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To Mrs. JULIET S
Belleville, September 16, 1808. MY DEAR JULIET,
Since the hour I received your letter, you have been little out of my mind. You call upon me as mother, friend, counsellor. Shall conscious unworthiness, or weakness, or ignorance, prevent my answering, knowing that God often chooses weak instruments to bring to pass great ends? I have been once and again at a throne of Grace, for wisdom to direct me, and grace to be faithful. If your desire after spiritual knowledge, be sincere, and from the Spirit of God operating on your heart, you will bear searching.
You are a communicant, my Juliet; this pre-supposes that a very great, and an important, change has taken place in your mind, that you have been made deeply sensible of what the word of God testifies of every son and daughter of Adam's race. Romans iii. 9. As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one. Man is born as the wild asses colt, going astray from the womb. Job. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; I the Lord search it. Having the understanding darkened, alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in us, because of the blindness of our hearts. Ephesians iv. 18. Dead in trespasses and sins—Chapter ï. 1. Presupposes, that this chapter may be addressed to you, Juliet, by name, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the Spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience ; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past, in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the
desires of the flesh, and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he hath loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By Grace are ye saved through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. Works there are, my Juliet, most assuredly; every quickened soul will live, and bring forth fruits of righteousness; but these works are not attainable but in God's way and order. It follows, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto yood works, which God haih before ordained, that we should walk in them. My Juliet says, “ To you then I look up to teach me." Let me then bring you to the great Teacher and Prophet of the Church, without whose teaching all human instruction will be ineffectual. We read of two amiable characters coming to Christ, professedly for instruction. The first you will find in Matthew xix. 16. The young man asks him, What good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life? Jesus answers him, by referring him to the moral law; the young man, not made acquainted, by the Spirit of God, either with the extent or spirituality of that law, or of the depravity of his own nature, answers, as many in like circumstances still do: All these things have I kept from my youth up. I do not suppose any one could contradict him. It is added, that Jesus loved him, and he was a loveable character; but Jesus knew that the true principle was not there-supreme love to God, with all the heart, with all the soul, with all the strength, and with all the mind : therefore he gave him a test which proved that the world was uppermost in his heart. He went away sorrowful, and we hear no more of him. The other character you will find in
that remarkable chapter, the third of John's Gospel Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, and also a teacher. Well knew he the law, as to the letter of it, both moral and ceremonial; he must also have been acquainted with all the old Testament Scripture, types, and prophecies, it being his office to expound; and no doubt, among others, was looking for the promised Messiah. Jesus does not send him to either the law or the prophets. This ruler comes with a conviction and an acknowledgment, that Jesus himself was a teacher immediately from God; and Jesus immediately takes upon himself his great office, and begins with that which is a sinner's first business: to know himself, what he is by nature, and the necessity of the new birth. Nicodemus, with all his learning, was a stranger to this doctrine: How can a man be born when he is old? Jesus repeats his doctrine, He must be born of water and the Spirit; baptized with water and the Holy Ghost. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Marvel not that I said unto you, ye must be born again. Humble that proud reason that will believe nothing but what it can understand. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it coneth, or whither it gocth : so is every one that is born of the Spirit—a mystery it is; nevertheless, it is true. Follow out the chapter, my dear. Jesus preaches his own Gospel, and brings in that beautiful type, the serpent, which He had commanded to be raised on a pole, that those who had been bitten with fiery serpents, whose bite was death, should look unto it and be healed. Read it, my dear, in the 21st of Numbers : and in reference to this, He himself says, Look unto me all ye ends of the earth, and be ye saved. Except a man be
born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Quickened, renewed in the Spirit of his mind, old things pass away, and all things become new : new principles, new desires, new pleasures, new ends. The work is God's. The whole plan of Redemption is his, from first to last. It is clearly revealed in Scripture, and there is no dispute among Christians concerning it. The fall of man, his corruption and depravity; his state under the curse of a broken Covenant, and his exposure to eternal misery; his helplessness and total inability to return to God; his ignorance of his situation-dead in trespasses and sins, without God and without hope in the world : this is his situation by nature. But there is good news proclaimed, God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to become the Surety of lost sinners. He took our nature upon him, our sins upon him, our duties upon him; he was placed in our law, room, and stead; sustained the penalty of the broken law; fulfilled its utmost demands; redeemed us; gave us a new Covenant, of which himself is the Surety: and there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. The merits of Christ, exclusive of any thing of ours, is the sole foundation of our hope. Christ is set forth, in Scripture, as the atonement, the propitiation for sins, the one Sacrifice for sin; Christ is the end of the law for righteousness: all is made ours by free gift. 1 John v. 11. All is ready, justice satisfied, God reconciled, peace proclaimed. But what is all this, to a thoughtless world, insensible of their situation, danger, and need? It is an awful saying, but it is of the Holy Ghost-If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the God of this world hath blinded their minds, and darkened their understandings, and hardened their hearts, &c.
Therefore the application of this grace is also of God; it is all within his plan–He has appointed means, and commanded our diligence in the use of them. We have his Bible in our hands, his ministers in our churches, who are also pastors and teachers, if we apply for their aid in private : we have a throne of grace to go to, and many great and precious promises held up in God's word for us to embrace and plead for Christ's sake : we have many prayers in the Scriptures which we may adopt.
I acknowledge we are still dependent for the effect; that must be from God himself. But he does honour his own ordinances. He puts forth his power, and convinces of sin: this is his first work. The soul is awakened, aroused, convinced of sin and misery; sins of the heart, sins of the tongue, sins of the life, press upon the conscience, which never disturbed before; mispent time, wasted talents, lost opportunities, neglect of God's word and ordinances, so that the soul cannot rest. 0, my Juliet, this is a hopeful case. I hope you have experienced something of this. It is one of the surest marks of the operation of the Spirit of God, and a prelude to the new birth. It never takes place without it, for the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. Only the weary and heavy laden will prize rest, and Christ is the rest they need: only a convinced sinner will or can prize the Saviour, and now the Lord opens his mind to understand the scriptures! He sees the provision which God has made for ruined sinners, by providing a substitute to stand in his room; he perceives how God can be just and justify the sinner who takes shelter in Jesus ; he falls in with God's gracious plan; receives the Lord Jesus as God's gift to sinners; trusts entirely in his merit for pardon, peace, reconciliation,