I shall embrace your permission to fill my paper. As to subject, that which has been
a frequent theme of my heart of late, I shall venture to lay before your Lordship, I mean
the remarkable and humbling difference which I suppose all who know themselves may observe,
between their acquired and their experimental knowledge, or, in other words, between their
judgement and their practice. To hear a believer speak his apprehensions of the evil of
sin, the vanity of the world, the love of Christ, the beauty of holiness, or the importance
of eternity, who would not suppose him proof against temptation?
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To hear with what strong arguments he can recommend watchfulness, prayer, forbearance,
and submission, when he is teaching or advising others, who would not suppose but he
could also teach himself, and influence his own conduct? Yet, alas! Quam dispar sibi!
The person who rose from his knees before he left his chamber a poor, indigent, fallible,
dependent creature, who saw and acknowledged that he was unworthy to breathe the air or
to see the light, may meet with many occasions before the day is closed, to discover the
corruptions of his heart, and to show how weak and faint his best principles and clearest
convictions are in their actual exercise.
And in this view, how vain is man! what a contradiction is a believer
to himself ! He is called a believer emphatically, because he cordially assents to the word
of God; but, alas! how often unworthy of the name! If I was to describe him from the
Scripture-character, I should say, he is one whose heart is athirst for God, for his glory,
his image, his presence: His affections are fixed upon an unseen Saviour; his treasures,
and consequently his thoughts, are on high, beyond the bounds of sense. Having experienced
much forgiveness, he is full of bowels of mercy to all around; and having been often deceived
by his own heart, he dares trust it no more, but lives by faith in the Son of God, for
wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and derives from him grace for grace; sensible
that without him he has not sufficiency even to think a good thought.
In short, he is dead to the world, to sin, to self, but alive to God, and lively in
his service. Prayer is his breath, the word of God his food, and the ordinances more
precious to him than the light of the sun. Such is a believer in his judgement and
But was I to describe him from experience, especially at some times, how different
would the picture be! Though he knows that communion with God is his highest privilege,
he too seldom finds it so; on the contrary, if duty, conscience, and necessity did not
compel, he would leave the throne of grace unvisited from day to day. He takes up the
Bible, conscious that it is the fountain of life and true comfort; yet perhaps while he
is making the reflection, he feels a secret distaste, which prompts him to lay it down,
and give his preference to a newspaper.
He needs not to be told of the vanity and uncertainty of all beneath the sun; and yet
is almost as much elated or cast down by a trifle, as those who have their portion in
this world. He believes that all things shall work together for his good, and that the
most high God appoints, adjusts, and over-rules all his concerns; yet he feels the risings
of fear, anxiety, and displeasure, as though the contrary was true. He owns himself ignorant,
and liable to be deceived by a thousand fallacies; yet is easily betrayed into positiveness
and self-conceit. He feels himself an unprofitable, unfaithful, unthankful servant, and
therefore blushes to harbour a thought of desiring the esteem and commendations of men,
yet he cannot suppress it.
Finally (for I must observe some bounds), on account of these and many other
inconsistencies, he is struck dumb before the Lord, stripped of every hope and plea, but
what is provided in the free grace of God, and yet his heart is continually leaning and
returning to a covenant of works.
Two questions naturally arise from such a view of ourselves. First,-How can these
things be, or why are they permitted? Since the Lord hates sin, teaches his people to
hate it and cry against it, and has promised to hear their prayers, how is it that they
go thus burdened? Surely if he could not, or would not, over-rule evil for good, he would
not permit it to continue. By these exercises he teaches us more truly to know and feel
the utter depravity and corruption of our whole nature, that we are indeed defiled in
every part. His method of salvation is likewise hereby exceedingly endeared to us; we
see that it is and must be of grace, wholly of grace; and that the Lord Jesus Christ,
and his perfect righteousness, is and must be our all in all.
His power likewise in maintaining his own work, notwithstanding our infirmities,
temptations, and enemies, is hereby displayed in the clearest light, his strength is
manifested in our weakness.
Satan likewise is more remarkably disappointed and put to shame, when he finds
bounds set to his rage and policy, beyond which he cannot pass; and that those in whom
he finds so much to work upon, and over whom he so often prevails for a season, escape
at last out of his hands. He casts them down, but they are raised again; he wounds them,
but they are healed: he obtains his desire to sift them as wheat, but the prayer of
their great Advocate prevails for the maintenance of their faith.
Further, by what believers feel in themselves they learn by degrees how to warn,
pity, and bear with others. A soft, patient, and compassionate spirit, and a readiness
and skill in comforting those who are cast down, is not perhaps attainable in any other
way. And lastly, I believe nothing more habitually reconciles a child of God to the thought
of death, than the wearisomeness of this warfare.
Death is unwelcome to nature; but then, and not till then, the conflict will cease.
Then we shall sin no more. The flesh, with all its attendant evils, will be laid in the
grave, then the soul, which has been partaker of a new and heavenly birth, shall be freed
from every encumbrance, and stand perfect in the Redeemer's righteousness before God in
But though these evils cannot be wholly removed, it is worth while to inquire,
Secondly, How they may be mitigated? This we are encouraged to hope for. The word of
God directs and animates to a growth in grace: and though we can do nothing spiritually
of ourselves, yet there is a part assigned us. We cannot conquer the obstacles in our
way by our own strength; yet we can give way to them; and if we do, it is our sin, and
will be our sorrow. The disputes concerning inherent power in the creature, have been
carried to inconvenient lengths; for my own part, I think it safe to use Scriptural
The apostles exhort us to give all diligence, to resist the devil, to urge ourselves
from all fitness of flesh and spirit, to give ourselves to reading, meditation, and prayer;
to watch, to put on the whole armour of God, and to abstain from all appearance of evil.
Faithfulness to light received, and a sincere endeavour to conform to the means prescribed
in the word of God, with an humble application to the blood of sprinkling, and the promised
Spirit, will undoubtedly be answered by increasing measures of light, faith, strength, and
comfort; and we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord.
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