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all kinds of objections to be raised against the traditional evidence of Christianity, that men of understanding, though unwilling to give it up, yet, at the same time they defend this evidence, may not rest the whole strength of their cause thereon, but seek a deeper and firmer support for it.
6. Without this, I cannot but doubt, whether they can long maintain their cause; whether, if they do not obey the loud call of God, and lay far more stress than they have hitherto done, on this internal evidence of Christianity, they will not, one after another, give up the external, and (in heart at least) go over to those whom they are now contending with ; so that, in a century or two, the people of England will be fairly divided into real Deists and real Christians. And I apprehend this would be no loss at all, but rather an advantage to the Christian cause; nay, perhaps it would be the speediest, yea, the only effectual way of bringing all reasonable Deists to be Christians.
7. May I be permitted to speak freely ? May 1, without offence, ask of you that are called Christians, what real loss would you sustain in giving up your present opinion, that the Christian system is of God? Though you bear the name, you are not Christians; you have neither Christian faith nor love. You have no divine evidence of things unseen : you have not entered into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. You do not love God with all your hearts; neither do you love your neighbour as yourselves. You are neither happy nor holy. You have not learned in every state therewith to be content; to rejoice evermore, even in want, pain, death ; and in every thing to give thanks, You are not holy in heart; superior to pride, to anger, to foolish desires. Neither are you holy in life : you do not walk as Christ also walked. Does not the main of your Christianity lie in your opinions? Decked with a few outward observances? For as to morality, even honest Heathen morality, (O let me utter a melancholy truth,) many of those whom you style Deists, there is reason to fear have far more of it than you. 8. Go on, gentlemen, and prosper.
Shame these nominal Christians out of that poor superstition which they call Christianity. Reason, rally, laugh them out of their dead, empty forms, void of spirit, of faith, of love. Convince them, that such mean pageantry (for such it manifestly is, if there is nothing in the heart correspondent with the outward show) is absolutely unworthy, you need not say of God, but even of any man that is endued with common understanding. Show them, that while they are endeavouring to please God thus, they are only beating the air. Know your time ; press on; push your victories, till you have conquered all that know not God. And then He, whom neither they nor you know now,
shall rise and gird himself with strength, and go forth in his almighty love, and sweetly conquer you all together.
9. O that the time were come! How do I long for you to be partakers of the exceeding great and precious promise! How am I pained when I hear any of you using those silly terms, which the men
of form have taught you, calling the mention of the only thing you want, Cant! The deepest wisdom, the highest happiness, Enthusiasm! What ignorance is this! How extremely despicable would it make you in the eyes of any but a Christian ! But he cannot despise you, who loves you as his own soul, who is ready to lay down his life for your sake.
10. Perhaps you will say, “But this internal evidence of Christanity affects only those in whom the promise is fulfilled. It is no evidence to me.” There is truth in this objection. It does affect them chiefly; but it does not affect them only. It cannot, in the nature of things, be so strong an evidence to others as it is to them. And yet it may bring a degree of evidence, it may reflect some light
also. For, first, You see the beauty and loveliness of Christianity, when it is rightly understood. And you are sure there is nothing to be desired in comparison of it.
Secondly, You know the Scripture promises, and says, It is attained by faith, and by no other way.
Thirdly, You see clearly how desirable Christian faith is, even on account of its own intrinsic value.
Fourthly, You are a witness, that the holiness and happiness above described can be attained no other way. The more you have laboured after virtue and happiness, the more convinced you are of this. Thus far then you need not lean upon other men: thus far you
per sonal experience.
Fifthly, What reasonable assurance can you have of things whereof you have not personal experience ? Suppose the question were, Can the blind be restored to sight? This you have not yourself experienced. How then will you know that such a thing ever was ? Can there be an easier or surer way than to talk with one or some number of men who were blind, but are now restored to sight? They cannot be deceived as to the fact in question ; the nature of the thing leaves no room for this. . And if they are honest men, (which you may learn from other circumstances,) they will not de
Now transfer this to the case before us; and those who were blind, but now see; those who were sick many years, but now arc healed; those who were miserable, but now are happy, will afford you also a very strong evidence of the truth of Christianity: as strong as can be in the nature of things, till you experience it in your own soul. And this, though it be allowed they are but plain men, and, in general, of weak understanding; nay, though some of them should be mistaken in other points, and hold opinions which cannot be defended
11. All this may be allowed concerning the primitive fathers: I mean particularly Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian ; to whom I would add Macarius and Ephraim Syrus. I allow that some of these had not strong natural sense, that few
of them had much learning, and none the assistances which our age enjoys, in some respects, above all that went before.
Hence, I doubt not but whoever will be at the pains of reading over their writings for that poor end, he will find many mistakes, many weak suppositions, and many ill-drawn conclusions.
12. And yet I exceedingly reverence them as well as their writings, and esteem them very highly in love. I reverence them because they were Christians, such Christians as are above described. And I reverence their writings, because they describe true, genuine Christianity; and direct us to the strongest evidence of the Christian doctrine.
Indeed in addressing the Heathens of those times they intermix other arguments; particularly that drawn from numerous miracles, which were then performed in the church ; which they needed only to open their eyes and see daily wrought in the face of the
But still they never relinquish this; “What the Scripture promises I enjoy. Come and see what Christianity has done here: and acknowledge it is of God.”
I reverence these ancient Christians (with all their failings) the more, because I see so few Christians now; because I read so little in the writings of later times, and hear so little of genuine Christianity: and because most of the modern Christians (so called) not content with being wholly ignorant of it, are deeply prejudiced against it, calling it enthusiasm, and I know not what.
That the God of power and love may make both them and you, and me, such Christians as those fathers were, is the earnest prayer of,
JOHN WESLEY. Jan. 24, 1748-9.
RT. REV. THE LORD BISHOP OF.GLOUCESTER,
OCCASIONED BY HIS TRACT ON THE OFFICE AND OPERATIONS
OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.
YOUR lordship well observes, “to employ buffoonery in the service of religion, is to violate the majesty of truth, and to deprive it of a fair hearing. To examine, men must be serious." (Pref. p. 11.) Į will endeavour to be so, in all the following pages. And the rather, not only because I am writing to a person who is so far, and in so many respects my superior, but also because of the importance of the subject. For is the question only, What I am ? A madman, or a man in his senses ? A knave, or an honest man? No : this is only brought in by way of illustration. The question is, of the Office and Operation of the Holy Spirit ; with which the doctrine of the New-Birth, and, indeed, the whole of real religion, is connected. On a subject of so deep concern, I desire to be serious as death. But, at the same time, your lordship will permit me to use great plainness. And this I am the more emboldened to do, because by naming my name, your lordship, as it were, condescends to meet me on even ground.
I shall consider, first, what your lordship advances concerning me; and then what is advanced concerning the Operations of the Holy Spirit. 1. First
, concerning me. It is true, I am here dealing in crambe repetita : reciting objections which have been urged, and answered a hundred times. But as your lordship is pleased to repeat them again, I am obliged to repeat the answers.
Your lordship begins, " If the false prophet pretend to some extraordinary measure of the Spirit, we are directed to try that spirit by James. chap. ii. 17.” I answer, 1. (as I have done many times before,) I do not pretend to any extraordinary measure of the Spirit. I pretend to no other measure of it than may be claimed by every Christian minister. 2. Where are we directed to try prophets by this text? How does it appear, that it was given for any such purpose ? It is certain we may try Christians hereby, whether they are real or pretended ones.
But I know not that either St. James or any other inspired writer, gives us the least hint of trying prophets thereby.
Your lordship adds, “In this rule or direction for the trial of spirits, the marks are to be applied only negatively. The man in whom
they are not found, hath not the wisdom from above. But we are not to conclude, that he has it, in whom any or all of them are found.” (p. 118.) We are not to conclude, that he is a prophet: for the apostle says nothing about prophets. But may we not conclude, the man in whom all these are found, has the wisdom from above? Surely we may: for these are the essential parts of that wisdom. And can he have all the parts, and not have the whole?
Is not this enough to show, that the apostle is here giving “a set of marks not to detect impostor-prophets,” but impostor-Christians ? Those that impose either upon themselves or others, as if they were Christians, when they are not?
In what follows, I shall simply consider the argument, without directly addressing your lordship.
Apply these marks to the features of modern fanatics, especially Mr. John Wesley. He has laid claim to almost every apostolic gift, in as full and ample a manner as they were possessed of old,” p. 119.
The miraculous gifts bestowed upon the apostles are enumerated in two places. First, • In my name they shall cast out devils : they shall speak with new tongues: they shall take up serpents: if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them : they shall lay bands on the sick, and they shall recover.' (Mark xvi. 17, 18.) Second, "To one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, to another faith, to another the gifts of healing, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.' 1 Cor. xii. 8, 9, 10.
Do “I lay claim to almost every one of these, in as full and ample a manner as they were possessed of old ?"
Five of them are enumerated in the former catalogue: to three of which, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, drinking deadly things, it is not even pretended I lay any claim at all. In the latter, nine are enumerated. And as to seven of these, none has yet seen good to call me in question : miraculous wisdom, or knowledge, or faith, prophecy, discernment of spirits, strange tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. What becomes then of the assertion, that I lay claim to almost every one of them, in the most full and ample manner? Do I lay claim to any one of them? To prove that I do, my own words are produced, extracted from an account of the occurrences of about sixteen years.
I shall set them down naked and unadorned. 1. May 13, 1740, “ The Devil stirred up his servants to make all the noise they could. 2. May 3, 1741, I explained to a vast multitude of people, What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.' The Devil's children fought valiantly for their master, that his kingdom should not be destroyed. And many stones fell on my right hand and on my left. 3. April 3, 1740. Some or other of the children of Belial, had laboured to disturb.us several nights before. Now all the street was filled with people,