My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
~ Deuteronomy 32:2, 1 Timothy 4:13
For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
~ 1 Timothy 1:10, 2 John 1:9, 2 John 1:10, Galatians 1:8
How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman? Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
~ Job 25:4, Romans 3:20, Romans 4:2, Romans 5:9, Romans 8:30
Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
~ James 2:21-22, James 2:18, Galatians 5:6, Hebrews 11:17-19, 1 John 2:5, 1 John 4:17-18
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
~ 1 Peter 3:15
Adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
~ Titus 2:10c
Rev. Mr. Whitefield’s Answer To the Bishop of London’s Last Pastoral Letter. 1739.
I need make no Apology for troubling your Lordship with this. As your Lordship was pleased to make me the chief Subject Matter of your last Pastoral Letter, I think it my Duty to answer it in the best Manner I can.
Your Lordship is to be highly commended, for the Care you have taken in Watching over the Souls of those, who are committed to your Lordship’s Charge.—Luke-warmness and Enthusiasm are the two Rocks, against which even well-meaning People are in Danger of splitting All ought to be thankful to that Pilot, who will teach them to steer a safe and middle Course—I would gladly hope, that, a Zeal for God in the Discharge of your Duty, and a hearty Concern for the Safety of Souls moved your Lordship to write.—These are the Principles, I trust, which now excite me, to direct this Answer to your Lordship. And, blessed be God, that I can write with somewhat of that Love and Meekness which becomes a Disciple of Jesus Christ, and with all that Humility and Reverence, which is due from a Presbyter to a Bishop of the Church of God.
Lukewarmness and Enthusiasm, my Lord, are certainly the Bane of true Christianity. I thank your Lordship again for your kind Cautions against them. The only Query is, Whether there was any Occasion for your Lordship’s warning the People of your diocese, against running into either of these Extremes, upon account of any thing I have either spoken or wrote?
Your Lordship thinks there was; And you quote Passages out of my Journal to prove it; if it can be proved, I will ask publick Pardon, both of your Lordship and Them, with all my Heart.
As for your Cautions against Lukewarmness, I am not much concerned in them. You do not seem to point at me in particular; unless it is, where your Lordship, informs your People, That a diligent Attendance on the Duties of the Station wherein Providence has placed them, is, in the strictest Sense, the serving of God. None but those, who condemn Me unheard, can justly charge Me with affirming to the contrary.
However, I beg Leave to observe, that your Lordship, calls that a very imperfect State of Christianity, which is no State of Christianity at all. St. Paul writing to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. Chap. 13. v. 5. says, Examine your selves, whether ye be in the Faith; Prove your own selves. And that they might have a certain Rule, whereby to judge whether they were in the Faith, truly so called, or not; he immediately adds, Know ye not your ownselves, how that Christ Jesus is in you, except ye be Reprobates? So that, according to St. Paul’s Rule, He that finds, he has hitherto contented himself with a bare bodily Attendance upon the Publick Worship of God, and following his daily Employment on other Days, and with abstaining from the more gross and notorious Acts of Sin, and from doing any Hurt or Injury to his Neighbour, and has rested finally upon these as the Whole of that Christianity requires of him; is so far from being in a very imperfect State, as your Lordship is pleased to affirm, that he is in no State of Christianity at All. No, My Lord, he is a Reprobate, i.e. one who at present is out of a State of Salvation, nor can he ever have any Assurance that he is in a State of Salvation, till he Knows that Jesus Christ is in Him, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. If I have mistaken your Lordship’s Expression, I will freely beg your Pardon.
Another Thing, My Lord, to me seems darkly expressed in (Oh! let not your Lordship be angry, for indeed I will endeavour to speak with all Gentleness and Humility!) Your Lordship’s Words are these.
Nor need they any other Evidence besides those Good Dispositions they find in their Hearts, that the Holy Spirit of God cooperates with their honest Endeavours to subdue Sin and grow in Goodness.
If by Good Dispositions, your Lordship only means Good Inclinations or Desires, I deny That to be a sufficient Evidence, that the Spirit of God co-operates with their honest Endeavours to subdue Sin and grow in Goodness▪ For there is a great Difference between Good Desires and Good Habits. Many have One, who never attain to the Other. Many have good Desires to subdue Sin, and yet, resting in those good Desires, Sin has always had Dominion over them. A Person sick of a Fever! may desire to be in Health, but that Desire is not Health itself. In like Manner many have good Dispositions or desires to be Good, but That is not Goodness it self. And consequently Men need more Evidence than good Depositions, to prove to Themselves or Others, That the Holy Spirit of God co-operates with their honest Endeavours to subdue Sin. If by good Dispositions, your Lordship means Good Habits wrought in the Heart by the Spirit of God, such as Peace, Love, Joy, Long-suffering, Goodness, Truth, &c. I then agree, a Man needs no other Evidence. For these are the proper and genuine Fruits of the Spirit itself.
Your Lordship immediately adds,
Nor that, persevering in their Course, and praying to God, for his Assistance, and relying upon the Merits of Christ for the Pardon of all Such Sins, Failings, and Imperfections, as are more or less unavoidable in this mortal State.
I beg leave to ask your Lordship, whether this does not favour too much of the common Divinity, viz. That we are to do some thing for ourselves; or, in other Words, that we have partly a Righteousness of our own, and that Jesus Christ is to make up the Deficiencies of That Righteousness? What else can your Lordship mean, by saying, That we must rely on the Merits of Christ, for the Pardon of all Such Sins as are more or less unavoidable in this mortal State?
Did Jesus Christ come into the World, My Lord, only to save us from the Guilt of Such Sins, as are more or less unavoidable in this mortal State? The Scriptures every where affirm, That Man hath no Righteousness of his own, That there is none Righteous, no not one: That all Our Righteousness is as filthy Rags; and that Jesus Christ died not only to save us from the Guilt of all such Sins, Failings, and Infirmities, as are more or less unavoidable in this mortal State, but from all wilful Sins, and also from that original Corruption, which every Man naturally engendred of the Off-spring of Adam, brings into the World with him. I hope, I have not misunderstood or overstrained your Lordship’s Expression.
I come now to your Lordship’s Caution against Enthusiasm. For that I suppose your Lordship intended more particularly against me.
And here, my Lord, I beg Leave to observe, That, in my Opinion, your Lordship has by Means been clear enough in your Definition of the Word Enthusiasm.
According to the fair Rules of Writing was it not first Incumbent on your Lordship to shew, that the Word Enthusiast had a good as well as bad Meaning: That it signifies no more than a Person in God, and consequently every Christian, in the proper Sense of the Word, is an Enthusiast? For St Peter writes, That to us are given exceeding great and precious Promises, that by these we might be Partakers of the divine Nature.
And our Church says. If we receive the Sacrament worthily, We are one with Christ and Christ with us, We dwell in Christ and Christ in us. For which she has sufficient Warrant from our Lord’s Prayer, John 17. 20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their Word. Ver. 21. That they all may be one, As Thou Father art in me, and I in Thee, that they also be one in us. Ver. 23. I in them and they in Me, that they may be made perfect in one. Ver. 26. that the Love wherewith Thou hast loved me, may, be in them▪ and I in them.
But, indeed your Lordship’s Definition of Enthusiasm, when examined, does not convey any ill Idea at all.
Enthusiasm, is a strong Perswasion on the Mind that they are guided in an extraordinary Manner, by immediate Impulses and Impressions of the Spirit of God.
Had your Lordship said, a strong but Groundless Perswasion, that they are guided in an extraordinary Manner, it would have been to your Lordship’s Purpose. But to affirm, without any Restriction, that a strong Perswasion that we are guided man extraordinary Manner by immediate Impulses, is Enthusiasm in the worst Sense of the Word, when your Lordship yourself says, There is, no doubt, but God, when He pleases can work upon the Minds of Men by extraordinary Influences, to me seems a little inconsistent.
Your Lordship proceeds thus.
And this is owing chiefly to the Want of distinguishing aright between the ordinary and extraordinary Operations of the Holy Spirit. The extraordinary Operations were those, by which the Apostles and Others, who were entrusted with the first Propagation of the Gospel, were enabled to work Miracles, and speak with Tongues in Testimony, that their Mission and Doctrine were from God.
I suppose, by extraordinary Operations, your Lordship means the same as being guided in an extraordinary Manner just above. And if so, according to your Lordships own Definition, I am no Enthusiast. For I never did pretend to those extraordinary Operations of working Miracles, or with Tongues, in Testimony, that my Mission and Doctrine were from God; I only say Claim to the ordinary Gifts and Influences of the Spirit, which your Lordship, says, ‘Still continue’: And what Need was there then, my Lord, that the People of your Lordship’s Diocese should be cautioned against Enthusiasm upon my Account?
But your Lordship farther adds, the ordinary Gifts, However real and certain in themselves, are no otherwise discernible, than by their Fruits and Effects.
Had your Lordship said, No otherwise discernible to others, than by their Fruits and Effects it would have been right. But if your Lordship means they are no otherwise discernible to ourselves, in my Opinion it is wrong; for it is possible, my Lord, for a Person to feel and discern these ordinary Gifts and Influences of the Spirit in himself, when there is no Opportunity of discovering them to others. For instance, on Supposition that your Lordship was assisted by the blessed Spirit, in writing your Pastoral Letter—might not your Lordship be sensible of an inward Joy and Complacency, wrought by that felt same Spirit, which was not then discernible to others? So likewise it is possible for another to feel Joy in the Holy Ghost, with the rest of his Fruits, which at that Time may not be discernible to others; and which they who have never experienced the like, may not believe, though a Man declare it unto them. I hope, my Lord, these Reasonings carry with them their own Evidence.
But to proceed: your Lordship has taken Pains to collect several Passages out of the publick Liturgy, to prove the Doctrine of Regeneration or our New Birth, to be the Doctrine of the Church of England. Your Reason for so doing, appears to arm your People against any Suggestions, as if our Church were regardless of the Doctrine of Regeneration and New Birth, as if there were Need for any Member of it, to seek elsewhere for a more Spiritual Service.
If this, my Lord, was intended to arm your People against any such Suggestions made by me; indeed, your Lordship does not do me Justice. As your Lordship, I find, has done me the Honour, to peruse my third Journal, your Lordship may remember this Observation, that, after I had baptised an Adult, I proved the Necessity of the New Birth, from the Office of our Church.
In my Sermon, upon the Indwelling of the Spirit of God, which I have made bold to and your Lordship with this Letter, you will find. I have quoted the Expressions of our own Church Offices, to prove the Doctrine of the New Birth, as your Lordship does in your Pastoral Letter. My constant Way of preaching is, first, to prove my Propositions by Scripture, and then to illustrate them by the Articles and Collects of the Church of England. Those that have heard me, can witness, how often I have exhorted them to he constant at the Publick Service of the Church. I attend on it myself, and would read the Publick Liturgy every Day, if your Lordship’s Clergy would give me Leave. What further Satisfaction can your Lordship require, that I do not suggest to your Lordship’s People, as if our Church were regardless of the Doctrine of Regeneration and New Birth, and as if there were Need for any Member of it, to seek elsewhere for a more Spiritual Service.
In the following Paragragh, your Lordship has the same Insinuation, as though I wanted to introduce Extempore Prayer, and to lay aside the publick Liturgy of our Church. For after your Lordship had been speaking against praying by the Spirit, and affirming that the Scripture no where tells us, that Prayer is the single Work of the Spirit, your Lordship says to your People, You have great Reason to be thankful to God, for a publick Service prepared to your Hands.
My Lord, I never said to the Contrary. But does not your Lordship seem to insinuate at the same Time, that we are not to depend on the Spirit of God to enable us to pray extempore, either in Publick, or private? That Prayer is not the single Work of the Spirit, without any Co-operation of our own, I readily confess. But that the Spirit of God does assist true Christians to pray extempore, now, as well as formerly, is undeniable, if the Scriptures be true. For what says the Apostle? We know not what to pray for, as we ought, but the Spirit it self helpeth our Infirmities, and maketh Intercession for us with Groanings, that cannot be uttered. And this is founded upon a general Promise, made to all God’s People. Zacharias 12. 10, I will pour upon the House of David, and upon the Inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of Grace, and of Supplication. And I believe, my Lord, we may appeal to the Experience of all true Christians, whether or no they did not find the spirit of Supplication, or a Power of praying without a Form, encrease in Proportion to the Encrease of God’s Grace or Holy Spirit in their Hearts. This is all, my Lord, that I pretend to: And where is the Impropriety of this, when your Lordship confesses in the same page, that the Spirit of God does particularly assist us, in a due Performance of Religious Offices?
Farther, as your Lordship seems to deny the immediate Assistance of the Holy Spirit in our particular Addresses at the Throne of Grace, so your Lordship seems to deny it also in our particular Actions.
In like Manner, your Lordship says, we are firmly persuaded in general, that we live under the gracious Influence of God’s Holy Spirit, and that he both excites and enables us to do Good. But that this or that Thought or Action is an Effect of the sole Motion, or immediate Impulse of the Spirit, without any Co-operation of our own Mind;
My Lord, who ever affirmed, that there was no Co-operation of our own Minds, together with the Impulse of the Spirt of God? Your Lordship adds,
Or that the Holy Spirit, and our natural Conceptions, do respectively contribute to this or that Thought or Action, in such a Measure or to such a Degree; these are Things we dare not say. Indeed my Lord I dare say them. For if there be any such Thing as a Particular Providence, why may we not expect particular Direction from God’s Holy Spirit in a particular Cases? Does not our Church, my Lord, teach us to pray, that God’s Holy Spirit may in all Things direct and rule our Hearts? But your Lordship says, we dare not say this, because our Saviour has told us, that we know no more of the working of the Spirit, than we know of the Wind, from whence it cometh, and whither it goeth. Neither need we know any more of them: But you must allow, that we know as much. Cannot your Lordship feel the Wind then? Does not your Lordship know when it makes any Impression upon your Body? So easy it is for a Spiritual Man to know when the Holy Spirit makes an Impression upon his Soul. Without acknowledging this, all the Expressions of being led by the Spirit, walking by the Spirit, and such like, must be only so many Words without any real Meaning. Your Lordship acknowledges, that the Holy Spirit does act in general, and why not in the particular Actions of our Lives also? For, can the One be without the Other? Does it not frequently happen, my Lord, that the Comfort and Happiness of our whole Lives, depend on one particular Action? And where then, my Lord, is the Absurdity of saying, that the Holy Spirit may even in the minutest Circumstance direct and rule our Hearts? I have been the more particular, my Lord, on this Part of your Lordship’s Letter, because if this be proved, many of your Lordship’s Objections against my Journals, will fall to the Ground.
Your Lordship has the following Paragraph.
God forbid, that in this profane and degenerate Age, every thing that has an Appearance of Piety and Devotion, should not be considered in the most favourable Light that it is capable of. But at the same Time, it is surely very Proper, that Men should be called upon for some reasonable Evidence of a Divine Commission.
I take it for granted, that I am one of those Men, whom your Lordship thinks should be called upon for some reasonable Evidence of a Divine Commission.
But, my Lord, what reasonable Evidence does your Lordship require? Did I not receive Letters dimissory from your Lordship’s own Hands to be ordained Priest? Did I not, when ordained Deacon affirm that I was inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon me that Office and Ministration?
Did not my Lord of Gloucester, when he ordained me Priest, say unto me, Receive thou the Holy Ghost now committed unto thee, by the Imposition of our Hands, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost?
And is not this, my Lord, a reasonable Evidence that I act by a Divine Commission? If this be not true, must not All those whom your Lordship, or the other Bishops ordain, act only by a Human Commission? Nay, (to use the Words of Bishop Burnet in his Pastoral Letter) Must not they who are ordained, Lie not only unto Man but unto God, by saying, They are inwardly moved by the Holy Spirit?
If your Lordship in any wise disputes my acting by a Divine Commission, you disclaim your own Divine Right and Authority; nor can you possibly avoid the Dilemma, of either allowing my Divine Commission, or denying your own. After your Lordship has insinuated a Demand for the Evidences of my Divine Commission, immediately follows these Words, When they tell us of extraordinary Communications they have with God.
If by extraordinary Communications, your Lordship means the extraordinary Operations of the Holy Spirit, as working Miracles, and speaking with Tongues; your Lordship may assure yourself, I never pretended to any Such Thing—If, by extraordinary Communications, your Lordship means more Assistances and Comforts from God, at some times than I have at others, (which is all I mean by extraordinary Communications) I own the Charge? And what is there, my Lord, extraordinary in that?
Again, your Lordship says,
When they talk in the Language of these, who have a special and immediate Mission from God.
And does your Lordship, and the rest of the Bishops, ordain any without obliging them first to give good Proofs, that they have a Special Call or Immediate Mission from God to the Work of the Ministry? If ever you so do, my Lord, do not your Lordships lay Hands too suddenly upon Men?
Your Lordship writes thus.—
When they profess to think and act under the immediate Guidance of a Divine Inspiration.
And does not your Lordship think an act by the same Rule? Why, otherwise does your Lordship Pray when you administer the Holy Communion, that God would cleanse the Thoughts of our Hearts by the Inspiration of his Holy Spirit?
Your Lordship says,
When they speak of their Preaching and Expounding, and the Effects of them, as the sole Work of a Divine Power.
And would your Lordship have me ascribe any thing in the least to myself? The Good that is done upon Earth doth not God do it Himself? Does not the Apostle say, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves but our sufficiency is of God? And where then, my Lord, is the Absurdity of ascribing the Effects of Expounding and Preaching to the Sole Work of a Divine Power?
Again, When they boast of sudden and surprising Effects as wrought by the Holy Ghost, in Consequence of their Preaching.
Wha, my Lord, is the Enthusiasm of such a Pretension? Has your Lordship been a Preacher in the Church of England, for so many years, and have you never seen any sudden or surprising Effects, consequent upon your Lordship’s Preaching? Was this my Case, should I not have Reason to doubt, my Lord, whether I had any more than a bare Human Commission? Or might I not take up the Prophet’s Lamentation, Oh my Leanness, my Leanness! My Lord, the Gospel, like it. Author, is the same Yesterday, To-day, and for ever; and, if preached as it ought to be, will prick Numbers to the Heart, and extort the of the trembling Goaler, What must I do to be saved! as surely Now, as it did Seventeen Hundred Years ago.
These then are the sudden and surprising Effects, my Lord I always desire to have, and I pray God, your Lordship and all your Clergy may always see Such Effects in Consequence of Preaching.
When they claim the Spirit of Prophecy.
What I have said about my Success. God has been pleased to fulfil already. What I have said about Sufferings, they who without Cause are my Enemies, are fulfilling daily. And as for the Promises mentioned in my Journal, I freely own there are some particular Promises, which God has so strongly impressed, and does still impress on my Heart, that I verily believe, they will be fulfilled.
When they speak of themselves in the Language, and under the Character of Apostles of Christ, and even of Christ himself.
If I am not to speak in an Apostolical Language, why did my Lord of Gloucester give me an Apostolical Commission thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose Sins thou dost retain, they are retained? And I hope, my Lord, using the Words which Jesus Christ used, is not taking upon me the Character of Christ.
When they profess to plant and Propagate a New Gospel, as unknown to the Generality of Ministers and People, in a Christian Country.
‘Tis true, my Lord in one Sense, mine is a New Gospel, and will be always Unknown to the Generality of Ministers and People, even in a Christian Country, if your Lordship’s Clergy follow your Lordship’s Directions. For what says your Lordship I hope, that when Ministers Preach to you of Justification by Faith alone, which is averted in the strongest Manner by our Church, they explain it in such a Manner as to leave no Doubt upon your Mind, whether good Works are a necessary Condition of your being justified in the Sight of God.
But pray, my Lord, where has the Scripture made good Works a Necessary Condition of our being justified in the Sight of God? St. Paul says, By grace ye are saved, thro’ Faith, not of Works, and that, least any Man should. For Eternal Life is the Gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. your Lordship exhorts your Clergy to preach Justification by Faith alone, and quotes the 11th Article of our Church, which tells us, we are justified by Faith only, and not for our own Works or Deservings. At the same Time, your Lordship bids them explain it in such a Manner as to leave no Doubt upon their Minds, whether good Work are a necessary Condition of their being justified in the Sight of God.
Your Lordship, in my Opinion, could not well be guilty of a greater inconsistency. This, my Lord, is truly a New Gospel. I am sure it is not what the Apostles Preached; and it is as contrary to the Doctrine of the Church of England, and the whole Tenour of the Gospel, as Light is contrary to Darkness. Had your Lordship insisted on your Clergy’s preaching up good Works as a necessary Fruit and Consequence, instead of a necessary Condition of our being justified, your Lordship would have used your Authority aright. For we are commanded to shew forth or declare to others, that we have a True Faith by our Works. And the12th Article of our Church says, that ‘good Works follow after Justification; and how then, my Lord, are they a necessary Condition of our Justification? No, my Lord, Salvation (if the Gospel be true) is the Free Gift of God through Jesus Christ. Faith is the Means whereby that Salvation is applied to our Hearts, and good Works are the necessary Fruits and Proof of that Faith.
This, my Lord, is the Doctrine of Jesus Christ, This is the Doctrine of the Church of England, And it is, because the Generality of the Clergy of the Church of England do not Preach this Doctrine, that I am resolved, God being my Helper, to continue instant in Season and out of Season, to declare it unto all Men, let the Consequences, as to my own private Person, be what they will.
As for your Lordship’s blaming me for rashly censuring the Clergy, for their Practice, none are concerned, but my Indolent, Earthly-minded, Pleasure-taking Brethren, And surely, your Lordship will not stand up in their Defence. No.—I hope your Lordship will not fail to rebuke them sharply. And as for your Lordship’s Suspicions, —(For your Lordship’s Sake I would not Mention them) I hope my Life and Doctrine will always prove them to be Groundless.
Would Time permit, I could now proceed to satisfy your Lordship more particularly about the Case of Mr. Benjamin Seward: But as that is done in a Letter sent to my Lord of Gloucester, and published in my last Journal; and as I am now to embark in a few Hours, I hope, your Lordship will excuse me, if I only add my hearty Prayers for your Lordship’s temporal and eternal Welfare, and subscribe my self,
My Lord, Your Lordship’s Obedient, Tho’ unworthy Son, and Servant,
London, Monday, August 13. 1737.
The letter above mentioned, as sent to the Bishop of Gloucester, was occasioned by the Bishop’s acquainting Mr.Whitefield, in a letter, “ That he ought to preach only in that congregation to which he was lawfully appointed.” This produced the following answer.
My Lord, T Thank your Lordship for your Lordship’s kind letter. 1 My frequent removes from place to place prevented my answering it sooner. I am greatly obliged to your Lordship, in that you are pleased to watch over my soul, and to caution me against acting contrary to the commission given me at ordination. But if the commission we then receive, obliges us to preach no where but in that parish which is committed to our care, then all persons act contrary to their commission when they preach occasionally in any strange place: and consequently your Lordship equally offends, when you preach out of your own diocese. As for inveighing against the clergy, (without a cause) I deny the charge. What I say, I am ready to make good whenever your Lordship pleases. Let those that bring reports to your Lordship about my preaching, be brought face to face, and I am ready to give them an answer. St. Paul exhorts Timothy, “ Not to receive an accusation against an elder under two or three witnesses.” And even Nicodemus could say, ” The law suffered no man to be condemned unheard.” I shall only add, that I hope your Lordship will inspect into the lives of your other clergy, and censure’ them for being over-remiss, as much as you censure me for being over-righteous. It is their falling from their articles, and not preaching the truth as it is in Jesus, that has excited the present zeal of (those whom they in derision call) the Methodist preachers. Dr. Stebbing’s sermon, (for which I thank your Lordship) confirms me more and more in my opinion, that I ought to be instant in season and out of season. For to me, he seems to know no more of the true nature of regeneration, than Nicodemus did, when he came to Jesus by night. Your Lordship may observe, that he does not speak a word of original fin, or the dreadful consequences of our fall in Adam, upon which the doctrine of the new birth is entirely founded. Like other polite preachers, he seems to think in the very beginning of his discourse, that St. Paul’s description of the wickedness of the heathen is only to be referred to them of past ages: whereas I affirm, we are all included as much under the guilt and consequences of fin, as they were’; and if any man preach any other doctrine, he shall bear his punishment, whosoever he be. Again, my Lord, the Doctor entirely mi– stakes us, when we talk of the sensible operations of the Holy Ghost. He understands us just as those carnal Jews understood Jesus Christ, who, when our LORD talked of giving them that bread which came down from heaven, said, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Indeed I know not that we do use the word sensible, when we are talking of the operations of the Spirit of God. But if we do, we do not mean, that God’s Spirit does manifest itself to our senses, but that it may be perceived by the soul, ‘as really as is any sensible impression made upon the body.’ But to disprove this, the Doctor brings our Lord’s allusion to the wind in the third of St. John, which is one of the best texts he could urge to prove it. For if the analogy of our LORD’S discourse be carried on, we shall find it amounts to thus much: that although the operations of the Spirit of God can no more be accounted for, than how the wind cometh and whíther it goeth; yet may they be as easily felt by the soul as the wind may be felt by the body. My Lord, indeed we speak what we know. But, say’s the Doctor, These men have no proof to offer for their inward manifestations.” What proof, my Lord, does the Doctor require? Would he have us raise dead bodies? Have we not done greater things than these? I speak with all humility; has not God by our ministry raised many dead souls to a spiritual life? Verily, if men will not believe the evidence God has given that he sent us, neither would they believe though one rose from the dead. Besides, my Lord, the Doctor charges us with things to which we are entire strangers, such as the denying men the use of God’s creatures. Encouraging abstinence, prayer, &c. to the negleet of the duties of our stations. LORD, lay not this fin to his charge! Again, he says, “ That I suppose Mr. Benjamin Seward to be a person believing in Christ, and blameless in his conversation, before what I call his conversion But this is a direct untruth: for it was through the want of a living faith in Jesus Christ, which he now has, that he was not a christian before, but a mere moralist. Your Lordship knows that our article says, “ Works done without the Spirit of God, and true faith in Jesus Christ, have the nature of fin.” And such were all the works done by Mr. Benjamin Seward, before the time mentioned in my Journal. Again, my Lord, the Doctor represents, that as my opinion concerning quakers in general, which I only meant of those I had conversed with in particular. But the Doctor, and the rest of my reverend brethren, are welcome to judge me as they please.–Yet a little while, and we shall all appear before the great Shepherd of our souls. There, there, my Lord, shall it be determined, who are his true ministers, and who are only wolves in sheep’s cloathing Our LORD, I believe, will not be ashamed to confess us publicly in that day. I pray God we all may approve ourselves such faithful ministers of the New Testament, that we may be able to lift up our heads with boldness. As for declining the work in which I am engaged, my blood runs chill at the very thoughts of it. I am as much convinced, it is my duty to act as I do, as that the fun shines at noon-day. I can foresee the consequences very well. They have already in one sense thrust us out of the synagogues. By and by they will think it is doing God service to kill us. But, my Lord, if you and the rest of the bishops cast us out, our great and common Master will take us up. Though all men should deny us, yet will not he. And however you may censure us as evil doers, and disturbers of the peace, yet if we do suffer for our present way of acting, your wordship at the great day will find, that we suffer only for righteousness fake. In patience therefore do I possess my soul. I willingly tarry the LORD’S leisure. In the meanwhile I shall continually bear your Lordship’s favours upon my heart, and endeavour to behave, so as to subscribe myself, my Lord, Your Lordship’s obedient Son, and obliged servant,
XI, Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, Only for the Merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own Works, or Deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of Comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
XII. Of Good Works
Albeit that good Works, which are the Fruits of Faith, and follow after Justification, cannot put away our Sins, and endure the Severity of God’s Judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively Faith, insomuch that by them a lively. Faith may be as evidently known, as a Tree discerned by the Fruit.
XIII. Of Works before Justification.
Works done before the Grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of Faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make Men meet to receive Grace, or (as the the School-Authors say) deserve Grace of Congruity: Yea, rather for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the Nature of Sin.