« IndietroContinua »
absolutely to whom the word of invitation shall be sent; and his Holy Spirit alone inclining and enabling the soul to embrace it by faith.—Hence I concluded that God, who knoweth the end from the beginning, and is a Sovereign, and, when none have deserved any thing, may do as he will with his own, actually.“ chose us” (even every individual believer,)“ in Christ, before the “ foundation of the world, that we should be holy, « and without blame before him in love; having “ predestinated us unto the adoption of children
by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the
good pleasure of his will; to the praise “ of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath “ made us accepted in the beloved.” (Eph. i. 4–6.)
In short, though my objections were many, my anxiety great, and my resistance long; yet, by the evidence, which, both from the word of God and from my own meditation, crouded upon my mind, I was at length constrained to submit; and, God knoweth, with fear and trembling, to allow these formerly despised doctrines a place in my creed. Accordingly, about Christmas,
about Christmas, 1777, I began cautiously to establish the truth of them, and to make use of them for the consolation of poor distressed and fearful believers. This was the only use I then knew of them, though I now see their influence on every part of evangelical truth.
However, I would observe that, though I assuredly believe these doctrines as far as here expressed; (for I am not willing to trace them any higher, by reasonings or consequences, into the unrevealed things of God;) and though I exceedingly need them in my view of religion, both for my own consolation, and security against the consequences of a deceitful heart, an ensnaring world, and a subtle tempter, as also for the due exercise of my pastoral office: yet I would not be understood to place the acknowledgement of them upon a level with the belief of the doctrines before spoken of. I can readily conceive the character of a humble, pious, spiritual christian, who is either an utter stranger to the doctrines in question, or who, through misapprehension or fear of consequences, cannot receive them. But I own I find a difficulty in conceiving of a humble, pious, spiritual Christian, who is a stranger to his own utterly lost condition, to the deceitfulness and depravity of his heart, to the natural alienation of his affections from God, and to the defilements of his best duties; who trusts, either in whole or in part, allowedly to any thing for pardon and justification, except the blood and righteousness of a crucified Saviour, God manifested in the flesh; or who expects to be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, in any other way than by being born again, created anew, converted, and sanctified by the divine power of the Holy Ghost.
Some time in November, 1777, I was, by a then unknown friend, furnished with a considerable number of books, written in general by the old divines, both of the Church of England, and of the Dissenters. And,' to my no small surprise, I found that those doctrines, which are now deemed novel inventions, and are called Methodistical, are in these books every where discoursed of as known and allowed truths: and that that system which, despising to be taught by men, and unacquainted with such authors, I had for near three years together been hammering out for myself with no small labour and anxiety, was to be found ready made to my hands in every book I opened.
I do not wonder that the members of the Church of England are generally prejudiced against the writings of Dissenters; for I have been so myself to an excessive degree. We imbibe this prejudice with the first rudiments of instruction, and are taught by our whole education to consider it as meritorious: though no doubt it is a prejudice, of which every sincere enquirer after truth ought to be afraid, and every pretended enquirer ashamed; for how can we determine on which side truth lies, if we will not examine both sides ? Indeed it is well known to all those who are acquainted with the church-histories of those times, that till the reign of James I. there were no controversies between the established Church
and the Puritans, concerning doctrine; both parties being in all matters of importance of the same sentiments: they only contended about discipline and ceremonies; till the introduction of Arminianism gave occasion to the Calvinists being denominated Doctrinal Puritans. To this period all our church-writers were Calvinistical in doctrine; and even after that time many might be mentioned, who were allowed friends to the Church of England, that opposed those innovations, and agreed in doctrine with every thing above stated. Let it suffice, out of many, to recommend the works of Bishop Hall, especially his Contemplations on the Life of Jesus, a book not easily to be prized too highly; and Dr. Reynolds's works. To these no true friend to the Church of England can reasonably object: and in general, I believe and teach nothing but what they plainly taught before me.
The outlines of my scheme of doctrine were now completed: but I had been so taken up with doctrinal enquireis, that I was still in great measure a stranger to my own heart, and had little experience of the power of the truths I had embraced. The pride of reasoning and the conceit of superior discernment, had all along accompanied me; and, though somewhat broken, had yet considerable influence. Hitherto therefore I had not thought of hearing any person preach; because
did not think any one, in the circle of my acquaintance, capable of giving me such information as I wanted.
But being at length convinced that Mr.— had been right, and that I had been mistaken, in the several particulars in which we had differed; it occurred to me, that having preached these doctrines so long, he must understand many things concerning them to which I was a stranger. Now therefore, though not without much remaining prejudice, and not less in the character of a judge than of a scholar, I condescended to be his hearer, and occasionally to attend his preaching, and that of some other ministers :and I soon perceived the benefit; for from time to time the secrets of my heart were discovered to me, far beyond what I had hitherto noticed; and I seldom returned from hearing a sermon, without having conceived a meaner opinion of myself; without having attained to a further acquaintance with my deficiencies, weaknesses, corruptions, and wants; or without being supplied with fresh matter for prayer, and directed to greater watchfulness. I likewise learned the use of experience in preaching; and was convinced, that the readiest way to reach the hearts and consciences of others, was to speak from my own. In short, I gradually saw more and more my need of instruction, and was at length brought to consider myself as a very novice in religious matters.' Thus I began experimentally to perceive our Lord's