To Mr. R. M. at B.
I RECEIVED your letter with thankfulness to God for his goodness to you, and for making choice of my mouth to solve your long perplexing doubt. I have long thought that a bigoted Papist, a self-sufficient Arminian, and an hardened Antinomian, are the hardest souls to work upon of any that ever came under my observations; and working upon such may truly be called plowing upon a rock. But is there any thing too hard for the Lord? All that are ordained to eternal life must come to Christ for life. The children of the free-woman must receive the truth, that the truth may make them free; and, if they err in spirit, they shall come to understanding; and, if they murmur, they shall learn doctrine.
You are a living witness of the truth of God's election, being a subject of discriminating grace, and a pillar and ground of this great and glorious truth; for who but God hath made thee to differ from those that thou art separated from? who are left under the deception, to stumble upon the dark mountains, and to wander in a wilderness where there is no way, no way cast up, no way consecrated, no way of access opened; but a way of their own devising, a crooked path, and whosoever walketh therein shall not know peace; destruction and misery being in all their ways, and the way of peace they have not known.
You inform me that a wonderful field is opened to you. True; but thou wilt see greater things than these; thy path will shine more and more even to perfect day, and thou wilt have many open visions of the glory that is within the wail; which sweetly convinces the heaven born soul that the gates and everlasting doors, which once lifted up their heads to receive our forerunner, are not closed against his faithful followers. Our rapturous thoughts, our heavenly minds, our renewed and divinely inflamed affections, our faith, and our hope, are often admitted into the holy of holies, ascending (like the angels) and descending upon the son of man, and frequently return with sweet entertainment. Yea, we are raised up and made to sit together representatively in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
And, "As you have received Christ, so walk ye in him;" make straight paths for your feet; and cleanse your way, by taking heed thereto according to his word. Be fully persuaded in your own mind respecting every truth, and hold fast the form of sound words, and the doctrine contained in them; and see that you have God's unconditional yea and amen to support everything you embrace and hold forth; and set up your waymarks as you go on, and then you know where to look, and where to refer in every dispute and controversy. For, although you are escaped out of the snare of the fowler, yet the fowler will try to ensnare you again. He has more traps than one; he can come as an assailant with an army of terrors, and he can come as a visitor and. applaud the prophet;. he could teach Eve how to obtain wisdom, and set the Jews to blaspheme, and abuse the name of the Lord Jesus, and then beat his own vassals, and send them out of the house both wounded and naked for doing it; he can cry up the servants of the most high God, that shew the way of salvation, when he thinks it will exasperate the magistrates, and then set the rulers to whipping them when he has done, Acts xvi. 17, 23. He can shine with a false ray in the head of Judas, and make his light darkness; and withdraw from the heart that is in his own possession, and let the sinner attend the word preached so as to have his natural affections stirred up by it, insomuch that he receives the word with joy; and then come hack and steal away from his memory every word that he has heard, and make him as barren as before. Two devils can lay their heads together, one to blow up the pride of a graceless professor, and turn him into the likeness of a minister of Christ, until he shall call himself an apostle, a false apostle, a deceitful worker, 2 Cor. xi. 13-15; the other devil, by divine permission, shall go and torment some poor sinner with madness, and this mad devil shall stir up other sinners to go and call for that false apostle to come and cast him out in the name of Jesus; and he comes and commands the devil to depart at his bidding, and he goes; and both have served their own turn, and gained their own ends. The false apostle thinks himself more than man, and gains credit with the people, which paves the way for more mischief; and the dispossessed takes it for granted that he is converted, and attends the ministry of the false apostle. This is infernal policy, and is the stratagem of that diabolical council called the gates of hell; and Christ detects it as such, "Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not eaten, &c. in thy presence, and in thy name cast out devils?" and yet he bids them depart, and calls them workers of iniquity: but, if it was the Holy Spirit's work, it could never be so called. But this whole business is called working iniquity, for the whole of it was done by the devils only to deceive the children of men, and trouble the churches by sowing tares among the wheat. "The wheat are the children of the kingdom, and the tares are the children of the wicked one," Nor does the devil ever deceive more than when he turns reformer. To equip a minister of his for this work, he generally sends him out with a sound creed in his mouth at first, in order to pave his way into the affections of those who have orthodox beads: this establishes him as a pastor over them. He now visits them constantly till he gets into their affections; this is zealously affecting them, but not well: he then brings forth a little at a time of the bane of his heart, and covers it with zeal for the law and practical holiness; and this walking in craftiness makes him admired as a man of piety. Conscience sometimes lashes him as a deceiver, which often draws tears from his eyes in the pulpit; this passes for tenderness of heart and gospel meekness; "Blessed are the meek." He shews an uncommon regard for poor sinners, and uses the most pressing invitations to bring them all to Christ; and has now and then a hard throw at those who make the gate of life so strait, and the way to it so narrow, by running with God's decree of election in their mouths, and warns his audience against uncharitableness; this passes for pious zeal and candour. But God calls such work making the heart of the righteous sad, and strengthening the hands of evil doers; and certainly it is feeding the hypocrite, and starving the saint. In short, the doctrines of God's sovereignty and discriminating grace, faithfully handled, are the greatest bane to such a man, and a lively sound Christian is his worst enemy; but the hypocrite in Zion is his best friend and greatest favourite: and this is the devil turned reformer. But I trust thou art not ignorant of Satan's devices. If thou shunnest these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ. Adieu