The Cry of Little Faith Heard and Answered, and His Innocent Cause Undertaken and Pleaded, in a Letter to a Friend.
LETTER TO A FRIEND, IN DEFENCE OF LITTLE FAITH.
I RECEIVED your kind letter, and am glad, but somewhat surprised, at the rapid advances which you have made in so short a time. We are to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; which is what you do apace, it seems. I hope you do not make more haste than good speed. For my own part, I was long stumbling upon the dark mountains, before I got to your stature in faith. God tried mine as fast as it grew; but you have grown up like the palm tree, and you will know your strength when the Saviour comes to "take hold of the boughs thereof," Cant. vii. 8.
I should like to hear some account of your trials, as well as of your confidence; for, though faith be called "gold tried," Rev. iii. 18; yet the trial of faith exceeds it, for that is "more precious than gold," 1 Pet. i. 7.
The full assurance of gospel faith is a most comforting, soul-establishing, and God-glorifying grace; yet it must be acknowledged that faith is the gift of God, and all the household of faith are not at the height of this stature. I have known something of this grace for the last seventeen years, and it is well known that it has been sorely tried many ways; and, for my part, I believe it is the faith of God's elect that I am favoured with, for it hath prevailed with God times without number; and, agreeable to scripture, I find that "in quietness and in confidence is my strength," Isa. xxx. 15. But I cannot find that it is in my power to exercise this grace when I would, though I could wish it were always in exercise. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit; hence the Spirit is called, the Spirit of Faith; and if faith be a fruit of the Spirit, then the Spirit must be the life, power, and root of, faith; and this wind bloweth when and where it listeth. I cannot command the north wind to awake when I please; nor is the south in my power that it should blow on my garden at my pleasure, and cause the spices to flow at my command, Cant. iv. 16. This power rests entirely with God, who "hath dealt to every [believing] man the measure of faith," Rom. xii. 3: who alone has "the residue of the Spirit," Mal. ii. 15; and gives to his people, as need requires, a supply of the same, Phil. i. 19, which influences faith, and every other grace, as it pleaseth God, who is the sovereign disposer of every good and every perfect gift. I find, by daily experience, that the life, power, courage, activity, or exercise of faith, are far from being at my command; I can neither will or do any thing truly good, but as God works inclination and motion in me of his own good pleasure. I am therefore compelled to acknowledge, that from the Lord is my "fruit found," Hos. xlv. 8; and without a sensible union with Christ I can do nothing; though God, who knows my heart, knows that I would willingly spend and be spent in his service, and in the service of his people.
However, I find this is not the experience of every professor; some are perfect in the flesh, while I am obliged to confess that in my flesh dwells nothing good: and you, Sir, are arrived at the full assurance of faith, insomuch that you are purged from all doubts and fears; while I, at certain times, cannot trust God for a text to preach from, nor believe that he will own or bless my labours when I have got one: and I declare to you, to my shame, that I have known the time, even since I could call the Saviour my Father and my God, when I could not so much as trust to him for food and raiment; and, to be plain, I have been acquainted with some, who have boasted of as much assurance of faith as yourself, who have been as much straitened in the pulpit for matter, and as much puzzled for the necessaries of life as I have been; which has given me reason to suspect there have been some doubts at the bottom, though they might have been overlooked; for I read that all things are possible to him that believeth; and, if all things are, matter for the pulpit, and the necessaries of life, must be included among them, for our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of these things. But enough of this: I would not pull you down from your excellency, nor wish you to exclude them that do not excel in faith. Jacob says, "Reuben is unstable as water, he shall not excel," Gen. xlix. 4; yet the Israelitish mediator does not exclude him, but says, "Let Reuben live, and not die; and let not his men be few," Deut. xxxiii. 6, though they were but unstable men at best; for he sometimes stayed among the sheep-folds to hear the bleatings of the flocks, when he should have been at war; yet the Lord's host did not exclude him, but were cut at his instability. "For the divisions of Reuben there were great searchings of heart," Judges, v. 16. But, notwithstanding his instability, "of the tribe of Reuben were sealed twelve thousand," Rev. vii. 5.
According to your letter, nothing is faith that is short of full assurance. Now, though I should have no objection to compare notes with you, with regard to the life, power, prevalency, trial, victory, and triumphs of faith (which I believe I enjoyed in a measure before you had any faith at all), yet I cannot be brought to believe that any man can be naturally born or brought forth into this world six feet high in stature: and I think it is as strange to expect the new creature just formed to appear in the full assurance of faith. Faith comes by hearing the word of God and is produced by the Spirit, who applies the incorruptible seed to the heart: and, as faith is a grace of the Spirit, it is a part of the new creature, and is God's workmanship, and a creature of his own forming; for he hath created us anew in Christ Jesus; and declares us a people that he has formed for himself, Isa. xliii. 21. We know that all God's works are perfect; yet I am of opinion that this new creature, though perfect in its parts at the first formation, is yet not so in degrees. If you object, then I ask, where is room for growing in grace? The full assurance of faith is the highest stature or the new creature. I know God can give this grace the first moment that the Spirit operates, if assurance be essential to salvation, and cut down a child in faith," an hundred years old," Isa. lxv. 20: yet the Almighty does not always so. It is God that deals to every believer "the measure of faith," Rom. xii. 3; and an equal measure is not to be found in every one that believeth in Jesus. And although you cannot allow this to be true, yet I take it for granted that in the course of your ministry, notwithstanding all your endeavours to enforce the full assurance of faith, and your opinion that all short of this stature are in unbelief, yet you find some of the royal family as Jesus Christ did, I mean without any faith in exercise or in appearance: and perhaps this might be the case with you, if your cross was proportionable to your confidence: and very likely you would act with little better courage than the disciples did, who cried, saying, "Master, master, we perish I He said unto them, Where is your faith?" Luke, viii. 24, 25. If your faith, Sir, was tossed on the same storm, it would manage the helm very little better than theirs did, unless the Lord appeared; for faith is but a single member of the new creature; and we know that the new creature, with all its parts, is but weak, unless the Father and Creator of it appears to support it. These, we find, had so lost their faith that the Saviour asked where it was.
There were others the Saviour owned had faith, though it was but little: "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" Matt. vi. 30. The last account we had was, that their faith was out of sight, and yet Christ says, "Where is your faith?" There was faith, and it was theirs, otherwise there had been no inquiry about it: the Lord would have spoken as Moses did, and called them "children in whom is no faith," Deut. xxxii. 20. But, in the last account that we considered, their faith did appear, though it did not appear great, "O ye of little faith!" But I shall not hang upon this point; for I find you do not countenance the day of small things.
We read of the woman of Canaan, who was immoveable in her confidence, whose faith had stood a threefold rebuff: to whom the Lord said, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt," Matt. xv. 28. Yet even this woman's faith does not rise to your stature; yours is of the tidiest assurance. The Saviour found one in his days who was a match for you, and but one, and that was centurion; who, in behalf of his sick servant, solicited the mercy of Jesus to heal him; who required no sign, nor the Saviour's personal presence, to perform the cure: "But say in a word, and my servant shall be healed," Luke, vii. 7. "When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him; and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel," Luke, vii. 9. This man, Sir, according to your doctrine was the Saviour's only faithful servant; for you assert, in this letter of yours, that nothing is faith short of the full assurance: then what is to become of them whose faith the Saviour inquired after, and those of little faith? to say nothing about that Faith that made whole, and many which could lay hold of the power of Christ, but not of his willingness, saying, "Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me whole." Yet even this faith prevailed:" I will; be thou clean," saith the ever-loving and ever-blessed Saviour. But these weak ones are to go to the wall, according to your doctrine. You can take no notice, nor make any account, of these; and it is a comfort to such poor babes in Christ that you are not the author and finisher of faith: for he declares of his whole household, that "he that is least among you all, the same shall be great," Luke, ix. 48. Nor shall they ever be damned: "even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish," Matt. xviii. 14.
Believe me, Sir, I am not contending for the world; for I trust I can say, as Paul did, I endure all things for the elect's sake. Nor am I contending for unbelievers-I have ever asserted that he who believes not shall be damned. Nor am I contending for unbelief; for I declare that, if you will undertake, with your full assurance, to preach all unbelief out of my heart, I will take you to be my chaplain upon the conditions of "No cure, no pay:" and, if you can cure me of all my unbelief, I can pay you a thousand per annum; for the earth is the Lord's, and it is but to ask, without doubting, and all things are possible to us. You are sure of your salary, if you can but cure me of unbelief; and I assure you I have the greatest reason to believe that I am not destitute of the grace of faith, therefore you will not have a soil altogether barren to work upon.
It is plain to me, that there were no less than four degrees of faith among the Lord's followers, in the days of his flesh; and, if I am not mistaken, the scriptures divide the household of faith into four degrees, with respect to age, growth, strength, or stature. We read of new-born babes, of little children-of young men-and of fathers; but you, it seems, will have nothing to do with any but the fathers. However, our Saviour gently leads those that are with young; carries the lambs in his bosom; calls his sheep by name, and leads them out, and makes others follow him. Isaiah, xl, 11.
Isaiah speaks of some that waited on the Lord; or others that fled on eagles' wings; of some that ran, and were not weary; and of others that walked, and were not faint. A gospel minister is called a father to beget, a nurse to cherish, a shepherd to feed and lead, and a builder to establish; and I am bold to aver that, if you was to declare, in the next sermon you preach, that all who doubted would be damned, the weak believer under you would muster a hundred pleas against you; Little Faith would go to Christ and cry for help; and, though he often staggers at the promise through unbelief, yet he would call to arms, and rank a whole troop of marks, tokens, and promises against you, and dispute every inch of ground with you; and carry the day too, with respect to feeling, though not in point of logic.
Little Faith is a very formidable man when he takes the weapon of all-prayer, and cries to Christ. For my part, I should never care to engage him. The child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den, and play on the hole of the asp, which I should not chuse to do. Christ carries the lambs in his bosom, while such strong sheep as you are obliged to trudge after on foot. You know what the Lord says with respect to these, Take heed that ye offend not "one of these little ones which believe in me," Matt. xviii. 6.
At the Saviour's birth the wise men worshipped him, and the angels proclaimed him. At twelve years old the Saviour grew in wisdom, in stature, and in favour both with God and man, and disputed with the doctors. At thirty years of age he overcame Satan in the wilderness; and at thirty-three he endured the cross, and despised the shame. And I suppose you love the Saviour in every stage of his life, as well as in every covenant character; and, if you love the everlasting Father from his childhood, what makes you so severe against his rickety children? It is a rare thing to find so numerous a family all strong and lively: their faith, though it be but little, will bring them to the salvation of their souls at last, if you will but let them go their own pace. Faith cannot be hurried: "He that believeth shall not make haste." You may drive them to presume; you cannot drive them to believe. Ministers have no dominion over their faith, but are fellow-helpers of their joy. Faith will be attended on, not commanded nor over-driven. Paul was offered up on the service of faith, not to demolish it. Faith is God's work; and they are branded for rebels who said, "Let him make speed and hasten his work, that we may see it," Isa. v. 19. "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent," John, vi. 29. And surely God never sent his servants to destroy the work of his own hands. For my part, I would ever wish to nurse faith, whether it be in the conception, in the formation, in labour, or when able to shift for itself, or strong enough to defy angels, principalities, and powers, as Paul's faith was.
It seems that my friend has nothing to offer in behalf of Zion in labour, nor in behalf of her fondlings, that are to be borne on her sides, and dandled on her knees: he has nothing to encourage children who cry, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe; guide me, lead me, or draw me; stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love." He cannot condescend to men of low degree; he minds only high things. I believe that I have, at this time, three hundred in the church to whom I minister, that are short of your stature in faith according to this letter; and, instead of disputing them out of their faith, or driving them out of the church on account of their weakness, I wish God would send me three hundred more such; for, through grace, I can see the difference between embryo and old age; and I am persuaded that the strongest column in faith was first formed, and then brought to his stature, by the operations of God's good Spirit; for the hearts of all men are like a withered and barren womb till the Spirit applies the incorruptible seed, and quickens the soul. But my dear brother is like Elkanah; if he cannot make Hannah bear, he will not stay till she has tried her faith, but will take Peninnah: but, in the end, the slighted spouse, who was rejected for want of the fruit of the full assurance, will tell him that "by strength shall no man prevail," 1 Sam. ii. 9.
I take it for granted that you will call me a minister of unbelief, and an encourager of doubts and fears. To which I reply, neither unbelief nor doubting have ever been friends to me, therefore I am not pleading their cause: my plea is on the behalf of faith, whether it appears in the ewe great "with young," Isa. ii. 11; in the lamb that rides in the bosom; in the sheep that lie down in green pastures, Psa. xxiii. 2; or in the old ram, whoso horns are iron, and whose hoofs are brass, Micah, iv. 13. We do not condemn Isaac because he was lodged in a womb ninety tears of age, nor yet on the account of his mother's laughing at the promise. He was a child of promise in the womb, and was in the promise conceived there; and he was no more than an heir of promise when he died.
We sometimes see old sinners in soul-travail; and, though a troop of doubts and fears are mustered up by the devil and the old man to hinder the birth, yet Little Faith will break forth as soon as her little sister Charity comes to help her; and the elder shall serve the younger. Faith worketh by love, and love will ever attend and assist faith.
"Having then gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us; whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith," Rom. xii. 6. The apostles, and even Jesus Christ himself, prophesied to four degrees of faith; but you can allow of no faith below that of the superlative. Between their prophecies and yours there is a very great disproportion, and I dare say there is as great a disproportion between your faith and the faith of some of your hearers. There is a great disproportion between babes and men, and between milk and strong meat; between little faith and great faith. And little faith should be preached to, from a consideration of our former weakness and deficiency in faith; and strong men are to be spoken to from the degree of assurance that God has given us: and then our proportion of faith will agree with those of the household.
If you cannot submit to this, you must keep three curates: one to attend spiritual groanings, or such as are in pain to bring forth: another to nurse and cherish children, and feed them with the sincere milk of the word; another to strengthen the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees: and then you may attend them only that are of full age, and "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery to those that are perfect," 1 Cor. ii. 7.
If this my counsel should be approved, and you should think proper to adopt the method, then you need not study one part in ten of the Bible: you have nothing to do with the groanings, strugglings, conflicts, nor the petitions of faith, but only to cull out the triumphs of it. You tell me, that "nothing but assurance is faith, and that faith and doubts cannot be in a believer at one and the same time." I can prove, Sir, to you, that I have got faith, and you own it; and I wish you would come and dispute me out of all my unbelief and doubts, for I have many in me. Though I do not, blessed be God, doubt of the eternal salvation of my soul, yet I doubt many things; therefore you must dispute me out of these, or rank me with the infidels.
"Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations," Rom. xiv. 1. Hence it appears that there are some who are weak in faith; and, if weak, faith cannot be either great or strong in them. Yet they are to be received into our affections, and into church-fellowship, as partakers of the grace Of God, though weak in faith. Some stagger at the promise, and others lay hold of Christ with a trembling hand; believing in his ability, as the poor leper did, ye stagger at his willingness; their hearts fail and misgive them; they are children tossed to and fro; they are children in understanding; they speak as children, think as children, and understand as children: but these are to be received, though not to doubtful disputations: not to hear vain disputes, that leave every thing doubtful, but settle nothing: nor are they to be disputed out of their faith because they are weak, and harassed with many doubts, such as, whether they are right or wrong; whether this is lawful, or that; whether they shall hold out, or fall short; whether their faith be genuine, or feigned; whether their sensations are of God, or whether all is not a delusion. These things do at times attend the weak believer, more or less; yet he is to be received, "for God hath received him," Rom. xiv. 3.
I think it may be proved, that faith and doubts have been found in a child of God at one and the same time. Peter discovered it when he walked on the sea: "And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But, when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and, beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?" Matt. xiv. 99-31. Jesus Christ, who is a better judge of the heart than we are, allowed Peter to have faith, though at the same time he was one of little, faith and did doubt. Yet we see that Little Faith can cry for help, though he cannot weather a storm; if he cannot help himself from sinking, he will pray to him that can, and prevail too; for Jesus stretched forth his hand immediately, and caught him, as soon as the voice of Little Faith was heard.
There is as great a disproportion between great and little faith, as there is between an infant in its go-cart and a giant in armour; and, if we bend our ministry against the feeble of the household, we shall act like Amalek when he pursued the children of Israel; who, not being able to overtake the van, cut off all the rear: "he smote all that were feeble, faint and weary; and he feared not God," Deut. xxv. 18. Christ will not break the bruised reed, nor will he allow us to bruise the heel of his mystical body without resenting it. The Lord pays peculiar attention to the little ones: "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only, in the name of a disciple, verily, I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward," Matt. x. 42. "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea," Matt. xviii. 6. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish," Matt. xviii. 10, 14.
And pray why were these young disciples called little ones? I suppose, because they were young in grace, children in understanding, and some of them were men of little faith. Sometimes they thought they should not be either fed or clothed, unless they were burdened with cares for the morrow. To which inward workings of their mind the Saviour replies, "If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on; neither be ye of doubtful mind." Matt. vi. 25, 30; Luke, xii. 29.
It appears to me that there is a difference, and a proper distinction should be made, between faith and the full assurance of faith. For, although full assurance and doubts do not stand together with respect to a believer's interest in Christ, yet is it clear that faith and doubts have often appeared together; as it is written, "Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And, when they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted," Matt. xxviii. 16, 17. These eleven were all disciples, and they were all believers in Jesus, and they worshipped him; but some doubted!
Peter was not void of doubt about the vision that appeared to him; the voice that came to him, saying, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord." And, while he doubted in himself what this vision should mean, the "Spirit said unto him, Behold three men seek thee. Arise, therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them," Acts, x. 13, 14-17-19, 20. Manoah was not void of doubt when he said unto his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God." But the faith of his wife put his doubts to flight, saying, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands; neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these," Judges, xiii. 22, 23. When the Saviour testified to the twelve that one of them should betray him, they, knowing the hypocrisy of the human heart, "looked one on another, doubting of whom he spake," John, xiii. 22.
In short, if believers Were clear from the sin of infidelity, we should not find so many reproofs and rebukes left upon record as re do, all which have been given to the faithful for that sin of unbelief; nor would they nave been chastened for it, as many of them have been; especially Zacharias, who, upon hearing that his prayer was answered, that his wife should bear a son and that he should be a prophet, and the Lord's forerunner, required a sign, and was struck dumb nine months for his unbelief, and doubting the truth of the angel's message, which was fulfilled in its season. If our favourite apostle had found no unbelief nor doubts among the saints in his days, he would not have cautioned them against it: "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting," 1 Tim. ii. 8.
Where there is unbelief, there is doubting; they always go together; and who can say, I have made my heart clean, with respect to unbelief; I am pure from the sin of doubting? And, if they are not free from unbelief, they are not free from doubts for, although they may have the fullest assurance of their eternal salvation, yet they doubt about many things. The father of the faithful was hardly free from doubts when he denied his wife in Egypt, and said, "They will kill me" for thy sake. "Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister, that it may be well with me for thy sake, and my soul shall live because of thee," Gen. xii. 12, 13.
Though the gospel came to the Thessalonians "in power, in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance," yet it does not go to every chosen vessel with that degree of power, nor with so much assurance. Paul speaks of some whose faith grew exceedingly, and of others, who for the time ought to have been teachers, but who needed teaching again. We are to feed the lambs as well as the sheep, John xxi. 15, 16; to strengthen weak hands, to confirm feeble knees, and to say to fearful hearts, "Be strong, fear not; behold, your God will come and save you," Isa. xxxv. 3, 4. Though such souls can scarcely say, the Lord our God.
I think, if I was with thee a little while, I should find something like doubting about thee, notwithstanding all thy assurance. You own that you meet with much opposition, both from professors and profane; these, like Sanballat and Tobiah, are mountains in the way of Zerubbabel, Zech. iv. 7. How is it, then, that thou dost not remove them? "Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done," Matt. xxi. 21.
Your usefulness is not singularly great, nor are your people in the sweetest union; far from it; yet I doubt not but you pray for these things. I would advise you to put forth a little more faith with your prayers: for if a man do "not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith," Mark, xi. 23.
You have a carnal wife, whose besetting sin is covetousness. I wish you would make a trial of your faith upon her. We know that a sinner is a corrupt tree, and the love of money is the root of all evil. If your faith is void of all doubts, you might say to that corrupt tree, Be thou plucked up by the roots, and be thou planted in the sea of glass mingled with fire, Rev. xv. 2, which is the gospel dispensation, and it would be done. All things are possible to him that believes. A less degree of faith than that which you talk of, would do this. "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you," Luke, xvii. 6. I have been praying for faith these fifteen or sixteen years; and I must confess that I find it hard work, when the Lord is pleased to try me, either to stand the fiery trial, or bear the cross; and seldom do without much wretched rebellion and murmuring, which are both my grief and my shame.
If I was to attend your ministry, instead of strengthening my faith, you would beget a thousand doubts in my mind; for, every time I heard you enforce a faith that could purify the heart from that cursed sin of unbelief, and from all doubts that attend it, I should act the part of the adulterous generation; I should require a sign; I should say, "What sign shewest thou?" And, if upon observation I found thy labours and usefulness not to exceed those of others; if thy heart appeared no more pure than my own; if thy victory over the world was no greater than mine; if thy faith wrought by no more love than my own does; if thy prevalency with God did not appear to excel; if no conspicuous answers to prayer were granted; if I perceived no superior degree of knowledge; no experience which excels that of others; no trophies of faith's victories, like those of Paul; no visions nor miraculous revelations; no rapturous triumphs, nor any pressures beyond measure, to make you despair even of life; I should judge of you as some did of Samson when they cut off his hair; I should think you were no more than another man. And, for my part, I should give you the old challenge, "Shew me thy faith without thy works," which is what no man ever did, "and I will shew thee my faith by my works," James, ii. 18; which every real believer can do.
I read that faith is doubled with repentance. The apostles preached repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is a coming to God by repentance. It views God, in Christ, a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. It is an apprehending of the Saviour with all his saving benefits. It applies the atonement, and purifies the heart by an application of it. It puts on an imputed righteousness. It gives Christ a residence in the heart; he dwells in the heart by faith. It worketh by love to Christ, and to all that love him in sincerity and truth. It is a penetrating eye; it sees him who is invisible, Heb. xi. 27. It is a mighty hand; "I held him says the spouse, Cant. iii. 4. It attends prayer; we ask in faith. It brings distant things near; "they saw the promises afar off, and embraced them," Heb. xi. 13. It receives life and strength from the Lord; we live by faith. It is the substance of things hoped for. It is an earnest-penny of the great reward. It is a realizing evidence of things not seen; the believer is entitled to glory; heirship and sonship are promised to it. Faith is a spark from the Saviour's fullness; wrought and produced in us by the Spirit, who makes it act and shine as he pleases. It is the eye of the heaven-born soul; "He that believeth in me shall not abide in darkness, but shall have the light of life" that he may walk by faith, and not by sight.
Now, if thou canst give me no account of repentance toward God, as well as faith; no account of receiving the atonement, and of the purifying efficacy thereof; no account of putting on an imputed righteousness, and of that peace which attends it; no account of Christ's taking possession of thy heart; no account of the beauties of him who is invisible; no account of the love that faith works by; no account of preveiling with God in prayer; no account of laying hold of Christ, nor of bringing him into the chamber of her that conceived thee-I should not fear thee as a prophet of the Lord; nor should I pay any respect to thy faith, because thou hast none of the above works to show. If thou art destitute of these things, thou mayest well boast of the word, faith, for thou hast got nothing else: "But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" James, ii. 20.
It may be observed, that the Scriptures are not so profuse about what faith is, as they are about what faith does. By faith Noah was moved with fear, and built an ark. By it Moses forsook Egypt; by it he endured affliction; and the love that his faith worked by influenced his heart to have respect to the recompense of reward. But you are silent about these things; you have only to do with full assurance; you are not for the feats of faith, only for the size. "My desire is, that Job may be tried unto the end," Job, xxxiv. 36. If I could see thee tried, in a measure, as Job was, and hear thee say, when in the furnace, as he did, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him," I should then think thy faith had got a divine hold indeed; but at present we differ; thou seemest to be filled with assurance, while I doubt whether thou hast any real faith at all.
I know you will rank me with unbelievers; and "I desire to be present with you, [to dispute the point,] and to change my voice, for I stand in doubt of you," Gal. iv. 20. For my part, I would not exchange my weak faith for yours; I know what it has done, though I know not what it has yet to do; but this I know, that faith is not the strength of my heart, though I would wish to be strong in faith. God is the strength of his people's heart; and as their day is, so shall their strength be. God gives them faith to stand in, and faith to fight by, though he seldom gives them a stock in hand to boast of.
I once knew a woman, who was a poor, weak, illiterate person, an inferior servant in a family, who pretended that she has been converted to the faith at a place called Staines, in Middlesex who, some time after her pretended conversion, came to London, and shortly threw herself out of servitude. She pretended to a very great degree of faith and knowledge; and with this trading stock she got acquainted with many professing people; and by frequenting places of public worship, and prayer-meetings, she began to be well known and very highly esteemed at our end of the town; and in process of time she was able, by means of her faith and knowledge, to mump a livelihood, and so lived in habitual idleness. She had wisdom enough not to pay her visits to those of experience and discernment, but chiefly to the simple ones, who were running here and there, crying out, "Who will shew us any good?" Amongst these she constantly prophesied; and where she carried her tattle, there she got her provision; and so lived like a hawking pedlar, or a beggar's dog, and went from house to house.
Among the various families that she pilfered, that of Mr. Baker, grocer, of Oxford Street, was one; who, in process of time, attended my ministry: and, after I became acquainted with them, I often heard, in the course of conversation, the name of Nanny brought up. I desired to know something of the pedigree, character, religion, life, and behaviour of this Nanny; and, by their account, I found that she did not approve of working, and eating her own bread; nor did she obtain it altogether by the use of candour; for she shewed her authority, used sharpness, found fault with their family affairs, housekeeping, and whatever fell under her observation. If she saw the master of the family receiving fresh goods into his shop, she observed, "Ah! you are filling your barns: what if your soul was to be required this night!" And, when they presented her with a guinea, she replied, "I don't thank you for it." The utmost they ever could get of her, on the reception of such a sum, was to turn up her eyes to God, and inform them, that she was not beholden to them. She did not cringe as Paul did, calling an alms a sweet-smelling savour, well-pleasing and acceptable to God; she left the hospitable instrument quite out of the question.
Nanny was not destitute of eyesight; she knew an eagle from an owl; and perceived who could see through her, and who could not. The inquiring and the simple she stuck close to; and, with a few scraps of scripture, she became the formidable object of their fear, and exercised her authority with a very high hand, and that for three or four years together; which God has made of great use to them since, as it has given them a just idea of a mumping hypocrite. I gave them to understand, that the scriptures warranted no such behaviour as this in women professing godliness. They intimated, that she was certainly a good woman, though she was rather haughty and strange in her way. I asked whose ministry Nanny attended; and I found those were her greatest favourites who dealt the most in hell and damnation, yet knew nothing savingly of Christ; which gave me a strong suspicion that Nanny was no prophetess.
However, it once fell out that I happened to call on them when she was present: and the good man and his wife were sitting by, or at her feet, while she was exercising her authority, and enforcing her rebukes. I took a chair, and sat down by her, though she seemed rather in a bad temper. I inquired a little into her conversion, and the manner of it; how she came at first by her profession; what troubles she had been in, and how delivered; whether she had felt the burden of her sins, and how it was removed; what she knew of the operations of grace, and of the liberty of the Spirit: and Nanny gave me just as confused an account as one of the Lapland witches would have done. The good man and his wife sat biting their lips, and seemed not a little displeased with my scrutinizing of her; they did not like to see their governess and tutoress arraigned at the bar. However, I knew it was my duty to "judge them that are within, but them that are without, God judgeth," 1 Cor. v. 12, 13, and to be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; for I perceived that the people were sincere seekers after truth.
Some time after this Nanny called on them again, and inveighed against them for idolatry, declaring that they idolized Mr. Huntington. They asked her how it was that she never had been afraid of their idolizing her? She replied, "I come to you with the word of the Lord." They answered, "So does Mr: Huntington." She soon perceived that they entangled her in her speech, and foiled her by an application of her own conduct. From that time her mask began to fall off, and poor Nanny appeared bald-headed and bare-heeled before them: and from that time she forsook them as unreclaimable.
The next tidings we heard of Nanny were, that she had borrowed three pounds of a young professing man; and, when he demanded payment, she rebuked him for expecting it from a child of God; which sufficiently shewed to what class she belonged. It is "the wicked [that] borroweth, and payeth not again."
The next news was, that a person of note had sent for her from report. When she came, the gentlewoman had company, and desired her to stay below till they were gone. On obtaining admission, she exclaimed against being kept in waiting, as a child of God; and told the family, they ought not to respect "fine clothing and the gold ring," James, ii. 2. The person gave her some refreshment, and dismissed her.
The last account respecting her was, that a poor woman, who got her bread by chafing, came to Mr. Baker's, and said that Nanny was with her, but complained that she could not live in the house with her; for that she could do nothing to her pleasure (at that time she was supported by an upper servant in a family,) and yet was afraid to turn her out, for fear of offending God. However, soon after the Lord smote her with convulsions and horror of mind; and at the same time being struck dumb, she was not permitted to tell what she felt, or what she feared. Some, people offered to pray for her, but she refused it; and no wonder; for they that say, "Pray for us," should "have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly;" or else she rejected their prayers through pride; for she had often affirmed, that none could teach her more than she knew; though with respect to power, or even of the letter, she knew nothing; and so she died.
I do not say that your faith is of this kind; but this I will say, that your enforcing perpetually the full assurance of faith, will drive many hardened sinners and hypocrites to presume, and their presumption will be taken for full assurance. You may furnish their heads, though you cannot manure their hearts; and you may drive them to presume, but you cannot drive them to believe. It is such presumptuous, idle, canting, whining persons, as the above described, that bring a slur on the cause of God, and occasion that religion, that is pure and undefiled in itself, to be evil spoken of. The grace of God never makes a man a bad husband, a bad father or a bad servant It not only teaches, but powerfully influences, a man to do the husband's and the father's part; a woman to know her place, act the part of a wife, and of a mother; the child to be obedient, and the father to govern under God; the servant to be industrious, diligent, and submissive; and the master and mistress to respect servants that are faithful.
It is true, God gives no husband, wife, child, master or mistress, which are destitute of grace, any power over a good conscience towards him, either to force it, or to lead it from him. God is to be obeyed rather than man; yet he commands and enforces behaviour becoming godliness on those that fear him. Nothing will ever mend the heart of sinners, or promote holiness, either in heart or life, but enforcing the grace of God in Christ Jesus, and the necessity of a spiritual birth, which alone can produce it. This we ought to do, and then leave it to God; the excellency and the power are of him, not of us. It is our duty to sow the seed in the morning, and in the evening not to withhold our hand; but we cannot tell which "shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good," Eccl. xi. 6.
God has concluded all men in unbelief; and, if the Spirit convinces a man of the sin of unbelief, that same Spirit will work faith in his own good time. The mind of an awakened sinner generally flies first to the law, where he learns, by a strong hand, the holiness, justice, and immutability, of the lawgiver; and he will apply every sentence or threatening to himself. Such believe in Moses; and faith will lead them in time to believe in Jesus. They that believe Moses' writings, will in due time believe the Saviour's words. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," Rom. x. 17. When God applies the word with power to the heart, the sinner is begotten: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth," James, i. 18. The incorruptible seed is received, 1 Peter, i. 23; and by the promises he is made a partaker of the Divine nature, 2 Peter, i. 4. But it is common with God to chasten such souls sharply, that they may be purged from dross, and emptied of self, and be made partakers of his holiness, Heb. xii. 10. And under these divine operations there is much soul-travail; and unbelief will shew itself, unless you allow of perfection in the flesh: and it is the workings of unbelief against faith that cause so many conflicts in the awakened mind, until faith overcomes, and perfect love casteth out fear then life and immortality are brought to light: but the believer is then no more than a new-born babe. It is true, you will hear such often say in their prosperity, "I shall never be moved. Lord, by thy favour, thou hast made my mountain to stand strong," Psalm, xxx. 6, 7. Yet, if God hides his face, they are soon troubled; and they will ask, "Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" Yet these very persons were not destitute of faith; "And I said, This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High," Psalm, lxxvii. 7-10.
And has my friend got rid of all these infirmities? If you have, you may well triumph; for you have got rid of the main sinew of the old man, which no bible-saint could ever boast of; for I cannot find one in the bible that ever declared he was free from the sin of unbelief, though many of them were more mighty in faith than you are. For my own part, I view unbelief as the life and strength of all sin; and he that is free from this sin is a perfect man; he is able to govern the whole body. Patience must, of course, have had her perfect work in him, and he be entire, wanting nothing.
I am of opinion that, when you have done your best, you will find new-born babes, little children, and young men, as well as fathers, in the church; and I am ready to conclude, that if God should try thee in the furnace of affliction, as I hope he will, for your soul's good, and the good of others, that thou wilt find thyself as helpless as some of those little ones who appear so weak. God keeps the confession of Little Faith in his own mouth! and, when he bids them speak, he will use it. "Let the weak say, I am strong," Joel, iii. 10. And how can it be otherwise, when God is their strength?
Wherever the least feature of the Saviour's image appears, it is to be regarded. "Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." Those that are strong are to bear the infirmities of the weak, and to sympathize with them, considering themselves also in the flesh. And I believe the strongest saint upon earth would find himself but a bruised reed, if God was to leave him but one moment to feel the plague of his own heart. He would be like Hezekiah: "I said, in the cutting off of my days, I shall go to the gates of the grave, I am deprived of the residue of my years. I said, I shall not see the Lord, even the Lord in the land of the living: I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world. Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd's tent; I have cut off, like a weaver, my life: he will cut me off with pining sickness: from day, even to night, wilt thou make an end of me. I reckoned till morning, that, as a lion, so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me. Like a crane or a swallow, so did I chatter; I did mourn as a dove: mine eyes fail with looking upward: O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me," Isaiah, xxxviii. 10-l4. This man was not destitute of faith in God. God had wonderfully blessed him, as appears by the 30th, 31st, and 32d chapters of the second book of Chronicles: "Howbeit, in the business of the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart," 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. And, if the Lord was to serve thee so, thou wouldest find something in thy heart besides the full assurance of faith, as well as he who required a sign to dash his unbelief out of countenance, and put his doubts to flight; which was granted. "Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears; behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee, and this city, out of the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city. And this shall be a sign unto thee from the Lord, that the Lord will do this that he hath spoken: Behold, I will bring again the shadow of the degrees, which is gone down in the sun-dial of Ahaz, ten degrees backward. So the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down," Isaiah, xxxviii. 4-8. God does nothing in vain. If the king had been plagued with no unbelief; if he had no doubts to scatter, no wavering in his mind, there had been no call for a sign. He might have said, as the centurion did concerning his sick servant, "Speak in a word, and my servant shall be healed;" speak in a word, and I shall he restored. But all the family of God have not got the full assurance of faith; and those Who have the strongest assurance cannot exercise it when they please. David had this grace in the highest exercise when he said to the Philistine, "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand, and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands," 1 Sam. xvii. 45 47. Here is assurance under arms at the front of the battle; but his assurance did not appear to be in such wonderful exercise at the time of Absalom's conspiracy, which many of his people took notice of: "And all the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines, and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom," 2 Sam. xix. 9.
These observations are sufficient to prove that all the household of faith are not blessed with full assurance; and it is as evident that the life, power, spirit, and exercise of faith, are not at the command, nor at the disposal of man; and it is as plain that the old man and the new one, grace and corruption, Faith with her fruit Unbelief with her doubts, do dwell in a child of God at one and the same time. There is, in the best of men, a law in the members warring against the law of the mind. And it is clear that assurance belongs to the law of faith and love in the mind; and it is as plain that unbelief is part of the law in the members; and so you will find it when you come to be tried, unless you are one of those who are perfect in the flesh; if so, you have no battle to fight, not any thing to pray for; and it is well with you that your faith is grown so exceedingly. But there are some who are so weak in this grace, that they are obliged to pray, as the apostles did," Lord, increase our faith!" Luke, xvii. 5: and with him that said, "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief," Mark, ix. 24: and these petitions prevailed with the Saviour as well as yours. Therefore preach the faith, encourage weak faith, and impart that which is lacking in their faith, and let them go on their own pace. "He that believeth shall not make haste," Isaiah, xxviii. 16. "He that hasteth with his feet sinneth," Prov. xix. 2. The Lord's family is like Jacob's drove, when he said to Esau, "My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me; and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die. Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant; and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir," Gen. xxxiii. 13, 14.
I have often observed that some of the most renowned saints in the Bible, I mean those that were strong men in grace, and mighty in faith, have appeared like little children when God has withdrawn the light of his blessed countenance from them, and put them into the furnace of affliction: and we have some in our days who would willingly be thought to excel in this most excellent grace of faith, who, I am persuaded, would discover as many doubts upon the deep Waters of affliction as Peter did when the boisterous sea hid the face of Jesus from his eyes.
Therefore I must entreat thee, in behalf of my brother Little Faith (he is a good man, though, like Zaccheus, of little stature,) not to drive him, with your strong assurance, into the sycamore tree: if you do, when Jesus comes, he will make him come down again. You may observe, in this epistle, that I sometimes call Little Faith by the masculine, and sometimes by the feminine gender; because there are godly men, as well as women, who often appear to have but little faith, or to be slow of heart to believe. However, you will know Little Faith by his cries, and by the title God has given him: but, wherever he be, if he calls for thine assistance and sympathy, let him find grace in thy sight.
Thou wilt sometimes find him struggling between the strait till he is out of breath, and then he will lie down, and plunge no more, as if he was hung in the birth. Hence he is threatened with more hard labour: "The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children," Hosea, xiii. 13. Yet he was a son, and the seed of faith was in him: "Is Ephraim my dear son? is he a pleasant child? I remember him still; my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord," Jer. xxxi. 20.
Sometimes thou wilt find him to be all faith, all praise, and all religion, mounting up as upon eagles' wings, Isaiah, xl. 31, till some contrary wind blows him too far towards the north: then he loses the rays of the sun, and down he comes, and you will see him move no more till God moves him. He will mourn, but not strive; cast away his confidence, but not resist; write bitter things against himself, but nothing against Satan. He has a heart to fret, a heart to murmur, a heart to complain, a heart to rebel; but no heart to strive, fight, or plead; and he is slow of heart to believe; hence he is called "a silly dove without heart," Hosea, vii. 11.
He is sometimes to be found with a yoke about his neck: then it may be concluded that he has either been running away from his work, as others have done, saying, "I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name," Jer. xx. 9; or else he has been breaking through his bounds, and God has caught him upon the old common, feeding upon the old fare, for which he is yoked. He makes the yoke himself, and God ties it on, and makes him wear it: "The yoke of my transgression is bound by his hand; they are wreathed, and come up upon my neck," Lam. i. 14.
Sometimes pride carries him away; he is so lifted up in his comfortable frames, that he concludes that no person has any faith but himself; he can admit of no doubts, fears, or misgivings; he has got a little of the good wine of the kingdom; he drinks, and forgets his poverty, and thinks he shall remember his misery no more, Prov. xxxi. 7. Prosperity has made him forget the wormwood and the gall, Lam. iii. 19; therefore it is beneath him to come down from his excellency to sympathize with them who are putting their "mouth in the dust, if so be there might be hope," Lam. iii. 29. This tincture of haughtiness procures him a little degradation; the humble soul, that he thought little of, is exalted to honour; while he, to his great mortification, is obliged for a while to take the lowest room.
Sometimes Little Faith abuses his liberty; his light joys carry him too high; filial fear is not strong enough to make him think soberly; joys and triumphs are all in all; prayer gets out of season with him; whereas we never need be more fervent in prayer than in times of prosperity. For these things he is often shut up in the black hole; then prayer becomes seasonable: "I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee; I have stretched out my hands unto thee," Ps. lxxxviii. 9, 10.
Sometimes he is too heedless in his race; he runs here and there, to try various winds of doctrine. Judging himself capable of discerning good and evil, he will dispute doctrinal points with any old sorcerer, like John's young disciples, who began to dispute with the Jews about purifying, John, iii. 25. He can play on the hole of the asp, and put his hand upon the cockatrice den, or even take a dog by the ears, Prov. xxvi. 17. He thinks his joys are sufficient to carry him through. However, in order to keep him in the company of wise men, the Lord sometimes permits the harlot, or false church, to cast such an one down wounded, until he finds himself laid by the heels, to teach him to run more carefully when he has the use of his limbs. Then he complains, "Thou puttest my feet in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet," Job, xiii. 27.
Sometimes he discovers much rebellion and stubbornness under the rod, and would sooner run away from God than humble himself under his mighty hand. He will flee from the rod, rather than confess and supplicate; and be froward, rather than submissive: "I smote him: I hid me, and was wroth; and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart," Isaiah, lvii. 17. It is common with some children, when threatened, or when whipped, to take to their heels; for which defiance this message is often sent after them: I shall have you at night, I will give it you when you come to bed. We all know there is a night coming, in which no man can work, John, ix. 4. If we wait, the grave is our house; yet we should not like to make our bed in the darkness, Job, xvii. 13. As none would like to be put to bed in the dark, nor under the rod, let Little Faith kiss the rod, know who hath appointed it, and fly to the hand that holds it; lest at bed time he cry out, as others have done, "O spare me, that I may recover strength before I go hence, and be no more!" Psalm, xxxix. 13. the rod is useful; iniquity is bound in the heart of a child, and it is the rod of correction that shall drive it out. God does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of his love without cause: he visits sins with the rod, and we procure the stripes to ourselves.
The fatherly severity of God is intended to humble our pride, imbitter sin, and keep us in reverential awe and filial fear of him. A hiding God, a spiritual fast, and the chastening rod, are terrible things to the Lord's little ones: sleeping or waking, they can find no rest, till matters are made up, and peace be restored. Some children, when they have had a whipping over night, will often dream about it; and cry out in their sleep, as if they really felt the strokes; and this is sometimes the case with Little Faith: "When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint; then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions; so that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life," Job, vii. 13-15. If he was terrified with dreams, it is plain he dreamt of the rod. Had his dreams been heavenly, like those of Jeremiah, they would have left the same sweetness upon his soul: Upon this I awaked, and beheld, and my sleep was sweet unto me," Jer. xxxi. 26.
To be short: the strongest man in faith was once a babe in grace. Those that are weak are to be received, but not to doubtful disputations. Faith and her evidences, Unbelief and her doubts, do inhabit a believer at one and the same time. There is little faith, growing faith, and the fullest assurance of faith, mentioned in scripture. Neither the apostles, prophets, nor even God our Saviour himself, ever refused to suckle the babe, lead and feed the child, strengthen the weak, or encourage the ewe great with young. No bible pastor ever found the whole family of God in the full assurance of faith; much less did they confine their ministry to those only who are called fathers in Christ. Lambs stand in more need of the shepherd's aid than grown sheep or old rams; and children are more craving after food than aged fathers, who can feed themselves. If you choose to reply to this, I will, God willing, urge a second plea, and shew thee that I have yet to speak in behalf of Little Faith. Meanwhile I would caution thee, as David did Joab, to deal gently with the young man, even Little Faith.
I do believe that you are injuring the weaklings of the flock. I have therefore printed this little plea, that Little Faith may have something to defend himself against your straitened ministry, in which I firmly believe you err, and by which you do offend many of the little ones that believe in Jesus, and make the hearts of those sad whom the Lord would not have made sad: and this you will find when you come to be soundly tried. "To the weak (says Paul) became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some," I Cor. ix. 22. Go we, and do likewise.
We are to separate the vile from the precious, and the chaff from the wheat, as the Lord discovers them; to purge out the old leaven, to draw proper lines, to shew the sincere from the hypocritical, and to purge ourselves from disorderly and false professors. But the command to Simon is applicable to every minister of Christ: "Lovest thou me? Feed my lambs; feed my sheep." The weaklings of the flock are to be fed as well as the sheep. The passage you refer to, "He that doubteth, is damned if he eat." Rom. xiv. 23, is perverted. The damnation of hell is not intended by that text: for, although truth has declared that "meat commendeth us not to God; for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse," 1 Cor. viii. 8. "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink," Rom. xiv. 17-yet God has not fixed the sentence of damnation upon meat, nor upon him that eateth it, any more than he has promised heaven to them that fast in Lent, or live upon fish and eggs. He that commandeth abstinence from meat under the gospel, contradicts the Saviour, who declares, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth the man." Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, are doctrines of devils, and are enforced by those only who "give heed to seducing spirits," 1 Tim. iv. 1-3. "I know," says Paul, "and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean," Rom. xiv. 14. Such an one goes not by the word of God; he is awed, governed, and kept in bondage, by a blind, misled, or uninformed conscience; having not light to see his liberty.
God damns no man for eating meat: the sentence in the text is from the man himself: "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth," Rom. xiv. 22. But man is not lord of life and death; the sentence of eternal damnation is not lodged in his power; that prerogative belongs to the Judge of quick and dead, and none else. Nor is the sentence of God intended by the word damnation, but the sentence of a man's own conscience, which follows upon his commission of that which he believes to be sin: "And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith; for whatsoever is not of faith, is sin;" Rom. xiv. 23.
Dear Sir, adieu. While I subscribe myself,
Yours to command,
In the gospel of Christ,
Winchester - Row