeing men may “harden their hearts” against miracles, as well as against arguments.
So men have done from the beginning of the world; even against such signal, glorious miracles, against such interpositions of the power of God, as may not be again till the consummation of all things. Permit me to remind you only of a few instances; and to observe that the argument holds a fortiori: For who will ever be impowered of God again to work such miracles as these were? Did Pharaoh look on all that Moses and Aaron wrought as an “effectual proof of the truth of their pretenses?” even when “the Lord made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided;” when “the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall unto them on the right hand, and on the left?” ( Exodus 14:21,22.) Nay, The wounded dragon raged in vain; And, fierce the utmost plague to brave, Madly he dared the parted main, And sunk beneath the o’erwhelming wave.
Was all this “an effectual proof of the truth of their pretenses,” to the Israelites themselves? It was not. “They were” still “disobedient at the sea; even at the Red Sea!” Was the giving them day by day “bread from heaven,” “an effectual proof” to those “two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown,” who said, with Dathan and Abiram, “Wilt thou put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up?” ( Numbers 14: 14;) nay, “when the ground clave asunder that was under them; and the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up?” (Verse 32.) Neither was this an “effectaal proof” to those who saw it with their eyes, and heard the cry of those that went down into the pit; but, the very next day, they “murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the Lord!” (Verse 41.)
Was not the case generally the same with regard to the Prophets that followed? several of whom “stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,” did many mighty works; yet their own people received them not. Yet “they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, they were slain with the sword;” they were “destitute, afflicted, tormented!” utterly contrary to the commonly received supposition, that the working real, undoubted miracles must bring all controversy to an end, and convince every gainsayer.
Let us come nearer yet. How stood the case between our Lord himself and his opposers? Did he not work “real and undoubted miracles?” And what was the effect? Still, when “he came to his own, his own received him not.” Still “he was despised and rejected of men.” Still it was a challenge not to be answered: “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him?” After this, how can you imagine, that whoever works miracles must convince “all men of the truth of his pretenses?”
I would just remind you of only one instance more: “There sat a certain man at Lystra, impotent in his feet, being a cripple from his mother’s womb, who never had walked. The same heard Paul speak; who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said, with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.” Here was so undoubted a miracle, that the people “lifted up their voices, saying, The Gods are come down in the likeness of men.” But how long were even these convinced of the truth of his pretenses? Only till “there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium;” and then they stoned him (as they supposed) to death! ( Acts 14:8, etc.) So certain it is, that no miracles whatever, which were ever yet wrought in the world, were effectual to prove the most glaring truth, to those that hardened their hearts against it. 4. And it will equally hold in every age and nation. “If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be” convinced of what they desire not to believe, “though one rose from the dead.” Without a miracle, without one rising from the dead, ean tiv qelh to qelhma autou poiein , “if any man be willing to do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.” But if he is not willing to do his will, he will never want an excuse, a plausible reason, for rejecting it. Yea, though ever so many miracles were wrought to confirm it. For let ever so much “light come into the world,” it will have no effect (such is the wise and just will of God) on those who “love darkness rather than light.” It will not convince those who do not simply desire to do the will of their Father which is in heaven; those who mind earthly things; who (if they do not continue in any gross outward sin, yet) love pleasure or ease; yet seek profit or power, preferment or reputation. Nothing will ever be an effectual proof to these of the holy and acceptable will of God, unless first their proud hearts be humbled, their stubborn wills bowed down, and their desires brought, at least in some degree, into obedience to the law of Christ.
Hence, although it should please God to work anew all the wonders that ever were wrought on the earth, still these men, however “wise and prudent” they may be in things relating to the present world, would fight against God and all his messengers, and that in spite of all these miracles.
Meanwhile, God will reveal his truth unto babes, unto those who are meek and lowly, whose desires are in heaven, who want to “know nothing save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” These need no outward miracle to show them his will; they have a plain rule, — the written word. And “the anointing which they have received of him abideth in them, and teacheth them of all things.” ( 1 John 2:27.) Through this they are enabled to bring all doctrines “to the law and to the testimony:” And whatsoever is agreeable to this they receive, without waiting to see it attested by miracles; as, on the other hand, whatever is contrary to this they reject; nor can any miracles move them to receive it. 5. Yet I do not know that God hath anyway precluded himself frorn thus exerting his sovereign power, from working miracles in any kind or degree, in any age, to the end of the world. I do not recollect any scripture wherein we are taught, that miracles were to be confined within the limits either of the apostolic or the Cyprianic age; or of any period of time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all things. I have not observed, either in the Old Testament or the New, any intimation at all of this kind. St. Paul says, indeed, once, concerning two of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, (so, I think, that text is usually understood,) “Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease.”
But he does not say, either that these or any other miracles shall cease, till faith and hope shall cease also; till they all be swallowed up in the vision of God, and love be all in all.
I presume you will allow there is one kind of miracles (loosely speaking) which are not ceased; namely, terata yeudouv , “lying wonders,” diabolical miracles, or works beyond the virtue of natural causes, wrought by the power of evil spirits. Nor can you easily conceive that these will cease, as long as the father of lies is the prince of this world. And why should you think that the God of truth is less active than him, or that he will not have his miracles also? only, not as man wills, neither when he wills; but according to his own excellent wisdom and greatness. 6. But even if it were supposed that God does now work beyond the operation of merely natural causes, yet what impression would this make upon you, in the disposition your mind is now in? Suppose the trial were repeated, were made again tomorrow. One informs you the next day, “While a Clergyman was preaching yesterday, where I was, a man came who had been long ill of an incurable distemper. Prayer was made for him, and he was restored to perfect health.”
Suppose, now, that this were real fact: Perhaps you would scarce have patience to hear the account of it; but would cut it short, in the midst, with, “Do you tell this as something supernatural? Then miracles are not ceased.” But if you should venture to ask, “Where was this, and who was the person that prayed?” and it was answered, “At the Foundry near Moorfields; the person who prayed was Mr. Wesley;” what a damp comes at once! What a weight falls on your mind, at the very first setting out! It is well if you have any heart or desire to move one step further. Or if you should, what a strong additional propensity do you now feel to deny the fact! And is there not a ready excuse for so doing? — “O, they who tell the story are doubtless his own people; most of whom, we may be sure, will say anything for him, and the rest will believe anything.” But if you at length allowed the fact, might you not find means to account for it by natural causes? “Great crowds, violent heats, with obstructions and irregularities of the blood and spirits,” will do wonders. If you could not but allow it was more than natural, might not some plausible reason be found for ranking it among the lying wonders, for ascribing it to the devil rather than God? And if, after all, you was convinced it was the finger of God, must you not still bring every doctrine advanced to the law and to the testimony, the only sure and infallible test of all? What, then, is the use of this continual demand, “Show us a sign, and we will believe?” What will you believe? I hope, no more than is written in the book of God. And thus far you might venture to believe, even without a miracle. 7. Let us consider this point yet a little farther. “What is it you would have us prove by miracles? the doctrines we preach?” We prove these by Scripture and reason; and, if need be, by antiquity. What else is it, then, that we are to prove by miracles? At length we have a distinct reply: “Wise and sober men will not otherwise be convinced,” (that is, unless you prove this by miracles,) “that God is, by the means of such Teachers, and such doctrines, working a great and extraordinary work in the earth.” (Preface , p. 6.)
What I mean by “a great and extraordinary work” is, the bringing multitudes of gross notorious sinners, in a short space, to the fear, and love, and service of God, to an entire change of heart and life.
Now, then, let us take a nearer view of the proposition, and see which part of it we are to prove by miracles. “Is it,
(1.) That A. B. was, for many years, without God in the world, a common swearer, a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker? “Or,
(2.) That he is not so now? “Or,
(3.) That he continued so till he heard these men preach; and from that time was another man? “Not so. The proper way to prove these facts is, by the testimony of competent witnesses. And these witnesses are ready, whenever required, to give full evidence of them. “Or would you have us prove by miracles,
Surely no. Whosoever believes the Scriptures will want no new proof of this.
Where then is the wisdom of those men who demand miracles in proof of such a proposition? one branch of which, “that such sinners were reformed by the means of these Teachers,” being a plain fact, can only be proved by testimony, as all other facts are; and the other, “That this is a work of God, and a great and more than ordinary work,” needs no proof, as carrying its own evidence to every thinking man. 8. To sum up this: No truly wise or sober man can possibly desire or expect miracles to prove either,
(1.) That these doctrines are true; — this must be decided by Scripture and reason; or,
(2.) That these facts are true; — this can only be proved by testimony; or,
(4.) That such a change wrought in so many notorious sinners, within so short a time, is a great and extraordinary work of God: this also carries its own evidence. What then is it which remains to be proved by miracles? Perhaps you will say, It is this: “That God hath called or sent you to do this.” Nay, this is implied in the third of the foregoing propositions. If God has actually used us therein, if his work hath in fact prospered in our hands, then he hath called or sent us to do this.
I entreat reasonable men to weigh this thoroughly, whether the fact does not plainly prove the call; whether He who enables us thus to save souls alive, does not commission us so to do; whether, by giving us power to pluck these brands out of the burning, He does not authorize us to exert it?
O that it were possible for you to consider calmly, whether the success of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even as it is preached by us, the least of his servants, be not itself a miracle, never to be forgotten! one which cannot be denied, as being visible at this day, not in one, but a hundred places; one which cannot be accounted for by the ordinary course of any natural cause whatsoever; one which cannot be ascribed, with any color of reason, to diabolical agency; and, lastly, one which will bear the infallible test, — the trial of the written word.
VI. 1. But here I am aware of abundance of objections. You object, That to speak anything of myself, of what I have done, or am doing now, is mere boasting and vanity. This charge you frequently repeat. So, p. 102: “The following page is full of boasting.” “You boast very much of the numbers you have converted;” (p. 113;) and again, “As to myself; I hope I shall never be led to imitate you in boasting.” I think therefore it is needful, once for all, to examine this charge thoroughly; and to show distinctly what that good thing is which you disguise under this bad name.
(1.) From the year 1725 to 1729 I preached much, but saw no fruit of my labor. Indeed it could not be that I should; for I neither laid the foundation of repentance, nor of believing the gospel; taking it for granted, that all to whom I preached were believers, and that many of them “needed no repentance.”
(2.) From the year 1729 to 1734, laying a deeper foundation of repentance, I saw a little fruit. But it was only a little; and no wonder:
For I did not preach faith in the blood of the covenant.
(3.) From 1734 to 1738, speaking more of faith in Christ, I saw more fruit of my preaching, and visiting from house to house, than ever I had done before; though I know not if any of those who were outwardly reformed were inwardly and thoroughly converted to God.
(4.) From 1738 to this time, speaking continually of Jesus Christ, laying Him only for the foundation of the whole building, making him all in all, the first and the last; preaching only on this plan, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel;” the “word of God ran” as fire among the stubble; it was “glorified” more and more; multitudes crying out, “What must we do to be saved?” and afterwards witnessing, “By grace we are saved through faith.”
(5.) I considered deeply with myself what I ought to do; whether to declare the things I had seen, or not. I consulted the most serious friends I had. They all agreed, I ought to declare them; that the work itself was of such a kind, as ought in nowise to be concealed; and indeed, that the unusual circumstances now attending it, made it impossible that it should.
(6.) This very difficulty occurred: “Will not my speaking of this be boasting? at least, will it not be accounted so?” They replied, “If you speak of it as your own work, it will be vanity and boasting all over; but if you ascribe it wholly to God, if you give him all the praise, it will not. And if, after this, some will account it so still, you must be content, and bear the burden.”
(7.) I yielded, and transcribed my papers for the press; only laboring, as far as possible, to “render unto God the things which are God’s;” to give him the praise of his own work. 2. But this very thing you improve into a fresh objection. If I ascribe anything to God, it is enthusiasm . If I do not (or if I do) it is vanity and boasting , supposing me to mention it at all. What then can I do to escape your censure? “Why, be silent; say nothing at all.” I cannot, I dare not.
Were I thus to please men, I could not be the servant of Christ.
You do not appear to have the least idea or conception of what is in the heart of one whom it pleases Him that worketh all in all to employ in a work of this kind. He is in nowise forward to be at all employed therein; he starts back, again and again; not only because he readily foresees what shame, care, sorrow, reproach, what loss of friends, and of all that the world accounts dear, will inevitably follow; but much more, because he (in some measure) knows himself. This chiefly it is which constrains him to cry out, (and that many times, in the bitterness of his soul, when no human eye seeth him,) “O Lord, send by whom thou wilt send, only send not me! What am I? A worm! A dead dog! A man unclean in heart and lips!” And when he dares no longer gainsay or resist, when he is at last “thrust out into the harvest,” he looketh on the right hand and on the left, he takes every step with fear and trembling, and with the deepest sense (such as words cannot express) of “Who is sufficient for these things?”
Every gift which he has received of God for the furtherance of his word, whether of nature or grace, heightens this fear, and increases his jealousy over himself; knowing that so much the stricter must the inquiry be, when he gives an account of his stewardship. He is most of all jealous over himself when the work of the Lord prospers in his hand. He is then amazed and confounded before God. Shame covers his face. Yet when he sees that he ought “to praise the Lord for his goodness, and to declare the wonders which he doeth for the children of men,” he is in a strait between two; he knows not which way to turn; he cannot speak; he dares not be silent. It may be, for a time he “keeps his mouth with a bridle; he holds his peace even from good. But his heart is hot within him,” and constrains him at length to declare what God hath wrought. And this he then doeth in all simplicity, with “great plainness of speech,” desiring only to commend himself to Him who “searcheth the heart and trieth the reins;” and (whether his words are the savor of life or of death to others) to have that witness in himself, “As of sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ.” If any man counts this boasting, he cannot help it. It is enough that a higher Judge standeth at the door. 3. But you may say, “Why do you talk of the success of the gospel in England, which was a Christian country before you was born?” Was it indeed? Is it so at this day? I would explain myself a little on this head also.
(1.) None can deny, that the people of England, in general, are called Christians. They are called so, a few only excepted, by others, as well as by themselves. But I presume no man will say, that the name makes the thing; that men are Christians, barely because they are called so.
(3.) It is allowed, that many of those who were once baptized, and are called Christians to this day, hear the word of God, attend public prayers, and partake of the Lord’s Supper. But neither does this prove that they are Christians. For, notwithstanding this, some of them live in open sin; and others (though not conscious to themselves of hypocrisy, yet) are utter strangers to the religion of the heart; are full of pride, vanity, covetousness, ambition; of hatred, anger, malice, or envy; and, consequently, are no more scriptural Christians, than the open drunkard or common swearer.
Now, these being removed, where are the Christians, from whom we may properly term England a Christian country? the men who have the mind which was in Christ, and who walk as he also walked; whose inmost soul is renewed after the image of God; and who are outwardly holy, as He who hath called them is holy? There are doubtless a few such to be found.
To deny this would be want of candor. But how few! how thinly scattered up and down! And as for a Christian visible Church, or a body of Christians visibly united together, where is this to be seen? Ye different sects, who all declare, Lo! here is Christ, or, Christ is there!
Your stronger proofs divinely give, And show me where the Christians live!
And what use is it of, what good end does it serve, to term England a Christian country? (Although it is true, most of the natives are called Christians, have been baptized, frequent the ordinances; and although a real Christian is here and there to be found, “as a light shining in a dark place.”) Does it do any honor to our great Master, among those who are not called by his name? Does it recommend Christianity to the Jews, the Mahometans, or the avowed Heathens? Surely no one can conceive it does. It only makes Christianity stink in their nostrils. Does it answer any good end with regard to those on whom this worthy name is called? I fear not; but rather an exceeding bad one. For, does it not keep multitudes easy in their heathen practice? Does it not make or keep still greater numbers satisfied with their heathen tempers? Does it not directly tend to make both the one and the other imagine, that they are what indeed they are not; that they are Christians, while they are utterly without Christ, and without God in the world? To close this point: If men are not Christians till they are renewed after the image of Christ, and if the people of England in general are not thus renewed, why do we term them so? The God of this world hath long blinded their hearts. Let us do nothing to increase that blindness; but rather labor to recover them from that strong delusion, that they may no longer believe a lie. 4. Let us labor to convince all mankind, that to be a real Christian, is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and to serve him with all our strength; to love our neighbor as ourselves; and therefore do unto every man as we would he should do unto us. Nay, you say, “Had you confined yourselves to these great points, there would have been no objection against your doctrine. But the doctrines you have distinguished yourselves by, are not the love of God and man, but many false and pernicious errors.” (Page 104.)
I have again and again, with all the plainness I could, declared what our constant doctrines are; whereby we are distinguished only from Heathens, or nominal Christians; not from any that worship God in spirit and in truth. Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three, — that of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself.
That repentance or conviction of sin, which is always previous to faith, (either in a higher or lower degree, as it pleases God,) we describe in words to this effect: — “When men feel in themselves the heavy burden of sin, see damnation to be the reward of it, behold with the eye of their mind the horror of hell; they tremble, they quake, and are inwardly touched with sorrowfulness of heart, and cannot but accuse themselves, and open their grief unto Almighty God, and call unto him for mercy. This being done seriously, their mind is so occupied, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that all desire of meat and drink is laid apart, and loathing of all worldly things and pleasure cometh in place. So that nothing then liketh them more, than to weep, to lament, to mourn; and both with words and behavior of body to show themselves weary of life.”
Now, permit me to ask, What, if, before you had observed that these were the very words of our own Church, one of your acquaintance or parishioners had come and told you, that ever since he heard a sermon at the Foundry, he “saw damnation” before him, “and beholden with the eye of his mind the horror of hell?” What, if he had “trembled and quaked,” and been so taken up “partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with nn earnest desire to be delivered from the danger of hell and damnation,” as to “weep, to lament, to mourn, and both with words and behavior to show himself weary of life?” Would you have scrupled to say, “Here is another ‘deplorable instance’ of the ‘Methodists driving men to distraction!’ See, ‘into what excessive terrors, frights, doubts, and perplexities, they throw weak and well-meaning men! quite oversetting their understandings and judgments, and making them liable to all these miseries.’” I dare not refrain from adding one plain question, which I beseech you to answer, not to me, but to God: Have you ever experienced this repentance yourself? Did you ever “feel in yourself that heavy burden of sin?” of sin in general, more especially, inward sin; of pride, anger, lust, vanity? of (what is all sin in one) that carnal mind which is emnity, essential emnity, against God? Do you know by experience what it is to “behold with the eye of the mind the horror of hell?” Was “your mind” ever so “taken up, partly with sorrow and heaviness, partly with an earnest desire to be delivered from this danger of hell and damnation, that even all desire of meat and drink” was taken away, and you “loathed all worldly things and pleasure?” Surely if you had known what it is to have the “arrows of the Almighty” thus “sticking fast in you,” you could not so lightly have condemned those who now cry out, “The pains of hell come about me; the sorrows of death compass me, and the overflowings of ungodliness make me afraid.” 5. Concerning the gate of religion, — (if it may be allowed so to speak,) the true, Christian, saving faith, — we believe it implies abundantly more than an assent to the truth of the Bible. “Even the devils believe that Christ was born of a virgin; that he wrought all kind of miracles; that for our sakes he suffered a most painful death to redeem us from death everlasting. These articles of our faith the very devils believe, and so they believe all that is written in the Old and New Testament. And yet, for all this faith, they be but devils. They remain still in their damnable estate, lacking the very true Christian faith. “The right and true Christian faith is, not only to believe that the Holy Scriptures and the articles of our faith are true, but also to have a sure trust and confidence to be saved from everlasting damnation, through Christ.”
For giving this account of Christian faith, (as well as the preceding account of repentance, both which I have here also purposely described in the very terms of the Homilies,) I have been again and again, for near these eight years past, accused of enthusiasm; sometimes by those who spoke to my face, either in conversation, or from the pulpit: but more frequently by those who chose to speak in my absence; and not seldom from the press. I wait for those who judge this to be enthusiasm, to bring forth their strong reasons. Till then, I must continue to account all these the “words of truth and soberness.” 6. Religion itself (I choose to use the very words wherein I described it long ago) we define, “The loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves; and in that love abstaining from all evil, and doing all possible good to all men.” The same meaning we have sometimes expressed a little more at large thus: “Religion we conceive to be no other than love; the love of God and of all mankind; the loving God ‘with all our heart, and soul, and strength,’ as having ‘first loved us,’ as the fountain of all the good we have received, and of all we ever hope to enjoy; and the loving every soul which God hath made, every man on earth, as our own soul. “This love we believe to be the medicine of life, the never-failing remedy for all the evils of a disordered world, for all the miseries and vices of men. Wherever this is, there are virtue and happiness going hand in hand. There is humbleness of mind, gentleness, longsuffering, the whole image of God, and, at the same time, a peace that passeth all understanding, and joy unspeakable and full of glory. “This religion we long to see established in the world, a religion of love, and joy, and peace; having its seat in the heart, in the inmost soul, but ever showing itself by its fruits; continually springing forth, not only in all innocence, (for love worketh no ill to his neighbor,) but likewise in every kind of beneficence, spreading virtue and happiness all around it.”
If this can be proved by Scripture or reason to be enthusiastic or erroneous doctrine, we will then plead guilty to the indictment of “teaching error and enthusiasm.” But if this be the genuine religion of Christ, then will all who advance this charge against us be found false witnesses before God, in the day when he shall judge the earth. 7. However, with regard to the fruits of our teaching, you say, “It is to be feared, the numbers of serious men who have been perplexed and deluded are much greater than the numbers of notorious sinners who have been brought to repentance and good life.” (Page 113.) “Indeed, if you could prove that the Methodists were, in general, very wicked people before they followed you, and that all you have been teaching them is, the love of God and their neighbor, and a care to keep his commandments, which accordingly they have done since, you would stop the mouths of all adversaries at once. But we have great reason to believe that the generality of the Methodists, before they became so, were serious, regular, and well-disposed people.” (Page 103.)
If the question were proposed, “Which are greater, the numbers of serious men who have been perplexed and deluded, or of notorious sinners who have been brought to repentance and good life,” by these Preachers, throughout England, within seven years? it might be difficult for you to fix the conclusion. For England is a place of wide dimensions; nor is it easy to make a satisfactory computation, unless you confine yourself within a smaller compass. Suppose then we were to contract the question, in order to make it a little less unwieldy. We will bound our inquiry, for the present, within a square of three or four miles. It may be certainly known by candid men, both what has been and what is now done within this distance; and from hence they may judge of those fruits elsewhere, which they cannot be so particularly informed of.
Inquire then, “Which are greater, the numbers of serious men, perplexed and deluded by these Teachers, or of notorious sinners brought to repentance and good life,” within the forest of Kingswood? Many indeed of the inhabitants are nearly as they were; are not much better or worse for their preaching; because the neighboring Clergy and Gentry have successfully labored to deter them from hearing it. But between three and four hundred of those who would not be deterred are now under the care of those Preachers. Now, what number of these were serious Christians before? Were fifty? Were twenty? Were ten? Peradventure there might five such be found. But it is a question whether there could or no. The remainder were gross, open sinners, common swearers, drunkards, Sabbath-breakers, whoremongers, plunderers, robbers, implacable, unmerciful, wolves and bears in the shape of men. Do you desire instances of more “notorious sinners” than these? I know not if Turkey or Japan can afford them. And what do you include in “repentance and good life?” Give the strictest definition thereof that you are able; and I will undertake, these once notorious sinners shall be weighed in that balance, and not found wanting. 8. Not that all the Methodists (so called) “were very wicked people before they followed us.” There are those among them, and not a few, who are able to stop the boasting of those that despise them, and to say, “Whereinsoever any of you is bold, I am bold also:” Only they “count all these things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”
But these we found, as it were, when we sought them not. We went forth to “seek that which was lost;” (more eminently lost;) “to call” the most flagrant, hardened desperate “sinners to repentance.” To this end we preached in the Horsefair at Bristol, in Kingswood, in Newcastle; among the colliers in Staffordshire, and the tinners in Cornwall; in Southwark, Wapping, Moorfields, Drury-Lane, at London. Did any man ever pick out such places as these, in order to field “serious, regular, well-disposed people?” How many such might then be in any of them, I know not. But this I know, that four in five of those who are now with us were not of that number, but were wallowing in their blood, till God by us said unto them, “Live.”
Sir, I willingly put the whole cause on this issue: What are the general consequences of this preaching? Are there more tares or wheat? more “good men destroyed,” (that is the proper question,) or “wicked men saved?” The last place where we began constant preaching is a part of Wiltshire and Somersetshire, near Bath. Now, let any man inquire at Rhode, Bradford, Wrexall, or among the colliers at Coleford,
(1.) What kind of people were those “before they followed these men?”
(3.) What effect have these doctrines upon their followers? What manner of lives do they lead now?
And if you do not find,
(3.) That they have since exercised themselves herein, and continue so to do; — I say, if you, or any reasonable man, who will be at the pains to inquire, does not find this to be an unquestionable fact, I will openly acknowledge myself an enthusiast, or whatsoever else you shall please to style me.
Only onle caution I would give to such an inquirer: Let him not ask the colliers of Coleford, “Were not the generality of you, before you followed these men, serious, regular, well-disposed people?” Were you not “offended at the profaneness and debauchery of the age?” And “was it not this disposition which at first made you liable to receive these impressions?” (Second Letter , p. 103.) Because if he talk thus to some of those who do not yet “follow these men,” perhaps he will not live to bring back their answer. 9. But will this, or a thousand such instances as this, “stop the mouths of all adversaries at once?” O Sir, would one expect such a thought as this in one that had read the Bible? What, if you could convert as many sinners as St. Paul himself? Would that “stop the mouths of all your adversaries?”
Yea, if you could convert three thousand at one sermon, still you would be so far from “stopping all their mouths at once,” that the greater part of them would gnash upon you with their teeth, and cry, “Away with such a fellow from the earth!”
I never, therefore, expect “to persuade the world,” the majority of mankind, that I “have been,” for some years, “advancing nothing” but what has a clear, immediate connection with “the true knowledge and love of God;” that God hath been pleased to use me, a weak, vile worm, in reforming many of my fellow-sinners, and making them, at this day, living witnesses of “inward and pure religion;” and that many of these, “from living in all sin, are quite changed, are become” so far “holy, that” though they are not “free from all sin,” yet no sin hath dominion over them. And yet I do firmly believe, “it is nothing but downright prejudice, to deny or oppose any of these particulars.” (Preface, page 5.) “Allow Mr. Wesley,” you say, “but these few points, and he will defend his conduct beyond exception.” That is most true. If I have indeed “been advancing nothing but the true knowledge and love of God;” if God has made me an instrument in reforming many sinners, and bringing them to “inward and pure religion;” and if many of these continue holy to this day, and free from all wilful sin, then may I, even I, use those awful words, “He that despiseth me, despiseth Him that sent me.” But I never expect the world to allow me one of these points. However, I must go on as God shall enable me. I must lay out whatsoever he intrusts me with, (whether others will believe I do it or no,) in advancing the true Christian knowledge of God, and the love and fear of God among men; in reforming (if so be it please him to use me still) those who are yet without God in the world; and in propagating inward and pure religion, — righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. 10. But you believe, I only corrupt those who were good Christians before, teaching them to revile and censure their neighbors, and to abuse the Clergy, notwithstanding all their meekness and gentleness, as I do myself. “I must declare,” say you, “we have, in general, answered your pretense with all meekness and temper; the railing and reviling has been chiefly on the side of the Methodists.” (Second Letter , page 16.)
Your first charge ran thus: “How have such abuses as these been thrown out by you against our regular Clergy, not the highest or the worthiest excepted!” (Remarks , p. 15.) I answered, “I am altogether clear in this matter, as often as it has been objected: Neither do I desire to receive any other treatment from the Clergy, than they have received from me to this day.” (Page 399.)
(1.) “One instance of your misrepresenting and injuring a Preacher of our Church I mentioned.” (Second Letter , p. 100.) Mentioned! Well, but did you prove it was an injury or misrepresentation? I know not that you once attempted it.
(2.) You next quote part of a letter from the Third Journal; (vol. I. p. 184;) wherein, according to your account, the “most considerable of our Clergy are abused, and at once accused in a very gross manner.” (Second Letter , p. 106.) Set down the whole paragraph, and I will prove that this also is naked truth, and no abuse at all. You say,
(3.) “You approved of Whitefield’s railing against the Clergy;” that is, I say, “Mr. Whitefield preached concerning the ‘Holy Ghost, which all who believe are to receive;’ not without a just, though severe, censure of those who preach as if there were no Holy Ghost.” (Vol. I. p. 210.)
Nor is this railing, but melancholy truth. I have myself heard several preach in this manner.
How long will you pervert the right ways of the Lord?” and add, “I appeal to yourself, whether you did not design this reflection against the Clergy in general who differ from you.” No more than I did against Moses and Aaron. I expressly specify whom I design: “Ye who tell the mourners in Zion, Much religion hath made you mad.” You say,
(5.) (with a N. B.,) “All the Clergy who differ from you, you style so, page 225; in which, and the foregoing page, you causelessly slander them as speaking of their own holiness as that for the sake of which, on account of which, we are justified before God.”
Let any serious person read over those pages. I therein slander no man: I speak what I know; what I have both heard and read. The men are alive, and the books are extant. And the same conclusion I now defend, touching that part of the Clergy who preach or write thus; viz., it they preach the truth as it is in Jesus, I am found a false witness before God. But if I preach the way of God in truth, then they are blind leaders of the blind.
(6.) You quote those words, “Nor can I be said to intrude into the labors of those who do not labor at all, but suffer thousands of those for whom Christ died to perish for lack of knowledge.” (Vol. I. p. 214.)
I wrote that letter near Kingswood. I would to God the observation were not terribly true!
(7.) The first passage you cite from the “Earnest Appeal,” (pages 25, 26,) evidently relates to a few only among the Clergy; and if the charge be true but of one in five hundred, it abundantly supports my reasoning.
You conclude: “The reader has now before him the manner in which you have been pleased to treat the Clergy; and your late sermon is too fresh an instance of the like usage of the Universities.” (Second Letter , p. 107.) It is an instance of speaking the truth in love. So I desire all mankind may use me. Nor could I have said less either to the University or the Clergy without sinning against God and my own soul. 11. But I must explain myself a little on that practice which you so often term “abusing the Clergy.” I have many times great sorrow and heaviness in my heart on account of these my brethren. And this sometimes constrains me to speak to them, in the only way which is now in my power; and sometimes, though rarely, to speak of them; of a few, not all in general. In either case, I take an especial care,
(1.) To speak nothing but the truth.
(2.) To speak this with all plainness. And,
(3.) With love, and in the spirit of meekness. Now, if you will call this abusing, railing, or reviling, you must.
When I first read your declaration, that our brethren “in general had treated us with all meekness and temper,” I had thoughts of spreading before you a few of the flowers which they have strewed upon us with no sparing hand. But, on reflection, I judged it better to forbear. Let them die and be forgotten!
As to those of the people called Methodists , whom you suppose to “rail at and abuse the Clergy,” and to “revile and censure their neighbors,” I can only say, Which are they! Show me the men. And if it appear, that any of those under my care habitually “censure” or “revile” others, whether Clergy or laity, I will make them an example, for the benefit of all the rest.
To draw toward a conclusion: Whosoever they are that “despise me, and make no account of my labors,” I know that they are “not in vain in the Lord;” and that I have not “fought as one that beateth the air.” I still see (and I praise “the Father of Lights, from whom every good and perfect gift descendeth”) a continual increase of pure religion and undefiled, of the love of God and man, of the “wisdom” which is “pure and peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy, and of good fruits.” I see more and more of those “who before lived in a thorough contempt of God’s ordinances, and of all duties, now zealously discharging their duties to God and man, and walking in all his ordinances blameless.” A few indeed I have seen draw back to perdition, chiefly through a fear of being “righteous overmuch.” And here and there one has fallen into Calvinism, or turned aside to the Moravians. But, I doubt not, these “are in a better state” than they were before they heard us. Admit they are in error, yea, and die therein, yet who dares affirm they will perish everlastingly? But had they died in gross sin, we are sure they had fallen into “the fire that never shall be quenched.”
I have now considered, as far as my time would permit, (not everything in your letter, whether of moment or no, but,) those points which I conceived to be of the greatest weight. That God may lead us both into all truth, and that we may not drop our love in the pursuit of it, is the continual prayer of, Reverend Sir, Your friend and servant for Christ’s sake,
JOHN WESLEY. June 17, 1746