To Mr. T. M.
GRACE, mercy, and peace, be multiplied. I have, from the first time I saw Mr. J. at your house, indulged a full persuasion that he is a chosen vessel, and Satan himself seems aware of it too. Persons fitted for the ministry by men meet with little opposition: the world loves its own, and they that are of the world the world will hear; nor is it Satan's interest to raise any persecution against such from whom he receives no injury, nor the sinner any benefit. He that pleases all, profits none. God has now taken poor J. in hand, and I have no doubt but he will make him useful after he hath fitted him for the work. All God's children must be taught of him; much more those whom he appoints to be as his month to others. And, indeed, a real chosen vessel stands in need of no small share of afflictions, crosses, trials, humbling dispensations, and humbling grace, to keep him steady; especially one in a public character; that he may have ballast, and not be overset, or left to make shipwreck of faith. " Not a novice," saith the Spirit, " lest, being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." If that text was to be applied with power to every person that is now in the office of the ministry, we might reverse the order of the following text, and say, God gave the word, and few there were to publish it. It requires too much patience to tarry in Jerusalem till endued with power from on high; especially by those who know not themselves, their own insufficiency, the majesty of the Lord, nor the importance of the work.
The hand of God upon those three men is truly awful, and serves to spew us that a long and empty profession, head notions, and a vain confidence, are no armour of defence against the attacks of Satan. J. in my judgment is a poor, broken-hearted sinner; and God has promised to look to, and dwell with, such: and there is no fighting against God's temples and prospering. Here is a Mr. D. who preaches at B. C. the same who went lately to L. to add affliction to his bondage; who, I hear, is still preaching against him. If he proceeds I shall expose his emptiness, for he is nothing but a wooden vessel. Blessed are they who, feeling the terrors of the Lord, fly from the wrath to come, and embrace the Rock for want of a shelter! Such souls are not without a strong hold in times of trouble, and God knows them that put their trust in him.
I am sadly afraid there are too many, not only at L. but all over the nation, who are set down short of the promised rest, and built up, but not on the foundation that God has laid in Zion: nor can it be otherwise expected, when we consider the workmen who have laboured among them. Who can cast up the highway that never was in it? and how can they labour to purpose who were never partakers of the fruits? I think God has taken his fan in hand at L.; he will thoroughly purge his floor, and separate the chaff from the wheat, and the vile from the precious.
God's judgments attending the enemies of his servants may serve to awe those who are for healing the wound slightly, daubing with untempered mortar, and crying Peace, where the blood of sprinkling has never spoken. God's judgments attended the magicians in Egypt as well as their pupils. The words, mad, and bad spirit, are very commonly on all used in our days, and plentifully poured forth who know the plague of their own heart and the efficacy of the atonement, and who enforce and insist upon regeneration as essential to salvation and a meetness for heaven. Preaching conviction, conversion, faith, repentance, and a knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins, is called disturbing the peace of the churches. Conversion, with many preachers, consists in nothing but a reformation of manners; external conformity, and a decent deportment. A natural assent to what such preachers say is called faith; conscience, hushed to sleep by a few dead works, goes for the peace of God; and to be enamoured and enraptured with the uncertain sound of such a trumpet, passes for pious zeal, lively frames, and the joy of the Lord. A demure or a smiling countenance under the word is called grace in the very face; tickling the fancy, .and moving the passions, goes current for the operations of the Holy Spirit, and for a precious opportunity; while the honest rebukes and secret lashes of conscience are called the buffetings of Satan, the workings of the old man, and the trial of faith: and, when conscience gets brow-beaten, borne down, and silenced, by the false evidences of the preacher, this is called being blessed and set at liberty under the word; and such precious souls are called the seals of the preacher's ministry, which strengthens his hands, and serves to encourage him to be always abounding in the work of the Lord, as this is called.
This beating the air, this running at uncertainty and labouring in vain, is almost universal in the present day; and it is not likely that these builders should ever want materials, who can use hay, straw, and stubble, seeing it is not the quality but quantity of the materials that is regarded.
When this assembly is collected together, the next step to be taken by such a deceiver is, to enshrine himself in their natural affections by constant and frequent visits; to lace them up, and keep them tight, in the contracted bands of bigotry; to arm them with prejudice against every experimental preacher; to cry down the power of God under the name of enthusiasm; to call all convictions madness, and all evangelical doctrine antinomianism; and this is called watching over the flock, and guarding it from wolves in sheep's clothing. A seared conscience passes for solid peace, presumption for the full assurance of faith, and being without inward fears and outward fightings is walking comfortably. Sensible sinners, labouring under convictions, who are dissatisfied with the preachers they sit under, are called disturbers of the churches; while keeping quiet in carnal security is allowed to be keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Daily does God make manifest such preachers and professors as these; witness the men you mention in yours. I know that every man's work shall be tried with fire; the day shall declare it, for it shall be revealed by fire, which, shall try every man's work, of what sort it is; "For by fire and by his sword will the Lord plead with all flesh, and the slain of the Lord shall be many." Blessed be God for ever for condescending to teach us what little we know.
My kind respects to your spouse, and to Mr. J. when you see him. Grace and peace be with you, Amen; while I remain,
Yours, in Christ Jesus,