Chapter 10

Further Thoughts on Christian Perfection (continued)

Questions 22-38

'Q.22. By what "fruit of the Spirit" may we "know that we are of God," even in the highest sense?

'A. By love, joy, peace, always abiding; by invariable longsuffering, patience, resignation; by gentleness, triumphing over all provocation; by goodness, mildness, sweetness, tenderness of spirit; by fidelity, simplicity, godly sincerity; by meekness, calmness, evenness of spirit; by temperance, not only in food and sleep, but in all things natural and spiritual.

'Q. 23. But what great matter is there in this? Have we not all this when we are justified?

'A. What! total resignation to the will of God, without any mixture of self-will? gentleness, without any touch of anger, even the moment we are provoked? love to God, without the least love to the creature, but in and for God, excluding all pride? love to man, excluding all envy, all jealousy and rash judging? meekness, keeping the whole soul inviolably calm? and temperance in all things? Deny that any ever came up to this, if you please; but do not say, all who are justified do.

'Q. 24. But some who are newly justified do. What, then, will you say to these?

'A. If they really do, I will say they are sanctified; saved from sin in that moment; and that they never need lose what God has given, or feel sin any more.

'But certainly this is an exempt case. It is otherwise with the generality of those that are justified: they feel in themselves more or less pride, anger, and self-will, a heart bent to backsliding. And, till they have gradually mortified these, they are not fully renewed in love.

'Q. 25. But is not this the case of all that are justified? Do they not gradually die to sin and grow in grace, till, at or perhaps a little before death, God perfects them in love?

'A. I believe this is the case of most, but not all. God usually gives a considerable time for men to receive light, to grow in grace, to do and suffer His will, before they are either justified or sanctified; but He does not invariably adhere to this; sometimes

He "cuts short His work": He does the work of many years in a few weeks; perhaps in a week, a day, an hour. He justifies or sanctifies both those who have done or suffered nothing, and who have not had time for a gradual growth either in light or grace. And "may He not do what He will with His own? Is thine eye evil, because He is good?"

'It need not, therefore, be affirmed over and over, and proved by forty texts of Scripture, either that most men are perfected in love at last, that there is a gradual work of God in the soul, or that, generally speaking, it is a long time, even many years, before sin is destroyed. All this we know: but we know likewise, that God may, with man's good leave, "cut short His work," in whatever degree He pleases, and do the usual work of many years in a moment. He does so in many instances; and yet there is a gradual work, both before and after that moment, so that one may affirm the work is gradual, another it is instantaneous, without any manner of contradiction.

'Q. 26. Does St. Paul mean any more by being "sealed with the Spirit," than being "renewed in love" ?

'A. Perhaps in one place (2 Cor. 1. 22) he does not mean so much; but in another (Eph. 1. 13) he seems to include both the fruit and the witness; and that in a higher degree than we experience even when we are first "renewed in love." God "sealeth us with the Spirit of promise," by giving us "the full assurance of, hope"; such a confidence of receiving all the promises of God, as excludes the possibility of doubting; with that Holy Spirit, by universal holiness, stamping the whole image of God on our hearts.

'Q. 27. But how can those who are thus sealed, "grieve the Holy Spirit of God"?

'A. St. Paul tells you very particularly--(1) By such conversation as is not profitable, not to the use of edifying, not apt to minister grace to the hearers. (2) By relapsing into bitterness, or want of kindness. (3) By wrath, lasting displeasure, or want of tenderheartedness. (4) By anger, however soon it is over; want of instantly forgiving one another. (5) By clamour or bawling, loud, harsh, rough, speaking. (6) By evil-speaking, whispering, tale-bearing; needlessly mentioning the fault of an absent person, though in ever so soft a manner.

'Q. 28. What do you think of those in London, who seem to have been lately "renewed in love"?

'A. There is something very peculiar in the experience of the greater part of them. One would expect that a believer should first be filled with love, and thereby emptied of sin; whereas these were emptied of sin first, and then filled with love. Perhaps it pleased God to work in this manner, to make His work more plain and undeniable; and to distinguish it more clearly from that overflowing love which is often felt even in a justified state.

'It seems likewise most agreeable to the great promise: "From all your filthiness I will cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you' (Ezek. xxxvi. 25,26).

'But I do not think of them all alike: there is a wide difference between some of them and others. I think most of them with whom I have spoken, have much faith, love, joy, and peace. Some of these, I believe, are renewed in love, and have the direct witness of it; and they manifest the fruit above described, in all their words and actions. Now, let any man call this what he will, it is what I call perfection.

'But some who have much love, peace, and joy, yet have got the direct witness; and others who think they have, are, nevertheless, manifestly wanting in the fruit. How many, I will not say--perhaps one in ten; perhaps more or fewer. But some are undeniably wanting in longsuffering, Christian resignation. They do not see the hand of God in whatever occurs, and cheerfully embrace it. They are not happy; at least not always happy; for sometimes they complain. They say this or that is hard.

'Some are wanting in gentleness. They resist evil, instead of turning the other cheek. They do not receive reproach with gentleness; no, nor even reproof. Nay, they are not able to bear contradiction without the appearance, at least, of resentment. If they are reproved or contradicted though mildly, they do not take it well; they behave with more distance and reserve than they did before. If they are reproved or contradicted harshly, they answer it with harshness; with a loud voice, or with an angry tone, or in a sharp and surly manner. They speak sharply or roughly when they reprove others; and behave roughly to their inferiors.

'Some are wanting in goodness. They are not kind, Mild, sweet, amiable, soft, and loving at all times, in their spirit, in their words, in their look and air, in the whole tenor of their behaviour; and that to all, high and low, rich and poor, without respect of persons; particularly to them that are out of the way, to opposers, and to those of their own household. They do not long, study, endeavour by every means, to make all about them happy. They can see them uneasy, and not be concerned; perhaps they make them so; and then wipe their mouths, and say, "Why, they deserve it; it is their own fault."

'Some are wanting in fidelity; a nice regard to truth, simplicity, and godly sincerity. Their love is hardly without dissimulation; something like guile is found in their mouth. To avoid roughness, they lean to the other extreme. They are smooth to an excess, so as scarce to avoid a degree of fawning, or of seeming to mean what they do not.

'Some are wanting in meekness, quietness of spirit, composure, evenness of temper. They are up and down, sometimes high, sometimes low; their mind is not well balanced. Their affections are either not in due proportionthey have too much of one, too little of another; or they are not duly mixed and tempered together, so as to counterpoise each other. Hence there is often a jar. Their soul is out of tune, and cannot make the true harmony.

'Some are wanting in temperance. They do not steadily use that kind and degree of food which they know, or might know, would most conduce to the health, strength, and vigour of the body: or they are not temperate in sleep; they do not rigorously adhere to what is best both for body and mind; otherwise they would constantly go to bed and rise early, and at a fixed hour: or they sup late, which is neither good for body nor soul: or they use neither fasting nor abstinence: or they prefer (which are so many sorts of intemperance) that preaching, reading, or conversation, which gives them transient joy and comfort, before that which brings godly sorrow, or instruction in righteousness. Such joy is not sanctified; it doth not tend to, and terminate in, the crucifixion of the heart. Such faith doth not centre in God, but rather in itself.

'So far all is plain. I believe you have faith, and love, and joy, and peace. Yet, you who are particularly concerned know each for yourself that you are wanting in the respects above mentioned. You are wanting either in long-suffering, gentleness, or goodness; either in fidelity, meekness, or temperance. Let us not then, on either hand, fight about words. In the thing we clearly agree.

'You have not what I call perfection: if others will call it so, they may. However, hold fast what you have, and earnestly pray for what you have not.

'Q. 29. Can those who are perfect grow in grace.?

'A. Undoubtedly they can; and that not only while they are in the body, but to all eternity.

'Q. 30. Can they fall from it?

'A. I am well assured they can: matter of fact puts this beyond dispute. Formerly we thought, one saved from sin could not fall; now we know the contrary. We are surrounded with instances of those who lately experienced all that I mean by perfection. They had both the fruit of the Spirit, and the witness; but they have now lost both. Neither does any one stand by virtue of anything that is implied in the nature of the state. There is no such height or strength of holiness as it is impossible to fall from. If there be any that cannot fall, this wholly depends on the promise of God.

'Q. 31 . Can those who fall from this state recover it?

'A. Why not? We have many instances of this also. Nay, it is an exceeding common thing for persons to lose it more than once, before they are established therein. 'It is therefore to guard them who are saved from sin, from every occasion of stumbling, that I give the following advices. But first I shall speak plainly concerning the work itself.

'I esteem this late work to be of God; probably the greatest now upon earth. Yet, like all others, this also is mixed with much human frailty. But these weaknesses are far less than might have been expected; and ought to have been joyfully borne by all that loved and followed after righteousness. That there have been a few weak, warmheaded men, is no reproach to the work itself; no just ground for accusing a multitude of sober-minded men, who are patterns of strict holiness. Yet (just the contrary to what ought to have been) the opposition is great; the helps few. Hereby many are hindered from seeking faith and holiness by the false zeal of others; and some who at first began to run well are turned out of the way.

'Q. 32 . What is the first advice that you would give them?

'A. Watch and pray continually against pride. If God has cast it out, see that it enter no more: it is full as dangerous as desire, and you may slide back into it unawares; especially if you think there is no danger of it. "Nay, but I ascribe all I have to God." So you may, and be proud nevertheless. For it was pride, not only to ascribe anything we have to ourselves, but to think we have what we really have not. Mr. Law, for instance, ascribed all the light he had to God, and so far he was humble: but then he thought he had more light than any man living; and this was palpable pride. So you ascribe all the knowledge you have to God, and in this respect you are humble. But if you think you have more than you really have, or if you think you are so taught of God as no longer to need man's teaching, pride lieth at the door. Yes, you have need to be taught, not only by Mr. Morgan, by one another, by Mr. Maxfield, or me, but by the weakest preacher in London; yea, by all men. For God sendeth by whom He will send.

'Do not therefore say to any who would advise or reprove you, "You are blind; you cannot teach me." Do not say, "This is your wisdom, your carnal reason"; but calmly weigh the thing before God.

'Always remember, much grace does not always imply much light. These do not always go together. As there may be much light where there is but little love, so there may be much love where there is little light. The heart has more heat than the eye; yet it cannot see, and God has wisely tempered the members of the body together, that none may say to another, "I have no need of thee."

'To imagine none can teach you but those who are themselves saved from sin, is a very great and dangerous mistake. Give not place to it for a moment: it would lead you into a thousand other mistakes, and that irrecoverably. No; dominion is not founded in grace, as the madman of the last age talked. Obey and regard "them that are over you in the Lord," and do not think you know better than them. Know their place and your own; always remembering, much love does not imply much light.

'The not observing this has led some into many mistakes, and into the appearance at least of pride. Oh, beware of the appearance and the thing! Let there "be in you that lowly mind which was in Christ Jesus." And "be ye likewise clothed with humility." Let it not only fill, but cover you all over. Let modesty and self-diffidence appear in all your words and actions. Let all you speak and do, show that you are little, and base, and mean, and vile in your own eyes.

'As one instance of this, be always ready to own any fault you have been in. If you have at any time thought, spoken, or acted wrong, be not backward to acknowledge it. Never dream that this will hurt the cause of God; no, it will further it. Be therefore open and frank when you are taxed with anything; do not seek either to evade or disguise it; but let it appear just as it is, and you will thereby not hinder but adorn the Gospel.

'Q. 33. What is the second advice which you would give them?

'A. Beware of that daughter of pride, enthusiasm. Oh, keep at the utmost distance from it? Give no place to a heated imagination. Do not hastily ascribe things to God. Do not easily suppose dreams, voices, impressions, visions, or revelations to be from God. They may be from Him. They may be from nature. They may be from the devil. Therefore "believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God." Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it. You are in danger of enthusiasm every hour, if you depart ever so little from Scripture; yea, or from the plain, literal meaning of any text, taken in connection with the context; and so you are, if you despise, or lightly esteem, reason, knowledge, or human learning; every one of which is an excellent gift of God, and may serve the noblest purposes.

'I advise you never to use the words wisdom, reason, or knowledge, by way of reproach. On the contrary, pray that you yourself may abound in them more and more. If you mean worldly wisdom, useless knowledge, false reasoning, say so; and throw away the chaff but not the wheat.

'One general inlet to enthusiasm is expecting the end without the means; the expecting knowledge, for instance, without searching the Scriptures, and consulting the children of God; the expecting spiritual strength, without constant prayer and steady watchfulness; the expecting any blessing without hearing the word of God at every opportunity.

'Some have been ignorant of this device of Satan. They have left off searching the Scriptures. They said, "God writes all the Scriptures on my heart. Therefore, I have no need to read it." Others thought they had not so much need of hearing, and so grew slack in attending the morning preaching. Oh, take warning, you who are concerned herein! You have listened to the voice of a stranger. Fly back to Christ, and keep in the good old way, which was "once delivered to the saints"; the way that even a heathen bore testimony of: "that the Christians rose early every day to sing hymns to Christ as God."

'The very desire of "growing in grace" may sometimes be an inlet of enthusiasm. As it continually leads us to seek new grace, it may lead us unawares to seek something else new, beside new degrees of love to God and man. So it has led some to seek and fancy they had received gifts of a new kind, after a new heart; as--(1) The loving God with all our mind; (2) with all our soul; (3) with all our strength; (4) oneness with God; (5) oneness with Christ; (6) having our life hid with Christ in God; (7) being dead with Christ; (8) rising with Him; (9) the sitting with Him in heavenly places; (10) the being taken up into His throne; (11) the being in the New Jerusalem; (12) the seeing the tabernacle of God come down among men; (13) the being dead to all works; (14) the not being liable to death, pain, or grief, or temptation.

'One ground of many of these mistakes is, the taking every fresh, strong application of any of these scriptures to the heart, to be a gift of a new kind; not knowing that several of these scriptures are not fulfilled yet; that most of the others are fulfilled when we are justified; the rest the moment we are sanctified. It remains only to experience them in higher degrees. This is all we have to expect.

'Another ground of these, and a thousand mistakes is, the not considering deeply that love is the highest gift of God-humble, gentle, patient love; that all visions, revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things compared to love; and that all the gifts above mentioned are either the same with or infinitely inferior to it.

'It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of thisthe heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion-there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, "Have you received this or that blessing?" if you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth of Corinthians. You can go no higher than this till you are carried into Abraham's bosom.

'I say yet again, beware of enthusiasm. Such is the imagining you have the gift of prophesying, or of discerning of spirits, which I do not believe one of you has; no, nor ever had yet. Beware of judging people to be either right or wrong by your own feelings. This is no scriptural way of judging. Oh, keep close to "the law and to the testimony!"

'Q.34. What is the third?

'A. Beware of Antinomianism; "making void the law," or any part of it, "through faith." Enthusiasm naturally leads to this; indeed they can scarce be separated. This may steal upon you in a thousand forms, so that you cannot be too watchful against it. Take heed of everything, whether in principle or practice, which has any tendency thereto. Even that great truth, that "Christ is the end of the law," may betray us into it, if we do not consider that He has adopted every point of the moral law, and grafted it into the law of love. Beware of thinking, "Because I am filled with love, I need not have so much holiness. Because I pray always, therefore I need no set time for private prayer. Because I watch always, therefore I need no particular selfexamination." Let us "magnify the law," the whole written word, "and make it honourable." Let this be our voice: "I prize Thy commandments above gold or precious stones. Oh, what love have I unto Thy law! all the day long is my study in it." Beware of Antinomian books; particularly the works of Dr. Crisp and Mr. Saltmarsh. They contain many excellent things; and this makes them the more dangerous. Oh, be warned in time! Do not play with fire. Do not put your hand on the hole of a cockatrice's den. I entreat you, beware of bigotry. Let not your love or beneficence be confined to Methodists, so called, only; much less to that very small part of them who seem to be renewed in love; or to those who believe yours and their report. Oh, make not this your shibboleth!

Beware of stillness; ceasing in a wrong sense from your own works. To mention one instance out of many: "You have received," says one, "a great blessing. But you began to talk of it, and to do this and that; so you lost it. You should have been still."

'Beware of self-indulgence; yea, and making a virtue of it, laughing at self-denial, and taking up the cross daily, at fasting or abstinence. Beware of censoriousness; thinking or calling them that anyways oppose you) whether in judgment or practice, blind, dead, fallen, or "enemies to the work." Once more, beware of Solifidianism; crying nothing but, "Believe, believe!" and condemning those as ignorant or legal who speak in a more scriptural way. At certain seasons, indeed, it may be right to treat of nothing but repentance, or merely of faith, or altogether of holiness; but, in general, our call is to declare the whole counsel of God, and to prophesy according to the analogy of faith. The written word treats of the whole and every particular branch of righteousness, descending to its minutest branches; as, to be sober, courteous, diligent, patient, to honour all men. So, likewise, the Holy Spirit works the same in our hearts, not merely creating desires after holiness in general, but strongly inclining us to every particular grace, leading us to every individual part of "whatsoever is lovely." And this with the greatest propriety: for as "by works faith is made perfect," so the completing or destroying the work of faith, and enjoying the favour or suffering the displeasure of God, greatly depends on every single act of obedience or disobedience.

'Q. 35. What is the fourth?

'A. Beware of sins of omission; lose no opportunity of doing good in any kind. Be zealous of good works; willingly omit no work, either of piety or mercy. Do all the good you possibly can to the bodies and souls of men. Particularly, "Thou shalt in any wise reprove thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him." Be active. Give no place to indolence or sloth; give no occasion to say, "Ye are idle, ye are idle." Many will say so still; but let your whole spirit and behaviour refute the slander. Be always employed; lose no shred of time; gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. And whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Be "slow to speak," and wary in speaking. "In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin.." Do not talk much; neither long at a time. Few can converse profitably above an hour. Keep at the utmost distance from pious chit-chat, from religious gossiping.

'Q. 36. What is the fifth?

'A. Beware of desiring anything but God. Now you desire nothing else; every other desire is driven out: see that none enter again. "Keep thyself pure"; let your "eye" remain "single, and your whole body shall be full of light." Admit no desire of pleasing food, or any other pleasure of sense; no desire of pleasing the eye or the imagination, by anything grand, or new, or beautiful; no desire of money, of praise, or esteem; Of happiness in any creature. You may bring these desires back; but you need not; you need feel them no more. Oh, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free!

'Be patterns to all, of denying yourselves, and taking up your cross daily. Let them see that you make no account of any pleasure which does not bring you nearer to God, nor regard any pain which does; that you simply aim at pleasing Him, whether by doing or suffering; that the constant language of your heart, with regard to pleasure or pain, honour or dishonour, riches or poverty, is

"All's alike to me, so I
In my Lord may live and die!"

'Q. 37. What is the sixth?

'A. Beware of schism, of making a rent in the Church of Christ. That inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love "one for another" (1 Cor. xii. 25), is the very root of all contention, and every outward separation. Beware of everything tending thereto. Beware of a dividing spirit: shun whatever has the least aspect that way. Therefore, say not, "I am of Paul, or of Apollos"; the very thing which occasioned the schism at Corinth. Say not, "This is my preacher; the best preacher in England. Give me him, and take all the rest." All this tends to breed or foment division, to disunite those whom God hath joined. Do not despise or run down any preacher; do not exalt any one above the rest, lest you hurt both him and the cause of God. On the other hand, do not bear hard upon any by reason of some incoherency or inaccuracy of expression; no, nor for some mistakes, were they really such.

'Likewise, if you would avoid schism, observe every rule of the Society and of the bands for conscience' sake. Never omit meeting your class or band; never absent yourself from any public meeting. These are the very sinews of our Society; and whatever weakens, or tends to weaken, our regard for these, or our exactness in attending them, strikes at the very root of our community. As one saith, "That part of our economy, the private weekly meetings for prayer, examination, and particular exhortation, has been the greatest means of deepening and confirming every blessing that was received by the word preached, and of diffusing it to others who could not attend the public ministry; whereas, without this religious connection and intercourse, the most ardent attempts by mere preaching have proved of no lasting use."

'Suffer not one thought of separating from your brethren, whether their opinions agree with yours or not. Do not dream that any man sins in not believing you, in not taking your word; or that this or that opinion is essential to the work, and both must stand or fall together. Beware of impatience of contradiction. Do not condemn or think hardly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some of us have thought hardly of others, merely because they contradicted what we affirmed. All this tends to division; and by everything of this kind, we are teaching them an evil lesson against ourselves.

'Oh, beware of touchiness, of testiness, not bearing to be spoken to; starting at the least word; and flying from those who do not implicitly receive mine or another's sayings!

'Expect contradiction and opposition, together with crosses of various kinds. Consider the words of St. Paul: "To you it is given in the behalf of Christ,"--for His sake, as a fruit of His death and intercession for you,--"not only to believe, but also to suffer for His sake" (Phil. 1. 29). "It is given." God gives you this opposition or reproach; it is a fresh token of His love. And will you disown the Giver, or spurn His gift, and count it a misfortune? Will you not rather say, "Father, the hour is come that Thou shouldest be glorified; now Thou givest Thy child to suffer something for Thee: do with me according to Thy will"? Know that these things, far from being hindrances to the work of God, or to your soul, unless by your own fault, are not only unavoidable in the course of Providence, but profitable, yea necessary, for you. Therefore, receive them from God (not from chance) with willingness, with thankfulness. Receive them from men with humility, meekness, yieldingness, gentleness, sweetness. Why should not even your outward appearance and manner be soft? Remember the charity of Lady Cutts. It was said of the Roman Emperor Titus, never any one came displeased from him: but it might be said of her, never any one went displeased to her; so secure were all of the kind and favourable reception which they would meet with from her.

'Beware of tempting others to separate from you. Give no offence which can possibly be avoided; see that your practice be in all things suitable to your profession, adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour. Be particularly careful in speaking of yourself: you may not, indeed, deny the work of God; but speak of it, when you are called thereto, in the most inoffensive manner possible. Avoid all magnificent, pompous words: indeed, you need give it no general name; neither perfection, sanctification, the second blessing, nor the having attained. Rather speak of the particulars which God has wrought for you. You may say, "At such a time I felt a change which I am not able to express; and since that time I have not felt pride, or self-will, or anger, or unbelief, nor anything but a fulness of love to God and to all mankind." And answer any other plain question that is asked with modesty and simplicity.

'And if any of you should at any time fall from what you now are, if you should again feel pride or unbelief, or any temper from which you are now delivered--do not deny; do not hide, do not disguise it at all, at the peril of your soul. At all events, go to one in whom you can confide, and speak just what you feel. God will enable him to speak a word in season, which shall be health to your soul. And surely He will again lift up your head, and cause the bones that have been broken to rejoice.

'Q. 38. What is the last advice that you would give them?

'A. Be exemplary in all things; particularly in outward things (as in dress), in little things, in the laying out of your money (avoiding every needless expense), in deep, steady seriousness, and in the solidity and usefulness of all your conversation. So shall you be "a light, shining in a dark place." So shall you daily "grow in grace," till "an entrance be ministered unto you abundantly unto the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ."

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