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who can honestly and steadily appropriate Peter's answer. Such a man I say, I am ready to hear, though he should be as much mistaken in some points as Peter afterwards appears to have been in others. What a pity is it, that christians in succeeding ages should think the constraining force of the love of Christ too weak, and suppose the end better answered by forms, subscriptions, and questions of their own devising! I cannot acquit even those churches who judge themselves nearest the primitive rule in this respect. Alas! willworship and presumption may creep into the best external forms. But the misfortune both in churches and private christians is, that we are too prone rather to compare ourselves with others, than to judge by the scriptures; and while each can see that they give not into the errors and mistakes of the opposite party, both are ready to conclude that they are right: ansi thus it happens, that an attachment to a supposed gospelorder will recommend a man sooner and farther to some churches, than an eminency of gospelpractice. I hope you will beware of such a spirit, whenever you publicly assume the independent character; this, like the worm at the root, has nipt the graces, and hindered the usefulness, of many a valuable man; and those who change sides and opinions are the most liable to it. For the pride of our heart insensibly prompts us to cast about far and near for arguments to justify our own behaviour, and make us too ready to hold the opinions we have taken up to the very extreme, that those amongst whom we are newly come may not suspect our sincerity. In a word, let us endeavour to keep close to God, to be much in prayer, to watch carefully over our hearts, and leave the busy warm spirits to make the best of their work, The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him,
and that wait on him continually; to these he will shew his covenant, not notionally, but experimentally. A few minutes of the Spirit's teaching will furnish us with more real useful knowledge, than toiling through whole folios of commentators and expositors; they are useful in their places, and are not to be undervalued by those who can perhaps in general do better without them; but it will be our wisdom to deal less with the streams, and be more close in applying to the fountain-head. The scripture itself, and the Spirit of God, are the best and the only sufficient expositors of scripture. Whatever men have valuable in their writings, they got it from hence; and the way is as open to us as to any of them. There is nothing required but a teachable humble spirit; and learning, as it is commonly called, is not necessary in order to this. I commend you to the grace of God, and remain,
Jan. 10, 1760. I HAVE procured Cennick's sermons;--they are in my judgment sound and swect that you and I had a double portion of that spirit and unction which is in them! Come, let us not despair; the fountain is as full and as free as ever;-precious fountain, ever flowing with blood and water, milk and wine. This is the stream that heals the wounded, refreshes the weary, satisfies the hungry, strengthens the weak, and confirms the strong; it opens the eyes of the blind, softens the heart of stone, teaches the dumb to sing, and enables the lame and paralytic to walk, to leap,
to run, to fly, to mount up with eagles' wings: a taste of this stream raises earth to heaven, and brings down heaven upon earth. Nor is it a fountain only; it is a universal blessing, and assumes a variety of shapes to suit itself to our wants. It is a sun, a shield, a garment, a shade, a banner, a refuge; it is bread, the true bread, the very staff of life; it is life itself, immortal, eternal life!
The cross of Jesus Christ my Lord,
Is food and med’cine, shield and sword., Take that for your motto; wear it in your heart; keep it in your eye; have it often in your mouth, till you can find something better. The cross of Christ is the tree of life and the tree of knowledge combined. Blessed be God, there is neither prohibition nor flaming sword to beep us back, but it stands like a tree by the highway-side, which affords its shade to every passenger without distinction. Watch and pray. We live in sifting time: error gains ground every day. May the name and love of our Saviour Jesus keep us and all his people! Either write or come very soon to,
Nov. 15, 1760. letter. I visit should be delayed, let me have a
want either good news or good advice; to hear
your soul prospers, or to receive something that may quicken my own. The apostle says,
Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ;" alas ! we know how to say something about it, but how faint and feeble are our real perceptions of it! Our love to him is the proof and measure of what we know of his love to us. Surely, then, we are mere children in this kind of knowledge, and every other kind is vain. What should we think of a man who should neglect his business, family, and all the comforts of life, that he might study the Chinese language; though he knows beforehand he should never be able to attain it, nor ever find occasion or opportunity to use it? The pursuit of every branch of knowledge that is not closely connected with the one thing needful, is no less ridiculous.
You know something of our friend Mrs. BShe has been more than a month confined to her bed, and I believe her next remove will be to her coffin. The Lord has done great things for her. Though she has been a serious exemplary person all her life, when the prospect of death presented, she began to cry out earnestly, “What shall I do to be saved ?” But her solicitude is at an end; she has seen the salvation of God, and now for the most part rejoices in something more than hope. This you will account good news, I am sure. Let it be your encouragement and mine. The Lord's arm is not shortened, nor is his presence removed; he is near us still, though we perceive him not. May he guide you with his eye in all your public and private concerns, and may he in particular bless our communications to our mutual advantage.
I am, &c.
July 29, 1761. ARE the quarrels made up? Tell those who know what communion with Jesus is worth, that they will never be able to maintain it, if they give way to the workings of pride, jealonsy, and anger. This will provoke the Lord to leave them dry, to command the clouds of his grace that they rain no rain upon them. These things are sure signs of a low frame, and a sure way to keep it so. Could they be prevailed upon, from a sense of the pardoning love of God to their own souls, to forgive each other as the Lord forgives us, freely, fully, without condition, and without reserve, they would find this like breaking down a stone-wall, which has hitherto shut up their prayers from the Lord's ears, and shut out his blessing from filling their hearts. Tell them, I hope to hear that all animosities, little and big, are buried by mutual consent in the Redeemer's grave. Alas! the people of God have enemies enough: Why, then, will they weaken their own hands? Why will they help their enemies to pull down the Lord's work? Why will they grieve those that wish them well, cause the weak to stumble, the wicked to rejoice, and bring a reproach upon their holy profession. Indeed, this is no light matter; I wish it may not lead them to something worse; I wish they may be wise in time, lest Satan gains further advantage over them, and draw them to something that shall make them (as David did) roar under the pains of broken bones. But I must break off. May God give you wisdom, faithfulness, and patience! Take care that you do not catch an angry spirit yourself,