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of watching unto prayer, or you will insensibly drink into
the lightness of their spirit, and abate a littk of the accu-
racy of your walking. Nay, stand fast, walking in every
point as Christ also walked. Fashion and custom are no-
thing to you ; you have a more excellent rule. You are
resolved to be a Bible Christian ; and that, by the grace
of God, not in some, but in all points. Go on, in the
name of God, and in the power of his might. Still let
your eye be single ; aim at one point ; retain and in-
crease your communion with God ! You have nothing
else to do,

" Happy and wise, the time redeem,
And live, my friend, and die to him."

At some times we must look at outward things ; such is
the present condition of humanity. But we have need
quickly to return home ; for what avails all, but Christ
reigning in the heart ?

" Daily in his grace to grow 1"

What else have we to care for ? Only now to Use all the
grace we have received, and now to expect all we want !
The Lord Jesus swallow you up in his love !

LXXXIII.— TO THE SAMEv

May, 1769.
By comparing your own outward state with Mrs.



you now see clearly the advantages you enjoy : you have
nothing external to hinder your waiting upon God without
carefulness and without distraction. None has a right to
interrupt you while you are exercised in things divine,
and labouring to be holy in body and spirit. You may
have just so much and no more connection with any one
as experience shows is profitable for you. O stand fast



124 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

in this Iibertj% glonfying God with all you have and all
you are !

It is remarkable that St. Paul places this the last of aU,
that "love endureth all things;" and this is the sum of his
wish, with regard to the Colossians, " that they might be
strengthened unto all patience and long-suffering with joy-
fulness." They who have attained this are ripe for the
inheritance, and ready to salute their friends in hght.
There is a time when we grow up toward this, even with-
out any sensible increase ; as in the parable the seed
groweth and springs up, he knoweth not how. At many
times, indeed, we do know how the power of the Highest
suddenly overshadows us ; while either the first or the
pure love is shed abroad in our hearts. But at other times
he confirms and increases that love in a gradual and almost
insensible manner.

Death has had a large commission this year, with regard
to our societies in Ireland as well as England. Just as I
left Dublin, four or five of our members there were taken
away in four or five days : three elder, and two in the
bloom of youth ; one of whom had been filled with love for
some years. They all witnessed a good confession at the
last, and died in full assurance of hope. Nancy Rogers,
whom I saw just before I left the town, breathed the very
spirit of Jane Cooper, I think their kindred spirits are
now acquainted with each other better than you and I are,
but not better than we shall be when we meet together in
the paradise of God.

LXXXIV.— TO THE SAME.

August 12, 1769.
At some times it is needful to say, " I will pray with
the spirit and with the understanding also." At other times
the understanding has little to do while the soul is poured
forth in passive prayer. I believe we found the answer to
many prayers at the conference, particularly on the two



•f



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 125

last days. At the conclusion, all the preachers were
melted down while they were singing those lines for
me, —

" Thou who so long hast saved me here,

A little longer save ;
Till, freed from sin and freed from fear,

I sink into a grave.
Till glad I lay my body down,

Thy servant's steps attend ;
And, 0, my life of mercies crown

With a triumphant end !"

Various scriptures show that we may pray with resigna-
tion for the life or ease of a friend: it is enough that every
petition be closed with, " Not as I will, but as thou wilt."
It is true that a believer knows the devices of Satan to be
many and various. But the apostle means more than this,
namely, that those who have the unction of the Holy One
are thereby enabled to discern his devices whenever they
occur, and to distinguish them from the influences of the
good Spirit, how finely soever they are disguised. To
answer for ourselves is often a cross ; and we had much
rather let. people think and talk as they please : but it is a
cross we must often take up, otherwise we " walk not cha-
ritably," if we do not "reprove our brother;" if we "suffer
sin upon him," we " hate our brother in our heart."

If Mrs. be arrived at London, I wish you would

take the first opportunity of conversing with her. She will
have more need of a faithful friend now than ever she had
in her life. I expect she will hear reasons upon reasons
why she ought, as a point of duty, to conform a little to the
world, to have a few trifling acquaintance, and not to be so
particular in her dress. Now, as you have heard all these
things before, and have been enabled, by the grace of God,
to discover Satan, even with his angel's face, and to stand
firm against all his assaults, you will be better able to
assist and confirm her, if you seek her before she is much
shaken.



126 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

It lias a little surprised me, that several who are, I be-
lieve, filled with love, yet do not desire to die. It seems
as if God generally does not give this desire till the time
of death approaches. Perhaps in many it would be of little
use. First let them learn to live.

Doubtless that rest was given " to support you under
your sickness." Yet that is no reason why it should be
ever taken away ; it was certainly a degree of that rest
which remaineth for the people of God. But it may be
called by this or any other name ; names are of little con-
sequence : the thing you need never let go. You may live
in and to Jesus; yea, and that continually, by simple faith,
and holy, humble love.

Let M T be as sensible as ever she will or

can be of her own helplessness and poverty. But let her
not cast away that confidence which hath great recompense
of reward. She did experience the pure love of God : let
none take advantage from her being tried by fire (if it
should be so) to reason her out of it. That general pro-
mise, " In blessing I will bless thee," certainly contains
all the promises, whether relating to this life or the next ;
and all are yours ! Peace be multiplied upon you !

LXXXV.— TO THE SAME.

Jvly 6, 1770.

When things are viewed at a distance, one would be

apt to imagine that no degree of sorrow could be found in

a heart that rejoices evermore ; that no right temper could

be wanting, much less any degree of a wrong temper sub-

i\ sist, in a soul that is filled with love : and yet I am in doubt

/ whether there be any soul clothed with flesh and blood

' which enjoys every right temper, and in which is no de-

* gree of any wrong one ; suppose of ill-judged zeal, or more

or less affection for some person than that person really

deserves. When we say, " This is a natural, necessary

consequence of the soul's union with a corruptible body,"



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 127

the assertion is by no means clear till we add, " because
of the weakness of understanding which results from this
union :" admitting this, the case is plain. There is so
close a connection between right judgment and right tem-
pers, as well as right practice, that the latter cannot easily
subsist without the fofmer. Some wrong temper, at least
in a small degree, almost necessarily follows from wrong
judgment : I apprehend when many say, " Sin must remain
while the body remains," this is what they mean, though
they cannot make it out.

You say, " My silence usually proceeds from my views
and thoughts of myself as a Christian." Bishop Fenelon
says, " Simplicity is that grace which frees the soul from
all unnecessary reflections upon itself." See here one
sort of simplicity which you want! When I speak or write
to you, I have you before my eyes, but, generally speaking,
I do not think of myself at all. I do not think whether I
am wise or foolish, knowing or ignorant : but I see you
aiming at glory and immortality, and say just what I hope
may direct your goings in the way, and prevent your being
weary or faint in your mind.

LXXXVI.— TO THE SAME.

September 15, 1770.
To use the grace given is the certain way to obtain
more grace. To use all the faith you have will bring an
increase of faith. But this word is of very wide extent :
it takes in the full exercise of every talent wherewith we
are intrusted. This comprises the whole compass both
of inward and outward religion. That you may be able
steadily and effectually to attend to this, you have need
of that prayer, " Give me understanding, that I may keep
thy law ; yea, that I may keep it with my whole heart."
This is to " make the best of life," which cannot be
done without growing in grace. I believe it would help
j^ou to read and consider the sermon on self-denial, and



128 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

that on universal conscientiousness, in the " Christian
Library."

A sense of wants and weaknesses, with various trials
and temptations, will do you no real hurt, though they
occasion heaviness for a time, and abate your joy in the
Lord. It is wrong so to attend to this as to weaken your
faith ; and yet, in the general, it is not wrong "to form your
estimate of the state of your soul from your sensations :"
not, indeed, from these alone, but from these in conjunc-
tion with your words and actions. It is true we cannot
judge of ourselves by the measure of our joy ; the most
variable of all our sensations, and frequently depending, in
a great degree, on the state ot our blood and spirits. But
if you take love, joy, peace, meekness, gentleness, and
resignation together, I know no surer rule whereby to
judge of your state to Godward.

What is the difference between " the frame of my mind"
and " the state of my soul ?" Is there the difference of a
hair's breadth? I will not affinii it. If there be any at all,
perhaps it is this : the frame may mean a single, transient
sensation ; the state, a more complicated and lasting sensa-
tion, — something which we habitually feel. By frame,
some may mean fleeting passions ; by state, rooted tem-
pers. But I do not know that we have any authority to
use the terms thus, or to distinguish one from the other.
He whose mind is in a good frame is certainly a good man
as long as it so continues. I would therefore no more
require you to cease from judging of your state by your
frame of mind than I would require you to cease from
breathing.

Unless you deal very closely with those Committed to
your care, you will not give an account of them with joy.
Advices and admonitions at a distance will do Little harm
« or good. To those who give into dress you might read or
recommend the "Advice to the Methodists," on that head.
It would be proper to go to the root of the matter once or
twice ; then to let it sleep, and after a few weeks try again.



/



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 129

A Methodist using fine or gay apparel must suffer loss in
her soul, although she may retain a little life ; but she
never will attain a high degree either of hohness or happi-
ness.



LXXXVII.— TO THE SAME.

May 31, 1771.

The dealings of God with man are infinitely varied, and
cannot be confined to any general rule : both in justifica-
tion and sanctification he often acts in a manner we cannot
account for.

There cannot be a more proper phrase than that you
used, an*d I well understand your meaning ; yet it is sure
you are a transgressor still, namely, of the perfect, Adamic
law. But though it be true, all sin is a transgression of
this law, yet it is by no means true, on the other hand,
(though we have so often taken it for granted,) that all
transgressions of this law are sin : no, not at all ; only all
voluntary transgressions of it ; none else are sins against
the gospel law.

Although we have "faith's abiding impression, realizing
things to come ;" yet as long as we are in the body we
have but an imperfect, shadowy knowledge of the things
of eternity. For now we only see them in a glass, a mir-
ror, which gives us no more than a shadow of them ;
therefore we see them darkly, or in a riddle, as St. Paul
speaks. The whole invisible world is as yet a riddle to
us ; and it seems to be in this sense that some writers
speak so much of the night or darkness of faith, namely,
when opposed to sight; that is, to the view of things which
we shall have when the veil of flesh and blood is removed.

Those reasonings concerning the measure of holiness (a
curious, not useful question) are not inconsistent with pure
love, but they tend to damp it ; and were you to pursue
them far, they would lead you into unbelief.

What you feel is certainly a degree of anger, but not of

6*



130 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

\ sinful anger : there ought to be in us (as there was in our
Lord) not barely a perception in the understanding that
this or that is exi\ ; but also an emotion of mind, a sensa-
tion or passion suitable thereto. This anger at sin, accom-
panied with love and compassion to the sinner, is so far
from being itself a sin, that it is rather a duty. St. Paul's
Avord is, "not easily provoked" to any paroxysm of anger ;
neither are you : nevertheless, I suppose there is in you,
when you feel a proper anger at sin, a hurrj^ing motion of
the blood and spirits, which is an imperfection, and will
be done away.

LXXXYIIL— TO THE SAME.

June 2.5, 1771.
UxpouBTEDLY the reward which is purchased for us
by the blood oT the covenant will be proportioned to what
we are, (through grace,) what we do, and what we suffer.
"Whatever, therefore, prevents our doing good, prevents our
receiving so full a reward : and what can countervail that
loss? It is certainly right that we should bear one another's
burdens ; that we should weep with them that weep, and
for them that weep not for themselves. "AYhen Jesus saw
them weeping, he troubled himself;" he willingly sustained
that emotion ; he voluntarily suffered that sorrow : and it
].is good for us to tread in his steps. " But how far?" Just
fso far as does not disqualify us for any other part of our
iduty ; so far as softens, not unnerves the mind ; as makes
Vs more, not less zealous of good works.

Undoubtedly there are various kinds and various degrees
©f communion with God : we cannot confine it to one only ;
it may take in the exercise of every affection, either single
or variously mixed together ; and may run through all our
outward employments. The most desirable prayer is that
where we can pour out our soul, and freely talk with God.
But it is not this alone which is acceptable to him. " I
love one/' said a holy man, " that perseveres in dry duty."



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 131

Beware of thinking even this is labour lost. Gk)d does
much work in the heart even at those seasons.

"And when the soul, sighing to be approved,
Says, 'Could I love,' and stops, God writeth, 'Loved !' "

And yet the comfort is, that you need not rest here : you
may go on until all your heart is love ; till you rejoice
evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give
thanks. You know this is the will of God concerning
you, in Christ Jesus,



LXXXIX.— TO THE SAME.

July 13, 1771.

As long as we dwell in a house of clay it is liable to
affect the mind ; sometimes by dulling or darkening the
4 understanding ; and sometimes more directly by damping
and depressing the soul, and sinking it into distress and
heaviness. In this state, doubt or fear, of one kind or an-
other, will naturally arise. And the prince of this world,
who well knows whereof we are made, will not fail to im-
prove the occasion, in order to disturb, though he cannot
pollute, the heart which God hath cleansed from all un-
righteousness.

In the thirteenth of Corinthians you have the height and
depth of genuine perfection : and it is observable, St. Paul
speaks all along of the love of our neighbour ; flowing
indeed from the love of God. Mr. De Renty is an excel-
lent pattern of this. But many things in his fellowship
with God will not be explained till the Holy Spirit ex-
-4" plains them by writing them on your heart. That dark-
ness which often clouds your understanding, I take to be
quite preternatural. I believe the spirit of darkness spreads
a mist over your mind, so far as he is permitted ; and that
the best remedy is simply to look up to God, and the cloud
will flee away at his presence.



132 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

XC— TO THE SAME.

Augxtst 3, 1771.

How wise are all the ways of God ! and although in
many instances they are past finding out, yet we may even
now discern the designs of his providence.

The " Appendix to the Philosophy," and the " Trinity
Hymns," I hope, will settle you on that important point.
It is a striking remark of Bishop Browne's, that we are not
required to " believe any mystery" in the matter. The
mystery does not lie in the fact, " These three are one,"
^^ but in the manner^ the accounting how they are one. But
Avith this I have nothing to do. I believe the fact. As to
the manner, (wherein the whole mystery lies,) I believe
nothing about it. The quaint device of styling them three
offices, rather than persons, gives up the whole doctrine.

There is scarcely any word of so extensive a sense as
wisdom. It frequently mearis the whole of religion. And
indeed no one can be termed thoroughly wise until he is
altogether a Christian. To devote all our thoughts and
actions to God, this is our highest wisdom ; and so far as
we inwardly or outwardly swerve from this, we walk as
fools, not as wise. In order to be all devoted to the Lord,
even those who are renewed in love still need the unction
of the Holy One to teach them in all circumstances the
most excellent way, and to enable them so to watch and
pray, that they may continually walk therein. It seems
my time for writing either on this or other subjects is
pretty well over ; only I am ready to add a word now and
then, if Providence so require.

Persons are, in one sense, delivered from unbelief when
they are enabled to believe always ; when they have faith's
abiding impression, realizing things to come. For they
can then no longer be termed unbelievers. When this is
given in a very glorious manner, so that they are filled
with faith, and are not able to doubt, even for a moment, it
is natural for them to say they " are saved from all unbe-



WESLEY'S SELEC LETTERS. 133

lief." The soul that is all light, (as Lopez, when he said,
" All is midday now,") may affirm, " I am saved from all
darkness." And is not this the will of the Lord concern-
ing you 1 Undoubtedly it is. Fear not, then ; reason not ;
only look up. Is he not nigh, even at the door ? He is
nigh that justifieth ; he is nigh that sanctifieth ; he is nigh
that supplies all your wants ! Take more out of his fulness
that you may love him more, praise him more, and serve
him better. It is desirable to glorify God, like Mr. De
Renty or Haliburton, in death as well as in life.

XCI.— TO THE SAME.

^tuy 1, 1772.

It is lost time to consider whether you write Avell or ill:
you speak from the heart, and that is enough. Unbelief
is either total, the absence of faith; or partial, the want of
more faith. In the latter sense every believer may com-
plain of unbelief, unless when he is filled with faith and
the Holy Ghost. Then it is all midday. Yet even then
we may pray, " Lord, increase our faith."

We learn to think by reading and meditating on what
we read ; by conversing with sensible people ; and by
every thing that improves the heart. Since purity of heart
(as Mr. Norris observes) both clears the medium through
which we see, and strengthens the faculty, mechanical
rules avail little, unless one had opportunity of learning
the elements of logic ; but it is a miserable task to learn
them without an instructer.

Entire resignation implies entire love. Give him your
will, and you give him your heart.

You need not be at all careful in that matter, whether
you apply directly to one person or the other, seeing he
and the Father arc one. Pray just as you are led, without
reasoning, in all simplicity. Be a little child, hanging on
Him that loves you.



134 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.



XCIL— TO THE SAME.

June 17, 1774.
I AM glad you think of me when you do not see me : I
was almost afraid it was otherwise. Air and exercise you
must have ; and if you use constant exercise, with an exact
regimen, it is not improbable that you will have vigorous
I health, if you hve to four or five and thirty. About that
time the constitution both of men and women frequently
takes an entire turn. At present you are certainly in your
place ; and you need take no thought for the morrow.

The praying much for those we love much is doubt-
less the fruit of affection ; but such an affection as is well
I pleasing to God, and is wrought in us by his own Spirit.
Therefore it is certain the intercession that flows from that
affection is according to the will of God.

That is an exceedingly nice question, " How far may

we desire the approbation of good men ?" I think it cannot

I be proved that such a desire is anywhere forbidden in

Scripture. But it requires a very strong influence of the

Holy Spirit to prevent its running into excess.

Friendship is one species of love ; and is, in its proper
'f sense, a disinterested reciprocal love between two persons.

i Wicked persons are, it seems, incapable of friendship ; for
" he who fears no God can love no friend." Nor indeed
is every one that fears God capable of friendship. It re-
quires a peculiar turn of mind, without which it can have
no being. The properties of Christian friendship are the
. same as the properties of love ; with those which St. Paul
so beautifully describes in the thirteenth chapter of the
First Epistle to the Corinthians. And it produces, as
occasions offer, every good word and work. Many haA'e
laid down the rules whereby it should be regulated ; but

(they are not to be comprised in a few lines. One is,
" Give up every thing to your friend, except a good con-
science toward God."



/



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 135

There have undoubtedly be«n instances of real friend-
ship among Jews, yea, and among heathens who were sus-
ceptible of it : but they were by no means wicked men ;
they were men fearing God, and working righteousness,
according to the dispensation they were under. I appre-
hend wicked men, under whatever dispensation, to be ab-
solutely incapable of true friendsliip. By wicked men I
mean either men openly profane, or men void of justice,
mercy, and truth. There may be a shadow of friendship
between those, whether of the same or of different sexes.
But surely the substance is wanting : in all my experience
I have found no exception to this rule.

XCIIi:— TO THE SAME.

September 16, 1774.

I BELIEVE my displeasure at you is not likely to rise to
any great height : it will hardly have time ; for I should
tell you very soon of any thing which I did not like.

You want more simplicity : I will give you the first
instance that occurs of that simplicity which I mean.
Some years since, a woman sitting by me fell into strong
convulsions ; and presently began to speak as in the name
of God. Both her look, motions, and tone of voice, were
ppculiarly shocking. Yet I found my mind as ready to
receive what she said, as if she had spoken with the look,
motion, and accent of Cicero.

"Unprofitable; far from edifying." Nay; but this docs
not go to the bottom of the matter. Why is that unprofit-
able to me which is, edifying to others? Remember that
remark in the "Thoughts on Christian Perfection:" If one
grain of prejudice be in my mind, I can receive no profit
from the preacher. Neither in this case can I form a right
judgment of any thing a person says or does. And yet it
is possible this prejudice may be innocent, as springing
from the unavoidable weakness of human understanding.

Bishop Browne thought x\rianism and Socinianism were



136 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

the flood which the dragon «s in this age pouring out of
his mouth to swallow up the woman : perhaps it may,
especially with Dr. Taylor's emendation. But still the
main flood in England seems to be Antinomianism. This
has been a greater hinderance to the work of God than any
or all others put together. But God has already lifted up
his standard, and he will maintain his own cause. In the


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Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 10 of 18)