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lights, with whom is no variableness, or shadow of turning,” James i. 17. And every gracious man will acknowledge this to the honour of the great benefactor; for, as the prophet says, “ Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the mighty man in his might; nor the rich man in his riches.' But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me; that I am the Lord, which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the Lord,” Jer. ix. 24. And indeed I have always found the most pure liberty, the greatest love, and the greatest encouragement to confidence in God, ministered to my soul from such pure and evangelical conversation as yours. But I would wish to be led by the voice of my teachers, and so to steer between the two extremes. For my part I am for the middle way.
Cushi. I do not rightly understand thee, my brother. If by way you mean the way to God, the middle way is one of your own devising. There are but two ways to heaven that God has devised; the one is by perfect, spiritual, and perpetual obedience, agreeable to the command: “ He that doth these things, even he shall live in them. If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” The other way is by faith in Christ, which Paul calls “ the new and living way which he (God the Saviour) hath consecrated for us through the veil; that is to say, his flesh," Heb. x. 20.
These are the only two ways that lead to life, that are opened in the scriptures; therefore he that deviseth a middle way is in reality a despiser of both, If a man will enter into life by works, his righteous
ness must be a perfect conformity to the law. This must be his legal righteousness; and, if perfect, it gives him a legal right. The gospel righteousness is one ready wrought out by the Surety, and received by faith: both of which must be brought from the law.
The Pharisee, he sticks to the old covenant, and trusts in his own merit, being too proud to beg. The sensible sinner, he is humbled to receive the wedding garment, as the gift of God. The way to God, by faith in Christ, Paul calls the “new and living way,” to shew that the other is both dead and old; and indeed it is a way in which none but the Saviour ever went to God.
The flaming sword has cut off all that ever attempted to touch the tree of life in that way: the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified.” Therefore the middle way that my brother speaks of is a way that was never cast up by any of the servants of God. The law says to all that are under the law, " There is none righteous, no not one.”. God will never meet any sinner (as a reconciled God) in that way: He meeteth none but those that rejoice and work righteousness, and those that remember him in his way, Isaiah lxiv. 5.
Never attempt an entrance where God has never opened a door; the end of such, according to Peter, will be worse than their beginning; for, as he says, it had been better for them not to have known the right way at all. The Father dwelleth in me, and I in him, says Christ; and Christ crucified is the only way to the Father:"I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but my me."
The prophets and apostles laboured hard to clear
and cast up this highway; and those that God guides into it are to say, “ Cast ye up, cast ye up, prepare the way, take
up the stumbling blocks out of the way of my people,” Isaiah lvii. 14, lxii. 10.
have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him,"; and never aim at a middle path. God complains of this, and says, “ My people have forgotten me; they have burned incense to vanity; and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths' in a way not cast up;” Jer. xviii. 15.
Ahimaaz. You seem to be quite an original; that is, you are for the pure old apostolic religion, and for a perseverance in spiritual worship, in the naked simplicity and truth of the gospel; which is certainly right, and I believe that the main current of scripture runs in that channel. Those who watch the Spirit's teaching, and compare it with the word of God, and who find the approbation of God with them, and the testimony of a good conscience, certainly walk the safest, and will find the most sensible support from the Almighty in a trying hour.
Your conversation is very spiritual, and very entertaining to me. It brings a deal of my past experience fresh to my mind; and, for my part, I know not when I have met with so agreeable a companion, nor when I have spent so comfortable an hour.
Cushi. It is to be lamented that there appears so little spiritual conversation among professing people. Heavenly conversation, cheerfully delivered, keeps the word of God alive in one's heart. It causes it to dwell richly there, in all utterance, in all knowledge, and spiritual understanding. It stirs up the gift of God that is in a man; and the more such an one scattereth the truth, the more he increaseth his stock, Prov. xi. 24. So that the speaker is edified, as well as the hearer: for, as Solomon says, “ he that watereth shall be watered also himself,” Prov. xi. 25.
Ahimaaz. True, my brother; but all the children of God have not that experience and judgment that you seem to be favoured with. There are many hoping souls that cannot find words to express a reason of their hope. They are bashful, timorous, and perplexed with many doubts and fears; and they are fearful of speaking wrong, or laying a presumptuous claim to that which they have no right to, as the tempter often suggests.
Besides, there are many professors who have more head knowledge than heart-felt experience, and these often criticise and contradict the simple lisping of a babe in grace; and, when they have been served so a few times, they are like parrots, you cannot make them talk again. 1 Cushi. That is what I never liked. I have often heard strange muddy language from a young Christian; but I never chose to stop his mouth if I found but the least savour with it; for, although the great. I is brought in at every sentence, as the chief agent, yet, after they have had a few falls, I have observed that the great pronoun has been left quite out of the question, except it has appeared in its proper place, in declaring what evil they have done, or what free grace has done for them. In this God fulfils his promise, “by, turning to the people a pure language,” Zeph. iii. O. Poor Peter lost the great I in Satan's sieve, and so do others; but, as for criticising their words, and contradicting of them, it is very wrong. When weak believers have been served so, they will act with their tongue as a young child does with its feet; after they have deceived it once or twice it will hang about the mother, and you cannot make it venture upon them again.
For my part, I am very fond of having a weak believer in company. He, and the poor sensible sinner, the diligent seeker, and the earnest inquirer, are the people that the old Christian finds the greatest liberty with, as may be seen in Ezekiel's ministry. He stands dumb before a carnal multitude of lifeless professors, without a word to say: “ I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover;” Ezek. iii. 26.
But to the young believer, who had fled to the God of Israel for refuge, his tongue was loosed: "In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb,” Ezek. xxiv. 27.
Our great apostle boasted of this: “O, ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you; our heart is enlarged,” 2 Cor. vi. 11. But in Rome he found his spirit chained, and his tongue fettered; and therefore he solicits an interest in the Ephesians' prayers for him, “that utterance might be given him; that he might open his mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which he was an'ambassador in bonds, that therein he might speak boldly, as he ought to speak,” Eph. vi. 19, 20.
Ahimaaz. It is true, my brother, we generally - find young believers the most thirsty after divine know