Page images

attainments? Such a knowledge of himself, as made him say, "Behold, I am vile; I have heard of thee [formerly] by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." This is the perfection of a sinner; to feel himself unworthy of the smallest mercy; and to derive all his hope, comfort, and strength from Him who is made of God unto us, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.

Bradford, Philpot, and others, who suffered under Queen Mary, were men eminent for faith, grace, and holiness, beyond the common measure. They were full of joy and consolation; yet, when they were brought to the stake, though they expressed the most lively hope, and were as sure of heaven as if already there, with their last breath they confessed themselves vile sinners, and that they trusted in nothing but the atonement and mediation of Jesus. And I have seen many die in this spirit upon their beds, in the full assurance of faith, and yet at a loss for words to express the sense they had of their own vileness.

O, methinks I could weep at this delusion of sinless perfection, and especially to hear it inculcated as a Gospel doctrine. It discourages sincere souls; and the expect ation of what they do not, cannot attain, deprives them of the comfort to which they are entitled as believers. But it puffs up the proud and ignorant with vain confidence. When once a person is so far infatuated, as to presume himself perfect, I would no more talk with him than with a lunatic, until God shall bring him to his right mind. Dreadful are the effects of this vain and presumptuous dream, There was a woman in Liverpool, when I lived there, who was so. perfect, that she declared, she tried to sin, but could not. About the


year 1763, this strange doctrine spread like wildfire in Mr. Wesley's societies, and there were several persons improved upon it: they said that death was the wages of sin; but as they were perfect and freed from sin, they took it into their heads that they should never die. Others I have known, who thought themselves too good to repeat that petition in the Lord's prayer, Forgive us our trespasses; for they supposed they had no trespasses to be forgiven. Nay, some have thought themselves too perfect to need the intercession of Christ.

I hope many who were once entangled in this dangerous mistake have been mercifully recovered out of the snare; but too many have been left to dishonour, by gross enormities, their former profession of religion, and at length to renounce it, and to plunge into the world again, from which for a time they had separated themselves.

I rejoice, Madam, that the Lord has made you afraid of this error: may you ever be kept from it! Pay no undue regard to the names or authority of men: search the Scripture for yourself: one is your master, even Christ. I advise you not to dispute with them about it; rather avoid them, and pray for them. If they offer a detached text of Scripture, which may seem to favour their pretences, be not staggered, but consider the whole tenour of Scripture, and your own experience. Observe, likewise, the conduct of these perfect people, and I believe and I believe you will perceive such a want of simplicity, modesty, humility, and candour, as will be sufficient to guard you against them. And stake the words of the Apostle John against all that they can offer, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.'

I am glad that the thought of your being in the path of duty reconciles you to all the circum

stances attending it. Some situa- membrance, and returns you her tions may appear preferable in best wishes. themselves to others; but we may be sure that we can be no where better, than where we ought to be: but should any occasion bring you to England, I should be very glad to see you. I believe Miss M. is well. She is frequently at my church, but it is some time since I had an opportunity of speaking to her.

[blocks in formation]

I am, dear Madam, your affectionate friend and servant, JOHN NEWTON. Coleman Street Buildings, the 9th October.


WE are now brought once more, in the providence of God, to the commencement of another year: it surely, therefore, becomes us to pause and contemplate our present situation; to endeavour suitably to impress upon our minds the manifold and great mercies which we have received, and to form corresponding resolutions with respect to our future conduct. For this purpose I have selected the words of my text. The prophet Samuel is here acknowledging the gracious deliverance which Israel had received from the hands of their enemies, when the Lord thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them;-instead of erecting a monument to his own praise, or a

P. S. You are told that sanctification is instantaneous. But our Lord compares it to the corn, which, from a small seed, springs up night and day we know not how. It is compared likewise to the light, which advances more and more to the perfect day. Having this account from the sure word of God, we need not mind what any of our fellow worms say to the contrary. To the law, and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light

in them.

[blocks in formation]

we look back upon the year that is past, how many have fallen on the right hand and on the left! how many, who at this time last year had as fair a prospect of surviving to its close as we had, are now in the still cold grave-have been removed perhaps by a sudden stroke, or an unlooked-for accident, but have been fixed in an eternal statewhilst we are all here alive before God!

How many also have been exercised with grievous trials, with wasting sickness, with distressing poverty, with loss of friends, with blasting and disappointment of the fairest prospects, whilst we are here not only alive, but enjoying a measure of health; having been fed, and clothed, and prospered, and raised up from beds of languishing, and permitted to come forth and rejoice before our God!

But if we have experienced providential assistance from the hands of Almighty God, O how much more deeply are we indebted to him for the interpositions of his grace! Hitherto, indeed, in a spiritual point of view, "the Lord hath helped us;" for, whatever be our actual state in the sight of God, it surely becomes us to acknowledge his inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, and in affording to us the means of grace and the hopes of glory.

Why, indeed, are we favoured with distinguishing blessings? Are we better than others? No, in no wise. It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed. By his grace the plan of our redemption was contrived; that grace, that free undeserved favour, was manifested in the gift of his own dear Son to die upon the cross; in the raising him from the dead, exalting him at his own right hand in glory, and pouring the Holy Spirit down: that grace was manifested also in the sending forth of Apostles and Ministers, in communicating a written JAN, 1822.

word and a preached Gospel, in placing us in a Christian land and under a faithful ministry. Whatever, therefore, be the spiritual progress which we have made as to all these particulars, at least it must be said, 66 Hitherto the Lord hath helped us."

But if indeed we have been led to experience in our hearts the influence of divine grace, does it not become us seriously to meditate on the assistance we have thus experienced? Who hath made us to differ, and what have we that we have not received? Have we been quickened from the death of sin to a life of righteousness? Have we been brought to see our need of Christ, and to seek for pardoning mercy by faith in his atoning sacrifice? Have we been enabled to renounce our former sins, and to walk in newness of life? Have we been kept from falling, preserved from backsliding or bringing disgrace upon our profession, strengthened against temptation, and enabled to maintain an honourable walk and conversation? Then surely each one of us may well say,

This is the Lord's doing, and marvellous in our eyes.-Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, but unto thy name be the praise. I had fainted, had I not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. O taste and see how gracious the Lord is; blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” These marks may lead us to consider,

II. The returns we ought to render.

If, my brethren, we have been helped both in providence and in grace; if our lives have been preserved, our wants supplied, the means of grace continued, and the effectual influences of the Holy Spirit communicated, surely it becomes us, in the review of such mercies, thankfully to acknowledge God's goodness.

Such was the conduct of Samuel;


instead of setting up a place, a trophy, as Saul afterwards did, he erected a monument, a rude, an unfinished, but yet an abiding token of the deep impression which he had of God's goodness. Thus would we call upon you to record your obligations to Almighty God: meditate in secret upon his loving-kindness; consider what would have been your situation had he not interfered on your behalf; how often your own sin would have been followed by severe punishment but for his mercy; and when in secret your heart is affected with the recollection of his mercies, as it inevitably must be if you duly consider, then come forth, and in your families and amongst your connexions, instead of joining in the language of murmuring and complaint, let your voice exclaim, "Praised be the Lord, who is daily loading us with benefits." "He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Endeavour to testify to others of God's goodness; and let there be some monument set up, some se'cret record, if not some public testimony, of the deep sense which you entertain of his mercy.

God with your bodies and with
your souls, which are his. And
surely you ought to strive that your
own conduct, and that of every
member of your family, may evince
the deep sense of your obligation
to God, and the strength of that
resolution which it becomes you,
after the example of Joshua, to
adopt, "As for me, and my house,
we will serve the Lord."

For this purpose let me call upon
you with all earnestness to set up
the worship of God in your house
and in your family. Let no day
pass without calling upon your
partners, your children, and your
servants, to read the word of God,
and unite with you in prayer.
the public services of the Lord's day
especially be thus improved; and
endeavour in this way to reimpress
on your own minds, and on those
of your relations and dependents,
those truths which are proclaimed
to you. in the great congregation.
No means are so likely, under
God's blessing, to affect the heart
of the rising generation, and to per-
petuate a succession of Christian
people, as the improving in the
private and family circle the ser-
mons and services of the public as-

[ocr errors]

But while you thus acknowledge God's hand, and celebrate And as you acknowledge God's his goodness as manifested unto goodness, and devote yourselves you in times past, rest not satisfied afresh to his service, so also go with mere acknowledgment, but forth in dependence upon his aldevote yourselves afresh to his ser- mighty arm. Your warfare is not vice. Unquestionably Samuel never finished, nor your enemies subdued. intended, when he erected this pil-You have still to wrestle, not merelar, to relinquish the contest; but, ly against flesh and blood, but on the contrary, that he and his against principalities and powers. people might be animated to en- The world, the flesh, and the devil gage with renewed vigour : let this will still unite to impede your probe your determination. Let the gress, and you will therefore need ́recollection of past mercies stimu- strength superior to your own. But late you continually to the inquiry, fear not; you have an almighty arm What shall I render to the Lord for on which you may lean. He who all his benefits? Surely it is your hath delivered, doth deliver; and bounden duty, and your reasonable in him you may surely trust that he service, to acknowledge that you will still deliver. Learn, therefore, are no longer your own, but bought habitually to rely on him. Flee with a price, and engaged to glorify unto him in every time of difficulty.


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Lay hold upon his strength, and you shall then be more than con


Come then, my brethren, with such views, such determinations, and such dependence, unto the table of the Lord. Here confess your sinfulness, unworthiness, and ingratitude. Here seek afresh for pardon through the atoning blood. Here express your humble faith and firm reliance on the Lamb of God by receiving again the tokens of his dying love; and while you feed in your hearts by faith, on his body broken and his blood poured out, renew your dedication of yourselves to him. Determine to be his and his alone, and go forth to duty or to trial, depending on his grace,

relying on his arm, not knowing what shall befall you in the ensuing year; but surely believing that not one good thing shall fail which the Lord hath spoken to you of; but that whether life or death, health or sickness, prosperity or trials, shall be your portion, all things shall work together for good to your souls; you shall either be spared to set up afresh another EBENEZER on earth, or shall join the great multitude before the throne; who resting on the Rock of ages, built up on the same foundation, washed in the Redeemer's blood, and clothed in his righteousness, are singing the new song of salvation to our God and to the Lamb for ever. Amen.


"My mis'ess loves a bit of something for her Sunday's dinner," thought Nat Newton as he left work one Saturday night; " and for once I'll treat her." Now his wife was a well-meaning, honest woman, who worked hard to keep her children clean and tidy, kept no company with her idle neighbours, and was never seen gossipping or loitering about; but was constantly busy in her house or at her needle all day. When her husband came home at night, his supper was ready; and after she had attended to all his wants, she would sit by him while he read the Bible; and it seemned to be her greatest pleasure to listen to the different remarks he made as he went on. After they had done reading, they joined in prayer, and thus ended the day.

But on Saturday nights Mary was generally a little anxious till Nat came home; for upon his weekly success depended their comforts until Saturday came again. She knew directly he opened the door what she had to hear; and you would see her long before the time arrived


tidying up the hearth, and putting things in order, to receive him. It was late this evening before he reached home. How silently she watched every footstep! and how anxiously she listened when each had passed by! At length, lighthearted and cheerful, he returned to his joyful family. The children flocked round him; some on his knees, others clinging upon his neck for a hearty kiss. Full of joy, he threw his earnings upon the table: his wife looked at him with surprise. "Why, Nat," she exclaimed," this is too much! Thank God!-but he is too good to us; this is more than we deserve."

Nat then slyly took out the piece of fresh meat which he had bought for the treat; at which the young ones looked well satisfied. "How is this?" cried the wife. 66 Why, Mary, my master has raised my wages for a few weeks while the long days last, as I am to work a little over-hours; and I am very thankful for it. But let us resolve not to spend any of the money heedlessly; let us lay by what we can for some good purpose."

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »