December 8, 1775
My Dear Friend,
…Your comment on the seventh to the Romans, latter part, contradicts my feelings. You are either of a different make and nature from me, or else you are not rightly apprised of your own state, if you do not find the apostle’s complaint very suitable to yourself. I believe it applicable to the most holy Christian upon earth. But controversies of this kind are worn thread-bare. When you speak of the spiritual part of a natural man, it sounds to me like the living part of a dead man, or the seeing part of a blind man. Paul tells me that the natural man (whatever his spiritual part may be) can neither receive nor discern the things of God. What the apostle speaks of himself, Rom. vii. is no more, when rightly understood, than what he affirms of all who are partakers of a spiritual life, or who are true believers, Gal. V.
The carnal natural mind is enmity against God, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. When you subjoin, “Till it be set at liberty from the law of sin,” you do not comment upon the text, but make an addition of your own, which the text will by no means bear. The carnal mind is enmity. An enemy may be reconciled: but enmity itself is incurable. This carnal mind, natural man, old man, flesh, for the expressions are all equivalent, and denote, and include, the heart of man as he is by nature, may be crucified, must be mortified, but cannot be sanctified. All that is good or gracious is the effect of a new creation, a supernatural principle, wrought in the heart by the Gospel of Christ, and the agency of His Spirit; and till that is effected, the to uyhlongggkk, the highest attainment, the finest qualifications in man, however they may exalt him in his own eyes, or recommend him to the notice of his fellow-worms, are but abomination in the sight of God, Luke xvi.15.
The Gospel is calculated and designed to stain the pride of human glory. It is provided, not for the wise and the righteous, for those who think they have good dispositions and good works, to plead, but for the guilty, the helpless, the wretched, for those who are ready to perish; it fills the hungry with good things, but it sends the rich empty away. See Rev. iii. 17, 18.
You ask, If man can do nothing without an extraordinary impulse from on high, is he to sit still and careless? By no means: I am far from saying, Man can do nothing, though I believe he cannot open his own eyes, or give himself faith. I wish every man to abstain carefully from sinful company and sinful actions, to read the Bible, to pray to God for His heavenly teaching. For this waiting upon God he has a moral ability; and, if he persevere thus in seeking, the promise is sure, that he shall not seek in vain.
But I would not have him mistake the means for the end; think himself good because he is preserved from gross vices and follies, or trust to his religious course of duties for acceptance, nor be satisfied till Christ be revealed in him, formed within him, dwell in his heart by faith, and till he can say, upon good grounds, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” I need not tell you these are Scriptural expressions; I am persuaded, if they were not, they would be exploded by many as unintelligible jargon.
True faith, my dear Sir, unites the soul to Christ, and thereby gives access to God, and fills it with a peace passing understanding, a hope, a joy unspeakable, and full of glory; teaches us that we are weak in ourselves, but enables us to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might to those who thus believe, Christ is precious-their beloved; they hear and know His voice; the very sound of His name gladdens their hearts, and He manifests Himself to them as He does not to the world. Thus the Scriptures speak, thus the first Christians experienced; and this is precisely the language which, in our days, is despised as enthusiasm and folly.
For it is now as it was then; though these things are revealed to babes, and they are as sure of them as that they see the noon-day sun, they are hidden from the wise and prudent, till the Lord makes them willing to renounce their own wisdom, and to become fools, that they may be truly wise, I Cor. i. 18, 19; iii. 8; viii. 2. Attention to the education of children is an undoubted duty; and it is a mercy when it so far succeeds as to preserve them from gross wickedness; but it will not change the heart. They who receive Christ are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, John i. 13.
If a man professes to love the Lord Jesus, I am willing to believe him, if he does not give me proof to the contrary; but I am sure, at the same time, no one can love Him in the Scriptural sense, who does not know the need and the worth of a Saviour; in other words, who is not brought, as a ruined, helpless sinner, to live upon Him for wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. They who love Him thus, will speak highly of Him, and acknowledge that He is their all in all. And they who thus love Him, and speak of Him, will get little thanks for their pains in such a world as this:– “All that live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution: the world that hated Him will hate them.”
And though it is possible, by His grace, to put to silence, in some measure, the ignorance of foolish men; and though His providence can protect His people, so that not a hair of their heads can be hurt, without His permission; yet the world will show their teeth, if they are not allowed to bite. The apostles were accounted babblers, and wV perikaJarmata tou kosmou egenhJhmen pantwn periyhma (we are become as the garbage of the world and the offscouring of all things, 1 Cor. 4:13). I need not point out to you the force of these expressions. We are no better than the apostles; nor have we reason to expect much better treatment, so far as we walk in their steps.