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which will not hurt you, if it do you no good. And although my exercises and tribulations of late have been very great, both spiritual and natural, yet my very beart within me affects the cause of Christ, according to the best of my understanding; and I heartily wish well to all my fellow labourers, who are faithful, painful servants of Christ, and disinterested, except as to the interest which they desire in Christ and his kingdom, for the sake of which, they love not their lives unto death.
I must now take leave, after putting you in mind of remembering me, your poor friend and brother, when before the throne you are supplicating the Father of Mercies in secret, even as my heart is tenderly bowed and broken into tears on your behalf at this time. The Lord be with you, and sanctify the present exercise and concern that is upon you, and you to himself, with all the faiihfu: lovers and followers of the Lamb, “through his word, whose word is truth.” I am your friend and brother, in the fellowship of the gospel of Christ Jesus, our great Lord and good Master; and blessed are all those, who, by their fearing to offend him, manifest him to be their Master, and by their honouring him, manifest him to be their Lord.
In the twelfth month I went to the quarterly meeting of friends, held at Providence, for Chester county, for discipline and worship ; which meeting was large, and a concern came upon friends at that meeting to suppress excess in eating and drinking, and great entertainments at marriages and funerals, and spending time idly in tippling houses; as also in several other things for the well-ordering our society, in which appeared great love and unanimity. The people were reminded of God's love to them in this land, and many favours were recounted to them, which he had favoured the inhabitants of the land with, which were very singular, and that he expected they should bring forth fruits that might be answerable to the labours of love, which the Lord had bestowed upon them. About this time I had it in my mind to write to one who was conscientiously concerned to preach the gospel of Christ, but was under great exercise on that occasion.
“ Frankfort, 24th of 12th Month, 1724-5. My Friend,
“Since I last saw thee and conversed with thee, thou hast often been in my mind, and thy exercise has come before me ; and not having an opportunity to converse with thee personally, I take this way of communi. cating my mind, hoping, in Christ, thou wilt reap some satisfaction and advantage thereby. I think I know thou art concerned for Christ's cause, as also was that eminent minister Apollos, yet was instructed more perfectly by good Aquila and Priscilla. The subject on which I have it in my mind to write to thee, is the ministry of the gospel of Christ Jesus, which I believe to be very differ. ent from that which it is generally taken for, in most parts of the world, by many professing christianity. First, the greatest part of christendom, so called, calls and elects their ministers themselves, and will not call them unless they have school-learning, although Christ called and chose unlearned men, as to that sort of learn. ing, and the apostles were called, “ Not according to the will of man, but by the revelation of Christ Jesus.” And Christ thanked his Father that “ He had revealed the mysteries of his kingdom to babes and sucklings." And the wise Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees, admired at the apostles, who so wonderfully preached Christ, and were so wonderfully carried forth in their ministry, and yet few of them were men of learning; so that the call, election, and wages of Christ's ministers, are spiritual, and not carnal; and, therefore, their ministry is with divine life and power, by which they are qualified for this service, without either study or premeditation: though it is not denied, that Christ may shew a minister beforehand,
what he shall, or is to speak, at such a time or place, as he may see meet; but that studying or writing sermons, and afterwards preaching, or rather reading them to the people, was, or is, the practice of the true minister of Jesus, our great Lord and Master, is denied; of which, I do believe, thou hast a real sense.
I shall impart to thee something of my own experience for thy edification in this great work, viz. As in the work of conversion, or regeneration, there is a growth and increase from the state of a child to that of a man in Christ, so in the work of the ministry, or preaching the gospel, there is also a growth from a babe to an able minister, in all which the power and grace of the Holy Spirit must be our guide, our help, and support, keeping close to which, we shall increase in divine wisdom and sound judgment, and our hearts and understandings will be more and more opened and enlarged. The apostle: Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, understood as a child, and thought as a child ;” and yet he was an excellent child of God, and minister of Christ, and as he grew in his gift, and Christ's grace, he became a wonderful serviceable instrument in the hand of God. Now a child's state in the ministry is too much overlooked by many, some thinking to be men as soon as they are brought forth into the ministry; and, according to my observation, divers have been at a loss, and some quite lost, for want of a patient continuing in well-doing, and not waiting to feel a growth and increase from above, have gone on in their own strength and will, perhaps against the advice and instruction of a sound and honest Aquila and Priscilla, and have been hurt; and some, who had received a gift, have had that same gift taken from them, even by the Lord, who gave it them.
As I take it, a true minister of Christ, is to take no thought what to say, but it will be given him in the same hour that which he should speak to the people, (that is, in a general way) and if it is not given from above, I believe he or she ought to be silent; for they receive freely, if they do receive any thing from Christ, and so they ought freely to administer; and where little is given, little is required, all which is plain from Christ's own words in the New Testament; and Christ's cross is to be taken up by his ministers in their preaching, as well as in their con. versation.
It is a practice which the holy scriptures have not acquainted us with, that the ministers of Christ should take a verse, or a line, out of the holy scriptures, and write, or study, beforehand, a discourse on it, and preach it, or rather read it, to the people. The holy men of old (as we read both in the Old and New Testament), spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and by it they were gifted for the convincing, converting, and reforming the world, and for comforting and edifying of the saints, quite contrary to the latter practice of modern reading divines, who dispute, write, and preach, against the immediate and divine revelation of the spirit of Christ, and therefore can not be of his ministers, but must be the ministers of antichrist, and ministers of the letter, and not of the spirit of Christ, or of his gospel. And where the apostle says,
" When I was a child, I spake as a child,” I take him to point at the being brought forth newly into the work of the ministry, as well as the work of conversion, and that he useth those expressions by way of comparison, and therefore I compare it thus : a child when it first begins or venturės to speak, he speaks but a few words, and those stammering sometimes, and its judgment is weak, and must be put upon speaking by his father over and over, if he be a backward child; otherwise, if he be forward, and speaks too much, he is curbed by a wise father: and thus, according to my observation, it hath pleased our heavenly Father to instruct his children in the ministry, and as a child in Christ, I would speak a little of my experience unto the child, or children of God. When I first felt a necessity on me to preach the gospel, I had but a few sentences to deliver, in great fear and tenderness, with some trembling, with which my brethren were generally satisfied and edified; and after some time I felt a concern to preach the gospel in other countries, and to other nations, than that in which I was born,
which to me was a very great cross; but feeling the wo of the Lord to follow me in not giving up to it, I in some time took that cross up, for Christ's suke and the gospel's: and in taking it up, I experienced the truth of the apostle's doctrine, that “ the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth." Rom. i. 16. Thus, through a continual labour and spiritual travel, I witnessed a growth in experience, and an enlargement in expressions and heavenly doctrine; and my heart was mightily enlarged to run the ways of God's commandments, and divers were convinced, and some, I hope, thoroughly converted, and many comfort. ed, and God, through the ministry of his dear Son, glori. fied, who is thereof only worthy for ever.
In all which I have nothing to boast of nor glory in, saving in the cross of Christ ; for what is Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas but an instrument? (I would not be understood to compare with those apostles, but to endeavour to follow them as they followed Christ). Christ is all in all : he is the great teacher of teachers, and the highest schoolmaster of all : and he says, “ He that will be my disciple, must first deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
We do not find any where in the New Testament, that Christ's ministers or messengers were only to speak or preach to one meeting of people, or that they were called or hired by men; for then it would have been necessary that man should pay them; but Christ says, “ Freely you have received, freely give; and go forth,” &c. Mat. xxviii. 19, 20.
And, my friend, I find to this day, that it is safe for me when I am ministering to the people ; when the spring of divine life and power, from which sound truths and edifying matter springs and flows into the heart or understanding, abates or stops, to stop with it, and sit down, and not to arise, or speak publicly to the people, without some spiritual impulse or moving, and openings.
I would have this taken no otherwise, but as one friend and brother opening his state and condition to another for edification, and the strengthening each other in Christ.