Chapter 7

The Work of God

20. In the year 1762 there was a great increase of the work of God in London. Many, who had hitherto cared for none of these things, were deeply convinced of their lost estate; many found redemption in the blood of Christ; not a few backsliders were healed; and a considerable number of persons believed that God had saved them from all sin. Easily foreseeing that Satan would be endeavouring to sow tares among the wheat, I took much pains to apprise them of the danger, particularly with regard to pride and enthusiasm. And whileI stayed in town, I had reason to hope they continued both humble and sober-minded. But almost as soon as I was gone, enthusiasm broke in. Two or three began to take their own imaginations for impressions from God, and thence to suppose that they should never die; and these, labouring to bring others into the same opinion, occasioned much noise and confusion. Soon after, the same persons, with a few more, ran into other extravagances,--fancying they could not be tempted; that they should feel no more pain; and that they had the gift of prophecy, and of discerning of spirits. At my return to London, in autumn, some of them stood reproved; but others were got above instruction. Meantime a flood of reproach came upon me almost from every quarter: from themselves, because I was checking them on all occasions; and from others, because, they said, 1 did not check them. However, the hand of the Lord was not stayed, but more and more sinners were convinced; while some were almost daily converted to God, and others enabled to love Him with all their heart.

21. About this time, a friend at some distance from London wrote to me as follows:

'Be not over-alarmed that Satan sows tares among the wheat of Christ. It ever has been so, especially on any remarkable outpouring of His Spirit; and ever will be so, till he is chained up for a thousand years. Till then he will always ape, and endeavour to counteract, the work of the Spirit of Christ.

'One melancholy effect of this has been, that a world, who is always asleep in the arms of the evil one, has ridiculed. every work of the Holy Spirit.

'But what can real Christians do? Why, if they would act worthy of themselves, they should-(1) Pray that every deluded soul may be delivered; (2) endeavour to reclaim them in the spirit of meekness; and, lastly, take the utmost care, both by prayer and watchfulness, that the delusion of others may not lessen their zeal in seeking after that universal holiness of soul, body and spirit, "without which no man shall see the Lord."

'Indeed, this complete new creature is mere madness to a mad world. But it is, notwithstanding, the will and wisdom of God. May we all seek after it!

'But some who maintain this doctrine in its full extent are too often guilty of limiting the Almighty. He dispenses His gifts just as He pleases; therefore it is neither wise nor modest to affirm that a person must be a believer for any length of time before he is capable of receiving a high degree of the Spirit of holiness.

'God's usual method is one thing, but His sovereign pleasure is another. He has wise reasons both for hastening and retarding His work. Sometimes He comes suddenly, and unexpected; sometimes, not till we have long looked for Him.

'Indeed it has been my opinion for many years, that one great cause why men make so little improvement in the divine life is their own coldness, negligence, and unbelief. And yet I here speak of believers.

'May the Spirit of Christ give us a right judgment in all things, and "fill us with all the fulness of God"; that so we may be "perfect and entire, wanting nothing." '

22. About the same time, five or six honest enthusiasts foretold the world was to end on the 28th of February. I immediately withstood them, by every possible means, both in public and private. I preached expressly upon the subject, both at West Street and Spitalfields. I warned the Society again and again, and spoke severally to as many as I could. And I saw fruit of my labour. They made exceeding few converts; I believe scarce thirty in our whole Society. Neverthless, they made abundance of noise gave huge occasion of offence to those who took care to improve to the uttermost every occasion against me; and greatly increased both the number and courage of those who opposed Christian perfection.

23. Some questions, now published by one of these, induced a plain man to write the following:

'Queries humbly proposed to those who deny perfection to be attainable in this life.

'(1) Has there not been a larger measure of the Holy Spirit given under the Gospel than under the Jewish dispensation? If not, in what sense was the Spirit not given before Christ was glorified? (John vii.39).

'(2) Was that "glory which followed the sufferings of Christ" (1 Peter i. 11) an external glory, or an internal, viz., the glory of holiness?

'(3) Has God anywhere in Scripture commanded us more than He has promised to us?

'(4) Are the promises of God respecting holiness to be fulfilled in this life, or only in the next?

'(5) Is a Christian under any other laws than those which God promises to "write in our hearts"? (Jer. xxxi. 31, etc.; Heb. viii. 10).

' (6) In what sense is "the righteousness of the law fulfilled in those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit"? (Romans viii.4).

'(7) Is it impossible for any one in this life to love God "with all his heart, and mind, and soul, and strength"? And is the Christian under any law which is not fulfilled in this love?

'(8) Does the soul's going out of the body effect its purification from indwelling sin?

'(9) If so, is it not something else, not "the blood of Christ, which cleanseth" it "from all sin"?

'(10) If His blood cleanseth us from all sin, while the soul and body are united, is it not in this life?

'(I I) If when that union ceases, is it not in the next? And is not this too late?

'(12) If in the article of death; what situation is the soul in, when it is neither in the body nor out of it?

'(13) Has Christ anywhere taught us to pray for what He never designs to give?

'(14) Has He not taught us to pray, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven"? And is it not done perfectly in heaven?

'(15) If so, has He not taught us to pray for perfection on earth? Does He not then design to give it?

'(16) Did not St. Paul pray according to the will of God, when he prayed that the Thessalonians might be "sanctified wholly, and preserved" (in this world, not the next, unless he was praying for the dead) "blameless in body, soul, and spirit, unto the coming of Jesus Christ" ?

'(17) Do you sincerely desire to be freed from indwelling sin in this life?

'(18) If you do, did not God give you that desire?

'(19) If so, did He not give it you to mock you, since it is impossible it should ever be fulfilled?

'(20) If you have not sincerity enough, even to desire it, are you not disputing about matters too high for you?

'(2 1) Do you ever pray God to "cleanse the thoughts of your heart, that" you "may perfectly love Him"?

'(22) If you neither desire what you ask, nor believe it attainable, pray you not as a fool prayeth?

'God help thee to consider these questions calmly and impartially!'

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