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quite full to the point; and he has certainly omitted several of the most express and strongest testimonies. The best and happiest proof of all, that this doctrine is true in itself, and true to us, is the experience of its effects. They who know his name. will put their trust in him: they who are rightly impressed with his astonishing condescension and love, in emptying himself, and submitting to the death of the cross for our sakes, will find themselves under a sweet constraint to love him again, and will feel a little of that emotion of heart which the apostle expresses in that lively passage, Gal. vi. 14. The knowledge of Christ crucified, (like Ithuriel's spear,) removes the false appearances by which we have been too long cheated, and shews us the men and the things, the spirit, customs, and maxins of the world, in their just light. Were I perfectly master of myself and my subject, I would never adduce any text in proof of a doctrine or as sertion from the pulpit, which was not direct and conclusive; because, if a text is pressed into an argument to which it has no proper relation, it rather encumbers than supports it, and raises a suspicion that the cause is weak, and better testimonies in its favour cannot be obtained. Some misapplications of this kind have been so long in use, that they pass pretty current, though, if brought to the assay, they would be found not quite sterling: but I endeavour to avoid them to the best of my judgment. Thus, for instance, I have often heard, Rom. xiv. 23. Whatever is not of faith is sin," quoted to prove, that without a principle of saving faith, we can perform nothing acceptable to God: whereas it seems clear from the context, that faith is there used in another sense, and signifies a firm persuasion of mind respecting the lawfulness of the action. However, I doubt not but the proposition in itself is strictly true in the other sense, if considered de
tached from the connection in which it stands; but I should rather choose to prove it from other passages, where it is directly affirmed, as Heb. xi. 6. Matt.xii. 33. In such cases, I think hearers should be careful not to be prejudiced against a doctrine, merely because it is not well supported; for perhaps it is capable of solid proof, though the preacher was not so happy as to hit upon that which was most suitable; and extempore preachers may sometimes hope for a little allowance upon this head, from the more candid part of their auditory, and not be made offenders for an inadvertence, which they cannot perhaps always avoid in the hurry of speaking. With respect to the application of some passages in the Old Testament to our Lord and Saviour, I hold it safest to keep close to the specimens the apostles have given us, and I would venture with caution, if I go beyond their line; yet it is probable they have only given us a specimen, and that there are a great number of passages which have a direct reference to gospeltruths, though we may run some hazard in making out the allusion. If St. Paul had not gone before me, I should have hesitated to assert, that the prohibition, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn," was given, not upon the account of oxen, but altogether for our sakes: nor should I, without his assistance, have found out, that the history of Sarah and Hagar was a designed allegory, to set forth the difference between the law and gospel covenants. Therefore, when I hear ministers tracing some other allusions, I cannot be always sure that they push them too far, though perhaps they are not quite satisfactory to my judgment; for it may be, they have a farther insight into the meaning of the places than myself. And I think scriptures may be sometimes used to advantage, by way of accommodation in popular discourses,
and in something of a different sense from what they bear in the place where they stand, provided they are not alleged as proofs, but only to illustrate a truth already proved or acknowledged. Though Job's friends and Job himself were mistaken, there are many great truths in their speeches, which, as such, may, I think, stand as the foundation of a discourse. Nay, I either have, or have often intended to borrow a truth from the mouth even of Satan, "Hast thou not set a hedge about him?" such a confession extorted from our grand adversary, placing the safety of the Lord's people under his providential care in a very striking light.
I perfectly agree with you, madam, that our religious sensations and exercises are much influenced and tinctured by natural constitution; and that therefore tears and warm emotions on the one hand, or a comparative dryness of spirit on the other, are no sure indications of the real state of the heart. Appearances may agree in different persons, or vary in the same person, from causes merely natural: even a change of weather may have some influence in raising or depressing the spirits, where the nerves are very delicate; and I think such persons are more susceptive of impressions from the agency of invisible powers, both good and evil; an agency which, though we cannot explain, experience will not permit us to deny. However, though circumstantials rise and fall, the real difference between nature and grace remains unalterable. That work of God upon the heart which is sometimes called a new birth, at others a new creation, is as distant from the highest effects of natural principles, or the most specious imitations which education or resolutions can produce, as light is from darkness, or life from death. Only he who made the world can either make a christian, or support and carry on his own work. A
thirst after God as our portion: a delight in Jesus as the only way and door; a renunciation of self and of the world, so far as it is opposite to the spirit of the gospel: these, and the like fruits of that grace which bringeth salvation, are not only beyond the power of our fallen nature, but contrary to its tendency; so that we can have no desires of this kind till they are given us from above, and can for a season hardly bear to hear them spoken of, either as excellent or necessary. I am, &c.
MY DEAR MADAM,
September 17, 1776.
WE are much indebted to you for your kind thoughts of us. Hitherto I feel no uneasiness about what is before me; but I am afraid my tranquillity does not wholly spring from trust in the Lord and submission to his will, but that a part of it at least is derived from the assurances Mr. W. gave me, that the operation would be neither difficult nor dangerous. I have not much of the hero in my constitution; if in great pains or sharp trials I should ever show a becoming fortitude, it must be given me from above. I desire to leave all with him, in whose hands my ways are, and who has promised me strength according to my day.
I rejoice that the Lord has not only made you desirous of being useful to others in their spiritual concerns, but has given you, in some instances, to see that your desires and attempts have not been in vain. I shall thankfully accept of the commis
sion you are pleased to offer me, and take a pleasure in perusing any papers you may think proper to put into my hands, and offer you my sentiments with that simplicity which I am persuaded will be much more agreeable to you than compliments. Though I know there is in general a delicacy and difficulty in services of this kind, yet with respect to yourself I seem to have nothing to fear.
I have often wished we had more female pens employed in the service of the sanctuary. Though few ladies encumber themselves with the apparatus of Latin or Greek, or engage in voluminous performances; yet, in the article of essay writing, Í think many are qualified to succeed better than most men, having a peculiar easiness of style, which few of us can imitate. I remember you once shewed me a paper, together with the corrections and alterations proposed by a gentleman whose opinion you had asked. I thought his corrections had injured it, and given it an air of stiffness, which is often observable when learned men write in English. Grammatical rules, as they are called, are wholly derived from the mode of speaking or writing which obtains amongst those who best understand the language; for the language must be supposed established before any grammar can be made for it and therefore women who, from the course of their education and life, have had an opportunity of reading the best written books, and conversing with those who speak well, though they do not burden themselves with the formality of grammar, have often more skill in the English language than the men who can call every figure of speech by a Latin or Greek name. You may be sure, madam, I shall not wish your papers suppressed, merely because they were not written by a learned man. Language and style, however, are but the dress. Trifles, however adorned, are trifles still.