Letter to Samuel, November 23, 1736

['Those who remember God will remember both the episcopacy and every good work.']

SAVANNAH, November 23, 1736. DEAR BROTHER, -- O pray write, and, if it may be, speak, that they may remember Him again who did run well but are now hindered !

I think the rock on which I had the nearest made ship wreck of the faith was the writings of the Mystics; under which term I comprehend all, and only those, who slight any of the means of grace.

I have drawn up a short scheme of their doctrines, partly from conversations I have had, and letters, and partly from their most approved writers, such as Tauler, Molinos, and the author of Theologia Germanica. [Wesley read the Theologia Germanica and other Mystic books on the advice of William Law. For his judgement as to their influence, see Journal, 'i. 420, and ii. 515 for his estimate of the book; see also letter of May 14, 1738, to Law.] I beg your thoughts upon it as soon as you can conveniently; and that you would give me them as particularly, fully, and strongly as your time will permit. They may be of consequence not only to all this province but to nations of Christians yet unborn.

'All means are not necessary for all men; therefore each person must use such means, and such only, as he finds neces sary for him. But since we can never attain our end by being wedded to the same means; therefore we must not obstinately cleave unto anything, lest it become an hindrance, not an help.

'Observe, farther, when the end is attained, the means cease. Now, all the other things enjoined are means to love; and love is attained by them who are in the inferior way, who are utterly divested of free will, of self-love, and self-activity, and are entered into the passive state. These deified men, in whom the superior will has extinguished the inferior, enjoy such a contemplation as is not only above faith, but above sight, such as is entirely free from images, thoughts, and dis course, and never interrupted by sins of infirmity or voluntary distractions. They have absolutely renounced their reason and understanding, else they could not be guided by a divine light. They seek no clear or particular knowledge of anything; but only an obscure, general knowledge, which is far better. They know it is mercenary to look for a reward from God, and inconsistent with perfect love.

'Having thus attained the end, the means must cease. Hope is swallowed up in love. Sight, or something more than sight, takes place of faith. All particular virtues they possess in the essence, being wholly given up to the divine will, and therefore need not the distinct exercise of them.

They work likewise all good works essentially, not accidentally, and use all outward means only as they are moved thereto; and then to obey superiors or to avoid giving offense, but not as necessary or helpful to them.

'Public prayer, or any forms, they need not; for they pray without ceasing. Sensible devotion in any prayer they despise, it being a great hindrance to perfection. The Scripture they need not read; for it is only His letter with whom they converse face to face. And if they do read it now and then, as for expounders, living or dead, reason, philosophy (which only puffs' up, and vainly tries to bind God by logical definitions and divisions), as for knowledge of tongues, or ancient customs, they need none of them, any more than the Apostles did, for they have the same Spirit. Neither do they need the Lord's supper, for they never cease to remember Christ in the most acceptable manner, any more than fasting, since, by constant temperance, they can keep a continual fast.

'You that are to advise them that have not yet attained perfection, press them to nothing, not to self-denial, constant private prayer, reading the Scriptures, fasting, communi cating. If they love heathen poets, let them take their full swing in them. Speak but little to them in the meantime of eternity. If they are affected at any time with what you say, say no more; let them apply it, not you. You may advise them to some religious books, but stop there; let them use them as they please, and form their own reflections upon them without your intermeddling. If one who was religious falls off, let him alone. Either a man is converted to God or not: if he is not, his own will must guide him, in spite of all you can do; if he is, he is so guided by the Spirit of God as not to need your direction.

'You that are yourselves imperfect, know love is your end, All things else are but means. Choose such means as lead you most to love; those alone are necessary for you. The means that others need are nothing to you: different men are led in different ways. And be sure be not wedded to any means. When anything helps you no longer, lay it aside; for you can never attain your end by cleaving obstinately to the same means: you must be changing them continually. Conversa tion, meditation, forms of prayer, prudential rules, fixed return of public or private prayer, are helps to some; but you must judge for yourself. Perhaps fasting may help you for a time, and perhaps the holy communion. But you will be taught by the Holy Spirit and by experience how soon, how often, and how long it is good for you to take it. Perhaps, too, you may need the Holy Scripture. But if you can renounce yourself without reading, it is better than all the reading in the world. And whenever you do read it, trouble yourself about no helps; the Holy Ghost will lead you into all truth.

'As to doing good, take care of yourself first.' When you are converted, then strengthen your brethren. Beware of (what is incident to all beginners) an eager desire to set others a good example. Beware of earnestness to make others feel what you feel yourself. Let light shine as nothing to you. Beware of a zeal to do great things for God. Be charitable first; then do works of charity; do them when you are not dissipated thereby, or in, danger of losing your soul by pride and vanity. Indeed, till: then you can do no good to men's souls; and without that all done to their bodies is nothing. The command of doing good concerns not you yet. Above all, take care never to dispute about any of these points. Disputing can do no good. Is the man wicked Cast not pearls before swine. Is he imperfect ? He that disputes any advice is not yet ripe for it. Is he good? All good men agree in judgment: they differ only in words, which all are in their own nature ambiguous.'

May God deliver you and yours from all error and all unholiness! My prayers will never, I trust, be wanting you. -- I am, dear brother,

My sister's and your most affectionate Brother.

Pray remember me to Philly. [His brother’s daughter, who married Mr. Earle of Barnstaple.]

No comments: