The Nature, Certainty and Evidence 1 wordillegible
In aomitted4 characters
from aomitted8 characters
To another her dear Friend, in
great Darkneſs, Doubt and Concern of a
from one Friend to another: yet on repreſenting
that by allowing it to be Printed, it
wou’d probably reach to many others in the like
afflicted Caſe, and by the Grace of God be very
helpful to them; the Writer was at length prevailed
on to ſuffer it—provided her Name and
Place of abode remain concealed.
Printed for and Sold by S. Kneeland, oppoſite
the Priſon in Queen-Street. 17551755.
Copy of a Letter from a Gentlewoman in New-England to another Gentlewoman her Friend, in great Concern of Soul.
1753-07-02July 2. 1753.
My very dear, dear Friend!
I have thought much on thoſe few Lines you began to write to me; and do not at all wonder that you expect I ſhould improve every Opportunity to relieve you,—For ſurely the strong Bonds of Friendſhip, with which we have for ſome Years been bound to each other (were there no Bonds of Grace at all) demand this; and how much more when theſe are added? And truly, my dear Friend, it has not been owing to want of Tenderneſs, and Compaſſion towards you, under your Diſtreſſes, that my Tongue as well as Pen have oft been ſilent. No! my Bowels earn’d, and I long’d to ſpeak many Times; but your Difficultys were ſuch, that I dare not open my Lips, leaft a ſubtil Adverſary ſhould turn that againſt you, which I intended for your Comfort, and ſink your Spirits the lower, as has ſometimes you know been the Caſe.And 3 A2r 3
And Oh that God will now bleſs the poor weak Endeavours of a worthleſs Worm to refreſh you! If ſo, it will rejoyce me much: But whether it pleaſe Him to uſe a poor nothing Creature as an Inſtrument or no; I am perſwaded he will in his own Time revive you, and I rejoyce and praiſe him on your Behalf, by Grace: that he will turn your Captivity; and that He will bruiſe Satan under your Feet ſhortly, and make him gladly quit the Field, and leave you to enjoy your God. For bleſſed be God, Chriſt Jeſus is ſtronger than He and all his combin’d Legions; and he can’t reſiſt his Power, tho’ he has audaciouſly ſtruck at his Honour, and endeavour’d to impede his bleſſed Work in your Soul. Do’s or has the bold-daring Spirit preſumed to inſinuate that all Religion, is vain, imaginary, and deluſive? Do’s he pretend that none can know they are right? —Tell him from me, He is a Liar, and I am bold to ſay, I have prov’d him ſo, He has told me the ſame Tale: But bleſſed be God, I do know that Religion is no imaginary Thing, but a ſubſtantial Reality. I do know that there is a God of boundleſs Perfections, Truth and Faithfulneſs; that will not deceive, no nor forſake the Soul that puts its Truſt in him.
But now perhaps you’ll ſay, Aye, but how do I know this God is mine; and that I myſelf am not deceived? I anſwer, by the Evidences of a Work of Grace wrought in my Soul. And now as God ſhall enable me, my dear Friend, I’ll tell you truly what God has done for my Soul, and A2 what 4 A2v 4 what I call Evidences of a Work of Grace. This Question I could never fully verbally anſwer, when with you, which makes me now attempt to explain myſelf.
Firſt, then, I do know that God has by his Word and Spirit, convinced me of Sin, Original and Actual; that I was by Nature a Child of Wrath, an Heir of Hell, an Enemy to Him, and his Ways, yea, Enmity itſelf; Dead in Treſpaſſes and Sins; and that I was both utterly, unable, and unwilling too, to help myſelf out of this miſerable State, being averſe to the Goſpel-Way of Salvation, wrought out by Chriſt. I plainly ſee the Cauſe of that Complaint, Ye will not come to me, that ye might have Life. God convinced me alſo that by the Deeds of the Law, no Fleſh living ſhould be juſtified, and that He and his Throne would be ſpotleſs forever tho’ He ſhould caſt me off, and condemn me to the hotteſt Hell: Since He ow’d me nothing nor was anyWay bound to beſtow his Grace upon me; and if he did, it would be abſolutely free and ſovereign.—God ſhew’d me I was utterly unworthy that he ſhould help me.
Nevertheleſs, tho’ I had thus deſtroyed myſelf, yet in Him was my Help. Yea He diſcover’d to me, that he had laid Help upon one who is mighty to ſave to the uttermoſt all that come to God by Him; even a glorious Christ the Great Emanuel God-Man, even one Co-equal with Himſelf, the expreſs Image of his Perſon, in whom dwells, all the Fulneſs of the Godhead bodily; One 5 A3r 5 One every Way compleat and ſuited to all my wants; and that He was not only thus qualify’d and ſealed and ſent by the Father, but that he was abſolutely willing as well as able to accompliſh the great Work; and would by no means caſt out any that come to him.
Well upon this Diſcovery of the amiable and lovely Jesus, if I know that I have a Being, I do know that God compell’d or ſweetly conſtrained me to throw down the Weapons of my Rebellion and to ſubmit to Him as Prince and Saviour, and conſent to be ſaved by him in his own way, and upon his own Terms; that he ſhould be the Alpha and the Omega, the Foundation and the Topſtone in my Salvation. Yea, God caus’d my Heart to go out after Him in ſtrong and vehement Deſires, and to chooſe Him in all his Offices, with all his Benefits, to be my Portion forever. Yea He appear’d to me to be in Himſelf the moſt lovely and deſirable Object, the faireſt of ten thouſand Fairs: and God enabled me to give myſelf, my whole Soul and Body with all my Concerns for Time and Eternity into his merciful and faithful Hands: and had I a thouſand precious Souls, I would gladly venture them all with him; for I am perſwaded he will keep by his mighty Power what I have committed to his Charge; nor ſhall all the Hoſts of Hell, ever be able to pluck me out of his Hands.
But to proceed; upon this choice, and ſurrender to Christ as Mediator, God the Father manifeſted himſelf to me, as my reconciled God A3 and 6 A3v 6 and Father; the bleſſed Spirit took up his abode with me, afforded me his Influences and Aſſiſtance daily; and God made with me an everlaſting Covenant, never to be forgotten, Even the ſure Mercies of David: and I ſolemnly gave myſelf up, all I have, am, or can do, both in Life and Death, in Time and for Eternity, to God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, to be his own, in a Covenant Way, to be diſpoſed of as ſhall moſt conſiſt with his Glory; and choſe the glorious Trinity for my Portion forever, in oppoſition to all Others, even a God of infinite Perfections. Oh happy Choice! oh happy I, that I liv’d to ſee that Day wherein God betroth’d me to himſelf in loving Kindneſs and tender Mercy!
Thus I was effectually called and made willing in the Day of God’s Power to receive Him: and to as many as receiv’d Him to them gave He Power to become the Sons of God, even to thoſe that believe on his Name.
And now the Foundation of my Hopes are laid upon the Rock of Ages. And agreeable to thoſe covenant Engagements, a faithful God, has ever ſince dealt with me. And ſurely I can ſay; whereas I was born blind, now I can ſee; old Things are done away, all Things become new. Now thro’ Grace I dare appeal to a Heart-ſearching God and ſay: that none of his Commands are grievous; I eſteem them all holy, right, juſt, and good; and long to yield a univerſal Obedience to them all: yea God does excite in me ſtrong and vehement Deſires after an entire Conformity to his Law, as 7 A4r 7 as tho’ my whole Salvation depended thereon while at the ſame Time, he will not ſuffer me to depend on any thing but Christ alone; notwithſtanding a ſtrong Propenſity to cleave to the Covenant of Works; but enables me to account all Things as Loſs and Dung and filthy Rags, in point of Juſtification; nor would I for a Million Worlds appear before God, in the beſt Performance I ever did: No ’tis in that ſpotleſs Righteouſneſs, which Christ has wrought out, imputed to me, and in that only I dare appear before God. But he gives me to ſee a Beauty in Holineſs, which far exceeds the Luſtre of all created Things. Nor do I know what Deſire means, after any, or all the Enjoyments of Time and Senſe, compar’d with thoſe ardent Longings, and Pantings, which He at ſometimes excites in my Soul, after the Enjoyment of Himſelf; and for ſanctifying Grace.
And tho’ Grace is not always alike in Exerciſe; (no I am ſometimes dull and lifeleſs as to Exerciſe) yet bleſſed be God it has been the habitual, and ſettled Bent of my Soul for many Years; to chooſe God, his Christ, and Grace for my Portion in all Conditions, both adverſe and proſperous. Bleſſed be God, my Faith has not been ſtagger’d. Sometimes He has bereav’d, cut off the Streams of earthly Comforts, one after another; and then cauſed me to juſtify him, and fly to Him as my all. Sometimes He has hid his Face, and cauſed me to mourn after Him, and refuſe all Comfort till He return’d. Sometimes A4 He 8 A4v 8 He has permitted Satan to tempt and tyranize over me for a Seaſon; and many a precious Jewel has he ſtolen from me by clouding my Evidences and inſinuating that all was Deluſion and Hypocriſy; and how many diſtreſſing gloomy Days I have had God only knows: but Satan could not keep them; for a faithful God would not ſuffer me to be tempted above that I was able, but made way for my eſcape.
Sometimes He has permitted the Remains of indwelling Corruption to rally all its Force and ſtrive for Maſtery; but at the ſame time ſtir’d up an inveterate Hatred and an Abhorrance of it, and myſelf for it, becauſe ’tis the abominable Thing which His Soul hates. And ſometimes Unbelief, has ſo far prevailed, that I have cry’ed out I ſhall one Day periſh by the Hands of theſe Enemies, or I ſhall at leaſt fall fouly to the Diſhonor of the dear Name by which I am called, if not finally. But for more than Sixteen Years has God preſerv’d me from open ſcandalous Sins. (Yea, bleſſed be God, thro’ reſtraining Grace, all my Life long,) and from ever making a League with Sin, ſince I have thro’ Grace proclaim’d War with it: And by Grace aſſiſting I am determin’d never to lay down my Arms, but to fight till I die, under the Banner of the great Captain of my Salvation: Yea, and Truth and Veracity itſelf has ſaid, Sin ſhall not have Dominion over you, and my Grace ſhall be ſufficient for you. And here (my Dear,) my great Strength lies: For all the Promiſes are Yea and Amen in Christ 9 A5r 9 Christ Jesus: And ſince my Lord is mine, all is mine, and I ſhall come off more than a Conqueror thro’ Him that has loved me and given himſelf for me. Tho’ now I groan under a Body of Sin and Death; and may I never ceaſe to mourn, but daily look on Him whom I have pierc’d: Oh it was Sin, my Sin, that pierc’d his ſacred Head and Side, that put all the bitter Ingredients into the Cup, that extorted that heart-piercing Cry from him, My God my God, why haſt thou forſaken me: And never does it appear more odious, than when I am well ſatisfied it never will prove my Ruin. God diſpoſes me to chooſe any Affliction, or all the Afflictions in this World rather than Sin. I do eſteem it the worſt of Evils; yea I had rather have all the Furies of Hell let looſe to perplex me, than to be given over to the Tyranny of my own inbred Luſts, and Corruptions. O thanks be to God, He has ſaid, I will ſubdue your Iniquities! Oh how ſweet here to conſider Christ as my King, that will e’re long ſet his Foot on the Necks of theſe Enemies! how ſweet to eſpouſe his Cauſe! bring forth the Traytors, and entreat him to ſlay every one that ſays they will not have him to reign over them! Oh that Christ would intirely poſſeſs his rightful Throne in my Soul, wholly ſway the Sceptre there, fill every Room; that not a Luſt, a Uſurper, might ever dare to lift up its venemous Head again! O tranſporting Thought; one Everlaſting Day, this ſhall be the happy Caſe!
Again, God cauſes me to love his Image wherever 10 A5v 10 wherever I ſee it; in Strangers, in Rich, in Poor, in Bond or Free, of what Denomination ſoever. Surely I do eſteem the Saints, the excellent of the Earth, and they are my Delight. Again, God enables me to love my Enemies, to forgive Injuries, and earnesſtly to pray that God would forgive them alſo. But I muſt not innumerate more.
But theſe, my dear Friend, are what I call Evidences of a Work of Grace: and for my part I had rather be able to read them, than to hear a Voice from Heaven telling me, I am a Child of God. If you aſk again, if I can always, or of myſelf read them to my Satisfaction? I anſwer, without Christ I can do nothing; I am not ſufficient for one good Thought; all my ſufficiency is of God: But God has taught me to live more by Faith, and leſs by Senſe, than I us’d to do; and therefore if he hide his Face, I do not immediately raze Foundations as formerly, and draw up hard Concluſions againſt myſelf: But having treaſur’d up the Experiences of many Years, I repair to them in a dark and cloudy Day, and find, thus, and thus, God has done for me, and appear’d for my Help in Times paſt: and this as an Anchor holds me ſure, and He will in his own time return, and revive me; He has begun that good Work in me, that he will carry on till the Day of Jesus; He was the Author, and he will be the Finiſher of my Faith: And ſo he makes me hang on the Faithfulneſs of a Covenant-God, who will not deceive nor make any aſhamed of their Hope, that put their Truſt in him.And 11 A6r 11
And now my dear, dear Friend, I have given you the Reaſon of the Hope that is in me: And judge you, are Theſe all the Effects of Nature, Gifts, Imagination, or a common Work of the Spirit? Will any or all of theſe latter thus determine the Soul for God? Will they enamour the Soul with his Beauty, becauſe holy, juſt, faithful, powerful, &c.; and make it even break with Longings after a conformity to Him? Will they cauſe it to cry out, whom Have I in Heaven but Thee; and make it rejoice—becauſe even the brighteſt Seraph nor all the Angelick Hoſtsſhall never be able to divert it one Moment throughout Eternity from God; but He ſhall be all in all, the Heaven of Heaven itſelf? Will Nature abhor and dread Hypocriſy, and always cauſe the Soul when it has any Senſe of divine Things to tremble at the very Thoughts of it, and earneſtly to plead with God to ſearch and try it, if there is any Guile, or Reſervation, or any falſe Way in it? Yea will Nature lay the Soul open and cauſe it to plead with God that his all-piercing Eye may penetrate into the moſt ſecret Receſſes? Yea, and rejoice that it does ſo? Will Nature welcome Death the King of Terrors, purely becauſe it will deliver the Soul from Sin and uſher it into the immediate Preſence of God; when no outward Difficulties make it deſire Death, but God in his Providence makes Things comfortable and eaſy?—Again, will Nature cauſe all things below to appear very Vanity, and leſs than Nothing compared with Communion with God 12 A6v 12 God, even here; and cauſe it to deprecate and tremble at the Thought of any unſanctified Proſperity; and abſolutely to refuſe, accepting of any or all Creature Comforts, as any Part of its Portion, or in the room of one Degree of ſanctifying Grace: May not the Soul in his Caſe ſay, There is none upon Earth I deſire beſides Thee—; Ordinances, and Providences are all empty without Thee; and I will not let thee go, I will not be comforted except thou comfort me? Yea, tho’ Thou ſlay me, I will truſt in Thee, by Grace aſſiſting: And leaving the Things that are behind, I am determin’d to preſs after as great Diſcoveries of Christ, and Degrees of Sanctification, as ’tis poſſible for a mortal, finite Creature to attain in this imperfect State; ſince Grace is abſolutely free and ſovereign, and not beſtow’d for any Worth or Worthineſs in the Object, but for Jesus his ſake alone.
Surely This is a Work of Almighty Power and Victorious Grace! May God have all the Glory! But methinks I ſee you wondering that I attempt to write in ſo poſitive a Strain; and with all, your tender Heart miſgives you, and you fear leaſt I am influenced by Self-confidence, Pride, Oſtentation, or vain Glory: and would to God, I dare tell you that I had no Remains of theſe odious Sins in me; but doubtleſs cleave they will, to my beſt Performances as long as I live in this World. However I truſt thro’ Grace, That is not the Motive which has conſtrain’d me thus freely to communicate my Experiences to You. No, but to vindicate the Honour and Glory of the great 13 A7r 13 great God, whom Satan has dar’d to ſlander, and reproach with his Lyes; to bear a Teſtimony for God, that I know Him to be Truth and Faithfulneſs in the Abſtract, and far to exceed all that ever I could aſk or think; and again to declare, that had I a Thouſand precious Souls, I would venture them all on his Truth and Veracity, and cling to him: I will in Defiance of Satan and all his combin’d Legions, ſo long as God holds me by the Bonds of his Spirit. When God himself rends my Hope from me I’ll let it go; but not till then: And if ’tis the Hope of the Hypocrite, may it go this Moment! And well may I ſay ſo long as God holds me: For I know aſſuredly, ’tis by Grace, and Grace only I ſtand. For ſo vile am I of myſelf, that ſhould he withhold it, I ſhould wander from Him as far as Hell itſelf, notwithſtanding all He has done for me. Whereof, then have I to boaſt? Oh bleſſed be God, Boaſting is forever excluded! Oh may the Crown be ſet on Jesus his Head; while I lay my Mouth in the Duſt, and acknowledge I am an unprofitable Servant, and utterly unworthy of all the Mercy he has ſhew’d to me.
I intreat you not to conclude from what I have wrote, that I have any deſire to eſtabliſh Aſſurance as the Eſſence of ſaving Faith; or to ſet up my Experiences as a Standard. No, no, far be that from me. I know God by his Spirit works variously with his Children. But as to the Eſſential and Fundamental Parts, I truſt you will find them agreable to the Scripture. Try them by That 14 A7v 14 That; to the Law and to the Teſtimony; if they agree not with that, reject them immediately, as falſe, deluſive, imaginary, and have no light in them. But if you find they are genuine Characters of a ſaving Work wrought by almighty Power in the Soul; Diſcern I pray thee whoſe Signet, Braſlets, and Staff are theſe. Can you not lay Claim to them, and ſay, ſurely God has done, thus and thus for me alſo? Or if you dare not lay Claim; dare you deny, dare you ſay, God has not convinced you of Sin, and your abſolute Need of a Saviour? Has he not determin’d you for Himſelf? Do you not Chooſe Him for your Everlaſting Portion? Do not for a World ſay, you do not: I truſt you dare not ſay ſo. Well, if you ever have Chose God, for your all; renew your Choice, fly to him again, give up yourſelf, and all your vaſt Concerns into his Hands, thro’ the Mediator; and I doubt not but you will derive Strength from the Head of all gracious Influences. Oh ſay not, you cannot; but try to ſtretch forth the wither’d Hand, and it will be whole! Oh touch but the Hem of his Garment, and all ſhall be well! Oh lay your impotent needy Soul by the Pool, and I truſt the Angel of the Everlaſting Covenant will e’er long deſcend, and make you whole and reſtore to you the Joys of his Salvation! And thus perhaps you’ll ſee, tho’ now they are clouded that you have the Evidences of Grace in you; that you do hate Sin as Sin; that you do love Holineſs for its own ſake, and God becauſe an holy God; that you 15 A8 15 you love his Law, and long perfectly to obey; that you do prize Christ as a King, as well as Saviour; that you, do love his Image in his Children; that you do love your Enemies; and are wean’d from this World, and all its trifling Enjoyments: that you are reaching after greater Degrees of ſanctifying Grace.
I know you will forgive me, if I intrude on your Patience in this long Epiſtle, and all my Freedoms herein; ſince it proceeds from a Heart full of tender Concern for You, and wanted vent. Oh may God refreſh you by it, and lift up the Light of his Countenance upon you! And I beg you, pray for me, that I enter not into Temptation: For tho’ I have for ſometime thro’ ſurprizing Grace, walk’d up and down in the Light of God’s Countenance; I am yet in my Enemy’s Country; a Thouſand Snares await me from within and without; I have not yet put off the Harneſs, and perhaps comparatively but girding it on; and tho’ the Houſe built upon the Rock Christ Jesus fall not; yet I have no Expectation, but that the Rain will deſcend, the Floods come the Winds blow and beat upon it. Oh pray, that I may glorify God, in every Condition, and State of Life, and all is well.
This long Letter, my dear Friend, I commit to your Care and Prudence, as the very Secrets of my Soul, and as a Token of my ſincere Affection, and Eſteem for you, as my very dear, dear Friend: Which pray accept, with hearty Regards to you, and all dear to you.————Pray write to me as ſoon as you can——