Copyright
John Wesley.

Select letters, chiefly on personal religion online

. (page 3 of 18)
Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 3 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


yet my heart did not feel it. Why was this, but because
it was pre-engaged by those affections with which wisdom
will not dwell ? because the animal mind cannot relish
those truths which are spiritually discerned ? Yet I have
those writings which the good Spirit gave to that end : I
have many of those which he hath since assisted his ser-
vants to give us : I have retirement to apply these to my
own soul daily : I have means both of public and private
prayer; and, above all, of partaking in that sacrament once
a week. What shall I do to make all these blessings
effectual, to gain from them that mind which was also iu
Christ Jesus?

To all who give signs of their not being strangers to it,
I propose this question, — and why not to you rather than
any? Shall I quite break off my pursuit of all learning, but
what immediately tends to practice ? I once desired to
make a fair show in languages and philosophy ; but it is
past: there is a more excellent way, and if I cannot attain
to any progress in the one without throwing up all thoughts
of the other, why fare it well ! Yet a little while, and we
shall all be equal in knowledge, if we are in virtue.

You say you "have renounced the world. ** And what
have I been doing all this time ? What have I done ever
since I was born? Why, I have been plunging myself into
it more and more. It is enough: " Awake, thou that sleep-
est." Is there not "one Lord, one Spirit, one hope of our
calling ?" one way of attaining that hope ? Then I am to



32 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

renounce the world as well as you. That is the very thing
I want to do : to draw off my affections from tliis world,
and fix them on a belter. But how ? What is the .surest
and the shortest way ? Is it not to be humble? Surely this
is a large step in the way. But the question recurs, How
am I to do this 1 To own the necessity of it, is not to be
humble. In many things you hai^e interceded for me and
prevailed. Who knows but in this too you may be sue
cessful : If you can spare me only that little part of Thurs-
day evening which you formerly bestowed upon me in
another manner, I doubt not but it would be as useful now
for correcting my heart as it was then for forming my
judgment.

When I observe how fast life flies away, and how slow
improvement comes, I think one can never be too much
afraid of dying before one has learned to live : I mean, even
in the course of nature. For were I sure that "the silver
cord" should not be violently " loosed ;" or that " the wheel"
should not '-be broken at the cistern," till it was quite worn
away by its own motion, yet what time would this give
for such a work ■ A moment to transact the business of
eternity ! \\'hat are forty years in comparison of this ? So
that were I sure of what never man yet was sure of, how
little would it alter the case I How justly still might I cry
out, —

"Downward I hasten to my destined place;
There none obtain thy aid, none sing thy praise !
Soon shall I lie in death's deep ocean drown'd ;
Is mercv there, is sweet forgiveness found?
O save me yet, while on the brink I stand ;
Rebuke these storms, and set me safe on land !
O make my longings and thy mercy sure !
Thou art the God of power."

VI._TO HIS BROTHER SAMUEL.

Maricnhom, near Frankfort, July 7, (O. S.,) 1738.
Dear Brother, — God has given me at length the
desire of my heart. I am with a church whose conversa-



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 33

lion is in heaveh, In whom is the mind that was in Christ,
and who so walks as he walked. As they have all one
Lord and one faith, so they are all partakers of one spirit,
the spirit of meekness and love, which uniformly and con-
tinually animates all their conversation. O how high and
holy a thing Christianity is ! and how widely distant from
that (I know not what) which is so called, though it nei-
ther piu-ilies the heart nor renews the life after the image
of our blessed Redeemer.

I grieve to think how that holy name by which we are
called must be blasphemed among the heathen, while they
see discontented Christians, passionate Christians, resent-
ful Christians, earthly-minded Christians ; yea, (to come
to what we are apt to count small things,) while they see
Christians judging one another, ridiculing one another,
speaking evil of one another, increasing, instead of bear-
ing, one another's burdens. How bitterly v/ould Julian
have applied to these, " See how these Christians love one
another !" I know I myself, I doubt you sometimes, and
my sister often, have been under this condemnation. O
may God grant we may never more think to do him ser-
vice by breaking those commands which are the very life
of his religion ! But may we utterly put away all anger,
and wrath, and malice, and bitterness, and evil speaking

I believe in a week Mr. Ingham and I shall set out for
Hernhuth, about three hundred and fifty miles from hence.
O pray for us, that God would sanctify to us all those pre-
cious opportunities, that we may be continually built up
more and more in the spirit of power, and love, and of a
sound mind !

VII.— TO THE SAME.

London, October 30, 1738.
Dear Brother, — With regard to my own character
and my doctrine likewise, I shall answer you very plainly.
By a Christian, I mean one who so believes in Christ "s

2*



34 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

that sin hath no more dominion over hiih : ' and in this ob-
vious sense of the word, I was not a Christian till May the
24 th, last past. For till then sin had the dominion over
me, although I fought with it continually ; but surely, then,
from that time to this it hath not ; — such is the free grace
of God in Christ. What sins they were which till then
reigned over me, and from which, by the grace of God, I
am now free, I am ready to declare on the house-top, if it
may be for the glory of God.

If you ask by what means I am made free, (though not
perfect, neither infallibly sure of my perseverance,) I an-
swer, By faith in Christ ; by such a sort or degree of faith
as I had not till that day. My desire of this faith I knew
long before, though not so clearly till Sunday, January the
8th last, when being in the midst of the great deep, I wrote
a few lines7 in the bitterness of my soul, some of which I
have transcribed ; and may the good God sanctify them
both to you and me !

By the most infallible of all proofs, inward feeling, I am

convinced,

' 1. Of unbelief; having no such faith in Christ as

I will prevent my heart's being troubled ; which it could

not be if I believed in God, and rightly believed also in

him.

2. Of pride throughout my life past ; inasmuch as I
i* thought I had what I find I had not. Lord, save, or I
perish ! Save me,

(1.) By such a faith in thee and in thy Christ as implies
trust, confidence, peace in life and in death.

(2.) By such humility as may fill my heart, from this
hour for ever, with a piercing, uninterrupted sense. Nihil
est quod hactenus feci ;* having evidently built without a
foundation.

(3.) By such a recollection, that I may cry to thee every
moment, but more especially when all is calm, (if it should
so please thee,) " Give me faith, or I die ! Give me a lowly

* What I have been hitherto doing amounts to nothing. — Ed.



WESLEY^'S SELECT LETTERS. 35

spirit, otherwise, mihi non sit suave vivere"* Amen ! Come,

Lord Jesus ! Tie AaCiSy E^er^aov ^ot.f

Some measure of this faith, which bringeth salvation,
or victory over sin, and which implies peace, and trust in
God through Christ, I now enjoy by his free mercy ; though
in very deed it is in me but as a grain of mustard seed :
for the vj7.i]po(^opia tjig-eug, — the seal of the Spirit, the love
of God shed abroad in my heart, and producing joy in the
Holy Ghost, "joy which no man taketh away; joy un-
speakable and full of glory :" this witness of the Spirit I
have not, but I patiently wait for it. I know many who
have already received it ; more than one or two in the very
hour we were praying for it. And having seen and spoken
with a cloud of witnesses abroad, as well as in my own
country, I cannot doubt but that believers who wait and
pray for it will find these scriptures fulfilled in themselves.
My hope is, that they will be fulfilled in me : I build on
Christ the Rock of Ages ; on his sure mercies described
in his word, and on his promises, all which I know are
yea, and amen. Those who have not yet received joy in
the Holy Ghost, the love of God, and the plerophory of
faith, (any or all of which I take to be the witness of the
Spirit with our spirit that we arc the sons of God,) I be-
lieve to be Christians in that imperfect sense wherein I
may call myself such ; and I exhort them to pray that God
would give them also " to rejoice in hope of the glory of
God," and to feel " his love shed abroad in their hearts
by the Holy Ghost which is, given unto them."

O brother, would to God you would leave disputing
concerning the things which you know not, (if indeed
you know them not,) and beg of God to fill up what is yet
wanting in you ! Why should not you also seek till you
receive " that peace of God which passeth all understand-
ing ?" Who shall hinder you, notwithstanding the manifold
temptations, from " rejoicing with joy unspeakable, by rea-

* May life itself no longer be pleasant to me. — Ed.
t Son of David, have mercy upon me. — Ed.



36 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

son of glory- ?" Amen ! Lord Jesus ! May you, and all who
are near of kin to you, (if you have it not already,) feel
liis love shed abroad in your heart by his Spirit which
dwelleth in you ; and be sealed with the Holy Spirit of
promise, which is the earnest of your inheritance.



VIII.— TO THE REV. WILLIAM LAW.

May 14, i738.

Reverend Sir, — It is in obedience to what I think to
be the call of God, that I, who have the sentence of death
in my own soul, take upon me to write to you, of whom I
have often desired to learn th6 first elements of the gospel
of Christ.

If you are born of God, you will approve of the design,
though it may be but weakly executed. If not, I shall
grieve for you, not for myself. For as I seek not the
praise of men, so neither regard I the contempt either of
you or of any other.

For tM'O years (more especially) I have been preaching
after the model of your two practical treatises ; and all
that heard have allowed that the law is great, wonderful,
and holy. But no sooner did they attempt to fulfil it, but
they found that it is too hisjh for man : and that bv doinji
*' the works of the law shall no flesh living be justified."

To remedy this, I exhorted them, and stirred up myself,
to pray earnestly for the grace of God, and to use all the
other means of obtaining that grace, which the all-wise
God hath appointed. But still, both they and I were more
and more convinced that this is a law by which a man
cannot live ; the law in our members continually warring
against it, and bringing us into deeper captivity to the law
of sin.

Under this heavy yoke I might have groaned till death,
had not a holy man, to whom God lately directed me, upon
my complaining thereof, answered at once, "Believe, and
thou shalt be saved. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 37

with all thy heart, and nothing shall be impossible to thee.
This faith, indeed, as well as the salvation it brings, is the
free gift of God. But seek, and thou shalt tind. Strip
thyself naked of thy own works, and thy own righteous-
ness, and lly to hiin. For whosoever cometh unto him he
will in nowise cast out."

Now, sir, suffer me to ask. How will you answer it to
our common Lord, that you never gave me this advice ?
Did you never read the Acts of the Apostles, or the an-
swer of Paul to him who said, " What must I do to be
saved ?" Or are you wiser than he ? Why did I scarce
ever hear you name the name of Christ ? never, so as to
ground any thing upon " faith in his blood ?" Who is this
who is laying another foundation ? If you say you advised
other things as preparatory to this, what is this but laying
a foundation below the foundation ? Is not Christ then the
first as well as the last? If you say you advised them be-
cause you knew that I had faith already, verily you knew
nothing of me ; you discerned not my spirit at all. I know
that I had not faith, unless the faith of a devil, the faith of
Judas, that speculative, notional, airy shadow which lives
in the head, not in the heart. But what is this to the
living, justifying faith in the blood of Jesus ? the faith that
cleanseth from sin ; that gives us to have free access to
the Father ; to " rejoice in hope of the glory of God ;" to
have " the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the
Holy Ghost" which dvvelleth in us; and "the Spirit itself
bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of
God?"

I besocc-h you, sir, by the mercies of God, to consider
deeply and impartially whether the true reason of your
never pressing tliis upon me was not this, — that you had
it not v(nirsolf ? whetlier that man of God was not in the
right wlio gave this account of a late interview he had with
you? — " I began speaking to him of faith in Christ. He
was silent. Then he b<^gan to speak of mystical matters.
I spake 10 him of faith in Christ again. He was silent.



38 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

Then he began to speak of mystical matters again. I saw
his state at once." And a very dangerous one in his judg-
ment, whom I know to have the Spirit of God.
I Once more, sir, let me beg you to consider whether your
* extreme roughness, and morose and sour behaviour, at least
I on many occasions, can possibly be the fruit of a living
I faith in Christ ? If not, may the God of peace and love fill
up what is yet wanting in you !

IX.— TO COUNT ZINZENDORF, AT MARIENBORN.

May our gracious Lord, who counteth whatsoever is
done to the least of his brethren as done to himself, return
sevenfold to you and the countess, and to all the brethren,
the kindnesses you did to us ! It would have been a great
satisfaction to me, if I could have spent more time with
the Christians who love one another. But that could uot
be now, my Master having called me to work in another
part of his vineyard. Nor did I return hither at all before
the time ; for thouorh a oreat door and effectual had been
opened, the adversaries had laid so many stumbling-blocks
before it that the weak were daily turned out of the way.
Numberless misunderstandings had arisen, by means of
which the way of truth was much blasphemed : and thence
had sprung anger, clamour, bitterness, e\nl-speaking, envy-
ings, strifes, railings, evil surmises, whereby the enemy
had gained such an advantage over the little flock that
" of the rest durst no man join himself to them."

But it has now pleased our blessed Master to remove,
in great measure, these rocks of offence. The word of
the Lord again runs and is glorified, and his work goes on
and prospers. Great multitudes are everywhere awaken-
ed, and ciy out, " What must we do to be saved ?" Many
of them see that there is only one name under heaven
whereby they can be saved, and more and more of those
who seek it find salvation in his name, and these are of
one heart and one soul. They all love one another, and



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 39

are kiiit together in one body and one spirit, as in one faith
and one hope of their calling. The love and zeal of our
brethren in Holland and Germany, particularly at Hern-
huth, has stirred up many among us, who will not be com-
forted till they also partake of the great and precious pro-
mises. I hope, if God permit, to see them at least once
more, were it only to give them the fruit of my love, the
speaking freely on a few things which I did not approve,
perhaps because I did not understand them. May our
merciful Lord give you a right judgment in all things, and
make you to abound more and more in all lowliness and
meekness, in all simplicity and godly sincerity, in all
watchfulness and seriousness ; in a word, in all faith and
love, particularly to those that are without, till you are
merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful !
I desire your constant and earnest prayers that he would
vouchsafe me a portion of the same spirit.

X.— TO THE CHURCH OF GOD WHICH IS IN
HERNHUTH, John WesUy^ an univorthy Presbyter of the
Church of God in England^ wisheth all grace and peace in
our Lord Jesus Christ.

October 14, 1738.

Ctlory be to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ, for his unspeakable gift! for giving me to be an
eye-witness of your faith, and love, and holy conversation
in Christ Jesus ! I have borne testimony thereof with all
plainness of speech, in many parts of Germany, and thanks
have been given to God by many on your behalf.

We are endeavouring here also, by the grace which is
given us, to be followers of you, as ye are of Christ.
Fourteen were added to us since our return, so that we
have now eight bands of men, consisting of fifty-six per-
sons, all of whom seek for salvation only in the blood of
Christ. As yet we have only two small bands of women ;
the one of three, the other of five persons. But here are
many others who only wait till we have leisure to instruct



40 WfiSLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

them how they may most effectually build up one another
in the faith and love of Him who gave himself for them.

Though my brother and I are not permitted to preach
in most of the churches in London, yet (thanks be to God!)
there are others left, wheivin we have liberty to speak the
truth as it is in Jesus. Likewise every evening, and on
set evenings in the week at two several places, we publish
the word of reconciliation, sometimes to twenty or thirty,
sometimes to fifty or sixty, sometimes to three or four hun-
dred persons met together to hear it. We begin and end
all our meetings with singing and prayer ; and we know
that our Lord heareth our prayer, having more than once
or twice (and this was not done in a comer) received our
petitions in that very hour.

Nor hath he left himself without other witnesses of his
grace and truth. Ten ministers I know now in England,
who lay the right foundation, " The blood of Christ cleans-
eth us from all siu." Over and above whom I have found
one Anabaptist, and one, if not two, of the teachers among
the Presbyterians here, who, I hope, love the Lord Jesus
Christ in sincerity, and teach the way of God in truth.

O cease not, ye that are highly favoured, to beseech our
I^ord that he would be with us even to the end ; to remove
that which is displeasing in his sight, to support that which
is weak among us, to give us the whole mind that was in
him, and teach us to walk even as he walked ! And may
the very God of peace fill up w^hat is wanting in your faith
and build you up more and more in all lowliness of mind,
in all plainness of speech, in all zeal and watchfulness ;
that he m.ay present you to himself a glorious church, not
having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that ye may
be holy and unblameable in the day of his appearing.

XL— TO MR. EBENEZLR BLACKWELL.

York, May 16, 1753.
Dear Sir, — For some time I have had a desire to sen
you a few lines. I have often observed, with a sensible



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 41

pleasure, your strong desires to be, not almost only, but
altogether, a Christian. And what should hinder it ? What
is it that prevents those good desires from being brought
to good effect ? Is it the carrying a right principle too far ?
I mean, a desire to please all men for their good? Or is it
a kind of shame ? the being ashamed, not of sin, but of
holiness, or of what conduces thereto ? I have often been
afraid lest this should hurt you. I have been afraid that
you do not gain ground in this respect ; nay, that you ra-
ther go backward, by yielding to this, than forward, by
conquering it. I have feared that you are not so bold for
God now, as you was four or five years ago. If so, you
are certainly in great danger. For in this case, who
knows where he shall stop ? The giving way in one point
naturally leads us to give way in another and another, till
we give up all. O sir, let us beware of this ! Whereuuto
we have attained, let us hold fast. But this can only be,
by pressing on. Otherwise, we must go back. You have
need of courage and steady resolution ; for you have a
thousand enemies : the flattering, frowning world ; the
rulers of the darkness of this world ; and the grand enemy
within. What need have you to put on the whole armour
of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day!
I often tremble for you. . And how few will honestly and
plainly tell you of your danger ! O may God warn you con-
tinually by his inward voice, and with every temptation
juake a way for you to escape !

My wife joins me in wishing all blessing both to
Mrs. Blackwcll and you.

XII.— TO THE SAME.

Birsfal, May 28, 1753.
Dear Sir, — Your speaking so freely encourages me to
write once more. Ever since I had the pleasure of know-
ing you, I have observed in you a real desire to please
God, and to have a conscience void of oflence. But, at



42 WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS.

the same time, I have obsen^ed you had many enemies.
\ Perhaps one was a natural cheerfulness of temper, which,
.though in itself it be highly desirable, yet may easily slide
.into an extreme. And in this case we know too well it
may hurt us extremely. It may be, another hinderance
in your way has sometimes been a kind of shame, which
prevented your executing good and commendable designs.
Was it not owing to this that you, who had received such
blessings by means of field-preaching, grew unwilling to
attend it ? But is there any end of giving way to this ene-
my ? Will it not encroach upon us more and more ? I have
sometimes been afraid that you have not gained ground in
this respect for these two or three years. But the comfort
is, that in a moment God can repair whatever is decayed
in our souls, and supply whatever is wanting. What is
too hard for him ? Nothing but our own will. Let us give
up this, and he will not withhold from us any manner of
thing that is good.

I believe the harvest has not been so plenteous for many
years as it is now in all the north of England ; but the
labourers are few. I wish you could persuade our friend
to share the labour with me. One of us should in anywise
visit both the north and Ireland every year. But I cannot
do both; the time will not suffice; otherwise I should not
spare myself. I hope my life, rather than my tongue, says,
I desire only to spend, and to be spent, in the work. Our
love and service always attend Mrs. Blackwell and you.
I am, dear sir,

Your very affectionate servant.

XIII.— TO THE SAME.

Bristol, September 24, 1754.
Dear Sir, — Although I hope to see you in about a fort-
night, yet I could not be satisfied without sending you a
few lines first. Since I left London, I have had many
thoughts concerning you, and sometimes uneasy ones. I



WESLEY'S SELECT LETTERS. 43

have been jealous over you, lest you should not duly im-
prove the numerous talents with which God has intrusted
you ; nay, I have been afraid lest your very desire of im-
proving them should grow weaker, rather than stronger.
If so, by what means is it to be accounted for ? What has
occasioned this feebleness of mind ? May it not partly be
occasioned by your conversing more than is necessary (for
so far as it is necessary it does not hurt us) with men that
are without God in the world ; that love, think, talk of
earthly things only ? partly by your giving way to a false
shame, (and that in several instances,) which the more
you indulge, it increases the more ? and partly by allow-
ing too large a place in your thoughts and affections, even
fo so innocent an enjoyment as that of a garden ? If this
leaves you fewer opportunities of hearing the word which
is able to save your soul, may not you even hereby grieve
the Holy Spirit, and be more a loser than you are sensible
of ? I know both Mrs. Blackwell and you desire to please
God in all things. You will, therefore, I know, receive
these hints as they are intended ; not as a mark of dis-
esteem, but rather of the sincerity with which
I am, dear sir,

Your ever affectionate servant.



XIV.— TO THE SAME.

Redruth, August 31, 1755.
Dear .Sir, — Experience confirms your advice both
ways. In my last journey into the north, all my patience
was put to the proof again and again ; and all my endea-
vour to please, yet without success. In my present jour-
ney I leap, as broke from chains. I am content with


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryJohn WesleySelect letters, chiefly on personal religion → online text (page 3 of 18)