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glorious Majesty, although I receive my just desert, and perish forever!” Next came into view the whole gospel way of life, by free grace through Jesus Christ; the wisdom, glory, and beauty of which cannot be expressed. The law did bear the divine image, and was glorious; but the gospel exhibited all the divine perfections in a still brighter manner, and far exceeded in glory. I saw God might, consistently with his honor, in this way, receive the returning sinner, however ill deserving. I saw he was ready to do it; that all might come, even the vilest and the worst, encouraged by the self-moving goodness and boundless grace of God, and the mediation, merits, and atonement of Christ. I looked up to God through Jesus Christ for mercy, and through Jesus Christ gave up myself to the Lord, to be forever his, to love him and live to him forever. Here, prostrate on the ground, I thus lay above an hour, contemplating the ineffable glories of God, the beauty of his law, and the superabundant excellency of the gospel way of life by free grace through Jesus Christ. I believed the gospel, I trusted in Christ, and gave up myself to God through him, to be forever his, with a pleasure divinely sweet, infinitely preferable to the most agreeable sensations I had ever before experienced. What I enjoyed this hour, did more, unspeakably more, than overbalance all the distresses of months past.* To relate how I spent the night, and how I have spent my days and nights ever since, I shall omit; but you shall soon hear again, my dear Aspasio, from
Theron's narrative of his former supposed conversion, (Letter I.,) and of his experiences, (here,) is not designed to suggest, that either false or true converts all experience things, in every circumstance, just alike; but only to point out the general nature of these two kinds of conversion, in a manner so familiar, that the weakest Christian may see the difference; and if any Christian cannot recollect so exactly the particulars of his first conversion, yet, as all after acts of grace are of the same nature with the first, a clear understanding of the true nature of saving grace may help him to discern his true state.
N. B. What is the true nature of saving grace, is not to be decided by the experiences of this or that man, or party of men; but only by the word of God.
THERON TO ASPASIO.
NEW ENGLAND, April 2, 1759. DEAR ASPASIO :
With pleasure I now again sit down to write to my distant friend, and send my heart beyond the Atlantic to my Aspasio. For neither time, nor place, nor any change, can wipe your memory from my mind.
Methinks, were I now with you, as once at the house, the hospitable house, of the wealthy and illustrious Philenor, I would tell you all my heart. I remember how you urged me to believe, and how I longed to find some safe foundation, some sure evidence, on which to build my faith; and with Thomas, to cry, “ My Lord, my God!” Now I have found it! I have found it! I believe “that Jesus is the Christ.” I believe, that "God hath set him forth to be a propitiation; to declare his righteousness; that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." I believe “ that God raised him froin the dead.” I believe that “Christ is entered into heaven, now to appear in the presence of God," as the Jewish high priest of old entered into the holy of holies on the day of atonement, and that he is “the way to the Father,” “the door," by whom men enter in; and that “whosoever will ” may come to God through him. Wherefore I am emboldened to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, even into the very presence of the thrice Holy One of Israel, in whose sight the heavens are not clean; and to come to God in full assurance of faith, nothing doubting but that God is as willing to be reconciled through Christ, as the father was to receive the returning prodigal; and as ready to give his Holy Spirit to them that ask him, as ever parent was to give bread to a hungry child. (Heb. x. 19, 22. Matt. vii. 11.) “For he that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things,” if we accept his Son as he is offered, and come to God through him, for all things, as we are invited ? For God's honor is safe, God's law is answered, God's justice is satisfied ; and all my guilt, infinite as it is, is no bar in the way of my reception into the divine favor, free as his infinite grace, self-moving as his boundless goodness is, and appears to be, by the gift of his Son. This way of salvation, my dear Aspasio, is glorious for God, VOL. II.
safe for the sinner, effectual to promote holiness, even “the power of God to salvation, to every one that believeth ;” and if the gospel is true, there is no room to doubt.
" For we are constrained to believe on the clearest evidence.” Yea, “our assurance is impressed" by complete demonstration.
It is glorious for God. For God's law and authority are as much honored as if the whole world had been damned ; and his grace more glorified than if man had never fell. An incarnate God upon the cross, in the room of a rebellious world, sets God's infinite hatred of sin, his inflexible resolution to punish it, and the infinite goodness of his nature, in a light infinitely clear, infinitely bright; and contains a fund of instruction, which never can be exhausted, by angels and saints, throughout the endless ages of eternity. The more I think, the more I am swallowed up, confounded, overwhelmed! O, the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, of the love of God, which passeth all understanding ! O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! The creation of the universe was a great work. It caused the eternal power and Godhead of the Creator clearly to be seen. But compared to the incarnation and death of the Son of God, the Creator, it is not to be mentioned, nor is it worthy to come into mind. Even the application of Christ's redemption in the latter day, is a more glorious work than the first creation of the world. “Behold, I create new heavens, and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Indeed, it had been but a small thing for the Creator, by his almighty word, to have .called millions of such systems as ours into being; a thing not worthy to be noticed, nay, scarce worth one single thought, compared with — with what? Let all nature tremble at the news! - the incarnation and the death of the Almighty Creator, in the room of his rebel creatures, that the honor of his Father's law and government might be effectually secured, while sovereign infinite grace interposes to save the self-ruined, helldeserving rebels, to the eternal disappointment of Satan, God's enemy, and our mortal foe.
And can it now, after all this, be a question, whether God is ready to be reconciled to those who, on his own invitation, return to him through Jesus Christ? Or can it be a question, whether Christ is willing to be their Mediator and High Priest, in the court of heaven, in the holy of holies above? What! after God has given his Son to die, that, consistently with his honor, he might receive such to favor, --- he not willing? Infinitely incredible! What! after the Son of God has left his Father's bosom, to lie in a manger, to groan in the garden, and — be astonished, 0 ye heavens, and be ye horribly afraid to hang
and die upon the cross, in the room of a God-hating, Christmurdering world ; that he might honor his Father's law, break up Satan's plot, and open a way for the sinner's return! yet he not willing ! - What! willing to die on the cross, and not willing to mediate in heaven? Infinitely incredible! Yea, if possible, more than infinitely incredible! So certain, my dear Aspasio, as the gospel is true, just so certain may your Theron be, that God is ready to be reconciled to the sinner, who returns to him through Jesus Christ. Nor does he need a new revelation in the case ; nor does he need to be assured of any proposition not plainly revealed in the gospel. Enough has been already done ! enough has been already said. But never did your Theron believe these things with all his heart, till by seeing the glory of the God of glory, he saw the grounds and reasons of the law, pronounced it holy, just, and good, and worthy to be magnified and made honorable, even by the death of God's own Son.
And this kind of faith, in the nature of things, cannot be without works. For, while your Theron, through the influences of the Holy Spirit, doth, with open face, behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord; what can he do, but love, admire, adore the God of glory; and give up himself forever to him through Jesus Christ ? And now, “how can we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?" We are crucified with Christ; buried with him; risen with him : and can sin, after all, have dominion over us! Impossible. The gratitude, the ingenuity of unrenewed nature, I grant, is not to be depended upon. Israel sang God's praise, but soon forgot his works. But, “ beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,” from day to day, through the course of our lives, we are, we cannot but be, "changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the spirit of the Lord.”
And, believing the gospel to be true, no doubt remains of the safety of our returning to God through Jesus Christ. His glory and beauty incline me to return. His grace through Christ puts courage in my heart. I return.
I find rest to my weary soul. And by this I know my “faith is real, and no delusion," even becanse he hath given me of his spirit, (1 John iv. 13,) set his seal upon my heart, (Eph. i. 13,) made me his child, in the very temper of my soul, (Rom. viii. 16,) and in my heart his law is written, and in his ways I love to walk. (Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27.) But as to this, Heaven forbid that your Theron's confidence should ever be greater than his evidence; his evidence, not only now, but in all future times. Jam, forever,
THERON TO ASPASIO.
New ENGLAND, April 3, 1759. DEAR ASPASIO :
Many an agreeable hour have we wandered over all the works of nature ; viewed the heavens above, the earth beneath, and surveyed the mighty ocean ; nor did you ever fail to intermingle devout reflections. If, now, instead of painting the beauties of the creation, we rise at once to contemplate the glories of the Creator, glories infinitely superior to those of fields and forests, gardens and palaces; yea, infinitely superior to the bright expanse of heaven, adorned with all its shining orbs; no theme can, my Aspasio, better please.
God! how awful is the name! how great is the being ! “Behold, the nations are as a drop of the bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. Yea, all nations before him are as nothing, and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” And so great is the excellency of the Divine Majesty, so exceeding great is his beauty, that to behold his glory, and love, and honor, and enjoy him, is heaven itself; it is the chief happiness of all that world. The seraphim, while he sitteth on his throne, high and lifted up as the great Monarch of the universe, through the brightness of his glory, cover their faces, unable to behold ; and, as in a perfect ecstasy, cry, “Holy, holy, holy!" – This is his character, the character he exemplifies in all his conduct, as Lord of hosts, as Governor of the world; in a view of which, they add, “ The whole earth is full of his glory."
The two grandest affairs, which, according to Scripture, ever have been, or ever will be, transacted in the government of this glorious monarch, are the work of our redemption by the death of his Son, and the final judgment of the world. These, therefore, let us contemplate, that in them we may behold, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord.
Who was his Son? The brightness of his glory, and the image of his person ; by whom, and for whom, all things were created ; loved equally to himself, and honored with equal honors in all the world above. Let us view him on the cross, incarnate! view him there as an incarnate God, dying for sinners, and fix our attention, whole hours together, on this greatest and most wonderful of all God's works! The plan