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The general accusation urged against us by our evangelical brethren, that we do not preach the gospel, but make void the grace of God, which is alone sufficient for us, and quickeneth whom he will. That we trust in ourselves, that is, in our own righteousness, instead of relying on the unmerited mercy of our redeemer :
This accusation is not supported by any shadow of proof; it is inconsistent with truth, and irreconcileable with charity.
We acknowledge, the preventing grace of God to be the only efficient means of a sincere conversion to the religion of Christ; “ that no man can say, Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost." “ That the spirit quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing:” But adds our blessed Lord: “ The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” * Whosoever receiveth his words therefore is prevented by his spirit: whosoever “ calleth him Lord, doth it by the Holy Ghost;" and whosoever has been admitted into his church by baptism, has been baptized into
by the manner of their affecting us, from our natural reasonings, and the operations of truth upon our souls; so that if God had only designed to give the holy spirit to us, without making any mention of it in his word, we could never bave known, unless it had been communicated to us by some private revelation, that our souls are moved by a divine power, when we love God and keep his commandments.Dr. Stebbing's Treatise concerning the Operations of the Spirit, c. vii. 124.See King's origin of Evil, p. 377.
* John vi. 63.
one body, and made to drink into one spirit, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” * *
We acknowledge also, that his assisting grace is the only sufficient support of a Christian life, “ without which we can do nothing;” to him therefore we have recourse as our safe-guard in temptation, and our succour in distress, as furthering our endeavours, enlightening our understandings, suggesting good thoughts, maintaining stedfast resolutions, interceding for our pardon, and obtaining our reward. The question between the Methodists and us, is in what manner we receive this grace;? whether as free agents, or as passive machines: whether as working with us, or upon us; whether as a violent impulse controuling our minds; or as still small voice adınonishing, persuading, teaching us, what we must do to be saved: whether sensibly experienced in its immediate act, or known only by its blessed fruits. I .
* 1 Cor. xii. 13.
Titus iïi. 5. | Do not accustom yourself to trust to impressions. There is a middle state of mind between conviction and hypocrisy, of which many are conscious. By trusting to impressions, a man may gradually come to yield to them, and at length be subject to them, so as not to be a free agent, or, what is the same thing in effect, to suppose that he is not a free agent. A man who is in that state should not be suffered to live; if he declares he cannot help acting in a particular way, but is irresistibly impelled, there can be no confidence in him, no more than in a tyger. But, no man believes himself to be impelled
We acknowledge the especial dispensation of this grace, on occasions which require its extraordinary influence. We believe that during the first promulgation of Christianity, its operations were mighty in deed and word, evinced by miracles and signs, which could not be mistaken. We believe moreover that the spirit of God still actuates the soul in all the exercises of a religious life; that it excites remorse, and godly sorrow in the penitent; and fervent hope, and pious gratitude in the thankful. We confess with all humility, that the spirit helpeth our infirmities; and we pray that we may daily be renewed by his grace.
irresistibly. We know that he who says he believes it, lies. Favourable impressions, at particular moments, as to the state of our souls, may be deceitful and dangerous. In general, no man can be sure of his acceptance with God; some indeed may have had it revealed to them. St. Paul, who wrought miracles, may have had a miracle wrought on himself, and may have obtained supernatural assurance of pardon, and mercy, and beatitude. Yet St. Paul, though he expresses strong hope, also expresses fear, lest having preached to others, he himself should be a cast-a-way. *.
These sentiments of the great moralist deserve the more attention, because they are the result of his deliberate judgment, notwithstanding he was by constitution extremely susceptible of impressions, and had felt the danger of yielding to their influence, in those moments of morbid melancholy, when his “ fear betrayed the succours which reason offereth.” —Wisdom xvii, 12. B . ::. : ,
4. * Boswell's Life of Johnson, p. 103, 4to. edit.
But, we do not arrogate to ourselves the peculiar favour of heaven; we do not consider the mercies thus vouchsafed to us, as the seals of our election; nor are we so elated by them as to over value ourselves, and despise others; to think our own state secure, and theirs 'desperate. We do not presumptuously boast, however we may hope, that God hath heard our petition, and will assuredly save our souls: much less do we pretend to superior sanctity and peculiar gifts; or assert that we are chosen and cannot be rejected; raised up and cannot fall: much less do we claim an entire release from sin, from sin future as well as past, through the imputed righteousness of Christ, and thence pronounce ourselves incapable of committing it. We do not suppose, that we are finally justified during our probation in this world, or exclusively predestinated to happiness in the next.
These opinions we dare not entertain: we have not so learned Christ; but when we turn to him, it is with penitential sorrow, and when we rejoice in him, we rejoice with trembling. So far from believing ourselves to be secure, we hold it to be our most urgent duty “ to watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation; to strive to enter in at the strait gate, not as though we had already attained, either were already per-, fect; but we follow after, if that we may apprehend that, for which also we are apprehended of Christ Jesus. We count not ourselves to have
apprehended; but this one thing we do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, we press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” * In this we observe the advice and pattern of the great apostle, who exhorts us to be thus minded : in this we act conformably to the doctrine of our divine master, and therefore we protest against the tenets of the pretended evangelists, as unscriptural and unchristian; as false in their principles, absurd in their conclusions, and pernicious in their consequences. .