April 7, 1798.
MY DEAR BROTHER,
A MINISTER of Christ can preach pardon, peace, faith, righteousness, and love; and these are the things which accompany salvation. And what is all religion short of this? No more than the sensations of a rebel and a criminal, detained as a prisoner before the Lord; knocking at Mercy's door, and hoping and expecting a pardon. But the doctrine that brings poor souls out of this must be, not the ministry of the . letter, nor the bondage which attends the letter, for that killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. God will never enlarge a soul by me while I preach chains; nor administer love from an heart pregnant with wrath. God gives testimony to the word of his grace; and what grace is may be seen from God's voice, and the church's echo to it; Jeremiah xxxi. 2, 3; taken from Deut. xxxiii. 3.
It is common for souls kept long in bondage to hug their chains, as ricketty children do their ease, and in time get proud of them, and dream of merit in them; and by every . means of grace, which they legalize, they labour hard to pacify a legal conscience, and to keep it quiet, while destitute of the voice of the atonement; and of the pleasing rule, authority, do minion, and power of free, sovereign grace; which alone can make us serve in newness of spirit, and make the Lord's service perfect freedom to us. Nor is a conscience thus hushed, soothed, and composed by legal performances, or by legalizing evangelical means, furnished or fortified to meet God; it is just as much afraid of death and damnation as ever it was, and will tremble and quake at a feather, because the King of Zion is not in full possession of it. God doth not send forth his dear Son in his triumphal chariot to drag his elect in chains at his wheels; but to dispense the words of truth, meekness, and righteousness. Truth makes us free, meekness makes us submit, and righteousness makes us just. And thus he rides in glory and majesty. Majesty displays the empire of his grace, and glory the earnest of heaven. The latter is the reward that is with him, and the former the work that is before him.
All preaching that settles a soul in bondage keeps it from the bridegroom; and without a match with him that is raised from the dead we cannot bring forth fruit unto God. All the legal labour above described began to work strongly in me before my deliverance came; but not one branch of my performances ever came up to God's standard, or could be called those works that God requires, which are "the work of faith, the labour of love, and the patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ;" with such service God is well pleased, and conscience completely pacified. The pure unadulterated gospel of the Lord Jesus is the power of God unto salvation; and, wherever the power of God is put forth, in an application of pardoning love through Jesus Christ, in the sinner's conscience, there, and only there, is the real gospel of the dear Redeemer known. All the revelations of wrath, attended with lashes, stripes, terrors, fears and torment, are intended to kill us to the law, self, and the world; that we may be raised up together, and be quickened together with Christ in his resurrection; and receive by him the same spirit that quickened him; and so be planted together in the likeness of his death, and in that of his resurrection, being made to have fellowship with him in his sufferings, and, in a spiritual sense, conformable unto his death.
God be with thee.
W. H. S. S.