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lieve, have been shewn the meaning, use, tendency, consistency, harmony, wisdom, and glory of those truths, which are contained in the sacred volume; but, which before, through pride and ignorance, I perverted, neglected, reviled, and counted foolishness.-Nor do I make any pretences to infallibility. God hath not, I trust, left me so unstable, as to float about in the uncertain stream of opinion, and to be “ tossed to and fro “ with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of
men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie “ in wait to deceive.” As to the grand doctrines of the gospel, which I have marked out as necessary to salvation, they are neither so uncertain nor so difficult as men would persuade us ; their un(certainty and difficulty arise wholly from our pride, prejudice, love of sin, and inattentive ignorance of our own hearts. There is really much difficulty in bringing vain man to cease from leaning to his own understanding; and in prevailing with him to“ trust in the Lord with all his heart," and to be willing, in the humble posture of a little child, to be taught of God. Nothing but a deep conviction of guilt, a fear of wrath, and a sense of our lost condition by nature and practice, can bring the mind into this submissive frame; but, this being effected, the difficulty is over, and the way of salvation is so plain, that the “way-faring man,
though a fool, shall not err therein." As to the other doctrines, which I myself believe, though they seem plain enough to me, I desire not to proselyte others to them ; but am willing to leave them, as matters in which fallible men may differ without danger. And, as to my sufficiency for the
faithful discharge of my ministry, to God's glory, and the salvation of souls, he will not I trust deceive my expectations, which are grounded on his promises.-For the rest, I mistake daily and find myself in continual danger of mixing my own imaginations with his divine truth, and of following my own spirit instead of his. Whatever I preach truly, or do wisely, to God be the glory; for I am not sufficient of myself to think a good thought: whatever I speak falsely, or do foolishly, to me be the shame;. for it is the natural fruit of my own deceitful heart. If this be enthusiasm, it is an enthusiasm warranted, not only by the word of God, as I have endeavoured to prove, but by the whole liturgy of our church. We all at ordination profess to be ' moved by the Holy Ghost,' to take the ministerial office upon us; and assuredly we cannot be moved by the Holy Ghost, if we neither have the Holy Ghost, nor may expect his help and guidance. We agree to pray, that the Lord would ' lead into the way of truth all such as have erred and are deceived;' that he would “illuminate all bishops, priests, and deacons, with the true know‘ ledge and understanding of his holy word ;' that he would' cleanse our hearts by the inspiration of
the Holy Spirit;' that he would grant us true ' repentance and his Holy Spirit;' with much more to this effect: and I am persuaded, that such a confidence as I have expressed cannot be censured as enthusiasm, without including our church-establishment and continual public worship in the same charge.
VII. Lastly, I would observe that our opposers and despisers will seldom give us the hearing.
With all their pretensions to candour, reasoning, and free enquiry, they accuse and condemn us, without so much as knowing, with any tolerable degree of accuracy, what our sentiments are; although furnished with such plentiful means of information, in those numerous publications which are now extant upon these subjects.
Having imbibed strong prejudices against us, they frame so contemptible an opinion of our understandings and writings, that they will not bestow so much pains, or afford us so much regard, as to peruse our books : and to call an author a methodist,* is with many people a sufficient reason why they should not read his works. Hence it comes to pass, that for want of information our doctrines are grievously misrepresented; and in general the attacks made upon us, though calculated to make us odious and despised, do not in the least affect the argument in debate. Our adversaries in general know little of our opinions, except what they have picked up by hearsay, in which neither the connection, consistency, tendency, nor application of those opinions is preserved: no wonder therefore that we are villified, or reproached with things to which we are utter strangers, or which we abominate and protest against every Lord's day; and against which we neglect not to fill our writings with reasonings, warnings, and cautions.
For my own part I freely acknowledge, that my strongest objections against this scheme of doctrine arose wholly from misapprehension and misake. Not having read their books, my notions
* The term at present is Calvinist.
of the doctrines of the methodists were received from vulgar report, and from their enemies ; while my creative imagination put its own construction on them, and drew terrible consequences from them ; so that, when I preached against them, I was as one fighting with my own shadow; and, in “ speaking evil of those things that I knew not,” I only betrayed my own ignorance and pride. No better founded are the lamentable outcries which at this day are made against our principles, as if they tended to banish reason, argument, sober-mindedness, and morality out of the world ; and in their stead to substitute a set of whimsical vagaries, which are without foundation in reason and scripture, and have no influence, or rather a pernicious influence, on our conduct and conversation. When such a declamation is ended, (for one would not interrupt it,) ask the declaimer, What a methodist is, and he can scarcely give you an answer : enquire about the doctrines of the methodists,-he does not understand them-or their writings-he has never read them !
Reader, if thou desirest to know what our opinions are, and what foundation there is for these heavy charges, read our books ; but read them with attention, and aim at impartiality: compare them with the word of God, and with the liturgy, articles, and homilies of the church of England : and, if thou hast leisure and opportunity, with the works of our first reformers. Nor do we desire thee to renounce thy reason, but only to make this reasonable concession ; that where thy reason is ready to determine one way, but God hath expressly determined another way, thou wouldst allow him to understand his own mysteries better than thou dost; and that therefore thou oughtest, by faith exercised upon the veracity of God, to receive, implicitly and without reasoning, those doctrines which God hath expressly revealed, and which thy reason feels to be far above out of its reach, and therefore doubtless out of its province. Whenever, on such enquiry, thou discoverest us to be mistaken, there dissent from us, yea, blame us, as far as meekness and candour will permit; but do not condemn us in the gross : do not assert our scheme of doctrine to be enthusiastical and groundless, though some of our writers should be found to have advanced questionable opinions. This were the way to drive all truth and certainty out of the world; for what book can be mentioned, the Bible excepted, in which there is nothing advanced, either erroneous or questionable?
And be assured, that to read only one side of the question, and then clamourously to adopt every childish cavil, every vague report, every scandalous falsehood; and industriously to pro pagate them, as if these afforded a sufficient confutation of all the arguments, authorities, and scriptural testimonies, with which we support our sentiments; is no evidence of a candid liberal mind, or of a sincere desire to know the truth.And let it be observed, that though some professors of these doctrines have been proved enthusiasts, and others detected to be hypocrites, this doth not prove that we are all enthusiasts and hypocrites. Such rash judgments are most hurtful to those who pass them.
For myself I here publicly profess, that I will,