« הקודםהמשך »
lay open what have been the inmost thoughts of my heart. I have thought, I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God: Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing,- the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri.* Here then I am, far from the busy ways of men. I sit down alone: Only God is here. In his presence I open, I read his book; for this end, to find the way to heaven. Is there a doubt concerning the meaning of what I read ? Does anything appear dark or intricate ? I lift up my heart to the Father of Lights :-“ Lord, is it not thy word, ' If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God ?' Thou 'givest liberally, and upbraidest not. Thou hast said, “ If any be willing to do thy will, he shall know.' I am willing to do, let me know, thy will." I then search after and consider parallel passages of Scripture," comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” I meditate thereon with all the attention and earnestness of which my mind is capable. If any doubt still remains, I consult those who are experienced in the things of God; and
* A man of one book.
then the writings whereby, being dead, they yet speak. And what I thus learn, that I teach.
6. I have accordingly set down in the following sermons, what I find in the Bible concerning the way to heaven ; with a view to distinguish this way of God from all those which are the inventions of
I have endeavoured to describe the true, the scriptural, experimental religion, so as to omit nothing which is a real part thereof, and to add nothing thereto which is not. And herein it is more especially my desire, First, to guard those who are just setting their faces toward heaven, (and who, having little acquaintance with the things of God, are the more liable to be turned out of the way,) from formality, from mere outside religion, which has almost driven heart-religion out of the world ; and, Secondly, to warn those who know the religion of the heart, the faith which worketh by love, lest at any time they make void the law through faith, and so fall back into the snare of the devil.
7. By the advice and at the request of some of my friends, I have prefixed to the other sermons contained in this volume, three sermons of my own, and one of my Brother's, preached before the University of Oxford. My design required some dis
on those heads; and I preferred these before any others, as being a stronger answer than any which can be drawn up now, to those who have frequently asserted that we have changed our doctrine of late, and do not preach now what we did some years ago. Any man of understanding may now judge for himself, when he has compared the latter with the former sermons.
8. But some may say, I have mistaken the way myself, although I take upon me to teach it to others. It is probable many will think this, and it is very possible that I have. But I trust, whereinsoever I have mistaken, my mind is open to conviction. I sincerely desire to be better informed. I say to God and man, “ What I know not, teach thou me!”
9. Are you persuaded you see more clearly than me? It is not unlikely that you may. Then treat me as you would desire to be treated yourself upon a change of circumstances. Point me out a better way than I have yet known. Show me it is so, by plain proof of Scripture. And if I linger in the path I have been accustomed to tread, and am therefore unwilling to leave it, labour with me a little ; take me by the hand, and lead me as I am able to bear. But be not displeased if I entreat you not to beat me down in order to quicken my pace: I can go but feebly and slowly at best ; then, I should not be able to go at all. May I not request of you, further, not to give me hard names in order to bring me into the right way. Suppose I were ever so much in the wrong, I doubt this would not set me right. Rather, it would make me run so much the farther from you, and so get more and more out of
10. Nay, perhaps, if you are angry, so shall I be too; and then there will be small hopes of finding the truth. If once anger arise, quTE XARVOS, (as Homer somewhere expresses it,) this smoke will so dim the eyes
soul, that I shall be able to see nothing clearly. For God's sake, if it be possible to avoid
it, let us not provoke one another to wrath. Let us not kindle in each other this fire of hell; much less blow it up into a flame. If we could discern truth by that dreadful light, would it not be loss, rather than gain? For, how far is love, even with many wrong opinions, to be preferred before truth itself without love! We may die without the knowledge of many truths, and yet be carried into Abraham's bosom. But, if we die without love, what will knowledge avail ? Just as much as it avails the devil and his angels !
The God of love forbid we should ever make the trial! May he prepare us for the knowledge of all truth, by filling our hearts with all his love, and with all joy and peace in believing!
SALVATION BY FAITH:
ST. MARY'S, OXFORD, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY,
ON JUNE 18, 1738.
“By grace are ye saved through faith.”
Eph. ii. 8. 1. All the blessings which God hath bestowed upon man, are of his mere grace, bounty, or favour ; his free, undeserved favour; favour altogether undeserved; man having no claim to the least of his mercies. It was free grace formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him a living soul,” and stamped on that soul the image of God, and“ put all things under his feet.” The same free grace continues to us, at this day, life, and breath, and all things. For there is nothing we are, or have, or do, which can deserve the least thing at God's hand. “All our works, thou, O God! hast wrought in us." These, therefore, are so many more instances of free mercy : And whatever righteousness may be found in man, this is also the gift of God. 2. Wherewithal then shall a sinful man atone for
the least of his sins ? With his own works? No. Were they ever •so many or holy, they are not his own, but God's. But indeed they are all unholy and sinful themselves, so that every one of them needs a fresh atonement. Only corrupt fruit grows on a corrupt tree. And his heart is altogether corrupt and abominable ; being "come short of the glory of God," the glorious righteousness at first impressed on his soul, after the image of h is great Creator. Therefore, having nothing, neither righte