ARDENT DESIRES FOR HOLINESS PRODUCED BY A SENSE OF DIVINE LOVE.
A LETTER TO MR. B-. MY DEAR FRIEND,
I should have written to you before : excuse the delay. I have confidence in your love and feel assured that you will not impute this epistolary vacuum to ingratitude, when I assure you that my engagements are such, as leave me but very little time to employ in writing to my friends. Pray how do you do, and how is Mrs. B. ? Are your bodies in health and do your souls prosper ? I inquire alike after body and soul, because they are alike the purchase of Messiah's blood, and equally precious in his esteem. He bought the whole man : our bodies and our spirits are his ; his entirely, his for ever ; his royal treasure and his precious jewels. For as he has bought them both with one and the same price, so he has loved them with one and the same love. He loved and redeemed ; redeemed because he loved, and loved because he would love. As the Father hath loved him, so hath he loved us, our bodies and souls, with love unchangeable and infinite, running through all the vicissitudes of time and all the revolving ages of eternity, without variation or the shadow of a change. 0, what a humbling consideration is this, and what a powerful incentive to love and obedience ! When I consider that Jesus is the everlasting God, the high and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy ; who dwelleth in the high and holy place, exalted in his own eternal excellence, infinitely above all the blessing and praise that seraphic powers can raise to his name; who humbleth himself to behold the purest and the brightest things that are in heaven, and before whom the whole creation is nothing, less than nothing and vanity ; and, when I believe that this high and mighty Lord, infinite in majesty and grandeur, loves me, a worm, an atom, and compared with him, nothing, less than nothing ; and not only less than nothing, but worse than nothing, a sinner, a rebel, a traitor, a wretch laden with guilt, in my flesh replete with evil ; utterly unworthy of the smallest mercy from his hand, and deserving the utmost possible destruction, I wonder with amazement ; I blush and am ashamed ; I fall down into the dust before the feet of my infinitely glorious and condescending lover, covered with shame, and filled with self-abasement and self-abhorrence. I grieve and mourn, that sin, which he cannot love, should dwell in me, whom he does love, I am ashamed that I love him so little, who loves me so much ; and that I can do scarcely any thing to honour him, who has done, yea, and suffered too, every thing requisite for my complete salvation from eternal disgrace and misery, and is doing every thing needful to raise me to everlasting honour and felicity. I long to be entirely free, not only from the commission of sin, but also from the being of that hateful and accursed thing; to love my gracious redeeming Lord, without intermission, without weakness, without the least imperfection; and to be devoted to his honour and praise, in body, soul, and spirit, every day, every hour, every moment of my future life.
While I was under the law, and its devouring flame scorched and tormented my guilty conscience, and filled me with horrors, which no language can possibly express ; when my views of God, of judgment, and eternity, were such as deprived me of rest and filled me with nightly agony ; when my apprehensions of certain future misery, without intermission and without end, not only sunk my spirits, but caused me to tremble upon my bed, till I have been bathed in my own sweat; nay, when I have expected that the vengeance of insulted majesty would instantly seize me and send me quickly down into the deep and dismal gulph of eternal despair, the love and the power of sin both reigned in my desperately wicked heart; and, although, I sometimes, in the act of gratifying my unlawful desires, have expected the lighting down of Jehovah's arm, with all the furious indignation of his wrath, upon my guilty head ; I have, in the hardness and stubborness of my impenitent heart, and with a kind of desperate madness, persisted in the fulfilment of my horrid purpose. The love and power of sin were still predominant ! !
But, when in the midst of all this terror and dread, hardness and obstinacy, desperate rebellion, and nefarious conduct, the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man, were manifested to my understanding, in the light of the glorious gospel, and shed abroad in my heart, by the Holy Ghost, a most amazing change instantly ensued. The horrors of my affrighted mind and the anguish of my tormented conscience ceased ; the peace of God flowed freely into my soul, and my heart rejoiced in God my Saviour; the love of sin was dethroned, and its dominion taken away ; the haunts of dissipation were forsaken, not only as ruinous, but disgustful; former associates were shunned, as both dangerous and unsuitable ; sin, both internal and external, was abhorred; the time past sufficed for me to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, and to have walked according to the course of this world ; former beloved pursuits were all cheerfully relinquished; and the language of my heart was, " what have I to do any more with idols ? " My longing soul panted, and blessed be my God, it still pants, after the most complete conformity to the beauteous image of my immaculate Redeemer, and the utmost enjoyment of his love, that a creature can possibly possess. I feel that I was not formed for earth nor sin, nor can I live on things so vile. My soul often cries, " woe is me, that I sojourn in Meshech, and dwell in the tents of Kedar; " so far from him whom my soul loveth. My God has made the beauties of his Son my soul's eternal food : nor do I think it possible for me to be satisfied, until I wake with his likeness, and behold him as he is, in all his loveliness and glory, in the world invisible and eternal, and feast upon his infinite fullness.
And now, my friends, I shall conclude my epistle by observing that, by means of this experience, I have learned, First, that amazing long suffering of God, exercised continually towards the most vile and obstinate sinners upon earth. Secondly, that no sinner out of hell, however guilty and abandoned, is too bad for the God of all grace to cause, by his power, to believe in Jesus, and to receive the full remission of sin and an everlasting inheritance with the saints in light. Thirdly, that all the legal fears and terrors, which it is possible for a soul on earth, or in hell, to feel, cannot, in the smallest measure, subdue the power and love of sin; consequently, that all ministerial efforts to prevail with sinners to hate and relinquish it, by reasons and arguments taken from the threats and terrors of the law, must for ever prove abortive ; and, therefore, for ministers to adopt that measure, with a design to promote the interest of holiness, is for them to take the high way to certain and perpetual disappointment. The doctrine of the law was never designed of God to produce any such effects in fallen man. This is a fact fully evinced by the following scriptures ; " the strength of sin is the law;" "for when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death;" "but sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence for without the law, sin was dead." Fourthly, that the love and grace of God, which bring free and complete salvation from all condemnation and every penal evil, bring also, at the same time, salvation from the dominion of the love and power of sin ; and at once acquit the culprit and liberate the captive; breaking in pieces, at one powerful stroke, the chains of slavish fear, and the bond of prevailing corruption. Nor can I form any other conception of the salvation proclaimed in the gospel, than that of a present, complete, and free deliverance in the grand imperial court of heaven, and at the bar of infinite justice from the awful charge of guilt and every obligation to endure the punishment due to our crimes, through the obedience and sufferings of our great substitute, and in consequence of this, a deliverance from the dominion and love of sin in the heart; and, finally, from the existence of it in our nature ; which deliverance is effected by the royal prerogative and omnipotence of Jesus, asserted in the gospel; and exercised in the glorious work of regeneration; and at the hour of death, when the final stroke is put to the good work of grace in each believer and sin is totally destroyed, root and branch. Thus I am taught, and thus I teach ; nor can I teach otherwise, while I have the concurring testimonies of the holy scriptures and my own experience, that what I teach is the truth.