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Your way of proving your election is also very weak, and will bear no examination. For what testimony have I but your own word; while your works (as we ignorant people understand them) speak a very different language? But you add, that it must be true because you feel it; and you say this ought to suffice. But it will not suffice; for it is the very witness which I am warned not to take; because, as it comes from yourself, it is not true; (see John v. 8.) and it opens a door to all manner of imposture and delusion. For if I am to believe what one man says of himself, why am I not to believe another? Some better rule, therefore, is wanting; and our Saviour himself tells me, that there must be a second witness, and that this must be the witness of God, in some shape or other: unless, therefore, a man can produce it, I am not bound to believe him. I shall still think, that the man, who is his own witness, is a false man, whether I can detect him or not. Here, neighbour, I have got you upon new ground, which, perhaps, you never saw before. But study your Bible better than you have done, and you will find that I am right, and that there is more error, and more sorts of error (in the world) than you have hitherto been aware of.
You and your companions think that the Gospel is in a very flourishing state: but I see and lament the contrary. I see much evil under the name and appearance of good. You think the age of imposture is past: and that Satan has laid aside his old devices. You see him with his robe of light on-I see the wolf stript: and whatever shape he may assume to deceive the ignorant, I pray daily and earnestly that the flock of Christ may be defended from him.
One more important question I must ask you. If, by your election, you mean that your final salvation is
determined ; how then is God to judge the world? Are you to judge first, and is God to judge afterwards? Suppose that he and you should judge by two different rules; where are you then ? Suppose you should put evil for good; (which has been a common mistake in all ages) will God follow your example? We are, therefore, bid to judge nothing before the time ; till God, who alone is fit to judge, shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness: then shall strange things appear, now totally unexpected and unknown. Then the applauses of a mistaken world, and of a man's own false heart shall signify nothing. No praise shall be lasting, but that which cometh only from God.
I have now given you, with that truth and friendship, which you may expect from a brother, my three grand objections against your new law of Predestination. I do not, I cannot, receive it. First, because God is no respecter of persons : secondly, because no man can be admitted as his own witness : and thirdly, because God shall judge every man according to his works. These objections are so short and plain, that you must understand them. You cannot plead igno
Can you answer them? If you cannot, you should cease to prevent the right ways of the Lord; you should come down from your high thoughts, and serve God with me, in the good old humble way of faith, hope,and charity, which will never mislead you: and may God direct us both in the same, for the alone merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. So shall we be able to stand in the evil day. In which prayer I hope you will join with your faithful brother and humble servant,
January 1, 1800.
If you can hear me with patience, I have something farther to communicate on the subject of my former letter, which it may be useful for you to know. Old spiritual divines formerly taught Christians how they might know whether they were of the number of God's elect, by the signs which attend the true children of God; which signs were genuine and unexceptionable; but would take up more room than this letter will allow. But let me tell you, Brother, I had much rather see the signs without the doctrine, than the doctrine without the signs; for the doctrine of predestination, on which you lay as much stress as if it were the one thing necessary to salvation, was never heard of in the Church till Christians amused themselves with raising perplexing questions out of the Scriptures, and disputed about many things to no profit; but it made no great noise till after the Reformation; when Christians disputed about every thing; and, after all, Christians may certainly be saved without troubling themselves about it. The Scriptures, which Timothy had known from a child, were able to make him wise unto salvation ; but the difficult passages, from which your doctrine is drawn, were written long after. The secret counsels of God were revealed to St. Paul, for the sole purpose of reconciling the Jews to the calling of the Gentiles, which they could never bear to hear of;
nor could the Apostles themselves believe it, till they were compelled by the case of Cornelius and his fellow-converts. It makes no part of our Saviour's Sermon on the Mount, which comprehends a perfect rule of the Christian life; nor has it a place in the Creed; so that we may certainly affirm, it is no article of faith. The Apostles taught it not on the day of Pentecost, when they made some thousands of new Christians. When the people asked them,“ What they should do?” they answered, “ Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The truth is, the Jews, to whom they addressed themselves, were too much filled up with the opinion of their own election already. It was the beam which they should have cast out of their own eye, but would not; let Christians beware of their mistake.
Tell me, how comes it to pass, that predestination should be so necessary now, which was then so dangerous? It wanted rather to be preached down, than to be taught as necessary to salvation. This convinces me there must be with you, who so strongly recommend it, some fundamental mistake; whether we can point it out or not. It is to be feared, you impute to individuals that election spoken of in Scripture, which is meant of people, nations, or churches. As see the following texts: 1 Pet. i. 1, 2. 5. 13. Gen. xxv. 23. Acts x. 35. Now pray observe, this election comes first in order, and separates Christians from the world; but there is still a judgment to come, which will separate good Christians from bad Christians. They, who confound these two things, present election, and future judgment, do greatly err: and they, who teach others to confound them err more; as it will be understood
in that day, when the Searcher of hearts shall lay all things open. You say the Church of England is on your side; but the calling, spoken of in the 17th article, is of the former kind ; that is, of Christian people chosen out of mankind; not of Christians out of Christians : besides, whatever it is, it is such as will consist with the general promises of God, made to all Christians. As such, we hold with it; and so may all sober people. You blame us and despise us, for not having assurance; but we have the assurance of faith, and the assurance of hope ; and the Scripture teaches no other. But there are many in these days, who will be satisfied with nothing but inward revelations, and voices from Heaven.
I have heard you talk much about doctrines of grace; as if our doctrines were not of grace; but if we inquire what your doctrines of grace are, we shall find they are doctrines, to which none of the means of grace are necessary: and the promises of God follow the means he has appointed, which means of his cannot be had without his church; therefore schism has no greater support than in what you falsely call the doctrines of grace. Take away these, and our new church-makers have no ground to stand upon. You say the grace of God is free; understanding that it can act with the instituted means, or without them. So it can; for God is not bound by the laws by which he binds us. Grace, with respect to Him, the Giver, is free; but if we, therefore, think it is free to us, the receivers, we shall introduce that confusion under which grace itself will soon be lost; which is the thing Satan wishes to see.
Extraordinary commissions, and revelations from the Spirit of God, are always attended with extraordinary gifts; such as, speaking with tongues, gifts of